A Stanford study explores the effect of multitasking on memory in young adults.
- The study explores the effect on memory of media multitasking as one's attention flits from place to place onscreen.
- Participants' focus was tracked by observation of their pupil size and brain activity.
- Remembering something is less likely when you're not really paying attention to your experience with it.
Information in, duh out<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDY2NjMwMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNjI4NDQxMX0.iwr1xedE88W5eEGwWAwHBKrDL4HX-vVzwdDORMFSjb4/img.jpg?width=980" id="af038" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bd80682889039e8a09fa4625f280af02" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="495" />
Credit: F8studio/Adobe Stock<p>The Stanford study looked specifically at the effect of "media multitasking" on memory. Media multitasking is moving continually between screen-based activities: texting, checking Instagram, or watching a TikTok video, for example. The research suggests that these experiences may not quite stick.</p><p>Even though we continually devour information, "As we navigate our lives, we have these periods in which we're frustrated because we're not able to bring knowledge to mind, expressing what we know," the study's senior investigator <a href="https://profiles.stanford.edu/anthony-wagner" target="_blank">Anthony Wagner</a> tells <a href="https://news.stanford.edu/2020/10/28/poor-memory-tied-attention-lapses-media-multitasking/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Stanford News</a>. "Fortunately," he adds, "science now has tools that allow us to explain why an individual, from moment to moment, might fail to remember something stored in their memory."</p>
Apt pupils<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDY2NjMwMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDgxMTAyOH0.tT97wTJZUzrAjvw6hYijEEGYVirTRmehE8bipfc3ffU/img.jpg?width=980" id="a318c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d0344ec128dad485c617090f33ab1367" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Human green eye supermacro closeup background" data-width="1440" data-height="480" />
Credit: H_Ko/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers recruited 80 subjects, ages 18 to 26. As these individuals participated in experimental exercises, researchers tracked their lapses in attention by monitoring their posterior <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_wave" target="_blank">alpha power brain wave</a> activity and changes to the sizes of their pupils.</p><p>Lead author Kevin Madore explains, "Increases in alpha power in the back of your skull have been related to attention lapses, mind wandering, distractibility and so forth. We also know that constrictions in pupil diameter — in particular before you do different tasks — are related to failures of performance like slower reaction times and more mind wandering."</p><p>As participants viewed a set of object images onscreen, they were tasked with classifying each image according to pleasantness or size. This was followed by a 10-minute break, after which they were presented with another set of images. They were asked to identify these images as either being new or having already been seen. This allowed the researchers to assess each individual's memory.</p><p>Participants also filled out questionnaires that described their media multitasking habits, and they were asked to state the degree to which they could successfully engage with multiple activities simultaneously.</p><p>Taking all this information together, the researchers found that people less able to sustain attention and those who reported being heavy media multitaskers both performed more poorly at memory tasks.</p><p>Says Madore, "We can't say that heavier media multitasking causes difficulties with sustained attention and memory failures, though we are increasingly learning more about the directions of the interactions."</p>
Strengthening your memory<p>Wagner notes the key to all this may lie in other research that looks at how we prepare to remember what we wish to learn. He suggests remembering occurs most successfully when it's goal-oriented, when we're ready to store something in our minds.</p><p>"While it's logical that attention is important for learning and for remembering, an important point here is that the things that happen even before you begin remembering are going to affect whether or not you can actually reactivate a memory that is relevant to your current goal," says Wagner.</p><p>With this in mind, he says, paying attention to your attentiveness may help you stay aware and prepared to store new memories of what you're currently experiencing.</p><p>Likewise, he suggests it may be possible to develop memory hacks that can enhance our capacity to remember. He cites the idea of attention training in which eye sensors alert their wearer to attention lapses as they occur, allowing the person to consciously refocus each time their mind wanders.</p><p>While the current study explores the memories of young people, its insights may broadly apply. "We have an opportunity now," Wagner concludes, "to explore and understand how interactions between the brain's networks that support attention, the use of goals and memory relate to individual differences in memory in older adults both independent of, and in relation to, Alzheimer's disease."</p>
Work that can break down the body can also break down the mind.
- A new study out of Denmark finds that physical laborers are at an elevated risk of dementia.
- These findings hold even when other health factors are accounted for.
- The study also suggests that exercise can help reduce the risk of memory loss.
All physical work and no play might really be bad for you<p> The study, "The effect of occupational physical activity on dementia: Results from the Copenhagen Male Study<a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/sms.13846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">,</a>" was published in <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/16000838" target="_blank">The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports</a>. It reflects 50 years of following nearly 5,000 Danish men, understanding their health and habits, and recording their medical histories.</p><p>In 1970, 4,271 Danish men working in various fields from railroading and road construction to banking and medicine filled out a questionnaire with two principal aims. The first portion focused on questions about their general health, including if they smoked, drank, suffered from obesity or high blood pressure, and if they regularly experienced high levels of stress. They then filled out a portion concerned with how much leisure exercise they tended to get and how physically demanding their job was.</p><p>Starting five years later, the researchers began to look into the test subjects' medical status in search of dementia cases using a combination of publicly available information and check-ins with participants.</p><p>The results were clear and concerning. Men who reported working physically demanding jobs developed dementia 55 percent more often than their peers working desk jobs. This number accounts for differences in education, socioeconomic levels, drinking habits, and other factors that could increase memory loss. It was also higher than for those whose jobs involved some physical activity but which were less strenuous. </p><p>While an association between strenuous physical labor and dementia had been assumed for years, this is the first major study to demonstrate the connection unambiguously. The researchers speculate that the mechanism at work may be related to the potentially negative impact of occupational physical activity on the cardiovascular system. </p><p>Study co-author Professor Andreas Holtermann noted that these findings present a challenge to health policymakers trying to improve brain health for several <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-10-hard-physical-significantly-dementia.html" target="_blank">reasons</a>: </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"A lot of workplaces have already taken steps to improve the health of their staff. The problem is that it is the most well-educated and resourceful part of the population that uses these initiatives. Those with a shorter education often struggle with overweight, pain and poor physical fitness, even though they take more steps during the day and to a larger extent use their body as a tool. For workmen, it is not enough for example to avoid heavy lifts if they wish to remain in the profession until age 70. People with a shorter education doing manual labor also need to take preventive steps by strengthening the body's capacity via for example exercise and strength training."</em><br></p><p> As the professor implies, the findings of this study become more concerning when combined with the statistics showing that, at least among the Danes, men working in these physically intensive jobs are also more likely to smoke, drink, be overweight, remain unmarried, and find themselves in lower socioeconomic levels. All of these factors can contribute to memory loss. <br> <br> The authors of the study suggest that these findings should be used to make advice on how to prevent memory loss more specific, as leisure-time physical activity (which is good for the brain) and intensive physical labor (which is bad for it) might not be easy to differentiate in current public health literature. </p><p> Additionally, they call for more studies into the relationship between occupational physical activity and dementia, with a particular focus on how people in differing socioeconomic levels are affected. </p>
How to lower your risk of dementia no matter where you work<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xMcoTWvf0Kk" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> <strong><br> </strong>These results can seem frightening, but the study also points towards ways to reduce your risk of memory loss. </p><p>This study found mixed results regarding the benefits of exercise, but it points towards and does not contradict the large amount of evidence for its services in keeping the brain <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-08-results-larger-brain-size-lowered.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">healthy</a>. Exercise can help keep many parts of the brain working their <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-csmr/Fulltext/2017/01000/Alzheimer_s_Disease_and_Exercise__A_Literature.9.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">best</a>.</p><p>Other things that can help keep your <a href="https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-prevention/how-reduce-your-risk-dementia" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">brain healthy </a>and memory loss in check include eating well, neither smoking nor drinking, and staying both mentally and socially active. As Carl Sagan mused, the brain is like a muscle, and it appears to work as any other muscle does. If used regularly and cared for as you care for any other muscle, it tends to remain healthy. If it is rarely used and treated poorly, it tends to decay. </p><p>Understanding how the brain works and how to keep it working are incredibly complex tasks. By confirming both that exercise is good for the brain and that potentially damaging labor is bad for it, this study can help medical professionals and public health experts create new guidelines for promoting brain health. We all stand to benefit from the results. <br> <br> </p>
Researchers develop the first objective tool for assessing the onset of cognitive decline through the measurement of white spots in the brain.
- MRI brain scans may show white spots that scientists believe are linked to cognitive decline.
- Experts have had no objective means of counting and measuring these lesions.
- A new tool counts white spots and also cleverly measures their volumes.
White spots and educated guesses<p>The white spots, or "hyperintensities," are brain lesions—fluid-filled holes in the brain believed to have been left behind by the breaking down of blood vessels that had previously provided nourishment to brain cells.</p><p>Prior to the new research, the quantity of white spots was assessed using an imprecise three-point scale indicating ascending likelihoods of dementia: A minimal number of spots was considered as level 1, a medium number of spots level 2, and a great number of them level 3.</p>
How the new measurements were derived<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYwMTc1OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNDQ1ODExNX0.vqhQJSvL99KjOe24TOs4E8R7c6-pprbXYSrGcIqbVps/img.jpg?width=980" id="c64d9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="002d9b8ef47b5a86c3a387ad2cd90629" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: sfam_photo/Shutterstock<p>The team of researchers from NYU's Langone's <a href="https://med.nyu.edu/departments-institutes/neurology/divisions-centers/center-cognitive-neurology" target="_blank">Center for Cognitive Neurology</a> and <a href="https://med.nyu.edu/departments-institutes/neurology/divisions-centers/center-cognitive-neurology/alzheimers-disease-research-center" target="_blank">Alzheimer's Disease Research Center</a> were led by <a href="https://med.nyu.edu/faculty/jingyun-chen" target="_blank">Jingyun "Josh" Chen</a>. They analyzed 72 MRI scans from a national database of older people taken as part of the <a href="http://adni.loni.usc.edu" target="_blank">Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative</a> (ADNI). The scans were mostly of white people over age 70, and there were a roughly equivalent number of men and women. Some had normal brain function, some were presenting moderate cognitive decline, and some had severe dementia.</p><p>Without knowing each individual's diagnosis, the researchers analyzed the white spots in their scans. While the team counted each scan's lesions, the innovation they introduced was the production of a 3D measurement for each lesion's fluid volume. The measurement was derived by measuring a lesion's distance from opposite sides of the brain.</p><p>Measurements of 0 milliliters (mL) were assessed for areas without white spots, with other white spots coming up as containing 60 mL of fluid. Chen's team predicted that volumes over 100 mL could signify severe dementia.</p><p>"Amounts of white matter lesions above the normal range should serve as an early warning sign for patients and physicians," Chen told <a href="https://nyulangone.org/news/white-matter-lesion-mapping-tool-identifies-early-signs-dementia" target="_blank">NYU Langone Health NewsHub</a>.</p><p>When the team compared the likely diagnoses derived from their calculations against the individuals' medical records, they found that their predictions were correct about 7 out of 10 times.</p><p>The researchers compiled their formulas into an online tool that's available to physicians for free via <a href="https://github.com/jingyunc/wmhs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">GitHub</a>. The researchers plan to further refine and test it using an additional 1,495 brain scans representing a more diverse group of individuals from the ADNI database.</p>
The new tool and its limits<p>Chen notes that white spots alone may not tell the entire story of an individual's cognitive decline or the onset of dementia. Other factors must be considered as well, including memory loss, hypertension, and brain injuries.</p><p>Nonetheless, says senior investigator <a href="https://med.nyu.edu/faculty/yulin-ge" target="_blank">Yulin Ge</a>, "Our new calculator for properly sizing white matter hyperintensities, which we call 'bilateral distancing,' offers radiologists and other clinicians an additional standardized test for assessing these lesions in the brain, well before severe dementia or stroke damage."</p><p>Having an objective means of measuring white hyperintensities will allow physicians not only to get a better handle on the association between white spots and dementia, but also to track the spots alongside changes to a person's tau and beta-amyloid proteins, two chemicals implicated in Alzheimer's disease and dementia.</p>
Move over, forest bathing.
