Time Travels with the Time Doc—Trip 1: Quieting the Busy Mind

 

I have been blogging about brain-clock research at my home base (Brain Clock Blog) for many years and more recently have been blogging at the IM-Home website and blog. A problem with sharing information via blogging is that we bloggers make desired connections via hyperlinks. We insert them so the reader will read prior posts for related or background information. Often readers don’t want to take the time to bounce back and forth between linked stories...

Learn more about the “Time Doc”

Many of you are already familiar with Dr Kevin McGrew. You’ve read his intriguing and elucidating blog posts and you know he is affectionately referred to as The Time Doc because of his incessant interest (et..em, obsession ?) with any and all things related to mental timing. You may also know that his unique curiosity has lead to a vast collection of literature contained at one of his many blogs, The Brain Clock Blog. Dr McGrew’s singular effort to bring together and collectively analyze the existing literature has contributed greatly to our understanding of the role of temporal processing in various human abilities and medical conditions and how interventions like the Interactive Metronome may be improving the resolution, synchronicity, and performance of our internal clock...

A bit of research: Fast thinking

Cognitive psychologists theorize that the faster we are able to process information (or think), the more intelligent we are, and the more readily we can learn and demonstrate what we’ve learned. There are many recent studies that support this view, including this one published in the journal Intelligence. Each individual is born with a certain amount of resources for attending to and processing information. How well a person allocates those resources appears to be a major factor in determining intelligence. Taub et al (2007) demonstrated that Interactive Metronome (IM) training has a significant positive effect on reading achievement (affecting 4 of 5 critical pre-reading skills) in elementary school students. They proposed that IM training was primarily improving “processing [thinking] speed,” which in turn improved the students’ ability to allocate resources for attending and holding information in working memory … all essential for fluent reading.

Ben-Shakhar, G. and Sheffer, L. (2001). The relationship between the ability to divide attention and standard
 measures of general cognitive abilities. Intelligence, 29: 293-306.
Taub. G., McGrew, K.S., and Keith, T.Z. (2007). Improvement in interval timing tracking and effects on reading
 achievement. Psychology in the Schools, 44(8), 849-863.

Individualized IM “on-demand focus” training

 

As summarized in prior posts, neurocognitive research suggests that the predominant gear of our minds transmission is neutral.  Our mental engine is working (idling) but to those observing us, our brain is not moving—we often do not appear cognitively engaged in any complex thinking or processing.

The typical person spends up to half their time engaged in the spontaneous chasing of miscellaneous thoughts down various rabbit holes of our minds.  Our thought promiscuous mind wanders here-and-there when daydreaming (“zoning out”) or becoming trapped in a cycle of negative unchecked thoughts (e.g., rumination over negative unhappy thoughts; mania; obsessions).  However, the unconstrained busy or wandering mind can also produce creative insights and thoughts.   An unquiet or busy mind can be good or bad depending on the demands facing the individual at any given time.  More importantly, the amount of optimal mind wandering may vary for different people.

A little more science than usual: Great research on intelligence

In the literature, psychologists describe two forms of intelligence that each contributes separately to our ability to perform tasks. These are “fluid intelligence” and “crystallized intelligence.” Whereas crystallized intelligence is the information and knowledge about things we have learned over the years, fluid intelligence is our ability to strategize and problem-solve. In the example of taking a test, we would recall knowledge about facts and information we learned from class and from studying our notes to answer the test questions (crystallized intelligence), but we may need to answer the questions in a strategic way like crossing out all multiple choice responses that clearly are not the answer and narrow the choices down to the two most possible, working from there to get the correct response (fluid intelligence). Stankov et al. (2006) studied the physiological neural oscillations (or rhythmic, repetitive neural signals between brain regions in the central nervous system) involved in human intelligence, or what we know is our ability to learn, access what we’ve learned, and problem-solve. They discuss the importance of synchronicity in brain activity to intelligence and propose that the degree of synchronization in brain activity may account for differences between individuals’ cognitive processing abilities. In a small pilot study completed in 2004, Dr Alpiner demonstrated under fMRI that individuals who’d received training for timing and rhythm using the Interactive Metronome demonstrated...

