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Brain Science

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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.

Brain Science Brain Science #10

Shame on you

Mireille and Adam discuss shame as an emotional and experiential construct. We dive into the neural structures involved in processing this emotion as well as the factors and implications of our experience of shame. Shame is a natural response to the threat of vulnerability and perception of oneself as defective or inherently “not enough.”

Productivity thecut.com

7 reasons why you’re always tired

This is not my normal beat, but I thought it might help those of us (most of us, right?) fighting fatigue. Knowing why, after all, is half the battle.

To understand more about the different types of fatigue, I spoke to Dr. Jaclyn Tolentino, a primary care physician at Parsley Health, as well as Dr. Richard Firshein, a general practitioner and insomnia specialist who runs the Firshein Center in Manhattan. Here are the most common culprits of exhaustion, and how to treat them.

I would imagine many of us fall victim to more than one of these, but the ones we likely share are #3 (stress tired) and #5 (bad sleep hygiene). Maybe a Brain Science episode on this subject is in order?

Brain Science Brain Science #8

The mechanics of goal setting

Mireille and Adam discuss goal setting and the different types of goals we set. We reflect on how can you set goals that work for you and measure them. We also talk about how you go about building the behaviors that align with your identity and resistance we face when we do this. We also share our 2020 goal for Brain Science. This is a must-listen episode to get a grounded perspective in planning your goals for this year and decade.

Flavio Copes flaviocopes.com

How to work from home without going crazy

We plan to dig deep into this topic on Brain Science (listen and subscribe here), but until then, here’s some great advice from Flavio Copes based on many years of working remotely.

I’m an introvert, I am independent and I like doing things alone. This post is heavily influenced by this fact, and you might find that what I say is madness if you’re an extrovert who needs people around to be productive.

The first suggestion I have for you is to have a dedicated office space. It does not need to be in another building, but it might be necessary if you have lots of people in your house. I do have a dedicated room, with a door I can close. It’s very helpful because it avoids.. interruptions.

Brain Science Brain Science #6

Respect, empathy, and compassion

Mireille and Adam discuss empathy, respect, and compassion and the role each of these interpersonal constructs play in strengthening our relationships, both personally and professionally. What exactly is empathy, respect, and compassion? What are key indicator lights to be aware of when any of them are lacking or off-kilter? We also discuss Dr. John Gottman’s research on “The Four Horsemen” in relationships.

Joe McGrath raptori.dev

Impostor Syndrome vs the Dunning-Kruger effect

In our transcripts, we have 44 results for “Impostor Syndrome” and just 2 results for “Dunning-Kruger effect”. This makes me think that we’re either not that familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect, or we don’t talk about it enough. So, what is the Dunning-Kruger effect?

In a word: overconfidence. It is a cognitive bias which leads people to believe they are more competent than they are, due to inability to objectively evaluate oneself.

People experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect are unable to recognize that they are not performing to the standards they think they are. As with impostor syndrome, they feel this way in spite of any evidence, and it can lead to chronic problems in all walks of life.

Brain Science Brain Science #5

Managing our mental health

Mireille and Adam discuss key aspects of mental health and what it looks like to manage our own mental well-being. What are the key ingredients to managing it? How do our relationships and boundaries impact it? Are sleep, food, and activity really that important? We talk through these questions and more to better understand mental health and the ways in which we contribute to our well being.

Alex Ellis blog.alexellis.io

The five pressures of leadership

Being a leader is tough and leads to burn-out at least once or maybe even a few times. But why? If you’ve been building, leading, or maintaining open source, then this post from Alex Ellis should be on your “to read” list.

In this post I want to introduce the reader to five pressures that I have encountered over the past five years of building, leading, and maintaining Open Source Software (OSS) with community. This essay is primarily about being a leader in Open Source, but I believe it applies outside of technology too.

My aim is to foster understanding and empathy between contributors, community members, users, and maintainers. I would also like for maintainers and leaders in Open Source to feel a sense of solidarity in their shared burden.

