…In Decoded Neurofeedback experiments, brain scanning is used to monitor activity in the brain, and identify complex patterns of activity that resemble a specific memory or mental state. When the pattern is detected, we give our experimental participants a small reward. The simple action of repeatedly providing a reward every time the pattern is detected modifies the original memory or mental state. Importantly, participants do not need to be aware of the patterns’ content for this to work.Nonconscious brain modulation to remove fears, increase confidence
Ensuring that patients clearly understand risks — including known risks as well as potential unknown risks — is an important component of the informed consent process. This is all the more true when the intervention is experimental and lacks long-term safety data, as is the case with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19. The FDA authorized the two vaccines for widespread emergency use based on just two months of clinical trial data.Immunologist: Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Could Cause Long-Term Chronic Illness
Also from that link:
In new research published in Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, immunologist J. Bart Classen warns the mRNA technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines could create “new potential mechanisms” of adverse events that may take years to come to light.
There are several links to peer reviewed papers in the above article. There is no question that the covid vaccines hold unknown risks that health care providers are legally required to inform their patients about.
See this for more: COVID-19 RNA Based Vaccines and the Risk of Prion Disease
NOTE: I am not an anti-vaxxer. I am a rational thinker and a big fan of free-speech. Since I am not seeing major news stories outlining the risks of some vaccines, I am providing this information to readers. It is very disturbing to me that individuals who provide information like this can be mocked, deplatformed, even accused of promoting pseudoscience when we are doing the opposite.
Short 6 min excerpt:
…Our main finding is that the effects of LSD on brain function and subjective experience are non-uniform in time: LSD makes globally segregated sub-states of dynamic functional connectivity more complex, and weakens the relationship between functional and anatomical connectivity. On a regional level, LSD reduces functional connectivity of the anterior medial prefrontal cortex, specifically during states of high segregation. Time-specific effects were correlated with different aspects of subjective experiences; in particular, ego dissolution was predicted by increased small-world organisation during a state of high global integration. These results reveal a more nuanced, temporally-specific picture of altered brain connectivity and complexity under psychedelics than has previously been reported.LSD alters dynamic integration and segregation in the human brain
A good article explaining the study can be found here: Neuroscience study indicates that LSD “frees” brain activity from anatomical constraints.
“Studying psychoactive substances offers a unique opportunity for neuroscience: we can study their effects in terms of brain chemistry, but also at the level of brain function and subjective experience,” he added. “In particular, the mind is never static, and neither is the brain: we are increasingly discovering that when it comes to brain function and its evolution over time, the journey matters just as much as the destination.”
Las Vegas space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow announced the creation of a new project, the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies, which hopes to stimulate new research into the survival of human consciousness beyond death.
In an exclusive on camera interview, Bigelow shared with us the personal experiences–and losses—that prompted his interest in life after death, as well as UFOs.link to original
The interview is broken into several short segments. Well-worth viewing.
Human psychology is self-generated in the sense that it takes ideas and energy from other people and then interprets and builds on that.
Our cognitive systems self-generate with what we learn from life and other humans—language, ideas, philosophies, behaviors, emotions, almost everything.
Auto-catalytic systems are systems that are able to catalyze their own production. You learn something, combine it with something else and then auto-catalyze that combination into something new, something that is unique to you.
The problem with being a self-generating, auto-catalytic system is you need a way to unify your system. It has to make sense to you, has to have meaning. Part of it is copy-paste from other people and part of it is DIY. It’s hard to do.
Human games make it easier. Games are things we do with our psychological systems. Many games unify our systems for a short period of time. Sports, cooking, reading, TV, etc. provide “meaning” or systemic focus long enough for most of us to experience a sense of contentment or purpose. Religions, careers, philosophies, etc. are meta-unifying games that provide unification or meaning at meta levels and for longer periods of time.
A big problem here is as self-generating systems we make mistakes, and many of them compound.
Conscious, self-generating auto-catalytic systems are complex and difficult to manage. They can induce terrible misery if they fail to bring unity and meaning to themselves.
Rather than see yourself as a story or ego, see yourself as a system of signals loosely erected and controlled by metacognitive functions that sort and analyze perceptions, thoughts, sensations, and memories.
first posted MAY 13, 2018
A fad with serious consequences. This is a well-researched article with a clear point of view.
…Nearly all of these detransitioners blame the adults in their lives, especially the medical professionals, for encouraging and facilitating their transitions rather than questioning them.The book Silicon Valley tried to kill: ABIGAIL SHRIER’S investigation into the exploding numbers of girls wanting to change sex has caused an outcry in America – but her story must be heard
“As an example of how this might look in depression — it is often easy for friends and family to point out to their loved one errors or the harm in their thought patterns,” Sumner explained. “A counsellor will often work with a person to change their harmful ruminations or beliefs, such as with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, the person experiencing depression may find this difficult to see, or to take on because of how rigid their models (belief about themselves, the world around them, their future) have become….
“Ketamine may be working by increasing plasticity (the ability to adapt and learn new things), as well as increasing the brain’s sensitivity to unexpected external input that is signaling errors in its own rigid expectations,” Sumner said.Ketamine may ease depression by restoring the brain’s sensitivity to prediction error, study suggests
I wonder if micro-dosing psychedelics to enhance creativity is not doing something similar.
EDIT: Just ran across one on psilocybin: Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy produces large, rapid, and sustained antidepressant effects.
Combining the psychedelic drug psilocybin with supportive psychotherapy results in substantial rapid and enduring antidepressant effects among patients with major depressive disorder, according to a new randomized clinical trial. The findings have been published in JAMA Psychiatry.
The new study provides more evidence that psilocybin, a compound found in so-called magic mushrooms, can be a helpful tool in the treatment of psychiatric conditions.
In science, working memory is generally thought of as either:
- “…the sketchpad of your mind; it’s the contents of your conscious thoughts.” (Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory)
- Or “…a core component of higher cognitive functions like planning or language or intelligence.” (Christos Constantinidis, a professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest School of Medicine) [Source for both]
Obviously, both versions are valuable and probably both are roughly true. Some “contents” of working memory are indeed sketchpad-like—a crack in the sidewalk or a passing bird—while others clearly are “core components of higher cognitive functions” and, I would add, long-term memory including all psychological factors.
Our psychology—be it “natured” or nurtured—functions in real-life in real-time because we remember it. It bears on us because it is in our minds, because it colors our minds, shades our thoughts and actions.
Working memory is key to understanding human psychology because it shows us how we really are functioning, thinking, acting, feeling in real-time.
Working memory is also fleeting. If you want to use working memory to understand your real-life psychology, you have to be able to analyze it in real-time. This means you have to capture its contents and examine them as near to their appearance in working memory as possible.
You can do this alone with good effect, but when you do it alone you are prone to self-referential bias and other mistakes. When you do it with another person, they can help you avoid self-referential mistakes as well as other less serious ones.
This is how FIML practice works and why it is done the way it is. FIML analyzes data discovered in the working memory.
So how do you do that? You do that by immediately noticing when something significant about the other person’s speech or behavior enters in your mind or arises in your working memory. Generally, that something will have psychological impact on you, though you might just be curious or notice it for other reasons.
Whether working memory is an independent sketchpad or a component of higher functions, analyzing whatever you feel like analyzing in it is valuable. Sometimes even very little things can have great psychological import.
Analyses of working memory through FIML practice are most productive when they entail what I have called “psychological morphemes.”
Psychological morphemes are the smallest units of human psychology. Metaphorically, they are a word or a letter as compared to a phrase, a paragraph, or even a book. They are the building blocks of larger psychological structures and also may occur as unique isolates.
Whenever a psychological morpheme appears in working memory, it is always interesting. Psychological morphemes almost always signal the onset of a larger psychological interpretation, one either stored in long-term memory or one arising just now.
By working with any and all psychological morphemes as they appear in your and your partner’s working memories and by working with them repeatedly, both partners will come to understand that some of these psychological morphemes have deep roots in their cognitive systems while others do not.
For example, a fleeting expression or tone you observe in your partner may cause you to feel jealous or disrespected. Do FIML immediately and find out what it was.
It’s either true or false or in-between. If you have a good and honest relationship with your partner, most of the time you will find a negative psychological morpheme that appeared in your working memory was false and that it is part of a psychological habit of yours that has deep roots in other cognitive functions.
