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Sun, 21 Jul 2019
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Cause of near-death experiences still unknown and controversial

Tunnel of Light
© Shutterstock
About 10% of people report having mystical "near-death experiences," such as out-of-body sensations, according to a new study involving participants from nearly three dozen countries.

What's more, although the exact cause of these experiences remains a mystery, the authors say the phenomenon may be tied to certain sleep abnormalities.

The study findings suggest there may be a connection between near-death experiences and disorders of REM sleep, a phase of the sleep cycle in which dreaming is vivid and people are typically paralyzed. The researchers found that near-death experiences were more likely to occur in people who also reported symptoms of REM sleep disorders, such as sleep paralysis (when people feel conscious but can't move) or hallucinations just before falling asleep.

One hypothesis is that the brains of people who have these experiences may blend two types of consciousness — waking and dreaming states, according to a researcher not involved in the new study.

Still, the new study only showed an association and cannot prove that such disorders — which the researchers refer to as "REM sleep intrusion into wakefulness" — can cause near-death experiences. But "identifying the physiological mechanisms behind REM sleep intrusion into wakefulness might advance our understanding of near-death experiences," study lead author Dr. Daniel Kondziella, a neurologist at the University of Copenhagen, said in a statement.

The study was presented on Saturday (June 29) at the European Academy of Neurology Congress in Oslo, Norway. It has also been posted to the preprint website bioRxiv. It has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.


Brain-to-brain network established by researchers in the US

Brain to brain network
A receiver (centre) and two senders ready to work their brains. Come game time, they were in separate rooms.
US computer engineers have reported creating a way for two people to help a third person solve a problem using only their minds.

It's called BrainNet and, the team from the University of Washington says, it is the first demonstration of two things: a brain-to-brain network of more than two people, and a person being able to both receive and send information to others using only their brain.

They acknowledge it's a baby step on the road to telepathic communication, but it's a step, nonetheless.

"Our equipment is still expensive and very bulky, and the task is a game," says corresponding author Rajesh Rao. "We're in the 'Kitty Hawk' days of brain interface technologies. We're just getting off the ground."

The game in question is much like the old-school computer favourite Tetris, involving manoeuvring blocks of varying shapes into position to follow a specific line as they fall from the top of the screen.

In the version Rao and colleagues devised, three people played the one game, while sitting in separate rooms. Two, called "senders", could see the blocks and the lines but couldn't control the game. The third, the "receiver", could see the blocks but not the lines, but could tell the game to rotate a block when necessary to complete a line.

All wore electroencephalography caps that picked up electrical activity in their brains.


New research shows racial bias has its roots in sensory perception

Racial Bias
© Adrian Nakic/Getty Images
Race biases extend as far down as our sensory processes, new research suggests.
People's tendency to perceive members of their own racial group as different to each other and folks from other races as more homogenous could start early in the perceptual process, a new US study has found.

Intergroup bias is a well established psychological phenomenon that can result in stereotyping and discrimination, with real-world impacts ranging from the embarrassment of mixing two people up to the seriousness of selecting the wrong suspect from a police line-up.

But its cause is poorly understood. Brent Hughes, from the University of California, Riverside, and colleagues asked, "Are such mistakes based in errors of recollection and judgement, or do they emerge in the very way that we perceive members of other social groups?"

To test this, they took neural functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of 20 white people aged around 20 years while exposing them to a large set of ingroup (white) faces and outgroup (black) faces that changed gradually in similarity from identical to different.


The four stages of life and the search for meaning and purpose within each

life stages
Life is a bitch. Then you die. So while staring at my navel the other day, I decided that that bitch happens in four stages. Here they are.

Stage One: Mimicry

We are born helpless. We can't walk, can't talk, can't feed ourselves, can't even do our own damn taxes.

