Tag Archives | Neuroscience

Can you think yourself into a different person?

Allan Ajifo (CC BY 2.0)

Allan Ajifo (CC BY 2.0)

We used to believe our brains couldn’t be changed. Now we believe they can – if we want it enough. But is that true? Will Storr wades through the facts and fiction.

For years she had tried to be the perfect wife and mother but now, divorced, with two sons, having gone through another break-up and in despair about her future, she felt as if she’d failed at it all, and she was tired of it. On 6 June 2007 Debbie Hampton, of Greensboro, North Carolina, took an overdose of more than 90 pills – a combination of ten different prescription drugs, some of which she’d stolen from a neighbour’s bedside cabinet. That afternoon, she’d written a note on her computer: “I’ve screwed up this life so bad that there is no place here for me and nothing I can contribute.” Then, in tears, she went upstairs, sat on her bed, swallowed her pills with some cheap Shiraz and put on a Dido CD to listen to as she died.… Read the rest

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The Politics of Hate – Deep Inside the Red Brain

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The Politics of Hate – Deep Inside the Red Brain

Is there something politicians know that the vast majority of the US voters don’t? Some of them are proof that all they need to know is how their voters think. You don’t really believe many of them talk the way they do because they’re stupid, do you? It may at times appear that way, but they are speaking to voter profiles.

First they outline their demographic and then angle the pitch. There is plenty of published research on why and how certain types vote. And really it’s a predictable statistical function of the voter’s brain. But even given the current political atmosphere I couldn’t believe the venom certain candidates were spewing. With so much negativity – about “EVERYTHING” and then all the warmongering. I began to wonder if they might be fanning the flames of a growing national hate movement.

Then I read an article, “Red Brain, Blue Brain” about a joint study done by Dr.… Read the rest

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The Neuroscience of Bass: New Study Explains Why Bass Instruments Are Fundamental to Music

A Boy and His Bass 1
A little music and neuroscience for your Saturday, courtesy of Josh Jones at Open Culture:

In most popular music, bass players don’t get nearly enough credit—even when the bass provides a song’s essential hook. As Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones joked at his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1995, “thank you to my friends for remembering my phone number.” And yet, writes Tom Barnes at Mic, “there’s scientific proof that bassists are actually one of the most vital members of any band…. It’s time we started treating bassists with the respect they deserve.” Research into the critical importance of low frequency sound explains why bass instruments mostly play rhythm parts and leave the fancy melodic noodling to instruments in the upper range. The phenomenon is not specific to rock, funk, jazz, dance, or hip hop. “Music in diverse cultures is composed this way,” says psychologist Laurel Trainor, director of the McMaster University Institute for Music and the Mind, “from classical East Indian music to Gamelan music of Java and Bali, suggesting an innate origin.”

Trainor and her colleagues have recently published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggesting that perceptions of time are much more acute at lower registers, while our ability to distinguish changes in pitch gets much better in the upper ranges, which is why, writes Nature, “saxophonists and lead guitarists often have solos at a squealing register,” and why bassists tend to play fewer notes.

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Do brain interventions to treat disease change the essence of who we are?

Neurons, In Vitro Color!
These days, most of us accept that minds are dependent on brain function and wouldn’t object to the claim that “You are your brain.” After all, we’ve known for a long time that brains control how we behave, what we remember, even what we desire. But what does that mean? And is it really true?

Despite giving lip service to the importance of brains, in our practical life this knowledge has done little to affect how we view our world. In part, that’s probably because we’ve been largely powerless to affect the way that brains work, at least in a systematic way.

That’s all changing. Neuroscience has been advancing rapidly, and has begun to elucidate the circuits for control of behavior, representation of mental content and so on. More dramatically, neuroscientists have now started to develop novel methods of intervening in brain function.

As treatments advance, interventions into brain function will dramatically illustrate the dependence of who we are on our brains – and they may put pressure on some basic beliefs and concepts that have been fundamental to how we view the world.… Read the rest

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Is the world real, or is it just an illusion or hallucination?


Marina Galperina writes at Hopes&Fears:

Is this real life? How do we know that we are not hallucinating it all? What if we’re plugged into a Matrix-style virtual reality simulator? Isn’t the universe a giant hologram anyway? Is reality really real? What is reality?

We asked renowned neuroscientists, physicists, psychologists, technology theorists and hallucinogen researchers if we can ever tell whether the “reality” we are experiencing is “real” or not. Don’t worry. You’re going to be ok.

Jessica L. Nielson, Ph.D. Department of Neurosurgery, Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Brain and Spinal Injury Center (BASIC)

What is our metric for determining what is real? That is probably different for each person. One could try and find a consensus state that most people would agree is “real” or a “hallucination” but from the recent literature using imaging techniques in people who are having a hallucinatory experience on psychedelics, it seems the brain is hyper-connected and perhaps just letting in more of the perceivable spectrum of reality.

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How the brain controls sleep

MIT neuroscientists have discovered a brain circuit that can trigger small regions of the brain to fall asleep or become less alert, while the rest of the brain remains awake. Credit: Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

MIT neuroscientists have discovered a brain circuit that can trigger small regions of the brain to fall asleep or become less alert, while the rest of the brain remains awake.
Credit: Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via Science Daily:

Sleep is usually considered an all-or-nothing state: The brain is either entirely awake or entirely asleep. However, MIT neuroscientists have discovered a brain circuit that can trigger small regions of the brain to fall asleep or become less alert, while the rest of the brain remains awake.

This circuit originates in a brain structure known as the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN), which relays signals to the thalamus and then the brain’s cortex, inducing pockets of the slow, oscillating brain waves characteristic of deep sleep. Slow oscillations also occur during coma and general anesthesia, and are associated with decreased arousal. With enough TRN activity, these waves can take over the entire brain.

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Scientists claim they can change your belief on immigrants and God – with MAGNETS

Attitudes towards God and immigrants can be changed by beaming magnetic waves into the brain, reports the Daily Express:

A bizarre experiment claims to be able to make Christians no longer believe in God and make Britons open their arms to migrants in experiments some may find a threat to their values.

Scientists looked at how the brain resolves abstract ideological problems.

US Navy 030819-N-9593R-228 Civilian technician, Jose Araujo watches as a patient goes through a Magnetic Resonance Imaging, (MRI) machine

Using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), researchers safely shut down certain groups of neurones in the brains of volunteers.

TMS, which is used to treat depression, involves placing a large electromagnetic coil against the scalp which creates electric currents that stimulate nerve cells in the region of the brain involved in mood control.

Researchers found the technique radically altered religious perceptions and prejudice.

Belief in God was reduced almost by a third, while participants became 28.5 per cent less bothered by immigration numbers…

[continues at the Daily Express]

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Scientists Can Map Your Brain And Predict Your Intelligence

This is pretty scary: your brain is either wired right – or it’s not! Wired reports in the brain mapping that can predict intelligence:

Humans have a love/hate relationship with the cliques, clades, and classes that compartmentalize their world. That tension forms the backbone of so much dystopian sci-fi: The protagonist of Divergent is special because she doesn’t fit into her society’s rigid castes of personality traits; Minority Report is all about the follies of judging people before they act. These stories are fun to think about in part because they’re fiction, not fact.

Human brain illustrated with millions of small nerves

But now that neuroscientists have used maps of people’s brains to accurately predict intelligence, reality creeps ever so much closer to fiction.

By intelligence, in this case, the scientists mean abstract reasoning ability, which they inferred by mapping and analyzing the connections within people’s brains. But the study, published today in Nature Neuroscience, is compelling because it gets at a fundamental and very uncomfortable truth: Some brains are better than others at certain things, simply because of the way they’re wired.

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Many of Buddhism’s core tenets significantly overlap with findings from modern neurology and neuroscience. So how did Buddhism come close to getting the brain right?

A Buddha in the Rain
David Weisman analyzes the intersection of Buddhism and neuroscience over at Seed Magazine:

Over the last few decades many Buddhists and quite a few neuroscientists have examined Buddhism and neuroscience, with both groups reporting overlap. I’m sorry to say I have been privately dismissive. One hears this sort of thing all the time, from any religion, and I was sure in this case it would break down upon closer scrutiny. When a scientific discovery seems to support any religious teaching, you can expect members of that religion to become strict empiricists, telling themselves and the world that their belief is grounded in reality. They are always less happy to accept scientific data they feel contradicts their preconceived beliefs. No surprise here; no human likes to be wrong.

But science isn’t supposed to care about preconceived notions. Science, at least good science, tells us about the world as it is, not as some wish it to be.

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How the magic of cinema unlocked one man’s coma-bound world

Nikkormat FT3-Cinestill 800
This article originally appeared on MindHacks.com.

An Alfred Hitchcock film helped to prove one patient had been conscious while in a coma-like state for 16 years. The discovery shows that neuroscience may still have lots to learn from the ancient art of storytelling, says Tom Stafford.

If brain injury steals your consciousness then you are in a coma: we all know that. What is less well known is that there exist neighbouring states to the coma, in which victims keep their eyes open, but show no signs of consciousness. The vegetative state, or ‘unresponsive wakefulness syndrome’, is one in which the patient may appear to be awake, and even goes to sleep at times, but otherwise shows no reaction to the world. Patients who do inconsistently respond, such as by flinching when their name is called, or following a bright object with their eyes, are classified as in a ‘minimally conscious state’.… Read the rest

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