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Where Did My IQ Points Go?

EQ gain to protect your IQ drain.

There is a big decision you have to make and there are many things to consider—too many things. You become so overwhelmed with information you can't make a decision. Your thinking and mind feel like slush and you make a bad decision.

Sharon Begley, in a recent Newsweek article "I Can't Think," reports that with too much information, our decision-making is often worse. Smart people acting stupid! Where did their IQ points go? The "brain freeze" is an experience we have all had. Now with the research from brain neuroscience and using functional MRIs, we can actually understand these phenomena.

When our thinking gets temporally impaired like these examples above, it is like we are operating with 10-15 fewer IQ points. The light goes out in the prefrontal cortex, which is our executive functioning and decision-making region of the brain.

Brain Freeze

Imagine the fear, complexity, and seriousness of the decisions Japanese leaders needed to make in the wake of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor dysfunction. It is easy to have "information fatigue," while critical time lost is adding to the problems.

When there is any fear or anxiety, the amygdala region of the brain, your emotional center, jumps to attention and takes resources away from the executive decision making of the prefrontal cortex. In a chain reaction, the light goes out on the prefrontal cortex, your IQ drains like a cold beer going down on a hot afternoon, and it easier to put off the decision, make a bad decision, or make no decision at all.

Matthew Lieberman, a neuroscientist has found an inverse relationship between the activation of the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. When the amygdala is active with blood and oxygen, there is less activation in the prefrontal cortex. Our thinking power is disrupted and there are deficits in our problem-solving because the blood and oxygen are in the amygdala versus the prefrontal cortex.

Logic is suppressed by the powerful tunnel vision survival reaction of the amygdala. No one can make you do something against your better judgment, but the amygdala always can.

Any strong emotion, fear, stress, anxiety, anger, joy, or betrayal trips off the amygdala and impairs the prefrontal cortex's working memory. The power of emotions overwhelms rationality. That is why when we are emotionally upset or stressed we can't think straight. The IQ points we need to thoughtfully consider decisions are depleted temporarily.

New brain science research from Srinivasan Pillay's new book, Your Brain and Business, reports that even information heard and not consciously registered can activate the amygdala region. The TV in the background giving the latest reports of the Japanese tragedy creates a fear response if heard for 10-30 milliseconds so fast that you can't register it. The brain needs 30 milliseconds for the brain to consciously pick it up. So that unconscious fear and anxiety residing in the amygdala can be blocking critical IQ and decision making resources without you knowing it.

Now any decision you make today can be complicated and overwhelming when you add websites to check out, friends on Facebook or Twitter's opinions, and the multiple and different reviews. The easiest thing is to put off this decision till you have more energy. Your brain resources to make great decisions are spent.

If your multitude of decision considerations are in conflict it also activates the Anterior Cingulate Cortex of the brain which deals with conflict. It then quickly connects to the amygdala and keeps it activated and your IQ in a brain freeze.

How to Counteract the Brain Freeze and Gain back your IQ Points?

1. Give your brain a recess. Think of young kids in school, when the bell rings for recess. They yell and scream with free time. Your mind needs a recess to wander in an unstructured manner. Often in this recess, an idea or solution may emerge to an issue you have been dealing with.

2. Turn off the TV or radio if you aren't consciously wanting to get news or entertainment. This is so you don't burn critical brain resources by stimulating a fear response without knowing it.

3. Seed your unconscious. Give your unconscious instructions to work on an issue in the background as you focus on something else.

4. Clear the deck. Focus on something else for a while or talk to a friend who is positive to change your sense of overwhelm. Allow the prefrontal cortex and your working memory to recharge.

5. Practice a mindfulness exercise. Focus on your breathing or really stay focused on what you are doing in the moment. Feel your body in space as you sit or move. Meditation, yoga, walking or a massage are ways to allow the prefrontal cortex to recharge gain your IQ points back.

Read the next post for how you can lose IQ points with anger outbursts.

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Copyright (2011) Relly Nadler, Psy.D.

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