Adam Stacoviak changelog.com/posts

Introducing Brain Science (our newest podcast)

I’m excited to announce our newest podcast — Brain Science!

brainscience–glitchy.png

Brain Science is a podcast for the curious. Are you curious?! We’re exploring the inner-workings of the human brain to understand behavior change, habit formation, mental health, and being human. It’s Brain Science applied — not just how does the brain work, but how do we apply what we know about the brain to transform our lives.

Harvard Business Review Icon Harvard Business Review

Entrepreneurs who sleep more are better at spotting good ideas

While this study was focused on “entrepreneurs”, I would say the function of sleep applies to all humans and can be expended to “creators” at large — or anyone who is in an position of trading sleep for progress.

We’re exploring this very topic on an upcoming episode of Brain Science. Subscribe if you haven’t already!

In our paper we investigated fundamental functions required of a founder in the early stages of a new venture’s lifecycle: the generation of new venture ideas and the formation of beliefs about a new venture’s potential. In a series of three interrelated studies, we show that entrepreneurs who shortchange sleep analyze business opportunities differently than their well-rested counterparts, and even differently than their well-rested selves.

Brain Science Brain Science #3

Humans and habits

Mireille and Adam explore the habit loop, the role of environment as a cue, behavior change, the role of dopamine, willpower as a finite resource, and the impact of social influences on habits.

As with any change, we need to collect data. Instead of trying to change a habit right away, treat yourself like a scientist in a data gathering stage and experiment with different rewards to better understand your habit loops. Making and breaking a habit is different for everyone.

Andrew Zaleski Medium

Slow mornings could be your secret weapon

It’s hard to imagine life before the iPhone changed everything about being mobile. We weren’t as connected as we are now, but we also didn’t have as many distraction opportunities in our lives or a device to become addicted to. From the very moment we wake up, a large majority of you reading this will admit to checking your phone as one of the first things you do when you wake up. So how do we take back our mornings and attention to ease into the day without the potential jolt of stress kicking us into high gear?

“When I wake up, I am stretching instead of scrolling,” says Hancock, 35. “While I’m not up at the crack of dawn, I do consciously plan my mornings to avoid the chaos of the digital world for at least the first 30 to 45 minutes.”

The slow morning movement is one strategy used among people exhausted by their tech-heavy lives to establish a sense of focus for the rest of the day. Some people exercise, while others enjoy some time alone. The point is to create a lack of technological distraction. A slow morning is supposed to be an antidote to the frenetic pace of 24/7 digital alerts.

You should subscribe to Brain Science — we’ll be covering this topic in a future episode.

Nicholas Rempel blog.30hourjobs.com

Moving the world to a 4 day workweek

Is it possible to work just 4 days a week, be happier, more productive, and still make the same amount of money? That’s one of many questions Aidan Harper and other researchers at the New Economics Foundation and members of the 4 Day Week campaign are trying to solve in an effort to combat the problem of overwork, which is “leading to a crisis in mental health and well-being.”

The single biggest cause of work related stress, anxiety, and depression is overwork. So much so that last year one in four of all sick days was the result of overwork — which is huge proportion of sickness caused directly by overwork. In some ways, you can look at this statistic as a massive drag on the economy. Losing that many work days is very expensive but, more importantly, it’s also a huge societal malaise. Every day people are feeling the effects of overwork and this statistic doesn’t even take into account the number of people who aren’t taking sick days but are feeling generally burnt out and are just barely getting by.

To summarize — the 4 day workweek is a pragmatic response to a the problem of overwork that is leading to a crisis in mental health and wellbeing.

If you’re just off the heels of the recent honest conversation about burnout on JS Party, then you’ll certainly enjoy this interview with Aidan Harper,

Brain Science cognitiontoday.com

You procrastinate because of emotions, not laziness

Hey fellow Brain Science fans, this one is for you. I’ve had a relationship with procrastination that’s similar to this headline and, with time, I’ve found that it’s an emotional state, not a permanent personal quality. Quotable:

“People procrastinate or avoid aversive tasks to improve their short-term mood at the cost of long-term goals.”

TL;DR our unconscious mind is looking to be kind to us, not harm us. By changing the internal narrative, we can adjust our response.

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