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Brain Scientists Identify Links between Arts, Learning

Arts edu­ca­tion influ­ences learn­ing and oth­er areas of cog­ni­tion and may deserve a more promi­nent place in schools, accord­ing to a wave of recent neu­ro­science research.One recent study found that chil­dren who receive music instruc­tion for just 15 months show strength­ened con­nec­tions in musi­cal­ly rel­e­vant brain areas and per­form bet­ter on asso­ci­at­ed tasks, com­pared with stu­dents who do not learn an instru­ment.

A sep­a­rate study found that chil­dren who receive train­ing to improve their focus and atten­tion per­form bet­ter not only on atten­tion tasks but also on intel­li­gence tests. Some researchers sug­gest that arts train­ing might sim­i­lar­ly affect a wide range of cog­ni­tive domains. Edu­ca­tors and neu­ro­sci­en­tists gath­ered recent­ly in Bal­ti­more and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to dis­cuss the increas­ing­ly detailed pic­ture of how arts edu­ca­tion changes the brain, and how to trans­late that research to edu­ca­tion pol­i­cy and the class­room. Many par­tic­i­pants referred to the results of Dana Foun­da­tion-fund­ed research by cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tists from sev­en lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties over three years, released in 2008.

Art must do some­thing to the mind and brain. What is that? How would we be able to detect that? asked Bar­ry Gor­don, a behav­ioral neu­rol­o­gist and cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist at Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty, who spoke May 8 dur­ing the “Learn­ing and the Brain” con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. “Art, I sub­mit to you with­out absolute proof, can improve the pow­er of our minds. How­ev­er, this improve­ment is hard to detect.”

Study links music, brain changes

Among the sci­en­tists try­ing to detect such improve­ment, Ellen Win­ner, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy at Boston Col­lege, and Got­tfried Schlaug, a pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at Beth Israel Dea­coness Med­ical Cen­ter and Har­vard Med­ical School, pre­sent­ed research at the “Learn­ing, Arts, and the Brain sum­mit May 6 in Bal­ti­more. Their work mea­sured, for the first time, changes to the brain as a result of music train­ing.

For four years, Win­ner and Schlaug fol­lowed chil­dren ages 9 to 11, some of whom Read the rest of this entry »

Jogging our Brains for Brain Vitality, Healthy Aging-and Intelligence!

Stroop Test

Quick: say the col­or in which each word in this graph­ic is dis­played (don’t just read the word!):

Here you have a round-up of some great recent arti­cles on mem­o­ry, aging, and cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties such as self-con­trol:

1) How to Boost Your Willpow­er (New York Times).

- “The video watch­ers were lat­er giv­en a con­cen­tra­tion test in which they were asked to iden­ti­fy the col­or in which words were dis­played. (Note: now you see why we start­ed with that brain exer­cise…) The word  for instance, might appear in blue ink. The video watch­ers who had sti­fled their respons­es did the worst on the test, sug­gest­ing that their self-con­trol had already been deplet­ed by the film chal­lenge.”

- “Final­ly, some research sug­gests that peo­ple strug­gling with self-con­trol should start small. A few stud­ies show that peo­ple who were instruct­ed for two weeks to make small changes like improv­ing their pos­ture or brush­ing their teeth with their oppo­site hand improved their scores on lab­o­ra­to­ry tests of self-con­trol. The data aren’t con­clu­sive, but they do sug­gest that the quest for self-improve­ment should start small. A vow to stop swear­ing, to make the bed every day or to give up just one food may be a way to strength­en your self-con­trol, giv­ing you more willpow­er reserves for big­ger chal­lenges lat­er.”

Com­ment: learn­ing, build­ing abil­i­ties, are process­es that require prac­tice and grow­ing lev­els of dif­fi­cul­ty. Like train­ing our mus­cles in the gym. So the advice to start small and pro­gres­sive­ly do more makes sense. Many times the ene­my of learn­ing is the stress and anx­i­ety we pro­voke by try­ing to do too many things at the same time…

2) Jog­ging Your Mem­o­ry (Newsweek) Thanks Chris for alert­ing us!

