Procrastination, meditation, and your amygdala

"The science behind procrastination and how to overcome it"

By Study International Staff | September 27, 2018 |

This article talks about research that suggests scientists may have identified a neurological component to procrastination. According to the article, a larger than average amygdala may contribute to higher anxiety and therefore hesitation. Another region (the dorsal interior cingulate cortex) usually helps us block out competing emotions, but the connections between this region and the amygdala were found to be poorer than with non-procrastinators. I.e., our brains get "overwhelmed with conflicting emotions and struggling to prioritize the task at hand."Tim Pychyl, a researcher and expert on procrastination, says in the article that mindfulness meditation may be part of the answer because "research has already shown that mindfulness meditation is related to amygdala shrinkage, expansion of the prefrontal cortex, and a weakening of the connection between these 2 areas."

Read the full article here.

All in the ADHD family: Diagnosis in kids can spotlight parents' own condition

“All in the ADHD family: Diagnosis in Kids can Spotlight Parents' own Condition”NBC News, Rock Center11 min, 55 secThis video profiles two people who were not diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood. It is not uncommon for someone to first consider that they may have ADHD after one of their children has been diagnosed.NBC's Kate Snow also talks to a woman who conducted a study where she examined a cohort of children diagnosed with ADHD and then followed up with them 33 years later.In addition, she speaks with a researcher about the differences that have been found between ADHD and non-ADHD adults in brain neuroimaging studies.

A Little Meditation Goes a Long Way

"A Little Meditation Goes a Long Way: A new study offers the strongest evidence to date that meditation can change the structure of your brain"By Jason Marsh, February 9, 2011, as published online in the "Greater Good" newsletter through the University of California, Berkeley.This article describes the results of a neuroimaging study that looked at participants of the 8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Participants reported meditating for 30 min. per day on average. Neuroimaging found that the amount of gray matter thickened after 8 weeks of meditating in a number of regions including the hippocampus (involved in memory, learning, and emotion regulation), the temporo-parietal junction and posterior cingulate cortex (involved in empathy), and the cerebellum (which also plays a role in emotion regulation).The article also points out that exercise can also increase the volume of the hippocampus. They reference a study that was done that compared two groups of 60-somethings. One group walked around the track three times per week for a year and the other group was less physically active. In the walking group the hippocampus increased in volume and in the non-walking group it became smaller.Walking mediation anyone?

Your Brain on Multitasking

CNN: "Your Brain on Multitasking"By Sanjay Gupta, MD2 min, 1 sec.Dr. Gupta explains in this video why effective multitasking is a myth for the vast majority of us. When you are working on activity A and then begin to work on activity B, attention is diverted away from activity A to activity B (so you are not doing both at once), slowing down your speed and quality on both tasks. Even though you can switch very quickly from one to the other, your bandwidth decreases so you're doing the two tasks less effectively than if you were only focusing on one at a time. He references a study that shows that when you look at the brain activity of someone who is driving, adding paying attention to something you are listing to will decrease the bandwidth for driving by 37%.He acknowledges that 2% of the population are genetically gifted and able to multitask. But if you think you're one of them, you're probably wrong. Because he also points out that people who think they're the best at multitasking actually are usually the worst.

NY Times: A Natural Fix for ADHD

NYT_LogoA Natural Fix for A.D.H.D.By Richard A. FriedmanPrinted in the New York Times Oct. 31, 2014This recent article from the New York Times talks about possible reasons why ADHD is such a common diagnosis (affecting 11% of American children) and how important choosing the right career is to help reduce the impact ADHD has on one's life (and even using some of the symptoms to their advantage).A few interesting quotes from the article include:

  • "...people with A.D.H.D are walking around with reward circuits that are less sensitive at baseline than those of the rest of us. Having a sluggish reward circuit makes normally interesting activities seem dull and would explain, in part, why people with A.D.H.D. find repetitive and routine tasks unrewarding and even painfully boring."
  • “Consider that humans evolved over millions of years as nomadic hunter-gatherers. It was not until we invented agriculture, about 10,000 years ago, that we settled down and started living more sedentary — and boring — lives. As hunters, we had to adapt to an ever-changing environment where the dangers were as unpredictable as our next meal. In such a context, having a rapidly shifting but intense attention span and a taste for novelty would have proved highly advantageous in locating and securing rewards — like a mate and a nice chunk of mastodon.”

There is a lot of good information in the article and it is definitely worth a read.

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

"Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain"The New York TimesBy Daniel J. Levitin, Aug 9, 2014This article describes the brain's attentional system, breaking it down into 2 parts; the focused mode (which he calls the "central executive") and "daydreaming mode." The attentional filter is a third component determines when we need to be using the central executive or when it is safe to ignore what's going on around us and daydream.They indicate summer vacations, and taking breaks in general, are an important way to hit the reset button on the brain and allow the daydreaming system to take over. The daydreaming system is important because:"This brain state, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable. You might be going for a walk or grocery shopping or doing something that doesn’t require sustained attention and suddenly — boom — the answer to a problem that had been vexing you suddenly appears."They go on to say that multitasking fatigues the attentional filter. While not an article about ADHD, the recommendations echo those given for adults with ADHD to help cope with distractibility. In particular, focus on a single task for relatively short block of time instead of jumping from email, to Facebook, to a report, to whatever. The author recommends 30-50 minutes, but people with ADHD may find shorter periods more effective. The harder the task is to start or focus on, the shorter the block.To read the full article, use the following link:

Insomniacs' brains lose focus, scans suggest

Since insomnia and sleep issues commonly plays a role in ADHD, depression, and anxiety I wanted to share a few articles related to sleep. This if the first of 2 or 3. They are more general articles on sleep rather than specifically related to mental health.The quick summary is, per the article, "One of the researchers, Prof Sean Drummond, said: 'We found that insomnia subjects did not properly turn on brain regions critical to a working memory task and did not turn off 'mind-wandering' brain regions irrelevant to the task.'"You can read the full article here:

A Brain Wave Diagnostic Test for ADHD?

The FDA recently approved marketing of a brain wave device for diagnosing ADHD. On 7/22/13 Martijn Arns, PhD of Utrecht University in The Netherlands wrote a blog clarifying what exactly that means. Most importantly, that only in "a minority of ADHD patients (~25-30%), this measure is consistently found to deviate" from non-ADHD patients.You can read the full blog titled "A Brain Wave Diagnostic Test for ADHD? " here: