The Need for Speed

People like to go fast. We like fast cars and fast lanes. We want to “Earn money fast!” and “Lose weight fast!” It’s why we blow our paychecks on the latest phones and the best service. As every third grader in a playground footrace will tell you, it’s fun to be the fastest.

That’s why we’re never surprised when Brain Gauge users seem most interested in their Speed metric. When we test college students, the football players always want to record their scores so they can report them to pro scouts. We’ve even held office competitions to see which of us has the fastest reaction time. So far, the results have been inconclusive (there’s been speculation that someone in our office has hacked a Brain Gauge in their favor), but one thing’s for sure: some of us handle our Friday-afternoon beers better than others.

But if you’re not interested in bragging to your coworkers at happy hour, or sacking an NFL quarterback, or being picked first at the recess kickball game, why should you care about your Speed score? After all, most of us aren’t too concerned about sending an email 0.001 seconds faster. But your Speed score tells us a lot more than just how fast you can a click a mouse. In fact, Speed, along with its associated metrics, Focus and Fatigue, can reveal critical details about your brain’s most intricate structures and functions.

When your finger senses a stimulus - such as during a Brain Gauge reaction time test - the nerves in your hand send a signal up your spinal column and into your brain. To process this signal and send a response (“click the Brain Gauge button”), your brain recruits neurons from its frontal lobe, an area just behind the forehead.

The frontal lobe is primarily responsible for high-order motor functions, the kind of reasoning used to play a game of chess or navigate a busy intersection. This area also handles emotional responses to stressful situations; when it’s impaired, people often find themselves lashing out or tearing up at the slightest offense.

In the event of a traumatic brain injury or other cognitive impairment, the frontal lobe can be temporarily damaged. Some neurological conditions can even leave the region permanently underdeveloped. In each of these cases, Speed, Focus, and Fatigue scores all tend to suffer. The neurons in the frontal lobe pathways simply aren’t conducting signals in the most efficient way.

Sometimes, these effects can arise from seemingly insubstantial events: drinking a recommended dose of cough syrup has been shown to diminish Speed scores significantly in healthy subjects.

Fortunately, we’ve identified a few reliable ways to bring your brain up to top speed.

First: drink a cup of coffee. Caffeine has been shown to increase frontal lobe activity and improve Speed and Fatigue scores.

Next: practice. There’s a reason why Usain Bolt has one of the fastest reaction times in the world, and it’s not just genetics. He works at it. You can actually improve your Speed score by testing regularly and putting forth a consistently strong effort.

And finally, to the resounding “I told you so” of mothers everywhere: get a good nights sleep. After 6 or fewer hours of rest the night before, subjects showed up to 70% slower reaction times than when they were well rested.

So turn off your phone (at the end of this article, of course), make sure your room is cool and dark, and doze your way to better brain health.

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