Brain Byte: Put Your Smartphone Down and Look Around

Photo Credit: Meme Binge on Flickr

Photo Credit: Meme Binge on Flickr

My husband has not worn a watch in the 30 years that I have known him, yet he can tell you the time within minutes. He seems to have an innate sense of time. He can also drive me almost anywhere within our state without using a GPS. In fact, he says, “Turn that thing off!” If I enlist the help of the friendly Navigator App on my smartphone. He has a keen picture in his mind of where he is going; keeps his sense of direction and navigates more by his internal compass than actual road names. He knows if he goes about 20 miles east, 4 miles south, takes a turn west at the destination road, that he will soon arrive where he set out to be.

He is also aware of the environment around him: he watches the clouds, feels the air, and smells a storm a mile away. According to the “world’s smartest person” Marilyn Vos Savant in her book, Brain Building in Just 12 Weeks, my husband is doing the work of a genius.

Ms. Vos Savant suggests in Brain Builders #44 that we stop wearing a watch or looking at a clock for one week and instead start tuning into time. She points to the fact that animals have body clocks and so do humans. However, we are losing touch with our natural rhythms of time due to the reliance of technology and not using our brain as our time tool. Think about the migration of birds and the movement of certain fish, like salmon returning to the same spawning hole each year at the same time.

Think about what you are thinking about or NOT thinking about.  How much are you relying on technology?  How much of the time are you relying on your own built in senses and bio-computer?  The more you do the later, the smarter and more equipped you become to respond to your changing environment.  I am afraid it is true: “Smartphones are making us dumb.”

My Brain Byte challenge to you this week: Put down the Smartphone and look around! Now go out there and get smarter.

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Does Study Affect Your Creativity?

Success favors the prepared mind. – Louis Pasteur

Classroom with multicolor chairs

Where does creativity come from?  Some think it appears out of no where and some believe you are born creative.

Studies of highly creative people reveal that they nurture their creativity through a continuous quest for knowledge. Tony Buzan, one of the foremost creativity consultants in the world, defines creativity as ‘the degree of removal from the norm.’  Michael Gelb writes in Thinking for a Change that creativity is the result of a new combination of existing elements.  Combining these two ideas: to think outside the norm we must know more, coalesce the ideas, and produce new outcomes.

In conclusion, the more you know the more your capacity for creativity expands.

 

 

Smart Everyday Strategies for Memory

Neocortical Neurons

Establish Routines: It is easy to find things if you put them in the same place each time, right?  The same is true with your thought life; the more you think or do the same process over again, the easier it is to remember to do it!

Write It: The repetition of writing what you are learning is a great way to help your brain have an additional physical record to recall the data in the future when you really need to bring it back to memory.

Say It Out Loud: Again, another method of repetition that aids your brain to deepen those memory traces for the future file location.  So for example, you have an item to return to a friend when you meet on Wednesday, say out loud, “I am putting Tammy’s essential oil bottle next to my keys for Wednesday.” Letting your ears register the information, increases your chance of calling up the info in time.

Do It: Practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice does.  However, when you learn something begin applying that information immediately.  The movement is an additional sensory input and gives your brain better chances of recalling the new process when you go to do it again.

Use Imagination:  The Roman Room method or Number Rhyme System are great examples of using imagination for recall.  In general when you have an item to commit to memory look for a landmark to help you by associating the item visually to the physical landmark. In studies, these imaginary cues roved to e as effective as external cues.  Also, the more senses you add along with the item, the higher the likelihood of recall.

 

Brain Debates and Delusions – Food for Thought

Man considering himself is the great prodigy of nature. For he cannot conceive what his body is, even less what hisspirit is, and least of all how body can be united with spirit. That is the peak of his difficulty and yet is his very being. – Blaise Pascal

colorful brain clipart

The brain has been deliberated for hundreds of years. The physician Alkmeon of Kroton proposed that sensory information such as sight and sound were more earthly and occupied distinct brain areas.  Thoughts, however were spiritual in his book, so he decided they were part of the soul, and therefore, unable to locate in the physical body.

Plato said that the brain was supreme among the organs of the body, but thought that the lower, rounded part of the brain (medulla) was where God planted and enclosed the soul.

Aristotle thought the heart was the place to find the human soul and the brain was merely a type of radiator or “kettle” that either warmed or cooled the blood.

