Consciousness and the Brain – Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts by Stanislas Dehaene

In the late 1800s, psychology began as the study of the mind. Then the behaviorists convinced everyone to abandon the study of mind and consciousness, for good reasons. At the time, the only way to study consciousness was introspection, a source of no reliable information. Through most of the next century, experimental psychologists avoided not only research on consciousness, but also the term itself. Unconscious processes were equally taboo, to avoid any association with Freudian theories.

A joyous exploration of the mind and its thrilling complexities, Consciousness and the Brain will excite anyone interested
in cutting-edge science and technology and the vast philosophical, personal, and ethical implications of finally quantifying consciousness


The science behind your choices and what happens when you defer your dreams

As you’re probably aware, the subconscious runs the general brain programs. When you’re using your conscious brain to think, plan, visualise or contemplate, the subconscious runs the rest of the show. It runs us on autopilot. That autopilot is in the ‘on’ position, about 95 percent of the time.


Growing Up

How do you define intelligence?

What makes you intelligent?

Intelligence is a difficult term to define. It can mean different things to different people. In fact, the scientific community has been debating its meaning for a long time and there is still controversy over its exact definition and the ways to measure it.

The “IQ” test was once regarded as the best way to measure intelligence. However, there is now a general awareness of its shortcomings, namely, that it only tests specific branches of intelligence (see opposite).


Growing Up

Brain Power

The brain looks a bit like a giant crinkled rubbery mushroom, with the average adult brain weighing about 3 lbs 5 oz (1.5 kg).

Your brain is the most sophisticated object in the known universe. Millions of messages are speeding through your nervous system at any given moment, enabling your brain to receive, process, and store information, and to send instructions all over the body. Your brain is capable of so much more than you might give it credit for. Just take a moment to consider all the things made by human beings.

arnie-levin-caveman-with-tools-in-his-hand-stares-at-his-wheel-that-somehow-has-gotten-cartoon.jpgFrom the earliest tool, such as a pickax, to the modern skyscraper, and from the largest dam to the smallest microchip—the human brain is where all of these objects were first conceived. Undoubtedly, the brain is the most powerful tool at mankind’s disposal.


Your brain works around the clock. It generates more electrical impulses each day than all the mobile phones in the world. You have billions of tiny brain nerve cells interacting with each other in permutations that have been estimated to equal 1 with 800 zeros behind it. (To make that remotely graspable, the number of atoms in the world—one of the smallest material things we can get a fix on— is estimated to be 1.33 with 48 zeros after it.)


The three brain phases used in cults


The Christians may have been the first to successfully formulate brainwashing, but we have to look to Pavlov, the Russian scientist, for a technical explanation. In the early 1900s, his work with animals opened the door to further investigations with humans. After the revolution in Russia, Lenin was quick to see the potential of applying Pavlov’s research to his own ends.

Three distinct and progressive states of transmarginal inhibition were identified by Pavlov.

The first is the EQUIVALENT phase, in which the brain gives the same response to both strong and weak stimuli. The second is the PARADOXICAL phase, in which the brain responds more actively to weak stimuli than to strong. And the third is the ULTRA-PARADOXICAL phase, in which conditioned responses and behavior patterns turn from positive to negative or from negative to positive.


Dementia – how does it feel to be uncertain about your wits in retirement?

King Lear is one of the greatest portrayals of ageing in Western literature. It explores the sense of uncertainty that can result from retirement, and the role-reversal that often comes with ageing, as the children become the parents. Throughout the play, Lear’s behaviour is changeable. At times he grows irrationally angry, while at others he appears like a vulnerable child. Some people have suggested that Lear might actually be suffering from a form of dementia; others, however, are sceptical of the diagnosis.

And it’s estimated that one in three of us will have dementia by the time we die at the end of life.

