The Type Of Films And Stories That Make You Smarter

An unsettling feeling, like the absurdity of life, can engender the desired state.

An unsettling feeling, like the absurdity of life, can engender the desired state.

Surreal books and films could make you smarter, research finds.

Stories by Franz Kafka or films by master of the absurd David Lynch could boost learning.

Even an unsettling feeling, like the absurdity of life, can engender the desired state.

The reason is that surreal or nonsensical things put our mind into overdrive looking for meaning.

When people are more motivated to search for meaning, they learn better, the psychologists found.

Dr Travis Proulx, the study’s first author, explained:

“The idea is that when you’re exposed to a meaning threat –– something that fundamentally does not make sense –– your brain is going to respond by looking for some other kind of structure within your environment.

And, it turns out, that structure can be completely unrelated to the meaning threat.”

For the study, people read a Franz Kafka’s short story called ‘The Country Doctor’ — which involves a nonsensical series of events.

A version of the story was rewritten to make more sense and read by a control group.

Afterwards, both groups were given an unconscious learning task that involved spotting strings of letters.

Dr Proulx said:

“People who read the nonsensical story checked off more letter strings –– clearly they were motivated to find structure.

But what’s more important is that they were actually more accurate than those who read the more normal version of the story.

They really did learn the pattern better than the other participants did.”

In a second study, people were made to feel their own lives didn’t make sense.

This was done by pointing out the contradictory decisions they had made.

Dr Proulx said:

“You get the same pattern of effects whether you’re reading Kafka or experiencing a breakdown in your sense of identity.

People feel uncomfortable when their expected associations are violated, and that creates an unconscious desire to make sense of their surroundings.

That feeling of discomfort may come from a surreal story, or from contemplating their own contradictory behaviors, but either way, people want to get rid of it.

So they’re motivated to learn new patterns.”

The study only tested unconscious learning, it doesn’t tell us whether you would be able to use this trick intentionally.

Dr Proulx said:

“It’s important to note that sitting down with a Kafka story before exam time probably wouldn’t boost your performance on a test.

What is critical here is that our participants were not expecting to encounter this bizarre story.

If you expect that you’ll encounter something strange or out of the ordinary, you won’t experience the same sense of alienation.

You may be disturbed by it, but you won’t show the same learning ability.

The key to our study is that our participants were surprised by the series of unexpected events, and they had no way to make sense of them.

Hence, they strived to make sense of something else.”

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Proulx & Heine, 2009).

The Type Of Fat Linked To 10% Worse Memory (M)

The dietary fat that decreases memory performance is found in the most commonly consumed foods.

The dietary fat that decreases memory performance is found in the most commonly consumed foods.


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People Make Fewer Memory Errors In Their Second Language (M)

The benefits of learning a second language include increased attention, improved multitasking, better listening skills and reduced dementia risk.

The benefits of learning a second language include increased attention, improved multitasking, better listening skills and reduced dementia risk.


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Memory: The Weirdest Ever Fact is Actually True

This fact about memory might seem depressing, but it is critical to useful recall.

This fact about memory might seem depressing, but it is critical to useful recall.

Recalling one memory actually leads to the forgetting of other competing memories, a study confirms.

It is one of the single most surprising facts about memory, now isolated by neuroscience research.

Although many scientists believed the brain must work this way, it has been demonstrated.

Dr Maria Wimber, a cognitive neuroscientist and the study’s first author, said:

“Though there has been an emerging belief within the academic field that the brain has this inhibitory mechanism, I think a lot of people are surprised to hear that recalling memories has this darker side of making us forget others by actually suppressing them.”

The study monitored people’s brain activity while they tried to recall images they had been shown earlier.

By measuring activity in tiny sections of the brain, the neuroscientists were able to track individual memories.

They found that as one memory was recalled, others were suppressed.

Each subsequent time a target memory was recalled, it became stronger, while the others became weaker.

Dr Michael Anderson, a neuroscientist who co-led the study, said:

“People are used to thinking of forgetting as something passive.

Our research reveals that people are more engaged than they realize in shaping what they remember of their lives.

The idea that the very act of remembering can cause forgetting is surprising, and could tell us more about selective memory and even self deception.”

