How your mind works

How much energy do you use when you think? At what time of day is your mental performance best? Does talking to yourself help your thinking? Are your thoughts influenced by body position? If you have an exam to take, or some problems to solve, how can you let your mind work, without your realizing it, to find the answers?

Of all things known in the universe, the human brain is by far, the most complex. As a subject for scientific study it presents infinite intricacies and difficulties. Wide differences of opinion exist among investigators who are trying to probe its mysteries to establish basic facts. But recent research provides some new facts about how our brains work

How Much Energy Does Brainwork Take?

One of the most surprising recent discoveries is that you apparently use little more energy when you think than when you don't. University of Pennsylvania investigators believe this is so after checking on brain-energy requirements by measuring oxygen consumption in a group of subjects while they idled, did problems or slept. The finding: virtually no change throughout. The conclusion: Your brain, unlike a machine, uses most of its energy "merely in keeping its circuits alive and sensitive," and needs insignificantly little more when you use the circuits.

At What Stage of Problem-Solving Does Your Mind Work Hardest?

Here's another surprise finding: You do more brainwork preparing to solve a problem than in actually solving it. So believe Michigan State University psychologists who tested 60 volunteer students by ringing a doorbell at various times while they were reading a set of problems, again later as they worked on the answers. There were many more errors when the distraction came during the reading time than when it came during the solving period. Actually, ringing the bell during the answer period speeded responses, apparently because of increased tension.

Does Your Body Become Tense When Your Mind is Busy?

A Lehigh University psychologist used an electrical device to measure activity in muscles and found that during severe mental effort — for example, when you're doing arithmetic problems — "tensions seem to flow over the muscular system like the waves of the sea. One muscle is in a state of rise while another is subsiding, at a very slow rate." Most likely to be most tense: the arm muscles.

Is There A Best Time of The Day For Mental Performance?

Yes, although it may vary with the individual. Scientists at The University of Chicago have found that fluctuations in mental performance seem to be related to variations in body temperature. Generally, the temperature tends to be falling when you go to sleep and to be on the rise when you wake, and top mental performance seems to occur when body temperature is at its peak. But peak temperature time may vary with the individual which may explain why some people are "early birds," keen first thing in the morning, while others are late starters. On the average, the peak of body temperature and mental acuity, according to the Chicago studies? occurs in the middle of the waking period.

Do You Think Faster Than You Talk?

Much faster, according to studies in the Pennsylvania State University psychology department, which indicate that the average person speaks at a rate of 125 to 169 words per minute while thinking four times more rapidly.

Do You Talk To Yourself When You Think?

Probably, yes. The measure of human intelligence, suggests Dr.