It’s August 12th! Less than 2 weeks left before school starts!
You know what time it is!
Time for Back to School Rehab!
Teacher: ‘So students, did everyone have a wonderful Summer?
Okay, glad to hear it.
Now I know you’ve spent the past 3 months playing video games, tweeting and texting on your phones, and fondling the remote control mindlessly, so it’s time for some brief solution-focused group therapy.
How many of you can focus on one thing for longer than 3 seconds?
How many of you have heard of a handheld wireless tool called a ‘book?’
Let’s see a show of hands please….hold them up. Okay, 2 of you.
In that case, let’s talk about addiction.
Johnny, I need you to stop moving your thumbs.
Yes, just use your thoughts, dear. Really, you can stop fidgeting using your mind!
I know it’s difficult, dear. Just give it a try.
The withdrawals from your iPhones, video games and laptops seem just as bad as nicotine detox.
Addiction is when you can’t stop thinking about where your next fix is coming from. So if all you can think about is getting home to fire up WOW or COD, you just might be addicted!
Call of Duty (COD)
Addiction is when you spend all your energy focusing on how your going to get your next fix. So if you are counting the seconds from first period to the end of the school day while worrying about playing Angry Birds on the iPhone, you just might be addicted!
Remember, quitting technology cold turkey can be brutal.
So if you need a fix during the school day, we were just got in some brand new Kindles. You can use them in the meantime to quiet those nasty eye twitches and finger tics.
Alright. I’m glad we had the chance to have this little chat. There’s the school bell.
Those ubiquitous wires connecting listeners to you-name-the-sounds from invisible MP3 players — whether of Bach, Miles Davis or, more likely today, Lady Gaga — only hint at music’s effect on the soul throughout the ages.
Now a data-driven review by Northwestern University researchers that will be published July 20 in Nature Reviews Neuroscience pulls together converging research from the scientific literature linking musical training to learning that spills over to skills including language, speech, memory, attention and even vocal emotion. The science covered comes from labs all over the world, from scientists of varying scientific philosophies, using a wide range of research methods.
The explosion of research in recent years focusing on the effects of music training on the nervous system, including the studies in the review, have strong implications for education, said Nina Kraus, lead author of the Nature perspective, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences and Neurobiology and director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory.
Scientists use the term neuroplasticity to describe the brain’s ability to adapt and change as a result of training and experience over the course of a person’s life. The studies covered in the Northwestern review offer a model of neuroplasticity, Kraus said. The research strongly suggests that the neural connections made during musical training also prime the brain for other aspects of human communication.
An active engagement with musical sounds not only enhances neuroplasticity, she said, but also enables the nervous system to provide the stable scaffolding of meaningful patterns so important to learning.
“The brain is unable to process all of the available sensory information from second to second, and thus must selectively enhance what is relevant,” Kraus said. Playing an instrument primes the brain to choose what is relevant in a complex process that may involve reading or remembering a score, timing issues and coordination with other musicians.
“A musician’s brain selectively enhances information-bearing elements in sound,” Kraus said. “In a beautiful interrelationship between sensory and cognitive processes, the nervous system makes associations between complex sounds and what they mean.” The efficient sound-to-meaning connections are important not only for music but for other aspects of communication, she said.
The Nature article reviews literature showing, for example, that musicians are more successful than non-musicians in learning to incorporate sound patterns for a new language into words. Children who are musically trained show stronger neural activation to pitch changes in speech and have a better vocabulary and reading ability than children who did not receive music training.
And musicians trained to hear sounds embedded in a rich network of melodies and harmonies are primed to understand speech in a noisy background. They exhibit both enhanced cognitive and sensory abilities that give them a distinct advantage for processing speech in challenging listening environments compared with non-musicians.
Children with learning disorders are particularly vulnerable to the deleterious effects of background noise, according to the article. “Music training seems to strengthen the same neural processes that often are deficient in individuals with developmental dyslexia or who have difficulty hearing speech in noise.”
Currently what is known about the benefits of music training on sensory processing beyond that involved in musical performance is largely derived from studying those who are fortunate enough to afford such training, Kraus said.
The research review, the Northwestern researchers conclude, argues for serious investing of resources in music training in schools accompanied with rigorous examinations of the effects of such instruction on listening, learning, memory, attention and literacy skills.
