A Puzzle A Day…

This article is one I’ve had stashed for awhile. It’s inspired me to post a giant logic puzzle on the bulletin board of my classroom. Check out what it says:

This and other recent research suggest that the appeal of puzzles goes far deeper than the dopamine-reward rush of finding a solution. The very idea of doing a crossword or a Sudoku puzzle typically shifts the brain into an open, playful state that is itself a pleasing escape, captivating to people as different as Bill Clinton, a puzzle addict, and the famous amnesiac Henry Molaison, or H.M., whose damaged brain craved crosswords.

And that escape is all the more tantalizing for being incomplete. Unlike the cryptic social and professional mazes of real life, puzzles are reassuringly soluble; but like any serious problem, they require more than mere intellect to crack.

“It’s imagination, it’s inference, it’s guessing; and much of it is happening subconsciously,” said Marcel Danesi, a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto and the author of “The Puzzle Instinct: The Meaning of Puzzles in Human Life.”

“It’s all about you, using your own mind, without any method or schema, to restore order from chaos,” Dr. Danesi said. “And once you have, you can sit back and say, ‘Hey, the rest of my life may be a disaster, but at least I have a solution.’ ”

Now if I can only get around to actually printing it out and putting it up…

Literature and Evolutionary Psychology

Did you see this article over the break on some new kinds of Literary Criticism informed by cutting edge brain research (Provocatively titled: “The Next Big Thing in English”)?

Well, if you did or didn’t, you might be interested in a series of responses to the article (featuring the work of an author, an editor, and four faculty members from various sorts of institutions (no community college people, though–boo).

Check out the responses by clicking here.

Brain Rules

I know we’re all artsy and what not here (where are the scientists?–and yes, Math counts as an Art in my world), but this is a cool site that I stumbled across that even a non-brain scientist can love; it’s full of a bunch of great information about learning from recent brain research.

It’s the work of John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and consultant from out in Washington State, who came up with what he calls the “Brain Rules.” The rules are simple enough to remember (Exercise boosts brain power, Every brain is wired differently, Stressed brains don’t learn the same way), and the science behind them is clearly explained in little snippets like this or this or this (click on one of the topics under the menu).

There’s even a cool looking blog with links to more studies.

I think the end is my favorite part: “We didn’t come down from the trees and say, ‘Good lord, somebody give me a textbook.‘” Great stuff.