slowness

Walking through exams

As a student, in the run up to exams, I used to enjoy going out walking in the hills on my own.  This approach to exam preparation probably surprised my fellow students.  While other walkers that I came across probably thought I was mad because, in an age before mobile phones, they would see me talking to myself; because, as I walked, I was reciting material that I needed to learn for the next exam.  This technique worked for me but I have hesitated to recommend such behaviour to my students.  Now, I’ve discovered that psychologists have found that cognitive performance is improved in young adults while walking at a comfortable, relaxed speed.  This is probably connected to the neurogenesis that I wrote about in my post entitled ‘Gone walking’ on April 19th, 2017.

So, as the examination season is underway in many universities, I thought I should pass on my rather eccentric approach to exam revision.  No doubt, I’ll discover that I wasn’t so eccentric after all but none of us dared share such an unconventional approach to exam preparation.

Sources:

Schaefer et al, Cognitive performance is improved while walking: differences in cognitive-sensorimotor couplings between children and young adults, Euro J Developmental Psychology, 7:371-89, 2010.

Susan Greenfield, A Day in the Life of the Brain, London: Allen Lane, 2016.

Leadership is like shepherding

Leadership is like shepherding – selfless and most of the time you have to stand back and watch.  You show them where to forage [provide the vision], you take care of their health and welfare, you protect them against predators [threats] and you worry about them.  But, when all of that’s done, you watch from a distance and feel proud of them.

If you would like to discuss ideas about leadership in science and technology then join us towards the end of this month for a CPD module on Scientific Impact and Reputation, which is part of our Science and Technology Leadership programme at the University of Liverpool in London.

Bibliography:

James Rebank, The Shepherd’s Life, Penguin, 2016.

Gone walking

Background and lock-screen pictures have become a feature of modern life.  Your computer and mobile device were probably delivered with some pre-loaded scenes from nature and some of us personalize our devices by up-loading photographs taken on holiday or a recent excursion into the countryside.  Perhaps, we do this intuitively, because recent research has shown that immersion in nature, even at the superficial level of viewing a picture can improve brain function.  Brisk walking stimulates the production of new neurons and, when you do it in an environment enriched with natural stimuli, the connectivity and stability of connectivity between neurons is increased.  For those us whose biological systems are in terminal decline, the opportunity to retard this decline by walking in the wild is too good to miss.  I have gone to the English Lake District to produce and connect some more neurons.  I’ll be back next week – feeling hopefully creative and empowered, as well as, probably rather damp but what else can be expected from northern England in April!

For those of you who want to immerse themselves vicariously in the damp natural environment of England in the rain could read ‘Rain: Four Walks in English Weather‘ by Melissa Harrison.

Sources:

Susan Greenfield, A Day in the Life of the Brain, London: Allen Lane, 2016.

Atchley RA, Strayer DL & Atchley, Creativity in the wild: improving creative reasoning through immersion in natural settings, PloS One, 7:e51474, 2012.

Yao S et al, Physical exercise-induced adult neurogenesis: a good strategy to prevent cognitive decline in neurodegenerative diseases? Biomedical Research Intl., 2014, 403120.

Olson KA et al, Environmental enrichment and voluntary exercise massively increase neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus via dissociable pathways, Hippocampus, 16:250-260, 2006.

Digital detox with a deep vacation

beachIt’s official – half of us are addicted to our internet-connected devices and a third of us have attempted to kick the addiction.  A recent study by the UK’s communication regulator, OFCOM found that 59% of internet users considered themselves ‘hooked’ and spending the equivalent of more than a day a week on-line.   They also reported that one in three internet users have attempted a ‘digital detox’ with a third saying they felt more productive afterwards, while slightly more that a quarter found it liberating and another quarter said they enjoyed life more.  So, switch off all of your devices, take a deep vacation,  do some off-line reading (see my post entitled ‘Reading offline‘ on March 19th, 2014), slow down and breathe your own air (see my post entitled ‘Slow down, breathe your own air‘ on December 23rd, 2015).  Now, you won’t find many blogs advising you to stop reading them!

Health warning: OFCOM also found that 16% of ‘digital detoxers’ experienced FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out’ (‘FOMO’), 15% felt lost and 14% ‘cut-off’.

Steadiness and placidity

Picture5Writing a weekly blog must be a little like being a newspaper columnist except that I am not part of team of writers and so there is no one to stand in for me when I go away.  Instead I have to get a few weeks ahead before I go away. So I will be on vacation when you read this post and I hope that I will have achieved a certain level of ‘steadiness and placidity’ to quote Michael Faraday.  Faraday used to escape to Hastings, on the south coast of England, for breaks away from the hustle and bustle of London.  He would take walks [see my post on August 26th, 2015 entitled ‘Take a walk on the wild side‘] and spend time on the seashore [see my post on May 4th, 2016 entitled ‘Horizon Therapy‘] to achieve ‘a kind of mental detachment, an ability to separate himself from things as they are and accept the given – certainties and uncertainties’ [from his biography by James Hamilton], which he described as ‘steadiness and placidity’.

Source:

Hamilton, J., A life of discovery: Michael Faraday, giant of the scientific revolution. New York: Random House, 2002.