Growing Up


by Melvin D. Saunders

ncaa-ambidextrous09132010Ambidexterity is the ability to use both your hands with equal ease or facility, but if you’re armless, it could be your feet! In fact, it is quite advantageous in certain sports and martial arts to be able to use both your feet with equal facility. The Greeks encouraged and tried to promote ambidexterity because it was simply logical in sports and battle to be adept with both hands instead of one. By combining the Phoenician style of writing right to left with their own left to right system, the Greeks created a reading and writing system called boustrophedon, where the lines ran alternately right-to-left and left-to-right. With alternating sweeps of the eyes back and forth, reading was more swift and efficient.
Michelangelo (1475-1564) was a multi-faceted genius like Leonardo da Vinci. He often painted with both hands. When one got tired, he switched to the other. British artist, Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873) could draw with both hands simultaneously — a horse’s head with one hand and a stag’s head with the other. He taught drawing and etching to Queen Victoria who was a lefty that became ambidextrous.
Fleming, Einstein and Tesla were all ambidextrous. Benjamin Franklin was also ambidextrous and signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution with his left hand. U.S. 20th president, James Garfield was a well educated backwoodsman born in a log cabin. Although he could write with either hand with equal ease, he could also write Greek with his left hand and Latin with his right hand simultaneously! Harry Kahne demonstrated his mental dexterity in 1922 by performing several mental operations simultaneously. While one hand was writing mirror language, the other hand intermingled upside down and backward letters.
Rats given diverse and enriched environments have more connective dendritic spines to their neurons and overall heavier brains than rats exposed to dull, unchallenging environments.
siltberg-ambidextrousLeft-handed and ambidextrous people have 11% larger corpus callosa (the bundle of nerve fibers joining the right and left sides of the brain) than right handed people.
An autopsy of Einstein’s brain revealed a larger profusion of superficial capillaries interlacing the cerebral cortex than the average brain, as well as an additional amount of glial cells.
Obviously the more we use and exercise our brain, the more it physically grows.
The following exercises are designed to task the little used areas of the brain to allow such growth.
To be able to use both hands equally well, practice is the key. During the day, use your left hand more (if you’re right-handed) by consciously switching when you’re about ready to do something — pouring a glass of milk, bouncing a ball, flipping and picking up coins, hammering a nail, cutting and buttering bread, stirring your coffee, swirling water in a glass, twisting off bottle caps, etc. Wherever you would use your one hand, use the other instead — putting a key in the door, combing your hair, brushing your teeth, shaving, grasping objects, etc.
When putting on your clothes, put your other hand or foot into the garment first. Thread your belt around your waist in the opposite direction. Put your watch on your other hand. Use your other hand in sports — hitting a baseball or a tennis ball, throwing a football, shooting a basketball, etc.
Practice stirring 2 cups of tea simultaneously, swirling 2 half filled glasses of water clockwise and counterclockwise, and bouncing two balls at the same time. Get used to the kinesthetic feeling of using the muscles of both your hands and arms together. Catch 2 balls thrown to you at the same time. Throw 2 paper wads at the same time into the same paper basket — one underhand and the other overhand. Throw 2 darts simultaneously at a dart board with both hands. Write with both hands at the same time.
Draw a butterfly, a vase or a geometric figure using both hands simultaneously, but keep practicing these exercises.
TheSmartist - Ambidextrous_thumb[3]
Many musical instruments are played ambidextrously, and many athletes are adept at using both of their hands. Since swimming is an ambidextrous activity, teaching dyslectic children to swim often helps them to read and write normally because it balances the brain hemispheres.
Become ambidextrous and along with an added physiological brain growth, a more balanced integration of your 2 hemispheres will be achieved. Studies have shown that ambidextrous people are more emotionally independent, more determined, more adaptable to new situations and more apt to handle problems without giving up.


Enhancing the Human Brain

Sleeping Woman
Sleep has its benefits – not only for beauty but also for the brain

The human brain is the soul of the human nervous system. It controls involuntary activities such as respiration, digestion, and heartbeat, which are also known as automatic functions of the body. This organ also controls other conscious activities that are considered as higher order activities like reasoning, abstraction, and thought. The human brain is superior to any other brain of any other living species that are known to humankind.
The brain is also the center by which other human characteristics are defined. Creativity, for example, is much associated with the brain. So is personality. The brain lets us make decisions and define colors and smells. This organ controls every other perceived activity of the human body.
However, the human brain, as strong and as invincible as it may look, is not going to stay that way forever. As with any other part of the body, the human brain will wither in the future. One’s lifestyles and all other external factors will take toll against the human brain. As one grows old, the human brain will become slower in terms of functioning and rejuvenating itself. However, there are ways on how to enhance the power of the human brain as age catches up. This article tries to give some useful tips on how to do just that.
1. Live a healthy lifestyle.
The brain is an integral part of the human anatomy. It is probably the most important organ in the body; but of course, we all know that every other organ in the body works for the others to function properly. The human brain is subject to the lifestyle of the person who owns it. If the person loves alcohol, he may not fully reap the powers of his brain. Alcohol and other dangerous substances destroy brain cells. An alcoholic will argue that, “I’ve been using only ten percent of my brain, drinking will activate the other 90% of it.” This is a total fallacy. This premonition was formulated in the 1800s and there is no truth in it. The brain is a lifetime organ, so we must preserve and protect it.
2. Eat the right foods.
Eating the right sets of food will definitely benefit the brain. The brain is the most active part of the body. Even when one sleeps, the brain remains active and vibrant. The brain will appreciate it if one eats the right and balanced sets of food. The sad thing is that the brain is usually taken for granted when it comes to having a balanced meal or a workout because people are so focused into developing their outside looks. It’s about time that we give the brain a break.
3. Engage in proper exercise.
Proper exercise is good for the brain and not only for the body. The human brain needs a well-balanced life.
4. Release stress once in a while
Releasing stress is necessary to be able to clear the brain from all the difficulties and the clouds in one’s life. One must take time to get into a relaxing mood and a good night sleep.
The brain is an organ to be cherished. No individual will ever be able to live his life to the fullest if his brain is not functioning well. A brain that is cared for will result in a more active and fulfilling life.