- A new study found that weekly 15-minute "awe walks" have positive effects on mental health.
- Volunteers reported higher levels of gratitude and compassion after eight weeks of these short walks.
- Researchers believe this low-cost intervention could help prevent cognitive decline in older adults.
Finding Happiness Through "Awe Walks"<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0988a4421b47d7cdc45d740014a53b17"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-nVx6SriWPM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Importantly, participants were instructed to observe details while walking around the forest. If the goal was only exercise, volunteers were likely to power through trails without noticing their surroundings. This is where awe comes into the picture.</p><p>UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner <a href="https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/09/418551/awe-walks-boost-emotional-well-being" target="_blank">explains</a> the relevance, noting that feelings of awe help us feel more generous and humble, while increasing our overall well-being. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Awe is a positive emotion triggered by awareness of something vastly larger than the self and not immediately understandable — such as nature, art, music, or being caught up in a collective act such as a ceremony, concert or political march."</p><p>The post-walk selfie is key. Week after week, their smiles grew larger. Incredibly, their bodies shrunk in the photos—the photographer stepped back to include more of nature. Instead of the normal close-ups we associate with selfies, volunteers naturally became more integrated with their environment, without any prompting from the research team.</p><p><a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/individualism-is-spreading-and-thats-not-good" target="_self">Research</a> on individualist versus collectivist societies shows that the members of individualist societies tend to prioritize independence and autonomy. These seem like positive qualities, though higher rates of anxiety and depression are reported in such cultures. By contrast, collectivist societies emphasize interdependence, which ultimately makes members feel like they're part of a bigger landscape. </p><p>This is exactly what was reflected in those selfies. </p>
Credit: Rudmer Zwerver / Shutterstock<p>Classical Japanese art offers plenty of examples of interdependence. Humans are rarely the focal point in these landscape paintings. People only appear as part of a much larger scene. This trend cuts across Buddhist art, perhaps unsurprisingly given the philosophy stresses collectivity. Happiness levels tend to be higher in these societies than in individualist nations.</p><p>America, arguably the global leader in individualism, has <a href="https://worldhappiness.report/ed/2019/the-sad-state-of-happiness-in-the-united-states-and-the-role-of-digital-media/" target="_blank">continually ranked lower</a> on world happiness charts over the last 40 years. Meanwhile, our rates of Alzheimer's disease <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/alzheimers-risks" target="_self">rise</a> every year.</p><p>Can a 15-minute awe walk change all of that? Not completely, but we'll take whatever help we can get. As mythologist Joseph Campbell <a href="https://www.jcf.org/works/quote/awe-is-what-moves-us-forward/" target="_blank">once remarked</a>, "awe is what moves us forward." He cited awe as a primary driver in the creation of mythology: the overwhelming sensation that you're part of something grand. </p><p>As Sturm says, this is a low-cost, worthwhile means for alleviating distress and filling people with gratitude and compassion. Given the state of the world, those qualities are in high demand. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I find it remarkable that the simplest intervention in the world – just a three-minute conversation at the beginning of the study suggesting that participants practice feeling awe on their weekly walks – was able to drive significant shifts in their daily emotional experience. This suggests promoting the experience of awe could be an extremely low-cost tool for improving the emotional health of older adults through a simple shift in mindset." </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
We owe a lot to vaccines and the scientists that develop them. But we've only just touched the surface of what vaccines can do.
- "Vaccines are the best thing science has ever given us," says Larry Brilliant, founding president and acting chairman of Skoll Global Threats. From smallpox, to Ebola, to polio, scientists have successful fought viruses and saved millions of lives. So what's next?
- As Covaxx (formerly United Neuroscience) cofounder Lou Reese explains in this video, the issue with vaccines is that they don't work against "non-external threats." This is a problem, especially now when internal threats (things that cause cancers, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses) are killing people more than external threats like viruses.
- The future of vaccine tech, which scientists are already working toward today, is developing safe vaccines to eradicate these destructive internal agents without harming our bodies in the process.