"Is it okay if I totally trash your office?" It's a question Elyn Saks once asked her doctor, and it wasn't a joke. A legal scholar, in 2007 Saks came forward with her own story of schizophrenia, controlled by drugs and therapy but ever-present.
"The emotionally charged story recounted at the beginning Dr. Paul Zak's film—of a terminally ill two-year-old named Ben and his father—offers a simple yet remarkable case study in how the human brain responds to effective storytelling."
Want to know how a dramatic story structure affects our brain chemistry and leads us to make donations? Then watch this very engaging and informative 5 minute video!
The video explains several neuroscience research projects that were conducted (don't worry - the video is NOT boring) about the effects a short dramatic story had on people's brains and behavior.
And it explains how to structure a story to make the biggest impact. I wish all scientist could do such a great job in explaining their work and its meaning. Enjoy!
“These new media have made our world into a single unit,” Marshall McLuhan observed in 1960, when he made the case for the emergence of a “global village”.
Meanwhile, in the half-century since McLuhan’s meditations, scientists and philosophers alike have become increasingly occupied with the study of consciousness — what it is, how it works, and how it shapes our sense of self.
In Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist (public library), neuroscientist Christof Koch — “reductionist, because I seek quantitative explanations for consciousness in the ceaseless and ever-varied activity of billions of tiny nerve cells, each with their tens of thousands of synapses; romantic, because of my insistence that the universe has contrails of meaning that can be deciphered in the sky about us and deep within us” — explores how subjective feelings, or consciousness, come into being.
Among Koch’s most fascinating arguments is one that bridges philosophy, evolutionary biology and technofuturism to predict a global Übermind not unlike McLuhan’s “global village,” but one in which our technology melds with what Carl Jung has termed the “collective unconscious” to produce a kind of sentient global brain:
The ever-increasing complexity of organisms, evident in the fossil record, is a consequence of the unrelenting competition for survival that propels evolution.
It was accompanied by the emergence of nervous systems and the first inkling of sentience. The continuing complexification of brains, to use Teilhard de Chardin’s term, enhanced consciousness until self-consciousness emerged: awareness reflecting upon itself. This recursive process started millions of years ago in some of the more highly developed mammals. In Homo sapiens, it has achieved its temporary pinnacle.
But complexification does not stop with individual self-awareness. It is ongoing and, indeed, speeding up. In today’s technologically sophisticated and intertwined societies, complexification is taking on a supraindividual, continent-spanning character. With the instant, worldwide communication afforded by cell phones, e-mail, and social networking, I foresee a time when humanity’s teeming billions and their computers will be interconnected in a vast matrix — a planetary Übermind. Provided mankind avoids Nightfall — a thermonuclear Armageddon or a complete environmental meltdown — there is no reason why this web of hypertrophied consciousness cannot spread to the planets and, ultimately, beyond the stellar night to the galaxy at large.
Exactly what is depression? Do we under- or over-diagnose it? Do treatments on offer really work?
Depression is an experience known to millions. But arguments rage on aspects of its definition and its impact on societies present and past: do drugs work, or are they merely placebos? Is the depression we have today merely a construct of the pharmaceutical industry? Is depression under- or over-diagnosed? Should we be paying for expensive 'talking cure' treatments like psychoanalysis or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?
Here, Clark Lawlor argues that understanding the history of depression is important to understanding its present conflicted status and definition. While it is true that our modern understanding of the word 'depression' was formed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the condition was originally known as melancholia, and characterised by core symptoms of chronic causeless sadness and fear. Beginning in the Classical period, and moving on to the present, Lawlor shows both continuities and discontinuities in the understanding of what we now call depression, and in the way it has been represented in literature and art. Different cultures defined and constructed melancholy and depression in ways sometimes so different as to be almost unrecognisable.
Even the present is still a dynamic history, in the sense that the 'new' form of depression, defined in the 1980s and treated by drugs like Prozac, is under attack by many theories that reject the biomedical model and demand a more humanistic idea of depression - one that perhaps returns us to a form of melancholy.
Da alcuni anni i teorici del postumanesimo predicano l’imminente avvento di una “singolarità”, un salto tecnologico che trasformerà la razza umana regalandoci, tra le altre cose, l’immortalità. Ma a quale prezzo?
"... Internet e i computer rappresentano solo delle protesi, degli strumenti di cui ci serviamo, una semplice evoluzione degli utensili in bronzo che impiegavano i nostri antenati. La vera singolarità emerge quando la tecnologia diventa capace di trasformare non lo strumento, ma il suo utilizzatore: l’uomo.
La civiltà postumana (o trans-umana) sarebbe allora capace di memorizzare enormi terabyte di dati in un hard disk virtuale all’interno del cervello, di connettersi alla Rete attraverso il battito delle ciglia (o magari sarebbe sempre connesso…), di usufruire di metodi per fare a meno del sonno per giorni interi, di impiegare tecniche genetiche per potenziare il proprio corpo.
L’ambito di ricerca più promettente che potrebbe realizzare questi obiettivi è quello della nanotecnologia. La crescente miniaturizzazione permetterà di innestare nel nostro organismo sistemi cibernetici quasi invisibili, che faranno di noi dei cyborg: non come quelli dipinti da certa ormai vecchia fantascienza, in cui protesti di metallo sostituiscono rozzamente parti organiche del nostro corpo.
"Of course it is natural to augment reality, we do it with our eyes and brains ever since perception got, in a poetic sense, highjacked by our imagination.
A plethora of new apps are here to help us keep track of everything. Sharing and benchmarking are becoming the casual reality applications of our lives, making the quantified-self, the game changer that the concept claims to be. Designing the life you love and architecting your reality seen as a design problem and not a psychological or philosophical quest is where the crux of our times lay silently. The sweet spot of interaction between people and technology resides in a very special place, maybe the new aesthetic but probably a self-aware map of tools and humans, making reality a new kind of platform. Does it make the story of our life an extraordinary experience or will it make us instruments of our own demise?..."
Whenever I have had a spare moment for the past three months, I've been sneaking peaks at Charles Laughlin's new book Communing with the gods: Consciousness, culture and the dreaming brain. It’s a tome, over 500 pages long, and because of its girth I have approached the volume each time with some hesitancy… and a little fear. But each time I’ve dived in, I’ve come away with big ideas, and also some unusual clarity. This book is may be heavy, but it’s really approachable for an academic text...
Diseases of the body garner sympathy, says comedian Ruby Wax -- except those of the brain. Why is that? With dazzling energy and humor, Wax, diagnosed a decade ago with clinical depression, urges us to put an end to the stigma of mental illness.
The social stigma attached to mental illness is both dangerous and disturbing in a society in which at least one fourth of the population has been estimated to suffer from a mental illness during their lifetime.
This is a documentary about the mental health institutionalization of youth. It was completed as part of the social justice program at Hamline University in ...
a tough doc about the history of youth mental asylums. some scenes are simply shockings, but unfortunately they are also a testimony of what asylums used to be and, in some unfortunate places of the world, still are...
I haven't read this yet, but it's going on my list toward the top. -- Howard
"In Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist (public library), neuroscientist Christof Koch — “reductionist, because I seek quantitative explanations for consciousness in the ceaseless and ever-varied activity of billions of tiny nerve cells, each with their tens of thousands of synapses; romantic, because of my insistence that the universe has contrails of meaning that can be deciphered in the sky about us and deep within us” — explores how subjective feelings, or consciousness, come into being. Among Koch’s most fascinating arguments is one that bridges philosophy, evolutionary biology and technofuturism to predict a global Übermind not unlike McLuhan’s “global village,” but one in which our technology melds with what Carl Jung has termed the “collective unconscious” to produce a kind of sentient global brain:"
"There is no reason why this web of hypertrophied consciousness cannot spread to the planets and, ultimately, beyond the stellar night to th..."
‘Hallucinations’ by Oliver Sacks. 320 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $27.
The neurologist peels back the poetry and terror of hallucinations.
‘Hallucinations’ by Oliver Sacks. 320 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $27.
