New blueprint of brain connections uncovers extensive reach of central regulator

Thousands of our daily activities, from making coffee to taking a walk to saying hello to a neighbor, are made possible through an ancient collection of brain structures tucked away near the center of the cranium. The cluster of neurons known as the basal ganglia is a central hub for regulating a vast array of routine motor and behavior functions. But when signaling in the basal ganglia is weakened or broken, debilitating movement and psychiatric disorders can emerge, including Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Despite its central importance in controlling behavior, the specific, detailed paths across which information flows from the basal ganglia to other brain regions have remained poorly charted. Now, researchers at the University of California San Diego, Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute and their colleagues have generated a precise map of brain connectivity from the largest…

We have many more than five senses — here’s how to make the most of them

We’re all familiar with the phrase “healthy body, healthy mind”. But this doesn’t just refer to physical fitness and muscle strength: for a healthy mind, we need healthy senses, too. Fortunately, there’s now a wealth of evidence that we can train our many senses, to improve not only how we use our bodies, but how we think and behave, as well as how we feel. Trapped as we are in our own “perceptual bubbles”, it can be hard to appreciate not only that other people sense things differently — but that so can we, if we only put in a little effort. But if we’re going to make the most of using and improving our senses to enhance our wellbeing, we have to consider more than sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Aristotle’s desperately outdated five sense model may still be popular, but it vastly under-estimates our extraordinary human capacity for sensing. Proprioception Proprioception — the sensing of the location of our body parts in space — has been relatively ignored, but it’s…

The “mind viruses” creating social justice warriors

Gad Saad, a psychologist who specializes in applying evolutionary biology to the study of consumer behavior, has written a book of great value, and moreover, it is a book that required great courage to write. The book is filled with interesting ideas, and I have space here to mention only a few of them. What most draws me to the book is that Saad has a philosophical turn of mind, and as such, he is concerned with fashionable attempts to deny the existence of objective truth. He says, The central focus of this book is to explore another set of pathogens that are as dangerous [as biological parasites] to the human condition: parasitic pathogens of the human mind. These are composed of thought patterns, belief systems, attitudes, and mindsets that parasitize one’s ability to think properly and accurately. Once these mind viruses take hold of one’s neuronal circuitry, the afflicted victim loses the ability to use reason, logic, and science to navigate the world. Instead, one sinks into…

SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Campy Covers, Deep Psychology: Discover a Most Surprising Oasis of Virtue and Values

At this time of sweeping societal change, ideological propaganda is bombarding western culture everywhere one looks. No tradition or institution is spared, particularly when it comes to our value systems and the most basic ideas of what it means to be human: family, relationships, sex. The cult of wokeness must be adhered to, or else. Refuse to comply and you risk being labeled, demonized, cancelled. But the onslaught of pseudo-reality has one survivor, hidden in plain sight for all this time: the regency romance novel. Rakes and hoydens, scandals and scoundrels. Sometimes virtue can be found in the most unlikely places. So this week on MindMatters, discover a genre that, to our delight and surprise, is a rich source of not only entertainment, insight and knowledge, but most importantly, also a wellspring of traditional values that has the power to counteract the mind-virus – and potentially help us to grow. Running Time: 01:21:28 Download: MP3 — 77.4 MB

Blood and soul: An essay in metagenetics

“We are survival machines-robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.” This is Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene. His selfish gene theory, he remarked in 1989, “has become textbook orthodoxy,” because it is merely “a logical outgrowth of orthodox Neo-Darwinism, but expressed as a novel image.” The image is misleading. Dawkins doesn’t literally believe that genes are selfish entities with a will to replicate themselves. If they were, they would be like animating souls. In the Darwinian world where Dawkins lives, genes are not souls, but merely molecules ruled by the determinist laws of chemistry. And they are the result of a series of chemical accidents over millions of years, starting from the first self-replicating protein. Notwithstanding scientists’ arrogant claims, the function of genes remains highly mysterious — and overrated. If genes did what the Dawkinses tell us, we would be 99 percent identical to chimps. We are not. On the…

BEST OF THE WEB: Michel Foucault, most-cited academic ever, and father of woke ideology, outed as pedophile

Comment: If you’ve ever wondered why the fruits of post-modernism/neo-Marxism/leftist ideology are so deviant and devoid of true humanity, that’s because the movement (really, a pseudo-religious cult) is and always has been completely rotten, from the top down… The philosopher Michel Foucault, a beacon of today’s “woke” ideology, has become the latest prominent French figure to face a retrospective reckoning for sexually abusing children. A fellow intellectual, Guy Sorman, has unleashed a storm among Parisian “intellos” with his claim that Foucault, who died in 1984 aged 57, was a paedophile rapist who had sex with Arab children while living in Tunisia in the late 1960s. Sorman, 77, said he had visited Foucault with a group of friends on an Easter holiday trip to the village of Sidi Bou Said, near Tunis, where the philosopher was living in 1969. “Young children were running after Foucault saying ‘what about me? take me, take me’,” he recalled last week in an interview with The…

New study says hypnosis changes the way our brain processes information

In a new study, researchers from the University of Turku showcased that the way our brain processes information is fundamentally altered during hypnosis. The research helps to understand how hypnosis produces changes in a hypnotised person’s behaviour and subjective experiences. During a normal waking state, information is processed and shared by various parts within our brain to enable flexible responses to external stimuli. Researchers from the University of Turku, Finland, found that during hypnosis the brain shifted to a state where individual brain regions acted more independently of each other. – In a normal waking state, different brain regions share information with each other, but during hypnosis this process is kind of fractured and the various brain regions are no longer similarly synchronized, describes researcher Henry Railo from the Department of Clinical Neurophysiology at the University of Turku. The finding shows that the brain may function quite differently during…

Reading minds with Ultrasound

What is happening in your brain as you are scrolling through this page? In other words, which areas of your brain are active, which neurons are talking to which others, and what signals are they sending to your muscles? Mapping neural activity to corresponding behaviors is a major goal for neuroscientists developing brain-machine interfaces (BMIs): devices that read and interpret brain activity and transmit instructions to a computer or machine. Though this may seem like science fiction, existing BMIs can, for example, connect a paralyzed person with a robotic arm; the device interprets the person’s neural activity and intentions and moves the robotic arm correspondingly. A major limitation for the development of BMIs is that the devices require invasive brain surgery to read out neural activity. But now, a collaboration at Caltech has developed a new type of minimally invasive BMI to read out brain activity corresponding to the planning of movement. Using functional ultrasound…

Some genes come to life in the brain after death says new research

In the hours after we die, certain cells in the human brain are still active. Some cells even increase their activity and grow to gargantuan proportions, according to new research from the University of Illinois Chicago. In a newly published study in the journal Scientific Reports, the UIC researchers analyzed gene expression in fresh brain tissue — which was collected during routine brain surgery — at multiple times after removal to simulate the post-mortem interval and death. They found that gene expression in some cells actually increased after death. These ‘zombie genes’ — those that increased expression after the post-mortem interval — were specific to one type of cell: inflammatory cells called glial cells. The researchers observed that glial cells grow and sprout long arm-like appendages for many hours after death. “That glial cells enlarge after death isn’t too surprising given that they are inflammatory and their job is to clean things up after brain injuries like oxygen…

A mind made out of silk?

Spiders appear to offload cognitive tasks to their webs, making them one of a number of species with a mind that isn’t fully confined within the head. Millions of years ago, a few spiders abandoned the kind of round webs that the word “spiderweb” calls to mind and started to focus on a new strategy. Before, they would wait for prey to become ensnared in their webs and then walk out to retrieve it. Then they began building horizontal nets to use as a fishing platform. Now their modern descendants, the cobweb spiders, dangle sticky threads below, wait until insects walk by and get snagged, and reel their unlucky victims in. In 2008, the researcher Hilton Japyassú prompted 12 species of orb spiders collected from all over Brazil to go through this transition again. He waited until the spiders wove an ordinary web. Then he snipped its threads so that the silk drooped to where crickets wandered below. When a cricket got hooked, not all the orb spiders could fully pull it up, as a cobweb…