BRAIN EXERCISES & Don’t Lose Your Brain at Work – The Role of Recurrent Novelty at Work in Cognitive and Brain Aging

by Jan Oltmanns, Ben Godde, Axel H. Winneke, Götz Richter, Claudia Niemann, Claudia Voelcker-Rehage, Klaus Schömann and Ursula M. Staudinger, Frontiers in Psychology Journal, 2/26/17.


Cognitive and brain aging is strongly influenced by everyday settings such as work demands. Long-term exposure to low job complexity, for instance, has detrimental effects on cognitive functioning and regional gray matter (GM) volume. Brain and cognition, however, are also characterized by plasticity. We postulate that the experience of novelty (at work) is one important trigger of plasticity. We investigated the cumulative effect of recurrent exposure to work-task changes (WTC) at low levels of job complexity on GM volume and cognitive functioning of middle-aged production workers across a time window of 17 years. In a case-control study, we found that amount of WTC was associated with better processing speed and working memory as well as with more GM volume in brain regions that have been associated with learning and that show pronounced age-related decline. Recurrent novelty at work may serve as an ‘in vivo’ intervention that helps counteracting debilitating long-term effects of low job complexity.

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CREATIVITY & How Challenge and Creativity Improve Brain Function


The continuing effects of substantively complex work on the intellectual functioning of older workers.

by C Schooler, MS Mulatu, G Oates – Psychology and aging, 1999 –


Using a nationally representative sample of employed men and women in this longitudinal study, the authors extended for another 20 years findings based on 1964 and 1974 data (Kohn & Schooler, 1983) that substantively complex work improves intellectual functioning. This study provides evidence that intellectual functioning and substantive complexity of work continue to reciprocally affect each other. In addition, it shows that the

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READING & Your ability to read this message reveals something incredible about the mind #BusinessInsiderMagazine


Mark Abadi, Business Insider Magazine, 2/7/16.

The above passage, written in a combination of letters and numbers, has been circulating social media for years and purports that only certain “strong minds” can read it.

That’s not exactly true — just about everybody can read the message with ease. But according to one scientist, our ability to read such messages reveals something pretty incredible about the brain.

Interpreting passages like this hardly activates the section of the brain associated with numbers, Jon Andoni Duñabeitia, part of a team of Spanish cognitive scientists who wrote five papers on thesubject, told Business Insider. Instead, our brain knows to treat them like letters based on their similar appearance.

“While reading, you dont pay attention to the difference between a number and a letter because you only expect letters,” Duñabeitia said.

As people read the message, they’re able to decode the oddly shaped “letters” in a matter of milliseconds because the human brain essentially treats the digits like letters written by someone with bad handwriting or in an unusual typeface, Duñabeitia said.

“For your brain, it’s not a number in a word, it’s a wrongly written or strangely written letter,” Duñabeitia said. “You are in this mode of tolerance that allows for small distortions in the identity of the letters.”

The phenomenon is nothing new. Netizens from the early days of the Internet are well familiar with “1337” or “leet speak,” an alternative alphabet used by online communities to evade detection by search engines. Duñabeitia also cited promotional emails that would advertise products like “v1agra” to get around spam filters.

Although, there may be some truth to the idea that some people are more adept at reading leet speak than others, he said.

Young people, who have grown up using computers with endless typographical choices, may find it second nature. On the other hand, an older person, likely raised using standardized curive, could find deciphering these messages a little tougher.

“But as long as we are proficient readers, we won’t have a problem,” he said.

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