Check out my new site at http://www.bodiesinspace.com!
The Platform: YOGA and the BRAIN, Free Teleseminar Jan 26, 2009
The Twitter: It’s time to grow Neural real estate, not grey hairs!
The Big Idea: Scientific research shows that yogic movement meditation changes the brain!
My thought for the new year? Let mounting stress and uncertainty be opportunities to let yourself learn NEW WAYS TO CALM DOWN — and change your brain for the better!!!!!
Here at GGI, 2009 is off and running with free teleseminars on YOGA and the BRAIN! (more…)
Here’s the new year’s update on the free GGI teleseminar: Yoga and the Brain!
First to say, the teleseminar is filling up with folks from different countries, proving the global interest in movement meditation and the brain!
With that in mind, the teleseminar is scheduled for the following dates and times below:
U.S. and U.K. residents:
Date: January 12, 2009
Time: 9 a.m – 10 a.m., Pacific Standard Time
For Australian and AsiaPacific Residents:
Date: January 13, 2009
Time: 10 a.m. (Sydney time zone)
A recap of the teleseminar goal and content:
Who should take this teleseminar? Anyone working with, or interested in, the neurological effects of restorative or high performance training including allied health workers, public policy makers, physicians and physician assistants, psychiatrists, ADHD specialists, social entrepreneurs in health and wellness, and of course, all members of the somatic, yoga, meditation, athletic and martial arts community. (Global citizens please note: The teleseminar will be conducted in English.)
What will I learn: This teleseminar introduces the core neuroscience concepts central to any top quality training program that teaches yoga and movement meditation. Concepts include: neuroplasticity, immersive attention, somasensory integration and more.
What are the key benefits of this teleseminar?: You will leave the teleseminar energized and armed with a grand pattern of understanding how neurologically important your work is as a proponent of yoga movement and meditation. Seminar discussion is particularly valuable for anyone dedicated to improving the development and integration of brain, body and mind.
How do I join this free teleseminar? Simply write to email@example.com with the word “yes, ” along with your state and country of residence. Follow up information will be sent to you at your given email address.
Looking forward to your participation!
May the Breath Be With You!
Dr. G., Founding Director, The George Greenstein Institute, creating a sustainable future by coaching bodies, brains and minds!
The George Greenstein Institute is dedicated to serving the public good, by offering up to date, brain-based education in health, creativity and performance world wide.
A quick Spacesuit Yoga Twitter!: Transcendental Meditation shown to reduce symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children
A small, though important study was just published in the peer-review journal Current Issues in Education > Volume 10, 2008 > Number 2, showing the positive correlation between T.M. practice, stress reduction and improvement in use of executive function in school children ages 11-14. Scientists limited the study to students with pre-existing diagnoses of ADHD made by a physician or psychologist.
The study was conducted as a team effort between members of a private research firm, researchers from the Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management and faculty at University of Arizona.
The link to the study: http://cie.ed.asu.edu/volume10/number 2/
This is terrific news for the meditation, ADHD, educational and neuroscientific communities at large!
[For those who know little about T.M. as a meditative practice, it is considered by T.M. researchers to be a ‘technique of “effortless transcending”’ (Travis, et al., 2002). Though I don’t debate the contributions T.M. makes to whole-brain health and happiness, I find statements like this negate the obvious neuroscience and cognitive question: “Where does one place one’s attention?” To that point, authors of the study distinguish the neuro-cognitive basis of T.M. as distinct from “concentration” practices like Zen breath meditation and from “contemplative” practices like Vipassana or Insight meditation. Clearly more research with rigorous interest in the rhetoric of description is needed to identify the neural network correlates to the many paths of meditation practice.]
I will continue to report on key studies of meditation research that impact how we in the global community, think about the relations of health to learning, memory, imagination and decision-making in children and adults!!
The George Greenstein Institute, dedicated to a sustainable future by coaching bodies, brains and minds!
The Platform: The New Brain Ecology: Connect Body, Brain and Mind!
The Twitter: SpaceSuit Yoga.com is migrating to another blogisphere!
The Big Idea: Create a trustworthy go-to space where cogent commentary and top quality coaching take brain, body and mind fitness to the next level!
The new year is almost upon us and with that, SpaceSuitYoga will soon be migrating to the newly renovated, bodiesinspace.com.
Bodiesinspace.com is being designed to help you navigate the complex world of neuroscience, neuro-plasticity, brain fitness and brain injury interconnected with the health of the body and mind. Look for our special reports by the Virtual Visionary Tobey Crockett illuminating indigenous perspectives on aging along with SpaceSuit Yoga and guest contributer columns on mediation practice and art for the brain. Prepare to applaud the winners of the 1st Bodinesinspace award for brilliance in social entrepreneurship and design! And check out our new coaching and teleseminar programs specializing in collaborative partnering in managing health, creativity practices and best strategies for performance!
Finally, come 2009, you’ll be able to surf through text, image and podcasts on the new interactive zine site!
So somanauts and neuroleaders, suit up, prep your multi-sensory antennae and get ready to map out
In the meantime, remember to “Plug In.” Host a Brain Awareness Week on Facebook, on your site, at your school, in your health center, place of worship or office.
Wishing everyone a healthy new year, one marked by vision, imagination, integrity and insight!
Dr. M. A. Greenstein a.k.a. Dr. G.
The George Greenstein Institute, creating a sustainable future by coaching bodies, brains and minds!
I’ll be speaking on best practices in “neuroleadership” this evening at MindShare.la. — the last brain-bash for 2008!
I’ll be joining an esteemed list of thought leaders, diva futurists and merry pranksters! All talks will be recorded and placed on the mindshare.la website as well as on my soon to launch GGI website! Speaking tonite, Dec 18, 2008…
Douglas Campbell / Freshmaker, Mindshare
The Physics of Santa Claus
M. A. Greenstein / Chief Brainiac, BodiesInSpace.com
Best Practices in NeuroLeadership
Eric Gradman & Brent Bushnell / Digital Pranksters, Mindshare Labs
Creating the ArtFall Installation
Kjerstin ‘KJ’ Williams, Ph.D. / Jazz Singer & Robot Diva, Applied Minds
Swarm Intelligence: From Bugs to Robots
Errol Gerson / Consultant, Professor, Humanist
What 40 Years of Teaching Has Taught Me!
Tony di Zinno / Photographer & Producer
Photojournalism in Afghanistan
Adam Mefford / Co-Founder, Mindshare
Mindshare 2008 Wrap Up
Welcome back to the discussion on visual meditation and mandalas!
Within major wisdom traditions of meditation, be they spiritual, religious or scientific brain and health training programs, there is typically the path of education or entrainment. Meditation or mental practice, after all, is not the default mode of a mature human central nervous system that is wired for turbo”different detecting” in space/time! Remember, difference detecting is that old survival mechanism that helps all mammals determine: Will that eat me or will I eat that? Is it safe to sleep here or is it not? And now in our modern jungle version where we communicate and travel at the speed of light, our human brains and central nervous systems race faster and faster to keep up with the deluge of information, images, and experiences we encounter day after day!
It makes sense that in response to or retreat from cultures drunk on speed, we would turn to “best practices” of earlier times, namely the ancient art and science of meditation, to help us slow down, to assist us in creating equilibrium in our bodies and in our lives. The good news is that at the dawn of the 21st century, meditation traditions practiced around the globe are finding their way into translation in order to prevent suffering and benefit all humankind. A grand project indeed!
So how does visual meditation figure into all of the hoopla about meditation as being great for creating inner peace. lowering stress and brain training?
Drawing upon both Buddhist and Hatha Yogic traditions, we find two key lessons to enable the learner: Turning Inward and Consciousness of Abstracting.
Turning inward allows us to find the most important radar signaling systems of the human body: Breathing and Paying Attention, both made possible by a “conscious” brain. [I’m using the term “conscious” in the here and now, scientific sense of brain activation.]
Paying attention enables us to “consciously abstract” or selectively focus upon a sign, an feeling, a sensation, a process of movement out of all that we might experience at any given moment.
Now, suggesting that someone turn inward seems to be completely counter intuitive to surviving in a culture that demands external focus for reading signs for survival! In gung ho American culture, think of the mockery we make of the quiet, reflective types — the teen who hides in in fantasy novels, the poet who sits and reflects on life, the college student who prefers to study Art, Sufi Dancing or Zen practice rather than ice hockey!
The irony of course is that in today’s sports training, “turning in” is one of the key training tools of Olympic training practice! (Think of Michael Phelp’s incredible ability to turn inward and “focus.”!!!). So turning inward, drawing one’s attention away from the noise of the outside world and turning it toward the space of one’s own inner life is a key step of Hatha Yoga, Zen, T.M. and Vipassana or Mindfulness traditions.
You might be saying at this point, “O.K., turn inward. And consciousness of what? How exactly do I use a visual image placed outside my own body?
Good question: Here’s the neuro-scoop and poop on using visual mandalas: (more…)
Talk about about visual meditation!
Check out Pink Tentacles’s synoposis of ground breaking work in the neuroscience of visual perception: Visual Image Reconstruction based on Brain Activity!!!!!
The original article can be found in NEURON Volume 60, Issue 5, Pages 731-940 (10 December 2008)
Title: “Visual Image Reconstruction from Human Brain Activity using a Combination of Multiscale Local Image Decoders”
Authors: Researchers from Japan’s ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories
Will soon be adding a blog on complex mandala meditation but in the meantime, you can always find short “tweets” from me, DRG at Twitter.com
And to get you started thinking about or meditating upon a inspiring and complex visual mandala, here’s close-up of one of Phillip George’s boards. (House and Gardens….. Surf’s UP!)
The Platform: BBC story: Surfboards Gone Islamic! Work by Phil George
The Twitter: Surf Sufis: InShallah! Ride the Wave to Bliss!
The Big Idea: From Pattern Recognition to Ritual Meditation: Surfing Wires New Neural Maps Using Islamic Art.
I’m excited to share the work of Phil George, my dear Australian compadre whose luscious surfboards have “mapped” the beauty of Islamic meditation imagery on icons of Australian culture. Talk about whole brain, pattern recognition and creating new neural networks by way of visual and moving images!
Check out the following BBC article and video:
BBC: ** Sydney art fuses surf with Islam **
An Australian artist creates a range of Islamic surfboards to create a greater understanding between East and West.
< http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/7769028.stm >
George’s boards capture in one gorgeous icon, the complex histories of art, culture and geo-politics, now the stuff of heated, ugly warfare! In the hands of the artist, ugliness is transformed into a thing of beauty, culture, a thing of dignity and ancient meditation practice …. morphed into a modern ritual of fluid wave motion.
Surf Sufis arise… and may the breath be with you!
Questions have recently come from readers regarding how to choose a path of meditation? “How do I know which kind is good for me?”
Well dear readers, choosing a meditation (a.k.a. brain fitness practice) is like picking shoes or a favorite climate: It’s a question of fit. And if you’re like moi, the process is going to be a choosy one! By this I mean it takes a careful “buyer’s” attitude to shopping for a method that appeals to your cultural upbringing and sensibility and especially to your neuro-cognitive, emotional, and physical type. Indophiles and Asianists aside, meditation often comes as a package these days, branded with cultural associations that range from ancient jargon to colorful visual motifs!
