I was excited to see that The Economist had three fascinating articles last week about my favorite topic: the brain, of course.
The first one: “Genius Locus” discusses the link between autism and the extraordinary ability of savants. The article notes that, according to recent research at King’s College in London, “as many as 30% of autistic people may have some sort of savant-like capability in areas such as calculation or music.” The article also notes that these abilities might arise from the hyper-attention to detail and sensory hypersensitivity of autistic individuals. It is even possible for “neurotypicals” (the rest of us), to develop savant-like abilities through repetitive attention to learning something complicated, such as London taxi drivers who memorize the city’s 25,000 streets and the quickest ways between them. Learning what they dub “the Knowledge” actually grows the hippocampus in their brains, but this comes at the cost of performance on other tests of memory, such as word-pairings.
Prefer to be knowledgeable on a broad range of topics? I recommend: The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge. It’s a great way to increase your memory . . . as well as your dinner table topics!
The second one: “Incognito” provided an interesting look into the way that insights come to us. According to new research published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, the “aha” moment actually comes to our brains before we realize it. Subjects were shown brainteasers while their brainwaves were monitored. Those that solved the brainteaser had different brainwave activity than those who never got it. Interestingly, this activity was noticeable up to eight seconds before conscious awareness of the answer. This study, along with others discussed in the article, indicates that unconscious thought can solve problems without our realization. The challenge may lie in bringing them to our conscious thought.
If you try the brainteaser in the article and decide you want more, we recommend: Instant Brain Teasing Puzzles – fifty instant puzzles to develop your critical thinking abilities.
The third one: Also be sure to take a look at “Twice blessed” for new research on bi-lingual children and their potential advantages in decision-making.
I would love to hear your thoughts.