Bob Goldman

Please help! I've lost my brain. It was here 12 seconds ago, and now it's gone.

Is this the work of Martians, or could this be the dreaded Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? (ADHD to its friends.)

Anyone who has seen me at work knows that I certainly don't suffer from hyperactivity. I don't mind that everyone knows that I am a slug, though I am getting tired of having colleagues getting out the paddles and trying to start my heart simply because I've been slumped over my keyboard for a couple of hours. But attention deficit -- that I've got, and unless science has it all wrong (again), so do you.

I learned this interesting factoid from a Drake Baer article on FastCompany.com. Reporting on research done by psychologist Peter Killeen, Baer challenges us to "count your exhalations -- 1,2,3 -- all the way to 10. See if you can get to 10 without thinking about lunch or laundry or deadlines or dates."

Go ahead. Give it a try. Personally, I can go for years without thinking of "laundry" or "deadlines" or "dates," but when it comes to thinking about lunch, I get all the way to 1 before I drift off to a sublime day dream that centered around Katy Perry sitting on top of a meatball sandwich as big as a Greyhound bus, which leaves a trail of tomato sauce as it roars along the highway. Hey, you have your deficit disorder, I'll have mine.

Not satisfied in proving that our lives are endless episodes of Short Attention Span Theater, researcher Killeen also figured out why we lose focus so quickly. As you might expect, it's your neurons that are to blame. (They're not evil. They're just hungry.)

As Drake Baer explains, "after those first dozen seconds, ever-hungry neurons order up stored-up energy. If they don't get the glucose or lactate they need -- two of their favorite foods -- they'll fire more slowly." The result of slow-firing neurons? "You'll experience a deficit in your attention."

Considering your diet, you would think that a lack of lactate and a low dose of glucose are the last problems your personal neurons would ever have. After all, the very best sources for these two mental energy producers are two substances in which you frequently indulge -- pizza and beer. So the reason you can't remember where you parked your car after a night of boozing is not that you had too much beer, it's because you had too little. Thank you, science.


Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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