neurosciences

That the mind is united to the body we have shown from the fact, that the body is the object of the mind

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The mind-body problem enjoyed a major rebranding over the last two decades and is generally known now as the “hard problem” of consciousness […] Fast forward to the present era and we can ask ourselves now: Did the hippies actually solve this problem? My colleague Jonathan Schooler of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and I think they effectively did, with the radical intuition that it’s all about vibrations … man. Over the past decade, we have developed a “resonance theory of consciousness” that suggests that resonance—another word for synchronized vibrations—is at the heart of not only human consciousness but of physical reality more generally. […]

Stephen Strogatz provides various examples from physics, biology, chemistry and neuroscience to illustrate what he calls “sync” (synchrony) […] Fireflies of certain species start flashing their little fires in sync in large gatherings of fireflies, in ways that can be difficult to explain under traditional approaches. […] The moon’s rotation is exactly synced with its orbit around the Earth such that we always see the same face. […]

The panpsychist argues that consciousness (subjectivity) did not emerge; rather, it’s always associated with matter, and vice versa (they are two sides of the same coin), but mind as associated with most of the matter in our universe is generally very simple. An electron or an atom, for example, enjoy just a tiny amount of consciousness. But as matter “complexifies,” so mind complexifies, and vice versa.

{ Scientific American | Continue reading | Thanks Tim }

You run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. You run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.

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During my clinical internship over 20 years ago, my boss, a psychiatrist, asked me to research how PMS prevents women from thinking clearly. I told him he was a relic of the Stone Age. Women were as consistently clearheaded as men, if not more so.

But recently, a researcher in my lab, Joe Andreano, an expert on female hormones, showed me some surprising data. As a woman’s levels of progesterone and estrogen vary, so does the connectivity between two brain networks: the default mode network and the salience network. These networks play key roles in creating your emotional life.

If I hadn’t seen the data with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.

When scientists say that brain networks are “strongly connected” or have “increased connectivity,” it means that the neurons have an easier time passing information back and forth. In the case of the default mode and salience networks, increased connectivity means (among other things) that you may experience more powerful negative emotions. In earlier research, for example, my colleagues and I found that people reported more intense sadness when watching the sentimental movie “Stepmom” and more intense fear when watching the horror movie “The Ring Two” in the moments when these brain networks were more connected.

There has also been a flurry of recent studies indicating that certain cocktails of ovarian hormones can make women feel lousy, particularly a week or so before menstruation. Female test subjects who receive ovarian hormones designed to mimic the menstrual cycle, for example, report an increase in negative mood. They also remember negative material better, and they show enhanced stress responses. […]

 I’m not saying that women turn into helpless snowflakes for a few days each month. I’m just saying that the biology is real: Some women may have a short window before their period when, if something bad happens, they will feel more negative or stressed and will remember that unpleasant event more easily.

A few bad feelings or memories aren’t inherently harmful, of course. But this window of vulnerability, combined with other risk factors, could increase the odds of developing mood disorders like depression.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

enamel on linen { Christopher Wool, Untitled, 1998 }

Flashbacks hit me right between the eyes

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Physical pain represents a common feature of Bondage and Discipline/Dominance and Submission/Sadism and Machochism (BDSM) activity. This article explores the literature accounting for how painful stimuli may be experienced as pleasurable among practitioners of BDSM, and contrasting this with how it is experienced as painful among non-BDSM individuals. […] The experience of pain in this context can bring about altered states of consciousness that may be similar to what occurs during mindfulness meditation.

{ The Journal of Sex Research | Continue reading }

Prettymaide hues may have their cry apple, bacchante, custard, dove, eskimo, fawn, ginger, hemalite isinglass, jet, kipper, lucile, mimosa, nut, oysterette, prune, quasimodo, royal, sago, tango, umber, vanilla, wistaria, xray, yesplease, zaza, philomel, theerose. What are they all by? Shee.

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Faces are a primary source of social information, but little is known about the sequence of neural processing of personally relevant faces, such as those of our loved ones.

We applied representational similarity analyses to EEG-fMRI measurement of neural responses to faces of personal relevance to participants – their romantic partner and a friend – compared to a stranger. Faces expressed fear, happiness or no emotion. […]

Models of face processing postulate that recognition of face identity takes place with structural encoding in the fusiform gyrus around 170 ms after stimulus onset. We provide evidence that the high personal relevance of our friends’ and loved ones’ faces is detected prior to structural encoding […] as early as 100 ms after stimulus onset. […] Our findings imply that our brain can ‘bypass’ full structural encoding of face identity in order to prioritise the processing of faces most relevant to us.

