Editing consciousness. Controlling thoughts. Speaking in the mirror…

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People who are grieving a major loss, such as the death of a spouse or a child, use different coping mechanisms to carry on with their lives. Psychologists have been able to track different approaches, which can reflect different clinical outcomes. One approach that is not usually successful is avoidant grief, a state in which people suffering from grief show marked, effortful, repeated, and often unsuccessful attempts to stop themselves from thinking about their loss. While researchers have shown that avoidant grievers consciously monitor their external environment in order to avoid reminders of their loss, no one has yet been able to show whether these grievers also monitor their mental state unconsciously, trying to block any thoughts of loss from rising to their conscious state.

A new collaborative study between Columbia Engineering and Columbia University Irving Medical Center published online in SCAN: Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience demonstrates that avoidant grievers do unconsciously monitor and block the contents of their mind-wandering, a discovery that could lead to more effective psychiatric treatment for bereaved people. The researchers are the first to show how this unconscious thought suppression occurs, by tracking ongoing processes of mental control as loss-related thoughts came in and out of conscious awareness during a 10-minute period of mind-wandering. (1)

How can the mind block itself?

How can the brain control the brain?

How can you control you?

The more one tries to make sense of the cosmos, the more we realize that everything runs in circles. The snake will bite its own tail. The tide will rise again. Life will come after death. The morning will shine again.

And every passing minute, you will be constantly speaking.

To the only person that can hear you.

And the only thing you can hear is what you have already spoken.

Shhhh…

Placebo.

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Give people a sugar pill, they have shown, and those patients – especially if they have one of the chronic, stress-related conditions that register the strongest placebo effects and if the treatment is delivered by someone in whom they have confidence – will improve. Tell someone a normal milkshake is a diet beverage, and his gut will respond as if the drink were low fat. Take athletes to the top of the Alps, put them on exercise machines and hook them to an oxygen tank, and they will perform better than when they are breathing room air – even if room air is all that’s in the tank. Wake a patient from surgery and tell him you’ve done an arthroscopic repair, and his knee gets better even if all you did was knock him out and put a couple of incisions in his skin. Give a drug a fancy name, and it works better than if you don’t.

You don’t even have to deceive the patients. You can hand a patient with irritable bowel syndrome a sugar pill, identify it as such and tell her that sugar pills are known to be effective when used as placebos, and she will get better, especially if you take the time to deliver that message with warmth and close attention. Depression, back pain, chemotherapy-related malaise, migraine, post-traumatic stress disorder: The list of conditions that respond to placebos – as well as they do to drugs, with some patients – is long and growing. (1)

Fool yourself that you will live.

And you will.

Fool yourself that you will gain knowledge.

And you will.

Fool yourself that you die.

And you will.

But tell me. Why did you need to fool yourself in the first place?

Yes, at the end you will be healed.

But no one can ever be healed.

Unless he wasn’t sick in the first place…

At the end, even the healed ones will die.

While Nature is laughing at their anguish.

Look at yourself in awe.

Can you laugh while crying?

Brain. One with the body. Falling in love.

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At a small eatery in Seville, Spain, Alan Jasanoff had his first experience with brains — wrapped in eggs and served with potatoes. At the time, he was more interested in finding a good, affordable meal than contemplating the sheer awesomeness of the organ he was eating. Years later, Jasanoff began studying the brain as part of his training as a neuroscientist, and he went on, like so many others, to revere it. It is said, after all, to be the root of our soul and consciousness. But today, Jasanoff has yet another view: He has come to see our awe of the organ as a seriously flawed way of thinking, and even a danger to society.

In The Biological Mind, Jasanoff, neuroscientist at MIT, refers to the romanticized view of the brain — its separateness and superiority to the body and its depiction as almost supernatural — as the “cerebral mystique”. Such an attitude has been fueled, in part, by images that depict the brain without any connection to the body or by analogies that compare the brain to a computer. Admittedly, the brain does have tremendous computing power. But Jasanoff’s goal is to show that the brain doesn’t work as a distinct, mystical entity, but as a ball of flesh awash with fluids and innately in tune with the rest of the body and the environment. “Self” doesn’t just come from the brain, he explains, but also from the interactions of chemicals from our bodies with everything else around us.

