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brain

The brain of a serial killer

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Warning: If you have been abused this post might be triggering. The picture underneath offers a lot of information based on science and knowledge gathered over time. It is easy to understand, and might help us in understanding what contributes to psychopathy. It also created some questions: Why is psychopathy more prevalent in USA and in white people? Evolutional theorists have discussed it psychopathy is relatively rare because psychopathic behavior would be “discovered” and for that reason not lead to any evolutionary advantages. USA and other individualistic countries are known for becoming more “egoistic”, and USA is known for more lenient attitudes towards weapons. This is just loud thinking on my part, so don`t take it as truths.
The Brain of a Serial Killer

 

The picture is reproduced from this link: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1cXNdb/:2mHUbAkb:TeSCEaSC/www.bestcounselingdegrees.net/serial-killerhttp://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1cXNdb/:2mHUbAkb:TeSCEaSC/www.bestcounselingdegrees.net/serial-killer

The Brains Of Bipolar Disorder Patients Look Different

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By Nathan Collins

While people with Type I and the less-severe Type II bipolar disorder share some of the same symptoms, there are significant differences in the physical structure of their brains. Type I sufferers have somewhat smaller brain volume, researchers report in the Journal of Affective Disorders, while those with Type II appear to have less robust white matter.

As brain imaging technologies have advanced and matured over the past few decades, there’s been considerable interest in understanding whether and how there are differences between the brains of people with mental illness and those without. In particular, neuroscientists studying depression have been interested in structural variation, such as differences in total brain volume. Still, the various forms of bipolar disorder have received somewhat less attention than others, such as major depression, schizophrenia, or autism.

  
That led Jerome Maller and colleagues at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, to look into whether there were structural differences among the brains of people with different sorts of bipolar disorder. Using standard MRI scans—much the same as you would get if you’d had a concussion or bleeding in the brain—on 16 Type I and 15 Type II bipolar patients along with 31 healthy control subjects, the team examined whether there were differences in gray matter, white matter, and cerebrospinal fluid. The team also used a relatively new technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to measure the integrity of the brains’ white matter, the long nerves called axons that connect different brain regions to each other.

Overall, there was less total brain volume—gray and white matter volume added together—and more cerebrospinal fluid volume in bipolar patients than in healthy controls, consistent with other recent studies suggesting a connection between brain volume and depression. After controlling for total brain volume, however, Type II patients’ brains were essentially the same as controls’ brains, while Type I patients had relatively higher volume in the caudate nucleus and other areas associated with reward processing and decision making. DTI studies, meanwhile, revealed that while patients with Type I and II bipolar disorder had reduced white matter integrity relative to controls, the effect was stronger among those with Type II, particularly in the frontal and prefrontal cortex, suggesting that Type II bipolar disorder is in some way a cognitive dysfunction.

Though the results are intriguing, the authors point out that their study is just the start. The team didn’t have access to data on how long patients had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, let alone how long they’d actually had the disease, which often goes undiagnosed for years or even decades. In addition to addressing those issues in future studies, the researchers also hope to improve sample sizes and gather additional data about factors such as medications, family history, and genetics.

EMDR, obsessive compulsive disorder, musicophila and synchronization

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Research on EMDR is still in its infancy,and I can`t seem to stop obsessing about why it works. Normally I am not an obsessive person, in fact I`ve always found it fascinating that somebody can really feel the need to do something again and again without stopping. I tried to find information on the internet on controlled studies on EMDR and OCD, but unfortunately there is little research on it, so no conclusion can be drawn yet. This post is just me thinking loud, so what I write might not be true at all. 

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What I found when I did my internet search about EMDR and OCD can be summarized here:

This article provides an overview of the current empirical evidence on the application of EMDR for the anxiety disorders spectrum other than posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Reviewing the existing literature, it is disappointing to fi nd that 20 years after its introduction, support for the effi cacy of EMDR for other conditions than PTSD is still scarce. Randomized outcome research is limited to panic disorder with agoraphobia and spider phobia. The results suggest that EMDR is generally more effective than no-treatment control conditions or nonspecifi c interventions but less effective than existing evidence-based (i.e., exposure-based) interventions. However, since these studies were based on incomplete protocols and limited treatment courses, questions about the relative effi cacy of EMDR for the treatment of anxiety disorders remain largely unanswered.Ja

As research shows that clients with OCD respond relatively well to cognitive-behavioral interventions (i.e., exposure and response prevention and cognitive therapy) EMDR will generally not play an important role in the treatment of OCD. However, there might be exceptions. For example, there is evidence to suggest that stressful events precipitate this disorder and that in some cases a causal link between severe trauma and the onset of OCD can be identified (see De Silva & Marks, 1999). Therefore, it could be argued that if the condition has a direct and known onset and the client’s memory of that event is still emotionally charged, it may be helpful to desensitize the memory and to evaluate its effect on the client’s symptomatology. However, case reports on the treatment of OCD with EMDR are sparse, and the effects reported in the literature show that EMDR has limited potential to contribute to the treatment of this condition (Bae, Kim, & Ahn, 2006; Corrigan & Jennett, 2004).

Synchronization

What is it that makes EMDR effective? Some theories point to the fact that using our working memory (when we follow movements of the finger back and forth) at the same time as we think about traumatic material, gives less Space to the unpleasant images, thereby reducing their vividness. Some theories have tried to explain it by looking at how the two hemispheres interact.

Many people in the field of biofeedback or neurofeedback believe the treatment effect comes from hemispheric synchrony, where activity and frequency of both brain hemispheres is in a close relationship.

What I have thought about, is if other movements have the same effect as watching fingers go back and forth. For example: Why is it that the ocean calms us? Why can we sometimes be transfixed when we watch something that repeats itself? If we go back to the fact that Our brain needs to relax and tune out now and then, could it be that everything that pulses in a steady rhythm, calms the brain? Babies in the cradle get sleepy when they are rocked back and forth, it soothes them. If we would watch birds flying around and around, this might soothe us too. For some people repetition is necessary: Like the OCD-patient who must wash themselves again and again. Could it be that their nervous system has a “loop” that they can`t get out of?  Might tradition come from this same need? We have to repeat certain things to soothe our brains? What about autism, where a lot of repetition is the norm?

Recently I have also started to wonder if music might be the “optimal EMDR”. There is as far as I know, little research on EMDR combined with music in therapy, but I found a video on youtube with “Musical EMDR therapy”. Furthermore, I discovered an article discussing if EMDR has its effect by synchronization, that is, letting the brain find peace and calm by creating a state where the brain cells “sing in tune”. Might this be why music is so important to us? Does it realign a malfunctioning nervous system?

This is an excerpt from one article I found:

The common denominator of EMDR is to reach some balance in the attentive feeling of self, which may be defined as harmonious flow of sensory, cognitive, emotional, and physical associations (Servan-Schreiber, 2003). The best results in EMDR are obtained in the intermediate state in which attention and emotion work fluently and in harmony. 

So, might music and EMDR have something in common?
Right now I`m reading musicophila by Oliver Sacks. He presents case study after case study where neural damage has led to the sudden occurrence of amazing musical abilities. Might this phenomena be the brains way of synchronizing and thereby healing itself? Brain damage was earlier believed to be treatment-resistant, but today we have come further in unravelling the mystery of our minds and brain, and we use that knowledge to find treatment methods that might help, also for people with brain damage. My specialist thesis, was that EMDR can actually change the brain and make it “smarter”. I only did one case study, and can`t wait until I can do more research on this. It would be very interesting to see if a combination of EMDR and music, could help more people, also people with serious condition where normal treatment doesn`t work. Because:

We are born to feel balanced and find solutions. Resources within us can automatically help us do these things. Sometimes, we need help to activate these inner processes to resolve personal problems, to stop anxiety, or to meet a great personal challenge.

As a therapist, I have seen people make wonderful changes in their lives and personalities by doing mental exercises that restore, evoke and orchestrate these inner resources. I am impressed with the power of sound to make these exercises more effective.

I will leave my theorizing for now. In the meantime, feel free to dive into more articles about EMDR, synchronization and Music. Maybe some of you might come of with new theories and ideas that science needs to help people with OCD, brain damage or other neurological problems.

 More:

EMDR and bilateral music 

Why does Music Therapy help in Autism?

EMDR and neuropsychological test results: A case study

WHEN BRAIN DAMAGE UNLOCKS THE GENIUS WITHIN

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BRAIN DAMAGE HAS UNLEASHED EXTRAORDINARY TALENTS IN A SMALL GROUP OF OTHERWISE ORDINARY INDIVIDUALS. WILL SCIENCE FIND A WAY FOR EVERYONE TO TAP THEIR INNER VIRTUOSO?

The Genius Within

Paul Lachine and Graham Murdoch

Derek Amato stood above the shallow end of the swimming pool and called for his buddy in the Jacuzzi to toss him the football. Then he launched himself through the air, head first, arms outstretched. He figured he could roll onto one shoulder as he snagged the ball, then slide across the water. It was a grave miscalculation. The tips of Amato’s fingers brushed the pigskin—then his head slammed into the pool’s concrete floor with such bone-jarring force that it felt like an explosion. He pushed to the surface, clapping his hands to his head, convinced that the water streaming down his cheeks was blood gushing from his ears.

At the edge of the pool, Amato collapsed into the arms of his friends, Bill Peterson and Rick Sturm. It was 2006, and the 39-year-old sales trainer was visiting his hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, from Colorado, where he lived. As his two high-school buddies drove Amato to his mother’s home, he drifted in and out of consciousness, insisting that he was a professional baseball player late for spring training in Phoenix. Amato’s mother rushed him to the emergency room, where doctors diagnosed Amato with a severe concussion. They sent him home with instructions to be woken every few hours.

It would be weeks before the full impact of Amato’s head trauma became apparent: 35 percent hearing loss in one ear, headaches, memory loss. But the most dramatic consequence appeared just four days after his accident. Amato awoke hazy after near-continuous sleep and headed over to Sturm’s house. As the two pals sat chatting in Sturm’s makeshift music studio, Amato spotted a cheap electric keyboard.

Without thinking, he rose from his chair and sat in front of it. He had never played the piano—never had the slightest inclination to. Now his fingers seemed to find the keys by instinct and, to his astonishment, ripple across them. His right hand started low, climbing in lyrical chains of triads, skipping across melodic intervals and arpeggios, landing on the high notes, then starting low again and building back up. His left hand followed close behind, laying down bass, picking out harmony. Amato sped up, slowed down, let pensive tones hang in the air, then resolved them into rich chords as if he had been playing for years. When Amato finally looked up, Sturm’s eyes were filled with tears.

Music Man

Courtesy Derek Amato

An accident left Derek Amato with a severe concussion and a surprising ability to play the piano. One theory is that his brain reorganized, making accessible existing memories of music. Another is that his brain no longer filters sensory input, enabling him to hear individual notes rather than melodies.

Amato played for six hours, leaving Sturm’s house early the next morning with an unshakable feeling of wonder. He searched the Internet for an explanation, typing in words like gifted and head trauma. The results astonished him.

Amato searched the internet for an explanation, typing in words like gifted and head trauma. the results astonished him.

He read about Tony Cicoria, an orthopedic surgeon in upstate New York who was struck by lightning while talking to his mother from a telephone booth. Cicoria then became obsessed with classical piano and taught himself how to play and compose music. After being hit in the head with a baseball at age 10, Orlando Serrell could name the day of the week for any given date. A bad fall at age three left Alonzo Clemons with permanent cognitive impairment, Amato learned, and a talent for sculpting intricate replicas of animals.

Finally Amato found the name Darold Treffert, a world-recognized expert onsavant syndrome—a condition in which individuals who are typically mentally impaired demonstrate remarkable skills. Amato fired off an e-mail; soon he had answers. Treffert, now retired from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, diagnosed Amato with “acquired savant syndrome.” In the 30 or so known cases, ordinary people who suffer brain trauma suddenly develop almost-superhuman new abilities: artistic brilliance, mathematical mastery, photographic memory. One acquired savant, a high-school dropout brutally beaten by muggers, is the only known person in the world able to draw complex geometric patterns called fractals; he also claims to have discovered a mistake in pi. A stroke transformed another from a mild-mannered chiropractor into a celebrated visual artist whose work has appeared in publications like The New Yorker and in gallery shows, and sells for thousands of dollars.

The neurological causes of acquired savant syndrome are poorly understood. But the Internet has made it easier for people like Amato to connect with researchers who study savants, and improved brain-imaging techniques have enabled those scientists to begin to probe the unique neural mechanisms at work. Some have even begun to design experiments that investigate an intriguing possibility: genius lies in all of us, just waiting to be unleashed.

* * *

Pure Genius

Paul Lachine and Graham Murdoch

Bruce Miller directs the UCSF Memory and Aging Center in San Francisco, where as a behavioral neurologist he treats elderly people stricken withAlzheimer’s disease and late-life psychosis. One day in the mid-1990s, the son of a patient pointed out his father’s new obsession with painting. As his father’s symptoms worsened, the man said, his paintings improved. Soon, Miller began to identify other patients who displayed unexpected new talents as their neurological degeneration continued. As dementia laid waste to brain regions associated with language, higher-order processing, and social norms, their artistic abilities exploded.

Though these symptoms defied conventional wisdom on brain disease in the elderly—artists afflicted with Alzheimer’s typically lose artistic ability—Miller realized they were consistent with another population described in the literature: savants. That wasn’t the only similarity. Savants often display an obsessive compulsion to perform their special skill, and they exhibit deficits in social and language behaviors, defects present in dementia patients. Miller wondered if there might be neurological similarities too. Although the exact mechanisms at work in the brains of savants have never been identified and can vary from case to case, several studies dating back to at least the 1970s have found left-hemispheric damage in autistic savants with prodigious artistic, mathematical, and memory skills.

Sudden Sculptor

Courtesy Nancy Mason/Gifted Hands

After suffering a head injury as a toddler, Alonzo Clemons began to spontaneously sculpt animals with incredible accuracy and speed.

Miller decided to find out precisely where in the left hemisphere of regular savants—whose skills usually become apparent at a very young age—these defects existed. He read the brain scan of a five-year-old autistic savant able to reproduce intricate scenes from memory on an Etch-a-Sketch. Single-photon-emission computed tomography (SPECT) showed abnormal inactivity in the anterior temporal lobes of the left hemisphere—exactly the results he found in his dementia patients.

In most cases, scientists attribute enhanced brain activity to neuroplasticity, the organ’s ability to devote more cortical real estate to developing skills as they improve with practice. But Miller offered a wholly different hypothesis for the mechanisms at work in congenital and acquired savants. Savant skills, Miller argues, emerge because the areas ravaged by disease—those associated with logic, verbal communication, and comprehension—have actually been inhibiting latent artistic abilities present in those people all along. As the left brain goes dark, the circuits keeping the right brain in check disappear. The skills do not emerge as a result of newly acquired brain power; they emerge because for the first time, the areas of the right brain associated with creativity can operate unchecked.

Full Spectrum

Courtesy Nancy Mason/Gifted Hands

Savant skills lie on a spectrum of ability; Clemons is considered the rare prodigious savant—one whose talent would be exceptional even for a person not impaired in any way.

The theory fits with the work of other neurologists, who are increasingly finding cases in which brain damage has spontaneously, and seemingly counterintuitively, led to positive changes—eliminating stuttering, enhancing memory in monkeys and rats, even restoring lost eyesight in animals. In a healthy brain, the ability of different neural circuits to both excite and inhibit one another plays a critical role in efficient function. But in the brains of dementia patients and some autistic savants, the lack of inhibition in areas associated with creativity led to keen artistic expression and an almost compulsive urge to create.

* * *

In the weeks after his accident, Amato’s mind raced. And his fingers wanted to move. He found himself tapping out patterns, waking up from naps with his fingers drumming against his legs. He bought a keyboard. Without one, he felt anxious, overstimulated; once he was able to sit down and play, relief washed over him, followed by a deep sense of calm. He’d shut himself in, sometimes for as long as two to three days, just him and the piano, exploring his new talent, trying to understand it, letting the music pour out of him.

Amato experienced other symptoms, many of them not good. Black and white squares appeared in his vision, as if a transparent filter had synthesized before his eyes, and moved in a circular pattern. He was also plagued with headaches. The first one hit three weeks after his accident, but soon Amato was having as many as five a day. They made his head pound, and light and noise were excruciating. One day, he collapsed in his brother’s bathroom. On another, he almost passed out in Wal-Mart.

Still, Amato’s feelings were unambiguous. He felt certain he had been given a gift, and it wasn’t just the personal gratification of music: Amato’s new condition, he quickly realized, had vast commercial potential.

Tortured Artist

Liam King

Jon Sarkin says he saw things differently, more vividly­­, after suffering a brain hemorrhage and a stroke. And while the chiropractor had always dabbled in art, he suddenly became obsessed with creating it.

Cultural fascination with savants appears to date as far back as the condition itself. In the 19th century, “Blind Tom” Bethune became an international celebrity. A former slave who could reproduce any song on the piano, he played the White House at age 11, toured the world at 16, and over the course of his life earned well over $750,000—a fortune at the time. Dustin Hoffman introduced the savant to millions of theatergoers with his character in the 1988 movie Rain Man. Since then, prodigious savants have become staples of shows like 60 Minutes and Oprah. But acquired savants, especially, are perfect fodder for a society obsessed with self-improvement, reality television, and pop psychology.

Acquired savants are perfect fodder for a society obsessed with self-improvement, reality television, and pop psychology.

Jon Sarkin, the chiropractor turned artist, became the subject of profiles in GQand Vanity Fair, a biography, and TV documentaries. Tom Cruise purchased the rights to his life story. “To be honest, I don’t even mention it to my wife anymore when the media calls,” Sarkin says. “It’s part of life.” Jason Padgett, the savant who can draw fractals, inked a book deal after he was featured onNightline and in magazine and newspaper articles. Reached by phone, he complained that his agent no longer allowed him to give interviews. “It’s very frustrating,” he said. “I want to speak to you, but they won’t let me.”

To Amato, acquired savantism looked like the opportunity he’d been waiting for his entire life. Amato’s mother had always told him he was extraordinary, that he was put on the planet to do great things. Yet a series of uninspiring jobs had followed high school—selling cars, delivering mail, doing public relations. He’d reached for the brass ring, to be sure, but it had always eluded him. He’d auditioned for the television show American Gladiators and failed the pull-up test. He’d opened a sports-management company, handling marketing and endorsements for mixed-martial-arts fighters; it went bust in 2001. Now he had a new path.

From Chiropractor To Painter

Liam King

“Eight years ago, I didn’t draw for a while and I found out what happened,” Sarkin says. “I had a nervous breakdown. And I have been drawing pretty much constantly ever since.”

Amato began planning a marketing campaign. He wanted to be more than an artist, musician, and performer. He wanted to tell his story and inspire people. Amato also had another ambition, a goal lingering from his life before virtuosity, back when he had only his competitive drive. He wanted, more than anything, to be on Survivor. So when that first interviewer called from a local radio station, Amato was ready to talk.

* * *

Few people have followed the emergence of acquired savants with more interest than Allan Snyder, a neuroscientist at the University of Sydney in Australia. Since 1999, Snyder has focused his research on studying how their brains function. He’s also pressed further into speculative territory than most neuroscientists feel comfortable: He is attempting to produce the same outstanding abilities in people with undamaged brains.

Last spring, Snyder published what many consider to be his most substantive work. He and his colleagues gave 28 volunteers a geometric puzzle that has stumped laboratory subjects for more than 50 years. The challenge: Connect nine dots, arrayed in three rows of three, using four straight lines without retracing a line or lifting the pen. None of the subjects could solve the problem. Then Snyder and his colleagues used a technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to temporarily immobilize the same area of the brain destroyed by dementia in Miller’s acquired savants. The noninvasive technique, which is commonly used to evaluate brain damage in stroke patients, delivers a weak electrical current to the scalp through electrodes, depolarizing or hyperpolarizing neural circuits until they have slowed to a crawl. After tDCS, more than 40 percent of the participants in Snyder’s experiment solved the problem. (None of those in a control group given placebo tDCS identified the solution.)

Sarkin’s Art

Liam King

The experiment, Snyder argues, supports the hypothesis that the abilities observed in acquired savants emerge once brain areas normally held in check have become unfettered. The crucial role of the left temporal lobe, he believes, is to filter what would otherwise be a dizzying flood of sensory stimuli, sorting them into previously learned concepts. These concepts, or what Snyder calls mind-sets, allow humans to see a tree instead of all its individual leaves and to recognize words instead of just the letters. “How could we possibly deal with the world if we had to analyze, to completely fathom, every new snapshot?” he says.

