Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture

Lecture | Maria Kozhevnikov | Do Enhanced Cognitive States Exist: Boosting Cognitive Capacities through Adrenaline Rush Activities

Episode Summary

Lecture | Maria Kozhevnikov

Episode Notes

Contemporary psychology and neuroscience have shed little light on mental states associated with enhanced cognitive capacities. We report the existence of enhanced cognitive states, in which dramatic temporary enhancements in focused attention were observed in participants, engaged in high-arousal activities (playing action videogames, solving physical puzzle games in escape rooms, or performing Himalayan yoga visualization practices), whose skills matched the difficulty of the activity. Using EKG methodology, we showed that arousal, indicated by withdrawal from parasympathetic activity and activation of the sympathetic nervous system is a necessary physiological condition underlying these states. The EEG data demonstrated significant centro-parietal alpha and beta rhythm desynchronization, suggesting active mental states, in which participants are preparing for execution of a motor act or imagining such movement. The findings provide the first scientific evidence for the existence of unique mental states resulting from specific conditions, resonant with what has been described in previous phenomenological literature as “flow” or “peak experience”. The enhanced cognitive states are expected to be universal across domains that involve first-person focused attention activities (e.g., painting, dancing, chess playing, and extreme sport)