brain power

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Wake Up in Wonderland
Any time you encounter "meaning threat"—that unsettling feeling you get when something makes no sense—your brain starts to work harder, says Travis Proulx, a researcher at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Test-takers were almost twice as accurate in analyzing data and learning patterns after Proulx and his colleague made them read bizarre, nonsensical stories by Kafka and David Lynch.

Try this: Expose yourself to unusual experiences that may surprise or confuse you. There's no surefire prescription for "meaning threat," but experiment with immersive avant-garde theater (like Sleep No More) or David Lynch-style surrealist shorts (humanoid rabbits muttering non sequiturs—chew on that)...or hightail it to a country where you don't know the language or customs. (Other research has found that people are 20 percent more likely to solve difficult problems after thinking back to culture-shock experiences they had when living abroad.)