Train your brain?

This software makes a deliberate attempt to retrain your brain from ADD to more normal functioning, using reminders and practice: Brain Train.

Here’s another company with brain-training exercises.


Growing Grandmasters

Three sisters were raised by their parents as a eugenics experiment and given intensive training in their first interest, chess. They are three of the best female chess players ever. Is it nature plus nurture or nurture alone? Here’s their story, with plenty of detail but easy to read: The Grandmaster Experiment.

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Is reality all in the brain?

A new study links a subtle fold in the brain, the paracingulate sulcus or PCS, with the ability to remember what happened vs. what was imagined. The smaller the structure, the more likely test subjects were to misremember who said what or to take imagining a word for speaking it. It was only a small study: 53 people. And cause and effect have not been proven. But it’s suggestive. And imagine the implications for conspiracy theories or religious conviction!

Near Death Experiences explained

Here’s another piece of non-evidence for souls: High levels of CO2 in the blood cause Near Death Experiences (NDEs) such as lights, tunnels, etc. You can’t prove that something doesn’t exist. However, this shows that personal experiences often cited as proof of life after death are in fact much more likely to be effects of blood chemistry on the brain.

If you’ve ever fainted or been knocked out or perhaps anaesthetized, I think you have a good idea of what death is like–like turning off a light. If you died suddenly, you wouldn’t even notice. There’s nothing to fear except missing the rest of your own story. What we imagine–an experience of being dead–doesn’t happen. We can’t experience death because we won’t be there to do so. It’s like, as someone said, thinking that 70 miles per hour still exists after the car has crashed.

Organic cause for compulsive hoarding?

An article from New Scientist in 2003 said that damage in a certain part of the brain leads to compulsive hoarding, by giving free rein to the dim satisfaction of squirrelling things away.

Steven Anderson of the University of Iowa and his team studied a group of pathological collectors. They found that damage to the frontal lobes of the brain impaired judgement and caused emotional disturbances. But only when the injury extended to the right mesial prefrontal cortex, a tiny region of our prefrontal cortex, did the patients develop a serious collecting habit too, Anderson told a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans this week.

Previous work in rodents shows that more primitive, subcortical brain regions produce the drive to collect food or useless objects. No matter how much they have stashed away, animals will just go on collecting. We have the same basic drive, says Anderson. But the right mesial prefrontal cortex can normally discriminate between something of value and something that’s useless, and keeps the drive in check. When it is damaged the more primitive collecting drive comes to the fore.

Hoarding is associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Hoarding is a compulsion that results from excessive concerns that certain objects cannot be discarded because they might be needed later. It may also involve excessive acquiring, such as compulsive shopping, extreme collecting, or acquisition of free things (e.g., free newspapers, pens, junk mail). Hoarding can be a result of severe indecisiveness over what items should be kept versus discarded; the hoarder simply cannot decide, so decision is avoided and all is kept. Hoarders also have difficulty figuring out how to best organize those items which are kept; as a result, the hoarder amasses piles of disorganized objects.

How are are minds shaped

A Replicated Typo has a long article about the origin of our minds.

Charles Darwin… proposed that there is “no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties.”

…The notion that we can identify a sequence of adaptations accounting for the evolution of minds in animals stems from research into social cognition, particularly surrounding Premack & Woodruff’s (1978) concept of a Theory of Mind.

…Even though there are differing degrees of behavioural complexity across various animal domains, can a sequence of adaptations be established?

…Highly relevant to social behaviour influencing brain gene expression is a gene known as egr1….

Our brains are affected by genes, but our surroundings and experiences influence how our brains develop. This summary and exploration is a fascinating peek into a complex problem.

Assumptions and illusions

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If you think you know something and it’s not true, that can lead you to scary conclusions. You can think you’re seeing ghosts. Or that God is reading your mind. Or that a healthy attitude can cure cancer.

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