The science behind brain farts and selfies

Written By kom nampuldu on Minggu, 29 Maret 2015 | 18.18

"AsapSCIENCE: Answers to the World's Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumors, & Unexplained Phenomenon" by Mitchell Moffit and Greg Brown (Scribner)

Does shaving make your hair grow in thicker? Does being cold make you sick? What's the best length of time to power nap?

These are the kind of off-beat questions that have fueled the popularity of AsapSCIENCE, a YouTube series hosted by Mitchell Moffit and Greg Brown (the answers, by the way, are no, slightly and 10-30 minutes).

Now the duo have collected their work into a new book, "AsapSCIENCE" (Scribner) where they address old wives' tales, unexplained phenomena and curiosities. Moffit and Brown shared with The Post a few of their favorite questions:

Is binge-watching TV bad for you?

Not only is a sedentary lifestyle a major contributor to obesity, but studies have also shown that people who watch less TV tend to burn more calories — even if they aren't doing more physical activity! Simply doing more mentally rigorous tasks like reading requires more energy and burns more calories.

TV before bed may also be hurting you. Studies have shown that it may actually reduce your hours of quality sleep, contributing to chronic sleep debt. It may also affect other bedtime activities; researchers have found that men who watch more than 20 hours of TV a week have, on average, a 44% reduction in sperm.

But perhaps the most significant findings relate directly to your life span. Not only is there a documented correlation between TV viewing time and the risk of diabetes and heart disease, but shockingly, multiple studies have also found a correlation between TV viewing time and all causes of death. One study concluded that every hour spent in front of the TV may cut as much as 22 minutes off your life.

Why do we have brain farts?

Photo: Shutterstock


You know, those times when your brain seemingly forgets how to function or you're unable to speak like a normal human being for about five seconds?

The scientific term for this phenomenon is "maladaptive brain activity change." Yes, scientists have actually devoted time to understanding this conundrum.

After monitoring brain activity in individuals during repetitive tasks, they began to notice something incredible: They could actually see abnormal brain activity up to 39 seconds before the mistake was made.

This was a big surprise, because many assumed that these blunders were simply caused by a momentary lapse in concentration.

Instead, almost half a minute before an error, the brain regions associated with relaxation become active, while those linked to maintaining task effort begin to shut down.

But as soon as you notice your mistake or lapse, brain activity kicks into overdrive and goes back to normal. These types of mistakes are much more common during repetitive or overly familiar activities. Scientists believe this is the brain's attempt to save energy during a task, by entering a more restful state. However, sometimes the brain takes the relaxation a bit too far, leading to your slipup.

Interestingly, many scientists believe that inward-focused thinking (like daydreaming) is actually the default setting for your brain. In order to complete other tasks, your brain really has to focus and inhibit your daydreaming tendencies. So when you begin to do something that your brain thinks it's used to — like washing the dishes or even talking to someone in a familiar circumstance — it reverts back to the default setting and you slip up. You accidentally put the plate in the wrong cupboard or completely forget what you were talking about!

Why do we hate photos of ourselves?

From the book 'Cat Selfies.'Photo: Cat Selfies / Mercury Press / Caters News


Simply put, we all have a tendency to prefer familiar things.

After repeated exposure to anything, you will psychologically prefer it over a version that you have seen less often. As crazy as it may seem, this has been tested with words, paintings, sounds, pictures and even geometric figures.

And it just so happens that the version of yourself that you see most often is your mirror or reflected image.

But a photograph is not your reflected image. In fact, your photo image is the way everybody else sees you on a daily basis. Your brain, however, isn't familiar with this view of you and might interpret it as "off."

Why does time feel faster as we age?

Photo: Shutterstock


From a neurological perspective, every time you encounter something new, your brain tries to record as much information as possible.

Thousands of neurons are stimulated, which help code and store this information, ultimately causing you to feel and notice a lot. But as time goes on, the "new" experience becomes old, and your brain begins to use less and less energy to encode information — simply because it already knows it. If you drive to and from work every day, the drive isn't stimulating your brain nearly as much as the first time you took that route.

Of course, we experience most of our "firsts" during the earlier portion of life, which contributes to the overwhelming feeling that much more happened when we were young. Whether it was your first kiss, first bike ride or first time drinking alcohol, the likelihood of encountering completely new experiences is much higher at a young age.

But all hope is not lost. If you continue finding novel experiences throughout old age — things that stimulate new parts of your brain — time may feel slower again.

Copyright © 2015 by AsapSCIENCE Inc. From "AsapSCIENCE: Answers to the World's Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumors, & Unexplained Phenomenon" by Mitchell Moffit and Greg Brown, to be published by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission.


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