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General anesthesia and normal sleep affect brain in an amazingly similar way as consciousness fades

Brain Studies
© University of Turku
What happens in the brain when our conscious awareness of the surrounding world and of ourselves fades during general anesthesia and normal sleep? This fundamental question was studied with novel experimental designs and functional brain imaging by Finnish scientists. They succeeded in separating the specific changes related to consciousness from the more widespread overall effects, commonly misinterpreted as the neural correlates of consciousness. The effects of anesthesia and sleep on brain activity turned out to be surprisingly similar. These novel findings point to a common central core brain network that is fundamental for human consciousness.

Explaining the biological basis of human consciousness is one of the greatest challenges of science. While the loss and return of consciousness, as regulated by drugs or physiological sleep, have been employed as model systems in the study of human consciousness, previous research results have been confounded by many experimental simplifications.

- One major challenge has been to design a set-up, where brain data in different states differ only in respect to consciousness. Our study overcomes many previous confounders, and for the first time, reveals the neural mechanisms underlying connected consciousness, says Harry Scheinin, Docent of Pharmacology, Anesthesiologist, and the Principal Investigator of the study from the University of Turku, Finland.

Hammer

The 'F Scale': Theodore W. Adorno's 'authoritarian personality' revisited

Theodore W. Adorno
Revisiting Theodore W. Adorno's work on the 'authoritarian personality' and the 'F Scale' reveals that in 2020, it is actually liberals, progressives and the so called 'Left' that manifest 8 out of the 9 most problematic, antidemocratic and authoritarian attitudes.

The theory of an authoritarian personality was introduced in the 1930s in an attempt to explain the mass appeal of fascism and right-wing ideologies. It came to life in the wake of a sharp rise in the popularity of fascist movements in many European societies in the inter-war period.

At the time, many European ideologists and intellectuals were deeply inspired by Marx and Freud. Marxism predicted that the great depression would translate into a vast shift in working class conciousness, materialising into a global socialist revolution. Of course, this didn't happen. The economic crisis resulted instead in mass support for nationalist and fascist movements that were often deeply anti-Semitic.

The rationale behind the above deviation from the Marxist prophecy borrowed some Freudian theoretical mechanisms. 'People are authoritarians' was the given 'explanation': under certain threatening conditions 'authoritarian characters' are emotionally and cognitively vulnerable to the appeal of fascist and nationalist ideologies.

During the 1930s a score of Jewish Germanic intellectuals mainly (but not at all) associated with the Frankfurt School (e.g., Wilhelm Reich) were committed to point at the psychological and socio-economic conditions responsible for the making of the Authoritarian personality.

Family

Have we got it all wrong? Depression as a survival strategy

sad, depression, loneliness

Depression is a courageous biological strategy to help us survive
For generations, we have seen depression as an illness, an unnecessary deviation from normal functioning. It's an idea that makes sense because depression causes suffering and even death. But what if we've got it all wrong? What if depression is not an aberration at all, but an important part of our biological defense system?

More and more researchers across specialties are questioning our current definitions of depression. Biological anthropologists have argued that depression is an adaptive response to adversity and not a mental disorder. In October, the British Psychological Society published a new report on depression, stating that "depression is best thought of as an experience, or set of experiences, rather than as a disease." And neuroscientists are focusing on the role of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) in depression. According to the Polyvagal Theory of the ANS, depression is part of a biological defense strategy meant to help us survive.

Comment:


Red Flag

Psychopathy and the Origins of Totalitarianism

blurry people crowd

Comment: It looks like James Lindsay, coauthor of Cynical Theories (with Helen Pluckrose), has read Andrew Lobaczewski's Political Ponerology. By our estimate, he's one of the first prominent academics to do so, and to write anything substantial about it (though without citing it, unfortunately). Given his background tackling Critical Theory, he's the right guy for the job, and his treatment below is well worth reading. We have added a few comments correlating some of his ideas with the terminology in Lobaczewski's work.


Many of the greatest horrors of the history of humanity owe their occurrence solely to the establishment and social enforcement of a false reality. With gratitude to the Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper and his important 1970 essay "Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power" for the term and idea, we can refer to these alternative realities as ideological pseudo-realities.

Pseudo-realities, being false and unreal, will always generate tragedy and evil on a scale that is at least proportional to the reach of their grip on power — which is their chief interest — whether social, cultural, economic, political, or (particularly) a combination of several or all of these. So important to the development and tragedies of societies are these pseudo-realities when they arise and take root that it is worth outlining their basic properties and structure so that they can be identified and properly resisted before they result in sociopolitical calamities — up to and including war, genocide, and even civilizational collapse, all of which can take many millions of lives and can ruin many millions more in the vain pursuit of a fiction whose believers are, or are made, sufficiently intolerant.

The Nature of Pseudo-realities

Pseudo-realities are, simply put, false constructions of reality. It is hopefully obvious that among the features of pseudo-realities is that they must present a plausible but deliberately wrong understanding of reality. They are cult "realities" in the sense that they are the way that members of cults experience and interpret the world — both social and material — around them. We should immediately recognize that these deliberately incorrect interpretations of reality serve two related functions. First, they are meant to mold the world to accommodate small proportions of people who suffer pathological limitations on their abilities to cope with reality as it is. Second, they are designed to replace all other analyses and motivations with power, which these essentially or functionally psychopathic individuals will contort and deform to their permanent advantage so long as their pseudo-real regime can last.