Which side of the brain are you using?

Which Side Are You On_


What Happens When Music Meets Brain

Brain_WavesMusic is a window on the brain, scientists say. Few human activities exercise as many brain functions: Playing music demands motor skill, and listening to it stimulates both feelings and intellectual faculties. Scientists now use music to study sense perception, emotions, coordination, timing and the functions of each of the brain’s hemispheres.
The relationship between music and the brain is a fast-growing area of study. Last year, Frank Wilson, a Walnut Creek, Calif., neurologist, organized a conference on the subject, bringing together some 300 interested professionals.
Several books on the subject have been published in recent years, and a new psychology journal called Music Perception was founded in 1983.
Strokes and other brain disorders reveal much about brain functions, including music and language. In one recently reported case, a stroke knocked out only its victim’s ability to name fruits and vegetables, suggesting that categories of words are organized in the same area of the brain. Similarly, strokes have shown that key musical abilities are organized in the right half of the brain, which is associated with emotions and the integration of complex details into wholes.
Tedd Judd, a psychologist at the Pacific Medical Center in Seattle, tells of a composer who suffered a stroke on the right side of the brain and could still compose melodies. But he lost the ability to compose counterpoint, in which melodies are integrated according to complex rules.
Strokes on the right side sometimes erase the ability to sing, even though the memory of song lyrics may be intact. People afflicted that way may speak in a monotone because they can no longer put melody into their voices, says Elliott Ross, a neurologist at the University of Texas medical school.
But scientists now also realize that music isn’t totally a right-brain function. At the University of California at Los Angeles, John Mazziotta, a researcher, found that in most people listening to simple melodies, the right side of the brain was activated; but those who visualized what they heard as notes on a page mainly used the left side.
Music, long considered the language of emotions, is also an ideal stimulus for experiments on feelings. At Pennsylvania State University, a psychologist, Julian Thayer, plays different kinds of music from Bach to jazz while testing listeners for heart rates and other indicators of emotions. Among other things, his research suggests that just as a radio has separate controls for tone and volume, emotions involve independent levels of pleasantness and intensity.
Brain researchers have been trying for years to understand how the brain handles sensory input, and music is important to their study of sound perception. Scientists believe that some elements of music — like common pitch intervals — have been shaped to reflect the structure of the human auditory system. For example, most people, even in different cultures, perceive tones separated by an octave as closely related. This may result from the channeling of nerve impulses caused by such tones to the same nerve cell in the brain, says Diana Deutsch, a psychologist at the University of California at San Diego.
Tempo is another musical element that intrigues brain researchers. Most people can’t both walk and chew gum at different tempos because the brain can apparently monitor only one internal metronome at a time, says George P. Moore, a researcher at the University of Southern California.
Mr. Moore is also interested in the motor skills involved in playing a musical instrument, where muscle coordination and timing are crucial. Using sensors, including small needles inserted into musicians’ hands, he has learned that performers use unconscious tricks to improve their sound. For example, Mr. Moore found that when playing trills on a violin, some players lighten finger pressure. Then, to compensate for the pitch distortion the lighter pressure would cause, they adjust their hand positions. “Musicians don’t even know they do these things,” he says, which suggests that they subliminally refer to detailed brain “maps” of their instruments to create the desired sound.
Internal maps may guide listeners as well as players, which could explain the difficulty many people have learning to like unfamiliar music. There may even be music so alien that our brains aren’t equipped to make sense of it. “Some avant-garde composers who base their music on new arbitrary ystems are interesting,” says Roger Shepard, a Stanford University psychology professor. “But their music may never take hold with listeners because it doesn’t mesh effectively with the deep cognitive structures of the mind.”