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Brain Science

Covering all things around the study of how the human brain works.
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Brain Science Brain Science #25

The science behind caffeine

Today’s episode features our very first guest. We’re joined by Danielle Rath, a notable expert and product developer in the caffeine and energy drink industry. Danielle is the founder of GreenEyedGuide Research and Consulting where she shares science-based information about energy drinks and caffeine, and helps people and companies where fatigue and caffeine use are prevalent. In this lengthly episode, we talk through all aspects of the science behind caffeine — its chemical structure and half-life, where and how it’s being used, the good, bad, and the ugly, as well as practical advice for everyday consumption. If you consume caffeine of any sort, this is a must listen episode.

Brain Science Brain Science #24

Cognitive distortions

How reflective are you with the thoughts you think? In this episode, Mireille and Adam talk through a few more cognitive distortions. These “distortions” are general tendencies or patterns of thinking that are false or inaccurate, which also have the potential to cause psychological damage. Generally speaking, people develop cognitive distortions as a way of coping with adverse life events. The more prolonged and severe those adverse events are, the more likely it is that one or more cognitive distortions will form. By recognizing these patterns in our thoughts and possibly how, when, or why we’re prone to use them, like many things, we create the opportunity to change them.

Productivity cbc.ca

There's a reason we procrastinate (and it's not laziness)

On an upcoming episode of Brain Science we’ll be talking about Indistractable by Nir Eyal. One of the larger topics of being distracted is procrastination. In the book, Nir says procrastination “originates from a need to escape psychological discomfort,” and in this post they say…

Procrastination is driven by our desire to avoid difficult emotions…

Pretty close, right? Read this if you want a nice primer on the concept of procrastination, what’s inducing it, and how to overcome it. Else, for the non-tldr, just read Indistractable so you can follow along with us during that upcoming episode.

Harvard Business Review Icon Harvard Business Review

The two things killing your ability to focus

I’ll save you a click if you’re only curious what those two things are:

1️⃣ connected devices
2️⃣ meetings

You and your business will benefit greatly if you can address these issues. You and everyone on your team will enjoy yourselves more and accomplish more. The data echoes what our common sense tells us: We need to carve out more time for ourselves if we want to remain focused and effective at work. These five daily practices will help.

Jose Browne josebrowne.com

On coding, ego, and attention

How you think has everything to do with the quality of your thinking. Great writing Jose 👏

If being a good software engineer means being a good thinker, then becoming a better one should mean improving the way we think… right? Well, no little shame in saying that it’s taken me more than a decade of coding to get this. To finally focus my attention on improving the way I think instead of learning yet another library, framework or programming language.

At a certain point, the things that got in the way of my growth had nothing to do with problem solving and everything to do with what was actually happening in my mind when I was engaged should have been engaging with a problem.

Brain Science Brain Science #22

The Neuroscience of touch

How much do you focus on your sense of touch? Have you ever considered how or why this sense is so critical to our lives and how we manage ourselves? In this episode, Mireille and Adam discuss the neurophysiological underpinnings of our sense of touch and how our brains process these sensory experiences. According to David Linden, Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “The sense of touch is intrinsically emotional.”

Not only is touch relevant to our emotional experience, but it is a foundational aspect of the development of our nervous system and it impacts how we manage stress and respond to pain. It isn’t surprising then to consider that touch is also extremely relevant to our relationships as we are apt to feel more connected to those with whom we engage in touch.

Kev Quirk kevq.uk

Is dark mode such a good idea?

Kev Quirk shares his thoughts on dark mode and links to various research on the science behind it.

I’ve decided to stop using dark mode across all of my devices, because research suggests that going to the dark side ain’t all that. … But after doing some research on dark vs light, I’ve made the decision to stop using dark mode everywhere. Here’s why…

Is dark mode such a good idea?

Brain Science Brain Science #21

The power of story

Researchers have examined the power of story and discovered the way in which stories provide a framework that has the capacity to transcend language for universal understanding. According to Joe Lazauskas, “Stories illuminate the city of our mind…stories make us remember and they make us care.” In this episode we dive deep into the power of story to explore the ways in which stories play a role in our emotions and in our relationships with others.

Brain Science Brain Science #20

Navigating perfectionism

High expectations for performance in both life and work are common, but what do you do when you get stuck and you’re not able to achieve the results you desire? In this episode, Mireille and Adam talk through the different aspects of perfectionism and ways in which is can be adaptive and helpful and other ways in which it poses additional challenges. What happens when we avoid the possibility of failure as opposed to simply having high standards for our performance? How can we begin to focus on healthy striving as opposed to reaching for perfection?

Design growth.design

101 cognitive biases & principles that affect your UX

This list is deep and (of course) the UX is well-considered. The author provides definitions of the biases as well as real-world examples of them in action.

Every time users interact with your product, they:

🙈 Filter the information
🔮 Seek the meaning of it
⏰ Act within a given time
💾 Store bits of the interaction in their memories

So to improve your user experience, you need to understand the biases & heuristics affecting those four decision-cycle steps.

Brain Science Brain Science #19

Step away to get unstuck

In this episode, Mireille and Adam talk through the challenge of problem solving. It’s all to common to utilize the “try harder” approach when things aren’t working out the way you’d like. While that kind of effort is valuable, this approach is often wrought with further frustration, wasted time and less than desirable results. This episode offers you an alternative perspective and ways that you can practice getting unstuck and utilize more of the resources of your unconscious mind.

