Tag Archives | Neuroscience

Have an Out-of-Body Experience (OOBE) – NOW!

Doubles2xUnless you’re one of those few people who have spontaneous Out of Body Experiences (OOBEs), you need some help to get there. The Kernel reveals how:

You can have an out of body experience right now, and it isn’t even that hard. Some people can do it more easily than others, and it may take a little practice. But it is something that anybody can do, and it can be done scientifically.

SENSES AND THE SELF
Let’s start with a question: Where do you feel like the center of your “self” is right now? Most people feel like the center of their consciousness—the vantage from which they are experiencing the world—is somewhere behind their eyes. This makes sense: Your eyes are there, your ears are there, and even your mouth and your nose are there. Four out of five of your senses are all focused in a single area, so it’s no surprise that you feel like the center of your self is “in your head.”

Although both philosophers and scientists are still developing theories about exactly what our sense of self is really for, they all agree that it plays a key role in organizing all of the information that comes in through our senses.

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Neuroscientist Claims Internet Has Ruined The Way We Read

"No, it's fine. Enjoy reading "Top Ten Celebrity Liposuction Disasters. I'll just stay here and silently judge you."PIC: Dutch National Archives (CC)

“No, it’s fine. Enjoy reading “Top Ten Celebrity Liposuction Disasters. I’ll just stay here and silently judge you.”PIC: Dutch National Archives (CC)

Neuroscientist Maryanne Wolfe believes that the human brain has changed in response to to the way that information is presented online, and the changes aren’t entirely positive. Wolfe presents her initial problems enjoy Herman Hesse’s novel The Glass Bead Game as a consequence of these brain changes.

I’m not so sure, myself. I wonder if she has considered that her reading tastes may have changed for other reasons, or maybe that The Glass Bead Game just isn’t her cup of tea? I read a ton of Herman Hesse in high school and college, but haven’t visited his work in a couple of decades. I’m not sure I’d enjoy any of it now, but I don’t believe the internet is to blame. Then again, I guess it might make a convenient excuse for why I can’t get through Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow or James Joyce’s Ulysses in spite of numerous attempts to do so.… Read the rest

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Molly Makes You Racist

Ecstasy (MDMA)

Ecstasy (MDMA)

I always thought Molly/Ecstasy turned you into a blissed out hug-loving moron, but apparently it turns us into blissed out racists instead. From VICE:

You don’t have a lot of time for rational thought after dropping a pill. Three Mitsis in and you’re almost entirely preoccupied with finding out what people’s scarves feel like, or busy trying to focus on literally anything through your rapid-fire flicker-eyes. So you’d have thought that, amid all the euphoria and heart palpitations, there surely wouldn’t be space to get hung up on the ethnicity of everyone around you.

However, it turns out that the brain’s biochemistry during a blissed out club night might not be too dissimilar from a rally during the EDL’s golden years. This is because of a hormone called oxytocin, which has been described by many as “the love hormone” or the “cuddle drug”. The hormone has been linked to developing trust between mother and child during breast feeding, and between partners after intercourse.

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How Magic Mushrooms Alter Your Brain

magic mushroomsVia Ultraculture, Jason Louv on how magic mushrooms temporarily quiet portions of the brain that normally constrain us:

According to two new studies released this week, psilocybin mushrooms apparently work by decreasing activity in key areas of the brain, rather than increasing it. Blood flow decreases to the medical prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). Overactivity in the mPFC is associated with depression, one reason why psilocybin can be associated with antidepressant effects; the PCC is often associated with consciousness and identity.

Researchers suggest that what may actually be happening with psychedelics is decreased blood flow to brain areas that constrain our sensory experience of the world and our sense of identity—allowing the brain to relax its grip on ordering reality and open up to a broader spectrum.

Professor David Nutt, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said: “We found that psilocybin actually caused activity to decrease in areas that… constrain our experience of the world and keep it orderly.

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The Quest for a Better Brain

320px-Utah_array_pat5215088How soon can we expect to see brain implants for perfect memory, enhanced vision, hypernormal focus or an expert golf swing?, ask Gary Marcus and Christof Koch for the Wall Street Journal:

What would you give for a retinal chip that let you see in the dark or for a next-generation cochlear implant that let you hear any conversation in a noisy restaurant, no matter how loud? Or for a memory chip, wired directly into your brain’s hippocampus, that gave you perfect recall of everything you read? Or for an implanted interface with the Internet that automatically translated a clearly articulated silent thought (“the French sun king”) into an online search that digested the relevant Wikipedia page and projected a summary directly into your brain?

Science fiction? Perhaps not for very much longer. Brain implants today are where laser eye surgery was several decades ago. They are not risk-free and make sense only for a narrowly defined set of patients—but they are a sign of things to come.

