Posts Tagged ‘Mindset’

The Science of Building a Better Brain

Newsweek did a great job of summarizing the findings from the cognitive enhancement strategies workshop held at the 2010 annual meeting of the Society of Neuroscience.  The article, Can You Build a Better Brain? uses the latest neuroscience to differentiate between techniques that work and those that don’t. Techniques for improving brain function and enhancing cognitive performance that have strong  scientific support include:

  • Drugs that boost dopamine levels such as caffeine
  • Regular aerobic exercise
  • Meditation training
  • Activities that boost mood and confidence
  • Action-oriented video games
  • Cognitive training software but only for the tasks done using the software

All of these techniques have been covered in the Next Brain Blog.  Techniques that don’t appear to have strong evidence include, and I quote:

“Vitamins B6, B12, and E; beta carotene; folic acid; and the trendy antioxidants called flavenoids are all busts, and the evidence for alcohol, omega-3s (the fatty acids in fish), or having a large social network is weak. The Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline, find observational studies, but that hasn’t been confirmed in more rigorous, randomized controlled studies, and no one knows whether the benefit comes from what the diet includes (olive oil, fish, vegetables, wine) or what it excludes (red meat, refined sugars, dairy fat). Statins don’t help, and neither do estrogen or NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen).”

Although some of these have supporting studies they lack a clear causal connection to brain plasticity or other currently understood mechanism of cognition.

18 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - January 4, 2011 at 3:48 am

Categories: Other   Tags: , , , , , ,

Improve Mental Performance with Lucky Charms

And I don’t mean the cereal.

Research just reported in Psychological Science, Keep Your Fingers Crossed: How Superstitions Improve Performance, provides strong evidence that believing in lucky charms might not be so irrational. Indeed, they may be important for improving performance.

“Specifically, Experiments 1 through 4 show that activating good-luck-related superstitions via a common saying or action (e.g., “break a leg,” keeping one’s fingers crossed) or a lucky charm improves subsequent performance in golfing, motor dexterity, memory, and anagram games.”

Good luck superstitions don’t require magic or any supernatural forces to work. They work by boosting your confidence or belief that things will go your way.    Your lucky quarter,  shirt, number, and all of that can in fact enhance your brain function and cognitive performance. This in turn can improve your outcomes but only when the outcomes depend upon confidence. So this effect will not work for picking lottery tickets.

Interested to hear from readers about the lucky charms they use to get through intellectually or cognitive challenging situations.

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - June 4, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Categories: Lifestyle, Memory and Learning, Mental Focus   Tags:

See Much Better By Thinking Differently

Believe it or not your mindset has a big impact on how well your eyes work. The assumption that you should be able to see something or that you have excellent eye sight translates into improved visual performance scores. This fact was dramatically illustrated in a new research study, Vision Gets Better with the Right Mindset, reported in Science News.

“Eyesight markedly improved when people were experimentally induced to believe that they could see especially well, Langer and her colleagues report in the April Psychological Science. Such expectations actually enhanced visual clarity, rather than simply making volunteers more alert or motivated to focus on objects, they assert.”

I have seen similar studies concerning memory. If you really believe you have a great memory (or a very poor one) you do better (worse) on recall and recognition tests.

So how do you get the right mindset to achieve high-performance vision? One way may be to do some visual training and score well.  You may want to check out, How Good are Your Visual Skills? There are a number of straight forward exercises and tests covering perception, tracking, focusing and eye teaming.  For example, one of the perception test (figure ground) is shown in the picture above. Do you see the owl?

I am interested to hear from readers that have used specific techniques to develop affirming assumptions about their ability to see.

Source: Image of Pig

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - April 28, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Categories: Perception, Training   Tags: