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7 Ways to Learn More Without More Study

7 Ways to Learn More Without More Study

By Nancy Shute


The abundance of new research on how teenage brains work, aside from being cool for its own sake–teen brains are developing madly, pruning synapses and insulating neurons to build a lean computing machine–is fueling a new movement to help kids make the most of the brain they’ve got. Think of it as a user’s manual for a machine that’s still being wired.

One of the leaders in that movement is Wilkie “Bill” Wilson, a neuroscientist and director of DukeLEARN, a Duke University project to teach teenagers the practical applications of neuroscience. DukeLEARN’s curriculum for 9th-graders won’t be in the schools until 2009, but with the first homework of the fall already being stuffed into backpacks, I asked Bill for a sneak preview. He asked: “How would you like to learn more without having to study more?” Sign me up! Here’s how:


1. Get to bed and go to sleep. Sleep enables memory consolidation, which is psych-speak for saying that you remember stuff after you sleep on it. What’s more, overall performance, attention, and the ability to concentrate are damaged by lack of sleep. “So you’re hurt in two ways,” Wilson says. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours of sleep a night for optimum performance.


2. Start studying a few days in advance of a test. Memories are embedded better if the brain is exposed to information repeatedly. Cramming doesn’t work, because your brain doesn’t have enough time to embed and consolidate.


3. Feed your head. The brain is an energy hog, and it runs badly if it doesn’t get high-octane fuel. That means protein and complex carbs–eggs and wheat toast for breakfast, say, rather than sugary cereal and orange juice. The biggest mistake teens make, Wilson says, is to skip breakfast or to go for sugar, which raises blood sugar, followed by a quick crash.


4. Body exercise is brain exercise. Aerobic exercise really improves brain function, perhaps because it increases blood flow, or perhaps because it reduces stress and anxiety. Exercise also prompts growth of new brain neurons, at least in rats. Twenty minutes or so a day of activity that raises your heart rate will do it.


5. Learn now what you want to remember for the rest of your life. Teenage brains are much better at remembering things on a conscious level than the brains of young children or adults. Scientists aren’t sure why, but they know that human brains are primed to notice and remember what’s new, and teenagers are exposed to lots of new stuff. “You’re going to remember the first time you had sex more than the 33rd time,” Wilson says. Whatever the reason, the teenage years are the time to learn new languages and acquire other lifelong skills.


6. Harness the power of risk-taking. Adults are always harping on the downside of teenage risk-taking, and it’s true that teenagers are more apt than adults to get themselves in trouble with drinking, driving, and unsafe sex, to name the biggies. But the fact that the parts of the brain that drive people to try new, risky, and exciting things appear to be more developed in teenagers can be a huge plus. Pick appropriate challenges–difficult sports, a tough job, mastering a performance art, traveling overseas–and the teenage brain is uniquely primed to tackle them. (Click here to read what the 19-year-old Harris twins told me last week about their “do hard things” campaign.) Wilson says: “You have this power you’re given to go out and do it without fear.”


7. Learn what you love. Because emotional systems develop faster in teenager brains than do inhibitory systems, teenagers learn things they’re passionate about quickly and well. “Your brain gives you tools like attention on the project, focus,” Wilson says.


Wilson’s project is a work in progress; DukeLEARN will be testing whether teaching teenagers how their brains work will improve academic performance and lead them to take better care of their brains. But nobody says you can’t do your own experiment, starting right now.


October 19, 2008 Posted by | Lifestyle | , , , | Leave a comment

Luxury with zip in modern Bentley

Let’s get one thing straight at the outset: The Bentley Continental GTC convertible that I tested did not have the standard-issue gas cap lurking under its filler flap.

No, my example of this British icon was a bit more upscale. It was fitted with the “Mulliner Alloy Fuel Filler Cap,” a $290 option.

According to David Reuter, Bentley’s spokesman in the North American colonies, the difference is the Mulliner model is graced with the Bentley logo (a winged B).

You may wonder why someone would spend an extra $290 for a B you can see only when you open the filler flap to put gas in the car. But, if you have to wonder, you cannot afford this particular $211,475 ragtop.

So, who can?

“Our median buyer has a net worth of a little over $3 million,” Reuter said. “And that doesn’t include real estate holdings, just liquid assets.”

That buyer is also predominantly male, typically in early middle age, Reuter adds. And he “has three or four other automobiles, like a Ferrari or another British car.”

That buyer is also pretty recession-proof, observes Joe Innaurato, general manager of ultra-luxury car sales at F.C. Kerbeck & Sons, in Palmyra, N.J.

Innaurato says Kerbeck’s new Bentley sales have been going “very, very well, in contrast to the regular auto industry, because people with money aren’t affected by this economy.” He adds that Kerbeck is selling Bentleys at a 150-a-year clip, and came in second in U.S. sales in July, behind the Beverly Hills franchise.

And what are these folks getting for these big Bentley bucks?

The answer is a lot more than they were before Volkswagen bought the brand a decade ago. The old, British-designed car had nothing to sell but high-quality materials and a mind-boggling amount of hand work. From a technological standpoint, the cars were antediluvian. Their pushrod V-8 was designed before the Earth’s tectonic plates assumed their present positions.

The folks who design Volkswagens and Audis changed that. The test car was powered by a techy, twin-turbocharged, 6-liter V-12 that developed 552 horsepower. This power was dispatched to all four wheels by a six-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system featuring a Torsen center differential. Three rear-drive models use an extensively modified, turbocharged version of the old V-8.

“It’s a real car now,” Innaurato said. “It’s very well-engineered and styled, and performs well.”

And it does perform. Despite the fact, it weighs a morbidly obese 5,478 pounds, the big droptop gets from 0 to 60 in a factory-claimed 4.8 seconds, then finishes up at 195 miles an hour. The big guy is also surprisingly light on its feet in the corners.

Read whole story here. 

October 19, 2008 Posted by | Lifestyle, Money | , , , | Leave a comment

Palin: wrong woman, wrong message

Sarah Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Hillary Clinton. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.

By Gloria Steinem

Here’s the good news: Women have become so politically powerful that even the anti-feminist right wing — the folks with a headlock on the Republican Party — are trying to appease the gender gap with a first-ever female vice president. We owe this to women — and to many men too — who have picketed, gone on hunger strikes or confronted violence at the polls so women can vote. We owe it to Shirley Chisholm, who first took the “white-male-only” sign off the White House, and to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who hung in there through ridicule and misogyny to win 18 million votes.


But here is even better news: It won’t work. This isn’t the first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need. Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.     

Join the reader discussion on Gloria Steinem’s Op-Ed article

 Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush Limbaugh, is no way to attract most women, including die-hard Clinton supporters. Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton. Her down-home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton’s candidacy stood for — and that Barack Obama’s still does. To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, “Somebody stole my shoes, so I’ll amputate my legs.”

 Read whole story here. 

October 19, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , , | Leave a comment