Psilocybin breaks rigid patterns in the depressed brain, study shows

Psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, can ‘open up’ the brains of people with depression, helping patients to overcome rigid thought patterns and negative fixations, new research suggests.

A study led by the Imperial Centre for Psychedelic Research has shown that psilocybin therapy increases brain connectivity in people living with depression, even weeks after the treatment. The psychedelic acts in a way that conventional antidepressants do not, suggesting that psilocybin could be an effective, viable alternative to treating depression.   

“These findings are important because for the first time we find that psilocybin works differently from conventional antidepressants, making the brain more flexible and fluid, and less entrenched in the negative thinking patterns associated with depression,” says Professor David Nutt, head of the Imperial Centre for Psychedelic Research. 

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Dual-Process Theories of the Mind as means to analyze real-world, real-time interpersonal data

…Despite their differences, dual-process theories share the common idea that thoughts, behaviors, and feelings result from the interaction between exogenous and endogenous forms of attention. Both types of attention can be applied to representations to increase or decrease their level of activation. As the activation level of a representation increases, so does its accessibility, which in turn increases the probability that it will influence behavior. In times of conflict [When a FIML query is initiated], accessibility can be managed (i.e., maintained or inhibited) during the stream of processing by the control of attention. In a sense, the “source” of attention (LaBerge, 2000), that is, whatever mechanism that applies the activation to the representation, can be thought of as the gateway of accessibility that is the essence of controlled processing.

Individual Differences in Working Memory Capacity and Dual-Process Theories of the Mind

FIML practice is a form of mindfulness training with the addition of controlled attention processing which enables rapid gathering of real-world data followed by analysis thereof. This controlled attention processing is a learned behavior shared by both partners. The general concept of this learned/trained behavior is explained in How to do FIML. Individual partners adapt this learned/trained behavior to their own lives. In this sense FIML itself has no content. It is wholly a technique that allows rapid analysis of agreed upon objective interpersonal data. ABN

Procedural and implicit memory described

  1. Is procedural memory implicit?
  2. Is implicit memory the same as procedural memory?
  3. What is an example of an implicit memory?
  4. Why is procedural memory considered a form of implicit memory?
  5. What are the two types of implicit memory?
  6. Does implicit memory decline with age?
  7. Is procedural memory affected by amnesia?
  8. What is the difference between episodic and procedural memory?
  9. What are the 2 types of implicit memory?
  10. What are the three types of implicit memory?
  11. Are habits procedural memories?
  12. What are the 3 stages of memory?
  13. What age does implicit memory develop?
  14. Does procedural memory decline with age?
  15. Is episodic memory long-term?
  16. Does semantic memory decline with age?
  17. What is the role of procedural memory?
  18. How do you test for procedural memory?

source

Visual working memory in aphantasia: Retained accuracy and capacity with a different strategy

Abstract

Visual working memory paradigms involve retaining and manipulating visual information in mind over a period of seconds. Evidence suggests that visual imagery (sensory recruitment) is a strategy used by many to retain visual information during such tasks, leading some researchers to propose that visual imagery and visual working memory may be one and the same. If visual imagery is essential to visual working memory task performance there should be large ramifications for a special population of individuals who do not experience visual imagery, aphantasia. Here we assessed visual working memory task performance in this population using a number of different lab and clinical working memory tasks. We found no differences in capacity limits for visual, general number or spatial working memory for aphantasic individuals compared to controls. Further, aphantasic individuals showed no significant differences in performance on visual components of clinical working memory tests as compared to verbal components. However, there were significant differences in the reported strategies used by aphantasic individuals across all memory tasks. Additionally, aphantasic individual’s visual memory accuracy did not demonstrate a significant oblique orientation effect, which is proposed to occur due to sensory recruitment, further supporting their non-visual imagery strategy reports. Taken together these data demonstrate that aphantasic individuals are not impaired on visual working memory tasks, suggesting visual imagery and working memory are not one and the same, with imagery (and sensory recruitment) being just one of the tools that can be used to solve visual working memory tasks.

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Aphantasia means “the inability to form mental images of objects that are not present.” ABN

The human brain can process images very quickly: MIT reserachers

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) — The human brain is capable of processing images viewed through the eyes for as little as 13 milliseconds, according to research conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists.

That processing speed figure is significantly faster than the 100 milliseconds reported in earlier research, the MIT News Office reported.

The new MIT study appears in the journal Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics. In the research, investigators asked subjects to look for a particular type of image, such as “smiling couple,” as they viewed a series of as many as 12 images, each presented for between 13 and 80 milliseconds

“The fact that you can do that at these high speeds indicates to us that what vision does is find concepts. That’s what the brain is doing all day long — trying to understand what we’re looking at,” Mary Potter, an MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences and senior author of the study, told MIT News.

Rapid-fire processing of images could serve to help direct the eyes to their next target, Potter said. “The job of the eyes is not only to get the information into the brain, but to allow the brain to think about it rapidly enough to know what you should look at next. So in general, we’re calibrating our eyes so they move around just as often as possible consistent with understanding what we’re seeing,” she said.

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The paper is here: Detecting meaning in RSVP at 13 ms per picture.

FIML works with information rapidly entering the working memory, much of which is visual. Psycholinguistic auditory information can also be received and processed very quickly. Consider some tones of voice. FIML seeks to beneficially interfere in the processing of immediate interpersonal information in order to understand its deep psychological roots. The FIML technique is fairly easy to do if it is understood that the critical focus is on information that just occurred. ABN

Neural noise indicates our working memory may encode Bayesian probabilities of its contents

The uncertainty in working memory may be linked to a surprising way that the brain monitors and uses ambiguity, according to a recent paper in Neuron from neuroscience researchers at New York University. Using machine learning to analyze brain scans of people engaged in a memory task, they found that signals encoded an estimate of what people thought they saw — and the statistical distribution of the noise in the signals encoded the uncertainty of the memory. The uncertainty of your perceptions may be part of what your brain is representing in its recollections. And this sense of the uncertainties may help the brain make better decisions about how to use its memories.

…the idea that we are walking around with probability distributions in our heads all the time has a certain beauty to it. And it is probably not just vision and working memory that are structured like this, according to Pouget. “This Bayesian theory is extremely general,” he said. “There’s a general computational factor that’s at work here,” whether the brain is making a decision, assessing whether you’re hungry or navigating a route.

link

FIML practice works precisely with the probabilistics of working memory. If the range of doubt in a perception is stronger than normal, it may prompt a query. If the range is stronger than normal and may indicate danger, a query is more likely. It would make sense that our assessments of these factors would be Bayesian. When perceptions are psychologically important, any Bayesian analysis will require assessing the subjective context into which the perception enters, which implies further Bayesian analyses. It would be wonderful if we had machines that could do this for us, but they will only be invented years from now if ever. For now, we can use our own minds to accomplish this through FIML practice. If you can understand the linked article, you should be able to see the value of FIML which collapses a Bayesian probability curve into the certainty of a single point. Psychologically, when this is done hundreds of times, the results are extremely satisfying. ABN

Our brains take time to update unless we are shown the update

A clever experiment has shown how our brains ignore change or incorporate it into our perceptions only slowly through a “continuity field,” as described below:

Like our social media feeds, our brains are constantly uploading rich, visual stimuli. But instead of seeing the latest image in real time, we actually see earlier versions because our brain’s refresh time is about 15 seconds, according to new UC Berkeley research.

The findings, appearing today, Jan. 12, in the journal Science Advances, add to a growing body of research about the mechanism behind the “continuity field,” a function of perception in which our brain merges what we see on a constant basis to give us a sense of visual stability.

“If our brains were always updating in real time, the world would be a jittery place with constant fluctuations in shadow, light and movement, and we’d feel like we were hallucinating all the time,” said study senior author David Whitney, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology, neuroscience and vision science.

link

The study itself—Illusion of visual stability through active perceptual serial dependence—focus more on the illusion of visual stability:

Despite a noisy and ever-changing visual world, our perceptual experience seems remarkably stable over time. How does our visual system achieve this apparent stability? Here, we introduce a previously unknown visual illusion that shows direct evidence for an online mechanism continuously smoothing our percepts over time. As a result, a continuously seen physically changing object can be misperceived as unchanging.

If you watch the videos in the first link above, you can notice two things: 1) the slowness and blurriness of our perceptual change as we watch the video, and 2) that we can and do accept that change the moment it is shown to us in comparative stills.

I believe it is fair for me to extrapolate from this that our psychologies or, more precisely, our psychological memories do something similar on both points. Though the medium of memory is vastly less crisp than that of visual perception in real-time, a fruitful comparison can be made.

Many old movies are based on the two points mentioned above. The protagonist thinks someone is either bad or good and acts accordingly and then at the climax is shown indisputable proof that the opposite has been true all along. This plot is very common in movies predating WW2 but is still an undercurrent in many movies since then.

Humans like this plot and resolution because it mirrors real life in an ideal way. If only we could resolve similar problems in our own lives so quickly and easily!

This can be done in FIML practice. In fact this is the goal of FIML practice—to update our psychologies or psychological memories (almost the same thing) quickly and in real-time. In FIML practice “real-time” means analysis should begin quickly while the initiating percept is remembered by both partners. Rather than allowing us to proceed with our normal “continuously smoothing our percepts over time,” FIML stops us and forces the update immediately.

I was intrigued to see that the authors of the study notice the time-span of 15 seconds:

We find that online object appearance is captured by past visual experience up to 15 seconds ago. 

This is roughly the “speed” of our working memories. FIML works most of all with the working memory because when we correct a mistake in our working memory or upgrade the data of our working memory while it is still present, we are able to make large changes in our psychologies almost effortlessly. FIML leverages the working memory to make large changes in our whole brain memories. It works well because changing your working memory to fit the obvious reality staring you in the face is easy.

In contrast changing whole brain memories and psychologies through rumination and recollection only entrenches them further and deeper.

While it is very easy to see how this happens visually as in the linked materials; and while it is also easy to see that many old movie plots exploit this feature of our consciousness, it can be hard to see how to do this in real time with our complex psychologies as they are functioning in real-life.

FIML completely solves this problem and yet is still hard for many to see how and why.

The why is psychologically analogous to correcting the illusions produced by our brains “continuously smoothing our percepts over time.” This “continuously smoothing over time” causes most of our psychological problems, often making our lives dingy self-fulfilling prophesies or uninterrupted narcissistic fantasies.

The how is done by pausing real-life in real-time so you can compare your own mind’s percept with your partner’s percept of the same thing and make corrections as warranted. Easy-peasy, right? Actually it is once you see the point.

Researchers have gained a first insight into how the brain structures higher-level information. By extracting and analysing data from a neural network of grid cells, they found that the collective neural activity is shaped like the surface of a doughnut

Spontaneous grid cell activity aligns to our external world

So, what is the significance of seeing that the network activity of grid cells is always unfolding on the surface of a doughnut?

“Only one theoretical model in neuroscience has predicted what the activity of grid cells should be like regardless of the animal’s state, the CAN theory. These findings tell us something about the way the network of neurons is connected. The doughnut exists in the connectivity between the cells,” Edvard Moser said.

CAN theory proposes that grid cells with similar functions, cells that are active at nearby places in space, are strongly connected, in a reinforcing way. Cells that are active at distant locations are weakly connected in a mutually inhibitory way. From this follows two premises: (1) If this theory is correct, the only way to get hexagonal grid cell patterns from single cells, is if the joint network activity moves along on the surface of a doughnut. (2) The activity structure is a result of the brain’s intrinsic wiring rules. Thus, the doughnut remains, regardless of where the animal is or what the animal is doing, whether it is using the grid cells to navigate its external environment or not.

The results show that the grid cell pattern is created internally by the connections between grid cells and is not created by the input from the sensory systems, from the outside.

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Continue reading “Researchers have gained a first insight into how the brain structures higher-level information. By extracting and analysing data from a neural network of grid cells, they found that the collective neural activity is shaped like the surface of a doughnut”

We see what we are used to seeing; and interpret it as we are used to

A new study shows that what we see is often a distortion of what is really happening. A short article about that study provides a good overview: Altered images: New research shows that what we see is distorted by what we expect to see:

New research shows that humans “see” the actions of others not quite as they really are, but slightly distorted by their expectations.

The study is here: Perceptual teleology: expectations of action efficiency bias social perception.

I think it is fair to speculate that the conclusions of that study apply not just to visual information, but to all information. For example, much of what we consider to be psychological continuity is habit based on introspective deformities.

See Psychology as “signs of something else” for more on this topic.

See also: Seeing the best way forward: Intentionality cues bias action perception toward the most efficient trajectory.

first posted AUGUST 8, 2018

Just 1.5% to 7% of the human genome is unique to Homo sapiens, free from signs of interbreeding or ancestral variants

Less than 10% of your genome is unique to modern humans, with the rest being shared with ancient human relatives such as Neanderthals, according to a new study. 

The study researchers also found that the portion of DNA that’s unique to modern humans is enriched for genes involved with brain development and brain function. This finding suggests that genes for brain development and function are what really set us apart, genetically, from our ancestors.

As little as 1.5% of our genome is ‘uniquely human’

The study: An ancestral recombination graph of human, Neanderthal, and Denisovan genomes

Lies and self-deception

Most Buddhist practitioners will immediately understand and agree with the results of a recent study that shows that people feel better when they tell fewer lies. The study (Telling fewer lies linked to better health and relationships.*) is modest but worth considering.

Notice that the improvements found in the study come from refraining from lying.

“We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health,” says lead author Anita Kelly. (Same link as above.)

A good deal of Buddhist practice involves refraining from unwholesome thoughts and behaviors and ultimately eliminating them. Refraining from lying, or “false speech,” is the fourth of the Five Precepts, which are the basis of Buddhist morality. Lies cloud the mind and hinder clear thinking.

Buddhist mindfulness gets us to slow down and question how sure we are of our thoughts, feelings, and judgements. It helps us refrain from willfully lying, and it  can help us refrain from unconsciously lying if we have the help of a trusted partner.

Another term for unconscious lying is self-deception. Self-deception may make us feel good for awhile in some circumstances, but in the long-run it is much the same as any other kind of lying. It’s not true. It constitutes inner false speech and causes serious intellectual and emotional contradictions that will almost certainly lead to wrong thoughts, behaviors, and interpretations.

Michael S. Gazzaniga in a recent online essay has this to say:

The view in neuroscience today is that consciousness does not constitute a single, generalized process. It involves a multitude of widely distributed specialized systems and disunited processes, the products of which are integrated by the interpreter module….Our conscious experience is assembled on the fly as our brains respond to constantly changing inputs, calculate potential courses of action, and execute responses like a streetwise kid. (Source) [original source missing. substitute source here]

It is our “interpreter module,” to use Gazzaniga’s words, that can and does unconsciously lie to us or allow us to engage in self-deception.

In the same essay, Gazzaniga also says:

In truth, when we set out to explain our actions, they are all post hoc explanations using post hoc observations with no access to nonconscious processing….The reality is, listening to people’s explanations of their actions is interesting—and in the case of politicians, entertaining—but often a waste of time. (Source: same as above)

FIML practice may not be capable of giving us access to “nonconscious processing,” but it will give us access to what is/was in our working memories while showing us that what we said or heard may have been vague, ambiguous, muddled, or wrong.

With the aid of a trusted partner, FIML helps us catch our minds on the fly. Partners are encouraged to refrain from long explanations and just stick to what they remember having been in their minds during the few seconds in question. This forestalls long, self-deceiving explanations.

Beginning FIML partners will likely be amazed at how often their interpretation of what their partner said is completely wrong.

FIML emphasizes using trivial incidents because partners will be much less likely to self-deceive when the incident is minor. A minor mistake is easier to change than a major one. If partners keep working with minor mistakes and clear them up as soon as they arise, how can major misunderstandings even develop?

In the future, we may have brain scans that can help us separate fact from fiction in our minds, but for now, I know of no better way to do it than with a trusted partner in FIML practice. Your partner will help you see the minutiae of your mind as it actually works and impacts them. This leads to a large reduction in lying and self-deception and an increase in feelings of well-being and mutual understanding.

first posted August 6, 2012

The brain as a guessing machine

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A new approach to the study of mental disorder—called computational psychiatry—uses Bayesian inference to explain where people with problems are going wrong.

