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Sat, 10 Apr 2021
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New blueprint of brain connections uncovers extensive reach of central regulator

Brain Axons
© Lauren McElvain / Kleinfeld lab / UC San Diego
Shown here in green are branches, or axons, from cells in the substantia nigra region that connect to the midbrain. Red spots label where cells connect.
Thousands of our daily activities, from making coffee to taking a walk to saying hello to a neighbor, are made possible through an ancient collection of brain structures tucked away near the center of the cranium.

The cluster of neurons known as the basal ganglia is a central hub for regulating a vast array of routine motor and behavior functions. But when signaling in the basal ganglia is weakened or broken, debilitating movement and psychiatric disorders can emerge, including Parkinson's disease, Tourette's syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Despite its central importance in controlling behavior, the specific, detailed paths across which information flows from the basal ganglia to other brain regions have remained poorly charted. Now, researchers at the University of California San Diego, Columbia University's Zuckerman Institute and their colleagues have generated a precise map of brain connectivity from the largest output nucleus of the basal ganglia, an area known as the substantia nigra pars reticulata, or SNr. The findings offer a blueprint of the area's architecture that revealed new details and a surprising level of influence connected to the basal ganglia.

The results, spearheaded by Assistant Project Scientist Lauren McElvain and carried out in the Neurophysics Laboratory of Professor David Kleinfeld at UC San Diego, and the laboratory of Zuckerman Institute Principal Investigator Rui Costa, are published April 5 in the journal Neuron.

Arrow Up

We have many more than five senses — here's how to make the most of them

hand in field
We're all familiar with the phrase "healthy body, healthy mind". But this doesn't just refer to physical fitness and muscle strength: for a healthy mind, we need healthy senses, too. Fortunately, there's now a wealth of evidence that we can train our many senses, to improve not only how we use our bodies, but how we think and behave, as well as how we feel. Trapped as we are in our own "perceptual bubbles", it can be hard to appreciate not only that other people sense things differently — but that so can we, if we only put in a little effort.

But if we're going to make the most of using and improving our senses to enhance our wellbeing, we have to consider more than sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Aristotle's desperately outdated five sense model may still be popular, but it vastly under-estimates our extraordinary human capacity for sensing.

Proprioception

Proprioception — the sensing of the location of our body parts in space — has been relatively ignored, but it's critical for confidence in using our bodies. If you now shut your eyes, and extend a leg, it's thanks to this sense that you know exactly where your leg is. To go for a run, then, or work out in the gym, and not fall or injure yourself, you need a good sense of proprioception. Our sedentary lifestyles are a threat to this sense (and the Covid-19 lockdowns certainly did not help). But climbing trees, walking along balance beams, navigating obstacles, crossing stepping stones (which you can simulate at home, using small mats placed on the floor) are all proprioceptively demanding, and so train this sense. According to research led by a team at the University at North Florida, these kinds of exercises not only improve physical coordination but also working memory.

Bug

The "mind viruses" creating social justice warriors

mind virus
Gad Saad, a psychologist who specializes in applying evolutionary biology to the study of consumer behavior, has written a book of great value, and moreover, it is a book that required great courage to write. The book is filled with interesting ideas, and I have space here to mention only a few of them.

What most draws me to the book is that Saad has a philosophical turn of mind, and as such, he is concerned with fashionable attempts to deny the existence of objective truth. He says,
The central focus of this book is to explore another set of pathogens that are as dangerous [as biological parasites] to the human condition: parasitic pathogens of the human mind. These are composed of thought patterns, belief systems, attitudes, and mindsets that parasitize one's ability to think properly and accurately. Once these mind viruses take hold of one's neuronal circuitry, the afflicted victim loses the ability to use reason, logic, and science to navigate the world. Instead, one sinks into an abyss of infinite lunacy best defined by a dogged and proud departure from reality, common sense, and truth. (p. 17)

Comment: See also:


SOTT Logo Radio

MindMatters: Campy Covers, Deep Psychology: Discover a Most Surprising Oasis of Virtue and Values

romance indiana jones
At this time of sweeping societal change, ideological propaganda is bombarding western culture everywhere one looks. No tradition or institution is spared, particularly when it comes to our value systems and the most basic ideas of what it means to be human: family, relationships, sex. The cult of wokeness must be adhered to, or else. Refuse to comply and you risk being labeled, demonized, cancelled. But the onslaught of pseudo-reality has one survivor, hidden in plain sight for all this time: the regency romance novel.

Rakes and hoydens, scandals and scoundrels. Sometimes virtue can be found in the most unlikely places. So this week on MindMatters, discover a genre that, to our delight and surprise, is a rich source of not only entertainment, insight and knowledge, but most importantly, also a wellspring of traditional values that has the power to counteract the mind-virus - and potentially help us to grow.


Running Time: 01:21:28

Download: MP3 — 77.4 MB


Bulb

Blood and soul: An essay in metagenetics

metagenics
"We are survival machines-robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes." This is Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene. His selfish gene theory, he remarked in 1989, "has become textbook orthodoxy," because it is merely "a logical outgrowth of orthodox Neo-Darwinism, but expressed as a novel image."

The image is misleading. Dawkins doesn't literally believe that genes are selfish entities with a will to replicate themselves. If they were, they would be like animating souls. In the Darwinian world where Dawkins lives, genes are not souls, but merely molecules ruled by the determinist laws of chemistry. And they are the result of a series of chemical accidents over millions of years, starting from the first self-replicating protein.

Notwithstanding scientists' arrogant claims, the function of genes remains highly mysterious — and overrated. If genes did what the Dawkinses tell us, we would be 99 percent identical to chimps. We are not. On the chemical level perhaps, but we are not chemical beings. We are spiritual beings. Obviously, the hardware of genetics does not explain the totality of our inborn ancestral inheritance.

"Blood" is the name people used to give to the spiritual qualities that pass from generation to generation, before they knew anything about DNA. The idea is that we are genealogical beings, spiritually as well as physically. How does it work? Do we have an ancestral or a racial collective soul? How do "blood" or "genes" account for the sense of kinship that forms the basis of organic societies — what Ludwig Gumplowicz called the "syngenic feeling"?

Comment: See also:


Cult

Michel Foucault, most-cited academic ever and father of woke ideology, outed as pedophile


Comment: If you've ever wondered why the fruits of post-modernism/neo-Marxism/leftist ideology are so deviant and devoid of true humanity, that's because the movement (really, a pseudo-religious cult) is and always has been completely rotten, from the top down...


Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault: all his high-falutin' ideas were just a mask for his deviancy - his fundamentally inhuman 'true self'.
The philosopher Michel Foucault, a beacon of today's "woke" ideology, has become the latest prominent French figure to face a retrospective reckoning for sexually abusing children.

A fellow intellectual, Guy Sorman, has unleashed a storm among Parisian "intellos" with his claim that Foucault, who died in 1984 aged 57, was a paedophile rapist who had sex with Arab children while living in Tunisia in the late 1960s.

Sorman, 77, said he had visited Foucault with a group of friends on an Easter holiday trip to the village of Sidi Bou Said, near Tunis, where the philosopher was living in 1969. "Young children were running after Foucault saying 'what about me? take me, take me'," he recalled last week in an interview with The Sunday Times.

"They were eight, nine, ten years old, he was throwing money at them and would say 'let's meet at 10pm at the usual place'." This, it turned out, was the local cemetery: "He would make love there on the gravestones with young boys. The question of consent wasn't even raised."

Comment: Just one of them in a position of influence does tremendous damage (and not just to young boys in Tunisia; think how many tens of millions of Western 'intellectual' minds Foucault's influence warped). By the time you have large clusters of them dominating media, academia, government and science, they can literally destroy civilization.


Info

New study says hypnosis changes the way our brain processes information

Spiral Stairwell
© University of Turku
In a new study, researchers from the University of Turku showcased that the way our brain processes information is fundamentally altered during hypnosis. The research helps to understand how hypnosis produces changes in a hypnotised person's behaviour and subjective experiences.

During a normal waking state, information is processed and shared by various parts within our brain to enable flexible responses to external stimuli. Researchers from the University of Turku, Finland, found that during hypnosis the brain shifted to a state where individual brain regions acted more independently of each other.

- In a normal waking state, different brain regions share information with each other, but during hypnosis this process is kind of fractured and the various brain regions are no longer similarly synchronized, describes researcher Henry Railo from the Department of Clinical Neurophysiology at the University of Turku.

The finding shows that the brain may function quite differently during hypnosis when compared to a normal waking state. This is interesting because the extent to which hypnosis modifies neural processing has been hotly debated in the field. The new findings also help to better understand which types of changes and mechanisms may explain the experiential and behavioural alterations attributed to hypnosis, such as liability to suggestions.

The study focused on a single person who has been extensively studied earlier and been shown to react strongly to hypnotic suggestions. During hypnosis, this person can experience phenomena that are not typically possible in a normal waking state, such as vivid and controlled hallucinations.

Even though these findings cannot be generalised before a replication has been conducted on a larger sample of participants, we have demonstrated what kind of changes happen in the neural activity of a person who reacts to hypnosis particularly strongly, clarifies Jarno Tuominen, Senior Researcher at the Department of Psychology and Speech-Language Pathology.

Vader

The Emerging Totalitarian Dystopia: Interview With Professor Mattias Desmet

Few phenomena have had a profound impact on a global level as quickly as the current corona outbreak. In no time, human life has been completely reorganised. I asked Mattias Desmet, Psychotherapist and Professor of Clinical Psychology at Ghent University, how this is possible, what the consequences are, and what we can expect in the future.
covid police lockdown
Almost a year after the start of the corona crisis, how is the mental health of the population?

MD: For the time being, there are few figures that show the evolution of possible indicators such as the intake of antidepressants and anxiolytics or the number of suicides. But it is especially important to place mental well-being in the corona crisis in its historical continuity. Mental health had been declining for decades. There has long been a steady increase in the number of depression and anxiety problems and the number of suicides. And in recent years there has been an enormous growth in absenteeism due to psychological suffering and burnouts. The year before the corona outbreak, you could feel this malaise growing exponentially. This gave the impression that society was heading for a tipping point where a psychological 'reorganization' of the social system was imperative. This is happening with corona. Initially, we noticed people with little knowledge of the virus conjure up terrible fears, and a real social panic reaction became manifested. This happens especially if there is already a strong latent fear in a person or population.

Info

Reading minds with Ultrasound

What is happening in your brain as you are scrolling through this page? In other words, which areas of your brain are active, which neurons are talking to which others, and what signals are they sending to your muscles?
Ultrasound Mind Reading
© S. Norman
A diagram illustrating how a new type of ultrasound is used to image a motor-planning region of the brain in non-human primates. The neural activity shown in those brain images was then decoded to correspond with movements. This process was shown to accurately predict movements even before they happened.
Mapping neural activity to corresponding behaviors is a major goal for neuroscientists developing brain-machine interfaces (BMIs): devices that read and interpret brain activity and transmit instructions to a computer or machine. Though this may seem like science fiction, existing BMIs can, for example, connect a paralyzed person with a robotic arm; the device interprets the person's neural activity and intentions and moves the robotic arm correspondingly.

A major limitation for the development of BMIs is that the devices require invasive brain surgery to read out neural activity. But now, a collaboration at Caltech has developed a new type of minimally invasive BMI to read out brain activity corresponding to the planning of movement. Using functional ultrasound (fUS) technology, it can accurately map brain activity from precise regions deep within the brain at a resolution of 100 micrometers (the size of a single neuron is approximately 10 micrometers).

The new fUS technology is a major step in creating less invasive, yet still highly capable, BMIs.

"Invasive forms of brain-machine interfaces can already give movement back to those who have lost it due to neurological injury or disease," says Sumner Norman, postdoctoral fellow in the Andersen lab and co-first author on the new study. "Unfortunately, only a select few with the most severe paralysis are eligible and willing to have electrodes implanted into their brain. Functional ultrasound is an incredibly exciting new method to record detailed brain activity without damaging brain tissue. We pushed the limits of ultrasound neuroimaging and were thrilled that it could predict movement. What's most exciting is that fUS is a young technique with huge potential — this is just our first step in bringing high performance, less invasive BMI to more people."

The new study is a collaboration between the laboratories of Richard Andersen, James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience and Leadership Chair and director of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Brain-Machine Interface Center in the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech; and of Mikhail Shapiro, professor of chemical engineering and Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator. Shapiro is an affiliated faculty member with the Chen Institute.

Info

Some genes come to life in the brain after death says new research

Zombie Cells
© Dr. Jeffrey Loeb/UIC
‘Zombie’ cells come to life after death of the human brain.
In the hours after we die, certain cells in the human brain are still active. Some cells even increase their activity and grow to gargantuan proportions, according to new research from the University of Illinois Chicago.

In a newly published study in the journal Scientific Reports, the UIC researchers analyzed gene expression in fresh brain tissue — which was collected during routine brain surgery — at multiple times after removal to simulate the post-mortem interval and death. They found that gene expression in some cells actually increased after death.

These 'zombie genes' — those that increased expression after the post-mortem interval — were specific to one type of cell: inflammatory cells called glial cells. The researchers observed that glial cells grow and sprout long arm-like appendages for many hours after death.

"That glial cells enlarge after death isn't too surprising given that they are inflammatory and their job is to clean things up after brain injuries like oxygen deprivation or stroke," said Dr. Jeffrey Loeb, the John S. Garvin Professor and head of neurology and rehabilitation at the UIC College of Medicine and corresponding author on the paper.

What's significant, Loeb said, is the implications of this discovery — most research studies that use postmortem human brain tissues to find treatments and potential cures for disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease, do not account for the post-mortem gene expression or cell activity.

"Most studies assume that everything in the brain stops when the heart stops beating, but this is not so," Loeb said. "Our findings will be needed to interpret research on human brain tissues. We just haven't quantified these changes until now."