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.

Wise-up Wednesday: Helen Keller Challenge

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I who am blind can give one hint to those who see – one admonition to those who would make full use of the gift of sight; Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind.  And the same method can be applied to the other senses. Hear the music of voices, the song of a bird, the mighty strains of an orchestra, as if you would be stricken deaf tomorrow.  Touch each object you want to touch as if tomorrow your tactile sense would fail.  Smell the perfume of flowers, taste with relish each morsel, as if tomorrow you could never smell and taste again. Helen Keller

I am convinced our lives will be forever enriched when we employ this method daily.  I already smell the roses in a much sweeter way today.

Please leave your experiences in the comment section. I look forward to learn how you see, smell, feel, taste, and hear like Helen Keller. Thank you!

Wise-up Wednesday: Oh. That. Smell!

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Smell, more so than any other sense, is intimately linked to the parts of the brain that process emotion and associative learning. A smell can trigger a floodgate of memories, influence people’s moods and even affect purchases. Because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it is sometimes called the “emotional brain.”  Use this phenomenon to your advantage as a memory hook by creating conditioned responses.

The olfactory bulb has intimate access to the amygdala, which processes emotion, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for associative learning. However, smells only trigger memories with conditioned responses. When you first smell a new scent, you link it to an event, a person, a thing or even a moment. Your brain forges a link between the smell and a memory — associating the smell of chocolate chip cookies with Grandma Joan or particular cleaning agents to a hospital or clinic.  When you meet up with the smell again, the link is already formed on your brain and is ready to elicit a memory and/or a mood.  The cookies make you feel happy because you love Grandma Joan, the cleaning agent may remind you of the pain you were in when you went to the ER in 2004.

Oh. That. Smell!

Researchers have found that cognition significantly influences the perception of smell.  A psychologist at the University of Oxford labeled an ambiguous Brie-like scent as either “cheddar cheese” or “body odor.” Test subjects rated the odor higher when it was labeled cheddar cheese. MRIs even showed more activity in the olfactory region of the brain when subjects believed they were smelling cheese. [Scientific American]

“The human sense of smell has long been maligned — its sensitivity is often unfavorably compared to that of animals. Smell even came in dead last in a HowStuffWorks battle of favorite senses.” (1)

Memory Scents

Positive associations are best for recall.  After all, your brain much prefers a positive experience, while it may repress a negative one. So when creating a conditioned response, or memory hook, associate the event with something that smells good to you and spend a few extra seconds “smelling the roses” so to speak.  The next time you experience the same scent you will be transported to your memory hook via your conditioned response.

May your week be simply scentsational!

(1) http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/smell2.htm

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