Ready to downshift into the weekend, but your brain can’t let go of the week’s work? Or maybe you need to puzzle out a particularly complex set of facts and your focus isn’t worth beans. It would be nice, wouldn’t it, to get a better grip on your mind — or give it a rest from the daily grind. For this Friday Five, we have five ways to stimulate, stretch and otherwise entertain the various parts of your brain. See if you can’t find a few good ways to get inside that head of yours.
1. Are you a Mover, Perceiver, Stimulator or Adaptor? This week, the authors of a brand-new book, “Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights Into How You Think,” laid out their “theory of cognitive modes” in the Wall Street Journal, begging the question, which mode are you? (And which is the Dalai Lama?) Stephen Kosslyn and G. Wayne Miller describe a fascinating “new way of viewing thought and behavior” that rests on the interplay between our top- and bottom-brains. So are you more Oprah or Tiger?
2. Brain changers. So-called brain games may not make you smarter or remember things better (it seems they mostly serve to improve your game-playing skill and, possibly, concentration), but it’s a thriving industry. Brain-training sites like Lumosity and Jungle Memory are growing by leaps and bounds, and new research released in September shows that games — in this case, something called NeuroRacer — do have the power to change brains. Their ability to make older brains act young is, according to Nature magazine, a real game changer. What to do with that news is something for the neuroscientists —and parents of Sniper Elite Zombies gamers — to puzzle out. Meantime, we’ll hedge our bets with Lumosity. Who knows, it just may improve our score for the game of name-and-face recall at the next conference. For more on ways technology can aid older brains, check out Nathaly Vermette’s tips in “Apps for Aging Lawyers.”
3. You say you’re well read? Most of us with a “good liberal arts education,” plus an advanced degree or two, rest in certitude that we are, indeed, “well read.” How lovely that the Internet has given us tests for proving our literary might. At least in raw numbers. Making the rounds on Facebook and Goodreads is this BBC Book List Challenge. How many of these 100 have you read? (Okay, but how fast can you read them?)
4. So which way do you lean? If the whole government shutdown and fiscal cliff mess hasn’t put you off politics altogether, you may get a kick out of taking the political compass test. It doesn’t take very long and the questions are guaranteed to provoke some new thinking on your part. If you’re like us, you’ll find that the position you thought you always took comes out a little different when you’re asked the hard questions. Whose worldview does yours most resemble? Ghandi or Hu Jintao?
5. The color connection. Figuring out the link between color and your emotions — or how color affects your brain — could be pretty powerful, assuming you buy into the whole color psychology thing. Imagine understanding which colors tend to inspire, calm or annoy you, and how colors affect your clients and opponents. (How about a little magenta in the conference room?) Check out this infographic that shows the link between color and emotion — and then take this color personality quiz — it’s a hoot! Don’t get all the fuss about color — or why people keep saying your pants don’t match your jacket? There’s a test for that, too.
Bonus: Mind tunes. Sometimes the best way to reboot your brain is to simply crank up the sound system and “Shout!” It doesn’t take a neuroscientist to grasp the link between music and memory, or its power to stimulate and focus your mind. If you are ready to relax, have a serious problem to untangle, or need to block out some writing time, try a little music. The Marbles Mind Music CD, for example, is designed for therapeutic, mind-body and cerebral activities, with tunes that will help your concentration and inspire creativity.
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