reading, review

Book review: Smarter

Book review -Smarter.png

I am reading a book called Smarter by Dan Hurley. Not particularly because I think my straight up IQ needs a boost. That is healthy at 140. Rather because I think my cognitive functions need a boost due to having depression and chronic migraines. Pain crowds the brain and makes it difficult to fit much else in there. Just the way it is. Migraines, in particular, comes with specific neurologically fun cognitive glitches. Depression causes a sort of brain fog and mental fatigue. Medications for these, rather do not help the whole process.

This book is a fascinating review of current cognitive research. And I did enjoy the read immensely.

I thought fine-tuning the brain might keep the working memory working. So far it is an interesting book in the sense certain studies reflect certain things will, in fact, increase our fluid intelligence.

One was a working memory game called the N-back. And believe it or not, there is an app for that. 2 that I found. And I gave them a go. Apparently, they are literally impossible to do with a migraine. I mean literally. Impossible. I know pain affects working memory, but man, that ‘game’ I swear made my head hurt even more. So that is a no go.

Then it mentions as a substitute such games as Luminosity. I assume other games like Peak would likewise work. I actually do those for fun anyway so I suppose no harm in it, but it is doubtful to me if the studies on N-back said you have to do a certain time five days a week to get the results that these apps would have the same effect given the short duration of the games. Nevertheless, my migraine addled brain comprehends them.

What I like better were the two recommendations that I already do as part of my pain management. Exercise and mindful meditation. Clearly, I must do both for pain management. An added bonus if it clears the sludge of mental fatigue going on in my brain.

I doubt anyone without chronic pain and illness quite understands the infernal frustration that comes with mental fatigue. Studies show pain affects working memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Focus. Concentration. All but processing speed. The lack of clarity is frustrating. Perhaps more so because I know how I function normally but that is long since gone. Perhaps because I even remember my last pain-free day and how spectacular the clarity of thought was. That was a long time ago.

So the contrast is frustrating. Not to say, my personality isn’t an absentminded one anyway. It is. I am all in my head. I forget people’s names. Often their faces. Forget appointments if I don’t write them down several places. Forget to eat if someone doesn’t remind me sometimes.

I abhor trying to function in reality with a faulty brain. I annoy myself endlessly. I much prefer communicating through writing. At least here I can articulate myself.

So maybe mindful meditation, exercise, and brain-games are enough to boost those cognitive skills. Maybe the haze will lift a little. However, I suspect it is a complex problem when it comes to pain. As long as the pain stimulus is crowding the brain… though will be difficult. Higher the pain, the more difficult it is to think through.

The real reason I picked up the book though was because there was a sale on Amazon and I was craving non-fiction. Need me some thinking books. I came across this one and I rather enjoy cognitive research a great deal, so I was in. A lot of the things that increase fluid intelligence are not surprising and in reality, I think many of us could benefit from those activities to just keep our brain, bodies, and minds active.

I’ve been meditating for a year now. Excising for about that too. Play those brain games all the time. Not sure if my fluid intelligence has improved but I can say my IQ, which is more static intelligence, has not changed at all. But I have to say my exercise and meditation was inconsistent for some time while I was dealing with the brunt of the pain in the past year… it takes time for these things to become routine. Also, what I can exercise, is not quite what a healthy person would… clearly because it is a painful endeavor for me that is an infinitely slow process to improve on.


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