“Bliss can coincide with terror,” Oliver Sacks observes in one of his patient’s sleep-paralysis induced hallucinations. It’s an observation that seems to apply broadly to hallucinatory experience, which Sacks calls an essential part of the human condition. From the baroque visions of patients with Charles Bonnet Syndrome (they see handsome gentlemen, overly ornate floating rows of sheet music, battlements and bridges, or fanciful strangers in “Eastern dress”) to the kaleidoscopic patterns that visit migraine sufferers, no style or manner of hallucination is too fanciful or obscure for Sacks’ attention. Whether describing unwelcomed hallucinations (the “prisoners cinema” of sensory deprivation and the hallucinations of the bereaved) or deliberately-sought drug-induced altered states, Sacks writes, as usual, with a sharp mix of clinical precision, curiosity and compassion. His real talent lies in combining literary and historical medical accounts with his own experiences as a doctor and, at times, as a patient. There’s no better example of this than Sacks’s account of the amphetamine-fueled weekend he spent as a young man reading the 1873 volume On Megrim, Sick-Headache, and Some Allied Disorders: A Contribution to the Pathology of Nerve Storms in a state of “catatonic concentration” in a New York medical library. “At the height of this ecstasy, I saw migraine shining like an archipelago of stars in the neurological heavens,” Sacks writes. The experience convinced him to write his own book—and to never take amphetamines again. It’s an understated lesson in the powers of hallucinations: to illuminate the mysterious circuitry of the human mind, one must be willing to get lost inside it first.
The future of the Middle East looks like a race between the mullahs and the iPad—and despite recent setbacks, social networks are rewiring our brains to topple traditional barriers, says Deepak Chopra, author of God: A Story of Revelation.
Children who suffer severe neglect have cognitive impairments as adults.
ScienceDaily (Sep. 13, 2012) — A growing body of research shows that children who suffer severe neglect and social isolation have cognitive and social impairments as adults. A study from Boston Children's Hospital shows, for the first time, how these functional impairments arise: Social isolation during early life prevents the cells that make up the brain's white matter from maturing and producing the right amount of myelin, the fatty "insulation" on nerve fibers that helps them transmit long-distance messages within the brain.
The study also identifies a molecular pathway that is involved in these abnormalities, showing it is disrupted by social isolation and suggesting it could potentially be targeted with drugs. Finally, the research indicates that the timing of social deprivation is an important factor in causing impairment. The findings are reported in the Sept. 14 issue of the journal Science.
[...] societies of the Western past were apt to recognize depression as a kind of fellow traveler—unpleasant but familiar, at times even possessing its own stubborn points of value...
In Renaissance Italy, philosopher and depressive Marsilio Ficino theorized that melancholy signified a capacity for profound thought and feeling. He believed that there was a trace of melancholy in everyone, and identified it as a deep yearning for higher things, a “nostalgia for the celestial fatherland.”
The English Romantics continued the tradition. To them, melancholy was an aesthetic stance. Receptiveness to it signified sensitivity and insight, an association that will seem familiar to any contemporary fan of goth rock or classic Hollywood movies. What was sad was beautiful; what was beautiful possessed an ineffable rind of sadness. John Keats’ “Ode on Melancholy” speaks to a sublime fusion of the sad, the lovely, and the sacred:...
Tutto parte dall'informatica pura, dalla “web analysis”, e dal PageRank di Google: quando infatti chiediamo a questo motore di ricerca di trovarci qualcosa di specifico in internet, il risultato è rappresentato da un elenco di pagine web. L'ordine di questo elenco, con all'inizio ciò che è più importante e pertinente a quanto da noi cercato, è attentamente governato da un algoritmo, detto PageRank [ http://goo.gl/rxpxH ].
L'idea di un gruppo di bioinformatici e chirurghi è stata quindi quella di utilizzare un algoritmo modificato del PageRank, per ordinare circa 20.000 proteine in base al loro ruolo nello sviluppo del tumore pancreatico. Il PageRank tiene conto di quanto e come una pagina è connessa ad altre pagine nello sterminato mondo virtuale del web; allo stesso modo l'algoritmo, appena messo a punto, considera le interazioni - sia fisiche che in termini di ruolo biologico - che si creano normalmente fra le proteine all'interno di una nostra cellula. Queste informazioni sono poi associate ai risultati che provengono dai marcatori tumorali, sono solitamente testati nel sangue nel caso si sospetti la presenza di un tumore oppure si debba valutarne nel tempo la progressione.
Il nuovo metodo bioinformatico sembra funzionare: analizzando l'espressione dei geni in 30 pazienti con tumore al pancreas, sono state individuate sette proteine che potrebbero predire l'andamento del tumore stesso e quindi indirizzare meglio le scelte terapeutiche in ogni paziente. E' ora necessario mettere a punto uno studio clinico su larga scala, per validare al meglio questo “pagerank biologico”.