15. oktober 2014

Making the move to an open-plan workspace

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One of the biggest changes that can hit an organization and it's employees Is when they move offices.  Everything is going to be new. The route someone takes to work. The view outside the window.  The placement of the all-important coffee machine. The location of different meeting rooms. The list is endless.

What can make a move even more Earth-shaking for people is if they are one of the many companies moving from an individual office plan to an open-plan solution.  For the many who have never worked in an open-plan environment it can be very daunting. There be very little, and in many cases, no experience to draw from which significantly heightens the sense of uncertainty.  This in turn can quickly send someone into a reactive mindset.


In a reactive state of mind people tend to get hung up on the nitty-gritty of details; they tend to exaggerate the problems; their focus be on the things outside of their control; they may get emotionally hijacked; they tend to be more problem-oriented; they develop self-limiting beliefs; and have the tendency to make more reactive decisions.


Many of us have this natural reaction to change. This is especially true if it is change that we have not initiated, but which circumstance has forced us into.  Our ancient ancestors that lived on the open savannah 50,000 years ago tended to stay put if resources were sufficient and game could be had.   The brain tends to see things in very black and white terms - life or death.  One of the reasons the brain wanted our ancestors to stay put is certainty.  Certainty that our mental map of the territory was correct.  Certainty where water and food could be found.  Certainty of where the predators tended to lurk. Certainty where it was safe to spend the night.


On the other hand, picking up and moving meant uncertainty. It meant the brain had to use more energy to map a new territory, but more than that uncertainty also brought with it a high-degree of risk.  The brains prime-directive is to keep you alive.  Uncertainty and unpredictability are the arch-enemies of the brain and it will do its very best to try to dissuade someone from making a move. Better the risk you know than the risk you don't.

What is an organization to do?
 

From my experience, working both with small and large organizations moving into an open-landscape work space the key is to create as much certainty as possible. Communicate often and early enough in the process building up to the move. Predictability and certainty are going to be an organizations best allies to encouraging people to take a 'constructive' approach to a move. 

I consciously use the term constructive instead of positive.  The reality is an open- landscape has both it's advantages and disadvantages. By using the term 'positive approach' it has the unintended connotations of trying to sell the idea much like a used-car salesman. It doesn't matter how charismatic someone is or how persuasive their message, if a person is not in the mood to buy it will be an act of futility to try to sell them the idea. This is even more true if a person is already in a reactive mindset.


When in a reactive state of mind biased thinking proliferates.  Biased thinking is a type of thought process that limits our possibility to see solutions and opportunities, because our thinking becomes rigid and inflexible. We tend to only see one side of the coin and refuse to believe there is another side.  When it comes to change there are 5 types of biased thinking that are relevant to moving to an open-plan office.  I mention two of these below.
   

  • Confirmation Bias. People have an automatic and unconscious tendency to filter information that only supports their current belief. For example, if a person is negative toward the move they will have a greater tendency to read articles or have selective memory of stories and incidents that only highlight the disadvantages of open-plan environments.
  • Ownership Bias. You can see ownership in play when you conduct a meeting and you call for a break. When people return they will tend to sit in  the exact same place. Since they took that seat at the beginning their brains not only ‘own’ that particular seat, but the perspective of the meeting leader,  the location of their neighbors, the position at the table and so on.  Ownership bias becomes even more evident when someone has to give up  'their' office. People tend only to think about what they're losing and what they're giving up. It becomes nearly impossible to see the things that they are gaining or the advantages a new situation brings.  It also means it becomes even more difficult to find solutions for things that are not working and which need to be addressed.
From my experience, an organization needs to build a process in helping people to take a constructive approach to a move. By taking this approach it washes away a good proportion of the stink of trying to sell an idea.

What is a constructive approach?


As mentioned above, creating as much certainty and predictability early enough in the process is of fundamental importance. The other important element is creating a planned forum for people to voice their concerns, opinions and ideas. 


When I run these workshops for organizations the key is to to keep the participant numbers down to a size that encourages dialogue. If the group is too large and the group is highly negative then a constructive workshop can sour quickly. I have found that a good number is between 10 to 12 participants.


In order to put people into a constructive mode for dialogue I think it essential to prime peoples minds. I find the best way of doing this is to open each of my workshops by teaching people about about mindsets, about key-functions of the brain related to change, and about biased thinking.  The insights gained from this introduction help people to gain real-time perspective of how their thinking is actually affecting them physically and psychologically.  I can not stress how affective I have found this to be when helping organizations acclimatize to the idea and the reality of moving offices.  This part is key in putting people into a mind state that is objective, reflective and decisive.


