What is surprising is the discovery a number of years ago that mentally dexterous people with greater working memory capacity seem to be particularly susceptible to “brain freeze” or choking under pressure.
For a new study in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, researchers at the University of Chicago and Michigan State University attempted to find out more about why this happens. Their results suggest that actually it’s only a subgroup of high working memory people who have this problem and it’s because of their high distractibility. These high ability chokers or brain freeze victims are “typically reliant on their higher working memory resources for advanced problem solving” but their poor attentional control renders them easily distracted by anxiety, causing their usual mental deftness to break down when the pressure is on.
Jason Sattizahn and his colleagues recruited 83 participants aged 18-35, including 35 men, from areas near universities. First they tested the participants’ attention control abilities using the well-established Flanker Task: participants had to identify as quickly as possible the direction of central arrows that were either surrounded by congruent flankers (<<<<<) or incongruent flankers (<<><<). It’s a test of attention control because it takes mental concentration to ignore the flankers, especially on incongruent trials.
Next, the researchers tested the participants’ on some tricky mental arithmetic questions, both without any pressure and then under high pressure conditions in which there was a monetary incentive, peer pressure (poor performance would adversely affect another participant) and risk of public shaming (they were told their performance would be shared with professors and others).
Finally, the participants completed two tests of their working memory capacity: they had to solve a sequence of basic mathematical operations or sentence comprehension questions, with each one interspersed with presentation of a single letter on screen. At the end of each run of between three and seven trials, the participants had to try to recall the letters in the correct order.
The results were clear: high stakes pressure adversely affected the math performance of participants with high working memory capacity, but did not affect the performance of participants with lower working memory capacity (replicating a phenomenon first identified in a paper published in 2005**). What’s new here is the additional measure of attentional control. This showed that only high working memory participants with poor attentional control showed evidence of this mental performance choking under pressure.
Good games can provide immersive experiences for students. Like novels, films, plays, and other media, games can be high-quality materials a teacher uses to enable students to access the curriculum. Classrooms with high-functioning game-based learning are not ones in which the teacher hands a game to students to play. Nor do the teachers "gamify" their rooms, turning them into a game. Instead, effective game-based classrooms involve each of these components. Students are provided with learning experiences driven by play.
The following are three approaches to bringing game-based learning to your classroom. They’re not distinct from one another - so try mixing two or all three.
1. Games as Shared Experience
In 2015, Benjamin Stokes compared the experience of playing games to taking a class on a field trip. With a field trip, you first let students know what to expect and then give them freedom to explore an out-of-school location. Back in the classroom, you facilitate connections to the curriculum. Games, like field trips, provide meaning for students. You can put students in Minecraft and have them build structures. When night comes and creepers attack, only the students who stayed in fortified structures survive. After play, discuss the difficulties of setting up a colony in a hostile environment, like Jamestown. Students understand the dangers of settling new worlds because they have experienced them.
When you hold in mind a sentence you have just read or a phone number you’re about to dial, you’re engaging a critical brain system known as working memory.
For the past several decades, neuroscientists have believed that as information is held in working memory, brain cells associated with that information fire continuously. However, a new study from MIT has upended that theory, instead finding that as information is held in working memory, neurons fire in sporadic, coordinated bursts. These cyclical bursts could help the brain to hold multiple items in working memory at the same time, according to the researchers.
“By having these different bursts coming at different moments in time, you can keep different items in memory separate from one another,” says Earl Miller, the Picower Professor in MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. According to the new model, information is stored in rapid changes in the synaptic strength of the neurons. The brief bursts serve to “imprint” information in the synapses of these neurons, and the bursts reoccur periodically to reinforce the information as long as it is needed.
Mikael Lundqvist, a Picower Institute postdoc, and Jonas Rose, now at University of Tubingen in Germany, are the paper’s lead authors. The bursts create waves of coordinated activity in the gamma frequency (45 to 100 hertz), like the ones that were observed in the data. These waves occur sporadically, with gaps between them, and each ensemble of neurons, encoding a specific item, produces a different burst of gamma waves. “It’s like a fingerprint,” Lundqvist says.
The study, published in the Journal of Child Neurology, is the first of its kind to link nighttime instant messaging habits of American teenagers to sleep health and school performance.
"We need to be aware that teenagers are using electronic devices excessively and have a unique physiology," says study author Xue Ming, professor of neuroscience and neurology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. "They tend to go to sleep late and get up late. When we go against that natural rhythm, students become less efficient."
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that media use among children of all ages is increasing exponentially; studies have found that children ages 8 to 18 use electronic devices approximately seven-and-a-half hours daily.
Ming's research is part of a small but growing body of evidence on the negative effects of electronics on sleep and school performance. But few studies, Ming says, have focused specifically on instant messaging.
"During the last few years I have noticed an increased use of smartphones by my patients with sleep problems," Ming says. "I wanted to isolate how messaging alone - especially after the lights are out - contributes to sleep-related problems and academic performance."
To conduct her study, Ming distributed surveys to three New Jersey high schools - a suburban and an urban public school and a private school - and evaluated the 1,537 responses contrasting grades, sexes, messaging duration and whether the texting occurred before or after lights out.
She found that students who turned off their devices or who messaged for less than 30 minutes after lights out performed significantly better in school than those who messaged for more than 30 minutes after lights out.
Did you receive affection, play freely and feel supported in childhood? Childhood experiences like these appear to have a lot to do with well-being and moral capacities in adulthood. University of Notre Dame professor of psychology Darcia Narvaez and colleagues Lijuan Wang and Ying Cheng, associate professors of psychology, show that childhood experiences that match with evolved needs lead to better outcomes in adulthood.
