If novelty is good for brain health yesterday was Christmas for me


There is ample evidence that novelty is good for your brain health (see here and here).

We can all do many things to increase our novelty; go on a trip, learn something new, learn a language, pick up a musical instrument, read a good book, play games (traditional and computer), experience surprise, etc.

Yesterday, I experienced a very nice double whammy – that kicked my novelty score into overdrive.

1: I managed to pick up Neal Stephenson (wiki) latest novel Anathem (released Sept 9 2008). He is one of my favorite writers (Cryptonomicon was brilliant). There are not too many better pleasures (ok I can think of a few) than reading a good novel that teaches you something, brings new thoughts to your neurons, and stretches your mind.

Sometimes I feel that I get to know characters from a good book better than I do my close friends (because I get to ‘hear’ more of the inner dialogue of the book characters, but then again if my friends have had a few drinks you start getting more of that inner dialogue coming out :) )

2: The roughly 15,000 abstracts for the annual society for neuroscience meeting were released yesterday (think of 30,000+ crazed neuroscientist descending on Washington DC (November 15-19, 2008) and scrambling around seeing hundreds of posters and talks every day for 5 days). I madly searched thousands of abstracts for every morsel of new information faster than a kid can rip off Christmas wrapping paper from all the presents underneath the tree.

Either of these two events, release of the annual neuroscience abstracts, or a new novel by one of my favourite authors is like Christmas for me – but for both of them to happen on the same day – I was dancing in the streets (exercise is also good for brain health) though my dancing is downright shamefully bad.

What was your novelty score today? (I think I should semi-formalize a daily novelty score – I can imagine the web-app already :)   )

3 comments for “If novelty is good for brain health yesterday was Christmas for me

  1. JI
    September 11, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    So, you have made my mere new bike path each day seem like small apples in terms of novely… Actually, I seem to be taking the same old bike path these days – but there are always different people out on it, going about their days. This means I have different people to smile at, to wonder about where they are headed… etc etc. So, the scenery might not change, but there are other details that do. I wouldn’t have seen the lady walking down the street with her dog while reading, and have gotten a chuckle about imagining she was in a walking book club. Actually, I have found you a few candidates around Kits and Point Grey if you were to start one up here in Vancouver. That is reason enough to come back no?

  2. Ward
    September 11, 2008 at 5:21 pm


    the new bike path is of course a good idea, but seeing new people each day is also good. Not to mention smiling is good for not only your health, but also the recipients :)
    I am sure there must be brain scan studies out there supporting this.
    If only we could all smile more at each other.
    Scouting out walking book clubs is fantastic – and I will share a new group novelty activity tomorrow (to higher novelty score for all – along with the daily smile score).

  3. CC
    September 12, 2008 at 2:03 am

    Merry Christmas!!