Keeping the Button on Play

“We do have a rewind button. In fact, a lot of our life experience is actually not experienced. Our mind is in the past, ruminating, thinking back. Sometimes savoring, but in many occasions it’s thinking about the past and holding onto it. But our mind also has a fast forward where we’re thinking ahead and planning. Yet, what I want to suggest to you is that the most important thing we probably need to do in order to make sure our attention system is functioning fully, so that we’re able to actually experience the life we have, is probably to keep the button right on play. The question for me became: How do we cultivate our attention so that so that we’re actually paying attention to the present moment? And could there be a way we could train ourselves to be better able to pay attention to the present moment?

~ Dr. Amishi Jha, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Miami

From the Schofield Barracks Training and Research on Neurobehavioral Growth (STRONG):

“Dr. Jha is a neuroscientist whose primary expertise is in understanding how the brain pays attention. Her team has been awarded grants from the Dept. of Defense, Medical Research and Material Command to conduct this project using computer-based experiments and brainwave recording to investigate if and how resilience training may improve the ways in which the brain can:

  • Pay attention
  • Be situationally aware (of one’s own immediate surroundings)
  • Be better able to manage and recover from stress

The U.S. Army realizes that body armor and physical exercise are necessary to protect soldiers’ bodies and keep them physically healthy. More recently, there has been great interest in understanding how soldiers’ brains and minds might also be best protected and kept healthy over the cycle(s) of military deployment.

The main purpose of the STRONG project is to understand if and how resilience training might provide soldiers with ‘mental armor.’

Just as daily physical exercise is important for physical fitness, neuroscientists are finding that regularly engaging in mental exercises may improve brain-fitness. The more ‘fit’ one’s brain, the better one may be at recovering from stress, solving complex problems in challenging circumstances, and handling high demands. Of course, making one’s body fit requires effort, discipline, and a commitment over a long period of time. So too does making one’s brain fit. This project aims to use cutting-edge neuroscience to measure how two different types of resilience training programs may help make soldiers’ brains and minds more fit so that they are best prepared for the upcoming challenges of deployment.”

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See also: “In New Military, Data Overload Can Be Deadly,” by Thom Shanker and Matt Richtel, New York Times, Jan. 16, 2001