The trees and flowers have finally bloomed here in Wisconsin. I cannot remember the last time it took until May for that to happen, and during the whole time, Madison was a sad place. It seems with all of the lush foliage having bloomed, I have not seen greener grass or leaves. For a while, I wasn’t sure if I was going to see a tree in bloom ever again. Can you imagine a world without color? Trees aren’t just brown, they are grey and black. Flowers have no pigment, nor do your own eyes, hair, skin, or anything for that matter. Lonely right?
How much sleep did you get last night? 5 hours? 7 hours?
According to the National Sleep Foundation scientists do not really know how much sleep humans need, however, the estimate for a healthy individual is in between 7-8 hours. The reason there is not a magic number for the amount of sleep we need is because that number is different for every person and it is also different across different ages. Take a teenager for example, who’s brain is producing a plethora of hormones on a daily basis. Teenagers require more sleep than an adult in their 20’s would.
What we do know is how catastrophic sleep deprivation can be on your brain. Scientists have found that sleep deprivation affects US businesses with up to $100 billion in costs annually. But what is it doing to you?
Tell me if this has ever happened to you. You treat yourself to a dinner with a friend, who you haven’t seen in a while. The dim lighting adds a charming ambiance, the bread basket is choc-full of warm dinner rolls, and your conversation is riveting… until your friend pulls out their cell phone. He or she begins reading missed texts they have been getting since the beginning of dinner, and the conversation comes to a slow and bumpy halt. In an attempt to keep the conversation going you ask another question, your friend doesn’t answer because they are too preoccupied with their phone. You continue talking to keep the conversation rolling as before. Meanwhile, you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m not sure if he or she is paying attention to me…” I’ll answer that for you. No. No they’re not paying attention to you.
THEN, your friend asks, “wait, what did you say? Sorry, ‘blah-blah-blah’ texted me.” Does this annoy you as much as it annoys me?
WE ARE TERRIBLE AT MULTITASKING. Here’s Why:
Last week I talked about the brain’s ability to remember key pieces of information when emotions were tied to that information. These key pieces of information are called emotionally charged events. According to John Medina, author of Brain Rules, the more attention your brain pays to a specific event or piece of information, the more elaborately the information will be enscribed into your memory. So, if an emotion with the Post It brain chemical Dopamine, is attatched to that information it is very likely the memory will be with you for many decades.
So what exactly of a situation are you remembering when it unfolds in front of you?
Do you ever wonder why people remember tragic events so well? Like that of what happened this afternoon in Boston during the Boston Marathon? People will remember today for many years to come not because it was a Boston holiday, Patriot Day, but because of the horrific events that unfolded at the finish line of unsuspecting athletes. If you ask eye witnesses of the aftermath of the bombings, they will remember the scene, their thoughts, their confusion, and everything in between. Why, if they are asked many years from now, will they have the same account of the marathon as the day it happened?
This past year my grandpa was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), a disease which causes the central nervous system and brain to slowly degenerate. PD starts with a loss of control of motor functions and progressively deteriorates the functions of the thinking brain and eventually memory. According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, 1 million people in the US have fallen victim to this disease and the worst part is there is no cure and no understanding of how it is caused.
Last week, however, marked the beginning of what neuroscientists hope to be a movement to change neurological diseases forever. President Obama officially allocated a budget last Tuesday for an important initiative he mentioned in his State of the Union Address earlier this year. President Obama is pursuing a BRAIN initiative to map the entire brain, similar to the human genome project, which mapped the entirety of human DNA, an arduous project that had before been possible.
The clank of iron banged over the sound of music in my headphones. I glanced at my watch, 8:15am. Like many others, I have gotten in the habit of starting everyday at the gym since the New Year. Now, well into February, what used to be a packed playground of sweaty bodies was now slimming to the devoted few. I felt proud for a moment and smiled. As I did, I looked down out into the parking lot and saw a guy I had met the week before dancing in front of a car. “What a clown,” I thought as he pretended to jog with the car as it drove away. I glanced up and saw another regular who had been watching with me.
“Did you just see that?” he implored.
“Yea, I know that guy. Don’t worry about it, he’s just goofy, that was probably his friend”
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