The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'brain'
New Scientist has a survey of ways of optimising the functioning of one's brain, covering everything from the effects of diet, sleep and various kinds of mental and physical exercise to the possibilities of smart drugs and technological augmentations:
According to research published in 2003, kids breakfasting on fizzy drinks and sugary snacks performed at the level of an average 70-year-old in tests of memory and attention. Beans on toast is a far better combination, as Barbara Stewart from the University of Ulster, UK, discovered. Toast alone boosted children's scores on a variety of cognitive tests, but when the tests got tougher, the breakfast with the high-protein beans worked best.
Say you're trying to master a new video game. Instead of grinding away into the small hours, you would be better off playing for a couple of hours, then going to bed. While you are asleep your brain will reactivate the circuits it was using as you learned the game, rehearse them, and then shunt the new memories into long-term storage. When you wake up, hey presto! You will be a better player. The same applies to other skills such as playing the piano, driving a car and, some researchers claim, memorising facts and figures. Even taking a nap after training can help, says Carlyle Smith of Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.
Neurofeedback grew out of biofeedback therapy, popular in the 1960s. It works by showing people a real-time measure of some seemingly uncontrollable aspect of their physiology - heart rate, say - and encouraging them to try and change it. Astonishingly, many patients found that they could, though only rarely could they describe how they did it.
Mind Hacks, the new O'Reilly book of cool tricks and experiments in applied neurology, is out now; the O'Reilly page includes some sample chapters in PDF format. If that's not enough, there is a Mind Hacks blog, constantly publishing new material on similar topics.
This sounds immensely cool: two people are writing a book for O'Reilly's Hacks series on taking advantage of the quirks of one's brain. Or, as Cory Doctorow says, a guide for overclocking your amygdala:
I'm talking about minute-by-minute stuff: This is why you scratch your face when somebody else does. This is what will grab your attention in the corner of your eye, and this is what won't. Why the status icons in the corner of your desktop should be black and white and not in colour. That's what Brain Hacks is about, letting you see how all that works, from a standing start.
There's so much I want to say right now. From what I've learned, and the way it's changed how I look at the world - I can now follow the way my attention gets attached to the internal and external world, anticipate what's going to cause subliminal behaviour, and induce it in other people (but don't tell them I've been doing that), oh and the philosophical implications too - to the process: our use of a wiki for research and organisation (the most successful usage I've seen), the pitch process, the nature of writing, writing under pressure, re-learning how to follow citation trails, balance opinions. That can all wait.
Is consciousness (or, precisely, the integration of dispersed neurological phenomena into a central awareness) the product of the brain's electromagnetic field? Two researchers put forward an interesting argument for why this may be the case.
Anyone learning to drive a car will have experienced how the first (very conscious) fumblings are transformed through constant practice into automatic actions. The neural networks driving those first uncertain fumblings are precisely where we would expect to find nerves in the undecided state when a small nudge from the brain's em field can topple them towards or away from firing. The field will "fine tune" the neural pathway towards the desired goal. But neurons are connected so that when they fire together, they wire together, to form stronger connections. After practice, the influence of the field will become dispensable. The activity will be learnt and may thereafter be performed unconsciously.