Why your brain always has to be right

Why your brain always has to be right

I’m sure it’s happened to you: You’re in a tense team meeting trying to defend your position on a big project and start to feel yourself losing ground. Your voice gets louder. You talk over one of your colleagues and correct his point of view. He pushes back, so you go into overdrive to convince everyone you’re right. It feels like an out-of-body experience. In terms of its neurochemistry, your brain has been hijacked. Picture: Hey Paul Studios/Flickr The Role of Cortisol In situations of high stress, fear or distrust, the hormone and neurotransmitter cortisol floods the brain. Executive functions that help us with advanced thought processes like strategy, trust building and compassion shut down. The amygdala, our instinctive brain, takes over. The body makes a chemical choice about how best to protect itself — in this case from the shame and loss of power associated with being wrong — and as a result is unable to regulate its emotions or handle the gaps between expectations and reality. So we default to one of four responses: fight (keep arguing the point), flight (revert to and hide behind group consensus), freeze (disengage from the argument by shutting up) or appease (make nice with your adversary by simply agreeing with him). All are harmful because they prevent the honest and productive sharing of information and opinion. But, as a consultant who has spent decades working with executives on their communication skills, I can tell you that the fight response is by far the most damaging to work relationships. It is also, unfortunately, the most common. That’s partly due to another neurochemical process. When you argue...

The Best Remedies For Common Headaches

Whether it’s that pulsating pain of a migraine, or the vice-like grip of sinus congestion, nobody likes a headache. Here are the causes and treatments for the most common headaches. According to the US National Headache Foundation, at least 150 different headache variations exist, and the range of causes is equally diverse, from genetic factors to inadequate food intake. That said, a few common types account for the majority of headaches. Here’s how to deal with them. (If headaches are a recurring problem, you should definitely see your doctor and seek out professional treatment.) Tension Headaches Tension headaches are the most common headache type. They’re characterised by mild to moderate pain, tightness, and pressure in the forehead or back of the neck. Typically, the pain is “throbbing” and although annoying, doesn’t usually ruin your day. Causes: The potential causes are quite varied. Possible trigger include anxiety, eye strain, caffeine, food, lack of rest, bad posture, stress and hunger. Tension headaches are also common after a night of alcohol. If something is abnormal in your daily routine, whether it’s a late lunch or a series of deadlines at work, a tension headache may be the result. Treatment: Tension headaches are usually best handled with over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen before the pain gets severe. Those aren’t cures, but they will temporarily relieve the pain. In general, your best bet is to rest and relax until the headache goes away. Even a hot pepper may provide some relief. To cut back on the frequency of these types of headaches, you need to identify your triggers and reduce them. If a headache comes from stress, meditation may...

What Is Déjà Vu And Why Does It Happen?

Have you ever experienced a sudden feeling of familiarity while in a completely new place? Or the feeling you’ve had the exact same conversation with someone before? This feeling of familiarity is, of course, known as déjà vu (a French term meaning “already seen”) and it’s reported to occur on an occasional basis in 60-80% of people. It’s an experience that’s almost always fleeting and it occurs at random. So what is responsible for these feelings of familiarity? Despite coverage in popular culture, experiences of déjà vu are poorly understood in scientific terms. Déjà vu occurs briefly, without warning and has no physical manifestations other than the announcement: “I just had déjà vu!” Many researchers propose that the phenomenon is a memory-based experience and assume the memory centres of the brain are responsible for it. Memory Systems The medial temporal lobes are vital for the retention of long-term memories of events and facts. Certain regions of the medial temporal lobes are important in the detection of familiarity, or recognition, as opposed to the detailed recollection of specific events. It has been proposed that familiarity detection depends on rhinal cortex function, whereas detailed recollection is linked to the hippocampus. The randomness of déjà vu experiences in healthy individuals makes it difficult to study in an empirical manner. Any such research is reliant on self-reporting from the people involved. Glitches In The Matrix A subset of epilepsy patients consistently experience déjà vu at the onset of a seizure — that is, when seizures begin in the medial temporal lobe. This has given researchers a more experimentally controlled way of studying déjà vu. Epileptic seizures are evoked by alterations in electrical activity in neurons within focal...

Cognitive Function Can Start Failing At 45 Years Of Age

A human's ability to remember data, to reason, and understand things properly can start to worsen at the age of 45 years, and not 60 as many had believed, researchers from France and the United Kingdom reported in the BMJ (British Medical Journal). According to prior studies, cognitive decline, if it does occur, will generally not do so before the age of sixty. Many experts had wondered whether the deterioration might not start sooner. Study leader, Archana Singh-Manoux, at the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, France, and researchers from University College London in the UK, believe that..: "..understanding cognitive aging will be one of the challenges of this century." The authors stress that identifying cognitive decline onset is crucial for effective medical interventions. In other words, the earlier-on cognitive deterioration can be spotted, the better medical treatments tend to be. Singh-Manoux and team observed 2,192 females and 5,198 males from 1997 to 2007. All the subjects were civil servants aged from forty-five to seventy years - they formed part of the Whitehall II cohort study (a UK study), which had started in 1985. Over the ten-year period, all study-participants had their cognitive functions assessed. This included testing for: Memory Vocabulary Aural comprehension skills (listening skills) Visual comprehension skills. The journal cites as examples, remembering as many words as possible that started with the letter "S" (phonemic fluency), or recalling as many animal names as possible (semantic fluency). Factors which might impact on their findings were taken into account, such as the participant's level of education. They found that cognitive scores dropped in all categories, except for vocabulary. The older...

Memory Can Be Boosted By Stimulating Brain

New research from UCLA shows that stimulating key area of the brain can improve the memory. Perhaps we'll soon be free from those annoying afternoons, scrambling about looking for the dog's leash or the car keys. Published in this week's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, the research could produce a new method for boosting memory in patients with early Alzheimer's disease, and senior author Dr. Itzhak Fried, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA said : "The entorhinal cortex is the golden gate to the brain's memory mainframe ... Every visual and sensory experience that we eventually commit to memory funnels through that doorway to the hippocampus. Our brain cells must send signals through this hub in order to form memories that we can later consciously recall." Fried and his team looked at seven epilepsy patients who already had electrodes implanted in their brains to help locate the origin of their seizures. The scientists studied the electrodes to record neuron activity as new memories were being created. They then used a video game featuring a taxi cab, virtual passengers and a cyber-city, to test if deep-brain stimulation of the entorhinal cortex or the hippocampus altered recall. Patients played the role of cab drivers who picked up passengers and traveled across town to deliver them to one of six requested shops. Fried continued that : "When we stimulated the nerve fibers in the patients' entorhinal cortex during learning, they later recognized landmarks and navigated the routes more quickly ... They even learned to take shortcuts, reflecting improved spatial memory ... Critically, it was the stimulation...
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