Filtering Your Brain Spam

The New York Times online posted a brief but worthwhile article on the science of boredom, summarizing recent research that suggests short term bouts of boredom are necessary to filter out unecessary elements from consciousness.  Most boredom research is focused on its link with depression, or what you might call long-term boredom. This research, rather, is focused on brief periods of disengagement. We’re accustomed to think that those periods are just passive lulls in awareness, but apparently not so…

Boredom as a temporary state is another matter, and in part reflects the obvious: that the brain has concluded there is nothing new or useful it can learn from an environment, a person, an event, a paragraph. But it is far from a passive neural shrug. Using brain-imaging technology, neuroscientists have found that the brain is highly active when disengaged, consuming only about 5 percent less energy in its resting “default state” than when involved in routine tasks, according to Dr. Mark Mintun, a professor of radiology at Washington University in St. Louis.

Problem is that time experienced in this slightly less active state is restless time that seems to go by slower, so short-term boredom eventually needs relief; when this relief comes, the brain is ready again to be constructive. In effect, boredom puts pressure on our brains to be constructive and creative to relieve the restlessness.  Which means, after listening to five minutes of this guy, you’ll be ready for something like this.

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