When doctors suspect that a patient might be in a “vegetative” state following a serious brain injury, they run a plethora of tests to confirm the diagnosis. These usually consist of asking patients questions about their environment, and all are aimed at determining their level of consciousness.”Looking at brain activity just isn’t the standard of care,” says Lorina Naci, a neuroscientist at the University of Western Ontario, in Canada. “And unfortunately patients with brain injuries are notoriously bad at answering questions,” so doctors sometimes miss clues that they might have seen if they had used other methods. Naci and her team came up with a test that combined an Alfred Hitchcock TV show with an fMRI machine and it just showed a patient with an unknown levels of consciousness was in fact capable of understanding the events happening around him — even though his initial injury had taken place over 16 years ago, and he had been unresponsive since then. In the study, Naci and her colleagues showed an eight-minute edit of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Bang! You’re dead” — a video that’s considered suspenseful and engaging — to 12 healthy participants, while monitoring their brain activity using an fMRI machine. Then, they repeated this experiment with two unconscious patients who had retained the ability to hold their eyes open for long periods of time. “All the healthy patients showed synchronized brain activity in the brain regions that are … used as a proxy for awareness,” Naci says. And so did the unresponsive male patient.
The results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Russell Poldrack, a cognitive neuroscientist at Stanford University who didn’t participate the study, comments that the main takeaway of this study is that there may be “big differences in the mental function of people who are labeled as ‘vegetative.’’”( ack: the Verge)
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Savant syndrome explains how a normal person develops prodigious abilities after a severe injury or disease. Other people have developed remarkable musical or artistic abilities, but Jason Padgett a furniture salesman from Tacoma, Washington, has acquired mathematical faculties. In 2002, two men savagely attacked Jason Padgett outside a karaoke bar, leaving him with a severe concussion and post-traumatic stress disorder. But the incident also turned Padgett into a mathematical genius who sees the world through the lens of geometry.
Padgett had very little interest in academics, developed the ability to visualize complex mathematical objects and physics concepts intuitively. The injury, while devastating, seems to have unlocked part of his brain that makes everything in his world appear to have a mathematical structure.
Now, researchers have figured out which parts of the man’s brain were rejiggered to allow for such savant skills, and the findings suggest such skills may lie dormant in all human brains.
Berit Brogaard, a philosophy professor now at the University of Miami, in Coral Gables, Florida, and her colleagues scanned Padgett’s brain with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to understand how he acquired his savant skills and suspects synesthesia is the cause for his suddenly acquired genius. (Synesthesia is a phenomenon in which one sense bleeds into another.)(ack:live science)
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Posted in current news, life, Science, tagged Benny Thomas, brain, brain-spotting, Chris Reid, current news, da vinci, environment, Julius Lothar Meyer, memory, Mendeleyev, Periodic Table of the elements, Pythagoras, relative, slime mold, Univ. of Sydney on October 10, 2012 |
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What exactly is the function of a brain? There are creatures that can very well get around without having a brain as we know the term.
“Even without a brain, a slime mold can essentially remember where it’s been, helping it navigate past complex obstacles, much like modern robots, researchers say.
These findings reveal how ancient organisms could solve certain problems well before complex brains evolved, scientists added.
Slime molds were once thought to be a kind of fungus, but later work revealed that these puddles of goo are part of a motley group of microbes known as protists. The yellow slime mold the investigators studied, Physarum polycephalum, is actually a giant single cell up to more than 1 square foot (900 square centimeters) in size with up to several million identical cell nuclei inside.
“For a single-celled organism, it has shown remarkable abilities, such as solving mazes, anticipating periodic events, and even making irrational decisions like we do,” said researcher Chris Reid, a complex systems biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia. “It is truly a remarkable creature that is redefining our notions of intelligence.”
This slime mold leaves a thick mat of translucent slime behind it as it moves, ooze that Physarum later avoids. As such, the researchers thought the slime mold might use this gel trail as a kind of memory.