Still in today’s on and offline markets of meditation clinics, therapies and retreat centers, it’s not so easy for the novice to delineate between Mindfulness, T.M. or Zen, Yoga and Qi Gong. Turning to neuroscience offers some help: Neuroscientists studying human brains before and after specific meditation practices, discover that different methods actually call on different networks and regions within the human brain and… produce different results accordingly!
For example, Richard Davidson and John Kabat Zinn, key researchers in the neuroscience of Mindfulness meditation, published fascinating evidence in 2003, noting measurable and interdependent results in changing both brain waves as well as immune antibodies! (See cited reference below). Theirs is one of many studies that point to the interconnectivity between how we spend our time and where we take our minds!
Translation?: Lower your stress with meditation you accomplish three things: 1) you jumpstart the signaling of positive affect in your brain; 2. You raise your levels of resistance to flu as well! (Think of the money you could save on expensive pharma and drug store cold medicine!) And by the consistent practice, you activate the neuroplastic capacity of the brain to grow itself.
In my life long research and personal study of meditative practices, I find it helpful to ask 3 questions and notice 3 structural types of meditation to order to determine a relevant meditation brand type.
For those who have been following the Mumbai Siege and the news on the New York Wal-Mart mob murder, I suspect you are as stunned and horrified by the tragedy and madness of late. These are (sigh)… challenging times.
Yet in today’s edition of The New York Times‘ Week in Review, we read the following: ‘No matter how stressful the conditions, some of us are just genetically inclined towards calm…. or else we learn to manage the neuroticism.’ I’m not sure claims of suffering from high level cortical stress count in a case of neuroticism. Sure, in Jewish and Italian jokes this side of the Pacific, the motif of the suffering mother lends itself to Freudian and Hollywood overtones. But we’re in the age of a paradigm shift, where cultural stereotypes give way to real time strategies that manage the sweaty, messy corporeality of stress: Crying, Screaming, acting out — the drama of human emotion makes it damn near impossible for some of us to calm ourselves down.
One might think this is all a chicken or egg question, but as contemporary neuroscience makes clear, stress–-be it PTSD, sudden shock or chronic stress endured by those in untenable situations–shuts down thinking. Period. The effects can be neurologically devastating: In the U.S., University of California, Irvine researchers have shown that short term stress like long term chronic stress, reduces cellular connections in the hippocampus, the brain region identified with operations of learning and memory. At a time when stress levels are soaring through roofs of homes sliding into default mortgages, we really do need to find a collective way to calm down.
In weighing the options, meditation seems to make a difference, both in reducing stress and in creating some powerful neurological grown patterns. Notable research conducted at mindfulness medical clinics set up at UCLA and at Harvard signifies a movement toward using meditation to mediate stress and poor health. Harvard researcher Sarah Lazar has already shown that Mindfulness Meditation is correlated with a growth of cortical tissue in the frontal cortex and insula (the area said to integrate emotionally relevant, sense perceptions.)
I invite readers to peruse this blogsite for how-to’s in stress-reducing, meditative breathing practice, or write in for suggestions of practices that bear relevance to your current situation and learning style.
May the breath be with you.
The Platform: Society for Neuroscience 8 Core Concepts
The Twitter: The Human Brain….it gets curiouser and curiouser!
The Big Idea: Curiosity is the natural province of the human brain!
Of the 8 Core Concepts put forward recently by the Society for Neuroscience, Concepts 7 & 8 may be the most important to drive home, not just to kids and teens but to culture changers and thought leaders of any age: What makes these two concepts so special? Gather for yourself:
7. The human brain endows us with a natural curiousity to understand how the world works. [Notice it doesn’t say why the world works]
8. Fundamental discoveries promote healthy living and treatment of disease.
For those of you who worship at the temple of the incurious, I guess you can stop reading here. But if you stay with me, I bet it’s because you, like many of us, wish curiosity would come back into style, not in the form of paparazzi gossip feeders but more in the way of thirst that drives explorers, artists and scientists to wander this earth, striving to reach new vistas of insight and understanding. Those of you who saw the recent Werner Herzog film Encounters at the end of the World, will have an idea what I mean. Or check out http://www.stellaraxis.com, a stunning project organized by my dear colleague Lita Albuquerque, who like Herzog, received National Science Foundation grants for art and science expeditions to study the biosphere of Antartica.
By emphasizing curiosity as a given condition of the human brain, SfN sets up the logic for neuroscience itself, that is, to pose questions about the very thing that enables us to be curious, i.e., the brain extended by the nervous system. In a world suffocating with information overload and in a country like the U.S. that has shown venal scepticism towards scientific endeavors, it’s a rare day that we chance to relish scientific achievement. Still, leaders of SfN assure us that neuroscience is that field that will astonish us with “unexpected discoveries that can benefit humanity.”
A colleague recently wrote of neuroscience as perhaps, the single most creative field study within his lifetime. Given my reading and in light of conferences I’ve recently attended, I would have to agree: We are witnessing the rapid emergence of a science that overturns some of the fundamental questions of human physiology, psychology and philosophy while bearing out the truth of others. And with that revolution comes the development of new technologies that allow us to penetrate into the mysteries of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, TBI along with a host of other brain and nervous systems disorders!
Of the many disruptions, one of my favorites is the evidence pointing to the neuroplastic ways in which we ourselves can change our brains and transform stress, injury and unhappiness through daily practice of meditation or focused states of attention.
I will return to these subjects as they are at the heart of my mission in setting up this blog along with a new one that will launch in weeks to come!
Stay tuned and for those in the States, I’d like to dedicate this Thanksgiving holiday to all of the researchers, inventors, intellectuals, artists, coaches and teachers who dare to use their curiosity and encourage others to do so!
Happy Turkey Day! May the Breath Be With You!
The Platform: The Society for Neuroscience: 8 Core Concepts
The Twitter: Hey! Do you know the core concepts of neuroscience?
The Big Idea: Teach 8 core concepts of neuroscience and watch for the tranformation of science and culture at large!
As previously noted on this blog, The Society for Neuroscience has a noble vision: Identify 8 core neuroscience concepts, teach those concepts (and related principles) to children and teens and imagine a future redefined by a new and inspired league of young brain scientists. “Life should be so good,” as my grandmother use to say.
For neuroscience to compete with the pop wizardry of computer tech, it will take more than mere naming of concepts. I’ll be on the look out for some nifty interactive gizmos and gadgets, the toys and games that drive the concepts home and park them directly in front of the theater of the young mind. Inventors, designers, artists take note!
Since Core Concepts 1, 2, and 3 have been previously noted or inferred in this blog, (for review see below*), I’d like to comment directly on Core Concepts 4, 5, and 6.
Core Concepts 4, 5, and 6 are particularly interesting for those with general interest in brain matters and brain fitness and for those of us who teach or work in creative fields:
4. Life experiences change the nervous system.
5. Life arises as the brain reasons, plans and solves problems.
6. The brain makes it possible to communicate knowledge through language.
O.K., is it me or do other readers detect the over arching “ratio-empirical” bias to these general concepts? Granted they’ve been conceived by scientists for those studying science. But we’re talking about the whole brain and central nervous system, the brain and spine that keeps our heart and liver pumping, that loves, invents games, pretends, dreams, dances, tells stories in pictures, shares feelings with flowers or with something more gross like dumping garbage in your older brother or boyfriend’s bed! I think what we have here is a conflation of brain and mind, especially, the Enlightenment paradigm for the rational, speaking and writing mind.
Core Concept 5 is a case in point: “Intelligence arise as the brain reasons, plans….” Wait! When did the brain suddenly show itself to be adapted only to analytical practices of difference-detecting leading to logic and planning? What happened to the idea of “multiple intelligence” put forward by Harvard prof. Howard Gardner? What about soma-sensory intelligence? Auditory signals? Visual Icons?Granted, one needs to read further to discover that Concept 5 includes human perception in the process of arising intelligence, e.g.: “senses, emotions, instincts and remembered experience” are counted as being relevant for information processing. Even consciousness gets its due: “Consciousness depends on the normal activity of the brain.” Fair enough, especially if one is learning about traumatic brain injury and coma.
Yet for those who read deeply into neuroscience literature and into other cultural models of consciousness, remember Gerald Edelman’s argument for the limits of philosophic debate on consciousness. Seems SfN has transgressed the limits and put the question back on the table.
Concept 4 (Life changes the NS): This concept is easier to digest if only due to the increasing press on neuroplasticity. Here we are taught to recognize the interactivity of nature/nurture, to awaken to the role our own lives play in developing nerve cells, to recognize how we affect the health of cells by way of stress and trauma and how we can generate neural growth through our own efforts. A curious notation: “Neuronal death is a natural part of development and aging.” For the anti-aging activists like Aubrey de Grey, this will surely be contested.
And Concept 6? (Communicating knowlege through language) ….What can I say?
Speaking on behalf of the somanauts, artists and designers I’ve taught for over 15 years, I have to wonder where scientists have been during during the culture and cyber wars of the last century? Were they not told of the departmental battles that dared to push “knowledge” and “language” into the larger domains of cultural “meaning” and “sign systems?” Are they simply unaware of pertinent research conducted in fields that stretch from info technology to cultural anthropology?
Allow me then to urge science and all other educators who plan to use the core concepts and who wish to avoid the built in biases, to write to SfN requesting clarification: http:// http://www.sfn.org
Better yet, form study groups and invite a semiotician, a designer, a choreographer, a cultural ethnographer or an intellectual historian — any one who can offer an expanded view of actual brain/mind function in the world!
Finally, I welcome your thoughts and comments and will gladly refer you to texts and topics that unpack these thorny issues. And Look for my comments in days to come on Core Concepts 7 & 8
I remain synaptically yours,
Dr. G. sending breath your way
* Core Concepts 1, 2, 3 (see blogs Nov 17 and 18)
1. The Brain is the body’s most complex organ.
2. Neurons communicate using electrical and chemical signals.
3. Genetically determined circuits are the foundation of the nervous system.
The Platform: Neuroscience 2008: Expanding Brain Awareness
The Twitter: ” I’m aware. Are You?” Brain Awareness Week 2009
The Big Idea: Neuroscience 2108: What will we know? How do we get there?
To an audience of young neuroscientists and neuro-leaders gathered to learn more about Brain Awareness Week 2009 (March 16-22), incoming Society for Neuroscience President Professor Thomas Carew reminded the group: ‘Neuroscience research rises out of and gives back to the public good.’
However noble (and ethical) the gesture, it seems there’s nothing cooler than studying the very thing that makes us “human.” And as I’ve tried to show over this last year, there are numerous good reasons why anyone living on Planet Earth in 2008 would want to know how a human brain actually works. More intimate with our bodies than our cell phones, more complicated than our laptops, the human brain begs our curiosity, our devoted attention, our awe! It goes without saying that with an average of 100 billion neurons signaling to each other on any given day, and with the prospect of neuroplasticity programmed into each nerve cell, the brain demands a readied corps of impassioned researchers capable and willing to spend hours, days, months and years observing and decoding the complex and emergent system we call
the nervous system.
The Society of Neuroscience and the Dana Alliance have joined forces to lay the foundational grounds for raising that corps by creating Brain Awareness Week, an international, consciousness raising event devoted to inspiring youth of all ages to learn about the science of the brain. To be frank, I have a lot of faith already in the new grad students entering neuroscience labs. As a generation suckled on the Internet and diagnosed en mass with ADD, they self-admittedly bring to the table, a seasoned sense of video gaming, social networking and a pharmaceutically managed skills of focus and attention. You’ll find them scratching their heads, trying to imagine how their parents ever thought the mind was not connected to the body. With their biotechologically retooled focus on neural networks, these future scientists will map the non-linear circuits of the brain with new neuro-infoschematic programs. Turning to the Allen Spine Atlas to which they will likely contribute, the next generation of neuroscientists will uncover the mysteries of how we regenerate neural tissue, of how we heal and walk again.
With 2009 Brain Awareness Week in mind, SfN leaders announced it will be promoting its 8 “Core Concepts.” In this coming week, I will introduce the core concepts as it relates to the concerns of this blog.
In the meantime, please write to me and ask how you and your friends, your network, your school or your organization can create a knock out Brain Awareness campaign for 2009! (No pun intended!)
With all nerve cells firing!
I remain synaptically yours,
Dr. G. sending breath your way!
For futher info:
The Society of Neuroscience <http://www.sfn.org>
The Dana Alliance <http://www.dana.org/brain.aspx>
The Twitter: “We remember to sleep so we can sleep to remember!” — William Fishbein
The Big Idea: Sleep is a prime protagonist in the story of neurogenesis!
Sleep. Aaah, what a beautiful thing!
Yet when we mere mortals are deprived of our zzzzss, we get cranky and frustrated, if not downright nasty in negotiating simple tasks like adding numbers on a grocery bill or attempting to avoid freeway gridlock by rerouting a shorter drive home! Talking to a local Starbucks barista, I learned having no sleep is “way worse than getting sick!”
I’m not sure researchers at Neuroscience 2008 have tackled the nuances of that claim, but of those who are working in the sleep research field, sleep in all of its blessed and disturbed varieties –uninterrupted, interrupted, fragmented – along with napping, is being explored with new enthusiasm.
Looking back on his long career in sleep research, William Fishbein at City University in NY, remarked how far and expanded the field of sleep research had become. Speaking on a press panel of distinguished sleep researchers, Fishbein presented data that pointed up to our neuro-cognitive need for naps. What do naps actually accomplish? Fishbein and colleagues showed that a snooze siesta reinforces the neural networks formed during morning hours devoted to relational (or associative) learning!
As previously reported on this blogsite, napping has moved front and center into the discussion of high performance and human productivity. Fishbein’s research adds to the richly layered network of findings that suggest memory, decision-making, rote skill performance and the substrate of neurogenesis are enhanced with a rested brain, depleted with a tired brain.
The take home message? Sleep, like oxygen, is necessary for growth and survival of the human brain/body on Planet Earth!
Reporting from D.C. this is Dr. G. wishing you an uninterrupted good night’s rest.
The Twitter: Nurture your Nature!
The Big Idea: Neuro-Plasticity is critical to neurogenesis (But when and how?)
Allow me to start with a question: How many of you really believe that “exercise” can change your brain? How many of you have already adapted yourselves to a non-fast food diet of low fat, low sugar, low volume eating lifestyle? And how many of you take a nap to replenish memory of all those nifty concepts and technical skills you learned in the early a.m.?
Well if you were a fly on the wall in any of the Neuroscience 2008 sessions (rather than submitted to a lab of brain probe research!), you would detect a consistent pattern in neuroscience research: Nature and Nurture are inextricably linked — so much so as to push us to think why did we ever think otherwise? Or to put it another way, news from the brain labs reinforces what we’ve learned from cardiac research and training grounds, namely: Lifestyle can make or break one’s future in obtaining a clear mind and good and healthy longevity!
Having the opportunity to meet and listen to neuroscientists who are paving the way to our understanding of both the normal and diseased brain and body has pointed up to some insights worth sharing:
1. Scaling the practice of Brain Mapping: When it comes to neuroscience as a research area of biotechnology, the bio here means both neuroanatomical, neurochemical and neurogenetic levels of inquiry and analysis. For the lay reader, this means brain research is scaled and mapped from the macro to the micro levels of network analysis.
2. Neuro-Plasticity, like comedy is all about timing! Different levels of circuit analysis open doors to understanding the phenomenon of neuro-plasticity — best periods, best practices, and the conditions when “too much plasticity” appears implicated as in cases of schizophrenia. Given the trendiness that has brought neuro-plasticity into critical mass awareness, scientists at this conference were quite clear if not humble in making claims for the play-doh capacity of the brain. Today’s press conference on the developing brain drove home this message in this way:
Animal studies, such as the songbird studies run by Dr. Allison Doupe (see previous blog), point to a critical period for neuro-plasticity to express itself in learning and memory.
Dr. Takao Hench* reinforces Doupe’s perspective, noting if the critical period is disturbed in embryonic development, then plasticity is interrupted. Hench studies proteins in embryonic head development, finding their importance in developing visual function and spinal chord development.
No doubt, the evidence for embryonic and childhood neuro-plasticity opens new doors to asking how and when new neuronal landscapes are formed in later periods of life. The aging brain question on the table? Does the brain recapitulate earlier strategies for neuroplasticity in the adult stage and to what degree? (All you meditators out there: Think cultivating beginner’s mind.)
3. Nurture your Nature: With the advent of genetics, neuroscience has leaped into a new age of epigenetic studies: This may be one of the areas that speaks directly to how we as non-scientists can make sense of brain science in terms of our own daily lives. To give you a quick brief, think of the old nature/nurture argument, seemingly put to rest by the genome mapping project and the insights scientists have had regarding the role “environment” plays in shaping the genetic expression.
At Neuroscience 2008, several scientists were on hand to discuss their epigenetic research highlighting the effects of lifestyle and cultural habit on the brain as seen at the level of genetic expression. Let’s be clear here, the expression is not seen at the level of change in DNA structure but in the level of “gene expression.” For you genomic neophytes out there, I came to understand this by way of a great explanation offered by Dr. Quincy LaPlant who noted his use of microray analysis to distinguish between DNA sequence and sequence organization.
The long and short of this: The implications of lifestyle cannot be under-estimated: Stress, early childhood abuse and neglect, high-fat diets all manifest as modifers the brain at the level of genetic organization, the level of brain function, and the level of human experience!!!!!
Epigenetics — keep your eye on that term!
Until then, conference tip for brain fitness: “We remember to sleep so that we can sleep to remember!” (William Fishbein)
*Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard University
Day 4 of this mega conference (and that’s not counting the week prior of workshops and pre-con lectures!)
In light of the question I posed yesterday regarding the introduction of network theory into neuroscience:
The answer: Neuroscientists appear to point to their own history as well to the onset of computational and imaging technology. As was noted in a press conference on brain development, the ground zero thinking starts with the 19th century work of Spanish anatomist Ramon y Cahal who first raised the issue of how should one study the brain?: Whether in terms of localization of brain anatomy and function or exploring the relations throughout brain mass or what we might call, the brain matrix?
As James Marshel of UC San Diego pointed out, computational biotechnology has brought Cahal’s early network theory into the 21st century. As this conference makes patently clear, what we have learned about the networks involved in developing and maintaining the human brain and central nervous system has been made possible by way of PET, FMRI, EEG and increasingly more refined circuit reading platforms.
For 21st thought leaders and change agents working throughout the world, this news is both exciting and reassuring: With a systems or network approach to mapping brain anatomy and physiology, the levels of interconnectedness between the macro and the micro, between social and digital networks of information flow can now be associated in some manner with networks of brain function.
This association may best be understood in this conference in terms of “epigenetics.”
to be continued…..
The Platform: Neuroscience 2008, Washington D.C., Convention Center, Day 2
The Twitter: Systems analysis comes to Neuroscience!
The Big Idea: Brain Maps and Brain Circuits Open the Doors to Studies in Neuroplasticity!
If there is a primary metaphor, a picture which best communicates the paradigm shift in neuroscience, it is the image of “mapping.” Makes sense, right? Maps, as we all know, hail back to some of the earliest days of navigational science, when cartography was as much a visual art as an artifact of empirical science.
Today, mapping along with circuits, networks, and other info-tech terms have entered the lexicon of neuroscientific thinking — and to that end, has in part redefined how neuroscientists study the neurogenetic and neurochemical operations of the brain. No doubt, the cyberpunks and digerati reading this blog do so in complete and utter wonder. Yes, it seems a collective head scratching is in order when putting the neuroscience paradigm shift in context to the cybernetic revolution named nearly sixty or so years prior. Then again, as historian Thomas Kuhn reminds us, glacial is the speed of great scientific revolutions.
Surveying the mob scene at Neuroscience 2008 and listening to some of the symposia lectures, I suspect the shift has come with a generation of researchers who grew up on Atari and first generation X Boxes, who have played with “code” on Second Life, or who have picked up a thing or two from grad students who majored in 3-D modeling before they decided to switch to neuroscience. It might also be the case that the cognitive systems science work of Maturana and Varela, the Neural Darwinist writings of Gerald Edelman and new biotech imaging tools have made their way into labs throughout the world. These are questions I will pose to the scientists and doctoral students during the next two days.
In the meantime, under the clear, shining light of brain circuit mapping, “epigenetics” and “neuroplasticity” have taken center stage in neurodevelopmental and neurochemical studies. There were some like Zack Lynch of NIO* who questioned a round table discussion of NIH directors regarding the future of government funding to these studies. Dr. Nora Volkow of the NIH Drug Abuse program was one who offered a particularly optimistic view stating, ‘Epigenetic evidence opens the doors to future studies in neuroplasticity’ — studies that can unlock the mysteries of how human experience actually modifies and shapes the genetic markers of brain development.
Yes, gang, it’s “the brain creates culture, culture creates the brain” argument rethought in neurogenetic and neurochemical terms. Seems we are back to talking about nature/nature once more.
I leave with one thought on brain mapping, rethinking the words of American philosopher Josiah Royce who is quoted as saying, “The map is not the territory.”
Well, at Neuroscience 2008, the map is the territory, at least for now.
From D.C. this is Dr. G, wish you good neural networking!
*Neurotechnology Industry Organization
The Platform: NEUROSCIENCE 2008, Convention Center, Washington D.C.
The Twitter: How many neuroscientists does it take to put in a light bulb?
The Big Idea: The future of neuroscience lays in the hands of youth.
Intense? Immersive? An Indeterminate Neural Network? Making it through a crowd of over 30,000 people, and a four day roster that includes symposia, mini symposia, keynote lectures, satellite events and over a 1000 poster and slides sessions, does, as one AI scientist once remarked, separate the human from the robot.
And it is that extraordinary navigational capacity of human intelligence and specifically, the human brain, along with a whole host of questions about the brain that has drawn neuroscientists young and old to the rainy U.S. capital, to share their research, update their brains and discuss the future of advocating brain awareness at NEUROSCIENCE 2008!
With neuroscience becoming the seductive frontier of 21st century biological, medical and cognitive science study, as well as the field of promising and lucrative applied biotechnologies, NEUROSCIENCE 2008 is the brain child of the Society for Neuroscience, a dedicated group of scientists that has grown in membership and in sensibility regarding the role they play in developing allied research, public policy and K-12 education where the brain is concerned.
