Tag Archives | Brain

Are We Hard-Wired To Believe In Life After Death?

spaceface-RAScienceDaily on a study suggesting that the conviction that our souls will survive beyond death is a feeling that emerges intuitively:

Most people believe they are immortal. That is, that part of themselves-some indelible core, soul or essence-will transcend the body’s death and live forever. But why? And why is this belief so unshakable?

A new Boston University study published in Child Development  suggests that our bias toward immortality is a part of human intuition that naturally emerges early in life. And the part of us that is eternal, we believe, is our hopes, desires and emotions.

Researchers have long suspected that people develop ideas about the afterlife through cultural exposure, like television or movies, or through religious instruction. But perhaps, thought Emmons, these ideas of immortality actually emerge from our intuition. Just as children learn to talk without formal instruction, maybe they also intuit that part of their mind could exist apart from their body.

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Signs Of Consciousness Found In Rats Brains After Death

ratsDo rats go to heaven? Via Ghost Theory:

Jim Borjigin of the University of Michigan’s team implanted electrodes on the surface of the brains of nine rats, then injected the animals with potassium chloride, stopping their heart and blood flow. At that point the rats are considered “clinically dead”.

Yet for up to 30 seconds, the researchers’ electrodes detected patterns of synchronized, high-frequency activity known as gamma waves. In humans, some scientists have suggested that gamma waves could play a role in the interplay of perception, awareness, and intent known as consciousness.

“By presenting evidence of highly organized brain activity and neurophysiologic features consistent with conscious processing at near-death, we now provide a scientific framework to begin to explain the highly lucid and realer-than-real mental experiences reported by near-death survivors,” wrote Borjigin’s team.

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Discovery of Quantum Vibrations in ‘Microtubules’ Inside Brain Neurons Supports Controversial Theory of Consciousness

Pic: Zwarck (CC)

Pic: Zwarck (CC)

Fringeology author and DisinfoCast alum Steve Volk (follow him on Twitter here or visit his website here) alerted me to this rather astonishing press release posted at ScienceDaily. Between this and seeing the president state that marijuana isn’t any worse than alcohol on national TV, I’m starting to wonder if I woke up in some sort of amazing new pocket dimension. Wherever I am, I like it.

A review and update of a controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness published in Physics of Life Reviews claims that consciousness derives from deeper level, finer scale activities inside brain neurons. The recent discovery of quantum vibrations in “microtubules” inside brain neurons corroborates this theory, according to review authors Stuart Hameroff and Sir Roger Penrose. They suggest that EEG rhythms (brain waves) also derive from deeper level microtubule vibrations, and that from a practical standpoint, treating brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a host of mental, neurological, and cognitive conditions.

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Brain Surgery Gives Woman “Hyper Empathy”

mindShould this procedure be made mandatory? Via the Huffington Post:

A woman developed “hyper empathy” after having a part of her brain called the amygdala removed in an effort to treat her severe epilepsy, according to a report of her case.

Doctors removed parts of her temporal lobe, including the amygdala. The surgery is a common treatment for people with severe forms of temporal lobe epilepsy.

After the surgery, the woman reported a “new, spectacular emotional arousal,” that has persisted for 13 years to this date. Her empathy seemed to transcend her body — the woman reported feeling physical effects along with her emotions, such as a “spin at the heart” when experiencing empathic sadness or anger. She reported these feelings when seeing people on TV, meeting people in person, or reading about characters in novels.

She also described an increased ability to decode others’ mental states, including their emotions.

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Reading Changes Your Brain

Concentrating (3460165669)I highly doubt that reading this post will do too much to you, but new research shows that reading novels definitely does change your brain with lingering effects. Carol Clark-Emory reports for Futurity:

After reading a novel, actual changes linger in the brain, at least for a few days, report researchers.

Their findings, that reading a novel may cause changes in resting-state connectivity of the brain that persist, appear in the journal Brain Connectivity.

“Stories shape our lives and in some cases help define a person,” says neuroscientist Gregory Berns, lead author of the study and the director of Emory University’s Center for Neuropolicy. “We want to understand how stories get into your brain, and what they do to it.”

Neurobiological research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has begun to identify brain networks associated with reading stories. Most previous studies have focused on the cognitive processes involved in short stories, while subjects are actually reading them as they are in the fMRI scanner.

