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Torkel Klingberg helps with Overflowing Brain & Information Overload

Karolin­s­ka Institute’s Dr. Torkel Kling­berg has just released in the US his excel­lent book The Over­flow­ing Brain: Infor­ma­tion Over­load and the Lim­its of Work­ing Mem­o­ry the Overflowing Brain by Torkel Klingsberg

The title was first released in Swe­den with great suc­cess, and our co-founder Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg gave a Fore­word to the new US edi­tion.

Dr. Kling­berg will be writ­ing an essay for Sharp­Brains read­ers soon, so we can dis­cuss the impor­tance of this top­ic and his work in depth. Let me now link to two thought-pro­vok­ing reviews of the book:

Atten­tion Must Be Paid (Inside High­er Ed)

- “The weak link in the infor­ma­tion age seems to be our human hard-wiring. So one gath­ers from The Over­flow­ing Brain: Infor­ma­tion Over­load and the Lim­its of Work­ing Mem­o­ry (Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press) by Torkel Kling­berg, who is a pro­fes­sor of devel­op­men­tal cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science at the Stock­holm Brain Insti­tute. A review of recent research on how atten­tion and mem­o­ry actu­al­ly func­tion with­in our gray mat­ter, it is a work of sci­en­tif­ic pop­u­lar­iza­tion rather than a hand­book on how to min­i­mize the cog­ni­tive drain of dis­trac­tion.”

- “To sim­pli­fy Klingberg’s already pared-down analy­sis, we can dis­tin­guish between two kinds of atten­tion. One is con­trolled atten­tion: the direct­ed effort to apply ones con­cen­tra­tion to a par­tic­u­lar task. The oth­er is stim­u­lus-dri­ven atten­tion, which is an invol­un­tary response to some­thing hap­pen­ing in the envi­ron­ment. (You can tune out the con­ver­sa­tions going on around you in a restau­rant. But if a wait­er drops a tray full of dish­es, it is going to impose itself on your aware­ness.)”

- “Kling­berg reports that a two-year study in his lab showed that it was pos­si­ble to increase work­ing-mem­o­ry capac­i­ty: “chil­dren who had done a cer­tain type of com­put­er­ized mem­o­ry task, such as remem­ber­ing posi­tions in a four-by-four grid and click­ing a mouse but­ton, improved at oth­er, non­com­put­er­ized types of work­ing mem­o­ry too.… We had shown that the sys­tems are not sta­t­ic and that the lim­its of work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty can be stretched.

Jour­nal­ism bat­tle for rel­e­vance in an age of too much infor­ma­tion (Media Chan­nel)

- “Acquir­ing new infor­ma­tion requires par­tic­u­lar­ly focused atten­tion, which includes the abil­i­ty to ignore dis­trac­tions. In order to absorb the infor­ma­tion con­tained in a CNN news­cast, for exam­ple, we must not only direct our atten­tion to the per­son talk­ing, but also fil­ter out the run­ning head­lines, news updates, and finan­cial tick­er on the low­er part of the screen. Torkel Kling­berg, a pro­fes­sor of cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science at Karolin­s­ka Insti­tute in Swe­den and author of The Over­flow­ing Brain, puts it simply:“If we do not focus our atten­tion on some­thing, we will not remem­ber it.” In oth­er words, atten­tion is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of learn­ing.”

- “Michael Pos­ner, a researcher who has ded­i­cat­ed his career to study­ing atten­tion and a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of psy­chol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon, explains atten­tion as a sys­tem of three net­works alert­ing, ori­ent­ing, and exec­u­tive. Alert­ing refers to the state of wake­ful­ness nec­es­sary to attend to infor­ma­tion, while ori­ent­ing is the process by which we respond to stim­uli, such as move­ment, sound, or noise. Exec­u­tive atten­tion is the high­est-order net­work, the one that we have con­scious con­trol over. If we are try­ing to study for a test or read a nov­el, we use it to direct and main­tain our focus, as well as to sup­press our reac­tion to com­pet­ing stim­uli like the din of a near­by con­ver­sa­tion or tele­vi­sion.”

The book: The Over­flow­ing Brain: Infor­ma­tion Over­load and the Lim­its of Work­ing Mem­o­ry

For inter­views with Torkel Kling­berg, Michael Pos­ner and oth­er lead­ing sci­en­tists, check out our Neu­ro­science Inter­view Series.

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