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Green is good for you

In one study, for instance, he asked participants to complete a 40-minute sequence of stroop and binary classification tasks designed to exhaust their directed attention capacity. After the attentionally fatiguing tasks, the randomly assigned participants spent 40 minutes walking in a local nature preserve, walking in an urban area, or sitting quietly while reading magazines and listening to music. After this period, those who had walked in the nature preserve performed better than the other participants on a standard proofreading task. They also reported more positive emotions and less anger. "These are not spectacular natural environments or horribly oppressive urban environments," says Hartig, an associate professor of applied psychology at the Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Uppsala University in Gävle, Sweden. "We try to represent typical local conditions, using what's available to people in the way of places they can enter if they're feeling stressed and want some relief."

Nicotine Normalizes Brain Activity Deficits That Are Key to Schizophrenia – Neuroscience News

“Basically the nicotine is compensating for a genetically determined impairment,” says Stitzel. “No one has ever shown that before.” The international team of scientists set out to explore the underlying causes of “hypofrontality” — a reduction of neuronal firing in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Hypofrontality is believed to be the root cause of many of the signature cognitive problems experienced by schizophrenics, including trouble paying attention, remembering things, making decisions and understanding verbal explanations.

Childhood poverty can rob adults of psychological health -- ScienceDaily

In his study, Evans tracked 341 participants over a 15-year period, and tested them at ages 9, 13, 17 and 24. Short-term spatial memory was tested by asking adult study participants to repeat increasingly complex sequences of lights and sounds by pressing four colored pads in the correct order -- similar to the "Simon" game. The adults who grew up in poverty had a diminished ability to recall the sequences, compared to those who did not. "This is an important result because the ability to retain information in short-term memory is fundamental to a host of basic cognitive skills, including language and achievement," the study said. Although the participants were assessed on this measure only when they were adults, this test had the strongest association with childhood poverty of the four measures. Helplessness was assessed by asking the participants to solve an impossible puzzle. Adults growing up in poverty gave up 8 percent more quickly than those who weren't poor as kids. Previous research has shown chronic exposure to uncontrollable stressors -- such as family turmoil and substandard housing -- tends to induce helplessness. Mental health was measured with a well validated, standardized index of mental health with statements including "I argue a lot" and "I am too impatient." Adults who grew up in poverty were more likely to agree with those questions than adults from a middle-income background. Chronic physiological stress was tested by measuring the participants' blood pressure, stress hormones and body mass index. Adults who grew up in poverty had a higher level of chronic physical stress throughout childhood and into adulthood.

Gaming your brain to treat depression: Participants using a game-based app show improvement -- ScienceDaily

Project: EVO runs on phones and tablets and is designed to improve focus and attention at a basic neurological level. The results, published Jan. 3 in the journal Depression and Anxiety, showed that the group using Project: EVO demonstrated specific cognitive benefits (such as attention) compared to the behavioral therapy, and saw similar improvements in mood and self-reported function. Joaquin A. Anguera, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), researcher in neurology and psychiatry, is the lead author, and Areán is the senior author. The researchers have no commercial interests in the intervention manufactured by Akili Interactive Labs in Boston. "While EVO was not directly designed to treat depressive symptoms; we hypothesized that there may indeed be beneficial effects on these symptoms by improving cognitive issues with targeted treatment, and so far, the results are promising," said Anguera. People with late-life depression (60+) are known to have trouble focusing their attention on personal goals and report trouble concentrating because they are so distracted by their worries. Akili's technology was designed to help people better focus their attention and to prevent people from being easily distracted.

Details of information processing in the brain revealed: New research shows that, when focused, we process information continuously, rather in waves as previously thought -- ScienceDaily

Our brains oscillate at many different frequencies, explains Mathewson, and each frequency has a different role. "This study examined 12 hertz alpha oscillations, a mechanisms used to inhibit, or ignore, a certain stimulus thereby allowing us to focus on a particular time or space that we are experiencing, while ignoring others," says Mathewson. For example, if there is a repetitive stimulus in the world, such as the sound of someone's voice in a lecture theatre, the alpha waves lock onto the timing of that stimulus, and the brain becomes better at processing things that occur in time with that stimulus. The new findings show, surprisingly, that this happens more in places we are ignoring. "We are bombarded with so much information and stimulation that we can't possibly process it all at once. Whether it be commuting, engaging in our work, studying for a class, or working out, our brains select the useful information and ignore the rest, so that we can focus on a single or a few items in order to make appropriate responses in the world. This research helps explain how," says Mathewson.