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Will The Real Dr. Eben Alexander Please Stand Up?

Near-Death-Experience IllustrationLuke Dittrich has written a long essay for Esquire in which he posits that “Before his bestselling book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife made Dr. Eben Alexander rich and famous as a “man of science” who’d experienced the afterlife, he was something else: a neurosurgeon with a troubled history and a man in need of reinvention”:

On December 18, 2012, the set of Fox & Friends was both festive and somber. Festive because it was the Christmas season. The three hosts, two men in dark suits flanking a woman in a blue dress, sat on a mustard-colored couch in front of a cheery seasonal backdrop: a lit-up tree, silver-painted twigs, mounds of tinsel, blue and red swatches of fabric, and, here and there, multicolored towers of blown glass with tapering points that made them look surprisingly like minarets. Somber because a terrible thing had happened just four days earlier, in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

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How Consciousness Arises From Networks

manwith2brainsmovieVia Wired, neuroscientist Christof Koch argues that there are consciousnesses that exist outside of biological entities:

Consciousness arises within any sufficiently complex, information-processing system. All animals, from humans on down to earthworms, are conscious; even the internet could be.

My consciousness is an undeniable fact. I might be confused about the state of my consciousness, but I’m not confused about having it. Then, looking at the biology, all animals have complex physiology. There’s nothing exceptional about human brains. That consciousness extends to all these creatures, that it’s an imminent property of highly organized pieces of matter, such as brains.

It’s not that any physical system has consciousness. A black hole, a heap of sand, a bunch of isolated neurons in a dish, they’re not integrated. They have no consciousness. But complex systems do. And how much consciousness they have depends on how many connections they have and how they’re wired up.

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Your Brain Sees Things You Don’t

spoonVia ScienceDaily:

University of Arizona doctoral degree candidate Jay Sanguinetti has authored a new study, published online in the journal Psychological Science, that indicates that the brain processes and understands visual input that we may never consciously perceive.

The finding challenges currently accepted models about how the brain processes visual information.

A doctoral candidate in the UA’s Department of Psychology in the College of Science, Sanguinetti showed study participants a series of black silhouettes, some of which contained meaningful, real-world objects hidden in the white spaces on the outsides.

Saguinetti worked with his adviser Mary Peterson, a professor of psychology and director of the UA’s Cognitive Science Program, and with John Allen, a UA Distinguished Professor of psychology, cognitive science and neuroscience, to monitor subjects’ brainwaves with an electroencephalogram, or EEG, while they viewed the objects.

“We were asking the question of whether the brain was processing the meaning of the objects that are on the outside of these silhouettes,” Sanguinetti said.

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“My Brain Made Me Do It” Neuroscience Defense Increasingly Used In U.S. Criminal Courts

killerCan someone be punished for what their brain made them do? The Guardian on a growing trend in legal defense:

Criminal courts in the United States are facing a surge in the number of defendants arguing that their brains were to blame for their crimes and relying on questionable scans and other controversial, unproven neuroscience, a legal expert who has advised the president has warned.

Nita Farahany, a professor of law who sits on Barack Obama’s bioethics advisory panel, told a Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego that those on trial were mounting ever more sophisticated defences that drew on neurological evidence in an effort to show they were not fully responsible for murderous or other criminal actions.

“What is novel is the use by criminal defendants to say, essentially, that my brain made me do it,” Farahany said following an analysis of more than 1,500 judicial opinions from 2005 to 2012.

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DARPA To Spend $70 Million Investigating Brain Implants

alzheimersThe ostensible purpose is to better treat mental illness, but I think we all know what the experimental research wing of the military’s real motives are. As reported by the Boston Globe:

The federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, announced Thursday that it intended to spend more than $70 million over five years to jump to the next level of brain implants, either by improving deep brain stimulation or by developing new technology.

The new program, called Systems-Based Neurotechnology and Understanding for the Treatment of Neuropsychological Illnesses, is part of an Obama administration brain initiative that is intended to promote innovative basic neuroscience. Participants in the initiative include DARPA, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation.

DARPA’s project is partly inspired by the needs of combat veterans who suffer from mental and physical conditions, and is the first to directly invest in researching human illness as part of the brain initiative.

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