Savants can access raw sensory information, normally off-limits to the conscious mind, because the brain’s perceptual region isn’t functioning. To solve the nine-dot puzzle, one must extend the lines beyond the square formed by the dots, which requires casting aside preconceived notions of the parameters. “Our whole brain is geared to making predictions so we can function rapidly in this world,” Snyder says. “If something naturally helps you get around the filters of these mind-sets, that is pretty powerful.”

Sudden Savant

Paul Lachine and Graham Murdoch

Treffert, for one, finds the results of the experiment compelling. “I was a little dubious of Snyder’s earlier work, which often involved asking his subjects to draw pictures,” he says. “It just seemed pretty subjective: How do you evaluate the change in them? But his recent study is useful.”

Snyder thinks Amato’s musical prodigy adds to mounting evidence that untapped human potential lies in everyone, accessible with the right tools. When the non-musician hears music, he perceives the big picture, melodies. Amato, Snyder says, has a “literal” experience of music—he hears individual notes. Miller’s dementia patients have technical artistic skill because they are drawing what they see: details.

Berit Brogaard believes the left-brain, right-brain idea is an oversimplification. Brogaard is a neuroscientist and philosophy professor at the Center for Neurodynamics at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. She has another theory: When brain cells die, they release a barrage of neurotransmitters, and this deluge of potent chemicals may actually rewire parts of the brain, opening up new neural pathways into areas previously unavailable.

“Our hypothesis is that we have abilities that we cannot access,” Brogaard says. “Because they are not conscious to us, we cannot manipulate them. Some reorganization takes place that makes it possible to consciously access information that was there, lying dormant.”

In August, Brogaard published a paper exploring the implications of a battery of tests her lab ran on Jason Padgett. It revealed damage in the visual-cortex areas involved in detecting motion and boundaries. Areas of the parietal cortex associated with novel visual images, mathematics, and action planning were abnormally active. In Padgett’s case, she says, the areas that have become supercharged are next to those that sustained the damage—placing them in the path of the neurotransmitters likely unleashed by the death of so many brain cells.

In Amato’s case, she says, he learned bar chords on a guitar in high school and even played in a garage band. “Obviously he had some interest in music before, and his brain probably recoded some music unconsciously,” she says. “He stored memories of music in his brain, but he didn’t access them.” Somehow the accident provoked a reorganization of neurons that brought them into his conscious mind, Brogaard speculates. It’s a theory she hopes to explore with him in the lab.

* * *

On a beautiful Los Angeles day last October, I accompanied Amato and his agent, Melody Pinkerton, up to the penthouse roof deck of Santa Monica’s Shangri-La Hotel. Far below us, a pier jutted into the ocean and the Pacific Coast Highway hugged the coastline. Pinkerton settled next to Amato on a couch, nodding warmly and blinking at him with a doe-eyed smile as three men with handheld cameras circled. They were gathering footage for the pilot of a reality-TV series about women trying to make it in Hollywood. Pinkerton is a former contestant on the VH1 reality show Frank the Entertainer and has posed for Playboy; if the series is green-lit, Amato will make regular appearances as one of her clients.

“My whole life has changed,” Amato told her. “I’ve slowed down, even though I’m racing and producing at a pace that not many people understand, you know? If Beethoven scored 500 songs a year back in the day and was considered a pretty brilliant mind, and the doctors tell me I’m scoring 2,500 pieces a year, you can see that I’m a little busy.”

Amato seemed comfortable with the cameras, despite the pressure. A spot on a reality show would represent a step forward in his career, but not a huge leap. Over the past six years, Amato has been featured in newspapers and television shows around the world. He was one of eight savants featured on a Discovery Channel special in 2010 called Ingenious Minds, and he was on PBS’s NOVA this fall. He recently appeared on a talk show hosted by his idol, Jeff Probst, also the host of Survivor. In June, Amato appeared on the Todayshow.

Many savants exhibit exquisite computational or artistic capacities, but almost always at the expense of other things the brain does.

Musical renown (and a payday) has yet to follow. He released his first album in 2007. In 2008, he played in front of several thousand people in New Orleans with the famed jazz-fusion guitarist Stanley Jordan. He was asked to write the score for an independent Japanese documentary. But while Amato’s musical prowess never fails to elicit amazement in the media, reviews of his music are mixed. “Some of the reaction is good, some of it’s fair, some of it’s not so good,” he says. “I wouldn’t say any of it’s great. What I think’s going to be great is working with other musicians now.”

Still, as we strolled down Santa Monica Boulevard to a sushi restaurant after the filming, he hardly could have seemed happier. At the table, Amato smiled broadly, gestured manically with meaty forearms tattooed with musical notes, and poked the air with his chopsticks for emphasis.

“There’s book stuff, there are appearances, performances, charity organizations,” he said. “There are TV people, film people, commercial people, background stuff. Shoot, I know I missed about another half dozen. It’s like I’m on a plane doing about 972 miles an hour! I’m enjoying every second of the ride!”

Amato hasn’t exactly been coy about his desire for fame, mailing packets of material to reporters, sending Facebook requests to fellow acquired savants, and continuously updating his fan page—behavior that has raised some doubts among experts.

Rex Jung, a neuroscientist at the University of New Mexico, grew suspicious of Amato after reading about his history as an ultimate-fight promoter. “I couldn’t be more skeptical,” he says. Jung studies creativity and traumatic brain injuries, and he has spent time with Alonzo Clemons, the savant who sculpts animals. He believes acquired savantism is a legitimate condition. But he notes Amato does not display other symptoms one would expect.

Many savants, Jung says, exhibit “exquisite” computational or artistic capacities, but “almost always at the expense of other things the brain does.” Clemons, for example, has severe developmental disabilities. “I am highly skeptical of savants that are able to tie their shoes and update their Facebook pages and do strong marketing campaigns to highlight their savant abilities all at the same time.”

Overnight Artist

Paul Lachine and Graham Murdoch

There is no way to definitively prove or disprove Amato’s claims, but a number of credible scientists are willing to vouch for his authenticity. Andrew Reeves, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic, conducted MRI scans of Amato’s brain for Ingenious Minds. The tests revealed several white spots, which Reeves acknowledges could have been caused by previous concussions.

“We knew going in that it was unlikely to show any sort of signature change,” Reeves says. But Amato’s description of what he experiences “fits too well with how the brain is wired, in terms of what parts are adjacent to what parts, for him to have concocted it, in my opinion.” Reeves believes the black and white squares in Amato’s field of vision somehow connect to his motor system, indicating an atypical link between the visual and auditory regions of his brain.

As I drove through the streets of L.A. with Amato last fall, it seemed to me that there was something undeniably American about his efforts to seize on his accident—which struck when he was close to 40, staring into the abyss of middle-age mediocrity—and transform himself from an anonymous sales trainer into a commercial product, an inspirational symbol of human possibility for the legions of potential fans dreaming of grander things. Treffert, Snyder, and Brogaard all spoke enthusiastically about unraveling the phenomenon of acquired savantism, in order to one day enable everyone to explore their hidden talents. The Derek Amatos of the world provide a glimpse of that goal.