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Is Religion Good for Your Brain?

Eastman Johnson, Child at Prayer, circa 1873A scientific justification for otherwise inexplicable belief systems? From Discovery News:

If you live in Georgia, you’re more likely to have a healthy brain than if you live in Minnesota. That’s according to an annual state-by-state ranking released this week by a national health education campaign called Beautiful Minds.

While Georgians could use more “mental stimulation through reading and game playing,” their high level of religious activity elevated them to a No. 10 ranking. And while Minnesotans read more and are active in their communities, their low level of religious activities contributed to their No. 31 ranking.

Why the emphasis on religion? Research has linked religious activity with everything from reduced stress to better memory retention.

One recent study, published in December of 2013 in JAMA Psychiatry, found that people at risk of depression were much less vulnerable if they identified as religious: Brain MRIs revealed that religious participants had thicker brain cortices than those who weren’t as religious (those with a family history of depression often have a thinning of the cortices).

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The Brain Shrinking Except for the Frontal Lobe: It’s Growing

PIC: Camazine (CC)

PIC: Camazine (CC)

Scientific studies indicate that while the brain overall is shrinking, the frontal lobe – that part of the brain responsible for communication, planning and executive function, among other things – is growing. No one knows why for certain, but there are a lot of theories. Could it be related to the birth of reading and writing? Also interesting is an apparent increase in sexual dimorphism:

Via EvoAnth:

The 7,000 years or so these endocasts cover is also the period writing was invented and spread around the world; until many countries have almost universal literacy rates. In other words, as reading and writing becomes more important the region of the brain needed for it becomes larger, despite the fact the rest of the brain is shrinking. It’s a “no duh” question; but could there be a link? The researchers think so1, but it is worth noting the frontal lobe is also linked to planning and memory.

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Scientists Unlock Mystery of Out-of-Body Experiences (OOBEs)

Inicio_projecaoCan scientists really explain OOBEs? The Sploid blog at Gizmodo reports that they can…

Some people claim that they have experienced out-of-body experiences—aka “astral trips”—floating outside of their bodies and watching themselves from the outside. A team of scientists found someone who says she can do this at will and put her into a brain scanner. What they discovered was surprisingly strange.

Andra M. Smith and Claude Messierwere from the University of Ottawa described this subject’s ability in their paper, published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience:

She was able to see herself rotating in the air above her body, lying flat, and rolling along with the horizontal plane. She reported sometimes watching herself move from above but remained aware of her unmoving “real” body. The participant reported no particular emotions linked to the experience.

How the hell is this possible? Can it be real? The researchers found that something dramatic, and consistent with her account, was happening in her brain: The fMRI showed a “strong deactivation of the visual cortex” while “activating the left side of several areas associated with kinesthetic imagery,” which includes mental imagery of bodily movement.

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Learning New Ideas Alters Brain Cells

Pic: Jens Langner (PD)

Pic: Jens Langner (PD)

Phineas Gage proved that matter could affect consciousness.  Now, Shernaz Bamji and Stefano Brigidi of the University of British Columbia have proven the reverse is also true.  Looks like the “hardwiring” in our brains isn’t so hard:

A new University of British Columbia study identifies an important molecular change that occurs in the brain when we learn and remember.

Published this month in Nature Neuroscience, the research shows that learning stimulates our brain cells in a manner that causes a small fatty acid to attach to delta-catenin, a protein in the brain. This biochemical modification is essential in producing the changes in brain cell connectivity associated with learning, the study finds.

In animal models, the scientists found almost twice the amount of modified delta-catenin in the brain after learning about new environments. While delta-catenin has previously been linked to learning, this study is the first to describe the protein’s role in the molecular mechanism behind memory formation.

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Building Alien Worlds – A Paper on the Neuropsychological and Evolutionary Implications of DMT

Pic: Terpsichore (CC)

Pic: Terpsichore (CC)

Fellow disinfo psychonauts might find this of interest… Researcher and DMT-Nexus member Andrew R. Gallimore, PhD., has published a new paper on DMT in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. It is currently being hosted on The Nexian news site, and is free for viewing/download. The role that DMT and its tryptamine relatives- such as 5-meo-dmt and bufotenine -play in the nervous system, and its evolution, is far from fully understood. Hopefully works like this could help shed some much needed light on the subject:

Abstract—Arguably the most remarkable property of the human brain is its ability to construct the world that appears to consciousness. The brain is capable of building worlds during waking life, but also in the complete absence of extrinsic sensory data, entirely from intrinsic thalamocortical activity, as during dreaming. DMT, an extraordinary psychedelic, perturbs brain activity such that indescribably bizarre and apparently alien worlds are built. This property of DMT continues to defy explanation.

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