The process is believed to be critical to how memory and learning work.

Here’s how I’ve explained it previously:

“The idea that forgetting helps you learn seems counter-intuitive, but think of it this way: imagine if you created a brain that could remember and recall everything.

When this amazing brain was trying to remember where it parked the car, it would immediately bring to mind all the car parks it had ever seen, then it would have to sort through the lot.

Obviously the only one that’s of interest is the most recent.

And this is generally true of most of our memories.

Recent events are usually much more important than ones that happened a long time ago.

To make your super-brain quicker and more useful in the real world you’d have to build in some system for discounting old, useless info.

In fact, of course, we all have one of these super-brains with a discounting system: we call it ‘forgetting’.”

Dr Wimber suggested another situation in which forgetting is useful:

“Forgetting is often viewed as a negative thing, but of course, it can be incredibly useful when trying to overcome a negative memory from our past.

So there are opportunities for this to be applied in areas to really help people.”

He continued:

“It has significance for anything that relies on memory, but a really good example is that of eyewitness testimonies.

When a witness is asked to recall specific information about an event, and they are quizzed time and time again, it could well be to the detriment of associated memories — giving the impression that their memory is sketchy.

In fact, the repeated recall is causing them to forget these details.”

The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience (Wimber et al., 2015).

The Mild Nutrient Deficiency Linked To Memory Loss (M)

Supplementation reversed the effects of age-related memory loss.

Supplementation reversed the effects of age-related memory loss.

A diet low in flavanols is linked to age-related memory loss, a large study finds.

However, taking a daily flavanol supplement over three years reversed these losses.

Many people already get enough flavanols from a healthy diet, however those with a poorer diet will probably benefit.

Flavanols, which are a type of flavonoid, are found in nearly all fruits and vegetables, as well as in tea.

Participants in the study with a mild flavanol deficiency experienced boosts to their cognitive functioning of 16 percent over the three years of the study.

Professor Adam Brickman, the study’s first author, said:

“The improvement among study participants with low-flavanol diets was substantial and raises the possibility of using flavanol-rich diets or supplements to improve cognitive function in older adults.”

Neurons in the hippocampus

Professor Scott Small, study co-author, has been studying age-related memory loss for many years.

His lab has shown that changes in the dentate gyrus, a part of the hippocampus, are central to memory decline.

Flavanols, though, enhance neuron and blood vessel growth in this region.

Professor Small said:

“The identification of nutrients critical for the proper development of an infant’s nervous system was a crowning achievement of 20th century nutrition science.

In this century, as we are living longer research is starting to reveal that different nutrients are needed to fortify our aging minds.”

The current study included over 3,500 healthy adults given either a flavanol supplement or a placebo over three years.

The supplement contained 500 mg of flavanols, including 80 mg of epicatechins, a type of flavanol thought to be particularly effective.

The memories of those with mild flavanol deficiencies improved by 10.5 percent compared to placebo and by 16 percent compared to their scores at the start of the study.

Dramatic improvements

While the study provides strong evidence for the benefits of a healthy dietary flavanol intake, Professor Small is cautious:

“We cannot yet definitively conclude that low dietary intake of flavanols alone causes poor memory performance, because we did not conduct the opposite experiment: depleting flavanol in people who are not deficient.”

Next, Professor Small wants to look at the effects of rectifying a severe flavanol deficiency:

“Age-related memory decline is thought to occur sooner or later in nearly everyone, though there is a great amount of variability.

If some of this variance is partly due to differences in dietary consumption of flavanols, then we would see an even more dramatic improvement in memory in people who replenish dietary flavanols when they’re in their 40s and 50s.”

High-flavanol foods

Foods that containing high levels of flavanols include:

  • pears,
  • olive oil,
  • wine,
  • tomato sauce,
  • kale,
  • beans,
  • tea,
  • spinach,
  • broccoli,
  • apples,
  • and oranges.

Related

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Brickman et al., 2023).

Forgetfulness Is Common Even Among Young — Sometimes With Tragic Consequences (M)

In the United States, since 1998 almost 1,000 children have died in the car after their caregiver forgot about them.

In the United States, since 1998 almost 1,000 children have died in the car after their caregiver forgot about them.


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The Foods That Can Quickly Lead To Memory Loss

The rapid damage done to the brain by eating these foods is surprising.

The rapid damage done to the brain by eating these foods is surprising.

Eating a diet of highly processed foods could seriously damage your memory, a study on rats suggests.

A diet high in foods like soft drinks, chips, candy, ice-cream and packaged soups is linked to neuroinflammation and cognitive problems.

However, the omega-3 fatty acid DHA almost completely reverses this effect — even in older rats.

Foods high in DHA include salmon, trout, oysters, cod and canned tuna.

The rapid damage done to the brain by eating highly processed foods is surprising, said Dr Ruth Barrientos, study co-author:

“The fact we’re seeing these effects so quickly is a little bit alarming.

These findings indicate that consumption of a processed diet can produce significant and abrupt memory deficits—and in the aging population, rapid memory decline has a greater likelihood of progressing into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

By being aware of this, maybe we can limit processed foods in our diets and increase consumption of foods that are rich in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA to either prevent or slow that progression.”

The study on rats fed some of them a standard diet or one that mimicked the highly processed diet that many people around the world now consume.

A third group were given the highly processed diet along with DHA supplementation.

Eating a highly processed diet caused inflammation in critical areas of the brain, including the hippocampus and amygdala.

Dr Barrientos explained:

“The amygdala in humans has been implicated in memories associated with emotional—fear and anxiety-producing—events.

If this region of the brain is dysfunctional, cues that predict danger may be missed and could lead to bad decisions.”

The hippocampus, meanwhile is vital for memory.

Rats fed the highly processed diet subsequently demonstrated memory loss, unless they were given DHA supplementation.

Prevention is better than cure, though, and highly processed foods are unhealthy in many ways, warned Dr Barrientos:

“These are the types of diets that are advertised as being low in fat, but they’re highly processed.

They have no fiber and have refined carbohydrates that are also known as low-quality carbohydrates.

Folks who are used to looking at nutritional information need to pay attention to the fiber and quality of carbohydrates.

This study really shows those things are important.”

The study was published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (Butler et al., 2021).

6 Foods That Protect Against Memory Loss

The foods all contain an anti-inflammatory that combats age-related changes in the brain.

The foods all contain an anti-inflammatory that combats age-related changes in the brain.

Carrots, olive oil, celery, thyme, peppermint and chamomile can all help protect the memory against aging, research suggests.

All these foods contain luteolin, a flavonoid which is found in many plants.

Luteolin reduces inflammation in the brain that occurs with aging.

It does so by inhibiting the release of inflammatory molecules in the brain.

The conclusions come from a study of mice, Professor Rodney Johnson, who led the study, explained:

“When we provided the old mice luteolin in the diet it reduced inflammation in the brain and at the same time restored working memory to what was seen in young cohorts.”

Working memory is vital to holding pieces of visual, verbal or other information in your mind while you manipulate them.

Better working memory has been linked to improved learning, attention and other vital outcomes.

Professor Johnson continued:

“We believe dietary luteolin accesses the brain and inhibits or reduces activation of microglial cells and the inflammatory cytokines they produce.

This anti-inflammatory effect is likely the mechanism which allows their working memory to be restored to what it was at an earlier age.

These data suggest that consuming a healthy diet has the potential to reduce age-associated inflammation in the brain, which can result in better cognitive health.”

Other common sources of luteolin include broccoli, green pepper, oregano and parsley.

Luteolin works, the study found, by acting directly on microglial cells.

The microglia are cells in the brain that help regulate normal functioning.

Professor Johnson said:

“We found previously that during normal aging, microglial cells become dysregulated and begin producing excessive levels of inflammatory cytokines.

We think this contributes to cognitive aging and is a predisposing factor for the development of neurodegenerative diseases.”

For the study, younger and older mice were fed a control diet or one supplemented with luteolin for four weeks.

The results showed that older mice given the luteolin supplement performed almost as well as the younger mice in cognitive tests.

The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition (Jang et al., 2010).

Exercise Stimulates Neurons In Brain’s Memory And Learning Centres

The beneficial effects of exercise on the hippocampus, an area critical for memory and learning.

The beneficial effects of exercise on the hippocampus, an area critical for memory and learning.

Being physically active is essential for maintaining mental health and what is more, improves hippocampal function related to learning and memory, a study shows.

Exercise stimulates the production of chemical signals important for neuronal development in the hippocampus.

Mr Ki Yun Lee, the study’s first author, said:

“The hippocampus is a crucial area for learning and memory, and therefore cognitive health.”

During physical activity our muscle fibres contract and by doing so certain chemical compounds are released into the blood vessels and circulated around the body, including the hippocampus.

Swimming, cycling, bicep curls, push-ups, sit-ups, squats, are examples of sporting activities that involve muscle contraction (tightening, lengthening, or shortening of muscles).

The researchers wanted to find out how muscle signals are converted and used for neuronal activity and development in the hippocampus.

Knowing the beneficial effects of exercise on the hippocampus could lead to specific exercise-based interventions to overcome neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Hippocampal neurons

For this study, samples containing mice muscle cells were obtained and kept in the lab in cell culture plates.

When the muscle cells were grown, they began to contract and release chemical signals in the plates.

Then those cultures containing chemical signals were added to another culture which held hippocampal neurons and astrocytes (supportive cells).

The team also used various techniques to track neurons’ electrical activity and so they were able to examine how the hippocampal cells were influenced by the chemical signals.

They found that hippocampal neurons, when receiving the chemical signals from contracting muscles, started to produce larger and more frequent electrical signals.

These suggest that neurons of the hippocampus were flourishing and healthy while at the same time developing a powerful network.

Furthermore, they looked at the mediating role of astrocytes in order to understand what biological mechanism links exercise to brain health.

Mr Lee said:

“Astrocytes are the first responders in the brain before the compounds from muscles reach the neurons.”

When astrocytes were removed from the cell cultures, the team saw that hippocampal neurons began to generate more electrical signals.

This indicates an absence of astrocytes, Mr Lee said:

“Astrocytes play a critical role in mediating the effects of exercise.

By regulating neuronal activity and preventing hyperexcitability of neurons, astrocytes contribute to the balance necessary for optimal brain function.”

He added:

“Ultimately, our research may contribute to the development of more effective exercise regimens for cognitive disorders such as ‘s disease.”

The study was published in the journal Neuroscience (Lee et al., 2023).

The #1 Cause Of Memory Loss And 3 Proven Ways To Avoid It

The advice comes from a study of chronic inflammation in the body.

The advice comes from a study of chronic inflammation in the body.

The number one cause of memory loss is simply aging.

A little forgetfulness is normal and does not necessarily indicate a problem.

However, there are ways to fight against this natural process and retain a better memory.

The three best ways to avoid memory loss later in life are:

  1. Eating an anti-inflammatory heart-healthy diet,
  2. getting enough sleep,
  3. and exercising regularly.

The advice comes from a study of chronic inflammation in the body.

Inflammation in middle age is linked to memory and thinking problems later on, research shows.

The main problem is chronic inflammation that continues for months or even years.

Symptoms of chronic inflammation include joint pain and stiffness, digestive problems and fatigue.

Dr  Keenan A. Walker, the study’s first author, said:

“Many of the processes that can lead to a decline in thinking and memory skills are believed to begin in middle age, and it is in middle age that they may also be most responsive to intervention.

Our results show that chronic inflammation may be an important target for intervention.

However, it’s also possible that chronic inflammation is not a cause and instead a marker of, or even a response to, neurodegenerative brain diseases that can lead to cognitive decline.”

The study followed 12,336 people for an average of 20 years.

All were given blood tests for inflammation markers.

The results showed that people with the highest levels of inflammation also had the worst thinking and memory skills.

Those with the highest levels of inflammation had 8 percent worse scores on cognitive tests than those with the lowest levels.

Dr  Walker continued:

“Chronic inflammation is tough on the body, and can damage joints, internal organs, tissue and cells.

It can also lead to heart disease, stroke and cancer.

While other studies have looked at chronic inflammation and its effects on the brain in older people, our large study investigated chronic inflammation beginning in middle age and showed that it may contribute to cognitive decline in the decades leading up to old age.”

The study was published in the journal Neurology (Walker et al., 2019).