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Trend: Measuring physiological responses–including brain activity–to design stimulating, “conscious” cities

Stanley Park, Vancouver. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo.

 

The hidden ways that architecture affects how you feel: An era of “neuro-architecture” (BBC Future)

“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us,” mused Winston Churchill in 1943 while considering the repair of the bomb-ravaged House of Commons. More than 70 years on, Read the rest of this entry »

In the News: Brain Calisthenics, Bilingual Brains, Debunking Myths on Mental Illness

Let us highlight a couple of insightful and brief articles in the New York Times and a very powerful analysis in The New York Review of Books; they provide useful clues about Brain Calisthenics, Bilingual Brains, and Debunking Myths on Mental Illness. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts and Smarts: Test Scores and Cognitive Development

(Editor’s Note: we are pleased to bring you this article thanks to our collaboration with Greater Good Magazine.)

At a time when educators are preoccupied with standards, testing, and the bottom line, some researchers suggest the arts can boost students’ test scores; others aren’t convinced. Karin Evans asks, What are the arts good for?


When poet and national endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia gave the 2007 Commencement Address at Stanford University, he used the occasion to deliver an impassioned argument for the value of the arts and arts education.

“Art is an irreplaceable way of understanding and expressing the world,” said Gioia. “There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as stories, or songs, or images. Art delights, instructs, consoles. It educates our emotions.”

For years, arts advocates like Gioia have been making similar pleas, stressing the intangible benefits of the arts at a time when many Americans are preoccupied with a market–driven culture of entertainment, and schools are consumed with meeting federal standards. Art brings joy, these advocates say, or it evokes our humanity, or, in the words of my 10–year–old daughter, “It cools kids down after all the other hard stuff they have to think about.”

Bolstering the case for the arts has become increasingly necessary in recent years, as school budget cuts and the move toward standardized testing have profoundly threatened the role of the arts in schools. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2002, the federal government started assessing school districts by their students’ scores on reading and mathematics tests.

As a result, according to a study by the Center on Education Policy, school districts across the United States increased the time they devoted to tested subjects—reading/language arts and math—while cutting spending on non–tested subjects such as the visual arts and music. The more a school fell behind, by NCLB standards, the more time and money was devoted to those tested subjects, with less going to the arts. The National Education Association has reported that the cuts fall hardest on schools with high numbers of minority children.

And the situation is likely to worsen as state budgets get even tighter. Already, in a round of federal education cuts for 2006 and 2007, arts education nationally was slashed by $35 million. In 2008, the New York City Department of Education’s annual study of Read the rest of this entry »

Emotional self-regulation and Obama

Great article in the New York Times on Obama’s emotional self-regulation abilities:
The Cool Factor: Never Let Them See You Sweat

– “We even elevate such equilibrium to the superhuman: calm, as applied to No Drama Obama, often comes linked to the modifier “preternatural.”

– “But the calm temperament is not so superhuman, nor is it entirely the gift of the chosen few. It can be cultivated, even as the world cleaves around us.”

– “So how do we get there without a steady diet of beta blockers and Xanax? Calm, per se, doesn’t appear in the taxonomy of those who study personality and temperament.”

As the article later discloses, this ability is often called “emotional self-regulation” by cognitive scientists, and its development can assisted with tools such as meditation, cognitive therapy and biofeedback.

Perhaps one day this will be part of everybody’s school curriculum and leadership programs?

Training Young Brains to Behave

Great article in the New York Times titled Training Young Brains to Behave. A couple of quotes:

– “But just as biology shapes behavior, so behavior can accelerate biology. And a small group of educational and cognitive scientists now say that mental exercises of a certain kind can teach children to become more self-possessed at earlier ages, reducing stress levels at home and improving their experience in school. Researchers can test this ability, which they call executive function, and they say it is more strongly associated with school success than I.Q.”

– “We know that the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until the 20s, and some people will ask, Read the rest of this entry »

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