Summary of a lecture by
Zoran Josipovic, Ph.D.
Director, Contemplative Science Lab, Psychology Dept, NYU
Human experiences can be broadly divided into those that are external and related to interaction with the environment, and experiences that are internal and self-related. The cerebral cortex likewise appears to be divided into two corresponding systems: an "extrinsic" system composed of brain areas that respond more to external stimuli and tasks and an "intrinsic" system composed of brain areas that respond less to external stimuli and tasks. These two broad brain systems seem to compete with each other, such that their activity levels over time is usually anti-correlated, even when subjects are "at rest" and not performing any task.
Asian contemplative philosophies, going back to at least fourth century CE, and perhaps much earlier, have described the structuring of human experience along the subject- object dichotomy, accompanied by a competition between internally and externally related mental processes. According to this idea, it might be possible to use meditation to voluntarily alter this fragmentation. Our results suggest that practicing different forms of meditation can alter the anti-correlation between these networks and that their relationship can be modulated in either direction through the choice of a cognitive strategy. The results support the intuitive, but speculative, idea that the typical anti- correlation between the extrinsic and intrinsic systems might reflect the duality of external and internal experiences, and that nondual awareness meditation enables an atypical state of mind in which extrinsic and intrinsic experiences are increasingly synergistic rather than competing.
Date: Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 3:34 AM
most people are familiar with the phenomenon of savants (once referred to as idiot savants), individuals with significant brain dysfunction who are nevertheless able to do amazing things such as play complex piano pieces without any training after hearing them once, or count the exact number of matches in a pile in a single glance, or recall what day of the week a given date fell on from hundreds of years ago. However, we may all have the capacity for these kinds of things. Researchers have uncovered that this savant ability relates to two things. First, constraints placed on the right hemisphere of the brain by the patterns of learning and perception of the left hemisphere, so that the impairment of left hemisphere liberates certain aspects of the right hemisphere. Second, compensatory development of the right hemisphere because the left hemisphere has dysfunction. Interestingly, researchers have also discovered that they can induce heightened problem solving skills in individuals with normal function by temporarily quieting neural activity in the left hemisphere:
In today's excerpt - each decision we make, however rational we believe it to be, is an emotional, neurochemical tug-of-war inside our brain:
"Consider this clever experiment designed by Brian Knutson and George Loewenstein. The scientists wanted to investigate what happens inside the brain when a person makes typical consumer choices, such as buying an item in a retail store or choosing a cereal. A few dozen lucky undergraduates were recruited as experimental subjects and given a generous amount of spending money. Each subject was then offered the chance to buy dozens of different objects, from a digital voice recorder to gourmet chocolates to the latest Harry Potter book. After the student stared at each object for a few seconds, he was shown the price tag. If he chose to buy the item, its cost was deducted from the original pile of cash. The experiment was designed to realistically simulate the experience of a shopper.
AP/The Huffington Post
First Posted: 02/14/11 02:26 AM Updated: 02/14/11 04:05 PM
NEW YORK -- Compared to a sleek new laptop, that three-pound mass of fatty tissue called the brain may not look like much. But when it's injured, it adapts and rewires its circuits in new ways.
That's the kind of flexibility that doctors and rehabilitation specialists hope to encourage in Gabrielle Giffords, the brain-injured Arizona congresswoman.
Details about her recovery have been thin. But members of her staff say she recently began speaking for the first time since the Jan. 8 attack by a gunman in Tucson. Brain injury patients who regain speech typically begin to do that about four to six weeks after the injury, experts say.
FROM DELANCY PLACE An excerpt from a book.
In today's excerpt - the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain associated with emotional maturity, does not fully develop in humans until they are in their mid-twenties. This may be because the prefrontal cortex, though it brings emotional balance, focus, planning and efficient action, restricts a person from the most creative aspects of learning: