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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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How the Brain Learns While You Sleep

July 23, 2014, 7:39 PM

What's the Latest?

Sleep researchers are finding ways you can take advantage of your brain while you sleep. You won't master a foreign language overnight but you can consolidate the knowledge you learned during the day. This is because the brain gathers in the events of the day while you rest, working raw materials into memories. And smell, the great trigger of memories, is proving to be a powerful tool. In one experiment, researchers scented the room while individuals worked to memorize a particular pattern (similar to the game Concentration). When those smells were wafted into subjects' rooms while they slept, they remembered the pattern 23 percent better than those who did not receive the smells while sleeping.

What's the Big Idea?

Since scientists understand that memory formation occurs while the brain is functioning along certain low-level frequencies, getting individuals to imitate these frequencies while awake has also been shown to form memories. "Jan Born, at the University of Tubingen, has been at the forefront of these experiments. In 2004, he found that he could help amplify those signals using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which passes a small electric current across the skull, successfully improving his subjects’ performance on a verbal memory test." Strategies like Born's could soon be used as a preventative measure against brain degeneration, including against diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's. 

Read more at BBC Future

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How the Brain Learns While ...

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