Psychedelic brain, or mind? Misreporting and confirmation bias in psychedelic research

A long-awaited resurgence in psychedelic research is now under way and some of its early results have been startling. Whereas most scientists expected the mind-boggling experiences of psychedelic states to correlate with increased brain activity, a landmark study from 2012 found the opposite to be the case. Writing in this magazine, neuroscientist Christof Koch expressed the community's collective surprise. These unexpected findings have since been repeatedly confirmed with a variety of psychedelic agents and measures of brain activity (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017). Under the mainstream physicalist view that brain activity is, or somehow generates, the mind, the findings certainly seem counterintuitive: How can the richness of experience go up when brain activity goes down? Understandably, therefore, researchers have subsequently endeavored to find something in patterns of brain activity that reliably increases in psychedelic states. Alternatives include brain activity variability,... ...

Read More

Paracetamol surprising psychoactive effects

Every day, millions of people turn to acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol - the active ingredient in Tylenol - to dull the occasional ache or pain. That's because few side effects accompany this highly effective over-the-counter drug when taken at recommended doses. A new side effect is starting to come to light, however. Research is now revealing that acetaminophen may subtly influence your emotions. To relieve pain, acetaminophen works its magic in the brain, but researchers still aren't entirely sure how this trick works - a remarkable fact considering the drug has been available without prescription for sixty years! It may impact an enzyme called cyclooxygenase, or it might modulate humans' endocannabinoid system. Some experts say one or both of these ideas tells the whole story, while others insist we've barely scratched the surface. Regardless, whatever acetaminophen does in the...

Read More

The role of the CDC in America’s ‘Medical Deep State’

You don't have to go far to see the problem with American's federal regulatory health agencies. It's a huge problem. I am reminded of more than a dozen scientists from within the CDC who put out an anonymous public statement detailing the influence corporations have on government policies. They were referred to as the Spider Papers. We are a group of scientists at CDC that are very concerned about the current state of ethics at our agency. It appears that our mission is being influenced and shaped by outside parties and rogue interests. It seems that our mission and Congressional intent for our agency is being circumvented by some of our leaders. What concerns us most, is that it is becoming the norm and not the rare exception. Some senior management officials at CDC are clearly aware and even condone...

Read More

A dark consensus about screens and kids

"I am convinced the devil lives in our phones." The people who are closest to a thing are often the most wary of it. Technologists know how phones really work, and many have decided they don't want their own children anywhere near them. A wariness that has been slowly brewing is turning into a region wide consensus: The benefits of screens as a learning tool are overblown, and the risks for addiction and stunting development seem high. The debate in Silicon Valley now is about how much exposure to phones is O.K. "Doing no screen time is almost easier than doing a little," said Kristin Stecher, a former social computing researcher married to a Facebook engineer. "If my kids do get it at all, they just want it more." Ms. Stecher, 37, and her husband, Rushabh Doshi, researched screen time...

Read More

SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: New Show! Why Mind Really Matters, and Your Life Reflects Your Values

On this first episode of MindMatters, we dive into the biggest mystery of our times: consciousness. What is it, why is it so mysterious, and why is it important? Materialists either explain it away or deny it really exists, but the mind is much more than that. It can't be so easily denied. Everything in our experience, from our sensations and feelings to our theories and choices in life - all of these depend on our minds. Summing up many of the topics we have looked at on our previous show, the Truth Perspective, today we put together ideas from Andrew Lobaczewski, James C. Carpenter, Whitehead and Griffin, and Jordan B. Peterson. We also examine a clip from Peterson's latest Q&A on how our aims structure everything in our experience from our perception to the choices we make in life....

Read More

World Happiness Report: Americans are unhappy and the opioid epidemic may be a factor

For the third straight year, the U.S. has dropped in the rankings of the World Happiness Report. The United States is now the 19th happiest country on Earth, its ranking falling for the third consecutive year. This is according to the most recent World Happiness Report, released on Wednesday (March 20) or the United Nations' International Day of Happiness. The Washington Post reports that the seventh annual report surveyed 156 different countries and took into account six factors: GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, the freedom to make life choices, social support, generosity and perceptions of corruption. The top 10 countries in the report were Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Austria. ...

Read More

Johnson & Johnson prevails in New Jersey talc cancer trial

Johnson & Johnson won a jury trial Wednesday in New Jersey in a case where a man alleged that talc in its baby powder caused his cancer. Ricardo Rimondi, 58, said he was exposed to asbestos from Johnson & Johnson's baby powder and that had caused his mesothelioma cancer. But the six-person jury in Middlesex County Superior Court decided in favor of New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ). Company officials released the following statement after the verdict: "Today's jury unanimously ruled that Johnson's Baby Powder does not contain asbestos and was not the cause of the plaintiff's disease. It's important to emphasize the track record in these cases. This is the third verdict in favor of Johnson & Johnson in recent months, and of the last 9 mesothelioma cases, three ruled in favor of J&J, and five resulted in...

Read More

Psychosis in teens may be linked to an unlikely culprit: air pollution

An unexpected danger of urban life: Psychotic experiences are more common among teens exposed to the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide and other forms of air pollution, according to a new study. Nitrogen oxides, including nitrogen dioxide, are tailpipe pollutants, entering the air due to burning fuel. "One of the most consistent findings over the past few decades has been a link between cities and psychosis," Joanne Newbury, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at King's College London, said Tuesday. "Children who are born and raised in urban versus rural settings are almost twice as likely to develop psychosis in adulthood." ...

Read More

New neurons for life? Old people can still make fresh brain cells, study finds

One of the thorniest debates in neuroscience is whether people can make new neurons after their brains stop developing in adolescence - a process known as neurogenesis. Now, a new study finds that even people long past middle age can make fresh brain cells, and that past studies that failed to spot these newcomers may have used flawed methods. The work "provides clear, definitive evidence that neurogenesis persists throughout life," says Paul Frankland, a neuroscientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. "For me, this puts the issue to bed." Researchers have long hoped that neurogenesis could help treat brain disorders like depression and Alzheimer's disease. But last year, a study in Nature reported that the process peters out by adolescence, contradicting previous work that had found newborn neurons in older people using a variety of methods. The...

Read More

What’s wrong with moral foundations theory, and our attempt to get it right

Once the exclusive preserve of philosophy and theology, the study of morality has now become a thriving interdisciplinary endeavor, encompassing research in evolutionary theory, genetics, biology, animal behavior, psychology, and anthropology. The emerging consensus is that there is nothing mysterious about morality; it is merely a collection of biological and cultural traits that promote cooperation. Best known among these accounts is Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory (MFT). According to MFT: "Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make cooperative social life possible." And MFT proceeds to argue that, because humans face multiple social problems, they have multiple moral values-they rely on multiple "foundations" when making moral decisions. These foundations include: Care, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority,... ...

Read More