Abstract

Why can your brain store a lifetime of experiences but process only a few thoughts at once? In this article we discuss “cognitive capacity” (the number of items that can be held “in mind” simultaneously) and suggest that the limit is inherent to processing based on oscillatory brain rhythms, or “brain waves,” which may regulate neural communication. Neurons that “hum” together temporarily “wire” together, allowing the brain to form and re-form networks on the fly, which may explain a hallmark of intelligence and cognition: mental flexibility. But this comes at a cost; only a small number of thoughts can fit into each wave. This explains why you should never talk on a mobile phone when driving.

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