To make his case, Jasanoff offers an extensive yet entertaining review of the schools of thought and representations of the brain in the media that led to the rise of the cerebral mystique, especially during the last few decades. He then tears down those ideas using contrary examples from recent research, along with engaging anecdotes. For instance, his clear, lively writing reveals how our emotions, such as the fight-or-flight response and the suite of thoughts and actions associated with stress, provide strong evidence for a brain-body connection. Exercise’s effect on the brain also supports this notion. Even creativity isn’t sacred, often stemming from repeated interactions with those around us. (1)

An interesting viewpoint. But a very limited one.

It is not just the brain connected to your body.

It is your body connected with others.

It is your mind connected with everything else.

Would you be afraid without your stomach?

Could you speak without your food?

Would you dream without your heart?

Could you cry without your daughter?

Your soul is connected with the cosmos.

Yes, you are your body. And your mind. And your brain. And your heart. And your mother. And your children. And everything around you. You are these things and these things are you. Look at the stars in the vast cold space. They are there. And you are here. And yet, you wouldn’t be able to fall in love without them. Look at the stars in the sky. You are here. And they are there. And yet, they couldn’t even shine without you…

Compulsive disorder: We all have it. Forget the sweater.

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If you’re pretty sure that it’s going to be cold in the office, you’re likely to throw a sweater in your bag to ward off the chill. It makes sense that those two ideas would be related: if you’re confident about something, it’s natural for your actions to be consistent with what you know.

But for people with obsessive compulsive disorder, that natural relationship isn’t so natural. For them, there’s a disconnect between their understanding of a likely outcome and their eventual action, according to a study published last week in the journal Neuron.

About two percent of adults in the U.S. have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a mental illness characterized by the inability to control certain actions. Some people experience the stereotypical manifestations of the disorder—cleaning, counting—but it can also include obsession with a particular thought or idea, or rearranging items in a particular order. (1)

We believe that this disorder is for some people only.

But who lives not based on his or her obsessions?

We are all obsessed with life.

And we live as if though there is no death.

Isn’t this “compulsive disorder” on a magnified scale?

And even those people who like to think of them as “spiritual”, live their lives as if there is no body.

Isn’t this “compulsive disorder” as well?

It takes a real man (or woman) to just accept things and live life as it is: A union of matter and the spirit. A place where the opposites become one. A place where man and woman come together and the matter is enlightened with the immaterial spirit. A place where everything is created out of nothing. The cosmos of dasein and meaningfulness. A universe full of meaning and light. A place full of darkness and sorrow, as well as unlimited joy and love.

Yes, it will be cold at work.

Throw a sweater in the bag.

And perhaps you just forget to wear it.

Just to enjoy the morning cold in the office…

Memories. It is not in your brain. It IS your brain.

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Your brain’s ability to collect, connect, and create mosaics from these milliseconds-long impressions is the basis of every memory. By extension, it is the basis of you. This isn’t just metaphysical poetics. Every sensory experience triggers changes in the molecules of your neurons, reshaping the way they connect to one another. That means your brain is literally made of memories, and memories constantly remake your brain.

It would be a mistake to believe that those molecules, or even the synapses they control, are memories. “When you dig into molecules, and the states of ion channels, enzymes, transcription programs, cells, synapses, and whole networks of neurons, you come to realize that there is no one place in the brain where memories are stored,” says Kukushkin. This is because of a property called plasticity, the feature of neurons that memorize. The memory is the system itself.

And there’s evidence of memory-making throughout the tree of life, even in creatures with no nervous system—scientists have trained bacteria to anticipate a flash of a light.

Yes, this is very hard for neuroscientists to understand too. Which means it’s going to be a long time before they understand the nuts and bolts of memory formation. (1)

Everything we think is based on memory. Our logic is based on memory. Science is based on memory. Memory of rules, of observations, of prior knowledge, of our very selves.

And yet, we still do not know how memory works. This is the dirty little secret of modern science which Harmonia Philosophica has pointed out over and over again. Behind every fake “triumph” of mind science there lies the simply irritating ignorance on the most fundamental process of our brain.

Masking that ignorance with names or poetic descriptions like the one above does not make things any better.

It is not that science will someday reach its dead ends.

It has reached them already.

It will just not admit it, no matter what.

Somewhere in the very beginning we have taken the wrong turn. And we travel in the wrong path ever since. There, I see a “dark” guy speaking there. Speaking about “war” and “thunder”. And another guy writing poems, saying something about “One” and existence. We must go back there.

At the shores of Ionia.

We used to know.

We just have to recall that memory.

But it is not a memory in our brain.

It is us.