After parking on Sunset Boulevard, a few blocks from the storied rock-and-roll shrines of the Roxy and the Viper Room, Amato and I headed into the Standard Hotel and followed a bedraggled hipster with an Australian accent through the lobby to a dimly lit bar. In the center of the room sat a grand piano, its ivory keys gleaming. The chairs had been flipped upside down on the tables, and dishes clinked in a nearby kitchen. The club, closed to customers, was all ours. As Amato sat down, the tension seemed to drain from his shoulders.

He closed his eyes, placed his foot on one of the pedals, and began to play. The music that gushed forth was loungy, full of flowery trills, swelling and sweeping up and down the keys in waves of cascading notes—a sticky, emotional kind of music more appropriate for the romantic climax of a movie like From Here to Eternity than a gloomy nightclub down the street from the heart of the Sunset Strip. It seemed strangely out of character for a man whose sartorial choices bring to mind ’80s hair-band icon Bret Michaels. Amato didn’t strike me as prodigious, the kind of rare savant, like Blind Tom Bethune, whose skills would be impressive even in someone with years of training.

But it didn’t seem to matter. There was expression, melody, and skill. And if they could emerge spontaneously in Amato, who’s to say what spectacular abilities might lie dormant in the rest of us?

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of the magzine.

But it didn’t seem to matter. There was expression, melody, and skill. And if they could emerge spontaneously in Amato, who’s to say what spectacular abilities might lie dormant in the rest of us?

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of the magazine.

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Reprogramming my inner computer 

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Our mind is a wonderful mystery. We still know so little about it, even if we slowly are starting to reveal its secrets. Normally it works effectively, like a brand new computer, but sometimes it stops working. In a computer, programming mistakes slow an a otherwise perfect system. When that happens, the programmer must find the mistake and fix it. When he does, the computer must be left in peace. The programmer must focus must be on one issue at a time. If the programmer is exhausted, it will take longer time before he can do his job. 

Our body is a fine-tune system perfected through evolution. When something goes wrong, we notice it immediately. Genetic abnormalities or disarray in the brain can manifest itself in many forms. When our body produce problems for us, we try to fix it. Sometimes we manage to do this by ourselves, by doing things that are good for our body. By sleeping, eating healthy, talk with others or listen to music, we give ourselves space and time to let the body get rest so it can work like it always does, on reclaiming the balance it needs. Sometimes we can’t do so on our own, however. Sometimes we need our own programmers, with an intimate knowledge of what makes us tick.

 Unfortunately we can’t find that help like frustrated computer-users can. There is no phonebook with numbers directing us to a competent healer, that will solve all our issues. There is only trial and error, meeting different people and experiencing different things that can help us in the long run. 
I have worked as a psychologist for 4,5 years now. When I try to contemplate the fact that I’ve worked for so long, it’s almost incomprehensible. In this process my mind has usually managed to fix itself. When I’ve been sad, angry or helpless, I’ve dealt with those feelings and come out of it stronger. I’ve found and trusted helpers that pull me up if I’ve made mistakes. But sometimes my stubbornness has gotten the best of me, and I’ve not taken the time to reboot my overactive system because I thought I could fix everything myself. Even if I know my mind better than anyone else, I have parts of it that I don’t know as well too. When those parts start to give me trouble, I need to trust the expertise of others. After all, computers can’t fix themselves if something goes wrong. 
I’m lucky to always have competent and intelligent people around me who guide me when I’m too certain of my own infallibility. When my mirror neurons are overloaded after too much emphatic work, I have others who see me and inform me that I need to take a break. A break for me might be completely different from somebody else’s break. For me, the break will consist of a lot of alone-time where I can write, read, sing and think. With three weeks holiday in front of me, I will have just that now. I will upgrade my inner computer so that it is ready for more work later. 

So, don’t forget to reboot your own inner computer, or ask for help if you can’t fix it yourself. It will do you good.

  

Social behavior and oxytocin

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Oxytocin

Once I met a girl from Turkey who told me that usually, all women met on Sunday to groom each other. They talk and laugh while fixing their hair and putting on make-up. She said that she missed this in Norway; People come together mostly on Friday nights to drink and then go out. The rest of the week was dedicated to work or studies, and the social life was just a fraction of what it was for her in Turkey. That reminded me of how I felt when I traveled to Turkey myself. People sat in restaurants and talked between meals. They drank, but not so much as in Norway. There was no hurry, just a lot of smiles and love sent back and forth. They touched each other more: On the shoulders, on the small of the back when they went home and often warm embraces while they said their goodbyes for the night. In France they kiss each other on the cheek two times, and in Italy the people behave much the same way. People in the south of Europe simply are more social, and I love that. We need it in Norway too, but in my opinion, there are far too many lonely people out there. Maybe this is due to the distances in our country. I grew up in a little place myself, so it wasn`t just to visit whoever you want (even though I really tried). 

Oxytocin is a hormone we need to interact with others. It calms our nervous system and makes us feel at peace with the world. Mothers feeding their babies, have a lot of oxytocin in their systems, and so do happy couples. Oxytocin levels varies from person to person, and there are also huge differences in the animal kingdom. The animals with the highest levels of oxytocin are also the most «faithful» of them. Swans keep their mate for life, and their levels are sky-rocket. In the world today, the divorce rate is high. I don`t mean to advocate a view where we should`t get a divorce when necessary, because real freedom is to work out what works best for each and every one of us. But I do think that relationships is important for most of us. People with Asperger or autism are known for being less able to connect with others in a meaningful way, but that doesn`t mean that they don`t have a need to connect in any way they can. Some get engrossed in objects, and if you think about it, that is a relationship too. Who are we to judge what kind of relationships they should have? Another thing that strikes me, is the fact that some of them love to be wrapped in a «hug machine». They get calmer and don`t need to bang their heads, as some autists do. It might be safer to them, to have something nonliving touching them, than unpredictable humans that they don`t understand. But they still need to get their oxytocin shots from somewhere. We should not scold them for not wanting a hug from the primary caregiver, because they have their reasons. By accepting and trying to understand variations, we are able to be where others are and give them good lives and feel good in return. Nothing makes us happier than doing the right thing.  

For me, being social has swung back and forth like a pendulum. Sometimes I isolate myself, but when the need comes, I call a friend. When I had 5-6 patients a day, I could not see more people that day, as I had to refuel my energy with books or other activities. In the summer I am often more social, as I have more time to do both. That is also when I love to meet new people. To have time to talk and understand even more about how other minds work. I also love hugging and touching, and have realized that even if I`m single, I can get my dose of oxytocin without feeling very lonely. I know I will be very happy and content in a good relationship but there are so many ways to be happy, and as long as I get my dose of warm embraces, I feel calm and at peace with myself and my life.