A great benefit of FIML is repeated analyses of mistaken psychological morphemes leads to their extirpation, sometimes quickly sometimes more gradually. A second benefit of FIML is it makes all communications between partners much clearer and more satisfying. A third advantage is most of these gains lead to better understanding and competency with all people.
first posted NOVEMBER 14, 2018
Can you look at someone’s face and know what they’re feeling? Does everyone experience happiness, sadness and anxiety the same way? What are emotions anyway? For the past 25 years, psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett has mapped facial expressions, scanned brains and analyzed hundreds of physiology studies to understand what emotions really are. She shares the results of her exhaustive research — and explains how we may have more control over our emotions than we think.
This talk is a very good background for FIML practice, which is based on acknowledging that interpersonal emotions and interpretations are fundamentally ambiguous and must be investigated often to achieve good communication. ABN
Unwanted memories often enter conscious awareness when individuals confront reminders. People vary widely in their talents at suppressing such memory intrusions; however, the factors that govern suppression ability are poorly understood. We tested the hypothesis that successful memory control requires sleep. Following overnight sleep or total sleep deprivation, participants attempted to suppress intrusions of emotionally negative and neutral scenes when confronted with reminders. The sleep-deprived group experienced significantly more intrusions (unsuccessful suppressions) than the sleep group. Deficient control over intrusive thoughts had consequences: Whereas in rested participants suppression reduced behavioral and psychophysiological indices of negative affect for aversive memories, it had no such salutary effect for sleep-deprived participants. Our findings raise the possibility that sleep deprivation disrupts prefrontal control over medial temporal lobe structures that support memory and emotion. These data point to an important role of sleep disturbance in maintaining and exacerbating psychiatric conditions characterized by persistent, unwanted thoughts. (Losing Control: Sleep Deprivation Impairs the Suppression of Unwanted Thoughts)
I don’t think this is wholly a bad thing. Unwanted thoughts are a part of the mind and need to be examined. Understanding, resolving, and finally extirpating unwanted thoughts is a very good thing if the process is wholesome and truthful. In this sense, a poor night’s sleep can be helpful by mildly forcing us to consider memories or thoughts we don’t want to be having but are. A similar reasoning applies to irritating tasks as they often force us to see how irritable we can be.
Since virtually everything we do, think, and feel has some linguistic component it follows that our perceived valences of words and phrases will be reliable indicators of our psychological makeup.
This is especially true if our perceptions of these valences is “captured” in fraught contexts in real-world, real-time situations.
To be even clearer and more precise, it is fair to say that it is only possible to capture actual real valences in real-world, real-time situations.
When we do not work with real-world, real-time situations, we are capable only of working with the idea of them, a theory of them, a memory of them. And none of that can possibly capture the actual valence as it actually functions in real-life.
The theory, memory, or idea of a psychological valence associated with words and phrases occurs at a different level of abstraction or cognition from the valence itself.
Theories, memories, and ideas of psychological valences can be very interesting and are worth pursuing, but they are not the thing itself and as such have only a weak capacity to grasp the psychology exposed by actual valences in action in the real-world.
In a post yesterday—Words and word groups mapped in the brain—I discussed the following video, which is well-worth viewing again if you missed it the first time.
Yesterday, I said:
From these maps we can see that word groups have idiosyncratic arrangements, associations, and emphases.
And from this we can understand how analysis of interpersonal communication details can lead to beneficial changes in word group arrangements and thus also human psychology.
The video is very helpful for visualizing how words and word groups are organized in the brain. And this illustrates how and why FIML works as well as it does.
By “capturing” actual verbal psychological valences in real-time, real-world situations, partners gain immense insight into how their psychologies actually function in the real-world, how they actually deal with real life.
Focusing on very brief real-life valences has another very large benefit: though the valences are as real as they come, they are also very small, comprising nothing more than part of the working memory load at the time.
This is a bigger deal than it might seem. Virtually all of us have been trained by years of theorizing about our psychologies to see even very small incidents of real psychological valence as aspects of some theory or story about them.
No, no, no. Don’t do that. Just see each one for what it is—a brief valences that appeared briefly in working memory; and that has been “frozen” by the FIML technique as a small snapshot to be identified and understood as it is.
First get the evidence, get the data. Those valence snapshots are the data. Get plenty of them and you may find that you do not even need any theory about what they are or what caused them.
They just are. Indeed, theorizing about them makes them different, bigger, or worse while simultaneously hiding their real nature.
Most of us do not know how to think about real-world, real-time valences because we tend to always fit them into into an a priori format, a format we already believe in. That could be a theory of psychology or a take on what our personality is or what the other person’s personality is.
In the maps shown in the video, that would constitute a whole brain response to a small valence that appeared only briefly.
By using the FIML technique, you will find it is much easier and much more beneficial to reorganize small parts of the verbal map one piece at a time than to reorganize the entire map all at once based on some idea.
In practice, FIML deals with more than just words and phrases, but the whole practice can be largely understood by seeing how it works with language. FIML treats gestures, tone of voice, expressions, and so on in the same way as language—by isolating brief incidents and analyzing them for what they really are.
first posted AUGUST 21, 2019
Is consciousness a continuous flow of awareness without intervals or is it something that emerges continually at discrete points in a cascade of microbits?
The Buddhist answer has always been the latter.
The Buddha’s five skandha explanation of perception and consciousness says that there are four discrete steps that are the basis of consciousness.
The five skandhas are form, sensation, perception, activity, consciousness. A form can arise in the mind or outside of the mind. This form gives rise to a sensation, which gives rise to perception, followed by activity (mental or physical), and lastly consciousness. In the Buddha’s explanation, the five skandhas occur one after the other, very rapidly. They are not a continuous stream but rather a series of discrete or discernible moments. A form arises or appears, then there is a sensation, then perception, then activity, then consciousness. (The five skandhas and modern science)
The first four skandhas are normally unconscious. Buddhist mindfulness and meditation training are importantly designed to help us become conscious of each of the five skandhas as they actually function in real-time.
A study from 2014—Amygdala Responsivity to High-Level Social Information from Unseen Faces—supports the five skandha explanation. From that study:
The findings demonstrate that the amygdala can be influenced by even high-level facial information before that information is consciously perceived, suggesting that the amygdala’s processing of social cues in the absence of awareness may be more extensive than previously described. (emphasis added)
A few days ago, a new model of how consciousness arises was proposed. This model is being called a “two-stage” model, but it is based on research and conclusions derived from that research that support the Buddha’s five skandha explanation of consciousness.
The study abstract:
We experience the world as a seamless stream of percepts. However, intriguing illusions and recent experiments suggest that the world is not continuously translated into conscious perception. Instead, perception seems to operate in a discrete manner, just like movies appear continuous although they consist of discrete images. To explain how the temporal resolution of human vision can be fast compared to sluggish conscious perception, we propose a novel conceptual framework in which features of objects, such as their color, are quasi-continuously and unconsciously analyzed with high temporal resolution. Like other features, temporal features, such as duration, are coded as quantitative labels. When unconscious processing is “completed,” all features are simultaneously rendered conscious at discrete moments in time, sometimes even hundreds of milliseconds after stimuli were presented. (Time Slices: What Is the Duration of a Percept?) (emphasis added)
I, of course, completely support science going where the evidence leads and am not trying to shoehorn these findings into a Buddhist package. Nonetheless, that does sound a lot like a slimmed-down version of the five skandhas. Considering these and other recent findings in a Buddhist light may help science resolve more clearly what is actually happening in the brain/mind.
As for form-sensation-perception-activity-consciousness, you might suddenly think of your mother, or the history of China, or the spider that just climbed onto your shoulder.
In Buddhist terms, initially, each of those items is a form which leads to a sensation which leads to perception which leads to activity which leads to consciousness.
Obviously, the form of a spider on your shoulder differs from the form of the history of China. Yet both forms can be understood to produce positive, negative, or neutral sensations, after which we begin to perceive the form and then react to it with activity (either mental or physical or both) before becoming fully conscious of it.
In the case of the spider, the first four skandhas may happen so quickly, we will have reacted (activity) to it (the spider) before being conscious of what we are doing. The skandha of activity is deeply physical in this case, though once consciousness of the event arises our sense of what the first four skandhas were and are will change.
If we slapped the spider and think we killed it, our eyes will monitor it for movement. If it moves and we are sensitive in that way, we might shudder again and relive the minor panic that just occurred.
If we are sorry that we reacted without thinking and notice the spider is moving, we might feel relief that it is alive or sadness that it has been wounded.
