Neuroscience and Being ‘Busy’

Neuroscience and Being 'Busy'

We are all aware that stimulation of the mind is beneficial for our brains, and more broadly, for our health. What happens the times we complain about being “too busy”? Are we complaining about something that’s actually healthy for us?

Do the strain caused by working too much overshadow any mental benefits we get from it?

A recent study in neuroscience could bring us one step closer to addressing this issue.

The study

Researchers at The University of Dallas and the University of Alabama recently studied healthy women and men between the ages of 50 and 89 years old. They began by asking the participants questions, which included:

Do you find yourself with too many tasks to complete every day, and you don’t have time to finish them all?
How often do you find yourself with numerous things to meet that you end up going to bed later than the average time of bed?
The researchers awarded each participant a “busyness score” according to their responses. Finally, the participants were tested on their cognitive capabilities. The tests included brain processing speed, working memory, short-term memory, episodic reasoning, as well as explicit knowledge.

The tests involved looking at two sets of numbers and determining if they were identical or not, viewing the boxes displayed on the computer’s screen, and keeping track of a blue symbol and reading words each time on the computer screen, and then recollecting the phrase.

The study’s authors came to that:

“Higher levels of activeness were linked to better cognitive performance for adults 50-89.”

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“Individuals who had more day-to-day activity were more likely to have higher processing speed working memory, reasoning, episodic memory and crystallized information, and these associations remained despite controlling for the age.”

These results are particularly remarkable for episodic memory, which refers to the recall of autobiographical memories of autobiographical.

What is this going to mean for organizations?

Being busy can benefit our brains. Before the management and the leadership get at this and make it into a motivation to get more from employees, it is essential to be aware of the following:

This study was conducted among elderly people
This is just one study, and the findings haven’t been confirmed by other studies.
The study doesn’t address the question of whether or not cognitive function is enhanced by the stimulation of busyness or if having a high cognitive function actually enhances the capacity to be active?
Stress may also be linked with being active – and this may outweigh the advantages that come from mental functioning.
The fourth aspect is that stress has been proven to affect certain types of thinking. When you’re stressed, your naturally uncontrolled stress reactions are able to hinder our ability to think more clearly.

However, the study’s lead author made the following statement regarding this:

“Although it is possible for busyness levels to negatively impact cognition, The study found positive connections between levels of busyness and cognitive function.”

It is necessary to conduct more in-depth research on the younger population before applying these findings to our daily lives, but for now, we can be content with that the fact that we are ‘busy could do us some good.

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