Brain or neural efficiency: Is it quickness or timing?
It is time I return to where I first started the description of my journeyto understand Interactive Metronome (IM) and the human brain clock. To recap, I firstbecame interested in the human brain clock after consulting on a school-based IM intervention study that produced positive results. Next, I reviewed research and theory that suggested that for a brain-clock based intervention (IM) to work across multiple human performance domains, the technology must be modifying some form of jack-of-all-trades central brain mechanism. I subsequently was excited to discover research that suggested that the human brain clock could be fine-tunedvia non-drug interventions. Finally, it was the research discovery described below that sealed my fate as a scholar interested in the applied potential of brain-clock based neurotechnology interventions.
The brain as a set of networks: Fine tuning your networks
Man has always known that the brain is the center of human behavior. Early attempts at understanding which locations in the brain controlled different functions were non-scientific and included such practices asphrenology. This pseudoscience believed that by feeling the bumps of a person’s head it was possible to draw conclusions about specific brain functions and traits of the person.
Eventually brain science revealed that different regions of the brain where specialized for different specific cognitive processes (but it was not related to the phrenological brain bump maps). This has been called the modular or functional specialization view of the brain, which is grounded in the conclusion that different brain areas acted more-or-less as independent mechanisms for completing specific cognitive functions.
My personal and professional experience and task analysis of IM-Home: Focus and controlled attention.
I am departing from my original plan for this post, as I want to share my personal experience with IM-Home to date. I have completed my 16th session and have been task analyzing the demands of the IM.
My first conclusion is that IM is challenging! When I tell others that I am using a high-tech "clapping" machine that uses a cowbell sound, I am typically greeted with skepticism, much like my original skepticism. It sounds simple and easy. Trust me--it is a very cognitively demanding therapy.
Being an extremely visually oriented person with expertise in the analysis of numbers (applied psychometrics and statistics), I immediately gravitated to the IM visual and numeric feedback on the computer screen. In fact, I focused almost exclusively on the numbers. I more-or-less ignored the auditory feedback in my ears. Within a week I found it relatively easy to be "on target" and when off target, quickly and automatically adjust my pace to be in synch with my tireless IM taskmaster. However, I found that when I was in a groove and being "super right- on" (exactly on the beat) for a number of consecutive trials, my mind would start to wander to random thoughts. No sooner would my mind wander for a brief second then...
The Brain Clock: It is possible to fine-tune the human brain clock
In this fourth installment of my introduction as an IM-Home blogger, I share one more piece of the puzzle that convinced me that brain clock-based interventions hold considerable promise.
In my first post I reported how my scientific skepticism initially kept me arms-length from an IM school-based study, the positive results which stimulated my subsequent search for scientific and theoretical research to explain the IM effect. This search resulted in the Brain Clock blog and the conclusion that synchronized metronome tapping and other rhythm-based interventions must be improving a central “jack-of-all-trades” cognitive mechanism (the topic of my second post). The recent IM-Home “Sound of Music” post, which was abstracted from a post at the Brain Clock blog, featured the link between rhythm-based music therapies and recovery from brain injury, in the case for Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
Research evidence that continued to “close the door” on my initial IM skepticism, and which now has me blogging at the Brain Clock and the IM-Home blogs and, more recently, has me near completion of the 15th session of my first personalized IM-Home...
“I am now convinced that the IM-effect is impacting a fundamental and critical cognitive mechanism (or set of mechanisms) involved in a wide array of human cognitive and motor performance domains.”
Cognitive and intelligence researchers have long sought for (and argued about) the “holy grail”of intelligence—an underlying core essence or mechanism that plays a role in most all intellectual and human performance situations. It is typically referred to as g, or general intelligence. The general consensus touches on the concept of neural efficiency. Such a general mechanism or process is considered a domain-general cognitive mechanism as it works across multiple domains of human ability, or in other words...if you improve this one area of ability, it in turn improves several areas of ability in the same person like cognitive skills (focus, attention, memory), speech/language abilities (articulation, auditory processing, reading), and motor skills (coordination, gait, balance). It works across multiple domains of human ability. Some have referred to such general mechanisms...
The Brain Clock: My journey to understand the science of mental timing interventions
“Run Gordon Run…this sounds like high-tech snake oil!”
That was my knee-jerk advice to friend and colleague, Dr. Gordon Taub, when he called me in 2004 to assess my interest in consulting on a “synchronized metronome tapping” (SMT) invention called Interactive Metronome (IM). IM was supposedly directed at improving the academic achievement of elementary school students. My skepticism was grounded on the fact that for many years in education (and special education in particular), non-academic interventions focused on remediating underlying cognitive deficits (e.g., psycholinguistic process training; visual-motor or spatial integration training; motor planning retraining) were subsequently found to be ineffective in improving reading, writing and math. Yes, performance could be improved on tests of the specific cognitive processes trained, but the results did not transfer to academic improvement in the classroom.
By the early to mid-1980’s non-academic cognitive process intervention programs had been debunked as ineffective for improving school achievement. It was from this skeptical lens that I offered Dr. Taub my advice. I went as far as telling Dr. Taub that I could not risk my professional reputation by being associated with yet another “magic bullet” claim for school learning, especially for “at risk” learners. The magic bullet lesson had been burned well into my school psychology psyche after...