“The effect of music training suggests that, akin to physical exercise and its impact on body fitness, music is a resource that tones the brain for auditory fitness and thus requires society to re-examine the role of music in shaping individual development, the researchers conclude.
More information: “Music training for the development of auditory skills,” by Nina Kraus and Bharath Chandrasekaran, will be published July 20 in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience.
‘New Software to Measure Emotional Reactions to Web
ScienceDaily (June 9, 2010) While most people have intuitive reactions to Web sites, a group of Canadian scientists is developing software that can actually measure those emotions and more.Aude Dufresne, a professor at the University of Montreal Department Of Communications, led a team of researchers that are designing a new software to evaluate the biological responses of Internet users.Simply put, the new software measures everything in Web users from body heat to eye movements to facial expressions and analyzes how they relate to online activities.
The technology is now being tested at the newly opened Bell User Experience Centre, which is located at the telecom giant’s Nun’s Island campus. Bell will use the University of Montreal technology to investigate how people react to Web sites. Such studies will provide companies with facts on how they can improve online experiences.
“With e-commerce and the multiplication of retail Web sites, it has become crucial for companies to consider the emotions of Web users,” says Professor Dufresne. “Our software is the first designed to measure emotions at conscious and preconscious levels, which will give companies a better sense of the likes and dislikes of Web users.”‘
If you’ve been following my blog, Shrunken Mind, you’re aware of the vast power of the unconscious mind – that part of the mind which I refer to as the ‘back office’ of the mind. In the ‘back office’, activites take place that are automatic, uncontrolled and outside of your conscious awareness. Despite this, the workings of the unconscious mind have a profound effect on the consious mind and on your behavior. In science, we’ve been working on figuring this out over the past 20 years with the help of fMRIs and MRIs.
There are a few areas of expertise that continually seem to be at the cutting edge of this area of expertise – sales and marketing. Up until recently this has only been of some concern to me, as I stay on the bleeding edge of the area and can afford some awareness and protection to myself, my family and my clients.
However, a new study came out this week which caused me great concern. Check out the snippet from the article from New Scientist and see if you agree.
‘Unconscious purchasing urges revealed by brain scans
15:56 09 June 2010 by Ewen CallawayYou spend more time window shopping than you may realise. Whether someone intends to buy a product or not can be predicted from their brain activity even when they are not consciously pondering their choices.The ability to predict from brain scans alone what a person intends to buy, while leaving the potential buyer none the wiser, could bring much-needed rigour to efforts to meld marketing and neuroscience, says Brian Knutson, a neuroscientist at Stanford University in California who was not involved in the research.Neuromarketing, as this field is known, has been employed by drug firms, Hollywood studios and even the Campbell Soup Company to sell their wares, despite little published proof of its effectiveness.
Rather than soup, John-Dylan Haynes at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, Germany, attempted to predict which cars people might unconsciously favour. To do so, he and colleague Anita Tusche used functional MRI to scan the brains of two groups of male volunteers, aged 24 to 32, while they were presented with images of a variety of cars.One group was asked to rate their impressions of the vehicles, while the second performed a distracting visual task while cars were presented in the background. Each volunteer was then shown three cars and asked which they would prefer to buy.
The researchers found that when volunteers first viewed the car that they would subsequently “buy”, specific patterns of brain activity could be seen in the brain’s medial prefrontal and insula cortices areas that are all associated with preferences and emotion.These patterns of activity reflected the volunteers’ subsequent purchasing choice nearly three-quarters of the time, whether or not the subjects had given their undivided attention to the images of the cars when they were first shown them.Previous studies have shown similar patterns of activity when we make explicit purchasing choices. What this new study suggests is that these brain regions size up products even when we are not consciously making purchasing decisions. The brain appears to be imparting automatic or possibly even unconscious value onto products, as soon as you’re exposed to them, says Haynes.
While Knutson acknowledges that the volunteers’ choices might have been different if they had been making a real decision about which car to buy, he reckons the study may still be of use to neuromarketers specifically as a subjective way of determining whether a consumer might buy a product or not, without having to be explicitly asked.’
