See Inside February/March 2006

Shrekking Off Stress

Tension from activities as simple as watching a suspenseful movie or reading a speech in front of others is enough to interfere with problem-solving skills. A common beta blocker medication might provide an antidote. A pair of studies supporting this assertion was unveiled in November 2005 by Ohio State University neurologist David Q. Beversdorf, who led both tests. “When you are relaxed, you have more ready access” to problem-solving powers, he observes.

In the first study, student volunteers watched 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, a graphic depiction of the World War II invasion of Normandy. After the movie clip, they had to complete a word-association task. The volunteers also saw 20 minutes of the animated comedy Shrek. The cartoon watchers’ test scores were 39 percent higher. Beversdorf concludes that the induced stress of the violent movie impaired mental flexibility.

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