A Q & A Brain Game on Brain Games and Self Improvement

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I was interviewed on Global TV BC last week as part of their “Health Series: Improving brain fitness”. Some of the discussion was to revolve around software for improving cognition and cognitive productivity.

What I hadn’t noticed in the various communications leading up to the interview was its scheduled duration: just 4 minutes! That includes the time the interviewer takes to ask her questions… So, I was playing their “brain game” that morning: trying to funnel my thoughts on these subjects into very succinct, helpful answers. Not an easy game.

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Can Your Bedtime Thinking Keep You Awake? Or Help You Fall Asleep?

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As an undergraduate student in psychology, on Sunday evenings I sometimes had trouble falling asleep.

In my third year, I was introduced to (and fell in love with) theoretical AI-driven cognitive science. I learned that Professor Claude Lamontagne had devised a computational theory of visual motion perception, from which he rigorously predicted an entirely new class of visual illusions. (By rigorously, I mean that his computer simulation of visual motion perception evinced these illusions: Sigma smooth pursuit eye movements). Lamontagne not only had a theory, he demonstrated the potential of theoretical AI for psychology. If you deeply understand a system, you may be able to predict new phenomena and also manipulate the system, and perhaps even trick it. (Sadly, rather than focusing on Lamontagne’s theory of visual motion perception, empirical psychologists latched onto Lamontagne’s Sigma effect merely as an experimental paradigm, which became a little empirical cottage industry. If you are interested in computational psychology, you must read Lamontagne’s thesis. It is a masterpiece.)

Lamontagne’s work led me to ask myself, “if I understood how the brain controls sleep onset, could I devise thought patterns that would help me fall asleep?” So, I would try to form a model of the system, informally derive hypotheses from it, test them on myself, use the data to try to improve my understanding, and iterate.

Fast forward many moons: my colleagues and I conducted the first systematic literature review on sleep onset mentation, which was published in Sleep Medicine Reviews last month: Lemyre, A., Belzile, F., Landry, M., Bastien, C., & Beaudoin, L. P. (2020). Pre-sleep cognitive activity in adults: A systematic review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 50, 1-13.

To help the general public understand it, with Laura Lefurgey-Smith, we then designed an infographic about our paper. The header image of this post is cut from that infographic.

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The Book I Read Last Year that Had the Greatest Impact on Me


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It was September 2019. I had had difficulty ploughing through Richard Wright’s book, Why Buddhism is True. And I had recently “read” When Things Fall Apart (by Pema Chödrön) — which I found helpful in some respects, but also repetitious and lacking in rigour. So it was that the science journalist, Peter Brems, recommended to me the book, Thoughts Are Not the Enemy: An Innovative Approach to Meditation Practice, suggesting it was very different from Wright’s and quite worth the read.

Peter is very knowledgeable about meditation and cognitive science… so I took up his latest recommendation. Continue reading The Book I Read Last Year that Had the Greatest Impact on Me

Our Paper in Sleep Medicine Reviews on Pre-sleep Cognitive Activity: A Systematic Review

Our systematic review of the literature on pre-sleep mental activity has been accepted for publication as a Clinical Review by the prestigious, high-impact journal, Sleep Medicine Reviews:

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Backlog of Comments on CogZest Published

I don’t know if it was due to aggressive spam filtering or what, but a number of comments submitted by readers of this (moderated) blog had accumulated that were not yet published. My apologies to the authors of these previously unpublished comments. I’ve now cleared the backlog, and I will keep an eye out for future comments.
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Limitations of Sleep Tracking Apps and Hardware: Anything New and/or Useful in this Information?

I answered some questions on the Mac Power Users forum about the usefulness of sleep tracking technology. Given that sleep is essential to cognitive productivity, I thought I’d let you know that I followed up today with a blog post on the mySleepButton web site: “Limitations of Sleep Tracking Apps and Hardware“.

Before reading that post, however, I would encourage readers to make a bullet list of their opinion on the subject. Then they can assess what, if anything, is new (potent) and useful in what I’ve written. (An application of the “CUP’A” criteria from Cognitive Productivity books.)

We Don’t All Write for the Same Reasons

I had been meaning to write about Why, Where, and What I Write for quite a long time. This was partly to clarify my own thinking about writing. But it was also because I think the topic is relevant to this blog. Not just in describing it. But because here we deal with cognitive productiveness — and writing is a big part of that.

So, in response to a discourse topic over at Mac Power Users, earlier today, here at CogZest, I finally wrote and published what you’ve all been waiting for 🙂 Why, Where, and What I Write. I wrote the document as a web page rather than a blog post because it will necessarily evolve. I will write in new places. I will later share more information about why I write (partly out of gaining more clarity myself). But the document, with respect to motivation, will never be complete.

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Draft Manifesto for Integrative Design-oriented Cognitive Science and AI

This post briefly describes an approach to studying minds and designing artificial ones; the need to name this approach; the term integrative design-oriented as the name for the approach; and the need for a manifesto regarding the approach. In the main, it points to a draft manifesto. The post needs to be reorganized.

For many years I was dissatisfied with the name I used to refer to a certain approach to human mind (cognitive science and AI). How we name scientific concepts is actually quite important. In Cognitive Productivity: Using Knowledge to Become Profoundly Effective, I referred to the approach as “broad cognitive science”.[1] I used the term “broad” to convey an attempt to understand a wide spectrum of capabilities that are often treated in isolation from each other under the banners of “cognition”, “affect” (“emotion” / “attitudes”, “moods”), “motivation”, “volition”, “executive functions”, etc. The approach means not to study these functions in isolation from each other, but as interacting and often blended mechanisms. By “cognitive science” I also meant an expansive approach to understanding human mind — one that is truly interdisciplinary and computational.

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What is Not Black and White is Not Necessarily Shades of Grey Either: Watch out for Discontinuities

This evening, I will give a brief talk to a humanist group on discontinuities. “Discontinuities” is the title of my upcoming book, and the title of one of its chapters. The talk will be followed by a discussion.

ROUGH notes here: Notes About Continuity and Discontinuities – CogZest.