Short-term memory is key to psychological understanding

Short-term memory is where the rubber of human psychology meets the road.

It is the active part of human psychology as it functions in real-time.

New research indicates that the thalamus, which relays almost all sensory information, is central to the operation of short-term memory. Without the thalamus, short-term memory does not occur.

See Maintenance of persistent activity in a frontal thalamocortical loop and New research: short-term memory depends on the thalamus for background.

Short-term memory is a changeable “program” that deals with and responds to the world quickly. It is the main determinant of how “you” are in the moment.

Short-term memory maintains persistent activity (in the brain/body) by relaying its components through the thalamus in response to real-time conditions.

If we discover a mistake in our short-term memory, it is typically very easy to change. For example, if you realize you forgot to set your clocks ahead, your short-term memory will quickly adjust. You might feel a little dumb for a moment, but usually it is no big deal.

This example shows how our short-term memory is connected to long-term memories, to planning, expectation, and our general sense of the world around us and what we are doing in it.

FIML is an effective form of psychotherapy largely because it focuses on the short-term memory.

By targeting short-term memory loads, FIML helps partners discover how their psychologies are actually functioning in real-time during real-world situations.

Correcting mistakes in short-term memory immediately changes how we function.

Changing the same mistake several times very often removes it entirely from the long-term memory, from the overall functioning of the individual.

New research: short-term memory depends on the thalamus

Karel Svoboda, lead author of the study, says:

It’s like a game of ping-pong. One excites the other, and the other then excites the first, and so on and so forth. This back and forth maintains these activity patterns that correspond to the memory.

“It was unexpected that these short-term memories are maintained in a thalamocortical loop. “This tells us that these memories are widely distributed across the brain.” (Storing a Memory Involves Distant Parts of the Brain)

The study is here: Maintenance of persistent activity in a frontal thalamocortical loop.

Ninety-eight percent of all sensory input is relayed by the thalamus.

Psilocybin as effective psychotherapy

We should be looking for ways to effectively use drugs people already like and seek out on their own rather than ban them.

There is good evidence that psychedelics like psilocybin can do good things for people. A recent study confirms this.

Lead author of the study, Kelan Thomas, says:

This therapy has also demonstrated large effect sizes for improving symptoms on validated psychiatric rating scales, which suggests psilocybin-assisted therapy may be significantly better than the current treatment options only demonstrating small to moderate effect sizes. The other important distinction is that participants experienced dramatic improvements and higher remission rates after only a few psilocybin-assisted therapy sessions, which also appeared to persist for a much longer duration than current treatment options.” (Clinical review: Psilocybin therapy could be significantly better than current psychiatric treatments)

The study is here: Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy: A Review of a Novel Treatment for Psychiatric Disorders.

Psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD change awareness for several hours by changing brain connections. This brief change is the “high” many people enjoy.

This change provides dramatic evidence, or a dramatic example, to the brain of how it can be. Positive new connections can be formed while negative old connections can be extirpated.

At lower doses, psychedelics seem to make people both feel and act more creatively and positively.

LSD and psychotherapy

When LSD was first introduced in the United States in 1949, it was well received by the scientific community. Within less than a decade the drug had risen to a position of high standing among psychiatrists. LSD therapy was by no means a fad or a fly-by-night venture. More than one thousand clinical papers were written on the subject, discussing some forty thousand patients. Favorable results were reported when LSD was used to treat severely resistant psychiatric conditions, such as frigidity and other sexual aberrations. A dramatic decrease in autistic symptoms was observed in severely withdrawn children following the administration of LSD. The drug was also found to ease the physical and psychological distress of terminal cancer patients, helping them come to terms with the anguish and mystery of death. And chronic alcoholics continued to benefit from psychedelic treatment. One enthusiastic researcher went so far as to suggest that with LSD it might be possible to clean out skid row in Los Angeles.
“The rate of recovery or significant improvement was often higher with LSD therapy than with traditional methods. Furthermore, its risks were slim compared to the dangers of other commonly used and officially sanctioned procedures such as electroshock, lobotomy, and the so-called anti-psychotic drugs. Dr. Sidney Cohen, the man who turned on Henry and Clare Booth Luce, attested to the virtues of LSD after conducting an in-depth survey of US and Canadian psychiatrists who had used it as a therapeutic tool. Forty-four doctors replied to Cohen’s questionnaire, providing data on five thousand patients who had taken a total of more than twenty-five thousand doses of either LSD or mescaline. The most frequent complaint voiced by psychedelic therapists was ‘unmanageability.’ Only eight instances of “psychotic reaction lasting more than forty-eight hours” were reported in the twenty-five thousand cases surveyed. Not a single case of addiction was indicated, nor any deaths from toxic effects. On the basis of these finding Cohen maintained that ‘with the proper precautions psychedelics are safe when given to a selected healthy group.’
“By the early 1960s it appeared that LSD was destined to find a niche on the pharmacologist’s shelf. But then the fickle winds of medical policy began to shift. Spokesmen for the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Food and Drug Administration started to denounce the drug, and psychedelic therapy quickly fell into public and professional disrepute. Granted, a certain amount of intransigence arises whenever a new form of treatment threatens to steal the thunder from more conventional methods, but this alone cannot account for the sudden reversal of a promising trend that was ten years in the making.
“One reason the medical establishment had such a difficult time coping with the psychedelic evidence was that LSD could not be evaluated like other drugs. LSD was not a medication in the usual sense; it wasn’t guaranteed to relieve a specific symptom such as a cold or a headache. In this respect psychedelics were out of kilter with the basic assumptions of Western medicine. The FDA’s relationship with this class of chemicals became even more problematic in light of claims that LSD could help the healthy. Most doctors automatically dismissed the notion that drugs might benefit someone who was not obviously ailing.
“In 1962 Congress enacted regulations that required the safety and efficacy of a new drug to be proven with respect to the condition for which it was to be marketed commercially. LSD, according to the FDA, did not satisfy these criteria…”
by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain
Copyright 1985
pages 89-90

White people and ethnocentrism

White people seem to be less ethnocentric than most other people in the world.

I (anecdotally) have observed this based on many years living in China and Japan, but many studies have also found this to be true.

An article I read this morning covers this topic quite well.

There are two types of ethnocentrism. “Positive ethnocentrism” means you take pride in your own people and make sacrifices for them. “Negative ethnocentrism” means you don’t especially like other peoples. Computer modelling experiments show once you control for other factors, ethnocentric groups will dominate and displace less ethnocentric groups.

The article, It’s Official: Europeans (Such As Macron’s Voters In France) Have a Genetic Death Wish, has a splashy title which I do not care for, but otherwise deals with this topic pretty well. It includes links to a number of studies that support its basic claim—that whites have evolved differently.

We know that evolution must lead to group differences and we know that many group differences are based on genes, so why do we generally avoid this topic?

We will all be much better off when we recognize the fundamentals of group differences.

Full disclosure, I come from a small ethnic group that tallies some of the lowest IQ scores in Europe. This does not bother me at all. I believe “my group” will be better off recognizing both its weak and strong points and dealing with them realistically.

Moreover, l know that low group averages for “my group” say very little about me as an individual.

Multiculturalism fails due to “behavioral immune system”

A new paper suggests that the human “behavioral immune system,” which generates feelings of disgust, can account for many of the failings of multiculturalism.

Lene Aarøe, one of the authors, has this to say:

The research results provide new understanding of why society does not absorb the new arrivals and why integration fails. Those who are very concerned about the risk of infection are those who are most reluctant to seek out social contact with immigrants–something that we otherwise know fosters tolerance.” (The immune system may explain skepticism towards immigrants)

“The behavioral immune system functions according to a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach,” said Michael Bang Petersen, co-author of the study. Furthermore,

People with birthmarks, physical disabilities, abnormalities and something as innocent as a different skin color are subconsciously considered disease carriers by the hypersensitive,” Petersen said.

The paper is here: The Behavioral Immune System Shapes Political Intuitions: Why and How Individual Differences in Disgust Sensitivity Underlie Opposition to Immigration.

The concept of an instinctive “behavioral immune system” was somewhat new to me. I understood the basic idea but did not appreciate how much our feelings of disgust can be involved in our feelings toward people and places.

From the paper’s abstract:

We present, test, and extend a theoretical framework that connects disgust, a powerful basic human emotion, to political attitudes through psychological mechanisms designed to protect humans from disease.”

Just last night, my partner and I had a conversation about how we both tend to avoid a neighborhood drug store in the winter because it is stuffy and there seem to always be sick people waiting for orders.

We said this before I read the paper this morning. It was a good confirmation for me of the concept of an instinctive “behavioral immune system.” Hand washing, food washing, keeping clean, avoiding crowds and so on are all “behavioral immune system” responses.

The authors of the paper extend their findings to musings on multiculturalism, a credible extension in my view.

In this respect, I want to make this point: Just because you have overcome your disgust with the people of another culture does not mean that they have overcome their disgust with you.

And this point: The “progressive left,” consciously or not,  has been using the “behavioral immune system” against people who want to see immigration laws enforced or strengthened. The left even uses the sciencey word “xenophobe” to arouse feelings of disgust for people who disagree with them.

Indeed, arousing disgust for their opponents on any issue is a main technique of the left. And they usually signal this technique by the use of special vocabulary words, such as “xenophobe,” “homophobe,” “rayciss,” “supremacist,” “deplorable,” “regressive,” “not who we are,” and so on.

That most of the spokespeople for the left live in wealthy MSM and DC political bubbles is why so many Americans are disgusted with them.

Memory-guided behaviors employ spatial “maps” in the brain

A new study seems to show that the brains of rats—and by extension ours as well—use a spatial “mapping” system to encode more than just space.

This suggests that mammalian brains encode “continuous, task-relevant variables” in “common circuit mechanisms” that can “represent diverse behavioural tasks, possibly supporting cognitive processes beyond spatial navigation.” (Mapping of a non-spatial dimension by the hippocampal–entorhinal circuit)

It does seem that we do a lot of thinking, remembering, and associating in systematic or roughly systematic ways. And it does seem that these systems resemble spatial ones.

Ever notice how amazing it can feel to stumble upon a new view of a spatial system you already know well? “So that’s where the duct goes through the wall!” Or, “I never realized that Bob’s Street intersects Jones right here!”

When we explore our psychological “maps” in interpersonal settings using FIML techniques, we gain access to details that reorganize those “maps” in a similar way to the example above. Small insights can yield amazing results.

Typically, normal psychological maps are distorted impressions of the psychological space around us. FIML allows us to see in our psychological “maps” a level of detail or resolution that cannot be gained in any other way.

Understanding verbal, emotional, semiotic, and associative details is key to understanding our “psychological locations” in this world.