A person can only hold only “so much” information in working memory

A person can only hold only “so much” information in working memory … here is an anology: There are 5 babies in the bed. Put another one in, and one of the babies in the bed falls out. The bed can only hold “5” babies. Period. This study by Kane et al (2001) published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology further bolsters the theory that our ability to focus and pay attention is largely driven by how many bits of information (“babies”) we can hold in our working memory without losing them in the presence of more bits of information or distractions (“more babies”). Working memory is a skill that is dependent upon timing in the brain. The better the brain’s timing, the better working memory can hold onto the bits of information and use them for the situation (i.e., learning) or problem at hand. Taub et al (2007) have theorized that Interactive Metronome, a patented program that improves timing in the brain, primarily addresses thinking speed and working memory, thereby improving our ability to focus and learn.

Kane, M.J., Blecky, M.K., Conway, A.R.A., and Engle, R.W. (2001) A controlled attention view of working-memory capacity. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 130(2), 169-183.
Taub. G., McGrew, K.S., and Keith, T.Z. (2007). Improvement in interval timing tracking and effects on reading
 achievement. Psychology in the Schools, 44(8), 849-863.

RAPT: Attention and focus

 

I have been reading Winfred Gallagher’s 2009 book “RAPT:  Attention and the focused life.”  In many of my blog posts I maintain that Interactive Metronome (IM) training requires controlled attention—focus.  I have further suggested that “on demand focus” is a potentially powerful tool.  By this I mean one wants to train your brain to invoke focused attention when facing cognitively demanding tasks.  However, 100% laser beam focus is not attainable, nor would one want to constantly be super focused.   The mind wandering of the default brain networkneeds to be shut down to focus.  However, unfettered mind wandering can allow for creative thought (and also the flip side—ruminations of irrational or bad thoughts).

A bit of research: Timing as an essential part of social communication

Timing in the brain is critical for communicating effectively or participating in group activities (i.e., sports, music, play). Some individuals wait until just the right moment to act, while others have a tendency to “jump the gun.” This may manifest in a penalty for a false start if playing football or social difficulty if a person constantly interrupts others when they are speaking. Miyake et al (2004) describe the neurological underpinnings of the tendency to make “anticipatory” timing errors like these in a paper published in Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis. Once we’ve learned a task or situation, we tend to respond as if on automatic pilot (without consciously thinking about it). But sometimes, something changes ever so slightly in the situation, and we must adapt and recalibrate our response. How well we do this depends upon our brain’s ability to perceive time…even in small increments like milliseconds. During the initial phases of Interactive Metronome (IM) training individuals with these timing-related problems often clap or move too fast (milliseconds ahead of the beat instead of on it), but soon become more in sync with the beat and with their peers.

Miyake, Y., Onishi, Y., and Pöppel, E. (2004). Two types of anticipation in synchronization tapping. Acta
 Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, 64, 415-426.

A bit of research: Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)

Individuals with language-learning disabilities show slowed or delayed timing in the brain (in particular in the brainstem), so that they are not processing the timed or temporal elements of speech quickly enough to decipher sounds accurately and comprehend what is being said (also called temporal processing). Auditory Processing Disorder is at the heart of language-learning disabilities and is the leading cause of problems with learning to read and write. But there is hope!! Research shows that auditory processing (or the brain’s ability to understand speech & language) can be improved (Kraus & Banai, 2007). Interactive Metronome training targets the underlying problem with timing in the brain. Once mental timing is improved, the brain can process information in the speech stream more timely and accurately, leading to development of phonological skills that are so vital for auditory comprehension, reading and writing.

Kraus, N. and Banai, K. (2007). Auditory-processing malleability. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(2), 105-110.
 

A bit of Research: The influence of timing in children with ADHD

A recent study by the Kennedy Krieger Institute (2011) showed that areas of the brain that control thinking and motor skills are different (smaller) in children with ADHD compared to other children. The specific regions of the brain that were mentioned are known to be involved in mental timing. Mental timing (AKA timing in the brain) is vital for many of our thinking skills and for good motor coordination. Studies have shown that timing in the brain is disrupted in children and adults with ADHD, leading to problems with focus, other cognitive abilities, and motor skills. Interactive Metronome, a patented non-medical treatment for ADHD, is the ONLY program that simultaneously works on thinking AND motor skills by specifically addressing and improving the areas of the brain responsible for mental timing.

Kennedy Krieger Institute (2011, June 10). Brain imaging study of preschoolers with ADHD detects brain differences linked to symptoms.
 

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