Bayesian inference is a method of statistical reasoning used to understand the probability of a hypothesis and how to update it as conditions change.

The idea is that people with schizophrenia, for example, are doing a bad job at inferring the reasonableness of their hypotheses. This happens because schizophrenics seem to be less likely to put enough weight on prior experience (a factor in Bayesian reasoning).

Somewhat similarly, “sensory information takes priority [over previous experience] in people with autism.” (Bayesian reasoning implicated in some mental disorders)

Distorted calculations — and the altered versions of the world they create — may also play a role in depression and anxiety, some researchers think. While suffering from depression, people may hold on to distorted priors — believing that good things are out of reach, for instance. And people with high anxiety can have trouble making good choices in a volatile environment (Ibid)

The key problem with autism and anxiety is people with these conditions have trouble updating their expectations—a major component of Bayesian reasoning—and thus make many mistakes.

These mistakes, of course, compound and further increase a sense of anxiety or alienation.

Like several of the researches quoted in the linked article, I find this computational approach exciting.

It speaks to me because it confirms a core hypothesis of FIML practice—that all people make many, significant inferential mistakes during virtually all acts of communication.

In this respect, I believe all people are mentally disordered, not just the ones who are suffering the most.

I think a Bayesian thought experiment can all but prove my point:

What are the odds that you will correctly infer the mental state(s) of anyone you speak with? What are the odds that they will correctly infer your mental state(s)?

In a formal setting, both of you will do well enough if the inferring is kept within whatever the formal boundaries are. But that is all you will be able to infer reasonably well.

In the far more important realm of intimate interpersonal communication, the odds that either party is making correct inferences go down significantly.

If we do not know someone’s mental state, we cannot know why they have communicated as they have. If our inferences about them are based on such questionable data, we are bound to make many more mistakes about them.

first posted MAY 15, 2016

A study that supports FIML

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This study–Preventing the return of fear in humans using reconsolidation update mechanisms–supports FIML practice, which works by having partners volitionally interfere with neurotic responses as they occur, thus preventing reconsolidation of the neurotic memory (habitual response).

Truthful data supplied by a FIML partner provides much better (updated) information to the partner inquiring about their incipient neurotic reaction than that partner has had up to that point. This new non-neurotic information that is “provided during the reconsolidation window” results in neurotic responses “no longer [being] expressed”, often within just a few sessions.

The linked study is about fear, but I bet the findings will apply to all sorts of neurotic responses. In FIML practice, we have defined a neurotic response as a “mistaken response” or one not based on good data or evidence.

The technique used in the study produced “an effect that lasted at least a year and was selective only to reactivated memories without affecting others.”

Since most FIML partners will continue doing FIML practice for more than a year, the effects of FIML sessions and follow-up sessions dealing with neuroses should last as long or longer. If an old neurosis regains its power, skilled FIML partners should be able to deal with it rather quickly.

FIML posits that neuroses are very often the result of nothing more than mistakes in listening or speaking. This means that we can expect proto-neurotic mistakes to arise with great frequency (several per hour in most conversations). And this means that FIML partners will want to continue using basic FIML practices whenever they interact.

Another point: the linked study concludes that the effect of their technique is “selective only to reactivated memories without affecting others.” This seems to be the case with FIML practice as well. Memories are not being erased by drugs or other kinds of physical interference. Rather, they are being upgraded during the crucial “window of reconsolidation”. This upgrade does not directly change other memories, though in FIML practice since core neuroses are being confronted, effects will be widespread throughout the organism, causing beneficial changes in personality, behavioral strategies, autonomic responses, ancillary neuroses, and so forth.

I, for one, do not see any other way than FIML practice to deal with the plethora fundamental mistaken interpretations that occur in all human minds and with great frequency. Traditional talk therapy or the more common drug therapies used today can only deal with very general aspects of the fundamental cause of neurotic suffering–humans tend to make a great many mistakes when they speak and when they listen and these mistakes tend to compound and turn into ongoing mistaken interpretations (neuroses) of the self, the world, and people around us.

first posted APRIL 13, 2012