For the lay public, the hard science description of pain-staking empirical studies is enough to send the unitiated back to talking about Leggos, Pac-Man and 7th grade science fair. Yet as inimitable choreographer Mark Morris was apt to point out to the audience during the opening Keynote discussion, “the problem of talking about what’s going on in the brain, is not mine but yours!”
It was rather confirming for yours truly, to find the president of SFN, who researches rhythm, choosing the once bad boy post modern choreographer to open the annual meeting. The brain is, after all, in a body, and from the sessions I attended today, it seems more and more scientists are reading to point to roles experiment and experience play in shaping neural growth and visa versa. And yet, the questions put to Morris suggest that scientists might want to do more dancing or as Morris reminded them, “more skipping,” if they want to study the choreographic corellates in the somasensory cortex. Morris, a performing artist known for his love and sensitivity to the musicality of dancing, and now for his work with Parkinson’s disease, drove home the message of using somatic intelligence: ‘It’s not something that abstact, like thinking, “now this left foot, on this second beat.” It’s more like: “Here… Now.”‘
I must admit, the rudimentary science questions put to Morris pointed up to the old C.P. Snow two culture divide, pitting science and art against each other like political foes. I for one, was rather shocked by the retro p.o.v. pervading much of the scientific thinking, signaling a real gap in the education of scientists regarding the “research” conducted by somanauts like performing artists and athletes. Then again, Morris, the uber cosmopolitan, had no better understanding of the science of brain/mind/body connectivity. Sigh.
The afternoon Presidential lecture given by Dr. Allison Doupe offered a different picture of art and science. Doupe gave an exquisite talk on the pattern recognition capacities of songbirds, and posed the question: ‘What can we can we learn about neural basis of “vocal” practices as distinct from performances? How does the nervous system mediate behavior?’
A terrific speaker, poised and passionate, Doupe’s research pointed to several neural circuits that appear to operate in directing the process of learning a new pattern of sound, practicing the new pattern, and performing it to accomplish a “salient” goal, in the case of songbirds, a male finch courting a female.
My favorite Doupe image? The one that showed how courting performance showed little randomness in pattern generation! The take home message? Forget the creativity bud. If ya want the girl, just sing the damn song!
Leaving some of us to ponder the implications of romantic innovation, Doupe’s lecture did reinforce one of the key ideas and metaphors, surfacing in the language of neuroscientists presenting at this conference: the role of pattern recognition and neural mapping in development and learning.
I’m off to Neuroscience 2008 where I will spend 4 days with ear and brain to the ground, wall and any other surface that is vibrating with news from the international neuroscience research field! Thirty thousand scientists, neuronauts and neuroleaders are expected — that’s right, nearly 30,000 brains that have devoted hours of “attention density” to the frontier of neuroscience and neuroscience education. Talk about wattage!!!!
Due to an “embargo” placed on writing before the official press conferences, I will start posting formal review starting Sept 18.
However, do look for my tweeters now and then.
Speaking of attention density, other news: SpaceSuit Yoga Advocates the MindBody Project:
With Obama speaking directly to our broken health care system, BrainMindBody health advocacy groups are organizing to create an ‘Educate Obama‘ campaign.
Please Join me and others to inform our visionary President Elect and his transition team on the remarkable research in NeuroSomatic Health Practices, namely, the empirical research and education projects in brain/mind/body integration that point to the interrelation of
increasing stress and rising health costs.
decreasing stress and lowering of health costs.
Below are two links for joining the effort of a media campaign to awaken our new American leaders to the benefits of preventative medicine: This from a letter sent by http://www.worldtaichiday.org/
To Obama and Team:
The Obama Transition Team Site’s Contact Page is: http://change.gov/page/s/contact
A sample intro:
WHY IS STRESS AN INCREASING PROBLEM?
Bill Joy, the Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems estimates that the speed of change is doubling exponentially every 18 months, and the speed of change will only increase in coming months, years, and decades. Change is stressful, even good change.
The change we have faced is daunting, but nothing compared to the next generation’s challenges of managing the stress of accelerating change.
It is in our interest to provide stress management achieving mind/body tools to adults, but particularly to the new generation(s), because their accumulating unmanaged stress of today, will translate into trillions of dollars of health costs in years to come.
To Incoming Medical and Education Officials:
Go to the web page below and print out 3 copies of the form letter. Send a postal mail to the incoming Secretary of Health, the Secretary of Education, and the incoming Surgeon General, to arrive on their desk when they take office on January 20th.
http://www.worldtaichiday.org and follow the links to MEDICAL RESEARCH and EDUCATION PROJECTS!
As always, may the breath be with you!
I pose this comparative think as today, a very special day in the U.S., when we pick our nation’s leader to take us forward into this new century, I look back over the last year’s responses to SpaceSuit Yoga.com and marvel at the interest that Michael Phelps and Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor have stirred within the online community! In light of the press and audience commentary that covers these two American heroes, I have no problem nominating both Phelps and Dr. Taylor as role models for neuro-leadership.
That’s right, if one takes the premise and profile of neuro-leadership put forward in recent NY and Sydney NeuroLeadership Summits (and as reported on this website), both Phelps and Dr. Taylor model the behavior of one who achieves success by way of brain-based approaches to problem solving, especially in two ways:
1) the rigorous, consistent use of attention to problem-solving by means of task-oriented solutions;
2) the generous offering of themselves as motivational coaches in the service of others.
a) consistent refinement and improvement of his strokes by invoking attention to spatio-temporal agility,
b) highly motivated, goal focused projection of his human energy, and
c) a keen and consistent application of attention to all that it takes to fuel a body to move in pool water like a great Mako shark!
In the case of Dr. Taylor, who suffered and survived quite nicely, a severe stroke in her left hemisphere, we learn the key lesson through her various online and offline modes of presentation (all previously mentioned on this blog): Regaining access to speech and to Prefrontal Cortex executive functions (analysis, judgment, decision-making) required a kind of Olympic style commitment to “paying attention” to re-learning vowels and consonants, to being able to conceptually distinguish and label right from left.
As Jeffrey Schwartz outlined clearly on the first night of the NeuroLeadership Summit and again throughout the whole of the summit proceedings, “attention density” is that key to changing the brain and thus the very conditions and propensities if you will, of our individual body/mind. And as David Rock was apt to point out, if attention is the protagonist in our mental theater, insight is that beautiful arc we reach as we crystallize evanscent images and thoughts.
The story of Phelp’s prep for Olympic spectacle, the drama of Taylor’s enlightenment — each make for a powerful tutorial on leadership development in training. As for generosity in the service of others, it is clear by their mutual willingness to take their insights and transform them into tools for educating and possibly saving the lives of others, Michael Phelps and Jill Bolte Taylor visualize for all of us the continuum of human excellence in learning and performance.
My SpaceSuit Yoga questions to you dear somanauts, are this:
First, “If you could learn anything about the human brain, about your own human brain, what would you like to know and what would you do with that information?”
Second, “How do you practice “paying attention?”
I welcome your responses and comments. And please know that in the coming months, my institute will be offering special “attention and awareness” training sessions for private individuals and those developing leadership.
As always, May the Breath Be With You!
P.S. At the time of writing this, it appears Barack Obama has been named President-Elect of the U.S.A.! Talk about attention density and generosity in the service of others!
The Platform: NeuroLeadership Summit 2008, Day 2, afternoon proceedings
The Twitter: Changing brains, changing culture, one thought leader at a time!
The Big Idea: Brain-Based Coaching facing its own new frontier!
When the functional anatomy of the brain and the central nervous system was first studied by Dr. Thomas Willis (a student of the empiricist John Locke), the intellectual mindset of 18th century British society was hardly ready to think in terms of broad evolutionary and developmental change when it comes to brain/mind relations. After all, the radical ideas of Darwinian genetics and Freudian psychoanalysis wouldn’t surface until a century later and the modern models of cognition, emotional intelligence and creative problem solving would have to wait for the information age to come about.
With history as a backdrop, the afternoon of the NeuroLeadership Summit (Day 2) focused broadly and deeply on the frontier of neuroleadership. Like any pioneer in applied science, brain-based coaches and thought leaders must face the big question:
What are the implications of bringing neuroscience to bear on the culture of leadership practiced around the globe?
Lunchtime keynote speaker Dr. Karen Stephenson penetrated the issue by zeroing in on the subtle and insidious problems that plague executive communication practices: “What can neuroscience study tell us about the brain-dynamics of “trust”?, Stephenson asks. As an anthropologist and noted “pioneer” in social network approaches to advancing corporate culture, Stephenson illustrated the large gap in understanding how “trust” figures into executive communication patterns by comparatively looking at other social networks flowing underneath the radar of top-down corporate speak.
Stephenson, in other words, did not offer a neuro-anthropological view but rather brought the topic of social systems analysis to bear on the discussion of applied neuroscience. And Stephenson was not alone. Culturally sensitive systems thinking pervaded Dr. Brent Oberholtzer’s commentary on international consulting, especially in cases where U.S. companies set up shop in cultures with remarkably different epistemic values in problem-solving. Given the decades of culture wars and post-colonial critique leveled against Western Civ., and in light of the burgeoning of the Asian market, one really starts to wonder if the brains of American business leaders are just stuck in the neurochemical default mode: FEAR.
Rethinking the paradigm and strategies of “executive talent management” thus requires time and money and in the world of coaching, scalable, verifiable, cost-effective strategies can easily guarantee a coaching account. R. Scott Ridley at American Express and Christine Williams at NASA offered choice commentary on the positive effects of “brain-based” coaching in their respective leadership development programs: Each cited the cost efficiency of coaching with neuroscience fully in mind. As Williams noted, simply educating NASA scientists in the basics of neuroscience gives them a verifiable template for reframing pleasure, pain, and fear. By bringing in one hard science to bear on another, it maximizes the potential for self-awareness and “insight” in a non-threatening manner, and in the end. teaches leaders to lead by coaching!
The Take Home Message for Day 2: In Brain-Based Coaching, there are specific means to specific ends.
David Rock, reflecting upon his brand of brain-based coaching (there are others as this blog itself suggests), closed the session with a manifesto for establishing the scientific ground and rhetorical logic of a brain-based coaching practice. As one who clearly and passionately walks his talk, Rock, the visionary thought leader recognizes the pitfalls of developing a new field. His buzz words? “Remove Redundancy!” “Maximize Efficiency and Interactivity!” “Create Sustainability!” As the two day conference revealed, the semantics of quantum physics, systems analysis, information processing and most of all the neuroscience insights into cultivating emotional intelligence by means of mindfulness practice pervade Rock’s paradigmatic thinking about coaching a new generation of leaders.
As the founding director of the GGI, an institute ground on remarkably similar values, I am moved to have discovered a kindred spirit who brilliantly and generously lights the way for others.
A Rock caveat: Teaching the skill of “reappraisal,” and helping people cultivate “insight” speaks to the core logic of the neuroleadership coaching narrative. And yet the two neuro-ed-psych motifs may be the only piece of leadership training that can stick in corporate culture at this time. “Self-awareness,” after all, is “unbelievably hard to improve” amongst corporate leaders.
Well, as the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And as it was noted in passing during the summit proceedings, the story of the neuroscience is ironically implicated in the fall of the Roman Empire. The culprit? Environmental lead poisoning in the brain.
Ah…. the interdependency of all things.
Synaptically and Mindfully yours,
The Platform: NeuroLeadership Summit 2008, Day 1
The Twitter: Psssttt! It’s all connected — brain, body and mind!
