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Tue, 21 Nov 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Virtual reality machine lets you blow your mind without taking psychedelic drugs

© Global Look Press
VR tech had to branch out into the world of psychedelics sooner or later. A hallucination machine developed by a British university makes it possible to trip out without taking illegal drugs.

Instead of experimenting with LSD and magic mushrooms, researchers at Sussex University's Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science have chosen a safer option that puts out more reliable data - a virtual reality headset designed to hallucinate in the same way that the human brain does.

Using the headset, researchers can turn the real world around us into a psychedelic hallucination without the high. The technology is based on Deep Dream, a computer program created by Google engineer Alexander Mordvintsev that enhances images using 'algorithmic pareidolia' - when the mind responds to a stimulus like a sound or an image by perceiving a familiar pattern where none actually exists. Academics hope that the virtual reality program will help them understand how the brain reacts when the rules of nature, time and space no longer apply.

Eye 1

Skeptics possess high cognitive ability and strong motivation to be rational

Stephan Lewandowsky tried to make climate skeptics look stupid (by not even bothering to sample them, but impugning their beliefs as irrational from out of population samples), this study turns the tables on his execrable work and suggests that climate skeptics are both analytical and rational.

From the University of Illinois at Chicago:

The moon landing and global warming are hoaxes. The U.S. government had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. A UFO crashed in Roswell, New Mexico.

Is skepticism toward these kinds of unfounded beliefs just a matter of cognitive ability? Not according to new research by a University of Illinois at Chicago social psychologist.

In an article published online and in the February 2018 issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences, Tomas Ståhl reports on two studies that examined why some people are inclined to believe in various conspiracies and paranormal phenomena.
"We show that reasonable skepticism about various conspiracy theories and paranormal phenomena does not only require a relatively high cognitive ability, but also strong motivation to be rational," says Ståhl, UIC visiting assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study.

"When the motivation to form your beliefs based on logic and evidence is not there, people with high cognitive ability are just as likely to believe in conspiracies and paranormal phenomena as people with lower cognitive ability."
Previous work in this area has indicated that people with higher cognitive ability - or a more analytic thinking style - are less inclined to believe in conspiracies and the paranormal.

Magic Wand

Why expressive writing about emotions can help you feel better

© Getty Images
Creativity can work wonders for mental health: Experts tout artistic practices like writing as beneficial for decreasing depressive symptoms, increasing positive emotions, and reducing stress responses. "Creativity is increasingly being validated as a potent mind-body approach as well as a cost-effective intervention to address a variety of challenges throughout the lifespan," therapist and visual artist Cathy Malchiodi wrote in Psychology Today. But the benefits of creativity aren't just mental. New studies show us that certain kinds of creativity, especially writing, can have equally positive outcomes for physical health.

Journaling has its own perks, but if you want to reap the full gamut of writing's benefits - which can include improvements in physical wellness - you may have to dig a little deeper and engage in expressive writing, which writer and scholar John F. Evans describes as emotional writing that comes from our core. "Expressive writing is personal and emotional writing without regard to form or other writing conventions like spelling, punctuation, and verb agreement," he wrote in Psychology Today. "Expressive writing pays more attention to feelings than the events, memories, objects, or people in the contents of a narrative [and is] not so much what happened as it is about how you feel about what happened or is happening."

Comment: See also: Writing to Heal


Learning from other people's regrets

Regrets. We all have them - things said or done; things left unsaid or undone. Paths that weren't followed; opportunities missed due to fear or insecurity. The list is long, but one of the biggest regrets in life reported by a large number of people is not being there for someone at the end of life.1 In other words, being too busy with "life" to tend to those near death.

Interestingly, while a regret can be phrased either as an action or as an inaction ("I wish I had not quit high school," versus "I wish I had stayed in high school"), regrets framed as actions tend to be more emotionally intense than regrets about inactions, but inactions tend to be longer lasting.2

Emma Freud, a columnist for The Guardian, recently explored themes of regret on social media, covering everything from relationships, work-life balance and personal passions, to addiction, illness and death. If you're so inclined, you can take a look at some of the thousands of responses she received.3 Chances are, you'll recognize yourself in some of them.


Columbia University studies equine therapy to assist with healing PTSD

The Man O' War Project aims to determine how equine-assisted therapy can be most effectively used to help veterans with PTSD.
Equine-facilitated therapy could be a key treatment option for people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and new research underway at Columbia University, dubbed the Man O' War Project, could help prove just how effective it is.

PTSD can affect anyone who has been through a traumatic experience, such as victims or witnesses of violence. It's a common affliction of members of the military who have served in combat zones. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 14 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have some degree of PTSD, along with 10 to 12 percent of Gulf War veterans and a staggering 30 percent of Vietnam vets.

Comment: Mental health professionals use horses for therapy


Two interacting brains use different neural and cognitive processes than two individual brains doing the same task

Wired up: A method of measuring blood flow in the brain allows people to sit upright, as they normally would while conversing with others.
A test designed to capture the dynamic back-and-forth of conversation suggests the existence of a new language area in the brain. The brain's subcentral area, previously of unknown function, is activated specifically during interactions between people, the new work suggests. Researchers presented the unpublished results yesterday at the 2017 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Language and communication difficulties are hallmarks of autism. To assess these problems, studies commonly track brain activity while the participant lies in a scanner and either talks or listens to words piped in through a speaker. "Most of what we know about language comes from single subjects," says study leader Joy Hirsch, professor of psychiatry at Yale University. These studies suggest that talking is associated with activity in a brain region called Broca's area, and listening with a nearby spot called Wernicke's area.

However, they don't reveal much about what happens in the brain during real-life, spontaneous communication, Hirsch says. Some scientists are developing ways to record brain activity during real-life social interactions. Hirsch's new work suggests a novel place to look in the brain, and a new method of analysis, to gain insights into language impairments.


Eckhart Tolle, like most spiritual gurus, is a con

© Anton Gepolov / Fotolia
When the human being experiences a moment of pleasure - it begins to desire that experience to endlessly repeat itself in an attempt to create permanence. And the constant attempt to construct permanence gives the so-called "spiritual ideologies", or "new age gurus" the opportunity to provide us with the methods to attain "constant happiness", "bliss" and "higher states of consciousness". The reality is that we are constantly in pursuit of ideas given to us by others. And the pursuit of these goals is what creates the polarization in the human being. Now, let me remind you that a true "guru" seeks no followers.

I recently listened to a podcast where Eckhart Tolle was being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey about "The Conscious New Earth". Not only was I enraged by a lot of what I heard, but I was left wondering how people come to believe this bunch of baloney.

I will point out the fallacies in his words:

Comment: See also:


Plants can count and communicate, even without a brain

If you have one of those annoying Vegan/Buddhist friends who keep yammering about how they don't eat meat because "animals have a mind of their own", show them this video of Neuroscientist Greg Gage demonstrating many of the 'sentient' properties of plants, just to piss them off:

Comment: Plants are pretty amazing things! See:


Neuroscientist: The most important choice you can make is the company you keep

© Kelvin Delvecchio/Unsplash
According to Moran Cerf, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University who has been studying decision-making for over a decade, the surest way to maximise happiness has nothing to do with experiences, material goods, or personal philosophy.

It's all about who you decide to spend time with. But "it's not just advice to choose your friends carefully," Cerf told Business Insider.

There are two premises that lead Cerf to believe personal company is the most important factor for long-term satisfaction.

The first is that decision-making is tiring. A great deal of research has found that humans have a limited amount of mental energy to devote to making choices. Picking our clothes, where to eat, what to eat when we get there, what music to listen to, whether it should actually be a podcast, and what to do in our free time all demand our brains to exert that energy on a daily basis.


New study shows sleep deprivation makes it difficult for neurons to function effectively

© Shutterstock
After a sleepless night, you likely feel sluggish the next morning, and a small new study suggests why: Your brain cells feel sluggish, too. And when those brain cells are tired, you may be more likely to be forgetful and get distracted more easily, the research found.

In the study, the researchers found that sleep deprivation makes it difficult for brain cells to communicate effectively, which, in turn, can lead to temporary mental lapses that affect memory and visual perception.

In other words, the findings offer clues as to why a sleepless night makes it so hard to think and concentrate the next day.

"We discovered that starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly," senior study author Dr. Itzhak Fried, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), said in a statement. "This paves the way for cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us."

Comment: See also: