Catch yourself daydreaming while washing the dishes again? If this happens often you probably have a pretty capable working memory, new research suggests.
This mind wandering, it seems, actually gives your working memory a workout. Working memory is the mental work space that allows the brain to juggle multiple thoughts simultaneously. The more working memory a person has, the more daydreaming they can do without forgetting the task at hand.
"Our results suggest that the sorts of planning that people do quite often in daily life — when they're on the bus, when they're cycling to work, when they're in the shower — are probably supported by working memory," study researcher Jonathan Smallwood, of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science, said in a statement. "Their brains are trying to allocate resources to the most pressing problems."
Researchers studied groups of people from the University of Wisconsin-Madison community, ranging in age from 18 to 65. The first group was asked to perform simple tasks, like pressing a button every time they took a breath or clicking in response to a letter popping up on a computer screen; these tasks were so easy that their minds were likely to wander, the researchers figured. [6 Fun Ways to Sharpen Your Memory]
The researchers checked in periodically, asking the participants if their minds were on task or wandering. When the task was over, they measured each participant's working memory capacity by having them remember letters while doing math equations. Though all participants performed well on the task, the researchers noticed that the individuals who indicated their minds had wandered more than others also scored higher on the working memory test.
"What this study seems to suggest is that, when circumstances for the task aren't very difficult, people who have additional working memory resources deploy them to think about things other than what they're doing," Smallwood said.
When our minds run out of working memory, these off-topic thoughts can take the main stage without us consciously meaning them to; for instance, arriving at home with no recollection of the actual trip, or suddenly realizing that they've turned several pages in a book without comprehending any of the words.
"It's almost like your attention was so absorbed in the mind wandering that there wasn't any left over to remember your goal to read," study researcher Daniel Levinson, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, a part of the Waisman Center for Brain Imaging and Behavior, said in a statement.
People with overall higher working memory were better able to stay focused when the task at hand required it. Those who had low working memory often had their thoughts drift away from the task, and did less well at it.
The findings add to past research suggesting these mind drifts can be positive moments. For instance, daydreaming has often been associated with creativity — researchers think that our most creative and inventive moments come when daydreaming. It's likely that themost intelligent among us also have high levels of working memory, Levinson noted.
The study was published March 14 in the journal Psychological Science.
You can follow LiveScience staff writer Jennifer Welsh on Twitter @microbelover. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and onFacebook.
|Near death experience|
Approximately 3 percent of the U.S. population says they have had a near-death experience, according to a Gallup poll. Near-death experiences are reported across cultures, with written records of them dating back to ancient Greece. Not all of these experiences actually coincide with brushes with death—one study of 58 patients who recounted near-death experiences found 30 were not actually in danger of dying, although most of them thought they were.
Recently, a host of studies has revealed potential underpinnings for all the elements of such experiences. "Many of the phenomena associated with near-death experiences can be biologically explained," says neuroscientist Dean Mobbs, at the University of Cambridge's Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. Mobbs and Caroline Watt at the University of Edinburgh detailed this research online August 17 in Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
For instance, the feeling of being dead is not limited to near-death experiences—patients with Cotard or "walking corpse" syndrome hold the delusional belief that they are deceased. This disorder has occurred following trauma, such as during advanced stages of typhoid and multiple sclerosis, and has been linked with brain regions such as the parietal cortex and the prefrontal cortex—"the parietal cortex is typically involved in attentional processes, and the prefrontal cortex is involved in delusions observed in psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia," Mobbs explains. Although the mechanism behind the syndrome remains unknown, one possible explanation is that patients are trying to make sense of the strange experiences they are having.
Out-of-body experiences are also now known to be common during interrupted sleep patterns that immediately precede sleeping or waking. For instance, sleep paralysis, or the experience of feeling paralyzed while still aware of the outside world, is reported in up to 40 percent of all people and is linked with vivid dreamlike hallucinations that can result in the sensation of floating above one's body. A 2005 study found that out-of-body experiences can be artificially triggered by stimulating the right temporoparietal junction in the brain, suggesting that confusion regarding sensory information can radically alter how one experiences one's body.
A variety of explanations might also account for reports by those dying of meeting the deceased. Parkinson's disease patients, for example, have reported visions of ghosts, even monsters. The explanation? Parkinson's involves abnormal functioning of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that can evoke hallucinations. And when it comes to the common experience of reliving moments from one's life, one culprit might be the locus coeruleus, a midbrain region that releases noradrenaline, a stress hormone one would expect to be released in high levels during trauma. The locus coeruleus is highly connected with brain regions that mediate emotion and memory, such as the amygdala and hypothalamus.
In addition, research now shows that a number of medicinal and recreational drugs can mirror the euphoria often felt in near-death experiences, such as the anesthetic ketamine, which can also trigger out-of-body experiences and hallucinations. Ketamine affects the brain's opioid system, which can naturally become active even without drugs when animals are under attack, suggesting trauma might set off this aspect of near-death experiences, Mobbs explains.
