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Sun, 28 Aug 2016
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Science of the Spirit


Music, language, and the brain: Are you experienced?

© doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094169.g002
Topographic maps of ERP waveforms (P2, N2 and LP) from the nogo condition across musicians, controls and bilinguals.

Each gradient represents a change of approximately 0.5 µV.
Have you ever thought about everything that goes into playing music or speaking two languages? Musicians for example need to listen to themselves and others as they play, use this sensory information to call up learned actions, decide what is important and what isn't for this specific moment, continuously integrate these decisions into their playing, and sync up with the players around them.

Likewise, someone who is bilingual must decide based on context which language to use, and since both languages will be fairly automatic, suppress one while recalling and speaking the other, all while continuously modifying their behavior based on their interactions with another listener/speaker. All of this must happen quickly enough for the conversation or song to flow and sound natural and coherent. It sounds exhausting, yet it all happens in milliseconds!

Playing music or speaking two languages are challenging experiences and complex tasks for our brains. Past research has shown that learning to play music or speak a second language can improve brain function, but it is not known exactly how this happens. Psychology researchers in a recent PLOS ONE article examined how being either a musician or a bilingual changed the way the brain functions. Although we sometimes think of music as a universal language, their results indicate that the two experiences enhance brain function in different ways.

Heart - Black

Soul Murder

Human consciousness, collectively and individually, is haunted by layers upon layers of ponerisation, past and present.
All men are created equal. All chattel are insured . . .

I saw the movie Belle the other day and a piece of it got stuck in my head. The costume drama, set in England in the 1780s, hinged on a real historical event: the monstrous voyage of the slave ship Zong in 1781, from West Africa to the Caribbean. Its cargo when it set out on its transatlantic voyage included some 470 tightly packed human beings - too tightly packed, it turns out. Disease ran through the cargo hold. Slaves and crewmen began to die. The ship got lost. They began running low on water. Eventually the surviving crew jettisoned . . . 132 live humans, still in chains. This was business as usual.

Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship: A Human History, wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 2008, commemorating the bicentennial of the official end of the slave trade in the British Empire: "Over almost four centuries, from roughly 1500 to 1870, 12 million to 13 million Africans were forced onto slave ships and sailed to New World plantations. . . . We know that during the middle passage, about 1.8 million of these enslaved men, women and children died, their bodies thrown overboard to the sharks that usually trailed the vessels."

Uh, we don't talk about this too much, do we? The era in question is the glorious Age of Exploration, when Europe went out and discovered the rest of the world. In the classrooms of my childhood, they taught us about the silk trade and the noble quest for new sea routes and that sort of thing. Go, civilization! I remember no unpleasant disclosures about the rape of Africa or the profit made by Europe's upper classes in human trafficking.

Belle's plot, though it involves fictionalized characters, addresses the real court case that followed the Zong's arrival in Jamaica. This case was not about the murder of 132 people but whether or not the ship's owners could collect insurance on the loss of 132 slaves.

Comment: On the effects of evil on human psychology, read Political Ponerology


Crazy, or unsuccessful healer? A shaman's view of mental illness

© unknown
Dr. Somé
The Shamanic View of Mental Illness

In the shamanic view, mental illness signals "the birth of a healer," explains Malidoma Patrice Somé. Thus, mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, spiritual crises, and need to be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born.

What those in the West view as mental illness, the Dagara people regard as "good news from the other world." The person going through the crisis has been chosen as a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm. "Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field," says Dr. Somé. These disturbances result when the person does not get assistance in dealing with the presence of the energy from the spirit realm.

One of the things Dr. Somé encountered when he first came to the United States in 1980 for graduate study was how this country deals with mental illness. When a fellow student was sent to a mental institute due to "nervous depression," Dr. Somé went to visit him

Comment: It's a shame how the psychiatric industry treats the so-called mentally ill. Perhaps it is done out of sheer ignorance or, maybe, it is done on purpose to prevent the healing and enlightenment a true shaman can bring to communities.


Music of the hemispheres: Synchronized brain waves enable rapid learning, formation of new circuits

MIT study finds neurons that hum together encode new information.

The human mind can rapidly absorb and analyze new information as it flits from thought to thought. These quickly changing brain states may be encoded by synchronization of brain waves across different brain regions, according to a new study from MIT neuroscientists.

The researchers found that as monkeys learn to categorize different patterns of dots, two brain areas involved in learning - the prefrontal cortex and the striatum - synchronize their brain waves to form new communication circuits.

"We're seeing direct evidence for the interactions between these two systems during learning, which hasn't been seen before. Category-learning results in new functional circuits between these two areas, and these functional circuits are rhythm-based, which is key because that's a relatively new concept in systems neuroscience," says Earl Miller, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT and senior author of the study, which appears in the June 12 issue of Neuron.


'Us' and 'them' thinking makes people more likely to harm others outside of their group

© Thinkstock
When people get together in groups, unusual things can happen - both good and bad. Groups create important social institutions that an individual could not achieve alone, but there can be a darker side to such alliances: Belonging to a group makes people more likely to harm others outside the group.

"Although humans exhibit strong preferences for equity and moral prohibitions against harm in many contexts, people's priorities change when there is an 'us' and a 'them,'" says Rebecca Saxe, an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at MIT. "A group of people will often engage in actions that are contrary to the private moral standards of each individual in that group, sweeping otherwise decent individuals into 'mobs' that commit looting, vandalism, even physical brutality."

Comment: See also: Human Sheep - study reveals flock mentality, how 5% can influence the crowd


Why law enforcement must adapt their strategies when dealing with psychopathic criminals?

© shutterstock.com
Samuel Brown was a top executive of a Fortune 500 company.1 Although he had a net worth of nearly $10 million, he was a family man with simple tastes and eschewed the trappings of power and wealth. Brown was a low-risk victim for violence. He resided with his wife in an affluent neighborhood where violent crime seemed nonexistent.

One morning, as was his custom, Brown dressed, left his home, tossed his briefcase into his car, and started the engine. As he walked to the end of his driveway to retrieve the morning paper, Anthony Lake jumped out of a nearby van and drew his gun. In the ensuing struggle, Lake fired his gun, wounding Brown, then shoved him into the van and drove away. Lake's female accomplice, tasked to drive a second (getaway) car, left the scene at the same time.

Comment: Not all psychopaths are violent. Many of them are aware of the social rules and can control to some extent their behaviour to conform to them. A great deal of psychopaths occupy high positions in politics, religion, banking, finance. If you are interested in what it means for the rest of our society, we recommend to read the excellent work of Dr. Andrzej M. Łobaczewski Political Ponerology: The Scientific Study of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes which explains the phenomenon of psychopathy and its repercussions on our society. The book can be acquired here.
© en.pilulerouge.com
Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes


Teen mental health: Teenagers go from school psychologist to family doctor


A considerable number of children and adolescents suffer from a mental disorder at some point of their time in school.
After initially visiting a school psychologist, adolescents in the United States with a mental disorder often go to seek care from their pediatricians or family doctors. Fewer of them continue their treatment directly with a psychotherapist or doctor specialized in mental disorders. This shows an analysis conducted by scientists at the University of Basel that has just been published in the academic journal PLOS ONE. The results are based on a nationally representative cohort of 6,500 U.S. teenagers.

A considerable number of children and adolescents suffer from a mental disorder at some point of their time in school. In these cases, school psychologists are an important first contact point. However, their ability to provide comprehensive psychotherapeutic treatment directly is limited. Ideally, school psychologists should guide the way through the health care system in order to ensure children get access to adequate mental care from specialists.

But what does the reality look like? Which role do school psychologists play in the trajectory of children and adolescents with mental disorders in the health care system? PD Dr. Marion Tegethoff and her research team from the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Basel tried to answer this question in a research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. They analyzed data from a nationally representative United States cohort of 6,483 students aged 13 to 18.


Think about yourself in the third person: Detachment from problems helps deal with trauma


Scientists have claimed that people who are trying to recover from personal trauma such as a cheating spouse (stock image shown) are more likely to make more rational decisions if they imagine themselves in someone else's shoes, rather than trying to cope with making their own decision
* Scientists in Ontario and Michigan studied how people deal with trauma

* They found people made more rational decisions if they were detached

* When tackling a problem as an observer, they made a 'better' decision

* But when thinking of their own problem they would make rash judgements

* Study also reveals that people don't necessarily get wiser as they get older

Having problems in life? Then you need to detach from your issues and try to see the world through someone else's eyes.

Research has found the best way to tackle a heartbreaking or personal trauma is to distance yourself and think about the problem in the third person.

During tests, people faced with the idea of a cheating spouse, for example, were more likely to think wisely about the situation, if they considered it as an observer would.

People 2

Why aren't we happy? The 4 major roadblocks to happiness

A recent Harris poll revealed that only 33 percent of Americans are very happy. If happiness is a natural state of being, why is this number so low? What is keeping us from being happy? Below are four "happiness roadblocks" that might be inhibiting your bliss.

1. Unfulfilled Expectations

Whether we realize it or not, we all have an underlying set of expectations for life. We have expectations for ourselves: how we should act, how successful we should be. We have expectations for others: how they should act, how they should treat us. We also have expectations for life and how our days should unfold. Some of these expectations are fulfilled, and others are not. That's life, plain and simple.

Having expectations is an important part of life that helps direct the course of our lives and relationships. If we didn't expect ourselves to get up each morning and fulfill our responsibilities, there would likely be an increase of pizza deliveries and online movie streaming! Having expectations for how others should behave and treat us allows us to set boundaries and maintain healthy relationships.

Often, however, these beliefs about how ourselves, others, and life are supposed to be are so ingrained in us that the possibility of failing to meet said expectations is too much to bear. The problem lies in us attaching our personal happiness to the fulfillment of these expectations that are often out of our control, and the difficulty some of us have in accepting unfulfilled expectations. Releasing our tight grip on how we expect people to act and how life should unfold gives us the space to experience life as a journey. Loosening our expectations and control allows us to maintain equilibrium and happiness when things don't go according to our plans.


8 things my bad-boy brother taught me about death

When Annie Kagan's brother Billy died unexpectedly and began speaking to her from the afterlife, her future took a surprising turn. She recorded her conversations with Billy from the other side and published them in her debut book The Afterlife of Billy Fingers.

When my brother Billy woke me three weeks after he died, describing what was happening to him in the afterlife, I thought maybe I had gone a little crazy. How could my bad-boy brother, who died a tragic death, who had problems with addiction all his life, who didn't live what most people would call a successful life, how could he be sharing secrets about life's greatest mystery from another dimension? But as time passed, my skepticism turned to wonder as Billy taught me all about death.