So, no matter where you`r from or what your cultural etiquette is, try to get what your body craves and needs. Even if some people slap instead of touch gently, there are still a major percentage of the population who wants to see others grow and feel good about themselves. It`s much easier to spot those people if you get experience and try to get closer to others again. Fear has an important function, but we need to tame it when it steals away moments of potential happiness. Because, in the end, we all need a hug when we feel alone. 

Oxytocin-8

Oxytocin – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

How to hack your brain

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How to Hack Your Brain

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How to Hack Your Brain

You are not who you think you are. Your personality and identity is significantly more malleable than you realize. With a few simple tricks, you can exploit your brain’s innate functionality to change just about anything about yourself. Here’s how.

You Are Not Necessarily the Person You Think You Are

How to Hack Your Brain

You are not who you are, but rather the product of many influences. The saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” exists for a reason: the longer you’ve been the person you think you are, the harder it becomes to change. The thing is, you can dramatically change who you are. It’s actually not so much that it’s difficult to change, but that you’ve developed patterns and habits that make it easier to do things the way you do them. Trying something in a new way can feel very awkward, it will be generally less efficient by virtue of being something new to you, and it often lacks excitement for you when it involves giving up the comfort associated with your way.

That’s not to say you aren’t born with some inherent abilities, but most of what you consider part of your identity is a product of influence. While we don’t know the exact ratio of nature to nurture, there is undoubtedly a combination of both that makes us who we are. We have a tendency to think that change is difficult, but it’s really just a matter of changing your influence. You’re probably familiar with Stockholm syndrome-the term used to describe how hostage victims tend to develop positive feelings towards their captors. Stockholm syndrome isn’t a kind of brainwashing by the captor; instead, the victim adapts to the poor situation he or she is in. If most people can adapt to something as awful as being kidnapped, most people can adapt to smaller positive changes in their own lives. You can even make enormous changes if you’re willing to put in the work and you provide yourself with the proper influences. We’re going to look at how to do that on high and low levels, from priming your brain to manipulating your own emotions, and also look at how your environment and the people you know shape your life.

Most of these methods won’t make you feel comfortable, and, at times, they may sound a bit crazy, but it is possible to “hack” your own brain. Here are just a few ways to do it.

Priming Your Brain

How to Hack Your Brain

Priming is a ridiculously simple technique because all it involves is talking to yourself. On the dull end of the spectrum, it’s similar to self-affirmation. On the crazier end of the spectrum, it bears some similarities with neuro-linguistic programming. Priming your brain involves reciting a given set of words that are designed to alter your mindset. It is not brainwashing and it cannot make you do anything you don’t want to do. What it can accomplish, however, is putting you into a state of mind that will be more useful to you with a given situation or task.

How to Hack Your Brain

Before we get into the specifics of how to prime your brain, let’s talk about how and why it works. If you were to say the word mustard out loud, and then you were to see a portion of the word later, you’d be reminded of mustard. For example, if you were to say “I must have this” you might be reminded of mustard because of the word must. If you were hungry and liked mustard, you may even want some. It’s the same phenomenon that compels you to buy a particular brand of shampoo that you saw on television even if you 1) don’t remember seeing the commercial, and 2) couldn’t care less what kind of shampoo you use. This is essentially how priming works, and it’s all thanks to your memory.

While you’re not going to remember everything you say, that doesn’t mean what you say is gone forever. While everything stored in your recent memory may not be immediately accessible, all you really need to bring something up is a trigger word. This is conceptually similar to using acronyms as a memory tool (e.g. Roy G. Biv) but isn’t designed to help you actually remember anything. Instead, the goal is to place common words that, when apart, have no real specific value, but when together, have an associative value that make you think of happy things, sad things, specific people, or ambition. If any of those common words come up again later in the day, you’ll immediately associate that word with the associative value of the group. Here’s an example:

  • drive
  • do
  • go
  • make
  • objective
  • important
  • create
  • commitment
  • purpose
  • enthusiasm
  • eager
  • motivation

This is a list of words synonymous with or related to ambition. It’s designed to be read aloud to put you in a more ambitious mindset, focusing your thoughts and priming your brain to react ambitiously when these words, or portions of these words, come up later in your day.

Another exercise involves taking a shorter list of priming words and making a sentence with it. Here’s an example:

  • the
  • smiled
  • looked
  • girl
  • and

These words can form the sentence “the girl looked and smiled,” which should bring to mind pleasant associations for most people. Constructing sentences out of word lists (which you can create yourself) can help put you in the right mindset.

These two methods can be used to prime your brain. They are not magic tricks that will instantly make you feel happy, ambitious, or whatever, but they can help to provide you with the mindset you need to better accomplish your daily tasks.

For more reading on priming, and a look at some really interesting studies, don’t forget to check out the references for this article.

Using Your Emotions

How to Hack Your Brain

If you’ve ever found yourself making out-of-character decisions based on your emotional state—such as binging on ice cream after a breakup—you know how easily your feelings can overtake your actions. Rather than letting your emotions lead you towards poor judgment and irrational behavior, however, you can learn to compensate for different emotional states and to fabricate emotions to alter your mood. In order to do that you need to, simply put, get in touch with your feelings. The idea isn’t so much to cry into a pillow about your wasted childhood, but understand what you’re feeling when you’re feeling it, what the root cause is, and what you can do about it. We’re going to take a look at how you can dissect your emotional state to use it to your advantage, and also look at how you can fabricate emotion to change how you’re feeling.

Take an Acting Class

How to Hack Your Brain

You can’t really control your emotions if you don’t understand them, and one of the best ways to understand them is to take an acting class. To some this may sound fun, and to others this may sound like hell. Love it or hate it, acting lessons are one of the best ways to explore how and why you feel certain things. Your goal should be to find a class that will make you uncomfortable every time you go. In my experience, any class teaching the Meisner technique is very effective if you put a lot of effort into the exercises. It can be slow, tedious, and uncomfortable, but it’s capable of bringing out emotion you might not realize you had.

Make Yourself Uncomfortable

How to Hack Your Brain

Your emotions aren’t in full force if you’re not really doing anything, so you need to put yourself in uncomfortable situations in order to bring them out. This doesn’t mean you should make yourself feel horrible, but that you should go out and do things that you might resist because you’re worried about the downsides. Meeting new people is something that makes most people uncomfortable, and it’s a great place to start, especially if it’s a first date. Try new things that scare you. If you notice you’re glued to the couch and don’t want to get up, do the opposite. Spend time with people you don’t like. Go to a movie you’re sure you’ll hate. Your experiences won’t always be pleasant, but they should incite emotion that you can later analyze and better understand.

Keep Track of How You Feel

How to Hack Your Brain

Like an abbreviated diary, every time you have an emotional reaction to something, write it down. You don’t need much detail, but just a sentence or two noting the emotion you’re experiencing and the (possible) cause. For example, I get extremely irritable when I’m hungry. I will lose my temper far more easily when I’m hungry, so whenever I notice myself thinking irrational (and sometimes hateful) things, I always remind myself that I’m just hungry, I’ll eat in a minute, and the “asshole” who accidentally missed the garbage can and didn’t notice is mostly a result of my frustrated stomach. Until I started to pay attention, I never really noticed that I was a jerk whenever I was hungry. Instead, I just thought I was a jerk. This is a simple example, but the point is this: pay attention to how you feel and the other issues currently present, and you’ll find it much easier to manage your negative emotions.