Dan Shipper superorganizers.substack.com

Stop trying to make hard work easy

Dan Shipper shared an interview with Nir Eyal (behavioral design expert who taught at Stanford and author of Hooked and Indistractable) — Nir explains how to cope even when work is hard.

“When most people talk about habits, what they’re saying is, ‘I want something that’s difficult to become effortless. I want the benefits but I don’t want it to be hard,” Nir said to me in an interview a few weeks ago. “Well, I have news for you: some things are just hard. There’s no way of getting around it.”

The problem is, when we expect work to be effortless and it ends up being difficult, we often blame ourselves. So the very tools we’re using to make work easier, can instead make it easier for us to give up.

Brain Science Brain Science #18

Building resiliency

In this episode, Mireille and Adam discuss the importance of building resiliency and how we can build skills to navigate unexpected and unwanted adversities. Fundamentally, we are designed to adapt out of a place of survival. Given that, we have to learn how to manage our fear while building awareness of the perceptions we have so that we can learn how to be both flexible and calm. Not surprising, we also talk about the way in which our relationships with others help us buffer the challenges better so that we are able to remain calmer and henceforth, see the opportunities within the obstacles.

Brain Science Brain Science #17

Start with gratitude

It’s been said that happy people are thankful, but maybe it’s the other way around. Thankful people are happy. In this episode we discuss the value of and the way that practicing gratitude can improve your overall outlook and mental health. Mireille and Adam talk through some of the underlying neuropsychological aspects of this habit including the key brain structures and neurotransmitters that are affected by practicing this routinely. This is one show that will pay–over and over again–that is, if you’re willing to put the knowledge into practice. Just how “happy” do you want to feel?

Brain Science Brain Science #16

Developing a mental framework

The quality of your thinking depends on your mental framework. To become a better thinker you need to have an understanding of this mental framework and how you view the world. But, what exactly is a mental framework? How have we all been programmed throughout our lives? In what ways have you been programed that you like, don’t like, or want to change? Join us as we explore and examine the key components of developing a mental framework.

Brain Science Brain Science #15

Working from home

Given all of the recent changes and adjustments many individuals have made to working remotely, Mireille and Adam discuss some of the relevant aspects of working from home. How do you develop habits that work for you to be the most productive? Which factors make a difference to be successful in navigating challenges that emerge and how can you develop ways of staying socially connected while being physically distant?

Luca Florio florio.dev

A letter to myself as a fresh software engineer

This “letter to self” from Luca Florio is a great example putting down in writing what you’re optimizing for and front loading (which we talk about on Brain Science) so that future you can make choices more easily.

Dear Self,

You just graduated and you are ready to start your career in the IT field. I cannot spoiler anything, but I assure you it will be an interesting ride. I’m writing you this letter because I want to give you some advice that will help you be a better professional. Nothing you won’t learn by yourself in the next few years, but it is something that I wish someone had told me when I started my career. They are not ordered by any means and are all equally important.

Brain Science Brain Science #14

Memory and learning

Mireille and Adam discuss the process of forming memories, the various types of memory, anxieties, phobias, panic attacks, and how our attention and our memory relates to learning. Where you place your attention influences what you might remember. What you are able to remember influences how you feel, the choices you make, and your future outcomes.

Brain Science Brain Science #13

Brace for turbulence

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak being declared a global pandemic and a national emergency here in the United States as well as many other countries around the world, it would be extremely difficult to have a serious conversation here on Brain Science that’s not colored by today’s very serious events. Mireille and Adam discuss the anxiety, fear, and panic that many may be facing. How do we navigate the unseeable unknown? How should we respond to change and the state of the world we are now living in?

Don’t panic. Prepare for change. Be adaptable. Be resilient.

Darya Zabelina news.uark.edu

Caffeine boosts problem-solving ability but not creativity

I’m literally drinking my coffee as I write this. ☕️ 🤓

Like many of our readers, I love coffee. It’s a crucial part of my boot-up process, and it would be very difficult to start my day without at least one cup. Also, like many of our readers, I play a role here at Changelog that not only requires me to have great problem-solving abilities, but also to be creative. Thankfully, according to this study from Darya Zabelina (Assistant Professor at University of Arkansas), I can “keep drinking my coffee.”

For the study, 80 volunteers were randomly given either a 200mg caffeine pill, equivalent to one strong cup of coffee, or a placebo. They were then tested on standard measures of convergent and divergent thinking, working memory and mood. In addition to the results on creativity, caffeine did not significantly affect working memory, but test subjects who took it did report feeling less sad.

“The 200mg enhanced problem solving significantly, but had no effect on creative thinking,” said Zabelina. “It also didn’t make it worse, so keep drinking your coffee; it won’t interfere with these abilities.”

On convergent vs divergent thinking…

In the paper, Zabelina differentiates “convergent” from “divergent” thinking. The former is defined as seeking a specific solution to a problem, for example, the “correct” answer. The latter is characterized by idea generation where a large set of apt, novel or interesting responses would be suitable.

Brain Science Brain Science #11

Competing for attention

Mireille and Adam discuss the mechanism of attention as an allocation of one’s resources. If we can think of attention as that of a lens, we can practice choosing what we give our attention to recognizing that multiple things, both externally and internally, routinely compete for our attention. Distraction can also be useful when we utilize it intentionally to manage the focus of our attention.

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