Comment: For more on this topic, see:


Blue Planet

The 16 facial expressions most common to emotional situations worldwide

Alan Cowen

(Click to enlarge) Facial expressions of emotion transcend geography and culture worldwide, new study shows. Credit:
Whether at a birthday party in Brazil, a funeral in Kenya or protests in Hong Kong, humans all use variations of the same facial expressions in similar social contexts, such as smiles, frowns, grimaces and scowls, a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, shows.

The findings, published today, Dec. 16, in the journal Nature, confirm the universality of human emotional expression across geographic and cultural boundaries at a time when nativism and populism are on the rise around the world.

"This study reveals how remarkably similar people are in different corners of the world in how we express emotion in the face of the most meaningful contexts of our lives," said study co-lead author Dacher Keltner, a UC Berkeley psychology professor.

Comment: Despite the closing remarks, it has probably got nothing to do with Darwinism: And check out SOTT radio's:


Arrow Up

Researchers could induce illusions on demand

Hallucinations
© Jane Khomi / Getty Images
Studying hallucinations is tricky business, and it can be distressing for people with conditions such as schizophrenia or dementia who have them.

Cognitive neuroscientists say they can get around this by inducing hallucinations on demand in people from the general population.

Hallucinations "can be induced in almost anyone at any time", they write in an opinion piece published in the journal Philosophical Transactions B.

Because hallucinations are a private experience that can't be independently verified, researchers usually rely on asking patients to introspect and subjectively describe their experience.

This can be biased and problematic, explains Sebastian Rogers from Australia's University of NSW: someone with dementia, for instance, may have trouble accurately reporting the episode.

They also tend to be complex and unpredictable. Visual hallucinations, for example, can include a range of different elements such as humans, faces, animals, landscapes, shapes, colours and movement.

And it can be hard to tell when someone will start or stop hallucinating, making it very difficult to study in the lab.

Bulb

How close is too close?

Władysławowo beach
© Photo by Kacper Kowalski/Panos Pictures
Władysławowo beach, Poland, August 2020.
Heini Hediger, a noted 20th-century Swiss biologist and zoo director, knew that animals ran away when they felt unsafe. But when he set about designing and building zoos himself, he realised he needed a more precise understanding of how animals behaved when put in proximity to one another. Hediger decided to investigate the flight response systematically, something that no one had done before.

Light Saber

Dissenting voices: Finding courage to speak against your assailant

lab coat
A man in a white lab coat with advanced degrees in medicine sexually abused hundreds of young girl gymnasts in his office, sometimes while their parents stood nearby. Michigan State University professor and USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar penetrated girls, most younger than 16, some younger than 13, with an ungloved hand, saying he was examining them internally, doing check-ups necessary for them to perform as young athletes. This doctor continued his abuse of hundreds of girls over many years.

For years, girls told other coaches, the police, university administrators, psychologists. They repeatedly told USA gymnastics officials. And yet, Nassar was not stopped until his arrest in 2016. The girls obeyed. Hundreds of parents kept taking their daughters to see him. Girls must have complained. Some probably vomited quietly in the bathroom later or cried by themselves. They kept competing in gymnastics events.

How was this doctor able to do what he did over these many years?

Well-meaning parents, coaches, teachers, attending nurses; hundreds of adults surrounded this man while he violated young girl athletes in plain view. He was able to do this because he was an "expert", a "scientist", someone whom others were certain knew... more than they did... what was best.

He wore a white lab coat and had diplomas on his office walls. He had a high salary, a long career, a staff, and institutions behind him.

Arrow Up

'Collective traumatic experience': People report more anger and sadness in their dreams during pandemic

The sleeper
© Getty Images/EMS-FORSTER-PRODUCTIONS
The pandemic sleeper
A new study examining the impact of Covid-19 on our dreams has found that anger, sadness and hygiene are more commonly reported emotions and themes than before, as real-world fears manifest in the unconscious world.

Previous research suggested that dreams are a continuation of our waking reality - a long-suspected theory about the nocturnal neverland humans inevitably enter.

Confirming these earlier findings, this new research yields additional insights into the impact of social distancing and more rigid hand-washing practices on our subconscious. "These results corroborate the hypothesis that pandemic dreams reflect mental suffering, fear of contagion, and important changes in daily habits that directly impact socialisation," write the researchers.

They studied 239 dream reports submitted by 67 different people in Brazil before and after lockdowns between the months of March and April, when the pandemic truly began to take hold worldwide.

Wolf

The perfect fictional psychopath: We Need to Talk About Kevin

broken mirror psychopathy
© Getty
Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Stephen McWilliams observes that author Lionel Shiver and film director Lynne Ramsay's dramatic thrillers raise important questions about psychopathy and society and the enduring 'nature versus nurture' debate on where evil comes from

It is difficult not to empathise with a child in any novel, even if they seem to tick most of the boxes for psychopathy. Twelve-year-old Josephine Leonides murders her grandfather and her nanny in Agatha Christie's novel The Crooked House (1949), yet most readers would feel at least a pang of sorrow for her in the end.

Alas, the same cannot be said for Kevin Khatchadourian, the protagonist in Lionel Shiver's dramatic thriller We Need to Talk About Kevin. Many readers will be familiar with this book; it sold more than a million copies and garnered its author the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction in 2005. It was subsequently adapted for film by Director Lynne Ramsay and starred Tilda Swinton.

The film premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was screened in September of the same year at the Toronto International Film Festival to much critical acclaim.