Emote in Front of the Mirror

How to Hack Your Brain

Fabricating emotion is difficult. Once you understand your emotions you’ll find it a bit easier, but it helps to be able to recall how it feels, physically, to emote. We all know how to smile, for example, but you can probably count more fake smiles in family photographs than you can real ones. If you don’t know how to create an authentic smile (also known as the Duchenne smile), it will be very obvious to everyone around you.

The easiest way to learn to fake expressions is to practice them in the mirror. You can try them out to see what you look like and you’ll immediately know if they’re passable or not. You’ll also note that it feels physically different to create an authentic-looking emotion than it does to create a fake-looking emotion. For example, an authentic smile shows more in the eyes than it does in your mouth. When someone smiles a true smile, their eyes wrinkle (creating “crows feet”) because a new musicle—the orbicularis oculi muscle—is used. You’ll come to remember this feeling and be able to replicate it away from the mirror after a little practice.

It’s not necessarily easy to emote in front of the mirror, but that’s not as hard as you think. If your goal is simply to learn to smile better, you’ll get there if you just stare at yourself for awhile. Eventually it will get so ridiculous that you’ll have to laugh. If you’re less patient, you can try to make yourself laugh by making strange faces or just being ridiculous. If you’re comfortable, have a friend over to help. For other emotions, you simply need to find a source of that emotion and bring it into play in front of the mirror. If you’ve employed any of the previously discussed techniques, you may already have a reserve. Alternatively, watch a movie that makes you laugh or cry and do it by the mirror. (Yes, this is absolutely a strange thing to do, but it’ll work.) If you’re interested in anger, you should have no problem getting there by just complaining to yourself or to a friend on the phone.

Emoting in front of the mirror is going to be strange and awkward at first, but after a few tries you’ll get the hang of it and be able to create authentic expressions on demand. These expressions do surface from genuine emotion, so repeating them can actually make you feel happier/sadder/angrier/etc. through repetition. If you need to change your mood and your mindset, the ability to fake it ‘til you make it is very, very useful.

Consider Your Health

How to Hack Your Brain

Anything you do is much easier if you’re healthy—and that goes for mental as well as physical health. These methods won’t be terribly helpful if you’re seriously depressed. If you’re not sleeping, eating well, and/or getting a reasonable amount of physical activity in each day, you’re going to find them difficult as well. You can do pretty much everything better if you take care of your mind and your body, so don’t look at anything you’ve read here as a panacea for the problems in your life. Everything here assumes that you take reasonably good care of yourself and generally start your day in a good place. If you’re not feeling good on most days, you need to take care of those problems before you decide to start playing mind tricks with yourself. Always be healthy first.

You can contact Adam Dachis, the author of this post, at adachis@lifehacker.com. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Rest and digest

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The parasympathetic nervous system is the brakes in our bodies. It’s almost impossible to stress when the body puts on the brakes when we are deeply relaxed. Luckily, it’s possible to train our body and relaxation systems to become more active.

Right now I’m listening to ‘hardwiring happiness’ by Rich Hanson. 

Hardwiring Happiness lays out a simple method that uses the hidden power of everyday experiences to build new neural structures full of happiness, love, confidence, and peace. Dr. Hanson’s four steps build strengths into your brain— balancing its ancient negativity bias—making contentment and a powerful sense of resilience the new normal. In mere minutes each day, we can transform our brains into refuges and power centers of calm and happiness.

The take-home message from the book, is utilizing the positive experiences you encounter every day. When I listen, I feel irritation every now and then as his positivity triggers thoughts like “It`s not THAT easy”. But then I relax, and realize this is just one of the many fleeting thoughts and feelings that I need to notice, but not go into. When I take a deep breath to deactivate my sympathetic nervous system that always scans for what is wrong, the negative thoughts evaporates like dew in the sun.

The author have a wast knowledge-base this the draws from in the book. He gives a lot of examples from his own life, to show how it’s possible to hardwiring our brains to happiness. When we manage to turn on the ‘rest and digest’ system, we are more open to positive experiences. We can’t be relaxed and in a very negative mood at the same time. He continues, however, with saying that it isn’t enough to try to relax, we have to work actively with noticing and creating positive experiences. 

From his book: 

” As you read this, in the five cups of tofu-like tissue inside your head, nested amid a trillion support cells, 80 to 100 billion neurons are signaling one another in a network with about half a quadrillion connections, called synapses. All this incredibly fast, complex, and dynamic neural activity is continually changing your brain. Active synapses become more sensitive, new synapses start growing within minutes, busy regions get more blood since they need more oxygen and glucose to do their work, and genes inside neurons turn on or off. Meanwhile, less active connections wither away in a process sometimes called neural Darwinism: the survival of the busiest.”

Rick Hanson, Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence

So, update your brain AND your mind. And listen to the audiobook, off course.

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Getting Fit – Body and Mind

Mind Control Researchers Create Fake Link Between Unrelated Memories

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Nicholas West 
Activist Post
 

Advancements in genetics and neuroscience are undoubtedly leading toward direct methods of mind control, albeit only with good intentions … if government and establishment science can be believed. However, an array of hi-tech methods have been announced which show clear potential for negative manipulation.


Bold claims have been made by scientists that they now can use “neural dust,”  high-powered lasers, and light beamed from outside the skull to alter brain function and even turn off consciousness altogether.

But it is memory research that might be among the most troubling.

As I’ve previously suggested in other articles, our memories help us form our identity: who we are relative to where we have been. Positive or negative lessons from the past can be integrated into our present decisions, thus enabling us to form sound strategies and behaviors that can aid us in our quest for personal evolution. What if we never knew what memories were real or false? What if our entire narrative was changed by having our life’s events restructured? Or what if there were memories that were traumatic enough to be buried as a mechanism of sanity preservation, only to be brought back to us in a lab?

Research has commenced into many facets of how memory can be restructured, whether it is erasing memories, the implantation of false memories, or triggering memories of fear when none previously existed. (Source)

MIT researchers, for example previously claimed to have found the specific brain switch that links emotions to memory. MIT went on to admit that these findings could lead not only to direct intervention via manipulation of brain cells through light, but a new class of drugs to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.



Once again, memory tinkering is making the news. This time it comes from the University of Toyama, Japan, where researchers claim to have for the first time, “linked two distinct memories using completely artificial means.” I have highlighted areas of the press release below which are consistent with similar research into supposed solutions for PTSD. The same disturbing language is present that seems to indicate a desire to reverse engineer the process and create fear-based trauma.


So far, ethical boundaries seem fuzzy at best, and downright non-existent in various areas of brain study. It is a time when more light needs to shine upon this research, who is funding it, and what is permissible. Given the outrageous abuses already committed by government-directed science, and a global climate of centralized health control, we would do well to read between the lines of these announcements and prepare to become very critical of their pursuits.  


