Holiday is good for the brain!
This is number one of the series great travel tips! Just sit back, close your eyes, and relax for a minute or tow and simply allow your mind to wander wherever it wants. Do not try to think of anything in particular. Did you ever wonder what’s going on inside your brain when your mind is in the relax mode like a moment ago? It turns out that the brain is rather active then! One of the astonishing qualities of a brain is its enormous appetite for energy which can account for a mere 2% of body weight, but burns an amazing 20% of the total number of calories that are consumed by the body. You may think that the brain in the relax mode would probably be conserving energy until it gets another task, but this is hardly the case..! Energy consumption of a brain that has been granted a rest decreases by 5% if compared to a brain at full swing. Recently, scientists named the energy consumed during a rest the dark energy of a brain. Why? Because the massive energy consumption during this ‘rest period’ is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in neuroscience nowadays. Travel tips are so god to read!
What actually happens to the brain when on holiday?
The state of the brain at rest is called the default mode network (DMN). This can be described as a collection of brain regions that exhibit greater activity during rest periods than during performance in effortful cognitive tasks. This pattern of activity is associated with daydreaming as well as a light sleep. Whilst researchers did not determine the full range of processes that the brain undergoes at rest, recent evidence has revealed that resting brain abnormalities are associated with autism, schizophrenia, depression, and Alzheimers disease. In a recent study, which has been published in PLoS One, researchers in Japan at Tohoku University have found a link between general intelligence and creativity on the one hand side and the DMN on the other.
Researchers have scanned brains of 63 rather healthy volunteers during rest whilst using functional MRI to measure the cerebral blood flow (CBF) in different regions of the brain. Cerebral blood flow (CBF) is a good way of measuring brain activity since regions with greater activation are demand more oxygen delivery via the blood. In order to measure the general intelligence, researchers administered a standard psychometric test to volunteers. And creativity was assessed by using a divergent thinking test that assesses the ability to think in unique ways and generate novel ideas very quickly.
‘Brain imaging’ has shown that individuals who have scored higher on measures of intelligence have also showed higher blood flow in the gray and white mass of a brain at rest. Similarly individuals who have demonstrated greater creativity exhibited higher blood flow in regions of white matter at rest but not gray mass.
What exactly does this mean? Gray mass is the portion of brain tissue consisting predominantly of nerve cell bodies which may well be thought of as the processing centre of nerve cells. White mass (or white matter) consists of nerve fibers that are covered by myelin, a protein coating responsible for the white appearance, which transmit electrical signals from one nerve cell to another. If we use a computer network as analogy, the gray matter would be the actual computers and the white matter is the network cables connecting the computers. The authors of this research are speculating that more blood flow to gray and white matter in individuals with a higher intelligence may well be an indication that they have more active brains intrinsically. It is of course possible that brains which are more active at rest are undergoing specific biochemical processes to increase the integrity and the system’s efficiency.
Creative individuals have also showed more white matter blood flow, but no difference in gray matter. This makes sense because white matter is involved in the overall connectivity of the brain and a key aspect of divergent and novel types of thinking is greater communication among distinct regions of the brain.
These results do offer exciting findings as to the function of the brain’s mysterious dark energy. The brain is actually not a machine that has an off & on state! Rather, the brain is a dynamic system that engages in integral processes on a continuous basis, especially when we are unaware of it as with day dreaming and sleep.
Findings from research on the brain’s DMN suggest an alternative to the old adage of ‘an idle mind is the devil’s workshop’. The great mathematician Henri Poincaré once observed regarding his own creative process: ‘Often nothing good is accomplished at the first attack. One takes a rest; and then all of a sudden the decisive idea presents itself to the mind’. And indeed an idle mind may well be a very useful tool to solve a problem, while coming up with an innovation, or simply maintaining a very healthy brain.
I hope you like this blog on what travel and holiday does to your brain! want some more greta travel tips? Click here for some great travel tips!
The most enjoyable travel video ever: Where the Hell is Matt..! You should watch this when you feel low and need a holiday!