Monday, May 11, 2009

Mental Routes

Take a different route to work. If you're driving, open the windows to help construct a new mental map. If you walk to work, the Neurobic possibilities are even greater.

On your routine commute, the brain goes on automatic pilot and gets little stimulation or exercise. An unfamiliar route activates the cortex and hippocampus to integrate the novel sights, smells, and sounds you encounter into a new brain map.

In one Seinfeld episode, Kramer is asked how to get to Coney Island from Manhattan. He launches into an elaborate description of subways and buses involving numerous changes scattered throughout the city, various alternatives at each point, and the consequences of each choice. Elaine pipes up and says, "Couldn't you just take the D train straight there?" Well, of course you can. But in this case Kramer was thinking and living "Neurobically," looking for alternative pathways, new possibilities, and engaging his brains associative powers and navigational abilities to engage in flexible, spatial thinking. Elaine, alas, remains trapped by routine.

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