One of the things that surprise me time after time is how we think our brain works and how they really do it.
On many occasions, I find myself convinced that there is a certain way to do things, just to find out that it is actually the wrong way to think about it. For example, I have always found it quite understandable that we can multitask. Well, according to the latest research studies, it is literally impossible for our brain to handle two tasks simultaneously.
Recently, I came across these fascinating experiments and ideas that helped a ton to adjust my workflow to how our brain really works (instead of what I thought!).
So here are the most surprising things our brain does and what we can learn from it:
1. Your brain works better if you are tired
When I investigated the science of our body bells and how it affects our daily routines, I was interested to find that much of the way I planned my days was not really the best way to go about it. The way we work actually has a lot to do with the cycles of our body bells.
Here’s how it breaks:
If you are a morning lion, say, you will want to enjoy those mornings when you feel more fresh to get your most demanding, analytical work. Use your brain to solve problems, answer questions and make decisions is best when you are at your peak
For night owls, this is of course a much later period in the day.
On the other hand, if you are trying to do creative work, you will actually have more luck if you are tired and your brain does not function as effectively. It looks like it’s crazy, but it makes sense if you look at the reasoning. This is one of the reasons why great ideas regularly take place in the shower after a long day of work.
If you are tired, your brain is not so good at filtering distractions and focusing on a particular task. It is also much less effective to remember the relationship between ideas or concepts. These are both good things and creative work, as this kind of work requires us to make new connections, be open to new ideas and think in new ways. Such a tired, fuzzy brain is much more to us when we work on creative projects.
This scientific American article explains how distraction can actually be a good thing for creative thinking:
Insight problems include thinking outside the box. This is where susceptibility to “diversion” can be beneficial. At peak times we are less focused and we can consider a wider range of information. This broader scope gives us access to more alternative and diverse interpretations, thereby promoting innovation and insight.
2. Stress can change the size of your brain (and make it smaller)
I’m sure you didn’t know stress is actually the most common cause of brain function changes. I was surprised to find out when I watched stress affect our brain.
I also found an investigation that reduced signs of brain size due to stress.
One study used baby monkeys to test the effects of stress on development and long-term mental health. Half of the monkeys were cared for by their peers for 6 months, while the other half stayed with their mothers. Thereafter, the monkeys returned to typical social groups for a few months before the researchers scanned their brain.
For the monkeys removed from their mothers and cared for by their peers, areas of their brain associated with stress have been expanded even after being in normal social conditions for several months.
Although more studies are needed to fully explore it, it is quite frightening to think that long-term stress can affect our brain over the long term.
Another study found that in rats exposed to chronic stress, the hippocampus in their brain actually shrank. The hippocampus is integral to form memories. It was debated whether PTSD can shrink the hippocampus, or people with naturally smaller hippocampus are only more prone to PTSD. This study may indicate that stress is a factor in really changing the brain.
3.It is literally impossible for our brain to do multi-tasking
Multi-tasking is something we have long been encouraging to exercise, but multitasking seems to be impossible. If we think we are multi-tasking, we are actually contextual. This means that we quickly switch back and forth between different tasks, rather than doing them at the same time.
The book Brain Rules explains how harmful “multi-tasking” can be:
Research shows that your error rate increases 50 percent and it takes you twice as long to do things.
The problem with multi-tasking is that we divide our brain’s resources. We pay less attention to each task, and probably worse on all of them:
When the brain tries to do two things simultaneously, it divides and conquers half of our gray matter for each task.
Here’s how it really looks. While trying to do both Action A and Action B, our brain is never handled at the same time. Instead, it should be painfully switching back and forth and using important brain power
When our brain handles a single task, the prefrontal cortex plays a big role. Here’s how it helps us achieve a goal or complete a task:
The front part of this brain region forms the purpose or intention, for example: “I want that cookie” – and the posterior prefrontal cortex speaks to the rest of the brain so that your hand comes to the cookie pot and your mind knows if you have the cookie .
A study in Paris found that when a second task is required, the brain divides the study volunteers, with each hemisphere alone on a task. The brain was overloaded by the second task and could not operate at full capacity because it had to divide its resources.
When a third task was added, the volunteers’ results dropped:
The triple task youngsters consistently forgot one of their tasks. They also made three times as many mistakes as they did while they were double-acting.
4. Naps improve your brain’s day to day performance
We are pretty clear about how important sleep is to our brain, but how about nap? It appears that these short bursts of sleep are actually very useful.
Here are some ways in which napping can benefit the brain:
In one study, participants illustrated illustrated maps to test their memory strength. After memorizing a set of cards, they had a 40-minute break in which one group was napped and the other was awake. After the break, both groups were tested on their memory cards and the napped group performed better:
To the amazement of the researchers, the sleep group fared considerably, retaining an average of 85 percent of the patterns, compared to 60 percent for those who stayed awake.
Apparently, napping really helps our brain to strengthen memories:
Research suggests that when a memory is first recorded in the brain in the hippocampus, it is specific – it is still “fragile” and easily forgotten, especially when the brain is asked to memorize more things. Napping, it seems, squeezes memories of the neocortex, the brain’s “more permanent storage,” to prevent them from being overridden. ”
Let’s look at it in a graph. The people who took a nap could do well for those who didn’t. It is as if they had a new beginning:
Taking a nap is also helping to clear information from your brain’s temporary storage areas so it’s ready for new information being absorbed. A study by the University of California asked participants to take a challenging task to complete that afternoon, which required them to take in much new information. About 2 hours, half of the volunteers took a nap while the rest was awake.
The very interesting part of this study is not just at 6pm. That night, the napping group outperformed those who didn’t take a nap. In fact, the napping group actually did better than they had earlier in the morning.
What happens in the brain during a nap
Some recent research found that the right side of the brain is much more active during a nap than the left side, which remains reasonably quiet while we sleep. Despite the fact that 95% of the population is right-handed, with the left side of their brain the most dominant, the right side is throughout the more active hemisphere during sleep.
The study’s author, Andrei Medwedef, speculated that the right side of the brain was dealing with “household duties” while we were sleeping.
So while the left side of your brain takes a while to relax, the temporary storage areas are cleaned.
If you like this comment below, you can drop your suggestions on the comment box.