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Wed, 27 Oct 2021
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Scientists 'talk' to sleeping people by invading their dreams

Sleep Experiment
© K Konkoly
A participant sleeping in the lab as electrical signals from his brain and eyes are displayed on a computer monitor.
Scientists have successfully "talked" to a sleeping person in real-time by invading their dreams, a new study shows. The researchers say it's like trying to communicate with an astronaut on another world.

Dreamers can follow instructions, solve simple math problems and answer yes-no questions without ever waking up, according to the results of four experiments described Thursday (Feb. 18) in the journal Current Biology.

The researchers communicated directly with sleeping participants by asking them questions and having them respond with eye or facial movements during lucid dreams — when people are at minimum aware that they are dreaming. (Some lucid dreamers can control what happens in their dreams.)

"You might expect that if you were to try to communicate with somebody who was asleep, they just wouldn't answer," study first author Karen Konkoly, a cognitive neuroscientist at Northwestern University in Illinois, told Live Science. Although Konkoly hoped the real-time communication would work, she said she "didn't believe it" when someone first responded to her questions from their dream.

People dream every night, but scientists don't fully understand why we dream. Studying dreams is difficult because people often forget or distort details after waking up. That's in part because the brain doesn't form many new memories while sleeping and has a limited capacity to accurately store information after the dream has ended, according to the study.


Women better at reading minds than men says new study

Mind Reading
© AdobeStock
The study highlights a new psychological method for assessing 'mind-reading' abilities.
A new approach to 'mind-reading' has been developed by researchers at the University of Bath, Cardiff, and London to improve how well we understand what others are thinking. And it transpires that women are much better than men at putting themselves in someone else's shoes.

Mind-reading, sometimes referred to in psychology as 'mentalising', is an important ability enabling us to pick-up on subtle behavioural cues that might indicate that someone we are speaking to is thinking something that they are not saying (e.g. being sarcastic or even lying).

The researchers say that we all have different mind-reading abilities, with some of us inherently better than others. The fact that not all of us are good at mind-reading can cause challenges - in particular for people with autism where it can lead to social struggles in building or maintaining relationships.

To identify those people who have difficulties and to provide them with appropriate support, the team at Bath designed a new mind-reading test, which draws on data from over 4,000 autistic and non-autistic people in the UK and US.

Book 2

Suspense novelist Michael Prescott explores the non-fiction of life after death

michael prescott
Although Michael Prescott is best known as the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 22 suspense novels, he is also known for his blog dealing primarily with paranormal and life after death subjects. Over the past 20 years he has produced more than 1,600 blog posts with more than 50,000 comments by readers.

The end result is a departure from his fiction writing with his just-released The Far Horizon: Perspectives on Life Beyond Death, published by White Crow Books. He begins the book by examining some of the best evidence coming to us from psychical research and parapsychology over the past 138 years, since the organization of the Society for Psychical Research, then asking why, if it is so good, it is not more widely known and accepted. He offers four models of after-death consciousness, discussing each one in separate chapters. "In all four models, the space-time universe rendered by our subjective perception is the tip of the iceberg, with the other nine-tenths hidden from sight," Prescott explains. "Vast expanses of reality and vast realms of consciousness lie submerged beneath the surface, difficult for us to access. Difficult, but not impossible, as mystics, shamans, mediums, and psychics have attested throughout history."

As anyone who has thoroughly studied the evidence knows, much of it is vague, abstruse, convoluted, and often inconsistent with established religious dogma and doctrine, as well as with mainstream science. A very abstract picture of the afterlife emerges, one requiring much discernment. In effect, so much of it seems beyond human comprehension. Nevertheless, enough of it is discernible that the open-minded investigator can begin to see intelligence and clarity in the abstractness. Prescott (below) masterfully makes sense out of what seems like so much nonsense to many. As he states, it need not be "a baffling anomaly," but it can be seen as "a logical extension of our experience of reality here and now."

People 2

What humans can learn from the mice utopia experiment

In 1950, an American ethologist named John Calhoun created a series of experiments to test the effects of overpopulation on the behaviour of social animals. The animals which Calhoun chose for his experiments where mice (and later on rats). He chose rodents as these reproduce rapidly thus allowing him to observe the development of several generations of mice in a relatively short space of time.

Calhoun and his researchers found that in a space-limited/resource unlimited environment, the population of mice would explode; peak-out and then collapse to extinction. This test was replicated several times and it was found that these led to the same outcome each time. The reason for this phenomenon was found to derived from social decay which worsened with each generation. The social decay led to unrest in the environment, which in turn led to sub replacement fertility. It was concluded that nature has a limit in which social animals can interact.

John Calhoun's experiments gained world-wide recognition and his expertise was sought after by government bodies such as NASA. They present a useful yet grim insight into what could be our own future, for no matter how many times Calhoun repeated the experiment, the results led to the same inevitable conclusion: extinction.

Comment: See also: The myth of overpopulation


Study finds neural benefits of early music training

Musical Notes
© CSA Images/Getty Images
Musicians have more brain connections than non-musicians, according to new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, and these connections are stronger in those who started training at a younger age.

This difference appeared whether or not musicians have perfect or absolute pitch, a rare talent to identify a musical note without any reference, and signifies the benefit of environmental stimulation for brain development.

"Our findings underline how the human brain is shaped by experience such as long-term, intensive music training," says lead author Simon Leipold, from the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

"This experience-dependent plasticity might be particularly strong for individuals who start intensive training early in life."

The work builds on research over the past couple of decades with experienced musicians using modern neuroimaging techniques to explore how the brain changes with dedicated training.

"Musicians have excellent listening skills," explains Leipold. "For example, they hear very subtle differences in pitch, and these enhanced auditory abilities are accompanied by functional differences in relevant brain regions when probed by a task."

Studies have also found that some brain regions of musicians are larger, such as those involved in music production.


Study: Generational trauma can change brain circuitry of an unborn baby

Sonogram baby
© Amital
Scientists have found that mothers who have suffered childhood trauma can pass this memory down to an unborn baby - scans showed altered brain circuitry in young children

The experience of generational trauma is often found in descendants of genocide survivors, or families which suffered from extreme poverty. It can be found in people that don't on paper appear to have suffered. Generational trauma is shadowy, often unknown to people who suffer it. The experience of trauma exists everywhere, in people who have faced things that pushed their minds to switch to survival mode.

"It can be silent, covert, and undefined, surfacing through nuances and inadvertently taught or implied throughout someone's life from an early age onward," licensed clinical psychologist and parenting evaluator Melanie English, PhD, explained to Health.


Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies offers prize money to find out if there is life after death

George Knapp interviews Robert Bigelow
George Knapp interviews Robert Bigelow.
Mystery Wire — Is there credible evidence to support the existence of an afterlife? A Las Vegas businessman says he will spend a million dollars to find out.

Las Vegas space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, known for his funding of UFO research projects, has launched a new project.

Today, the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies (BICS) announced a global essay contest. BICS is seeking input from scientists, religious scholars, consciousness researchers, and anyone else who can provide evidence of an afterlife.

As an incentive, BICS will award $500,000 for the top essay, $300,000 for the second best, and $150,000 for third place.

"The Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies, was formed to try to conduct research and facilitate research into the possibility of the survival of human consciousness beyond bodily death, Bigelow told Mystery Wire in an exclusive interview, "and, if that is true, then to explore what is the other side all about?"

Pocket Knife

The death of critical thought by 1,000 cuts

death of critical thinking
The death of critical thought has been a slow and painful process, one by 1,000 cuts rather than one ushered in overnight, but certainly one that is prevalent around the world today. One of the most difficult debates one can ever have with another person is to convince someone that he or she does not understand something that he or she firmly believes he or she understands. And such misguided delusions lead to delusional arguments:

"So, where did you go to school?"

Usually, such empty-calorie questions are posed by graduates from the "elite" schools around the world in the hopes that they can browbeat a person into conceding to them based on academic pedigree alone. Academic pedigree has nothing to do with critical thinking skills unless one attended a specialized school focused solely on critical thinking.

