All mental functioning involves an element of cortical (neuronal) arousal, that is, the alertness of the brain. The degree of the brain’s arousal dramatically affects how well a particular function can be performed. For instance, it is almost impossible to pay attention if the brain is producing an excess of alpha or theta brain waves (Oken & Salinsky, 1992), just as it’s difficult to fall asleep with a high beta to alpha ratio (alert mind) in an eyes closed condition.
About Our Schools
Practically all of our learning is visual and auditory based. Therefore, learning demands a great deal of mental processing from the visual and auditory circuits of the brain. College and university students receive a tremendous amount of information over short and often unrealistic periods of time. To further the stresses of learning, a problem of most universities is that the teaching style is largely semantic, the presentation of facts and figures without practical application. Being that semantic learning is not hands-on, nor tied to an event, it is the poorest form of learning. Remembering what was taught can be very difficult. So one’s mind has to be sharp.
The heavy assignment loads, exam schedules and social stresses often cause psychological instability and anxiety when students try to cope with the pace of college learning. This shuts down mental functioning, which may lead to burnout and illness. Many university students experience an increase in the number of bacterial and viral infections throughout the school year, particularly at exam times. Many students also develop seasonal affective disorder (Berg & Siever, 2009) or become deficient in vitamin D, a hormone essential to mental performance (Welland, 2009).
Get in the Zone
Socialized mammals, and particularly humans, have two performance zones (Figure 1). There is one zone requiring higher arousal for simple tasks and the other requiring lower arousal for complex tasks. So what would be a simple task? Running fast, climbing a tree, spearing some food, and punching an attacking animal or enemy in the nose are examples in which we show peak-performance under high arousal. This high arousal is generally accompanied by excitement and often anxiety. As the demands of a challenge increases, mental arousal must increase to meet those demands and this involves the production of norepinephrine (NE), the brain’s adrenalin (Bremner, 2002). There is a point at which stress gets so high that there is an over-production of norepinephrine which causes increased anxiety and distraction (Aston-Jones, 1991). It is important to manage stressors, assignment timelines, and so on to avoid crisis situations that will spike NE production and ultimately impede performance. Caffeine has been shown to increase NE which is why students often do better under the influence of caffeine Robertson (1978). However, excessive caffeine intake eventually leads to impaired performance.
by Dave Siever, Mind Alive Inc. - October 12, 2012
A Novel Way of Boosting Grades and Socialization While Reducing Stress in the Typical University Student
Abstract: Attention, concentration, memory, grade-point average and stress/worry are all primary concerns of the modern university and college student. Also, young adults are concerned about having a somewhat active social life in between exams, essays and deadlines. The stress of school shunts cerebral blood flow away from the cortex (during stress the brain assumes the body needs blood in the core to prepare for flight or battle which is just the opposite of what the present day student needs). This slows brain wave activity down into greater alpha and theta brain wave frequencies, similar to what is seen in those with ADD and ADHD, leaving the student more distractible, impulsive and hyperactive. This behavior in turn impairs the student’s ability to study and write exams, thus increasing stress and using valuable social time needed to shake off stress and the potential of falling into depression. Audio-visual entrainment (AVE) has been shown to produce dramatic increases in cerebral blood flow, efficient brain activity and sound mental health. Several studies involving the use of AVE for enhancing academic performance have been completed. AVE has proven to be an effective and affordable aid to better grades and improved socialization.