The Big Idea: Rethinking leadership from an interdependent whole-brain, whole-body, whole-mind networked point of view!
David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute and organizer of both the NY and Sydney meetings this year, noted last evening that today’s most urgent issue, as seen by companies and businesses across the global sphere, is the crisis of developing leadership. With that in mind, Rock invited world-class scientists to give keynote talks — presentations which should help this year’s summit partipants picture a new paradigm of “best practices” when approaching the question of developing leadership.
For yours truly, it was a deep and gratifying pleasure to be immersed in an arena wherein scientists, coaches and consultants seriously broached the topic of new neuroscience and the myriad of ways to connect body, mind and brain in human learning, performance and innovation, be it at home, school, in sport or in the workplace.
Again, time is limited to tell all (more will be fleshed out post summit) but here’s the beef on today’s keynote talks — which by the way, are followed up by generous amounts of time for question and break-out focus group discussions:
From the first keynote by Dr. Amy Arnstein to the last one of the day delivered by Dr. Kevin Ochsner, the frame for Day 1 stretched across a psychological continuum: Arnstein cogently tackled the neurochemical correlates to interrupted moments of perception and cognition (either by way of daily stress or by profound mental illness); Ochsner closed the long intense day by chunking the complex study of human emotion into a bite size expose on the neuroanatomical correlates to strategies that effect emotional experience and behavior, e.g. “reappraisal” of emotional narrative. (Arnstein gets two thumbs up for a spiffy visual presentations. As one researcher noted — the cartooned versions of neurotransmitting processes signaled well with ‘low noise’ residual.)
With the frame set by these two talks, were some real nuggets of 21st century thinking — the sort that reinforces the hard work reseachers, thought leaders and cultural changers have put forth for more than half a century in communicating
1) the value of “insight” in innovation and
2) “mindfulness” (or meditation) experiences in modifying how we use our “attention” in goal directed tasks.
Within the break out discussions, some facinating and tough questions were raised by the audience regarding cross-cultural imprinting and bias in charting the neuroscience of perception, leaving a door open to comparative cultural studies, especially with developing leaders in the global sphere is concerned.
While all of the keynotes were delivered in impeccable style, Dr. Yi-Yuan Tang’s lunchtime presentation clearly touched my brain and heart in his clear and playful deconstruction of cultural definitions of “mindfulness” experience to make room for the semantics of a neuroscientifically informed picture of brain/mind/body operations and connections that enter into the “mindfulness state.” As one who first came to mindfulness through the Martial arts, Yuan placed before us the challenge of knowing how to engage attention and awareness in a way that helps us “integrate” body/mind and brain in the experience of “being” (as to be distinguished neurologically from “thinking or doing.”) In response to Tang’s talk, David Rock offered a tip he found helpful in his study of mindfulness, namely the strategy of distingushing between narration (interpretation) and direct experience — each having their own correlates in brain anatomy and brain chemistry.
As I have noted on this blog, the brain/body/mind connection is one we can’t emphasize enough. It speaks of a new way to recognize our very humanness as a function of emergent networked processes, allowing us to integrate in a multi-dimensional fashion, a host of relations between what and how we think/feel and do.
The message from today’s proceedings: The responsibility of developing effective and even inspiring 21st century leadership rests on the shoulders of the somatically and neuroscientifically aware.
One can find the summit proceedings schedule on the NeuroLeadership.org website.
P.S. A self-referential historical note regarding the inception of the blogsite: I wrote my dissertation in the late ’80’s on “attention and awareness training” practices used by American performing artists. Sometimes a good idea like cheese, needs time to age. Please write if you have questions about the literature on attention training.
The Platform: NeuroLeadership Summit 2008: Opening Keynote Address
The Twitter: WOW!!!!!!Quantum Mechanics Dates Neuroscience and finds an attractive mate!!!!!!
The Big Idea: Attention Changes the Brain as understood from the standpoint of Quantum Mechanics….
Yawzaa! Talk about brain training for neuro-leaders at the quantum level!!!! The first night of the NeuroLeadership Summit 2008 in New York City has blown everyone’s mind with a turbo charged presentation by Jeffrey Schwartz, M.D., UCLA and his mentor, the visionary Quantum Physicist and Author Henry Stapp. Schwartz, who appears to nearly jump out of his skin with enthusiasm when speaking, uses baseball metaphors for delivering “fast balls” on the question of “attention” in Q.M. Schwartz’s key point? Bringing neuroscience and Q.M. together in a unified field theory over-rides the inadequacies of Newtonian physics in coming up with plausible mathematical formula and explanation has to how we can observe and understand, with reasonable veracity, the movement of large bodies, like the human body.
The nearly two-hour presentation called for a deep deep think on the part of this observer and begs for a gorgeous visual map to point to the multiple vectors of interrelated ideas. Forgive me then, in this brief period of online time to outline the team’s main points concerning a new way to discuss neuroplasticity to an audience focused on the question of leadership, be it in business, education, government or related areas of human learning and enterprise:
1. The Marriage of Quantum Mechanics with Neuroscience: The marriage challenges the Newtonian model of physics, which leaves out the role of the observing agent, the agent that poses questions about the phenomenal world. In the Newtonian model, there is a purposeful blindness imposed upon the role the observer and his or her tools of observation play in influencing the inquiry and observation… hence, the Newtonian science of refutation and double-blind experiments.
2. The Role of Interactivity between the Observer and the Observed: The Neuro-Q.M. theory takes off the self-imposed empirical blinders and moves the question of information gathering and observation to address the interactive aspect of inquiry and observation. In this model, interactivity between “the observer and the observed” helps to create the potential answer to the question posed. Sound familiar, somanauts?
3. Invoking Attention Density and the Executive Action Template create the conditions for interactivity of the observer with the observed.
What is Attention Density? Distinct from “concentration,” attention density involves repetition of attention, as in learning a new skill, like learning to swim, learning to read, learning to eat only one piece of chocolate, or even learning to recover from a stroke!
What is the Executive Action Template: This term refers to the executive functions — analytic difference detecting, syllogistic reasoning and decision making — correlated with activity in the Pre Frontal Cortex of the human brain.
Schwartz and Stapp argue for the role of the “impartial observer” — the observer who uses “attention” — and this is important — specifically, the repetition of attention plus the engagement of intentional executive action to pose questions in an interactive fashion with the phenomenal world and thus discover/create a possible answer to the questions posed.
In other words, for Schwartz and Stapp claim Attention Density and Executive Action are said to be the two determining factors in creating the conditions for the impartial observer and the conditions for the moment probability collapses into a unit of possibilty or “an answer.” Now there is a complex Q.M. theory of how this actually works and I’ll leave it to you dear readers to start doing your own interactive search to learn about the necessary correlation between “attention density” and the “collapse function” in Q.M.
The implications for Neuro Leaders? Schwartz and Stapp point to a radical and “rational” rethinking of leadership and organizational systems models by suggesting:
1) The lessons of neuroplasticity: One can now acknowledge the fact of neuroplasticity — the brain creates the mind and the mind creates the brain — and how it is generated and conditioned by asking questions, by being curious, by the act of paying repeated attention, by making inquiry, by learning and sharing information;
2) Bottom Up Flow of Information: By recognizing the Neuro-Q.M. theory of probability, one can begin to value bottom up information flow. Workers are not mindless cogs in a machine but rather brain/mind attentive information “workers.” (To better understand the bottom up theory of info flow, check out Steven Johnson’s EMERGENCE: a great study for neuro leaders who wish to take lessons from developing ant colonies, developing cities, developing brains and open systems software practices!)
3) Neuro leadership is hall-marked by invoking a brain based/quantum understanding of the role of attention, interactivity and decision-making in all aspects of human performance. The Schwartz/Stapp model encourages us to take seriously the interactive possibilities of the brain in relation to the interactive possibilities posed by the use of our other research tools, be it a gene splicer, a sub-atomic particle accelerator.
There is so much more to say but time is running out. Let it be noted that the ghost of dualism clearly plagued the presentation as did the mechanistic semantics of Newtonian physics, e.g., Stapp referring to humans as machines.
‘Oi Vey.’ I will take that one on in another blog.
More tomorrow. Until then, attentive breath be with you!
News on the home front;
First, commentary continues to flow from Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk on Oprah. A neuro-leader if there ever was one. Please enjoy the discussion that ensued on this site.
One of the questions to arise: Should we be devoting our lives to training our brains for bliss, or should bliss pursuits be relegated to the cloistered arena of mystical experience? Of course, the dualist framing of the question is unfortunate for as Taylor herself points out, right-brain enhanced joy is not licenced or owned by religious seekers. Think of the pattern recognition operations that go on in the mind of painters or fabric designers?
For those interested in a critical, psychological analysis of American mystical experience, try starting with a standard and truly royal read: William James’ VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE. James, the father of American psychology and a spacious thinker on the question of brain-mind relations, takes one on a tour of the diversity of American religiosity. Seems we in the U.S., have not strayed too much from our turn of the century predecessors.As James is one of my favorite American thinkers, I can’t help but think he would be totally turned on by the big movements in neuroscience and neuro-education — the sort Taylor insinuates in using neuro-anatomy to tell her deeply personal story of survival and transformation! I only wish James were alive today to join me at the upcoming 2008 Neuroleadership Summit in NY. I will be blogging on the event — and upon my return will be offering my services to those looking for consultants to design and set up neuroleadership and neuro-fitness programs in their companies and institutions
In the meantime: to embolden your own neuro-leadership program, try and practice a few of the basic “brain tips” mentioned on this site:
Bringing breath awareness to your athletic or other human performance training
Spinal rolls: juicing up the joints of the spine for greater blood and chi flow!
And a new one to be discussed in future blogs: Think Popeye and eat your spinach!
May the Breath Be With You!
Check out Oprah’s show today or go to her website for the interview with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor along with Dr. Mehmet Oz: http://www.oprah.com
(See the SpaceSuit Yoga archive of this site for note on Taylor’s talk at TED 2008)
Twitter feed from NPR:
Yesterday (Oct 13) NPR reported on the success former amputee Dave Savage is having in adapting to his new hand transplant. Do notice, the term “adaptation” here points to the capacity of Savage’s brain (and central nervous system) to remodel neural networks in order to operate his new hand.
Savage’s story is rather touching, to say the least, and puts a kinder, human face on the harrowing Silver Spring monkeys epic that pushed neuroscience into the study of neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.
For NPR’s report on the neural implications of Savage’s hand transplant, go to:
For the story of the Silver Spring Monkeys , see Sharon Begley’s discussion in TRAIN YOUR MIND, CHANGE YOUR BRAIN, or Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley’s narrative in THE MIND AND THE BRAIN.
And for readers of SpaceSuit Yoga, the implications: The lessons of neuroplasticity are so far-reaching as to push us all to rethink and recontextualize our work, our creativity, our lives with respect to the innate power of our brains.
Wonders never cease!
The Platform: Brain Rules by John Medina, Ph.D.
The Twitter: Catch some ZZZZZs!
The Big Idea: Become a Neuro-Leader: Provide 20 minute, afternoon brain rest periods for your students, workers or colleagues!