"What did you major in?"

Comment: While the above provides some needed common sense and good reasoning to current issues, it also points to the plethora of rhetorical fallacies that individuals - in every sphere of life - often resort to in order to convince others of their position or "truth".

As the article suggests, seeing how such fallacies are employed (especially towards social and political ends) can help empower us to see through the lies and, hopefully, make better decisions for ourselves and those in our care and sphere of influence.

If knowledge is truly power, and if the strength of our being and of our very souls is dependent upon our alignment with Truth and Objective Reality, then we'd do well to re-familiarize ourselves with the ways in which we are lied to on a more or less daily basis.

The list of known rhetorical fallacies below may be used as just such a tool in the effort to think more critically and strengthen ourselves for the Big Lies coming down the road. And by all means do think critically on the examples given to demonstrate each fallacy. They may not all be correct!
Rhetorical Fallacies

Rhetorical fallacies, or fallacies of argument, don't allow for the open, two-way exchange of ideas upon which meaningful conversations depend. Instead, they distract the reader with various appeals instead of using sound reasoning.

They can be divided into three categories:

1. Emotional fallacies unfairly appeal to the audience's emotions.

2. Ethical fallacies unreasonably advance the writer's own authority or character.

3. Logical fallacies depend upon faulty logic. Keep in mind that rhetorical fallacies often overlap.


Sentimental Appeals use emotion to distract the audience from the facts.
Example: The thousand of baby seals killed in the Exxon Valdez oil spill have shown us that oil is not a reliable energy source.

Red Herrings use misleading or unrelated evidence to support a conclusion.
Example: That painting is worthless because I don't recognize the artist.

Scare Tactics try to frighten people into agreeing with the arguer by threatening them or predicting unrealistically dire consequences.
Example: If you don't support the party's tax plan, you and your family will be reduced to poverty.

Bandwagon Appeals encourage an audience to agree with the writer because everyone else is doing so.
Example: Paris Hilton carries a small dog in her purse, so you should buy a hairless Chihuahua and put itin your Louis Vuitton.

Slippery Slope arguments suggest that one thing will lead to another, oftentimes with disastrous results.
Example: If you get a B in high school, you won't get into the college of your choice, and therefore willnever have a meaningful career.

Either/Or Choices reduce complicated issues to only two possible courses of action.
Example: The patent office can either approve my generator design immediately or say goodbye forever to affordable energy.

False Need arguments create an unnecessary desire for things.
Example: You need an expensive car or people won't think you're cool.


False Authority asks audiences to agree with the assertion of a writer based simply on his or her character or the authority of another person or institution who may not be fully qualified to offer that assertion.
Example: My high school teacher said it, so it must be true.

Using Authority Instead of Evidence occurs when someone offers personal authority as proof.
Example: Trust me - my best friend wouldn't do that.

Guilt by Association calls someone's character into question by examining the character of that person's associates.
Example: Sara's friend Amy robbed a bank; therefore, Sara is a delinquent.

Dogmatism shuts down discussion by asserting that the writer's beliefs are the only acceptable ones.
Example: I'm sorry, but I think penguins are sea creatures and that's that.

Moral Equivalence compares minor problems with much more serious crimes (or vice versa).
Example: These mandatory seatbelt laws are fascist.

Hominem arguments attack a person's character rather than that person's reasoning.
Example: Why should we think a candidate who recently divorced will keep her campaign promises?

Strawperson arguments set up and often dismantle easily refutable arguments in order to misrepresent an opponent's argument in order to defeat him or her
Example: A: We need to regulate access to handguns. B: My opponent believes that we should ignore the rights guaranteed to us as citizens of the United States by the Constitution. Unlike my opponent, I am a firm believer in the Constitution, and a proponent of freedom.


A Hasty Generalization draws conclusions from scanty evidence.
Example: I wouldn't eat at that restaurant — the only time I ate there, my entree was undercooked.

