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The Overflowing Brain
Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory268
As the pace of technological change accelerates, we are increasingly experiencing a state of information overload. Statistics show that we are interrupted every three minutes during the course of the work day. Multitasking between email, cell-phone, text messages, and four or five websites while listening to an iPod forces the brain to process more and more informaton at greater and greater speeds. And yet the human brain has hardly changed in the last 40,000 years.
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Are all these high-tech advances overtaxing our Stone Age brains or is the constant flood of information good for us, giving our brains the daily exercise they seem to crave? In The Overflowing Brain, cognitive scientist Torkel Klingberg takes us on a journey into the limits and possibilities of the brain. He suggests that we should acknowledge and embrace our desire for information and mental challenges, but try to find a balance between demand and capacity. Klingberg explores the
cognitive demands, or "complexity," of everyday life and how the brain tries to meet them. He identifies different types of attention, such as stimulus-driven and controlled attention, but focuses chiefly on "working memory," our capacity to keep information in mind for short periods of time. Dr Klingberg
asserts that working memory capacity, long thought to be static and hardwired in the brain, can be improved by training, and that the increasing demands on working memory may actually have a constructive effect: as demands on the human brain increase, so does its capacity.
The book ends with a discussion of the future of brain development and how we can best handle information overload in our everyday lives. Klingberg suggests how we might find a balance between demand and capacity and move from feeling overwhelmed to deeply engaged.
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Publishers Weekly [The Overflowing Brain] is a highly sane look at the increasingly insane demands of the information age.
Washington Post Klingberg does his best to keep the material accessible, with lots of anecdotes...
Sacramento Book Review ...[The Overflowing Brain] has a scholarly tone, but Klingberg provides a good balance between the science and the practical...An interesting book...
<br>Torkel Klingberg is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Stockholm Brain Institute, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.<br>
1. Introduction: The Stone Age Brain Meets the Flood of Information; A. THE MAGICAL NUMBER SEVEN; B. THE STONE AGE BRAIN; C. BRAIN PLASTICITY; D. INCREASES IN IQ IN THE 20TH CENTURY; E. THE FUTURE; 2. The Information Portal; A. DIFFERENT TYPES OF ATTENTION; B. ABSENT-MINDEDNESS; C. MEASURING ATTENTION IN MILLISECONDS; D. THE SPOT-LIGHT IN THE BRAIN; E. COMPETITION BETWEEN NEURONS; F. TWO PARALLEL SYSTEMS OF ATTENTION; 3. The Mental Workbench; A. WORKING MEMORY AND SHORT-TERM MEMORY; B. LONG-TERM MEMORY; C. CONTROL OF ATTENTION; D. PROBLEM-SOLVING AND IQ; 4. Models of Working Memory; A. INFORMATION IN THE PARIETAL LOBE; B. ATTENTION AND MEMORY UNITED; C. HOW DO WE ENCODE INFORMATION?; 5. The Brain and the Magical Number 7; A. THE DEVELOPING BRAIN; B. BRAIN SIGNALS AND CAPACITY; C. MECHANISMS FOR A CAPACITY LIMITATION; D. THE CHILD BRAIN; E. COMPUTER SIMULATIONS OF BRAIN ACTIVITY; 6. Simultaneous Capacity and Mental Bandwidth; A. DRIVING AND TALKING; B. THE COCKTAIL PARTY EFFECT AND OTHER DISTRACTIONS; C. WHAT HAPPENS IN THE BRAIN DURING DUAL TASKING?; D. THE UNIFYING CAPACITY HYPOTHESIS; 7. Wallace's Paradox; A. THE EVOLUTION OF WORKING MEMORY; B. INTELLIGENCE AS A SECONDARY EVOLUTIONARY EFFECT; 8. Brain Plasticity; A. HOW BRAIN MAPS ARE REDRAWN; B. THE EFFECT OF STIMULATION; C. MUSIC AND JUGGLING; D. WHAT IS "USE" AND WHAT IS "IT"; 9. Does ADHD Exist?; A. WHAT IS ADHD?; B. THE WORKING MEMORY HYPOTHESIS; C. PILLS AND EDUCATION; 10. A Cognitive Gym; A. COMPUTERIZED TRAINING OF WORKING MEMORY; B. EFFECTS OF TRAINING ON BRAIN ACTIVITY; 11. The Everyday Exercising of our Mental Muscles; A. THE EINSTEIN AGING STUDY; B. MENTAL BENCHMARKS; C. ZEN AND ATTENTION; D. BOMPU ZEN; E. SCIENCE AND MEDITATION; F. CURRENT AND FUTURE CHALLENGES; 12. Computer Games; A. ALARM REPORTS; B. THE BENEFIT OF COMPUTER GAMES; C. COMPUTER GAMES AND THE FUTURE; 13. The Flynn Effect; A. STUDIES OF IQ TRAINING; B. EVERYTHING BAD IS GOOD FOR YOU; 14. Neurocognitive Enhancement; A. MENTAL DOPING; B. OUR DAILY DRUGS; 15. Information Flood and Flow; A. INFO-STRESS; B. WHY WE LOVE INFORMATION; C. FLOW; 16. References