10 Minutes of Exercise Speeds up Your Thinking

There is little doubt that physical exercise is a proven technique for both brain development and improving cognitive and emotional performance in real-time. There are many posts on the Next Brain blog that share the relevant research and techniques.

A recent post in the National Geographic, how 10 minutes of exercise gives your brain a boost, adds more weight to the point. Just minutes on a stationary bike produced an meaningful increase in the speed and accuracy of task-based thinking.

Fortunately, I have a stationary bike and have tested this technique many times. I will set my mind on a decision or problem and ruminate while riding.  Useful insights are delivered about 30% of the time.  Interested to hear from readers that may use this or a similar technique.

19 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - May 20, 2014 at 1:31 pm

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Learn New Motors Skills Just By Watching Video

See one, do one, teach one is the best path to learning a new skill or so the old saying goes. But how much do you actually learn just by watching especially as you get older? Quite a bit, at least according to recent research to be presented at an upcoming meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study is discussed in a Science Daily blog post, Can You Boost Your Brain Power By Watching a Video? The findings are dramatic. Watching a video of how to perform a motor skill, improved performance by 11 times compared to a control group that watch videos on a topic unrelated to the motor skill (landscape videos).  The researchers conclude:

“Our study lends credence to the idea that even as an adult, your brain is able to better learn skills just by watching the activity take place.”

While they tested on simple motor skills such as manipulating coins and cutting with scissors we are left wondering if it would work on more complex skills such as martial arts or drawing.

23 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - March 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm

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How to Avoid Short Circuiting Your Thinking

We are capable of great feats of thinking but we can also short circuit (mess up) how we perceive, remember, learn and make decisions on a regular basis.  We all have these thinking foibles and scientist described them in various ways from decision traps to cognitive bias and heuristics of reason.  For a quick overview of some of the biggest ones, check out five common mistakes your brain makes every day.

The post covers memory, expectations, loss aversion, stereotyping and predicting odds in simple terms and provides examples. What it does not provide (and most sources don’t) is ways to overcome or avoid them.  For example, we are told that we trust our memories more than we should. We assume we remember events and experiences accurately when if fact there is good evidence that shows we distort and recreate them regularly. But what can you do?  If I am not to trust my memory, what practical steps can I take to avoid the biases and mistakes of a faulty memory?

I am interested to hear from readers that have developed techniques to deal with unreliable memories, overbearing expectations or any of the other common mistakes our brain makes everyday. Such techniques should be a great way to improve our cognitive performance on a regular basis. Just what we want to discuss on the Next Brain Blog.

151 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - February 24, 2014 at 4:29 am

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2013 Sharp Brains Virtual Summit

Sharp Brains organized an on-line summit focused on understanding how neuroscience-based innovation can enhance behavioral and brain health. The event included some 30 speakers covering industry and academia.   The organizers summarized the top 30 highlights some of which are relevant for readers of the Next Brain Blog. For example:

“The break­down of how much time/effort is required to prac­tice dif­fer­ent types of meditation/relaxation exer­cises, and why Kir­tan Kriya med­i­ta­tion may be more effi­cient and scal­able than other forms of med­i­ta­tion as a pub­lic brain health mea­sure for Alzheimer’s Dis­ease pre­ven­tion. (Dharma Singh Khalsa)”

You can access recordings to all the talks for $175.   I am going to buy and review them later this month.

26 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - October 4, 2013 at 8:40 pm

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15 Foot Brain That Glows According to Your EEG

A group of artists, brain imaging specialists, computer programmers, neuro-technologists and others are building a 15 foot model of the brain. It includes a network of colorful LED lights  that are activated by signals sent from a portable EEG headset you wear while walking through the model.

The  plan is to launch the project at the next Burning Man event.  The team hopes (pending funding) to then take it to schools and inspire students and teachers.

25 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - July 28, 2013 at 9:50 pm

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Purpose Boosts Mental Performance & Brain Health

Studies at the Rush University Medical Center involving over 1000 subjects:

“…showed that people who reported greater purpose in life exhibited better cognition than those with less purpose in life even as plaques and tangles accumulated in their brains,” said Patricia A. Boyle, PhD.”

This is great news for anyone interested in improving cognitive performance or maintaining brain health as they age.

Purpose in life is determined by the meaning you get from everyday activities and how much of your time is spent pursuing goals that are important to you. It can be measured using Ryff’s well-being scale .  The instrument measures well-being along six dimensions including autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, self acceptance, positive relationships with others and purpose in life. The questions that measure purpose in life are: 5,11,17,23,29,35 and 41.  Be careful to follow the scoring instructions closely as the scores for some of the questions need to be reversed before you add them up.

26 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - January 3, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Categories: Cognitive Decline, Memory and Learning, Older Adult, Other, Problem Solving   Tags:

Measure Your Cognitive Performance

A reader found Quantified Minds , a web site offering the opportunity to participate in a variety of simple experiments designed to measure your cognitive performance. Experiments that are running now are shown below.

You can even design your own experiments. I am going to try a couple. I’m hoping  the platform is flexible enough to test some of the ideas we have discussed on the Next Brain Blog. If so, I might ask you participate in an experiment.

23 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - November 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm

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National Brain Game Challenge Begins Today

For a $25  fee/donation to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America you can enter the National Brain Game Challenge.   This is a chance to test your crossword puzzle solving abilities in an online game. There are two divisions (pro and public) with a $2500 first prize as well as other cash prizes in each division.

The foundation is sponsoring this contest to promote daily mental exercise as a way to help prevent the disease.

According to the website:

“Research suggests that regular mental activities might help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or other memory disorders by:

  • enhancing cognitive reserve
  • stimulating growth of new brain cells, and
  • maintaining or strengthening connections between brain cells.”

I am interested to hear from readers that take the challenge or otherwise play crossword puzzles for fun and brain training.

40 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - September 30, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Categories: Cognitive Decline, Other   Tags:

Rosemary Scent Boosts Mental Speed & Accuracy

I am often asked if aromas or scents improve brain function and enhance cognitive performance.   Several previous posts on the Next Brain blog have highlighted peppermint, cinnamon, vanilla and citrus.  Now, new research shows a link between aroma generated by rosemary oil and improved speed and accuracy in analytic and visual tasks.  Rosemary contains an ingredient that impacts our neurochemistry.  In the experiment the more of this ingredient that was absorbed the greater the chance of improved cognitive performance.

For more information you can read the research article in the journal of Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology or a another blog post.

Interested to hear from readers that use rosemary and other aromas to boost alertness, focus, processing speed, mood or other cognitive factors.

11 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - March 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Categories: Ancient Ways, Mental Focus, Other, Problem Solving   Tags:

Gift Giving Idea: Consider Fat Brain Toys

Fat Brain offers an amazing collection of  high quality toys and entertainments designed to stimulate the brain and develop cognition. You can shop for toys by gender and ages ranging from 1 year old to 18 years old.  From magnetic poetry and brain food (colorful goo) to the best selling stomp rockets and reflections (image shown), a truly unique game that combines mirrors, visual illusion and competition.

Just the kind of toys that should be on the holiday shopping list of Next Brain Blog readers. Interested to hear from anyone that has purchased or plays with Fat Brain Toys. How are they making you smarter?

8 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - November 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Categories: Child, Cognitive Development, College Student, Mental Focus, Other, Perception, Problem Solving   Tags:

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