Why stress regulation and working memory are core building blocks of lifelong resilience

How anx­i­ety affects your focus (BBC Worklife):

Feel like you can’t con­cen­trate on any­thing at the moment? You’re not alone. The extra anx­i­ety caused by the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic has impaired our work­ing mem­o­ry, experts say … What’s hap­pen­ing is a mal­func­tion of work­ing mem­o­ry: the abil­i­ty to grasp incom­ing infor­ma­tion, form it into a cohe­sive thought, and hold onto it long enough to do what you need to with it.

In oth­er words, work­ing mem­o­ry is the abil­i­ty to rea­son in real time, and it’s a big part of what makes the human brain so pow­er­ful. But research has showed that rapid­ly chang­ing cir­cum­stances, wor­ry and anx­i­ety can all have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on your abil­i­ty to focus.

Robin­son (at the Insti­tute of Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don) explains that even sim­ple cog­ni­tive process­es like mak­ing a shop­ping list now require more brain­pow­er. “Now, rather than think­ing, ‘I’ll just run to the store’, you’re think­ing about what you need, what stores are open and whether it’ll be safe to go there. Let’s say your brain can do four tasks at once. Now all of a sud­den there are 10, and you can’t do any of them” … reboot­ing your work­ing mem­o­ry may also mean cut­ting down on your news con­sump­tion and con­sid­er­ing a break from social media. But the most effec­tive thing to do might sim­ply be to con­vince your­self it’s OK to be struggling.

Giv­ing your­self per­mis­sion to feel it’s OK to not feel OK, para­dox­i­cal­ly, can make you more OK. If you are just fix­at­ing on it, you aren’t going to get any­thing done,” says Robin­son. “You’re just not going to be as pro­duc­tive, and there’s noth­ing wrong with not being able to work at 100% capac­i­ty: we are still in the midst of a pandemic.”

New study relevant to children and the future of education:

The Impact of Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing on Children’s Cog­ni­tive and Noncog­ni­tive Skills (work­ing paper at Uni­ver­si­ty of Zurich)

  • Abstract: Work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty is thought to play an impor­tant role for a wide range of cog­ni­tive and noncog­ni­tive skills such as flu­id intel­li­gence, math, read­ing, the inhi­bi­tion of pre-potent impuls­es or more gen­er­al self-reg­u­la­tion abil­i­ties. Because these abil­i­ties sub­stan­tial­ly affect indi­vid­u­als’ life tra­jec­to­ries in terms of health, edu­ca­tion, and earn­ings, the ques­tion of whether work­ing mem­o­ry (WM) train­ing can improve them is of con­sid­er­able impor­tance. How­ev­er, whether WM train­ing leads to improve­ments in these far-trans­fer skills is con­test­ed. Here, we exam­ine the causal impact of WM train­ing embed­ded in reg­u­lar school teach­ing by a ran­dom­ized edu­ca­tion­al inter­ven­tion involv­ing a sam­ple of 6–7 years old first graders. We find sub­stan­tial imme­di­ate and last­ing gains in work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty. In addi­tion, we doc­u­ment rel­a­tive­ly large pos­i­tive effects on geom­e­try skills, read­ing skills, Raven’s flu­id IQ mea­sure, the abil­i­ty to inhib­it pre-potent impuls­es and self-reg­u­la­tion abil­i­ties. More­over, these far-trans­fer effects emerge over time and only become ful­ly vis­i­ble after 12–13 months. Final­ly, we doc­u­ment that 3–4 years after the inter­ven­tion, the chil­dren who received train­ing have a rough­ly 16 per­cent­age points high­er prob­a­bil­i­ty of enter­ing the aca­d­e­m­ic track in sec­ondary school.

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SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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