Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Overflowing Brain by Torkel Klingberg

The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory by Torkel Klingberg explores how technology has affected working (aka short-term) memory. I was very interested in reading this book because I have been blessed with so few distractions in my life. I can turn off the television and music and just have complete silence for hours on end.
As Klingberg describes various imagined situations, including a woman working in an open cubicle type office, her cell phone ringing as she tries to read a report, the reader gets a glimpse into how the brain functions to juggle so many stimuli.
The scientific research used to back up the scenarios makes sense even to the layman reader. Remarkable really because often I was distracted while reading the book. The information can be a little dense at times and I had hoped to learn a little more about brain plasticity. Nevertheless, the research into IQ changes and even the role of video games in intelligence was very interesting. I could easily see a professor using this as a supplemental text for students. It might even be useful to those who are working with developmental issues in patients or students.
Overall a fascinating book and an easy, informative read. Most interesting bit I carried away with me is the effect of different types of mental stimulation on brain activity. For instance, it is no surprise that chess would help stimulate the brain and reduce the risk of dementia. However, more surprising is that dance would do so. At least "more surprising" until you think about it. After all, walking or riding a bike doesn't take a great deal of mental awareness. Dancing, especially when you have to remember a series of movements or steps, will obviously engage the brain in mental activity. I am thinking of one of my belly-dancing dvds which teaches a series of steps (three to four) and then practices them together gradually building them into a longer routine. When you have mastered the fully routine, there are three paces--slow-ish, fast, faster.
I would suspect that yoga would have the same effect, especially when doing something like a remembered series--Sun Salutation (surya sanmaskar) or Moon Salutation (chandra sanmaskar). I believe Iyengar style yoga also has a predetermined series of asanas.
Definitely something to think about.

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