In all cases, our consciousness of the original event, will constellate around the spider through monitoring it, our own reactions, and whatever else arises. Maybe our sudden movements brought someone else into the room.
The constellation of skandhas and angles of awareness can become very complex, but the skandhas will still operate in unique and/or feedback loops that can often be analyzed.
The word skandha means “aggregate” or “heap” indicating that the linear first-fifth explanation of how they operate is greatly simplified.
The above explanation of the spider can also be applied to the form skandhas of the history of China or your mother when they suddenly arise in your mind, or anything else.
We can also perceive the skandhas when our minds bring in new information from memory or wander. As we read, for example, it is normal for other forms to enter our minds from our memories. Some of these forms will enhance our reading and some of them will cause our minds to wander.
Either way, our consciousness is always slightly jumpy because it emerges continually at discrete points in a cascade of microbits, be they called skandhas or something else.
Edit 11/23/20: The above explanation of consciousness is a good way to understand how and why FIML practice works so well. Ideally, the intention to make a FIML query will begin to arise at the sensation skandha or soon thereafter. A FIML query is based on wondering if the consciousness that has arisen from the form is correct or not.
This also shows why FIML does not presuppose theories on personality, mental illness, or psychotherapy. In this sense, FIML has no content; it is “just” a method, a way to rationally engage and analyze our minds as they function in real-time in the real-world. How you analyze the data you acquire is up to you and your partner.
first posted APRIL 16, 2016
The Ethical Skeptic has become one of my favorite blogs and Twitter accounts. Today he posted a must-read: The Nine features of Great Philosophy. The image below provides a clear summary:
This kind of thinking works across all domains of rational endeavor, including psychology, psycholinguistics, communication, and semiotics. It also fits perfectly with Buddhist thought and practice.
I am happy to also say that FIML practice as explained on this site is well-characterized by these nine features. I tend to think of FIML as practical psychotherapy that can be used by almost anyone. At the same time, I am well-aware that FIML took many years to fully develop and that fundamentally it is a way to think.
FIML is a theory of communication that yields a method for much better communication. You could also say that FIML is a method of communication that also yields a theory of why we now communicate mostly badly; how to fix that and why fixing that leads to a much greater understanding of life.
Since FIML is a method of thinking or communicating, it has no content of its own. FIML does require honesty and the basic human virtues of self-examination, self-correction, willingness to learn and share, and the desire for wholesomeness or integrity. But other than that, FIML has no ideology, credo, belief system, or cultural envelope. It can be used by anyone anywhere to optimize interpersonal communication and individual psychology.
In fact, even non-humans could do FIML if they use a self-conscious communication system to convey subjective meanings that may be ambiguous.
Global workspace theory is a description of how our minds work. The word global refers to the whole mind or brain, not the world.
The central feature of this theory—the global workspace—is conscious working memory, or working memory that could be made conscious with minimal effort.
This global workspace is also what a great deal of Buddhist mindfulness attends to. If we focus our attention on what is coming in and out of our global workspace, we will gain many insights into how our minds operate.
The Buddha’s five skandha explanation of consciousness can be understood as a form (or percepta) entering the global workspace.
Consciousness is the fifth skandha in the chain of skandhas. It is very important to recognize that whatever we become conscious of is not necessarily right.
With this in mind, we can see that being mindful of what is entering and leaving our global workspace can help us forestall errors from forming and growing in our minds.
In the Buddhist tradition, ignorance (a kind of error) is the deep source of all delusion.
But how do I know if the percepta or bits of information entering my awareness are right or wrong?
Well, there is science and Bayesian thought processes to help us, and they are both very good, but is there anything else?
What about my actual mind? My psychology? My understanding of my being in the world? How do I become mindful and more right about these?
Besides science and Bayes, I can ask an honest friend who knows me well if the percepta I think I just received from them is right or wrong.
If my friend knows the game, they will be ready to answer me before my global workspace changes too much. If my friend confirms my interpretation of what they just did or said, I will know that my interpretation (or consciousness) is correct.
If they disconfirm, I will know that my interpretation was incorrect, a mistake.
This kind of information is wonderful!
We calibrate fine instruments to be sure we are getting accurate readings from them. Why not our own minds?
This kind of calibration can be done in a general way, but you will get a general answer in that case. If you want a precise reading, a mindfulness answer, you need to play the FIML communication game.