Press Release

The ability to learn associations between events is critical for survival, but it has not been clear how different pieces of information stored in memory may be linked together by populations of neurons. In a study published April 2nd in Cell Reports
, synchronous activation of distinct neuronal ensembles caused mice to artificially associate the memory of a foot shock with the unrelated memory of exploring a safe environment, triggering an increase in fear-related behavior when the mice were re-exposed to the non-threatening environment. The findings suggest that co-activated cell ensembles become wired together to link two distinct memories that were previously stored independently in the brain.


Memory is the basis of all higher brain functions, including consciousness, and it also plays an important role in psychiatric diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder,” says senior study author Kaoru Inokuchi of the University of Toyama. “By showing how the brain associates different types of information to generate a qualitatively new memory that leads to enduring changes in behavior, our findings could have important implications for the treatment of these debilitating conditions.”

Recent studies have shown that subpopulations of neurons activated during learning are reactivated during subsequent memory retrieval, and reactivation of a cell ensemble triggers the retrieval of the corresponding memory. Moreover, artificial reactivation of a specific neuronal ensemble corresponding to a pre-stored memory can modify the acquisition of a new memory, thereby generating false or synthetic memories. However, these studies employed a combination of sensory input and artificial stimulation of cell ensembles. Until now, researchers had not linked two distinct memories using completely artificial means. 


With that goal in mind, Inokuchi and Noriaki Ohkawa of the University of Toyama used a fear-learning paradigm in mice followed by a technique called optogenetics, which involves genetically modifying specific populations of neurons to express light-sensitive proteins that control neuronal excitability, and then delivering blue light through an optic fiber to activate those cells. In the behavioral paradigm, one group of mice spent six minutes in a cylindrical enclosure while another group explored a cube-shaped enclosure, and 30 minutes later, both groups of mice were placed in the cube-shaped enclosure, where a foot shock was immediately delivered. Two days later, mice that were re-exposed to the cube-shaped enclosure spent more time frozen in fear

than mice that were placed back in the cylindrical enclosure.
The researchers then used optogenetics to reactivate the unrelated memories of the safe cylinder-shaped environment and the foot shock. Stimulation of neuronal populations in memory-related brain regions called the hippocampus and amygdala, which were activated during the learning phase, caused mice to spend more time frozen in fear when they were later placed back in the cylindrical enclosure, as compared with stimulation of neurons in either the hippocampus or amygdala, or no stimulation at all. 

The findings show that synchronous activation of distinct cell ensembles can generate artificial links between unrelated pieces of information stored in memory, resulting in long-lasting changes in behavior.

By modifying this technique, we will next attempt to artificially dissociate memories that are physiologically connected,” Inokuchi says. “This may contribute to the development of new treatments for psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, whose main symptoms arise from unnecessary associations between unrelated memories.”
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10 Scientific Keys to Changing Anything In Your Life

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10 Scientific Keys to Changing Anything In Your Life

Changing your behavior is hard.

Luckily, there is a scientifically proven way to do it that gives you the best chance of success.

Anyone who is trying to change their behavior without understanding this science needs to stop, now. Read up on the science. Learn to do it the more effective way.

Then, start again, with better strategies, and create the life you’ve always wanted.

Here’s the other thing you should know: behavior change is hard. Hard like algebra. You will work on it for “a while” before you get to that dream-life. What is “a while”? Years.

But that’s okay. The secret of self-development is that everybody has to work hard and put in a lot of work, if they want to achieve something great.

It just so happens that here at Fierce Gentleman we believe that every man is destined for greatness.

So, below we give you the keys to greatness: 10 scientific keys you need to change anything in your life.

Of course, information alone does not lead to life change. (That’s one of the keys.)

But never before has so much high-quality, scientifically-validated information been available for free, to anyone, to get their path started:

10 Scientific Keys to Change Any Behavior

  1. Willpower is weak. Environmental influences are much more important than willpower. (1,2)
  2. Information does not lead to actionEmotions lead to action. (Tweet this) This one is harder to back up with scientific studies, but it has long been my personal experience….over 8 years of studying both my own behavior, and the behavior of others who I’m trying to help. Information allows us to know in which direction we can go, but ultimately, emotions motivate us to take action. See also (2) 
  3. The Internet destroys your ability to focus. Unless you’re reading higher-level long-form articles, like this one. Read the book The Shallows by Nicholas Carr.
  4. Facebook makes you unhappy. Delete your account (unless you’re using it for business.) (3)
  5. Today’s processed foods are engineered to flood the reward centers of your brain, and potentially trigger food addictions that will wreck your health and wellbeing. Eat vegetables instead. (4,5)
  6. Exercise makes your brain bigger. It also gives you more self-control, lifts depression, and stamps out anxiety. (6)
  7. Meditation makes your brain bigger. It also gives you more self-control, lifts depression, and stamps out anxiety. (7)
  8. Give up alcohol. The breakdown of alcohol in your body creates toxins that the body has to remove. It is also extra calories that will contribute to extra fat storage. The additional toxic load can make you sick. And drinking and driving or just being out around other drunk drivers can kill you.  Give up alcohol. (1o)
  9. Take time off work. Overwork drains your willpower and makes you stressed and sick. (Personal experience, common sense.)
  10. Maximize neurotransmitters oxytocin, GABA and serotonin. Minimize activities that have you “chasing the dopamine dragon.” Activities that stimulate dopamine: shopping, gambling, pornography, binge eating. Activities that stimulate serotonin, oxytocin & GABA: getting a massage, swing in a hammock, spending time with loved ones, meditating, praying, listening to music, reading. (See The Willpower Instinct.)

Ready for more?

Click here to get the full ebook with 23 principles

(No email required)

Each of the above 23 principles could be a textbook in its own right, given the amount of research that has been done in that area — and there is much, much more to be said about how to actually implement changes using these principles in your own life.

But the information is out there. There is enough knowledge freely available tocompletely change your life and make it into whatever you wish — if you are able to take action.

As I used to say when I was working with adult students, “There are tons of ways to be an F student, but only a few ways to be an A student.

Whenever I study another person who is really achieving greatness in life, I see them doing one of a small number of very similar things.

If you do the things they do, you will get the results they get.

SOURCES 

I’m a behavior change professional. I’ve spent my entire professional career helping people change things in their lives: ability to focus, study habits, success habits, corporate performance, brain function.

I’ve read tons of books and research articles on the subject of willpower, habit formation, interpersonal neurobiology, and cognitive science, and I’ve been involved on the ground-level of helping other people change their patterns, habits, and lives for over 10 years.

So although the majority of the above assertions are backed by solid science, a few of them, marked “personal experience” are just from my own experience with over 500 individuals and their life-change journeys.

If you’re interested in further reading, see the excellent books, articles and presentations below.

flourish4

We’ll send you the latest article every Sunday. Click here to get Fierce Gentleman in your inbox.

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