Weekly Neuroscience Update

Getting a grip—literally— by clenching your right fist before remembering information and your left when you want to remember it can boost your recall, according to the latest study. This strange trick may work because clenching your hands activates the side of the brain that handles the function— in right-handed people, for instance, the left side of the brain is primarily responsible for encoding information and the right for recalling memory. (If you are left-handed, the opposite applies).

Mathematicians from Queen Mary, University of London will bring researchers one-step closer to understanding how the structure of the brain relates to its function in two recently published studies.

Greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet (MeD) is associated with a lower likelihood of incident cognitive impairment (ICI), especially among those without diabetes, according to a study published in the April 30 issue of Neurology.

The widespread belief that dopamine regulates pleasure could go down in history with the latest research results on the role of this neurotransmitter. Researchers have proved that it regulates motivation, causing individuals to initiate and persevere to obtain something either positive or negative.

Supposedly ‘primitive’ reflexes may involve more sophisticated brain function than previously thought, according to researchers at Imperial College London.

The production of a certain kind of brain cell that had been considered an impediment to healing may actually be needed to staunch bleeding and promote repair after a stroke or head trauma, researchers at Duke Medicine report.

For any addiction, external  cues and stress can trigger  cravings that are hard to resist, and the latest research points to an area of  the brain that might be responsible  for sabotaging recovery.

Think Feedback Not Failure

I came across an old newspaper cutting from the Irish Times recently – an article by NLP practitioner, Carmel Wynne on the theme of how we live up to our expectations of success or failure.

Your thoughts, feelings and actions run like habitual programmes in the brain.  Just as you can upgrade and change computer programs you can change your mental programmes.

Your thoughts have a structure that you can alter.  You can transform how you think. Doing so offers you life-changing possibilities because your mind is so powerful.

When you change your thinking about a situation you change your feelings.  It’s not the situation but how you think about it that makes it pleasant or unpleasant.

It’s amazing how your brain responds to what you believe is true.  What is considered overcrowding in a train is experienced as atmosphere in a nightclub.  If you hold the belief that too many people in a train make for an uncomfortable environment you are right.  If you think that lots of people crowded together in a nightclub make for a wonderful atmosphere your brain produces feelings of enjoyment in response to your thoughts.

Changing beliefs is not easy.  Yet one tiny change can have a huge impact on your life.  Think what would happen if you stopped using the word ‘Failure’.  It would bring about significant changes in how you think and feel.

Substitute the word ‘Feedback’ and you eliminate all the negative connotations that are linked with failure.  Feedback encourages constructive thinking and has a positive impact on creativity.

Failure is a concept that creates negativity.  It breeds pessimistic thinking.  The feelings of inadequacy and discouragement that accompany the belief that you are not measuring up discourage and de-motivate further efforts.

When you eliminate the concept of failure and replace it with the idea of getting feedback the whole focus shifts.  Feedback puts attention onto learning what works and doesn’t work.  This information allows the person to take risks and seek different solutions.

Feedback allows for flexibility.  When you recognise something is not working you take another approach.  You let go of ‘Ill-formed’ language when you discard the word ‘Failure’.  Just think of the impact of this tiny alteration.

The effect of replacing one word potentially changes your feelings and for those who are self-aware your internal experience.  What a powerful tool for personal growth and achievement.

I need hardly tell you that no two people respond to the same event in identical ways. Some people are naturally optimistic and others are pessimistic.  Psychologist Martin Seligman has discovered three major attitudes that distinguish the two.

Optimists view downturns in their lives as temporary blips in the graph.  Basically they see troubles and difficulties as delayed success.  They view misfortune as situational and specific.

The three Ps of pessimism are Permanence, Pervasiveness and Personalising.  Pessimists generalise, think they screw up everything and blame their own incompetence or ineffectiveness.

Helplessness, passivity and inaction influence the attitude of pessimists to setbacks.  Their belief that they screw up everything creates expectations of failure.

Realistic optimists maintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity.  Their ‘Can do’ attitude allows them use their skills to actively address problems.

Failure or feedback – it’s up to you!