“the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings”

Your Brain on Fiction:

The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.

I love reading but over years I haven’t been doing a great job at keeping my brain muscles in shape with books, so last year I started making concerted efforts to change that.

So far this year I’ve read 20 books and I use Goodreads to review and keep track of them all.

Learning to Learn

Learning to Learn: You, Too, Can Rewire Your Brain:

Dr. Oakley is not the only person teaching students how to use tools drawn from neuroscience to enhance learning. But her popularity is a testament to her skill at presenting the material, and also to the course’s message of hope. Many of her online students are 25 to 44 years old, likely to be facing career changes in an unforgiving economy and seeking better ways to climb new learning curves.

Dr. Oakley’s lessons are rich in metaphor, which she knows helps get complex ideas across. The practice is rooted in the theory of neural reuse, which states that metaphors use the same neural circuits in the brain as the underlying concept does, so the metaphor brings difficult concepts “more rapidly on board,” as she puts it.

I live by metaphors. Metaphors are not only one of the best ways at conveying complex ideas, but sometimes they’re the only way.

Richard Feynman famously thought if you couldn’t explain it simply, then you didn’t understand it. Metaphors, analogies, and similies are the primary devices for this complex-to-simple idea conversion.

I love Mark Bao’s analogy for analogies:

Analogies are like lossy compression for complex ideas

I went down an even deeper rabbit hole a few years ago when I read ‘I is An Other’ and learned individual words themselves are metaphors for other things.

Brain Tempo Oscillations

IN 1890, the American psychologist William James famously likened our conscious experience to the flow of a stream. “A ‘river’ or a ‘stream’ are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described,” he wrote. “In talking of it hereafter, let’s call it the stream of thought, consciousness, or subjective life.”

While there is no disputing the aptness of this metaphor in capturing our subjective experience of the world, recent research has shown that the “stream” of consciousness is, in fact, an illusion. We actually perceive the world in rhythmic pulses rather than as a continuous flow.

—Gregory Hickok shedding new light on how the brain works