In the second part of the workshop I find the following are some of the key areas that need to be addressed:


- how to engage people and hold conversations?
- what should we be aware of regarding our surroundings?
- how should we define phone etiquette in the office environment?
- what should we be aware of regarding focus rooms, meeting rooms, and social areas?


As mundane as these topics may seem it is actually here that create many of the flash-points of discontent and frustration with working in an open landscape. Under each of these areas it is important to ask a wide range of questions to capture a spectrum of thoughts and opinions.. The quality of the questions will  determine the quality of the answers and of the quality of the discussion that follows.

What are the end-points?


I think there are 2 overall end-points that should be achieved. The first, as has already been discussed, is the fact that there are dedicated workshops where people can voice and share their opinions, concerns and solutions.


Simply getting people to constructively discuss an issue where you examine both the advantages and disadvantages leaves a majority of the people more positive about a move. People get the opportunity to have many of their questions answered and to have many of their knowledge-gaps filled.  It is this increase in certainty and predictability that puts people into a more constructive state of mind.


The second outcome of the workshop is to compile a list of recommendations to create a code of conduct. This is simply document of suggested practices to encourage and remind people of behaviour that is conducive to an open-plan office.  Creating such a list allows people to feel a sense of control and influence. This is so essential since many times such a move is perceived as something that is forced on them and beyond their control.


These are only my experiences working with a number of companies that have made a move to an open-plan solution. Of course there are a few other issues that need to be addressed, but the core fundamentals mentioned above are important to build into any process.

In the end


I truly believe the owners of change need to take an active and engaged role in preparing people for a big move. They need to design a forum or a series of forums where the people who will be affected have a chance to voice their thoughts and concerns as a group.


From my experience, if the forum is structured and well-balanced and people learn something about themselves, their brains, and they're thinking it can lead to a very constructive dialogue.


In a future blog entry, I will share with you the process I follow-up with companies 6 to 12 months after they have made the move.  The post-occupancy process is a key element to getting people to acclimatize.

We encourage you to share your questions, opinions and comments. 


Thanks again for taking the time to read our blog.
________
Interested in applying brain-science in your professional life?


Please visit us at www.MINDtalk.no


15. september 2014

Staying hungry in business

Not long ago, I facilitated a round table discussion for a designer furniture store helping them to take a hard look at themselves.  The focus was on understanding who they were, where they wanted to go and what needed keeping and what needed fixing.

The store began as a few scribblings on a napkin at a cafe.  In a span of five years, they have grown into a thriving business with a modest turnover.  At present, they are the exclusive agents to some of Sweden and Denmark's well-known, designer brands.  Their presence amongst architects, interior designers and other such professionals is growing at a pace that would make many envious.

But as you may have already guessed their growth and success were no easy feat.  Every meter gained had to be earned with an investment of effort and energy.  Most businesses fail within the first twelve months.  If they survive that then there is the 24 month hurdle to overcome.  If a business has managed to stick around 5 years there is a greater sense of stability and that it is doing something right.

From my experience a sense of success can sometimes breed a sense of complacency or even worse a sense of superiority.  That is,  sometimes people think they have stumbled on to the secret formula of success and all they have to do is keep on doing what they are doing.  Of course as many businesses know this is more like the formula of crash and burn.  It has been written about in hundreds of articles and books.  Nonetheless, what were once global empires of enterprise are now empty ruins only spoken in terms of what once was or has been.

One of the latest examples of an empire crumbling is Research In Motion (RIM) makers of the famous or infamous Blackberry.  At the top of their might they spoke arrogantly about the demise of the iPhone.  RIM truly believed no significant development had to be made to their phones.  They thought they knew what the business world wanted. It seems they thought wrong and are presently trying to cling on to a market that is nearly beyond their reach.  Since 2007, their market value has tanked by 65%. RIM's desperation is tantamount to building a sandbag wall after the flood has already hit.

As for the designer furniture store their near future looks extremely bright, but they are under no illusion that it will always be so.  Their success has not gone to their heads and left them feeling satiated.  It has rather rekindled their hunger to stretch the business beyond where they are today.

I believe hunger in business is a necessity and should never been undervalued.  Hunger stokes the drive to strive.  Every now and then I think it is important for an individual or a business to create their own wake-up call and to take a hard look at themselves.  Simply asking the question, 'Are we staying hungry?' is a strong first step.


