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Fri, 30 Oct 2020
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


New clues about 'travelling brain waves'

Looking for Something
© Tara Moore / Getty Images
Next time you can't find the car keys sitting right in front of you, try blaming your "travelling brain waves".

Scientists in North America believe these neural signals exist in the visual system of the awake brain and are organised to allow the brain to perceive objects that are faint or just difficult to see - or not.

"We've discovered that faint objects are much more likely to be seen if visualising the object is timed with the travelling brain waves," says John Reynolds from the Salk Institute, US, senior author of the team's paper in Nature.

"The waves actually facilitate perceptual sensitivity, so there are moments in time when you can see things that you otherwise could not. It turns out that these travelling brain waves are an information-gathering process leading to the perception of an object."

The waves have been studied during anaesthesia, Reynolds says, but dismissed as an artifact of it. To investigate whether they also exist in the brain when awake, he and colleagues from Salk and Canada's Western University developed computational techniques to track neuronal activity in the visual cortex moment by moment.


We learn faster when we aren't told what choices to make says new study

Making a CHoice
© Klaus Vedfelt Getty Images
In a perfect world, we would learn from success and failure alike. Both hold instructive lessons and provide needed reality checks that may safeguard our decisions from bad information or biased advice.

But, alas, our brain doesn't work this way. Unlike an impartial outcome-weighing machine an engineer might design, it learns more from some experiences than others. A few of these biases may already sound familiar: A positivity bias causes us to weigh rewards more heavily than punishments. And a confirmation bias makes us take to heart outcomes that confirm what we thought was true to begin with but discount those that show we were wrong. A new study, however, peels away these biases to find a role for choice at their core.

A bias related to the choices we make explains all the others, says Stefano Palminteri of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM), who conducted a study published in Nature Human Behaviour in August that examines this tendency. "In a sense we have been perfecting our understanding of this bias," he says.

Using disarmingly simple tasks, Palminteri's team found choice had a clear influence on decision-making. Participants in the study observed two symbols on a screen and then selected one with the press of a key to learn, through trial and error, which image gave the most points. At the end of the experiment, the subjects cashed in their points for money. By careful design, the results ruled out competing interpretations. For example, when freely choosing between the two options, people learned more quickly from the symbols associated with greater reward than those associated with punishment, which removed points. Though that finding resembled a positivity bias, this interpretation was ruled out by trials that demonstrated participants could also learn from negative outcomes. In trials that showed the outcomes for both symbols after a choice was made, subjects learned more from their chosen symbol when it gave a higher reward and when the unchosen one would deduct a point. That is, in this free-choice situation, they learned well from obtained gains and avoided losses.


New study says writing by hand makes kids smarter

New brain research shows that writing by hand helps children learn more and remember better. At the same time, schools are becoming more and more digital, and a European survey shows that Norwegian children spend the most time online of 19 countries in the EU.
Brain Research
© NTNU/Microsoft
Typing, clicking and watching occupy an increasing number of hours in the average child's day. But brain research shows that writing by hand helps people remember better and learn more.
Professor Audrey van der Meer at NTNU believes that national guidelines should be put into place to ensure that children receive at least a minimum of handwriting training.

Results from several studies have shown that both children and adults learn more and remember better when writing by hand.

Now another study confirms the same: choosing handwriting over keyboard use yields the best learning and memory.

"When you write your shopping list or lecture notes by hand, you simply remember the content better afterwards," Van der Meer says.


Epicurus on the role of suffering and pursuit of happiness

We've all been there. Fear, anxiety, depression, existential dread...these are common side effects of the human condition and part of life experience.

No matter where you have found yourself in history or what may be happening in global society, anxiety, depression and other mental and emotional challenges present themselves to us all at some point in our journey through life.

Greek philosopher Epicurus (341 - 270BC) recognized the suffering within himself and his fellow men and women. He established the Epicurean school of philosophy that promoted the Art of Simple Living.

Comment: Even though Epicurus started Epicureanism which was a school of philosophical thought, another well-known branch started around the same time called Stoicism. For more on that, see here:


Covid-19 infecting our DREAMS, says study - and researchers claim it hints at 'some form of SHARED MINDSCAPE'

nightmare monster sleep dream
© Getty Images / Grandfailure
Many of us consider it a living nightmare and, now, new research proves the Covid-19 pandemic is invading our dreams too. Moreover, it concludes that the similar themes of its test subjects' dreams point to a "shared" mindscape.

Researchers in Finland used artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the recent dreams of several hundred people, details of which had been recorded on a database. They found that Covid-19 had 'infected' over half the dreams that the participants described as 'bad'. The resulting paper, titled 'Pandemic Dreams: Network Analysis of Dream Content During the COVID-19 Lockdown', was published on the online open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology.

To carry out their study, the researchers crowdsourced sleep and stress data from a pool of some 4,000 participants during the sixth week of lockdown in Finland, 800 of whom also gave detailed information about and descriptions of their dreams.

Comment: It's hardly surprising that the current state of the world is giving people nightmares. But it does present a unique opportunity to see how collectively our dreams are shaped by the world around us.

See also:

SOTT Logo Radio

MindMatters: The Allure and Contagion of the Criminal Mind

criminal mind
In such works as Inside the Criminal Mind and The Myth of the Out of Character Crime criminologist Dr. Stanton E. Samenow conceptualized and gave credence to the specific traits and behaviors of the 'criminal mind'. Such works not only show the thinking processes involved in law-breaking and antisocial behavior, but also (however unintentionally) instruct the more normally oriented of us of the self-entitlement one can and should be wary of - within our own character structure.

Making use of the above, and as a point of departure, we look at how historical and current cultural landscapes have, and do still, feed the criminal mind. Through political indoctrination and ideology this sickness glorifies, popularizes and normalizes pathological thinking - and, like a virus, is emulated and adopted across all strata of society.

Join us this week on MindMatters as we take a gander at the criminal minds at work all around us; from popular culture, Mao's China, and the hallowed halls of government, to the streets of Portland, the boardrooms of multi-national corporations, and your next-door neighbor. Criminal minds and thinking are all around us - but we can learn to see the signs of them lest we get infected by their poison.

Running Time: 01:14:05

Download: MP3 — 67.8 MB

Life Preserver

Actions to take when you dislike yourself and your life

Negative Self Talk

Most of us have experienced that pivotal peak of pain, anger or frustration in which we want to scream "I hate my life." Yet, the feeling that a dark cloud has specifically settled over us and our experiences can feel pretty isolating. The truth is, no matter how singled out or overwhelmed we feel, and no matter what area we are struggling in, we are not alone. More than half of U.S. workers are unhappy with their job. One in 10 Americans struggles with depression. All of us have moments of utter despair. Escaping from this hopeless-seeming state may feel impossible. Yet, in reality, we are not doomed, and we are not powerless. No matter what our circumstances, we can all learn tools to help us emerge from the darkest moments in our lives.

In his 35 years of research, Dr. Salvatore Maddi of The Hardiness Institute has discovered that what predicts how well we will do in life, our relationships, careers, and so on is NOT how much money we have or even how many struggles we face. It's a matter of how hardy or emotionally resilient we are. We can all learn to become more resilient. We can implement tools that help shape how we see and experience the world around us. We can uncover what's at the root of our unhappiness and create a life that has personal meaning to us, a life that reflects our unique goals and desires.

Comment: There are a number of different terms used to describe this 'foreign installation'. Elan Golomb called it the Negative Introject, Carlos Castaneda the Flyers Mind. The false personality, etc. What becomes apparent is that the messages and beliefs it inculcates into human beings is damaging and prevents people from moving forward in life or actualizing their true potential. There are a number of different ways of reclaiming your sovereignty. Here are a few:


Extraordinary cases of children remembering their past lives and proving it

Children Remembering Their Past Lives
Reincarnation is a fascinating subject that has remained on the fringe of scientific study for too long. Fortunately, it has recently begun to attract serious interest from the scientific community. Decades ago, American astronomer and astrobiologist Carl Sagan stated that "there are three claims in the [parapsychology] field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study," with one being "that young children sometimes report details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation." Fast forward to today, and amazing discoveries have been made, as multiple researchers have taken it upon themselves to study this intriguing and inexplicable — at least from a materialist scientific worldview — phenomenon. Subjects like reincarnation belong to the non-material sciences, an area of research that deserves more attention. As Nikola Tesla himself said, "the day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence."

University of Virginia psychiatrist Jim Tucker is arguably the world's leading researcher on this topic, and in 2008, he published a review of cases that were suggestive of reincarnation in the journal Explore.

Comment: See also:


Personality traits are associated with cognitive resilience in older adults

brain pathway light model
Our aging brains collect tangles and sticky plaques that can interfere in our cognition and memory. But some older adults with this neuropathology have more cognitive resilience than others, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.

The reason: their personalities.

Personality traits were associated with cognitive resilience, which is the ability to better live with the neuropathology in the brain that causes dementia. Individuals with a greater tendency toward self-discipline, organization, diligence, high achievement and motivation -- a trait known as higher conscientiousness -- were associated with greater resilience.

Comment: What if, instead of intervening with medications in people with particular personality traits, people with disordered personality traits were given therapies to help change them, thereby avoiding the resulting disease state altogether?

See also:


Astrocytes may hold the key to why, how we sleep

Astrocytes in Brain
© Ashley Ingiosi, courtesy of Current Biology
Astrocytes in the brain expressing a fluorescent calcium indicator captured with a two-photon microscope.
Spokane, Wash. - A new study published today in the journal Current Biology suggests that star-shaped brain cells known as astrocytes could be as important to the regulation of sleep as neurons, the brain's nerve cells.

Led by researchers at Washington State University's Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, the study builds new momentum toward ultimately solving the mystery of why we sleep and how sleep works in the brain. The discovery may also set the stage for potential future treatment strategies for sleep disorders and neurological diseases and other conditions associated with troubled sleep, such as PTSD, depression, Alzheimer's disease, and autism spectrum disorder.

"What we know about sleep has been based largely on neurons," said lead author and postdoctoral research associate Ashley Ingiosi. Neurons, she explained, communicate through electrical signals that can be readily captured through electroencephalography (EEG). Astrocytes — a type of glial (or "glue") cell that interacts with neurons — do not use electrical signals and instead use a process known as calcium signaling to control their activity.

It was long thought that astrocytes — which can outnumber neurons by five to one — merely served a supportive role, without any direct involvement in behaviors and processes. Neuroscientists have only recently started to take a closer look at their potential role in various processes. And while a few studies have hinted that astrocytes may play a role in sleep, solid scientific tools to study their calcium activity have not been available until recently, Ingiosi said.