As children, the way we're wired to learn is by watching and mimicking others. First we learn to do physical skills like walk and talk. Then we develop social skills by watching and mimicking our peers around us. Then, finally, in late childhood, we learn to adapt to our culture by observing the rules and norms around us and trying to behave in such a way that is generally considered acceptable by society.

The goal of Stage One is to teach us how to function within society so that we can be autonomous, self-sufficient adults. The idea is that the adults in the community around us help us to reach this point through supporting our ability to make decisions and take action ourselves.

But some adults and community members around us suck.1 They punish us for our independence. They don't support our decisions. And therefore we don't develop autonomy. We get stuck in Stage One, endlessly mimicking those around us, endlessly attempting to please all so that we might not be judged.2

In a "normal" healthy individual, Stage One will last until late adolescence and early adulthood.3 For some people, it may last further into adulthood. A select few wake up one day at age 45 realizing they've never actually lived for themselves and wonder where the hell the years went.


You Are Fighting in The Most Important Battle of All Time

corporate media
If you are reading this, it's most likely the result of a series of events in your life which have drawn your interest and attention to the fact that our world is quite a bit different from what we've been told by our school teachers, by the news media, by Hollywood, and by politicians.

At some point, for whatever reason, you've come to realize that the consensus narratives in our society about what's going on are false. The tools that people are taught to use to inform themselves about their government, their nation and their world are not just full of inaccuracies, but deliberate distortions, ranging from the reasons we're given for why wars are started, to the way our political systems work, to where real power and authority actually lies, to the way nations and governments actually behave in the world.

This awareness has come with a degree of alienation. Not buying into the same consensus narratives about the world as your friends, loved ones and peers comes with an inability to relate to them on some levels, which can cause you to feel a lack of intimacy in those areas. You may have also found yourself the odd one out in conversations about politics or other controversial issues, maybe even lost old friends over it.

But you kept going anyway. For some of us, it's more important to be true to the truth than it is to fit in. You're one of those people.


Working with your hands does wonders for your brain

pottery wheel

Activities that use your hands relieve stress and help you solve problems.

I've been working hard on a proposal for a new book. This involves a lot of sitting and thinking. Since I started working on this project, a strange phenomenon has emerged.

I want to clean all the time.

While sitting at my desk, I fantasize about scrubbing things. I long to get at the dirty-ish sliding glass doors that I stare off into space through, while pondering my writing. I cleaned the bathroom last week as a "treat" and got a high from cleaning the tub. It's really weird.

Could this be a new way to procrastinate my writing that my sneaky brain has come up with?

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MindMatters: The Nature of Reality: Mindless Matter, or Universal Consciousness?

What is the nature of reality, and why does it matter? Whether we know it or not, we all have a worldview - a set of very core beliefs and assumptions about the way the world works and our place within it. Sometimes those assumptions work, sometimes they don't, but as long as they are left unexamined, we can't say we've come any closer to actually understanding who we are and what we're doing. That's the great gift that philosophy can give us: a roadmap for meaning.

That doesn't mean it's easy, of course. The number of options on the table is daunting. Is materialism true? Are we just chunks of meat, devoid of any degree of freedom to choose? Are we disembodied minds dreaming up our own existence? Is consciousness fundamental, or an epiphenomenon of a more fundamental, senseless matter? The fact is, our beliefs will influence how we live our lives, whether we know it or not. So why not take a closer look at those beliefs?

Today on MindMatters, we do just that, taking a look at some of the offerings on the philosophical table - including the idealism presented by Bernardo Kastrup in his book, The Idea of the World. As Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living. Well, according to the dominant philosophical worldview today - physicalism - the world is still not worth living. So join us as we try to find an alternative that makes life great again - in which meaning and consciousness have a real role to play, and set the stage for the strange and mysterious adventure we call reality.

Running Time: 01:28:21

Download: MP3 — 80.9 MB


'Mystical' DMT compound found in normal brains

Ayahuasca retreat
© Temple of the Way of Light
Ayahuasca ceremony in Peru.
In the past few years, thrill-seekers from Hollywood, Silicon Valley and beyond have been travelling to South America to take part in so-called Ayahuasca retreats. Their goal: to partake in a brewed concoction made from a vine plant Banisteriopsis caapi, traditionally used by indigenous people for sacred religious ceremonies. Drinkers of Ayahuasca experience short-term hallucinogenic episodes many describe as life-changing.

The active ingredient responsible for these psychedelic visions is a molecule called dimethyltryptamine (DMT). For the first time, a team led by Michigan Medicine has discovered the widespread presence of naturally-occurring DMT in the mammalian brain. The finding is the first step toward studying DMT-- and figuring out its role -- within the brains of humans.

"DMT is not just in plants, but also can be detected in mammals," says Jimo Borjigin, Ph.D., of the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology. Her interest in DMT came about accidentally. Before studying the psychedelic, her research focused on melatonin production in the pineal gland.

In the seventeenth century, the philosopher Rene Descartes claimed that the pineal gland, a small pinecone-shaped organ located deep in the center of the brain, was the seat of the soul. Since its discovery, the pineal gland, known by some as the third eye, has been shrouded in mystery. Scientists now know it controls the production of melatonin, playing an important role in modulating circadian rhythms, or the body's internal clock. However, an online search for notes to include in a course she was teaching opened Borjigin's eyes to a thriving community still convinced of the pineal gland's mystical power.


The incredible link between nature and your emotions

hiking outdoors nature
Thirty-five years ago, a young researcher at the University of Delaware conducted a remarkable study. Having spent his childhood sick with kidney disease, in and out of "gloomy, sometimes brutal" hospitals, Roger Ulrich was interested in finding ways to improve "the environments where patients are treated." So he sought to test the potential influence of an old friend that had brought him comfort as a child: a solitary pine that he could view through the window by his sickbed. "I think seeing that tree helped my emotional state," he recalled in an interview decades later.

That small study would give birth to thousands of replications and expansions - and an entire movement in architecture. Ulrich managed to find a hospital ward where, for years, patients had recovered from gallbladder surgery in identical rooms that overlooked either a small stand of deciduous trees or a brick wall. After pouring through nearly ten years' worth of ward records, Ulrich found that patients with a view of the trees fared far better than the miserable patients with nothing but a wall to look at, even if their cases were identical. Those with a view took fewer painkillers, were rated by their nurses as being in better spirits, and, on average, left the hospital nearly a day earlier than those without a view. What was going on?

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Jordan Peterson on the Psychological and Social Significance of Identity, and the Danger of 'Gender Fluidity' Indoctrination

Back in September of 2016, I released three videos, expressing my concern about Bill C-16, which was then under consideration by the federal government, following the passage of similar legislation in a number of provinces. C-16 purported to merely add "gender identity" and "gender expression" to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. However, it was embedded in a web of policy, much of it created by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which indicated that the bill comprised the tip of a very large iceberg. I was particularly upset with the insistence that failure to use the "preferred pronouns" chosen by individuals whose gender-related identity did not fit neatly, according to their personal judgement, into the standard categories of boy and girl or man and woman would now become an offence punishable by law.

Worse is the insistence characteristic of the bill, the policies associated with it, and the tenth-rate academic dogmas driving the entire charade that "identity" is something solely determined by the individual in question (whatever that identity might be). Even sociologists (neither the older, classical, occasionally useful type, nor the modern, appalling, and positively counterproductive type) don't believe this. They understand that identity is a social role, which means that it is by necessity socially negotiated. And there's a reason for this. An identity - a role - is not merely what you think you are, moment to moment, or year by year, but, as the Encyclopedia Britannica has it (specifically within its sociology section), "a comprehensive pattern of behavior that is socially recognized, providing a means of identifying and placing an individual in society," also serving "as a strategy for coping with recurrent situations and dealing with the roles of others (e.g., parent-child roles)."