“The key misunderstanding might be that slime mold has a memory like we do,” Reid told LiveScience. “I can’t stress enough that the slime mold is incapable of creating, storing or recalling memories like ours, because it does not have a brain such as we are used to think, even neurons.”
The scientists detailed their findings online Oct. 8 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.(LiveScience.com of Oct 9.
Memory of slime mold is the trail it leaves behind. It is like the breadcrumbs by which Hansel and Gretel ensure their safe return from the deep recesses of the forest. It is the memory for future. The bread trail was meant for their return from the forest.
Defining memory from our own abilities that a brain is capable of, is therefore erroneous. Memory need not necessarily remain solely within the brains was shown in the case of slime mold. Memory could be drawn from external circumstances as well. In order to explain some extraordinary ways in which humans have arrived at solutions almost identical without having the means to pick each others brains may seem incredible. Now that the slime mold have shown the possibility do we unconsciously rely on external influences?
Consider the Periodic Table of the elements. From the time Pythagoras suggested certain harmony of seven planets as ‘celestial’ there has been attempts to explain his mystical leap into the unknown in many other areas. Take Chemistry for example. Why the elements when numbered in the order of atomic weights tended to repeat fairly similar properties at every seventh element like notes in a musical scale? Just as the Russian scientist Mendeleyev worked out the Periodic Table one German chemist by name Julius Lothar Meyer also had independently conceived the same periodic Law. Is it just coincidence or memory, collective or better still in the public domain of life forms, supplied the solution?
In human context do we not create memories for future as well? da Vinci on observing the sycamore seeds making through the air got an idea for helicopters. Only that the technology was not developed to make it a reality. Memory in our universe must be relative: complex multicellular organisms exercise their brain on the memory impressed in the environment just as matriarchal elephants can dig up salt and other needful minerals in the years of drought. These show their young so they may in future similarly leave a trail for their young. Memory that is more enduring in short is external and is passed from one age to another to which so many could access. If we have been using wars as settling difference indeed wars shall come uppermost when nations consider a way out.
Coming back to da Vinci what he set down on paper bears a milestone in the development of flight.
(ack: Music of the Spheres by Guy Murchie/Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston/1961-regarding the Periodic Law)
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Posted in philosophy, Science, tagged Benny Thomas, brain, Donald Duck, free will, L. Ron Hubbard, mind, natural man, philosophy, religion,, Rupert Murdoch, Schopenhauer, scientology, unconscious, unconscious mind on July 6, 2012 |
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The unconscious mind (often simply called the unconscious) is all the processes of the mind which are not available to consciousness. The term unconscious mind was coined by the 18th century German romantic philosopher Friedrich Schelling and later introduced into English by the poet and essayist Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The concept gained prominence due to the influence of Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. The unconscious mind can be seen as the source of dreams and automatic thoughts. (Wikipedia)
Some actions – like moving a finger – are initiated and processed unconsciously at first, and only after enter consciousness.
Philosopher Walter Jackson Freeman III writes “our intentional actions continually flow into the world, changing the world and the relations of our bodies to it. This dynamic system is the self in each of us, it is the agency in charge, not our awareness, which is constantly trying to keep up with what we do.*” To Freeman, the power of intention and action can be independent of awareness. ( * Freeman, Walter J. How Brains Make Up Their Minds. New York: Columbia UP, 2000. Page 139.)
