You've been tracking your cognition and logging lifestyle factors such as sleep, exercise, and stress. They seem to be related, but how can you know for sure? The answer is insights—our proprietary method for telling you how your cognition and your lifestyle work together.
A paid Cambridge Brain Sciences account includes unlimited insights, and the more you use the site, the better insights you'll get. Read on for details on the science behind insights, how to interpret them, and tips for getting the most out of this powerful feature.
What do insights tell me about optimizing my cognition?
An insight tells you the conditions when your brain is at its best, by linking lifestyle with cognitive performance. How many hours of sleep do you get when your scores are highest? What is the optimal level of stress? Which type of exercise did you do on your sharpest days? Insights answer questions like these.
Observations tell you the most important part of the insight in writing, and your trends graphs show all your ups and downs in comparison with your lifestyle.
What are the different types of personal observations?
Sleep insights are based on bed time, wake-up time, hours slept, and sleep quality. Physical activity insights are based on exercise type, exercise intensity, duration, and time of day. Stress insights are based on stress level.
An insight can be delivered for any of these types of data, and are presented in order: insights we're most certain about come first, and insights we're least certain about come last. Not every lifestyle choice will relate to your cognition! Focus on the top insights first.
Furthermore, each insight can apply to your overall C-Score, or to any of the domain scores (reasoning, short-term memory, and verbal ability). Start with examining your C-Score insights for an overview of when your cognition is best, then drill down into domains to see which aspects of cognition are related to which lifestyle factors.
How do I interpret the trends graphs?
Your scores are always on the Y (vertical) axis, so higher on the graph means a higher score.
For continuous measures, such as bed time, your scores will smoothly go up and down across the different possible values. Look for peaks and valleys to identify how your cognition varies across the lifestyle factor, and view the observations beside the graph to see a summary in writing.
For categorical measures, such as stress level, your average scores in each category are displayed. Look for the category when you are at your best, and the category when you are at your worst, and view the observations beside the graph to see a summary in writing.
What are community insights?
Any insight we can calculate for you can also be calculated for the population. If you click on "Community" in the Lifestyle Insights section, you can see if the general trend for you is the same as it is for the average person, or if lifestyle factors have a unique relationship with your cognition, and yours alone. Don't worry if you're different—the beauty of Cambridge Brain Sciences is that your insights are personalized, because nobody is truly average.
When will I start getting personal insights?
You will be able to view graphs for personal insights when our statistical modelling is able to pull out meaningful trends. The minimum number of days needed for insight graphs is 10, but it may be a few more days after that before graphs appear, depending on what your data looks like (see below). Graphs may look a bit sparse at first, and certainty in your insights will be low, until you add more data. Written observations will appear when we are more confident in the observations; with our early users, we saw solid insights emerge after about 30 to 60 days' worth of data. The more you log in, the better your insights will be.
How can I get better insights quicker?
To get meaningful insights, you will need to:
- Enter a lot of data.
- Enter a variety of data.
The first is easy; just log in as often as you can to track your cognition and lifestyle factors. The second is a bit trickier. If your cognition is the same every day, and your lifestyle factors are the same every day, then we can't detect when you're at your best. Here are some tips to get bolder, more certain insights:
- Take the tests even when you're feeling foggy. Those are the days when you'll get some of your most valuable data! You can't avoid using your brain when you're distracted or tired in everyday life, so to get realistic insights, push ahead and log in even when you're not at your best.
- Track your weirdest days. Forgot to sleep? Pushed extra hard at the gym? The more your day deviates from average, the more valuable you data will be, and the better your insights will be.
- Experiment. Sleep in an extra hour now and then. Try a new type of exercise. If you make a choice that results in something new, track it, and soon you'll have insights you can put to use.
How confident can I be that insights represent real relationships?
Insights are presented in order from most confident to least confident, within each lifestyle factor. The first insight you see is the one we are most confident in. The last one, we are least confident in; the latter observations could be a result of chance, rather than a real relationship.
Your graphs can also give you an indication of confidence. If there is a definite big dip in your cognition at a certain bed time, you can be more confident in the relationship than if the graph looks pretty much flat.
No relationship is a sure thing, so never radically change your behaviour based on an observation. Insights are just one informational tool to use in your quest to optimize your brain.
If you've taken statistics, the confidence levels are based on the p-value of the relationship. Low p-values mean high confidence, because if chance alone were operating, the observed insight would be highly unlikely.
How are insights calculated?
We use our own advanced statistical techniques to pull out the most useful insights from your data. A few things are worth noting:
- Insights are based on the C-Score and domain scores, which have their own calculations you can read about here. These scores are based on boatloads of scientific data, they line up directly with brain function, and are therefore more meaningful than simple average test scores.
- You'll notice that each graph shows fitted scores. These means that insights cancel out the other factors within each category. For example, your bed time insight subtracts any effects of the number of hours slept. Why? Because each aspect of sleep may be related—maybe you sleep less every time you go to bed late. But what you really want to know is whether your bed time is related to cognition regardless of how many hours you sleep.
- Adjusted scores, therefore, give you more confidence that the insight actually relates to the specific lifestyle factor, rather than closely related factors. In the example above, an insight about bed time is saying that your cognition is higher at a certain bed time even if wake-up time, hours slept, and sleep quality are the same. So it's probably bed time itself that relates to your best conditions for optimal cognition. However, we still can't say for sure that the lifestyle factors cause cognition changes; see below.
Can I be sure that my lifestyle factors cause changes in cognition?
If you see an insight like "your C-score is highest when you wake up at 4:00am," does that mean waking up at 4:00 causes your cognitive performance to increase?
Your data is what we call correlational. That means we are looking for relationships in your data as it naturally varies up and down over time. With data like this, we can't say for sure that any relationship is because one thing causes the other. Nobody can—that's just the nature of correlational data. We'd need a tightly-controlled scientific experiment to make causal claims.
We do adjust scores for closely related factors (see the question above), which gives us more confidence that the insight in question is not just being dragged along with similar variables. You can increase your own confidence about causality by making small changes in your lifestyle factors and observing if the insights stay the same or disappear. Keep an eye on our reminder emails and blog, as well—we share scientific research related to each of these insights, and if there is controlled experimental data to back up your own data, you can be more confident that changes to your lifestyle will lead to optimization of your cognition.
What's next for insights?
More. More lifestyle factors, more questions about each lifestyle factor, and more statistical techniques to pull out the most useful insights.
I have a suggestion for different types of insights
Great! We'd love to hear from you about different questions you'd like answered or different lifestyle factors you'd like to track. Get in touch with us any time by clicking on the chat bubble in the lower right of your screen, here or within Cambridge Brain Sciences.