My balance measurements, such as this, this, and this, have come close to convincing me that flaxseed oil improves my balance. If a nutrient improves one part of my brain, it will probably improve other parts, too. So I’ve added three more measures of brain function to my daily tests:
1. Memory scanning. A paper-and-pen task. After studying three digits (e.g., “3 7 9”) for a few seconds, I go through a block of digits marking each one “in” (equal to 3, 7, or 9) or “out” (not equal) as fast as possible. Each test consists of 5 blocks of 100 digits. Duration: 5 minutes. Pluses: Similar to a well-studied task (Sternberg’s memory-scanning task). Minuses: Requires a little bit of equipment (sheet of digits).
2. Digit span. I see a series of digits on my laptop screen then try to remember them. The number of digits goes up and down depending on my accuracy. Duration: 4-6 minutes. Pluses: A well-studied task. Quite different than balance, memory scanning, and speeded arithmetic (below). No special equipment. Minuses: Little computation involved, unlike balance.
3. Speeded arithmetic. I do 100 simple arithmetic problems (e.g., 4 + 8, 3 * 5) as fast as possible. Duration: 2 minutes. Pluses: Tim Lundeen found an effect of fish oil on this task. No special equipment. Measures long-term memory retrieval, unlike other tasks. Intense — the 2 minutes are full of mental activity. Minuses: No obvious ones.
One of these may emerge as a better way to study the issue than balance measurements. The biggest problem with balance measurements is strong practice effects. The more often I measured, the better I became. (The area of my brain devoted to the task seemed to increase. The tiny balance platform seemed to grow.) Perhaps practice effects will be less of a problem with at least one of these tasks. Perhaps one of them will show clearer effects of flaxseed oil.
In a comment on an earlier post, someone suggested using chess as a measure. A fun test would be a good addition. Chess has two big problems: 1. Openings are time-consuming and quite different from the rest of the game. 2. If you take longer to make a move you can make a better move. So the amount of time allowed per move must be fixed. Which is less fun.