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How to Waste Time: by Multitasking March 28, 2007

Posted by edukfun in attention training, education.
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I don’t know about you, but I find the world a little too fast these days. Hectic, frantic, frenzied are other words that come to mind. Juggling too many things? Think multi-tasking is good for you? Think again.

A recent article in the New York Times (“Slow Down, Brave Multitasker, and Don’t Read This in Traffic”) summarizes research on the limits of multitasking.


Neuroscientists and psychologists have discovered that we benefit from not multitasking so much at work, doing homework, or while driving a car.

The brain cannot concentrate on two things at the same time. Distractions and interruptions hurt our ability to process information. Cognitive scientists are saying that multitasking slows you down and increases mistakes.

Here’s one quick example: It took Microsoft employees who were interrupted by email or instant messaging while writing reports or computer code an average of 15 minutes to return to their work.

What did people do after being interrupted? Things like answering other email or browsing the internet. Sound familiar? It sure does to me.

Here’s another example: Research at Oxford University compared two groups (18-21 years olds versus 35-39 year olds) performance on a simple task. One would think the younger generation, with their iPods, instant messaging, camera phones, etc., would be better at multi-tasking. But not really.

“While the younger group did 10 percent better when not interrupted, when both groups were interrupted by a phone call, a cell phone short-text message, or an instant message, the older group matched the younger group in speed and accuracy.”

The older group, it seems, “…had faster fluid intelligence with which to block out interruptions and choose what to focus on.”

At Sparks of Genius we use a combination of software to train the brain for success to improve cognitive skills. Children and adults can learn to improve attention stamina. They can learn to stay on task and not respond to distractors. The result is an ability to ignore distractions and interruptions, stay on task and successfully complete the task.

“[When I am interrupted,] it sometimes takes me as long as an hour to get back on track.”

At dinner the other night, a friend of mine confirmed the problems of multitasking and has decided to work more at home, where there are fewer interruptions. A brilliant thinker and programmer, he said something like, “It sometimes takes me as long as an hour to get back on track. Not only do I waste time and energy, but multi-tasking is not good for my health. ”

I don’t have time, energy or health to waste. Do you?


How To Remember Names & Fend off Dementia March 21, 2007

Posted by edukfun in brain injury, dementia, memory, memory loss, mTBI, Sparks of Genius, video games.
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Good News: some computer games can slow and even reverse age related mental decline, mild brain damage and mild dementia.

There are many reasons for cognitive decline. According to Dr Robert Werman (Living with an Aging Brain) we start losing brain cells around age 20, and if we make it to 70 will have lost half a billion brain cells. The longer we live the more brain cells we lose. Even though only 1/3 of us will have dementia by the time we are 85, we will all have lost some proper nouns, find it more difficult to multi-task and take longer to learn new information. And we are likely to forget names.

1/3 of us will have dementia by the time we are 85!

Of course, we could also (G-d forbid) have a traumatic brain injury, and we could lose a lot of neurons very quickly.

That is the bad news, and we can all be like a client of mine who called everyone “Honey” or like Jerry Seinfeld who forgot his girlfriend’s name (it rhymes with a female sexual organ.) The good news is that there are things can do to improve our memory including remembering names.

Shankar Vedantam had an excellent article about how mental workouts can slow mental decline (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/19/AR2006121901431.html?referrer=emailarticle)

And at Spark of Genius we have lots of computer games that can slow and even reverse age related mental decline, mild brain damage and mild dementia.

But let’s talk about my favorite, remembering names, my biggest challenge, because I was too shy to do it when I was younger. It reminds me of the joke about the guy who broke his hand and asked the hand surgeon, “Doctor, after you work on me, will I ever be able to play the piano again?” After the doctor reassures him, he says, “That’s great, because I never could play before.”

If there is no good reason to remember someone’s name, make one up.

The first thing to do is to pay attention when you are introduced. There are many cases where we forget names because we never really absorbed them in the first place, and what you don’t learn, you can’t remember. Also, the more you care about the person, the more you are likely to remember the name.  To a point, emotional involvement helps the memory. (When we are in a traumatic situation, emotions actually impair memory.) You are more likely to remember your travel agent’s name because that agent helps to get you the good trips.

If there is no good reason to remember someone’s name, make one up. I like clothes and jewelry, so if I am introduced to someone with a beautiful purple scarf with gold sparkly things, I can remember Henrietta with the scarf.

The more senses you can use (to remember) the better.

It also helps to ask the person how their name is spelled. This works very well for unusual names or for common names that could be spelled in various ways. (Is it Cathy with a C or Kathy with a K?) Then see the name spelled out. You are using two senses here – you are hearing the name and then seeing the name. The more senses you can use the better. If you could write the name on the floor and walk over it, that would help too, but it’s better not to do this in most social situations. This is why dyslexic children trace letters with their fingers or cut them out – they are using more modalities.

I always like to use the name three times in the first conversation. Repetition helps.

Then you want to make an association between the name and something else. For example, if a person’s last name is “Steinberg” see a big stein of beer coming out of an ice berg. Having the images superimposed on each other, dancing with each other or even crashing into each other helps you to remember them.

One final note of caution – I learned all this because names were challenging for me and I’m much better than I was.  But if you ever meet me and I forget your name, please forgive me.

Be well!

-Ninah Kessler

Note: Here is a permanent link to the article: https://sparksofgenius.wordpress.com/articles/how-to-remember-names-fend-off-dementia/

Duh-duh-duh-duh! Playing music makes you smarter March 19, 2007

Posted by edukfun in 9-5-4, auditory, education, ld, learning disability.
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We’ve said it all along here at SparksofGenius.com: there are 9 intelligences, and if you want to get smarter you can work on any of them.

Scientists have completed a study that shows that musical training can strengthen your brain and help you interpret sounds better, be it music or speech.

You can read the article here: http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/070319_music_brainstem.html
How does this all happen?  Neurogenesis!

It doesn’t take much training to make a difference. This is great news for anyone with a Learning Disability, especially Auditory difficulties such as:

  1. Auditory Discrimination
  2. Auditory Closure
  3. Auditory Figure-ground Discrimination
  4. Auditory Sequencing
  5. Auditory Association and Comprehension

Underachievement in school is a common indicator of a learning disability.  If you, or someone you know, might have challenges in this area, visit www.SparksOfGenius.com and take the 30 Point Learning Assessment.  It’s free and invaluable for uncovering your challenge areas.Be well and good luck!

Allen Dobkin