Tag Archives | Neurology

What Happens to the Brain During Spiritual Experiences?

240px-Mindfulness-present-moment-here-now-awareness-symbol-logoNeuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg on brain changes associated with spiritual experiences:

When practitioners surrender their will, activity decreases in their frontal lobes, suggesting that speech is being generated from some place other than the normal speech centers.

Newberg is a pioneer in the field of neurotheology, the neurological study of religious and spiritual experiences. In the 1990s, he began his work in the field by scanning what happens in people’s brains when they meditate, because it is a spiritual practice that is relatively easy to monitor.

Since then, he’s looked at around 150 brain scans, including those of Buddhists, nuns, atheists, Pentecostals speaking in tongues, and Brazilian mediums practicing psychography—the channeling of messages from the dead through handwriting.

As to what’s going on in their brains, Newberg says, “It depends to some degree on what the practice is.” Practices that involve concentrating on something over and over again, either through prayer or a mantra-based meditation, tend to activate the frontal lobes, the areas chiefly responsible for directing attention, modulating behavior, and expressing language.

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DARPA Begins Program To Develop Brain Tech To Fight Mental Illness in Service Members

800px-DARPA_LogoHere comes the government microchip in the brain that we’ve been hearing about for so many years…

Work on DARPA’s Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) program is set to begin with teams led by UC San Francisco (UCSF), and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The SUBNETS program seeks to reduce the severity of neuropsychological illness in service members and veterans by developing closed-loop therapies that incorporate recording and analysis of brain activity with near-real-time neural stimulation. The program, which will use next-generation devices inspired by current Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) technology, was launched in support of President Obama’s brain initiative.

UCSF and MGH will oversee teams of physicians, engineers, and neuroscientists who are working together to develop advanced brain interfaces, computational models of neural activity, and clinical therapies for treating networks of the brain. The teams will collaborate with commercial industry and government, including researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Medtronic, to apply a broad range of perspectives to the technological challenges involved.

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Pedophiles’ Brains Show Abnormal Reaction to Children’s Faces

criminalbrainThis kind of organic brain response is both bad news and good news: The bad news – especially for now – is that pedophilia might be hardwired in the brain. The good news – probably for the future – is that if science can decipher the workings of this organic machinery, then it might lead to ways to fix it.*

The brain circuits that respond to faces and sex appear to activate abnormally in pedophiles when they look at children’s faces, scientists say.

These new findings could lead to novel ways to diagnose pedophiles, and could shed light on the evolutionary roots of sex, the researchers added.

In the animal kingdom, there may be a number of mechanisms preventing adults from attempting sex with children. For example, “pheromones emitted by child mice inhibit sexual behavior of adult male mice,” said lead study author Jorge Ponseti, a sex researcher at Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel in Germany.

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Beliefs In Ghosts And Gods Might Be Based In Early Evolution Of Brain

Caveman_8

PIC: PD

The Nature Spirits told me to share this with you.

Notions of gods arise in all human societies, from all powerful and all-knowing deities to simple forest spirits. A recent method of examining religious thought and behaviour links their ubiquity and the similarity of our beliefs to the ways in which human mental processes were adapted for survival in prehistoric times. It rests on a couple of observations about human psychology. First, when an event happens, we tend to assume that a living thing caused it. In other words, we assume agency behind that event. If you think of the sorts of events that might have happened in prehistoric times, it’s easy to see why a bias towards agency would be useful. A rustling of a bush or the snapping of a twig could be due to wind. But far better to assume it’s a lion and run away.

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ASMR: When Sounds Tickle Your Brain


Do you have a little brain quirk that puts you in happy trance whenever you hear certain, soft sounds? Well, you’re in for a treat, because it’s a “thing,” and there are YouTube channels just for you. “For some percentage of readers,” writes Loz Blain of Gizmag, “this article could make a major positive impact on your life…”

Despite the very official-sounding name ascribed to it, there is no science to prove the existence of the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR. We have no idea what percentage of people have the ability to experience it, where it comes from, what it’s for or what brain mechanics are involved.

