When we intend to carry out tasks or tests that bring stress and require commitment, it is important to indulge in small pleasures, such as drinking coffee or listening to music, which are essential for raising the level of attention and concentration. But let's try to understand better by analyzing the results of a very recent scientific research that appeared in the journal Scientific Reports of the Nature group and presented by a team of American scientists from the University of California San Francisco (Azgomi et al, Scientific Reports, 2023).
The new horizons of science
Being able to understand what happens in the brain when people make a mental effort, whether it's in everyday life, at school or at work, and what to do to improve brain performance, these are two very ambitious goals but also of great importance. The American team at the University of California San Francisco has spent the last 6 years developing an innovative tool, an algorithm that has been given the name of MINDWATCH. The algorithm can analyze a person's brain activity based on data sent from wearable devices, such as wristbands or headbands. These devices monitor electrodermal activity, namely how the skin's ability to conduct current changes in response to variations in sweat production. These variations are determined by different emotional states. In short, a cutting-edge technology to understand how the body responds to stress or pleasant events and to associate this information with brain functioning. And this is the basis of today's research.
Brain more awake and active when pleasant actions are performed, the study
The researchers recruited 30 volunteers, all adults over 18 years of age. Study participants wore devices capable of detecting skin conductivity and sending the data to the MINDWATCH algorithm. The volunteers then underwent cognitive tests in which they were shown a picture and asked if it was the same proposed one or three moves earlier. The volunteers performed this task first without any kind of stimulation, then listening to music that was familiar to them, drinking coffee and finally smelling their favorite perfumes. Well, what has emerged is that pleasant stimuli, such as listening to familiar music, drinking coffee or smelling favorite perfumes, have increased attention and concentration allowing better performance in tests. The most significant results were observed with the most difficult version of the cognitive test, the one in which they were asked to say if the image shown was the same one shown three moves earlier. This means that pleasant activities performed during a mental effort, capable of inducing stress, bring greater benefits the greater the brain effort required. Among the various stimuli, listening to music proved to be the action that led to better performances, immediately followed by coffee and perfumes.
As for the musical genre, both relaxing and more energetic music and even the one produced by artificial intelligence based on the tastes of the volunteer allowed better performances. The important thing is that music should be known and appreciated.
Therefore, as today's study shows, carrying out an activity that requires a lot of effort can be done more easily and quickly if you do it while you are also performing a more pleasant action, such as listening to the music you like most, drink your favorite drink or surround yourself with your perfumes. In short, small actions that can really help in every moment of life, when we feel most stressed.