Brain scans show compulsive gamers have hyperconnected neural networks

“Hyperconnectivity between these brain networks could lead to a more robust ability to direct attention toward targets, and to recognize novel information in the environment,” says Anderson. “The changes could essentially help someone to think more efficiently.” One of the next steps will be to directly determine whether the boys with these brain differences do better on performance tests. More troublesome is an increased coordination between two brain regions, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and temporoparietal junction, a change also seen in patients with neuropsychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, Down’s syndrome, and autism. Hyperconnectivity between the two regions is also observed in people with poor impulse control.

Edward Tufte on focusing on seeing

as we know from all the studies of cell phones and driving automobiles, people don't do very well in seeing where they're going when they're talking. And so deep seeing requires a fairly certain serenity of one's self, but also a serene environment. […]I had this experience - almost a magical experience. I was walking out on our farm by a long, stone wall and I said to my friend, let's just not talk. […]what happened to seeing after maybe 10 minutes of just seeing - not talking, not doing anything else - was it like the light became perfect. Like when you have filtered light from the sun, the shadows don't blow out the dark and the brights don't go out the white. But everything, you know, is in focus and not blown out. But now, it was just because you were seeing so much better, because all your brain power was devoted to it, it was like you were creating a perfect light for seeing. That is, you could see the details in the shadow, and you could protect the eye against blowing out to brightness.

The Editing of Mad Max the Movie

One of the many reasons MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is so successful as an action film is the editing style. By using “Eye Trace” and “Crosshair Framing” techniques during the shooting, the editor could keep the important visual information vital in one spot…the Center of the Frame. Because almost every shot was center framed, comprehending the action requires no hunting of each new shot for the point of interest. The viewer doesn’t need 3 or 4 frames to figure out where to look. It’s like watching an old hand-drawn flip book whiz by. The focus is always in the same spot!

Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer

I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight. […] This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).[…]I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night.

uber.la | Focus Yourself: Cutting Away the Distractions

Find your distractions. Learn which ones feed you, charge your energy back up. And eliminate or limit the ones that pull your spirits and motivations down. Today, you still have most of your life ahead of you. But the sooner you discover your energies and contain your passions by capturing the excess energy in your creative process, the further along the path you will be by the time you reach my age.

Jobs leapfrogged product shortfalls

The mark of an innovative company is not only that it comes up with new ideas first. It also knows how to leapfrog when it finds itself behind. That happened when Jobs built the original iMac. He focused on making it useful for managing a user’s photos and videos, but it was left behind when dealing with music. People with PCs were downloading and swapping music and then ripping and burning their own CDs. The iMac’s slot drive couldn’t burn CDs. “I felt like a dope,” he said. “I thought we had missed it.” But instead of merely catching up by upgrading the iMac’s CD drive, he decided to create an integrated system that would transform the music industry. The result was the combination of iTunes, the iTunes Store, and the iPod, which allowed users to buy, share, manage, store, and play music better than they could with any other devices. After the iPod became a huge success, Jobs spent little time relishing it. Instead he began to worry about what might endanger it. One possibility was that mobile phone makers would start adding music players to their handsets. So he cannibalized iPod sales by creating the iPhone. “If we don’t cannibalize ourselves, someone else will,” he said.

Jobs: simplify!

During the design of the iPod interface, Jobs tried at every meeting to find ways to cut clutter. He insisted on being able to get to whatever he wanted in three clicks. One navigation screen, for example, asked users whether they wanted to search by song, album, or artist. “Why do we need that screen?” Jobs demanded. The designers realized they didn’t. “There would be times when we’d rack our brains on a user interface problem, and he would go, ‘Did you think of this?’” says Tony Fadell, who led the iPod team. “And then we’d all go, ‘Holy shit.’ He’d redefine the problem or approach, and our little problem would go away.” At one point Jobs made the simplest of all suggestions: Let’s get rid of the on/off button. At first the team members were taken aback, but then they realized the button was unnecessary. The device would gradually power down if it wasn’t being used and would spring to life when reengaged.

Jobs slashes hundreds of priorities to 3

After he righted the company, Jobs began taking his “top 100” people on a retreat each year. On the last day, he would stand in front of a whiteboard (he loved whiteboards, because they gave him complete control of a situation and they engendered focus) and ask, “What are the 10 things we should be doing next?” People would fight to get their suggestions on the list. Jobs would write them down—and then cross off the ones he decreed dumb. After much jockeying, the group would come up with a list of 10. Then Jobs would slash the bottom seven and announce, “We can only do three.”