A stranger calls when you expect it least, and that’s what you emphasize at the dinner table. You try a new Thai or Portuguese restaurant and its unique flavors linger long after dinner. A cat jumps out of nowhere onto your lap as you prepare notes for a meeting, and you share stunned reactions with the group. Not surprisingly, memory strengthens and the brain’s rejuvenated in the presence of novelty.
How does it happen? Your brain’s hippocampus releases a shot of dopamine in response to novelty. Anthony Grace at the University of Pittsburgh describes a feedback loop that involves a chemical and electrical interactions between dopamine and novel or unexpected events. This lively process appears to lock in memory, as it also engages the amygdala where the brain processes emotional information.
If novelty stokes memory and kick-starts brainpower, why are we so set in our ways? Henry David Thoreau bemoaned a lack of novelty observed daily: “There is an incessant influx of novelty into the world, and yet we tolerate incredible dullness.” Was Thoreau describing your day or have you tried any of these 50 novelty adventures?
How do you override your brain’s default for ruts?
For some, that road not taken will focus on traveling to a new spot, trying new foods, befriending people from different backgrounds and learning from other beliefs. For others, it’s a call to creation. Perhaps a first novel like the one I’ve just completed, or painting classes, or drumming and dancing to beats of a different culture.
By the way, interesting new research shows that emotions survive after memories vanish.
YOUR TURN! Join our Brain Based Circles! Would love to meet you at any of the following!
Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset