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  Mental Gymnastics

  A. THE working day has just started at the head ofice of Barclays Bank in LondonSeventeen staff are helping themselves to a buffet breakfast as young psychologistSebastian Bailey enters the room to begin the moming's framing session. But thisis no ordinary training session, He's not here to sharpen their finance ormanagement skills, He's here to exercise their brains.

  B. Today's workout, organised by a company called the Mind Gym in London, isentitled “having presence", What follows is an intense 90-minute session in whichthis rather abstraet coneept is gradually broken down into a conerete set offeelings.mental tricks and behaviours, At one point the bankers are instrueted to shut theneyes and visualise themselves filling the room and then the building. They finishup by walking around the room acting out various levels of presence, from low-keyto over the top.

  C. It's easy to poke fun. Yet similar mental workouts are happening in corporateseminar rooms around the globe. The ind Gym alone offers some 70 differentsessions, including ones on mental stamina, creativity for logical thinkers and"zoom learning". Other outfits draw more directly on the exercise analogy, oflering*neurobics” courses with names like “brain sets” and “'cerebral fitness”. Then thereare books with titles like Pumping lons, fiull ofbrainteasers that claim to “flex yourmind", and software packages offering memory and spatial- awareness games.

  D. But whatever the style, the companies’sales pitch is invariably the samefollow our routines to shape and sculpt your brain or mind, just as you might toneand train your body, And, ofcourse, they nearly all claim that their mental workoutsdraw on serious scientific research and thinking into how the brain works.

  E. One outfit, Brainergy ofCambridge, Massachusetts (motto: “Because your greymatter matters") puts it like this:“Studies have shown that mental exercise cancause changes in brain anatomy and brain chemistry which promote inereasedmental eficiency and clarity. The neuroscienee is cutting-edge.” And on itswebsite, Mind Gym trades on a quote from Susan Greenfield, one of Britain's bestknown neuroscientists: “It's a bit like going to the gym, if you exercise your brainit will grow.”

  F. Indeed, die Mind Gym originally planned to hold its sessions in a local healthclub, until its founders realised where the real money was to be made. Modemcompanies need flexible, bright thinkers and will seize on anything that claims tocreate them, especially if it looks like a quick fix backed by science. But areneurobic workouts really backed by science? And do we need them?

  G. Nor is there anything remotely high-tech about what Lawrence Katz, co- authorofKeep Your Brain Alive, recommends. Katz, a neurobiologist at Duke UniversityMedical School in North Carolina, argues that just as many ofUS fail to get enoughphysical exercise, so we also lack suficient mental stimulation to keep our brain intrim, Sine we are busy with jobs, family and housework, But most of this activityis repetitive routine. And any leisure time is spent slumped in front ofthe TV.

  H. So, read a book upside down. Write or brush your teeth with your wrong hand.Feel your way around the room with your eyes shut, Sniff vanilla essence whilclistening intently to orchestral music, Anything, says Katz, to break your normalmental routine. it wlll help mnvigorate your brain, cncouraging its cells to make newconnections and pump out neuroteophins, substances that feed and sustain braincircuits.

  I. Well, up to a point it will. “What I'm really talking about is brain maintenancerather than bulking up your 1Q," Katz adds. Neurobics, in other words, is aboutletting your brain fulfill its potential. It cannot create super-brains. Can it achieveeven that much, though? Certainly the brain is an organ that can adapt to thedemands placed on it. Tests on animal brain tissue, for example, have repeatedlyshown that electrically stimulating the synapses that connect nerve cells thought tobe crucial to learning and reasoning, makes them stronger and more responsiveBrain scans suggest we use a lot more of our grey matter when carrying out new olstrange tasks than when we're doing well-rehearsed ones. Rats raised in brightcages with toys sprout more neural connections than rats raised in bare cages-suggesting perhaps that novelty and variety could be crucial to a developing brainKatz, And neurologists have proved time and again that people who lose brain cellssuddenly during a stroke often sprout new connections to compensate for the lossespecially ifthey undergo extensive therapy to overcome any paralysis.

  J. Guy Claxton, an educational psychologist at the University of Bristol, dismissesmost of the neurological approaches as “neuro-babble”. Nevertheless, there arespecific mental skills we can leam, he contends. Desirable attributes such ascreativity, mental flexibility, and even motivation, are not the fixed faculties thatmost of US think. They are thought habits that can be learned. The problem, saysClaxton, is that most of US never get proper training in these skills. We developour own private set of mental strategies for tackling tasks and never learn anythingexplicitly. Worse still, because any learned skill-even driving a car or brushingour teeth-quickly sinks out of consciousness, we can no longer see the very thoughthabits we're relying upon. Our mental tools become invisible to US.

  K.Claxton is the academic adviser to the Mind Gym, So not surprisingly, thecompany espouses his solution-that we must return our thought patterns to aconscious level, becoming aware of the details of how we usually think. Only thencan we start to practise better thought patterns, until eventually these become ournew habits.Switching metaphors, picture not gym classes,but tennis or footballcoaching.

  L. In practice, the training can seem quite mundane. For example, in one of theeight different creativity workouts offered by the Mind Gym-entitled “creativityfor logical thinkers”" one of the mental strategies taught is to make a sensiblesuggestion, then immediately pose its opposite. So, asked to spend five minutesinventing a new pizza, a group soon comes up with no topping, sweet topping, coldtopping, price based on time of day, flat-rate prices and so on.

  M. Bailey agrees that the trick is simple. But it is surprising how few such trickspeople have to call upon when they are suddenly asked to be creative: “They tendto just label themselves as uncreative, not realising that there are techniques thatevery creative person employs." Bailey says the aim is to introduce people to halfa dozen or so such strategies in a session so that what at first seems like a dauntinglyabstract mental task becomes a set of concrete, learnable behaviours. He admits thisis not a short cut to genius. Neurologically, some people do start with quickercircuits or greater handling capacity, However, with the right kind of training hethinks we can dramatically increase how efficiently we use it.

  N. It is hard to prove that the training itself is effective. How do you measure achange in an employee's creativity levels, or memory skills? But staff certainlyreport feeling that such classes have opened their eyes. So, neurological boostingor psychological training? At the moment you can pay your money and take yourchoice, Claxton for one believes there is no reason why schools and universitiesshouldn't spend more time teaching basie thinking skills, rather than trying to stufheads with facts and hoping that effective thought habits are somehow absorbed byosmosis.

  Questions 1-5

  Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading PassageI In boxes I-5 on your answer sheet, write

  YES   if the statement is true

  NO     if the statement is false

  NOT GIVEN if the inforation is not given in the passage

  1、Mind Gym coach instructed employees to imagine that they are the building

  2、Mind Gym uses the similar marketing theory that is used all round

  3、Susan Greenfield is the founder of Mind Gym

  4、All business and industries are using Mind Gym's session globally

  5 、According to Mind Gym, extensive scientific background supports their mentaltraining sesslons

  Questions 6-13

  Use the information in the passage to match the people (listed A-D) with opinionsor deeds below, Write the appropriate letters A-D in boxes 6-13 on your answer sheet.

  A、Guy Claxton

  B、Sebastian Bailey

  C、Susan Greenfield

  D、Lawrence Katz

  NB:You may use any letter more than once

  6、inspiration to keep our brain We do not have enoug!

  7、The more you exercise your brain like exercise in the gym, the more brain will grow

  8、Exercise can keep your brain health instead of improving someone's IQ

  9、It is valuable for schools to teach students about creative skills besides basicknown knowledge

  10、We can develop new neuron connections when we lose old connections viacertain treatment

  11、People usually mark themselves as not creative before figuring out there areapproaches for each person

  12、An instructor in Mind Gym who guided the employees to exercise13 Majority of people don't have appropriate skills-training for brain