{ BioRxiv | Continue reading }

acrylic on canvas { Nychos, Barbie Meltdown, 2016 }

Bene ascolta chi la nota

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In a series of experiments, students listened to stories and then took a test of how much information they remembered an hour later. Their recall spiked by 10 to 30 percent if they had been randomly assigned to sit and do nothing in a dark, quiet room for a few minutes right after hearing the story. Your mind needs rest and space to consolidate and store information. […]

Don’t bother with rereading or highlighting. Research reveals that they don’t help much. […]

The best way to learn something truly is to teach it.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

The Knight Antonius Block: I want knowledge!…

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Study provides insight into the neurobiology of dying. Investigators performed continuous patient monitoring following Do Not Resuscitate - Comfort Care orders in patients with devastating brain injury to investigate the mechanisms and timing of events in the brain and the circulation during the dying process.

{ ScienceDaily | Continue reading }

Oxygen deprivation results in brain injury. For years, researchers have been studying the underlying processes in animals: within 20 to 40 seconds, the brain enters an ‘energy-saving mode’ - it becomes electrically inactive, and all interneuronal communication ceases. Within a few minutes, the brain’s fuel reserves have become depleted that maintain the uneven distribution of ions between the inside and outside of nerve cells, and the ion gradients start to break down. This breakdown takes the form of a massive wave of electrochemical energy release in the form of heat, which is known as ’spreading depolarization’. More vividly described as a ‘brain tsunami’, this energy loss spreads through the cortex and other areas of the brain, triggering pathophysiological cascades which gradually poison the nerve cells. Importantly, this wave remains reversible up to a certain point in time: nerve cells will recover fully if circulation is restored before this point is reached. However, if circulation remains disrupted, the cells will die. Until now, recordings of electrical brain activity obtained from human subjects have been of limited applicability, and experts have been divided as to the transferability of results from animal-based research. […]

“We were able to show that terminal spreading depolarization is similar in humans and animals. Unfortunately, the research community has been ignoring this essential process of central nervous system injury for decades, all because of the mistaken assumption that it does not occur in humans,” explains Prof. Dreier.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

paint on plaster { Eduardo Paolozzi, Targets, 1948 }

“Bergman burned down our home,” said Eric W. Ohlsson, a retired doctor, referring to a scene from the 1968 film “Shame,” in which a barn was used as a flaming prop

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Try this experiment: Pick a famous movie—Casablanca, say—and summarize the plot in one sentence. Is that plot you just described the thing you remember most about it? Doubtful. Narrative is a necessary cement, but it disappears from memory.

{ Peter Greenaway | Continue reading }

“I almost always remember where I was and I remember the book itself. I remember the physical object,” says Paul, the editor of The New York Times Book Review, who reads, it is fair to say, a lot of books. “I remember the edition; I remember the cover; I usually remember where I bought it, or who gave it to me. What I don’t remember—and it’s terrible—is everything else.” […] “Memory generally has a very intrinsic limitation,” says Faria Sana, an assistant professor of psychology at Athabasca University, in Canada. “It’s essentially a bottleneck.” The “forgetting curve,” as it’s called, is steepest during the first 24 hours after you learn something. Exactly how much you forget, percentage-wise, varies, but unless you review the material, much of it slips down the drain after the first day, with more to follow in the days after, leaving you with a fraction of what you took in.

{ The Atlantic | Continue reading }

‘If we can’t fix it, it ain’t broke.’ –Lieutenant Colonel Walt Weir

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Human memory systems are subject to many imperfections, including memory distortions and the creation of false memories. Here, we demonstrate a case where memory distortion is adaptive, increasing the overall accuracy of memories. […]

Although participants’ memories were systematically distorted, they were distorted in a way that is consistent with minimizing their average error […]