According to Narvaez, one of the reasons that the well-being of children in the United States lags behind that of children in other advanced nations is because "we have forgotten that we are social mammals with specific evolved needs from birth."
Narvaez emphasizes six components: Soothing, naturalistic perinatal experiences; responsiveness to a baby's needs including sensitivity to the signals of the baby before the baby cries; constant physical presence with plenty of affectionate touch; extensive breastfeeding; playful interactions with caregivers and friends; and a community of affectionate, mindful caregivers.
Adults who report receiving more of such parenting practices in their childhoods display less depression and anxiety, greater ability to take the perspective of others and an orientation toward compassion. Adults who report less of these parenting practices in their childhood have poorer mental health, more distress in social situations and are less able to take another's point of view.
Our brains weren't built to multitask.
Our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time, and bombarding them with information only slows them down. MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller notes that our brains are "not wired to multitask well... when people think they're multitasking, they're actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there's a cognitive cost." This constant task-switching encourages bad brain habits. When we complete a tiny task (sending an email, answering a text message, posting a tweet), we are hit with a dollop of dopamine, our reward hormone. Our brains love that dopamine, and so we're encouraged to keep switching between small mini-tasks that give us instant gratification. This creates a dangerous feedback loop that makes us feel like we're accomplishing a ton, when we're really not doing much at all (or at least nothing requiring much critical thinking).
Multitasking lowers your work quality and efficiency.
Multitasking makes it more difficult to organize thoughts and filter out irrelevant information and it reduces the efficiency and quality of our work. A study at the University Of London showed that multitasking has also been found to increase production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Having our brain constantly shift gears pumps up stress and tires us out, leaving us feeling mentally exhausted (even when the work day has barely begun).
One of the biggest instigators of multitasking mayhem? Our inboxes. The constant thrill of a new bolded email in our inbox keeps us ever-distracted. A McKinsey Global Institute Study found that employees spend 28 percent of their workweek checking emails. Email is problematic, but texting is even worse, demanding even more immediacy than email, having us check it more adamantly as a result. Protect yourself from the multitasking mental massacre by establishing an e-mail checking schedule. Commit yourself to checking emails only three times a day, (maybe when you get into work in the morning, at lunch time, and before leaving work at the end of the day). Turn off texting notifications and choose specific times to check your phone as well.
The lesson? Multitasking is not a skill to add to the resume, but rather a bad habit to put a stop to.
Zackery doesn’t want others to end up like him. At 22, he walks with a looping gait, leaning heavily on a metal cane. He peers through thick glasses, specially designed to help his peripheral (side) vision. It takes him a moment to gather his thoughts before he speaks in a strained, thick voice. He struggles to remember his schedule day to day, and often relies on his mother to be his short-term memory schedule.
Zack’s daily challenges stem from a traumatic brain injury he received while playing football when he was 13. In 2006, Zack nearly died after he got two concussions in a single football game, something called second impact syndrome.
Although it’s not easy for him to get around, he’s spent the last 9 years speaking to lawmakers, coaches, athletic directors, trainers, health care workers, and parents about the dangers of concussions and what happens when they aren’t given time to heal.
That’s why it was especially painful for Zack to watch the news about Kenney; the 17-year-old high school football player from Seattle who died earlier this month, 3 days after he received a head injury during a game.
After his death, school officials revealed that Kenny, a wide receiver and defensive back, had suffered a concussion in September and had been cleared to play by health care professionals following the CDC’s guidelines.
Had Zack sat out the rest of the game on Oct. 12, 2006, he most likely would be doing normal 22-year-old activities, like “out driving picking up chicks,” as he likes to joke.
On that day, Zack suffered a concussion in the second quarter of the game when he made a tackle and hit the ground hard. He sat out for a while, but returned to the game in the second half. Zack took more hits but finished the game. As he walked off the field with his father, he collapsed and started to convulse. He was flown to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center and came within an hour of dying from a catastrophic brain injury, says Richard G. Ellenbogen, MD, the hospital’s chief of neurological surgery.
Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.
1. You Are Creative
Artists are not special, but each of us is a special kind of artist who enters the world as a creative and spontaneous thinker. While creative people believe they are creative, those who don't hold that belief are not. After acquiring beliefs about their identity, creative people become interested in expressing themselves, so they learn thinking habits and techniques that creative geniuses have used throughout history.
2. Creative Thinking Is Work
You must show passion and the determination to immerse yourself in the process of developing new and different ideas. The next step is patience and perseverance. All creative geniuses work with intensity and produce an incredible number of ideas -- most of which are bad. In fact, more bad poems were written by major poets than by minor poets. Thomas Edison generated 3,000 different lighting system ideas before he evaluated them for practicality and profitability.
3. You Must Go Through the Motions
When producing ideas, you replenish neurotransmitters linked to genes that are being turned on and off in response to challenges. Going through the motions of generating new ideas increases the number of contacts between neurons, and thereby energizes the brain. Every hour spent activating your mind by generating ideas increases creativity. By painting a picture every day, you would become an artist -- perhaps not Van Gogh, but more of an artist than someone who has never tried.
Traumatic brain injury is the skeleton that the NFL has tried to keep in its closet for far too long. Now that's coming to light on the brightest stage possible. Will Smith's new movie Concussion will expose people who don't care about football to the plights of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
Dr. Bennet Omalu, the former NFL and NCAA doctor who first identified chronic brain injury common factor in the deaths of several former NFL players, including Junior Seau following his death in 2012. The trailer presents the NFL as a dangerous syndicate working to discredit, disavow and coerce a doctor into hiding his research, while Omalu strives to present the truth.
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