- “No one should expect mir­a­cles soon, if at all. But the deep­er sci­en­tists peer into the work­ings of mem­o­ry, the bet­ter they under­stand Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Teasers with a Neuroscience angle

Stroop Test Quick! say aloud the col­or you see in every word, DON“T sim­ply read the word.
The Stroop test is used in neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal eval­u­a­tions to mea­sure men­tal vital­i­ty and flex­i­bil­i­ty, since per­form­ing well requires strong impulse-con­trol capa­bil­i­ty.

This is one of the Top 10 Brain Teasers and Games we pro­file here.

Want more teasers? You can check our col­lec­tion here.

Enjoy.

Brain Teaser for the Frontal Lobes: Tipping the Scales

Here is a new brain teas­er from puz­zle mas­ter Wes Car­roll.

Tip­ping the Scales

free brain teasers for frontal lobes

Ques­tion:
The top two scales are in per­fect bal­ance. How many dia­monds will be need­ed to bal­ance the bot­tom set?

This puz­zle works your exec­u­tive func­tions in your frontal lobes by using your pat­tern recog­ni­tion, hypoth­e­sis test­ing, and log­ic.
ANSWER:

Four dia­monds

SOLUTION:

First add up the num­ber of clubs in the first two scales (5). Then count how many clubs are in the bot­tom scale (5). The do the same with the spades, which gets you 5 and 5. There are 4 dia­monds in the top two bal­anced scales. There­fore, it must take 4 dia­monds to bal­ance the third scale since all the oth­er mea­sure­ments are the same.

 

More brain teas­er games:

Sunday Afternoon Quiz

Here’s a quick quiz to test your mem­o­ry and think­ing skills which should work out your tem­po­ral and frontal lobes. See how you do!

  1. Name the one sport in which nei­ther the spec­ta­tors nor the par­tic­i­pants know the score or the leader until the con­test ends.
  2. What famous North Amer­i­can land­mark is con­stant­ly mov­ing back­ward?
  3. Of all veg­eta­bles, only two can live to pro­duce on their own for sev­er­al grow­ing sea­sons. All oth­er veg­eta­bles must be replant­ed every year. What are the only two peren­ni­al veg­eta­bles?
  4. What fruit has its seeds on the out­side?
  5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bot­tle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bot­tle is gen­uine; it hasn’t been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bot­tle?
  6. Only three words in Stan­dard Eng­lish begin with the let­ters “dw” and they are all com­mon words. Name two of them.
  7. There are 14 punc­tu­a­tion marks in Eng­lish gram­mar. Can you name at least half of them?
  8. Name the one veg­etable or fruit that is nev­er sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any oth­er form except fresh.
  9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet begin­ning with the let­ter “S.”

 —

Answers To Quiz:

  1.  The one sport in which nei­ther the spec­ta­tors, nor the par­tic­i­pants, know the score or the leader until the con­test ends: box­ing
  2.  The North Amer­i­can land­mark con­stant­ly mov­ing back­ward: Nia­gara Falls (the rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the mil­lions of gal­lons of water that rush over it every minute.)
  3. Only two veg­eta­bles that can live to pro­duce on their own for sev­er­al grow­ing sea­sons: aspara­gus and rhubarb.
  4. The fruit with its seeds on the out­side: straw­ber­ry.
  5. How did the pear get inside the brandy bot­tle? It grew inside the bot­tle. (The bot­tles are placed over pear buds when they are small and are wired in place on the tree. The bot­tle is left in place for the entire grow­ing sea­son. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.)
  6. Three Eng­lish words begin­ning with “dw”: dwarf, dwell, and dwin­dle.
  7. Four­teen punc­tu­a­tion marks in Eng­lish gram­mar: peri­od, com­ma, colon, semi­colon, dash, hyphen, apos­tro­phe, ques­tion mark, excla­ma­tion point, quo­ta­tion marks, brack­ets, paren­the­sis, braces, and ellipses.
  8. The only veg­etable or fruit nev­er sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any oth­er form but fresh: let­tuce.
  9. Six or more things you can wear on your feet begin­ning with “s”: shoes, socks, san­dals, sneak­ers, slip­pers, skis, skates, snow­shoes, stock­ings, stilts.

 

More brain teas­er games:

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