Keeping the grey matter active

I hope that this is a bit of a fun. How many times have you had to do something that’s looked easy? Then you realise that you need to think quite hard. Its called concentration or keeping the grey matter active :-0).

Its called the Stroop effect

Picture 1


Time your self while you name the colour of the ink









Picture 2

Keeping the grey matter active

Time your self again and name the colour of the ink                                                              .









Keeping the grey matter active

In picture 2 the name of a colour (e.g., “blue”, “green”, or “red”) is printed in a colour that is different to the name. Saying the colour of the ink takes longer. It requires more concentration and there is a greater chance of a mistake than when the colour of the ink matches the name of the colour. It took me over twice as long to name the colours in picture 2. This is known as the Stroop effect or Stroop test.

So what is happening?

The brain is able to interpret the word more quickly than it can interpret the colour. The interference between the two different pieces of  information (what the words say and the colour of the words) your brain receives causes a problem. There are two theories that may explain the Stroop effect:

  1. Speed of Processing Theory: the interference occurs because words are read faster than colours are named.
  2. Selective Attention Theory: the interference occurs because naming colours requires more attention than reading words.

I have a couple of questions

  1. Would there be a significant time difference between the two tests for a young child who knows the names of colours but does not read?
  2. Would the time difference between the two tests be less for a literate adult who is accustomed to working with colours?

I am 61 years old with SPMS and I have some cognitive problems. The first picture took me just 15.3 seconds to complete. The second picture took me 33.5 seconds. That’s is over twice as long 🙁 What are your times?


This test was one of the tests in the assessment for the  MS_SMART trial

Brain Training

Use the brain to learn new skills or maintain existing skills. People with a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis can suffer cognitive problems because nerves are destroyed in parts of the brain.

The Stroop effect is multitasking. This encourages the brain to form new neural pathways. This is also known as neuroplasticity or keeping the grey matter active. Brain activity associated with a specific function can move to a different location. This is fundamental to our ability to learn new skills, maintain old ones, and form new memories.

August 2016

2 responses to “Keeping the grey matter active”

  1. Judy says:

    Many thanks for that! Best wishes, Judy

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