Have you considered the power of the human brain? We often look at other creatures and wonder why we can’t do some of the things they can do – we sometimes wish we could fly like birds, or have claws like lions or tigers, or be able to swim for hundreds of miles like most fish. But even though we can’t do some of those things, here we are at the top of the food chain. It’s that brain that is the reason why. We have been able to accomplish a lot with it. Even though that is true, we still have parts of it that we don’t use, or don’t use very well. However, advances are being made on a regular basis. We can “trick” our brain into thinking and doing things we think aren’t possible. Let’s take a look at 7 ways to trick the brain.
7. You will think a rubber arm is real.
If you were a fan of M*A*S*H, you remember patient Billy Tyler, who was a star running back who lost his leg in a battle. After the surgery, he said he felt pain, which let him know he still had his leg. The surgeons had to convince him he had lost the leg and had what is called “phantom pain.” That happens when someone loses a limb. What’s surprising, however, is that you can do something similar with your existing limbs. In an experiment, researchers asked volunteers to put both their arms on the table, with their right hand inside a box. They then placed a rubber arm on the box and aligned it with the participants’ right shoulders in the same position as their real arms, with just the tips of fingers visible. When the scientists stroked both the fake and real hands for a minute or two, they were surprised to find that eventually, the volunteers started perceiving the fake hand as the real one. Scientists don’t quite understand how it works, though they’re sure that it has something to do with how the brain gives priority to visual cues over anything else while determining the ownership of its parts. Now you definitely can’t use this one to get out of “tricky situations,” but it makes for an interesting trick at parties.
6. Believing you smell good will make you more attractive.
BREAKING NEWS: Smelling good makes you more attractive to the opposite sex. Of course, we’re being a bit silly. We instinctively associate smell with hygiene. It’s a more understated cue of attractiveness than other, obvious ones like looks or personality, but it still plays an important role in deciding the outcome of a date. It’s not just how you smell, but how you think you smell. According to a study, merely believing that you smell good increases your chances of success with the ladies. (The study was only done with male subjects.) Researchers gave scented spray to one half of a group of equivalently attractive participants and a generic, odorless spray to the other half and took videos. They then showed the videos to a group of women, asking them to rate the men on attractiveness. Surprisingly, the women rated the men with the scented spray to be more attractive, even if they had no way of knowing how the men smelled just from video clips. It suggests that self-perception affects not only the level of your confidence but also how other people perceive you.
5. Hallucinate using the sun instead of drugs.
We DO NOT advocate drug abuse. That being said, hallucinations can be pretty cool. There are few things as fun as making the brain see things that aren’t there. Unfortunately, illicit drugs seem to be the only way to do it. So, many people never get to experience it. If you’re one of them and would like to know how it feels without being on the wrong side of the law, there’s some good news. A physiologist from the 19th century found that all you need to hallucinate without drugs is the Sun. Close your eyes and point them toward the sun. Then wave your hand back and forth across the face while keeping one eye covered. Pretty soon, you’ll start seeing shapes, and while the exact figures vary according to person, you can expect hallucinations like spirals, hexagons, or squares. Another way you can legally hallucinate is by exploiting something called the Ganzfeld effect, where the brain fills in visual information of its own after long periods of sensory deprivation. This is also a natural adaptation of people with severe visual impairments, where the brain fills in visual information when encountering the same picture over and over again, even if they can’t see well enough to actually see what is in front of them in great detail. To put this to use, put a piece of white paper over your eyes, lie down under bright white light, and use noise-canceling headphones to block out any sound for 20 minutes. When you get up, you’d be treated to some good “visuals.”
4. Fight depression by chewing gum.
Many people love to chew gum, and it’s a largely successful industry. It really doesn’t fall into a category neatly, like “food” or “activities,” and the flavor lasts, what, 10 seconds or so? However, according to science, there are some clear benefits to chewing gum, and it is one of the few proven ways you can force your brain to behave that we know of. In a study, they found that chewing gum significantly lowers anxiety levels. The effects were most pronounced after two weeks of regular gum-chewing. That probably explains why that guy who was always chewing gum in high school was so “chill,” though it doesn’t stop there. Gum chewers also fare better at battling depression and fatigue than others.
3. Singing can stop a choking episode.
Have you ever been called to speak in front of a group, and before you can say anything, the words seem to get stuck in your throat? It’s not just psychological; for many people, that choking is quite real. And seeing how public speaking is one of the biggest fears around, it happens to more people than you’d think. If only there was a way to counter it. Fortunately, science has figured out a way to effectively halt choking in high-stress situations. All you need to do is sing a song to yourself, as it distracts the brain and helps alleviate the feeling of panic you get in those moments. In case singing is not a viable option like during a meeting, you can also try other things like counting backward from any number or simply focusing other things.
2. Improve your mental ability with rosemary.
The benefits of essential oils on the brain are oft-repeated but largely unproven. We’re not denying their effectiveness in making you feel good, which can automatically have a positive effect on your brain. In terms of tangible benefits, though, the only one of the essential oils proven to do anything is rosemary. Researchers put some people in a room filled with rosemary aroma and asked them to do a variety of subtraction and visual-information-processing tests. To their surprise, there was a definite improvement in the participants’ performance as the scientists increased the dosage of the aroma. The reasons why are still unknown, but it suggests that rosemary has a positive impact on the brain’s cognitive abilities. If you have a test coming up or some things you really need to remember, you may want to stock up on some rosemary.
1. Remember more by using intervals to study.
Students have been trying to find the perfect way to study in order to fare better at exams since the beginning of time, often without much success. Even scientists aren’t exactly sure about how memories are formed in the brain – other than rosemary, of course – and figuring it out has been a regular effort in the world of science. Many trust the brute force method: Just continuously read the subject matter, and you’re bound to remember it sooner or later. According to some research, it actually makes you remember less information than if you’d studied in intervals. Known as spaced repetition, this method requires you to take breaks in the learning process instead of repeatedly trying to cram information in. Studies prove that the latter is actually detrimental to retaining information, as the brain needs time to make the connections required to form a lasting memory.