Faulty Causality (or Post Hoc) arguments confuse chronology with causation: one event can occur after another without being caused by it.
Example: A year after the release of the violent shoot-'em-up video game Annihilator, incidents of schoolviolence tripled — surely not a coincidence.

A Non Sequitur (Latin for "It doesn't follow") is a statement that does not logically relate to what comes before it. An important logical step may be missing in such a claim.
Example: If those protesters really loved their country, they wouldn't question the government.

An Equivocation is a half-truth, or a statement that is partially correct but that purposefully obscures the entire truth.
Example: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." - President Bill Clinton.

Begging the Question occurs when a writer simply restates the claim in a different way; such an argument is circular.
Example: His lies are evident from the untruthful nature of his statements.

A Faulty Analogy is an inaccurate, inappropriate, or misleading comparison between two things.
Example: Letting prisoners out on early release is like absolving them of their crimes.

Stacked Evidence represents only one side of the issue, thus distorting the issue.
Example: Cats are superior to dogs because they are cleaner, cuter, and more independent.
Further Resources: Lunsford, Andrea A. and John Ruszkiewicz. Everything's an Argument. 3rd ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's,

Undergraduate Writing Center, The University of Texas at Austin UWC
website: uwc.fac.utexas.edu
Last revised by Christine Acker, June 2006


Scientists shed light on how and why some people report 'hearing the dead'

Victorian spirit photography
© William Hope, c. 1920/National Media Museum Collection/Flickr
An example of Victorian spirit photography.
Spiritualist mediums might be more prone to immersive mental activities and unusual auditory experiences early in life, according to new research.

This might explain why some people and not others eventually adopt spiritualist beliefs and engage in the practice of 'hearing the dead', the study led by Durham University found.

Mediums who "hear" spirits are said to be experiencing clairaudient communications, rather than clairvoyant ("seeing") or clairsentient ("feeling" or "sensing") communications.

The researchers conducted a survey of 65 clairaudient spiritualist mediums from the Spiritualists' National Union and 143 members of the general population in the largest scientific study into the experiences of clairaudient mediums.

They found that these spiritualists have a proclivity for absorption - a trait linked to immersion in mental or imaginative activities or experience of altered states of consciousness.

Mediums are also are more likely to report experiences of unusual auditory phenomena, like hearing voices, often occurring early in life.

Many who experience absorption or hearing voices encounter spiritualist beliefs when searching for the meaning behind, or supernatural significance of, their unusual experiences, the researchers said.


Brain paralyzes you while you sleep

Researchers at the University of Tsukuba in Japan have discovered a group of neurons in the mouse brainstem that suppress unwanted movement during rapid eye movement sleep.

Mice in Research Lab
© University of Tsukuba
Tsukuba, Japan -- We laugh when we see Homer Simpson falling asleep while driving, while in church, and while even operating the nuclear reactor. In reality though, narcolepsy, cataplexy, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder are all serious sleep-related illnesses. Researchers at the University of Tsukuba led by Professor Takeshi Sakurai have found neurons in the brain that link all three disorders and could provide a target for treatments.

REM sleep correlates when we dream. Our eyes move back and forth, but our bodies remain still. This near-paralysis of muscles while dreaming is called REM-atonia, and is lacking in people with REM sleep behavior disorder. Instead of being still during REM sleep, muscles move around, often going as far as to stand up and jump, yell, or punch. Sakurai and his team set out to find the neurons in the brain that normally prevent this type of behavior during REM sleep.

Working with mice, the team identified a specific group of neurons as likely candidates. These cells were located in an area of the brain called the ventral medial medulla and received input from another area called the sublaterodorsal tegmental nucleus, or SLD. "The anatomy of the neurons we found matched what we know," explains Sakurai. "They were connected to neurons that control voluntary movements, but not those that control muscles in the eyes or internal organs. Importantly, they were inhibitory, meaning that they can prevent muscle movement when active." When the researchers blocked the input to these neurons, the mice began moving during their sleep, just like someone with REM sleep behavior disorder.