Finally, one of the most famous aspects of near-death hallucinations is moving through a tunnel toward a bright light. Although the specific causes of this part of near-death experiences remain unclear, tunnel vision can occur when blood and oxygen flow is depleted to the eye, as can happen with the extreme fear and oxygen loss that are both common to dying.
Altogether, scientific evidence suggests that all features of the near-death experience have some basis in normal brain function gone awry. Moreover, the very knowledge of the lore regarding near-death episodes might play a crucial role in experiencing them—a self-fulfilling prophecy. Such findings "provide scientific evidence for something that has always been in the realm of paranormality," Mobbs says. "I personally believe that understanding the process of dying can help us come to terms with this inevitable part of life."
One potential obstacle to further research on near-death experiences will be analyzing them experimentally, says cognitive neuroscientist Olaf Blanke at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne in Switzerland, who has investigated out-of-body experiences. Still, "our work has shown that this can be done for out-of-body experiences, so why not for near-death-experience-associated sensations?"
This article was first published at Scientific American. © 2011 Scientific American. All rights reserved.
Time might feel like it is running away from us as the pace of life increases but according to scientists, the future will stop completely.
The theory of time running out was devised by researchers from two Spanish universities trying to explain why the universe appeared to be spreading continuously and accelerating.
Observations of supernovae, or exploding stars, found the movement of light indicated they were moving faster than those nearer to the centre of the universe.
But the scientists claimed the accepted theory of an opposite force to gravity, known as dark energy, was wrong, and said the reality was that the growth of the universe was slowing.
Professor Jose Senovilla, Marc Mars and Raul Vera from the University of the Basque Country and the University of Salamanca said the deceleration of time was so gradual, it was imperceptible to humans.
Their proposal, published in the journal Physical Review D, claimed dark energy does not exist and that time was winding down to the point when it would finally grind to a halt long after the planet ceased to exist.
The slowing down of time will eventually mean everything will appear to take place faster and faster until it eventually disappears.
Professor Senovilla told the New Scientist: "Then everything will be frozen, like a snapshot of one instant, for ever."
Gary Gibbons, a cosmologist the University of Cambridge, told the news website RT that the idea was not as absurd as it sounded.
"We believe that time emerged during the Big Bang and if time can emerge, may disappear as well as the opposite effect," he said.
Credit to : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
Oh, virtual sex will also be commonplace in the not-so-distant future.
Kurzweil's absurd-sounding proclamations stem from the fact that technological progress is growing at an exponential rate.
"These technologies should not seem at all fanciful," says Kurzweil. "Our phones now perform tasks we wouldn’t have dreamed possible 20 years ago. When I was a student in 1965, my university’s only computer cost £7million and was huge."
Kurzweil concludes, "We can look forward to a world where humans become cyborgs, with artificial limbs and organs."
People want to know the easy way to lose weight so that they can accomplish this aim while having fun at the same time. If you do a little research on this topic before trying the various fat losing techniques then the benefit of doing this research will be that you willand quickly. Some people think that it is very hard to become slim again, but many researchers say that courage and dedication are the initial steps that you must take so that every following step becomes trouble-free.
Following are some beneficial and interesting techniques that will help you lose weight in no time. Do you know that half of the diseases in this world are associated with obesity? If your answer is no then you need to read the articles that confirm this statement.
When you will study about this from magazines, books, and internet, your mind will automatically become disconnected with eating fatty and sugary food. You will think more about eating healthy food like fruits and vegetables to keep your health stable. There is nothing wrong with feeling hungry many times a day. Instead of eating potato chips, donuts or chocolate bar, you should eat fruits and vegetables whenever you feel hungry. Nowadays, you will find many restaurants that serve wonderful healthy recipes that include seafood, fruits and vegetables besides serving healthy juices. You can also make so many simple salads or juices at your own home.
The minute you will replace unhealthy and fatty items with healthy items in your eating list, your weight will drop drastically and you will have loads of energy in you. This energy will make you perform better at your office or school and make your face glow more. Instead of eating white bread, switch to brown bread as it helps magnificently in reducing weight. Many people do not know that stress is a big contributor to weight gain. This has been proven medically.
Some people start to eat a lot when they are stressful. On the other hand, stress causes toxins to react in our body, making our metabolism sluggish. This results in the storage of fat and increasing chances of getting angina, stroke or a heart attack. Nutritionists suggest that you join a gym or any exercise club that will make you exercise to lose weight. However, you can exercise while spending nominal money or none at all. If you like any sports then you should play that sport regularly, if you have a dog then take your dog on long walks, if you have access to a free swimming pool then swimming regularly, if you have kids then playing with them, if you have stairs in your office building then use stairs instead of the elevator.
These little tricks will make a huge difference in keeping you fit. The answer to block the eating thoughts and control your desire is yoga. It is an effective, easy way to lose weight. Joining yoga classes will solve not just this problem but various other problems in your life, leaving your heart peaceful and at ease.
The minute you will discontinue these tips and tricks and get back to eating unhealthy, you will gain double weight. So love your life and make the most of it.
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