We think and act rationally but do we understand what it implies? One who wants to kick the habit of smoking may linger on wondering when or how to do it. He knows it is slowly incinerating his lungs and one day he quits it altogether. Suppose the coming weekend he is in company and they are headed towards a bar. If he chooses to sit with them in the smoking section he may excuse himself that he did not want to cut their pleasure of a smoke. Or was it he was craving a secondary smoke and his mind had tricked him? Our mind is a divided house. We may say we keep an open house. Only that when we want to empty our bowels we keep the door shut. Open house in short is not always what it says. Our mind is not what we like to believe. We say we are rational. Are we really? How come then we irrationally succumb to prophets and dolts alike. We accept heaven for someone else’s word. Similarly we listen to some fool’s prattle and when he says,’such and such race is subhuman’ we accept it without a murmur. It happened in Nazi Germany. Or a half-baked science fiction writer cobbles up Scientology ‘weird evil cult’ as Rupert Murdoch said the other day) celebrities are ready to join. Our rational mind knows it is a moron’s path to bliss as one who take bath salts for kicks. The nature of mind is such that people are dying to believe and ‘weirder the better.’ There has never been a proof of religion as consistently put to test and found true. Yet why people still harp on it? Our brain is a divided house.
‘I can make Donald Duck pass for a Deity and have churches built for worship. If so why don’t I do it? The trouble is I may in the end come to believe myself in the joke.‘ I consider that as truly tragic.
PS Philosopher Schopenhauer signified this unconscious part of mind as the Will. We seek pleasures from within ourselves and even if these are less honorable we still pursue it. Then we rationally explain our actions. We are not seeking a course because reasons are already existing outside ourselves.
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Posted in philosophy, tagged Benny Thomas, brain, Cosmic Mind, free will, iPad, neuroscience, progress, rational conduct, religion,, The Accidental Mind on April 12, 2012 |
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What is evolution but adapting things that are already existing? Thus we have some primitive parts from lizards and jellyfish.As a result our brain at its best has to account for what it is built upon.
“Although the things it can do are very wonderful and impressive, its design is very poor engineering in many respects,” says David Linden, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the author of The Accidental Mind.
These parts may have been OK for their original owners, he says, but they aren’t ideal for us.
Take brain cells, for example.
“They are slow. They are inefficient. They leak signals to their neighbors,”
We’re still using a communication system developed 600 million years ago by jellyfish.
Deep Down, We’re Lizards.
Jellyfish don’t have a brain, but they were the first animal to have any sort of nervous system. It’s a loose network of nerves called a “nerve net,” says Chet Sherwood, who studies brain evolution at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Evolution’s tinkering gave lizards the brain they needed to hunt and survive in a tough world, and our brains still have that ancient wiring.
The brain of an adult human is about three times the size of a gorilla brain.
In evolutionary terms big brain gave our human ancestors bigger volume for brain and it is still evolving and at the root of it we still have the reptilian brain.
Brain has two halves like walnut. These are shot through two worlds: conscious and unconscious mind. our conscious self does not initiate all behaviours. Instead, it is somehow alerted to behaviours that the rest of the brain and body are already planning and performing. Also keep in mind conscious experience does play some moderating role. We think rationally and we speak as though we understand what we speak about. But do we?
Take the matter of religion.
Religion relies on mystery and requires certain rituals and symbols to maintain this mystery. People are ready to defend their faith to death. On the other hand what about the fascination with iPad or iPhone for which people are ready to kill themselves? Or do desperate things disproportionate to the intrinsic value of objects themselves, and sell their kidneys as one did in China only last week? People queue through the night, despite the inclement weather to be the first to grab when shops are opened for business. Are we not seeing Progress masquerading religion in this case? Some Nerd who cannot do anything else makes a jargon and creates applications into program and lo and behold, he is looked upon with wonder. He is a modern shaman. Craze for latest gadgets is controlled by which part of our being? Unconscious mind or Rational mind?
Our brain evolved over some 6 millennia as I mentioned earlier is not the best,- and communication system leaks, and we have no idea which part of it is triggering us?
Brain is our thinking part but it depends how we want to interpret external impressions that we see.
In an earlier post I wrote about Cosmic Mind. We make our experience as basis and draw necessary conclusions from these events around us. If we are thinking from our unconscious mind a little and from conscious mind we cannot tell.
When we look into brain we are going down in time,
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