We encourage you to share your questions, opinions and comments.  Thanks again for taking the time to read our blog.
________ 
Interested in applying brain-science in your professional life?



Please visit us at www.MINDtalk.no 


1. september 2014

TRAINING YOUR BRAIN TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS

In the last few years there has been a growing trend to know more about how the brain works.  The challenge is relevant findings of brain-science don’t always trickle down to the professional world, and so there tends to be a disconnect between what brain science knows and what people do.
One of the tougher challenges my clients face is the ability to remain reflective and objective in a demanding situation.  They understand that being in a distressed state of mind serves no value and can even worsen a situation.  By understanding some of the fundamentals of the brain’s inner-workings and being able to translate that knowledge into useful tools can mean the difference between succeeding and failing.
THE BRAIN’S PRIME DIRECTIVE

The brain’s prime directive is to keep you safe by being constantly vigilant to any potential threats.  The curious thing is the brain is not just a single system trying to keep you from harm.  Rather it consists of a number of systems that are constantly competing against each other for dominance and control of finite resources.  Each system follows the prime directive, but has different ways of achieving it.

The two main systems are the Reactive Mindset (RMS) and the Thinking Mindset (TMS).

THE MINDSETS
The RMS is a state of mind where you are reactive, subjective, indecisive and problem-oriented.  You tend to get lost in the details and lose site of the bigger picture.  It is when your brain ruminates on a thought and can’t seem to shift focus.  It is when automatic thoughts trigger negative emotions, which in turn fuel more unproductive thoughts creating a mental tail-spin.
The TMS is a state of mind where you are reflective, objective, decisive, and solution-oriented.  You are able to think about your thinking and keep the bigger picture in mind.  You are aware of your emotions and take them into account when making a decision.
It is important to note that the RMS and TMS are not simply psychological states of mind.  Each has it’s own dedicated neural anatomy and corresponding function, which significantly influences your cognitive abilities for better or for worse.
PLAYING THE GAME
In the diagram the RMS sits on the left end and the TMS on the right.  In between the two mindsets are three states of awareness.  Playing the game means being able to shift awareness from the RMS to the TMS under demanding situations.  In doing so you trigger the neural anatomy that keeps you reflective, objective and solution-oriented. 
One of the most effective methods I use comes from cognitive-behavioural psychology and is supported by findings in neuroscience.  It has proven to be highly effective under a range of conditions. It requires you to articulate abstract thoughts and emotions into concrete words.  This mental task requires higher thinking and reasoning, which literally fire-up the neural circuits of the TMS while quieting down those of the RMS.
Step 1:  Be aware of the automatic thoughts/emotions you’re experiencing to a stressful situation in the here & now.
  • What am I thinking & feeling at this moment?
Step 2:  Experience shows that writing down the reasons why you are having a particular thought/emotion can significantly weaken them.
  • What are the reasons behind my thoughts & feelings?
Step 3.  Automatic thought/emotion tend to be based on lessons learned to past events.  Where once they may have served you, they may now be working against you.  Weed out those that are hindering you.
  • Are they based on fact or assumption?
  • Are these thoughts & emotions helping me or hindering me with my current challenge?
Taking the needed time to answer the questions in the steps helps you to psychological and neurologically shift to the TMS, becoming solution-oriented and emotionally objective instead of problem-focused and emotionally hijacked. 
There is more to explore in this area, but these 3-steps are a good place to start when you need a clear head to handle a challenge.  I encourage you to keep the brain in mind!
We encourage you to share your questions, opinions and comments.  
Thanks again for taking the time to read our blog.
________ 
Interested in applying brain-science in your professional life?


Please visit us at www.MINDtalk.no 

15. august 2014

THE DANGER TO TEAMS: ’THEM’ AND ‘US’ THINKING

It has been long known that we humans are a social bunch.  We have this innate drive to cluster into groups. The main thrust for this drive is that throughout history we have enhanced our chances of survival by collectively sharing things such as resources, knowledge and workload. Alternatively, behaving in ways that were not acceptable to the group meant banishment through isolation or rejection from the group.  In the wild this would have significantly decreased the chances of survival.
As a result, our brains are highly attuned to our ongoing social status and possible rewards or threats to it.  In modern times the workplace is one of the biggest social environments our brain experiences.  It is constantly providing us with feedback from the social interactions with others.  We need to know when things are working in our favour or when our social situation may be under threat.

SOCIAL REWARD & SOCIAL PAIN
Our brain interprets our social interactions through the use of neural pathways and chemical messengers commonly used for pleasure and pain.  When we speak of pleasure and pain in relation to the social brain we are respectively talking about social reward and social pain.  
For instance, when our brain recognises the potential rewards from a social interaction it releases chemicals along same neural pathways associated with pleasure making us feel physically good.  This is a social reward and it can take the form of emotions such as being valued, feeling connected or appreciated. On the other hand when we feel threatened, rejected or unappreciated the same neural pathways that tell us we're in physical pain are activated. This is known as social pain.  So our brains are wired in a way that we experience reward during mutual social interactions, and feel sensations similar to physical pain when we are socially rejected or disapproved.  
Evolution has equipped us with a highly sophisticated social processing machine that allows us to engage in social interactions while maintaining relationships on an individual as well as a group basis.  Because of this our brains don't always operate in isolation to one another. Our brains often trigger a threat or reward response to the people around us and we may not even realize that we are doing this.  When you interact with someone at work, it helps to consider what social messages you may be sending and the impact you may be having on their brain.
There is emerging evidence that our social behaviours have evolved along side the neural architecture to support them.  The neocortex (the outer layer of the brain) is markedly larger than other primates or mammals of similar size.  It comprises the parts of the brain that are involved in higher social cognition, such as conscious thought, emotional regulation, empathy and language.  It seems evolution has biologically hard-wired each of us for interacting with others.

SOCIAL IDENTITY & GROUPS
Since we are such socially oriented creatures a significant part of our identity comes from the groups we belong to.  One of the major reasons we seek out group membership is to foster our self-esteem.  That is, we feel better when we believe we belong to the ‘right’ group and that there are clear and positive distinctions from other groups.

3 STEPS TO SOCIAL IDENTITY
Our social identity happens in three steps.  The first step is categorisation, whereby we assign people (as well as ourselves) to a category in order to understand the social environment.  These categorisations tell us things about people - Canadian, Norwegian, Buddhist, Atheist, conservative, liberal, doctor, teacher and so on.
In the second step we adopt the identity of the groups we have categorised ourselves as belonging to.  If for example you categorised yourself as a Buddhist, most likely you will take on the appropriate behaviours and values of the group.  In order to stay as a member you would conform to it’s norms and act and cooperate in ways that are acceptable to the group. 
The third step is comparison where we compare our group with other groups.  If we are to maintain our self-esteem our group needs to compare favourably to other groups.  It is here where cognitive biases can creep into our thinking and cloud our decisions and judgement.  (Cognitive biases are inherent thinking errors that lead to faulty decisions and judgments). 
One such cognitive bias is known as in-group-out-group bias, which refers to a pattern of favouring members of the in-group over those of the out-group.  This means we tend to selectively look for information that reflects positively on the group we belong to (the in-group).  At the same time, we will selectively seek information that reflects negatively on groups that we don’t belong to (the out-group).  This tends to lead us to automatically think along the lines of ‘them’ and ‘us’.  This in turn leads to irrational group favouritism where we are more willing to see our group win, rather than have outcomes where all people end up better overall.
It is very sobering to think just how susceptible we are to these automated biases.  If we don’t become aware of our mental evolutionary programming these cognitive biases will naturally sneak into out thinking and trigger the ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality.  Where once there was no animosity there is now a sense of rivalry and the lines are distinctly drawn between groups.  This intergroup competition creates a fight for resources and cooperation and communication crash and burn.

TOWARD A UNIFIED CULTURE & FUNCTIONAL GROUPS
In most cases as a business grows so does the number of people needed to help maintain and sustain it.  As a result roles and functions become more distinct and sub-cultures will be a natural outcome of that growth.  If care is not taken irrational cognitive biases will kick-in as our innate programming starts to protect our self-esteem by creating unnecessary distinctions between ‘them’ and ‘us’.  This doesn’t have to be an inevitable outcome.   
I have worked with many different types of groups and departments to create a unified culture.  Below are the four main-points (each of them could be a blog onto themselves) that I have found help to dispel ‘them’ and ‘us’ thinking and to create a healthy and sustainable social group identity. 

THE SOLUTION
  • to simply be aware of the psychological phenomenon of social identity and ‘them’ and ‘us’ thinking 
  • is to make employees feel as if they are part of a clear company mission or goal - that there is a shared identity
  • is for people to see themselves as part of a group even if the group is subdivided by function or responsibility and to accept that sub-cultures are a natural outcome of large groups
  • to make the conscious effort to cooperate and communicate in order to overcome natural group dysfunctions and biases

We encourage you to share your questions, opinions and comments.  Thanks again for taking the time to read our blog.
________ 
Interested in applying brain-science in your professional life?