But if you’re lucky enough to be able to feel it, there’s a growing and thriving community out there producing thousands of free samples of canned pleasure and relaxation.

Let me start from my personal experience. As a schoolboy, I had a particular French teacher whose voice would put me into a trance.… Read the rest

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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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‘Optogenetics’ Uses Light To Tweak Brain

criminalbrainNPR reports on a new medical tool that could pave the way toward innovative treatments for depression, seizure disorder and other conditions.

Excerpt:

When President Obama announced his BRAIN Initiative in April, he promised to give scientists “the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action.”

An early version of one of those tools already exists, scientists say. It’s a relatively new set of techniques called optogenetics that allows researchers to control the activity of brain cells using light.

“This is fantastic,” says Elizabeth Hillman, a biomedical engineer at Columbia University. “We can turn things on, turn things off, read stuff out.” In short, she says, it provides a way to observe and control what brain circuits are doing in real time in a living brain.

Eventually, optogenetics could not only help explain diseases like epilepsy and depression, but offer a way to treat them. But the technique needs some refinement before it can be used in people or in remote parts of the brain, Hillman says.

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Electrode-Wearing Writer May Reveal Neurological Roots of Creativity

Picture: Michael Neagle (C)

Picture: Michael Neagle (C)

Dutch novelist Arnon Grunberg is participating in a neuroscience experiment that will shed some light on how art is created and experienced:

New York Times:

Over the past two weeks, Mr. Grunberg has spent several hours a day writing his novella, while a battery of sensors and cameras tracked his brain waves, heart rate, galvanic skin response (an electrical measure of emotional arousal) and facial expressions. Next fall, when the book is published, some 50 ordinary people in the Netherlands will read it under similarly controlled circumstances, sensors and all.

Researchers will then crunch the data in the hope of finding patterns that may help illuminate links between the way art is created and enjoyed, and possibly the nature of creativity itself.

“Will readers of Arnon’s text feel they understand or embody the same emotions he had while he was writing it, or is reading a completely different process?” said Ysbrand van der Werf, a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience and the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, who designed the experiment with Jan van Erp of the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research.

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Oral Sex, Molecular Engineering and the Fall from the Brain of Eden.

wrightbookHumankind was expelled from the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit. But, according to a radical theory, it was actually for not eating enough of the stuff.

Consciousness theorist Tony Wright argues that human evolution stalled around 200,000 years ago, an event that may have been recorded in the world’s myths as “the fall from grace”, humanity’s rude ejection from a “golden age”. According to the theory, climate change forced humans from tropical forests where a high fruit diet had fuelled the rapid development of the brain. Beyond the forests, with fewer nutritional components present, the brain degenerated, a trend which included the growing domination of the left-hemisphere over an actually better preserved right.

According to Wright, unless we change our diet – or, advanced molecular engineering, as he prefers to call it – we will continue our slide and, via our increasingly destructive actions, continue to literally destroy our once perceived Eden.… Read the rest

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FDA Approves Brainwave Helmet To Test Kids For ADHD

ADHDIs this the type of iceberg for diagnosing people using brainwave-analyzing hats? Via Science World Report:

For those who may have been wrongfully diagnosed with the disorder, a new device called the Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment Aid (NEBA) System that measures electrical impulses given off by neurons in the brain, could more accurately diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to its creators.

More specifically, this medical tool tests for the ratio between theta and beta waves, as studies have found that children with ADHD tend to have more betas than those without the disorder. With approval of the device, children suspected of having ADHD would wear a cap for 15 to 20 minutes that could help determine a proper diagnosis.

Device manufacturer NEBA Health submitted a clinical study that evaluated 275 children, ages 6 to 17. The cost of the NEBA system and proposed charge for the test have also not be confirmed at this time.

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