In the past, I’ve been involved in some neuromarketing and emotion studies with large health care providers and consumer goods manufacturers. At the time, it was fascinating, compelling and educational. The more I get to know about it, the more concerned I become. TV commercials, billboards, radio spots and magazine ads already have sufficient influence over our minds to make me highly uncomfortable. My unease is only reinforced by the piles of studies showing how Madison Avenue is influencing the ‘back office’ of our minds.
To protect yourself and your families, my best suggestion is pause the TV during commercials and skip over them if you have TIVO (or the equivalent. Even if you have TIVO, studies have shown the brain recognizes roughly 30% of the content of TV ads even when you are skipping through the commercials at high speed!
If you don’t, at least mute the radio or TV during commercials. From what we know in science, the brain is malleable like a lump of clay. And these commercials leave tracks in the brain like running a finger tip through wet clay. The more you are exposed, the deeper the groove becomes in the clay (your brain) and the more influence they have over you. Don’t let your children mindlessly watch tv commercials.
Your brain is impressionable. Guard it. Be mindful.
I’m always on the look out for short videos to elicit specific emotions when I speak to audiences.
It might be sadness, hope, inspiration, elevation (the feeling you get when you witness another person performing an act of moral courage), laughter, courage, curiosity, or others. I’ve found that it is often useful to have a short video break for audiences for several reasons. I can use the video to put them in a particular feeling state. The video may be used to start discussion. It’s a chance for me to take a sip of water to wet my whistle.
The videos can be used to demonstrate the effect that ‘negative’ emotions such as anger, fear and sadness have on our attention and awareness (e.g, they narrow our focus). Or to show the broaden-and-build effect that positive emotions have on us (e.g., they open our awareness, increase the available thought processes we have, and build internal resources for later use).
So I found it interesting when I came across research from the University of Pennsylvania that showed that the most emailed articles from the New York Times website involved one of two themes: sex or awe (and perhaps awe-inspiring sex!). Folks on the web were most likely to share articles that filled readers with awe, a theme that was noticed after researchers realized the vast number of scientific articles being shared via email.
Definition of Awe
Awe is defined as a ‘feeling of self-transcendence, admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self.’ There seems to be two types of awe (at least).
There is the type of awe that comes from watching feats of human strength, ability, balance, and bravery.
I would also argue that there is a type of awe which combines simultaneous feelings of mild fear along with elevation or self-transcendence.
Awe as Self-transcendence Mixed With a Dash of Fear
This type of awe arises due to being confronted with something that is so vast, beautiful, destructive or overwhelming that it leaves one feeling elevated and also slightly scared possibly due to a perceived threat to one’s very existence. So it’s a combination of self-transcendence (feeling connected to a larger purpose or to other beings and/or nature) with a low-level fear. For instance, watching a volcano erupt or standing atop the Grand Canyon might create a feeling of awe which mixes fear and self-transcendence.
Awe as Self-Transcendence and Elevation
Then, there are events which evoke awe that are more purely ‘positive’ in the traditional sense and solely involve the feelings of self-transcendence, elevation and expansiveness in the chest. Some of the best current examples of awe-inspiring acts include Shaun White’s gold medal run in the half-pipe, followed by his celebration run, Shani Davis winning the 1000m in speed skating, and Lindsey Vonn’s gold-medal run in the slalom on an injured shin.
Watching such acts of courage and athleticism fills me with awe, disbelief, pride and a feeling of being connected to other Americans and human beings in a significant way, a way that whispers to me ‘If they can do that, what can we, as a species, do? What are we capable of? What might we be inspired to create? What problems can we solve? How can we best help one another?’
What’s more, stories that were emotion-laden were most likely to be shared with others. And within the emotionally-laden stories, stories that had to do with positive emotions were more likely to be shared than those having to do with negative emotions. Interestingly, longer articles were more readily shared than shorter articles which runs counter-intuitive to the assumption that we live in a short-attention span culture here in the U.S.
With that said, allow me to share some of my favorite awe-inspiring videos with you. And you can tell me whether or not, or to what degree, these clips fill you with awe and wonder…
Top Video to Inspire Feelings of Awe
Dylan Longbottom Surfing a Monster 12 foot Barrel
I’m having trouble embedding this video. If the video doesn’t come up here is the link…