Please visit us at www.MINDtalk.no 

1. august 2014

MAKING DECISIONS WITH YOUR GUT


There is an incredibly large gap between what your brain knows and what your mind is capable of accessing. You are not aware of most of the inner workings of your brain and simply have no way to consciously access it.  To be quite frank you would not want to be able to consciously access the deeper processing of unconscious mind.  Why is that?

If you play the game of golf the last thing you want to do is to over think the shot.  The best course of action is to simply trust in your ability and swing the club.  Leave any analysis of your shot until after you have hit the ball. 


IMPLICIT MEMORIES

Skills such as swinging a golf club, singing the ABC’s, driving to work, signing your name, brushing your teeth or any number of other things you do throughout the day are called implicit memories. Simply put, an implicit memory is a type of memory for the performance of a particular sequence of action that doesn’t require you to consciously recall how to perform the skill. Although you can’t consciously recall implicit memories, they still have an influence on your decision-making and how you behave.

For example, if someone asked you to explain exactly how you made that perfect golf swing so they could repeat it, you would find it almost impossible to explain specifics of how you did it.  The reason is there is a chasm between what your brain can do and what you are able to consciously connect to.  That is to say your implicit memory of how you made the golf swing is not open to conscious introspection. They are completely separated from your explicit memories where you can intentionally remember something like a phone number or what happened to you last Saturday.


 

THE EXPERIMENT

Antoine Bechara and his fellow researchers conducted a fascinating experiment in 1997.  Participants were presented with four decks of cards.  They were also given 2000 ‘lab’ dollars  and were asked to choose a card from any of the decks.  Some of the cards gave an immediate reward increasing the amount of their lab dollars and other cards that carried a penalty decreasing the amount of lab dollars.  Unbeknownst to the participants two of the decks were set up to be advantageous (i.e. contained more reward cards) and the two other decks that were disadvantageous (i.e. contained more penalty cards).
The researchers asked participants at fixed points for their opinion about each of the decks.  That is, which of the decks did they feel were reward decks and which ones were the penalty decks.  The researchers discovered it took about 25 draws of the cards for participants to consciously figure it out.
The astonishing part of the experiment came from the findings they collected when they measured skin conductance response (SCR) each time the participants drew a card.    (Basically, a SCR measures a change in the electrical properties of the skin in response to stress or anxiety.  The SCR indicates the activity of the autonomic nervous system - a part of the unconscious brain).

It took the unconscious brain on average 13 cards compared to the 25 cards of the conscious mind to figure out which decks were the penalty decks and which were the reward decks.  So just before a participant drew a card from the penalty deck there was a SCR spike indicating a stress reaction. In other words, the unconscious brain figured out which decks were the penalty decks well before the conscious mind did.


THE UNCONSCIOUS VS. THE CONSCIOUS

The researchers’ findings suggested the feelings produced by physical states of the body come to guide behavior and decision making.  For example, when some something happens to you your entire body reacts to the situation.  There may be an increase in your heart rate, a tensing in your muscles, an increase in blood pressure, a contraction in your gut and so on.  All of these bodily reactions become linked to the event - they get burned into your neural circuits and become an implicit memory.  This means the next time you relive a similar event or something triggers the implicit memory, your brain will will fire-up the identical bodily reactions of the original event. 

Just like the participant’s SCR response prior to picking up a card from the penalty deck, your implicit memories will know well before your conscious mind what is going on.  The implicit memory triggers a feeling and unconsciously influences your decision-making and behavior
.  So if it’s a positive feeling that is triggered by your implicit memory it will motivate you to step forward.  On the other hand, if the feeling is negative it will trigger caution and encourage you take a step back.  This is your gut-feeling in action.


FLIP THE COIN

So how can you employ this knowledge to help you with your decision-making?  The next time you find yourself at the crossroads of indecision pull a coin out of your pocket. Then assign each of your choices to either heads or tails.  Flip the coin.  The key here is to immediately assess your gut instinct after the flip.  If there is a sense of relief from the coins result, then it will be the correct choice for you.  If you feel uncomfortable with the result of the flip, most likely the other choice is better for you.

We encourage you to share your questions, opinions and comments.  Thanks again for taking the time to read our blog.
________ 
Interested in applying brain-science in your professional life?