Today brain research is unravelling the mysteries of the brain.  Just thirty years ago we were able to first ‘see’ the way nerve cells communicated with each other. This is very fascinating to brain geeks, like me! In fact, I have a video tape of one of the very first brain cells captured electronically – yes on VHS. And thank you, Tony Buzan, for sharing it with me!].

I have tossed about food for your brain to ponder.  I challenge you to consider what you think and what you know about your brain and your soul.  Now, I challenge you to dig deeper.  Always seek the Word of God, in conjunction, with trusted research.  Anything that outright contradicts the Bible is false.  Trust me, the more you search scripture the more you will see the great depths of wisdom revealed about the science of our brains.  A few starting points for you: the work of Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf and the book used for this post: Blame It on the Brain? by Edward T. Welch.

Power of Pictures

organized and free flowing brainImagination

The image-making capability of our brain is powerful.  When we hear a word, we do not see the letter in our mind’s eye; we see the image of what was spoken.  Often our brain does this so quickly, we forget this switch is taking place.

According to John Medina in Brain Rules vision trumps all senses.

Eye

By Laitr Keiows

Vision:

  • Takes up half our brain’s resources
  • We learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoiken words.
  • “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Examples:

USA Today’s popularity over traditional word-dominated presses.

Today’s Smartphone application driven society.  Gaming, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and the list goes on of the push and pull of an image driven world.

Net Lesson:

When you want to communicate an important concept and/or you really need to drive an idea home – be CERTAIN to use images.

Communication feedback process

Brain Blooming

The best way to get a good idea is to get lots of ideas. – Linus Pauling (Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry)

Some will challenge this and say too many ideas can lead to junk. But how will you know that the last idea will not be the best?

Brain Bloom quickly and effectively by using a Mind Map to capture every idea while naturally ordering them with the hierarchy of the Map.  You will quickly see themes and be able to pick out the good from the bad in short order.

 

 

Brain Byte: Get Your Brain FLOW On!

 

Psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi wanted to know why so many people were so unhappy.  For twenty five years he interviewed hundreds of people all over the world, from all walks of life – artists, athletes, chess masters, janitors, and more.  He asked them to recall their happiest moments and to describe what brought those moments about.

Csikszentmihalyi found that the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.  The experiences may not have been fully pleasant at the time for example the swimmer’s muscles may have ached during his most memorable race, his lungs may have felt like exploding, and he may have been dizzy with fatigue-yet these could have been the best moments of his life.

This research lead to the writing of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihalyi calls this sort of peak experience the flow state.  He determined that flow occurs when we are absorbed in an activity that is neither too easy for us nor too difficult. If it’s to easy, we become bored.  If it’s too hard, we become anxious.

According to The Einstein Factor by Win Wenger and Richard Poe, Flow builds brainpower.  Scientists have found that pleasure is a key ingredient in building brainpower.  We learn far more from mental exercises when we enjoy them.  Likewise, Csikszentmihalyi found that our minds grow in complexity the longer we remain in flow.

Generally we move in and out of flow without even knowing it.  It can happen when you fall into a rhythm while practicing your tennis strokes against a wall.  It can happen when you walk down the street and find yourself so absorbed by the beautiful, crisp sunlight on the buildings that you forget all your troubles.  It comes when you are playing with your kids or enjoying a special moment with the love of your life.

 

Brain Byte: Sell Yourself A New Habit

Bad Habits Store Sign

Photo Credit Brent Moore of Nashville

 

Habit is habit, and not to be thrown out the window by any man; but rather, coaxed down the stairs one step at a time. – Mark Twain

This is the time of year to talk habits.  Ridding old ones replacing with new ones.  I have written about the process of how habits form a pattern, or a groove, on your brain here.  According to Karl Albrecht in his book, Brain Power: Learn to Improve Your Thinking Skills, you can sell yourself on a chosen new habit!

He marks out the step-wise process of a professional salesperson persuading a customer to buy a product:

1)  Attention – the customer realizes the product exists

2) Interest – customer thinks the product fills a need

3) Desire – customer wants product

4) Action – customer commits to purchase and sale is closed

Albrecht says these same four steps, AIDA, may be used to sell yourself a new habit pattern.

