As the Finals issue features a great article on study-friendly instrumental tracks, we got inspired to explore the relationship of music and focus a bit further. It’s no surprise that while studying, many students prefer white noise or music to the jarring sound of chairs scraping throughout Moffit. But are there particular types of music that are more conducive to learning or focus? Some research suggests there are.

Studies in music and cognition receiving most media attention are those focused on what many dub the Mozart effect. The term usually refers to several similar theories, all centered on the idea that classical music may aid in temporary or long-term learning enhancement. In one experiment, students exposed to classical music showed increased — but temporary — spatial-temporal reasoning ability.

Similarly, gamma waves can describe a specific pattern of neural oscillations — brain waves — at a frequency of around 50 Hz. Researchers such as György Buzsaki have published evidence suggesting that the nature of the frequency of these waves may aid conscious attention through facilitating activity within the thalamus, a brain structure partially involved in alertness and consciousness. While the theory remains in need of further support, we still suggest trying out gamma-wave music therapy for yourself!

Our favorite tracks
We love Youtube tracks (1) Biaural Beats: Study, Focus, Concentrate and (2) High focus – Gamma brainwaves in particular, because they’re repetitive enough to discourage distraction. For those who might prefer classical music, we suggest the (3) Study Music Project, also on Youtube. Happy finals prep week!

-R.S.

Image source: Karmalize under Creative Commons.


4223578046_ba89d7edff_zWho is the happiest man in the world? No not Pablo Sandoval! Matthieu Ricard. He is one part molecular geneticist, one part Buddhist monk, and a million parts pure unadulterated happiness. According to this New York Daily News article, Ricard has the happiest brain ever mapped on a machine. His gamma waves, brain waves linked to awareness and happiness, are off the charts. His not-so-secret secret? Meditation. read more »


5686681644_b3a7bf97b8Once again, Berkeley researchers have succeeded in blowing our minds in the course of studying them. New brain research stemming from (get it!?) UC Berkeley’s Wills Neuroscience Institute has made important breakthroughs in our understanding of how fear and trauma affect our memory.

Now we here at the Clog don’t know much about neuroscience but what the research seems to be saying is that brand new memory neurons are created during fearful and traumatic experiences. Since the memories are placed on fresh neurons, we remember those experiences more vividly. But if you want to make sense of it all, you should probably just check out the article yourself.

What we can say for sure, however, is that we’ll be looking out for more research from the Wills Institute because words like “hippocampus” make us giggle. Hehe!

Image Source: Ars Electronica under Creative Commons
How fear burns memories into our brain [The Times of India]


napping

If you’re like us, you like having your questionable behavior vindicated by science. As per usual, the toddlers and the Spanish (and the kittehs …) got it right in a way that the Puritan world wrongheadedly disgraced as “lazy” or “unproductive.” Science says: before you study, get toddler and siesta all over. read more »


sleeping raccoonIt’s every college kid’s dream—that is, for those of us who even sleep to begin with—and thanks to a new study, it may just become reality. We’re not suggesting resting your head on “Paradise Lost” when you fall asleep in the library, hoping to learn by osmosis (believe us, we’ve tested this theory).

Nor can you expect to pick up French in your sleep by listening to some language tapes, although sniffing roses while learning French and then smelling them in your sleep may help you retain it better. Basically, since sleep is now thought of as a time for memory consolidation, replaying certain auditory or olfactory cues in one’s sleep can help trigger those same memories.

So, it’s not like a gigantic leap in cognitive neuroscience or anything, but it stands to reason that if you listened to a certain song every time you tried to memorize the conjugates of aller for your French quiz and then again in your sleep, you might just be a little better off. Maybe.

Image Source: Tambako the Jaguar under Creative Commons
Sounds During Sleep Aid Memory, Study Finds [New York Times]


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A Berkeley-based “neuroresearch” company called Neurofocus claims to have found consumers’ “buy button” of sorts. So what kind of fancy shmancy science are they conducting to do such groundbreaking research? Apparently, they make consumers wear a baseball cap with 64 sensors attached and measure how their brain waves change when shown various ads. Did they say baseball cap? read more »


A group of researchers that includes two Berkeley scientists is running a long-term neuroscience study hoping to change the law when it comes to the punishment of minors. read more »


brain_090407.jpgLast night the Cognitive Science Student Association put on its annual Feel Dead Brains, an “interactive talk for any and everyone who is interested” in the Valley Life Sciences Building. Fortunately for those of us fidgeting with anticipation, waiting to feel the primal rush of having the seat of a human someone’s every thought and emotion at our fingertips, the lecture hall where the event took place was far from packed. We guess the thoroughly plebeian title just didn’t fool as many people as the CSSA thought it would …

We certainly felt part of the scientific elite, listening to featured speaker, grad student Bradley Voytek, as he outlined basics of neuroscience and cracked jokes that only a neurosurgeon would ever, ever think to crack. It was kind of endearing, really. read more »