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Three Weird Ways Your House Affects Your Brain

One of the things that keeps coming out of neurological research lately is answers to strange questions that make most people say "what the fuck good is that?" because you have to be a brain scientist to actually give a shit about certain ideas.

Many of these are things that we've known for decades or even centuries. The French have a saying, l'esprit de l'escalier - "the spirit of the staircase" - for the phenomenon where you get in an argument and then as you're walking away... usually on the stairs... you think of exactly what you should have said that would have been way better than what you did say.

But when modern science stepped in with MRIs and EEGs and radioactive dye to see what the fuck, it got even weirder.

See, the thing is, walking up or down stairs makes you temporarily smarter.

That's kind of messed up, when you think about it, but you can make use of it. Need to think about something? Hit the stairs. Want to work more effectively all day? Get a Stairmaster, or one of those other step machines. Even a simple cinder block will work. Stepping up and stepping down is what does it - the raising or lowering of your body weight on a single foot.

Nobody knows why.

We kind of don't grasp how the brain works, really. In a lot of ways, there are just these weirdnesses to its operation that make scientists just stammer and scratch their heads and make shit up. We have these metaphors, like the library, or the bucket, or the animals, or the memory palace.

Oh, haven't you heard of that? It's a mnemonic device called the theory of loci. If you imagine that your brain is a palace, and that anything you want to remember is some sort of physical object like a book or a painting or something, all you have to do is imagine yourself going to the room in your palace where that object belongs and putting it in a special place.

If you have trouble remembering names, for example, a commonly suggested method is to imagine the person's face on a painting. In your mind, take that painting to a special gallery, and hang it between two of the other paintings. Then imagine writing the person's name on a plaque under the painting. The next time you see that person, and you need to know their name, imagine going into the gallery where that painting is hung... then just walk up to the painting and read the plaque.

Hey presto, suddenly you become the Amazing fucking Kreskin of putting names to faces. And thanks to modern science, we now know how that works.

Your brain keeps memories in special rooms.

Seriously, like actual rooms. If you use a room for a particular purpose, your brain will start keeping all your knowledge about that purpose in that room. If you have a sewing room, and you never sew anywhere else, all your sewing knowledge ends up in that room. When you walk into it, you go into "sewing mode" and can think more readily about sewing. You may find it hard to think about other things. When you do this in your head, your brain doesn't know the difference and thinks you're physically walking in and out of rooms. So it does the same thing.

Which leads us to the third, related issue.

Walking between rooms fucks up your memory.

See, because your brain keeps your memories in different rooms, walking through a door causes your brain to throw out the old-room memories and drag in the new-room memories. Which is why so many of us will walk into a room and forget why we're there. Then we leave and immediately remember, which causes us to go back in, where we realise we have again forgotten.

There's a way around this. All you have to do is, before you walk into the other room, use that theory of loci to imagine yourself doing what you're going to do... in the room where you're going to do it. Now your brain thinks you're already in that room! So you walk through the door, and your brain doesn't swap out anything. You were already there.

You can use this to organise your brain pretty easily. You're not limited to keeping books in your library. You can keep anything you like - books, records, paintings, anything at all. Just keep it organised instead of junking it up. You can add new rooms or remodel the old ones anytime. Your brain is seriously amazing about this shit and will expand to meet your needs. Just keep pushing the boundaries.