Thus, memory distortion may not always be maladaptive: in some cases, distortion can result from a memory system that optimally combines information in the service of the broader goals of the person. Furthermore, this framework for thinking about memory distortion suggests that false memory can be thought of on a continuum with true memory: the greater uncertainty participants have about an individual item memory, the more they weight their gist memory [Gist traces are fuzzy representations of a past event]; with no item information, they weight only their gist memory.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

photo { Ana Mendieta, Untitled, from Silueta Series, Iowa, 1978 }

On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins

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Two theoretical frameworks have been proposed to account for the representation of truth and falsity in human memory: the Cartesian model and the Spinozan model. Both models presume that during information processing a mental representation of the information is stored along with a tag indicating its truth value. However, the two models disagree on the nature of these tags. According to the Cartesian model, true information receives a “true” tag and false information receives a “false” tag. In contrast, the Spinozan model claims that only false information receives a “false” tag, whereas untagged information is automatically accepted as true. […]

The results of both experiments clearly contradict the Spinozan model but can be explained in terms of the Cartesian model.

{ Memory & Cognition | PDF }

art { Richard Long, Dusty Boots Line, The Sahara, 1988 }

What then can Kant mean by his mysterious suggestion that ‘objects must conform to our cognition’?

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The image of the world that we see is continuously deformed and fragmented by foreshortenings, partial overlapping, and so on, and must be constantly reassembled and interpreted; otherwise, it could change so much that we would hardly recognize it. Since pleasure has been found to be involved in visual and cognitive information processing, the possibility is considered that anhedonia (the reduction of the ability to feel pleasure) might interfere with the correct reconstruction and interpretation of the image of the environment and alter its appearance.

{ Schizophrenia Research and Treatment | Continue reading }

‘A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu’ –Arthur Rimbaud

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Grapheme-color synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which viewing a grapheme elicits an additional, automatic, and consistent sensation of color.

Color-to-letter associations in synesthesia are interesting in their own right, but also offer an opportunity to examine relationships between visual, acoustic, and semantic aspects of language. […]

Numerous studies have reported that for English-speaking synesthetes, “A” tends to be colored red more often than predicted by chance, and several explanatory factors have been proposed that could explain this association.

Using a five-language dataset (native English, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean speakers), we compare the predictions made by each explanatory factor, and show that only an ordinal explanation makes consistent predictions across all five languages, suggesting that the English “A” is red because the first grapheme of a synesthete’s alphabet or syllabary tends to be associated with red.

We propose that the relationship between the first grapheme and the color red is an association between an unusually-distinct ordinal position (”first”) and an unusually-distinct color (red).

{ Cortex | Continue reading }

A Black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,
Someday I shall tell of your mysterious births

{ Arthur Rimbaud | Continue reading }

art { Roland Cat, The pupils of their eyes, 1985 }

Saas and taas and specis bizaas

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Normal consciousness relies, at least in part, on the brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN), according to neuroscientist Robin Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research in the brain sciences division of the Imperial College of London medical school. The DMN is a network of interacting brain regions that acts as a cognitive transit hub, integrating and assimilating information. As the name implies, it’s the usual system of organization for your mind. Carhart-Harris says the DMN “gives coherence to cognition” by connecting different regions of the brain, and is considered the “orchestrator of the self.”

Carhart-Harris and his colleagues found what seems to be an important function of the DMN inadvertently. While studying brain networks, they got curious about what changes might occur when people are under the effects of hallucinogens. In studies analyzing the effects of psilocybin on brain wave oscillation and blood flow, they found that when the DMN was inactive, an alternate network of consciousness seemed to arise.

When some study subjects tested psilocybin, they reported a strong sense of interconnectedness, as well as spiritual, magical, and supernatural feelings.

In the alternate mode, brains produced a different world that offered other sensations and realizations than in everyday life. In this mode, the self wasn’t the protagonist of the narrative. Meanwhile, scans of blood flow and brain wave oscillations showed new, unusual—but orderly and synchronous—connections forming between cortical regions, as if the brain was reorganizing its network. This led Carhart-Harris to posit that the DMN generates the feeling we each have that we’re individuals, a feeling that manifests very strongly as reality. And that means we can temporarily switch off, or mute, this part of the brain.

{ Quartz | Continue reading }

According to the famous work of Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga, “split brain” patients seem to experience a split in consciousness: the left and the right side of their brain can independently become aware of, and respond, to stimuli. Split brain patients are those who underwent surgery to sever the corpus callosum, the nerve tract connecting the two hemispheres of the brain.

{ Neuroskeptic | Continue reading }

art { Leah Schrager }