Brain Food – January 15, 2017

Brain Food – January 15, 2017



This week’s selection of stories on brains, bias, and wearable technology


I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

Most of us can relate to pulling an all-nighter to study for a test. Or staying up til 3am to finish that big project at work. These extra few hours of work allow us to get a bunch of stuff done….which makes us more productive, right? Neuroscientist and sleep expert Jordan Gaines Lewis says there are no (as in absolutely zero) benefits to forgoing a proper night’s rest.

Poor rest can affect our bodies much like high levels of stress, raising blood pressure, altering our endocrine systems, and changing satiety hormones, which makes us feel hungrier. Lack of sleep also affects the brain, affecting our attention, coordination, and both short- and long-term memory. TLDR: Get a full night’s sleep!

You can check out the full story here. It’s loaded with useful tips, tricks and even a few apps to help you get a better night’s rest. And for those interested in learning more about sleep and/or the brain in general, the author is this post runs a pretty engaging Twitter account….check it out at @GainesOnBrains.


Speaking Of Sleep, There’s An App For That

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas debuted a host of interesting sleep tech. This included pillows to deter snoring, belts that track your tossing and turning, body temperature regulating sleep pad, and smart beds that stay in constant contact with their owners throughout the night.

But, much of this tech is still fairly new and experts are still trying to figure out how to use the personal data in a way that leads to a more meaningful experience for the end user. Neuroscientist Dr. Gholam Motamedi says, “Such devices may have a role in giving us some idea about how the night’s sleep was, but I am not sure if most consumers can directly interpret the results.” Or, to quote Michael Breus, a psychologist and sleep expert who regularly appears on Dr. Oz, “You got 18 percent REM sleep and 24 percent light sleep. So what?”

Tech linked to apps that use a phone’s accelerometer are not very accurate, according to Breus, and more promising tech like Sleep Number’s new 360 smart bed is still fairly new to the market. While most doctors and experts agree that helping consumers get a better night’s rest is a good thing, the tech companies still need to improve on making personal data more meaningful and usable for consumers. And to quote digital health researcher Stan Kachnowski, “We’re not there yet.”

Full story here.


I Wear My Sunglasses At Night

Toronto-based brain-sensing tech firm Interaxon has partnered with Smith, the makers of sunglasses and snowboarding goggles, to create the most stylish new brain sensor aimed at improving focus. Loaded with EEG, EOG, and EMG sensors, these specs are designed to help anyone looking to improve their brain’s ability to focus for extended periods of time.

Aside from the brainy focus, what makes the Smith Lowdown Focus different from other wearables like Google Glass is their stylish design….and we have to admit, they look pretty awesome! Check out the full story and demo video here.


The Netflix Echo Chamber

From Brexit to fake news and the election of Donald Trump in the US, the online echo chambers that we all get caught up in shape our bias and our perception of the world. And while social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have largely had the finger pointed at them, this piece from the New York Times takes an interesting look at how TV programs have moved from a connection point for a nation to a platform for deepening our own echo chambers.

Many of us can still recite all of the best Seinfeld skits. At one point in history, All In The Family helped further a national conversation around civil rights and the Vietnam war. But today, just 12% of the US population (or 14-15 million people) tune in to NCIS or The Big Bang Theory, the two most popular network TV shows last season. Only 9 million people tuned in to last season’s finale of Game of Thrones. While this initially sounds amazing, a show in the 1980s would have been on the verge of cancellation with this level of viewership.

“The Golden Age of Television” has brought forth a plethora of choices in what to consume. And while some content, like Netflix’s amazing documentary 13th, is still driving forward much needed social and cultural conversations, the volume of choice we have in what we watch may only be serving to deeper our own personal echo chambers.

Full story here.


Digital Detox

There’s no denying that technology has made our world better in many ways. In fact, we’ve argued that in part in some of the articles referenced above. But it’s also changed how we pay attention.

This final piece explores one man’s journey to “reclaim his attention” by disconnecting for a month, beginning the day after Donald Trump’s election. It’s admittedly a bit cynical, but provides an interesting perspective on the  potential benefits of not staying “plugged in” 24/7.

Full story here.


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