Please visit us at www.MINDtalk.no 

26. juli 2014

How to Quiet the Mind




Neuroscience tells us that, to be more productive and creative, we need to give our brains a break. It's the quiet mind that produces the best insights. But it's a challenge to take that sort of time off in the midst of a busy day. Here are three specific, quick, and easy ways to build purposeful break time into your day.

Quick Meditation

New research from the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging suggests that people who meditate show more gray matter in certain regions of the brain, show stronger connections between brain regions and show less age-related brain atrophy. In other words, meditation might make your brain bigger, faster, and "younger". As lead researcher Eileen Luders explains, "it appears to be a powerful mental exercise with the potential to change the physical structure of the brain."

Tip: If you commute via public transportation (or even if you're a passenger in a car pool) use the time to close your eyes for 10 minutes. If you drive, leave a little early, park, and spend 10 minutes in the car before you walk into work. Choose a very specific image, such as a waterfall, beach, or tree, and try to focus on it alone. If other thoughts get in the way, gently push them aside. Do this once or twice per day. The goal is to let your mind achieve a sense of relaxed awareness.

Pulsing

Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, renown for his research and theories on expertise, points out that top performers in fields ranging from music to science to sports tend to work in approximately 90-minute cycles and then take a break. We are designed to pulse, to move between spending and renewing energy. Pulsing is the simplest, easiest, most immediate way to build breaks into your day.

Tip: Download a "break-reminder" utility, such as Scirocco or Healthy Hints, and set it to ping you every 90 minutes. Focus hard on a particular task until that cue. And then take a walk, talk to a colleague, doodle, or listen to music. Do anything that renews you and gives you a "second wind," even if you think you don't need it. You do. Five minutes later, get back to work.

Daydream Walks

Most people have heard the story about how 3M's Arthur Fry came up with the idea for the Post-it note: he was daydreaming in church. Jonathan Schooler, a researcher at UC Santa Barbara, has repeatedly shown that people like Fry who daydream and let their minds wander score higher on creativity tests. What separates this from meditation is that, instead of emptying your mind, you're letting it fill up with random thoughts. The trick is to remain aware enough to recognize a sudden insight when it comes.

Tip: Start by taking 20 minutes, two days a week during your lunch break to take a stroll and daydream. Think about anything you want besides work—a beach vacation, building your dream house, playing shortstop for the Yankees, whatever. Ramp it up to three or four days a week. The next time someone catches you daydreaming on the job and asks you why you're not working, tell them that in fact you're tapping into your creative brain.

12. juni 2014

THE NEUROSCIENCE BEHIND HOW SLEEP CLEANS YOUR BRAIN

We know that getting even a measly extra hour of sleep a night can havemajor benefits for us--like more memories, less anxiety, and happier genes. But scientists have tested another hypothesis for why we need to spend so much time horizontal: Sleep cleans our brains.

Ian Sample, the appropriately named science writer for the Guardian,summarizes the phenomenon this way:

Through a series of experiments on mice, the researchers showed that during sleep, cerebral spinal fluid is pumped around the brain, and flushes out waste products like a biological dishwasher.

The process helps to remove the molecular detritus that brain cells churn out as part of their natural activity, along with toxic proteins that can lead to dementia when they build up in the brain, the researchers say.

We might want to take these conclusions with a grain of cerebral salt, given that human brains are more mightily complex than those of mice. Still, the results are super fascinating. As published in the journal Science, University of Rochester professor Maiken Nedergaard led a team that found out that the brain cells of mice shrink while they sleep--creating a space between them that's 60% bigger, which allows for the cerebral spinal fluid in their brains to flow 10 times faster while sleeping than while waking.

Then they wanted to see how the mice brains did with toxins, so they injected them with proteins associated with Alzheimer's disease--and found the proteins were cleaned up faster in the brains of sleeping mice.

This is super fascinating because we've known about the effects of better sleep, like the memory consolidation that we need to remember our lives, but Nedergaard's research sheds light on the actual mechanics of what's happening while we're not waking. If the same holds true for humans, then sleep may be a key to fighting dementia and other degenerative diseases, since it's the time that your brain sweeps clean the toxins that are laying about.

"You can think of it like having a house party," Nedergaard said in a statement. "You can either entertain the guests or clean up the house, but you can't really do both at the same time."

The takeaway for us knowledge workers? If we want to keep our knowledge working--and staycreative into our 80s, we need to figure out how to get amazing sleep.

Hat tip: the Guardian.com