1. Clearly identify the old habit pattern you want to change in specific, observable terms [Attention]

2. Clearly identify the new habit you want to install in your brain’s system of patterns; do not say “stop procrastinating” because your brain does not operate effectively to negative commands, instead specifically detail the desired results.  For example, “leave for work at 8:15 to arrive early for work”. [Interest]

3. Make yourself fully aware of the situations in which the old habit comes into play so that you can consciously replace the undesired behavior with the desired behavior. This may take several days to weeks to evaluate.  What is triggering the desire to do the old habit?  The new habit must become more desirable. [Desire]

4. Systematically act out the new behavior over and over until it starts to become an unconscious and fully established habit. [Action]

Remember it takes 21 days of consecutive action to form a new “groove” on your brain, i.e., to form a new habit.  It will take longer if you miss days or only perform the action one time per day.

Why it is Smart to Smile

😁 Smiles seem to be caught. Often I pass a person by and he smiles at me.  Then it dawns on me, that I first smiled, and in response the passerby returns the gesture.

Dr. Caroline Leaf says: “Did you know that the mere act of smiling could stop a negative toxic mindset? In fact, research shows that smiling a lot helps towards rewiring the circuit in the brain that helps you keep a positive attitude to life! This means God has designed us in such a way that when we smile with our eyes and mouth…a real deep meaningful smile (called the Duchenne smile), the part of your brain involved in decision-making, intellectual pursuit, shifting between thoughts, and thinking things through rationally becomes stronger and more effective. Simply put, smiling makes you happier and more intelligent!”

According to Leo Widrich in his article The Science Behind Smiling, ” Once the smiling muscles in our face contract, there is a positive feedback loop that now goes back to the brain and reinforces our feeling of joy. To put more succinctly:

“Smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that even chocolate, a well-regarded pleasure-inducer, cannot match.”

Smiling then, seems to give us the same happiness that exercising induces terms of how our brain responds. In short: our brain feels good and tells us to smile, we smile and tell our brain it feels good and so forth.”
😁

A joyful heart is good medicine… Proverbs 17:22a ESV

Brain Byte: What Enstein’s Brain Has to Do with Yours!

Einstein multicolor

Princeton Hospital Pathologist Dr. Thomas Harvey was on duty in 1955 when Einstein died.  Dr. Harvey performed Einstein’s autopsy and removed his brain, for which he studied for the next 40 years.  His goal was to uncover the secret of Einstein’s genius. He told a reporter, “nobody had ever found a difference that earmarked a brain as that of a genius.”  Dr. Harvey did not find any significant differences, but one of his colleagues did.

Neuroanatomist at the U of California at Berkeley, Marian Diamond announced an amazing discovery after examining Einstein’s preserved brain in the early 1980s.  She found an increased number of glial cells in Einstein’s left parietal lobe, a kind of neurological switching station that Diamond described as an “association area for other association areas in the brain.”  Glial cells act as a glue holding the other nerve cells together and also help transfer electrochemical signals between neurons. Diamond expected them, because of the high concentrations of glial cells in the brains of her enriched rats.  Their presence in Einstein’s brain suggested that a similar enrichment process was at work.

Diamond devoted her career to creating genius in the lab.  One of her notable experiments placed rats in a super-stimulating environment, complete with swings, ladders, treadmills, and toys of all kinds.  The control rats were kept in bare cages.  The rats who lived in the enriched environment lived longer and their brains increased in size, sprouting forests of new connections between nerve cells in the form of dendrites and axons.  The rats in bare cages died younger and their brains had fewer cellular connections.

Remarkably, as far back as 1911, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, the father of neuroanatomy, had found that the number of interconnections between neurons (also called synapses) was the real measure of genius, far more crucial in determining brainpower than the sheer number of neurons.  Diamond’s experiments showed that genius could be created through mental exercise!

Take away:  It is possible to create genius by providing sufficient stimulating mental exercise, therefore in my opinion, giving nearly equal opportunity to all brains.

So the question we ask ourselves is:

Do I want to become smarter?  If so, am I willing to put in the additional efforts required?

You are smart!  It is up to you to discover your genius and put it to good use.

Information provided in The Einstein Factor, A Proven New Method for Increasing Your Intelligence by Win Wenger, Ph.D. and Richard Poe (pages 8-9).

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