Monday, May 02, 2005

I feel a day in bed coming on!

R elax! The figure prostrate in bed or on the sofa next to you this morning is not just slobbing out. Scientific research shows that lying down is the best way to think.Rodin's The Thinker may do it sitting down; Sir Winston Churchill did it in the bath while smoking a cigar; others claim to have their best ideas while jogging.
But researchers now believe the cleverest way to think is while curled up in bed or on a sofa. Clinical tests have shown men and women can solve problems faster when lying down compared with when they are standing up or sitting.
Scientists have discovered that noradrenaline, a natural hormone produced in the brain by stress, interferes with brain cells and reduces people's attention to detail and reasoning.
When people stand up, it triggers a reaction in the brain that produces more of the hormone. But lying down decreases the concentration of noradrenaline in the brain and helps us to think more clearly.
Psychologists gave anagram tests to 20 men and women volunteers to see whether there was any difference in the speed with which they were solved.
They were given 32 anagrams as a test. Each was five letters long but had only one correct solution such as "model" or "noble". The longest solution took one person 42.6 seconds to turn "nodru" into round. The quickest was for "osien" -- noise.
The anagrams were flashed on a screen to each of the men and women when they were either upright or lying down on a mattress. The volunteers carried out the tests alone in a cubicle with an examiner outside. The anagrams were shown on a screen that they controlled with a switch. The maximum time a word was on the screen was 45 seconds. Results showed the average time for solving the anagrams standing up was almost 30 seconds, three seconds, or 10per cent, slower than the average lying down speed.
"Analysis revealed that anagrams were solved 3.1 seconds more rapidly by people when supine than when standing," said Don Byrne from the Australian National University in Canberra.
"Anagrams can be characterised as insight problems, in part because they are often solved in a moment of sudden awareness."
The effect of noradrenaline in the brain was accepted as a possible explanation of the thought process by Nick Neave, a senior lecturer in psychology and sport sciences at Northumbria University in northern England. However, he believed the results may have more to do with blood circulation than brain chemicals. "When you're standing upright the blood flow has to work a bit harder to get all the way around," he said, "but if you're lying down your brain is getting more blood flow."
"Descartes, the philosopher, was constitutionally incapable of getting out of bed in the morning. When you're lying down your mind is clearer of the flotsam of everyday life. There's more space in your mind with which to think."


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