…. Picking up on my sleeping pod commentary, I wish to reinforce the idea of catching some “zzzzs” as an antidote to the rise in stress these days and add an important point: Whether or not you have access to a sleeping pod, practice Neuro-Leadership by creating structures within your institution to allow for “brain time outsFollowing brain development specialist John Medina, getting enough sleep earns its place as Brain Rule #7 in his 12 Brain Rules. Rule #8? “Stressed Brains Don’t Learn the Same Way.”
Drawing an evolutionary comparison between facing a predatory saber-toothed tigers and your boss or a bad marriage, Medina pinpoints the effect: “You can actually watch the brain shrink.”
Shrinking brains might sound great as a 5th grade science project but for brains on fire from stock market quakes to the prospect of reorganizing a new world order, an expansive brain sounds more like what the doctor ordered. Medina’s prescription for avoiding chronic stress? Sleep well, think well and take an afternoon nap to improve mental and physical performance.
For years, I have manuevered around an academic schedule, eeking out 20 minutes of meditation before the start of a 4 p.m. seminar. My method: hit the steam baths and “work out” before class. Days without class, I schedule in an afternoon yoga nidra session.
What is yoga nidra? Simply put, yoga nidra is an ancient technology of deep relaxation, often referred to as “waking sleep.” It is one of the more beautiful restorative practices from the hatha yoga tradition, enabling rest while staying conscious at a subtle and quiet level of awareness. Significant neuroscientific studies of yogic meditation date back to the late 1960’s and today, the National Institute of Health within the U.S. is devoting research interest in the physiological and neuroscientific effects of yoga. It is worth noting that yoga nidra was included in the roster of week long yoga symposium topics covered at NIH in May 2008.
While Medina does address yoga nidra per se, he does emphasize the need for down time, a chance to enter the “Nap Zone” – that period during the hour of 2-3 in the afternoon, when as he says, “It’s deadly to give a lecture. More car accidents happen. Memory, attention and problem-solving suffer.” What accounts for the brain degrade? Charting the syncopated relations of ciradian and homeostatic sleep rhythms in our brain/body, Medina highlights the intersection — a crossroads that beckons the sleep.
Forget the candy bar or latte. Grab your yoga mat, your office sofa or place first dips on the new sleeping pod at work to re-calibrate your innate biological clock and set sparks to a new idea!
And as always breath be with you!
The Platform: The New Idea Lab: The Urban Pod
The Twitter: Cat Naps are back in!
The Big Idea: Deep rest influences creative synthesis of ideas!
Remember kindergarten “quiet time”? — Those rows of squeaky cots, the whispering, the agony of waiting out time until we could get up to play!? Well leave it to science and inventive high tech ingenuity to tap the wisdom of childhood: Napping Pods!
Today high tech napping pods are on the market. Recently reviewed in Wired Magazine and the subject of Google buzz, these “metro” pods are said to promote brain rest with musical and other aids to encourage a neural shift into “quiet time.”
From the standpoint of neural rest, I love it when science reinforces a childhood and an ancient wisdom, in this case, one that has long been recognized by the creative, the somatic and the psychological communities, namely: Incubation leads to creation! Yes, providing an appropriate break for neural rest during intense think-tanking allows our brain to rest in order to digest the onslaught of ideas, feelings and intuitions. Nap pods, in other words, mimic the “rest and digest” processes of our parasympathetic nervous system – the system that allow our bodies to restore energy that we’ve depleted with activity between meals.
The more we learn about the role of parasympathetic nervous system in brain/mind/body functioning, the more we understand why cognitive scientists would target sleep to understand how the brain replenishes itself during naps. And the more we learn about the role of sleep and neural rest in creativity, the more we can appreciate why artists and writers naturally choose to include aimless doodling into their studio practice or why business coaches and psychotherapists advocate relaxation to counter creative blocks, or why leading yoga teachers insist on incorporating savasana (“corpse pose”) and even yoga nidra (“waking sleep”) into one’s daily yoga practice.
So whether you’re brain-storming a new idea, preparing creative strategies for a race, improving “your game” or opening the channels of artistic practice, consider all of the possibilities, both high and low tech for catching some zzzzzzssss!
For more tips on brain rest, feel free to surf this blog. ***
Here’s to Brain Rest!
***For corporate or private consults on brain and body wellness and high performance, please write to me through the GGI website or leave a comment below.
The Platform: The State of U.S. Affairs, 2008
The Twitter: Shock, Fear and Dread in the U.S. (and abroad)
The Big Idea: There are no hopeless situations; only those who grow hopeless about them (George Greenstein, M.D., 1920-2005)
I’ve been receiving emails (and have sent a few myself) regarding the “shock” and “dread” from which people are reeling in light of the bail out crisis and media popularization of the Palin effect. So please allow me today to use this blog to address the neuroscience of “fear” and offer ways to change the neural setting in our brain to recognize the signals of creative problem-solving and hope.
There is no mistake that Barack Obama uses the term Hope, and more precisely, “the audacity of hope” in his attempt to reconnect American citizens to the core principles that shape a vibrant democracy, a politically and economically solvent society.
Obama’s cunning rhetorical move highlights the path of resistance to the Bush/Cheney SHOCK DOCTRINE that has waylaid many voices of contest and innovation, especially over the last eight years. What is the Shock Doctrine? Here I am drawing your attention to Naomi Klein’s THE SHOCK DOCTRINE: THE RISE OF DISASTER CAPITALISM, a thick, powerful study of the methods of shock used by students of Milton Friedman (e.g. Dick Cheney) to exploit the psychological and economic circumstances of crises and disasters.
My point is not to unpack Klein’s argument but to indicate a human and cultural pattern of response that we learn from reading Klein: When disaster strikes, shock takes over all body responses — breathing contracts, sweating begins, rational thinking becomes confused… for many, reason exits quickly out the door! An old and trust-worthy mammalian pattern has just set in: FEAR! For those who wish to take advantage, fear offers ideal conditions for exploitation. (Consider the logic: Fear responds to help.)
Turning to neuroscientists, we learn more about the neural conditions that create and perpetuate fear: Writing for Newsweek (Sept 15, 08) Dr. Michael Craig Miller, explains:
“Two deep brain structures called the amygdalae manage the important task of learning and remembering what you should be afraid of.”
The amygdalae, it appears, function like good mental health turbo-networkers, rapidly collecting info that mobilizes the brain/body forces: heart rate, blood pressure, the capacity to reason. The two little clusters of neural networking also interface and connect with networks generating MEMORY.
“The fear system is extraordinarily efficient. It is so efficient that you don’t need to consciously register what is happening for the brain to kick off a response. If a car swerves into your lane of traffic, you will feel the fear before you understand it. Signals travel between the amygdala and your crisis system before the visual part of your brain has a chance to “see.” Organisms with slower responses probably did not get the opportunity to pass their genetic material along.”
Now the important paragraph that points to the generating pattern of collective shock and hysteria:
“Fear is contagious because the amygdala helps people not only recognize fear in the faces of others, but also to automatically scan for it. People or animals with damage to the amygdala lose these skills. Not only is the world more dangerous for them, the texture of life is ironed out; the world seems less compelling to them because their “excitement” anatomy is impaired.” (my emphasis)
Miller’s clarifying essay is just one of many to come down the pike, pointing out the DRAMATIC neuro consequences of being shocked by economic fallout and horrified of the short and long range possibilities of McCain/Palin in office.
So let’s connect the dots and do our simple brain math:
Frying in our own rage and gripped by the mighty handles of fear, our culture, our bodies, our speech, our minds entrain our brains into the rituals of fear: Fight or Flight.
Yet we are not mere mammals. Thanks to our highly evolved brain and thus the scientists, monks, somatic therapists who use their refined aptitude and skills to understand the brain/mind/body connection, we have learned a very important neural lesson that has large historical ramifications:
Fear is a response in the brain/body/mind. Change the brain and we change our body, our mind! Change our mind, our body and we change our brain!
To that end, and in service of offering a slice of whole-brain, somatic sanity to those hungering for a more judicious and delicious cultural pie, the following SpaceSuit Yoga tips for transforming Fear into Calm, Dread into Hope:
1) Practice a BIG IDEA: There are no hopeless situations, only those who grow hopeless about them.
2) Changing our brain begins with changing our breath.
Breath, after all, is the beginning and end of all human life.
To address a pattern of fear that has paralyzed one’s embodied brain and mind, go back to a daily practice of conscious, contemplative breathing. This blogsite offers tips on how to engage a simple practice of easy restorative breathing practices. (See the parent GGI website for links to other helpful meditation sites.
3) Breathing supports Initiation (Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen): To start any activity in your day, remember to notice what breathing actually feels like, what parts of the body are moved or involved in the process of breathing. Sturdy Breath enables A Sturdy Mind.
4) Mental Practice. With a calm and sturdy body/brain/mind, use your powers of Mental Practice to imagine a liberated landscape, a liberated body, an open space of movement and possibility. Picture hope, picture success.
For the “how to’s” and the “go to’s” for stress reduction, breathing meditation and mental practice, please leave a comment or contact me by way of the GGI contact link.
May the Breath Be with you through this trying times!
P.S. Check out the following sites that address or infer the neuro effects on the 2008 election:
2) google Newsweek and and search for Michael Craig Miller’s Newsweek essay noted above, entitled Sad Brain, Happy Brain) or go to http://samharris.org and search for the Miller piece.
Quick Notice of Schedule change:
I just received word from Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, noting her taped interview on the upcoming Sept 23 Oprah show is being postponed. No future date has been given.
As soon as I have word, I will be sure to share the updated news with all you somanauts!
In the meantime, it’s reassuring to know that Dr. Taylor’s message has traveled wide and far as MY STROKE OF INSIGHT has been translated into 20 different languages! This is really important as translation brings to greater public awareness, the role contemporary neuroscience, and a personal commitment to healing plays in turning a tragedy into an inspiring story that uplifts and transforms other people’s lives.
Great week ahead! Stay Whole-Brained, Stay Hydrated and remember to Breath!
P.S. Those interested in personal or corporate training in whole-brain health or neuro-leadership practices, please leave a comment or contact me through The George Greenstein Institute link (in the right hand column of this blog.
The Platform: Anti-Aging Programs for the Brain
The Twitter: Pssst: Fluid Movement Rocks! (Indeed!)
The Big Idea: Movement changes the our brain and the brain changes our movement!
In this year of the brain, the term “neuro” has now entered the lexicon of leadership training, conflict resolution training, literacy training, the aesthetic education of musicians, visual artists and designers and as I have mentioned in this blog, the performance training of Olympic athletes. No longer curtailed to the hinterlands of scientific research or the once culturally detached province of brain-injury, the message of “neuro”, especially, “neuro-plasticity” is making its way through all dimensions of global urban life.
As I have noted on this site, the news of neuro-plasticity brings with it messages galore of how to update and change our brains. A casual survey of brain fitness programs reveals a trend: Exercise and Nutrition change the body and the embodied brain!
Now in the case of anti-aging advice, the brain/exercise connection is particularly dominant: Notice the examples that are given: aerobic exercise (for endurance and blood flow) and weight training (for balance and muscle strength).
But let’s put the neuro-mirror on the wall and connect the dots: What neuro-kinesthetic image of movement is being fed to the anti-aging public? A bouncing, muscle building body — one that ignores the change in joint fluids and over all sensory awareness of moving in space. One that ignores the neurally encoded body map and cognitive possibilities of expanding one’s range of movement!
bodiesinspace.com along with other sites dedicated to brain health and wellness have noted the need to debunk the myths of the unchanging brain. If exercise is going to be put forward as one of the ways to increase healthy brain tissue, I would encourage a rethinking of anti-aging and other brain fitness programs: Speak to the advantages of using fluid movement to increase joint and neuro-muscular tonicity and balance.
What is fluid movement? Think Tai Chi, Picture Belly Dancing, Imagine yourself on your “board” or floating on your back rocked by the waves of the ocean.
Fluid movement emphasizes curvilinear, serpentine or floating patterns in space.
Fluid movements “juice up” (i.e., lubricate) the joints — neck, spine, elbow, wrists, hip, knees and ankles.
Fluid movements stimulate the right brain, emphasizing spatial awareness.
Fluid movements make contact with the oldest, “pre-spinal” remnants of our bipedal evolution.
Fluid Movement, in other words, invites the brain to learn and recognize another aesthetic pattern of movement…. another pattern that allows us to adapt to and enjoy the world.
SpaceSuit Yoga Tip 1: Take a moment to observe things that move in a fluid manner. Now imagine yourself moving in the same way.
SpaceSuit Yoga Tip 2: Noted Somatic Pioneers of Fluid Movement: Emilie Conrad, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Gabrielle Roth
SpaceSuit Yoga Tip 3: Check out the National Institute of Health, Alternative Medicine Research site for verifiable studies on the physiological effects of Tai Chi
http://health.nih.gov/topic/AlternativeMedicine (enter Tai Chi into the search area and click on the PDF)
So Connect the Dots: Fluid Bodies, Fluid Brains!
From the rolling shores of the great Pacific — May the Breath Be With You!
The Platform: www.physorg.com
The Twitter: Neural Stimulation rocks the Brain!
The Big Idea: Brain Stimulation Therapy pinpoints and stimulates change in areas of the brain damaged by disease and injury.
Remember the brain stim scenes in FRANKENSTEIN and in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST?
Well brain-frying may soon become a thing of the past with the progressive improvements made in neural-stimulation. A case in point: Breaking news from physorg.com reveals the ways in which “deep” neural stimulation is advancing the field of treating neurological disorders that have stumped the research community for years: Parkinsons, Alzheimers, TBI, and Chronic Depression. With increased knowledge of knowing where and how to pinpoint areas of our “neural landscape,” the possibilities of treatment are opened up considerably.
Here’s the link to the article:http://www.physorg.com/news140412075.html
As a child who watched her grandmother waste away from early 20th century “shock” treatments for what was then called “manic-depression,” the future of neural stimulation will no doubt change family lives as well as movie scripts!
Here’s to the good efforts of scientific research!
May the Breath and Brain be with You!
The Platform: The Culture of Stress
The Twitter: Stress travels throught the body!
The Big IDEA: Stress the Mind, you stress the brain. Stress the Brain you stress your vital organs!!!!
Remember the body song we use to sing as kids?: “The thigh bone is connected to the knee bone and the knee bone is connected to the shin bone….” Well kids often know best and today, we have learned from traditional Western, Chinese, and Indian Auryvedic medicine that like life, the body is a complex system of interdependent systems. Stress in one is bound to affect the others.
A lesson I learned well in the acupuncturist’s office as I lay on the table needled so my “shin” would calm down. A visit to my brilliant Chinese Medical Doc, always reminds me of the effects of mental stress and anguish on on our kidneys and adrenals, on the connective tissue that wraps every fiber of our neuro-muscular being. And now, centuries later, research from contemporary neuro-science enriches the Chinese picture of human anatomy and illness. The brain — which connects through the central nervous system — to all other systems in the body, takes the hit from stress– what in this blog has been previously noted as the condition of “Neural Wreckage.”
In other words, new travels fast! The mounting tension from handling work, family, economic strife, the shift in global warming and the endless political battles of our day all adds up to one tight, drained, exhausted body/mind!!!!!!! I’ve spoken before of “technological time outs.” Now as we face the change of seasons and tough world issues, please ask yourself: How can I find a way, now and then, to “unplug from the culture of stress?
This blog will continue to offer ways to think about and avoid increasing Neural Wreckage along with other SpaceSuit Yoga detox tips.
May the Breath Be With You,
Good morning Somanauts and Neuronauts!
SpaceSuit Yoga news:
I just heard from Dr. Jill BolteTaylor who said ” Hello friends, My Stroke of Insight is being translated into 20 different languages and I am currently scheduled to be on Oprah on Sept 23rd.”
Taylor’s appearance comes at a great time as the heat has been turned up from the ensuing political battle in the U.S., bringing everyone’s brain to a full boil!!! As our friends who have suffered the tragic results of brain-injury can tell you, a boiling brain leads to an uncertain if not a dehabilitating future. Taylor’s story speaks to the challenges and the blessings that await those attacked by stress and stroke.
In those moments of feeling like one is either in a world or country going mad, or inside a brain with the signals completely crosswired, tune into Taylor’s upcoming Oprah talk or tap into her TED 2008 talk (discussed on on this blogsite. See TED.com) Or read a page from Taylor’s book, MY STROKE OF INSIGHT.
This truly is a the season calling for brain cooling, inspiration and empowerment and asking the fundamental question, as Dr. Taylor asks,
Look for the compassionate, the insightful leaders in your community, on the internet, and in mainstream media. Please Vote using embodied, whole brain intelligence!!!!!!
May the Breath Be With You!
The Platform: Post Olympic Blues — The 2008 Election Season
The Twitter: Stress Deteriorates the Brain!
The Big Idea: Save Neural Real Estate This Election Year; Cool Your Brain with Meditation or Mental Practice!
Sigh… the Olympics are over and now in the U.S., on to prime time political battles. Just when we were enjoying the soaring feelings of watching Phelps win his 8 golds, or drooling at the double men’s diving (when did that sport enter the fray?), our brains are already beginning to fry! Regardless of your party affiliation, the stress that mounts by witnessing the battle at home, will clearly not contribute to “neurogenesis” — what neuroscientists regards as the creation of new synaptic connections in the brain. (One has to wonder how many brain cell connections have been burned over the rise and rhetoric of the new “lipstick pitbull” — Sarah Palin.
So if you want keep your neural “real estate” intact, then I suggest the following SpaceSuit Yoga brain tip for this electoral season: Brain Cooling.
1 ) One of the most well known and empirically tested brain cooling meditative techniques is Zen Meditation. A recent post in LiveScience.com noted an Emory University study that has validated Zen’s effectiveness in quieting the brain’s tendency to be distracted by spontaneous outbursts or a barrage of information flow just as we might find in diagnoses of ADD or OCD behavior. Breath, posture, the ritual of repetition. It’s all there: As Sharon Begley reminds us, ‘we must train the mind in order to change the brain.’
If not Zen, then start a mental practice of cooling the brain with an image of deep relaxation and restoration, supported by gentle breathing. Whether it’s a picture of hanging out on Australia’s Gold Coast or laying down on soft green grass by a radiant blue lake in Tahoe; visualize a place where you feel most calm, a place you can easily imagine in your mind’s eye. Bring your awareness of breathing into the space of that picture and enjoy the deep sense of relaxation that comes with every breath.
(For training in meditation and mental practice, scroll through this blog for tips or contact me for links to meditation training centers in the US and abroad.)
Other mind clearing/brain cooling options:
3) Take a strong whiff of grapefruit or peppermint oil and let the freshness fill your awareness.
4) Try a hot, hot, hot steam-bath, a long run, or a focused round of poker or pool.
Brain cooling, in other words, is a mindful method of training the brain to move into a zone that allows for neutrality (what the Mahayana Buddhist’s call “empty space” or a zone of positive thinking. As Alvaro Fernandez, in review of the L. A. Times special on learning and memory, points out: positive thoughts and experience lift our spirits and contribute to “neurogenesis.” (For a brief and to the point commentary on the neural effects of stress, see Sharpbrains.com — search for “Neural Wreckage” Feb 8, 2008 blog entry.)
Independents, Green Party Animals, Dems and GOP take note.
MAY THE BREATH BE WITH YOU AS WE APPROACH NOVEMBER 4TH!
On the question of mental practice, meditation and athletic training: I noted yesterday that the great Olympic star Michael Phelps was seen as a child who lacked the necessary focus to 3rd grade academic tasks. With that in mind, much made of the fact that Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD and it was the practice of lane swimming that helped him “channel” his all over the map energy.
I won’t debate the cultural psychology or politics of the ADHD diagnosis, but its safe to say that in listening to Phelps speak about his own training methods, we hear the mantra “focus, focus, focus.” Dedicated goal setting, avoiding negative mental chatter, and being with the very moment of his action (a.k.a. the ole Ram Dass mantra “Be Here Now”) — this is the stuff of Olympic athletic mental training.
We also learn that Phelps has the gift of maintaining a relaxed state before a meet and there’s talk that he produces less lactic acid build up in his muscles that most athletes. No doubt, there are many online (yours truly included) who are curious to comb through the details of Phelps Olympic genius.
And what can we learn from this athletic genius? Mental training of Olympic athletes has long been of interested to sports trainers, kinesiologists and sport psychologists but more to the point: Phelps’s own minimalist theory (“Set a goal. Focus only on that goal”) insinuates the brain technology involved in peak body performance. Sports psychologist Steve Ungerleider offers a somanautic perspective culled from years of researching Olympic athlete training::
From his 1996/2005 book MENTAL TRAINING FOR PEAK PERFORMANCE:
Breath, Meditation and Forming Mental Snapshots are two of the four mental practice traits shared amongst Olympic athletes. (The other two being building confidence by means of positive self-talk and learning to use relaxation to cool down and revvv up!) Yep, taking time to find the natural rhythm of ordinary breathing and picturing the goal — using your imagination to see the goal accomplished — even visualizing all of the steps in getting to the goal — the power of creating a mental “snapshot” cannot be under-estimated by anyone engaged in sport or movement training.
Here then are glorious mind/brain/body fruits for digesting: Those fascinated by the challenge of peak performance, be you swimmer, biker, dancer, designer, entrepreneur, corporate leader or yogic journey woman/man of health, fitness and well-being, the kernel of Olympic truth seems to lie in the story told by those who have imagined and accomplished their goals:
SpaceSuit Yoga/Olympic Mantra:
Make a goal.
Focus on the Goal.
Breath into the orchestrated unity of Mind/Body/Brain.
Visualize the Goal.
Feel into the Goal.
Be the Goal.
The vast frontier of mental practice is before us — with neuroscience unlocking the neuronal mysteries of the brain/body mapping, and showing the neural networking engaged by meditation, guided imagery and right brain talents like mental practice visualization — students, parents, teachers, coaches, thought leaders and all those seeking the 21 century path of enlightenment are bound to reap the benefits!
May the Breath Be With You!
The Platform: 2008 Bejing Olympics
The Twitter: Brain Training for Gold Medals and more!
The Application: Meditation, Mental Practice, Attention and Awareness Training (AAT)
A recent article in the New York times noted Michael Phelps’s 3rd grade teacher extending congratulations to Phelps and his family for the gold medal success. As we learn, Phleps in his early years had the teacher worried that he had “no focus” in his studies. (What 3rd grader has “focus” in academic studies?!!!) With Phelps now drawing world-wide attention to the glory of his strategic swimming, the teacher apologies with a realization: Phelps just had to find the subject that drew out his focused attention.
Expectations of 3rd graders aside, Phelps’s victory is his to savor for years to come for he has proven to himself and to the world that consistent physical and mental training over time can transform our lives in ways that reach beyond our imagination.
Clearly, Phelps and his swim team buddies have mastered the art and science of “concentration” or “focused attention” — practices that might be considered comparable to the astounding feats of attention practiced by Buddhist monks submitted to recent neuro-scientific studies. Turning to the neuroscience camp, we learn the years of focused attention, of bringing “mindfulness” to our actions makes significant neurological changes in the brain. As science writer Sharon Begley reminds us in TRAIN YOUR MIND, CHANGE YOUR BRAIN, the matter of morphing brain tissue comes down to a simple fact: You’ve got to want to change it for the brain to change.
No doubt, Phelps and his crew wanted to break records, win gold medals, perform at the top of their game. The reason for such bold desire? We can leave that to enlightened or nefarious speculation, for the real story here is this: Hot, passionate, and inspired human desire enables dedicated action. Dedicated Mental Practice transforms the brain….and body.
I vote for inviting Phelps and the American men’s swim team into the brain labs of UCLA, University of Washington, or Wisconsin to test their neuronal abilities to “pay attention.” And then let’s bring in full tilt Olympic education into the school system so that 3rd graders can be inspired to do their thing.
Michael Phelps: You Go Girl!
And to all of the somanauts out there, a SpaceSuit Yoga tip for mental practice:
1) Best way to begin: Pay close and intimate attention to breathing, whether you’re walking, swimming, or lying down. Notice the feeling of breathing — whether breathing takes up a lot of room or very little room, whether breathing feels fast or slow. Visualize breathing — get a sense of where it actually takes place in your body.
3. Keep a written record of your time so you can 1) notice the sequence of improvements and 2) make a felt, embodied connection between your inner sense of mastery with an outer account of recorded time.
4. Invigorate yourself with reading on how to motivate and change your brain! Several suggestions have already been noted in this blog. For history buffs — check out the “Zen and the Art of Archery” — a classic on mental practice and meditation.
May the breath and brain be with you!
The Platform: AUSTRALIA, 2008
The Twitter: The Brain Makes Culture; Culture Makes the Brain
The Application: Art and Design
It’s a rainy afternoon in Melbourne Australia and the subject of the embodied brain finds new avenues of discussion. I am down under, here to lecture on “neuroaesthetics in art and design” at universities in Sydney and Melbourne, where the question of the ënculturated brain has come to the fore: Sitting at the Chocolate Buddha Bar, eating yummy gyoza and kingfish sashimi, I had the chance to speak with a couple who took an interest in the idea that art has a direct”, phenomenal impact on the actual neural structure of the brain. They posed the question: What affect do different cultural art forms have on the human brain? Or to ask it another way, are Australian or Chinese brains different if they are raised on a different set of visual images?
If anyone was watching the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics, one might be quick to say, the proof is in the pudding! Thousands of years evolution have clearly contributed to the neural networking that produced Chinese trapeze and firework aesthetics! But does that mean Chinese brains are structurally different than Australian brains?
Neurologists of art and neuro-aesthetes tell us that “the brain makes culture and culture makes the brain. The reciprocal feedback that takes place during the course of an artist’s education is bound to take on both neural and cultural dimensions, especially where values of light, space, color, line, scale — the fundamentals of visual composition are concerned. Likewise, the novel human experiences like watching the bedazzling opening Olympic ceremony surely affects the brain, especially if one has never seen Chinese art, Chinese film, Chinese opera, or experienced the thrilling spectacle of fire-works. Novelty, after all, is a hall-mark motif of those conditions that are ripe for changing brains. (Think of the Anti-Aging Benefits!) Newness, the “first ëncounter,” the stunning effect of unique invention –graps our ear and our eye and most assuredly our brain!
To the extent that neurologists can detect the differents in the ways in which different cultural traditions affect the human brain, is the extent to which we can begin to understand the value of culture and cultural tradition in training the brain. Let us remember that as humans, we phylogenically share the potential to grow a brain with the same structural and developmental likeness, and with the structural capacity for neuroplasticity. And as a specie, we have the capacity to grow a neural network that challenges our ethnocentric inclinations and enables us to share language, food, music, images, sport — and as my good Ozzie compadre Nick Tsoutas reminds me — love. (If you’re in Sydney, check out Nick’s latest efforts at Casula Powerhouse, entitled “Äustralian”.)“Nike Sawas, “Ätomic full of love, full of wonder”
SPACE SUIT YOGA LATE SUMMER/WINTER Neuroaesthetic TIP: Seek Novelty! Expand Your Brain!
*Travel down under (or to any “foreign” country for that matter)
*Learn a new language
*Test out your mind’s eye on a challenging piece of art
*Play Suduko during a 13 hour trip to Oz
*Surf the great oceans of the world! (For you Ozzies, compare L. A. surf to Sydney Surf; for all Northern Hemisphere folks, check out the azure blue waters of Bondi!)
From Aussieland, where the most civilized and the most ancient meet ….. may the breath be with you! And in these days of Olympic contest and glory, may all brains be inspired to make culture so that culture inspires the growth and well-being of the each and every embodied brain!
Dr. G. a.k.a. M. A. from L. A.
The Platform: Mindshare.la
The Tweeter: EVO DEVO
The Application: Spinal Cord Mapping
BIG IDEA 1: Innovation and Sustainability are necessary competing and collaborative values of evolutionary anatomy.
Big IDEA 2: The spine supports our bipedal transit through space and houses our peripheral nervous system, enabling or deterring the liveliness of vital organs and the systems that regulate them.
Big Somanautic IDEA: The spine is interdependent and intimately networked with the brain/mind/body.
In the year of the brain, social networking brings neuro to the fore of tweeters, blogs and raves! A case in point. Mindshare.la organized by visionary entrepreneurs Doug Campbell, Justin Pichetrungsi and Adam Mefford, is a 21st century forum of “enlightened debauchery” taking place monthly at the L. A.’s Brewery complex. The event staged on the 4th floor loft of an old brewery building, draws to it a cadre of cutting edge designers, techies and scientists from the networked brain trust of So. Cal. universities and art schools.
On Thursday, July 17, the Brewery loft was buzzing with futurist ideas and stunning design moments in self expression: Seamstress Erin wafting through room in her orange parachute evening dress, Sarah Dunbar Rhodes Design’s new line of gold and Swarovski crystal jewelry as multi-faceted and sparkling as the conversations in the room. As for inspired tech-logic, last night’s presentation included a rapid-fire talk on Evo-Devo by futurist John Smart. While the changing morphology of the spine was not the point of Smart’s rhetorical pitch on cultural acceleration, his comments on Evo-Devo gave me pause as to the effects of evolution and development on the peripheral nervous system.
To this point: A recent posting from the Seattle Times announced a new spinal cord atlas is in the works. The Allen Institute for Brain Science at the University of British Columbia is releasing the first of its data on spinal cord mapping. Spinal cartography enables neuro-biologists to study in greater depth, the cellular territory of neural tissue in the peripheral nervous system.
“It will enable us to look inside each group of cells in the spinal cord and know what it is that makes them special and different from the cells around them,” said [Jane] Roskams, of UBC’s Brain Research Centre. “I don’t think there will be a lab in the world working on spinal-cord injuries that does not access this as soon as it goes online.”
Pushed front and center into neuro-celebrity, the spinal cord deserves the GGI and SpaceSuit Yoga’s attention given its place in the unfolding Evo-Devo story of brain science. From the standpoint of evolution, the spine carries the morphological coding of its unique genetic, neurological and anatomical history. From the standpoint of actual development in one lifetime, the spine grows and must be maintained in order to fortify bipedalism and safely house the peripheral nervous system – the system of signals and reflexes codes that turn on and off the vitality of our VITAL ORGANS. . Think of spinal Evo-Devo in terms of orthopedic and kinesthetic effects: the ergonomic adjustments that had to come from moving on all fours to walking upright!
For you somanauts out there, mapping the spinal cord holds tremendous promise in the fields of regenerative and restorative medicine and the broad spectrum of healing arts. Imagine what the spinal map will do the treatment of spinal cord injury, as well as for the fields that work hands on with spinal liberation and adjustment, e.g. Chiropractic, Cranial Sacral, Feldenkris, and the many Yogas and Martial Arts. A somatically enlightened Evo-Devo lab on spinal anatomy would, in other words, urge us to reckon with both evolutionary innovation of human anatomy and sustainable maintenance of normative spinal development throughout a lifetime. SpaceSuit Yoga Suggestions: Spinal breathing, Spinal rolls, gentle back bends – any and all juicy wave like, undulating movement that lubricates the spinal and related joints with cerebral-spinal and synovial fluid!
Rock and Roll,
Well the summer solstice is here bringing with it much news from the neuroscience sector. 2008 is truly proving to be the Year of the Brain!!!!
In case you haven’t noticed, more brain empowerment and anti-aging gizmos and gadgets are entering the internet market designed to increase neuroplasticity. (Look for my upcoming blogs on sharpbrains.com and on the recent UCLA conference on anti-aging and regenerative medicine!)
Yet the more compelling story is the heightened critical mass awareness of brain function and brain injury made possible by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk (see my coverage of Bolte Taylor’s talk and the generous comments to issue forth since I reported on Taylor’s TED presentation — February and March archives of this blog.).
I am emboldened by the fact that Dr. Taylor’s talk has reached numbers of people whose lives have been challenged by stroke and other traumatic brain injuries. Much to my surprise however, is the way Taylor’s talk has inspired others to come forward with stories of spiritual enlightenment. To those of you who have generously shared your thoughts and stories vis a vis Taylor’s life story, thank you. I will continue to use this blog as a vehicle for bringing the most up to date news and links to info concerning all things “brainy’ and brain-related.
For those have not seen Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED presentation, simple go to
http://www.ted.com and search for Jill Bolte Taylor talk
or copy the link below and place it in your url searchbox
With the issue of stroke in mind, readers please consider the critical implications a new bill recently introduced into Congress for immediate consideration, namely, the National Neurotechnology Initiative Act.
The NNTI is a $200M/year initiative designed to foster new discoveries and accelerate the development of new and safer treatments for the one in three Americans living with a brain-related illness, injury or disease. Championing the NNTI are Senators Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representatives Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI 1st) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL 18th) who have called upon Congress to act quickly on this important legislation.
According to the NNIT Act website, this legislation will accelerate the development of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, autism, addiction, ALS, anxiety, depressive disorders, epilepsy, hearing loss, migraine, multiple sclerosis, obesity, pain, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, age-related macular degeneration, sensory disorders, sleep disorders, spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury and many orphan diseases of the brain and nervous system.
One can only image the medical advancements to benefit from the passing of the bill. And in during this savage war-time, with scores of American troops returning home with traumatic brain injury and PTSD, enlightened legislation promises to up the ante on neurological research and application. Think of Bolte Taylor’s talk and take action!!
A neurotech advocacy group – http://www.neurotechindustry.org –– has provided sample letters to use to write to Congress men and women in your districts and states, asking them to approve the bill. PLEASE CLICK ON THIS WEBSITE FOR LETTERS AND ACCESS TO YOUR CONGRESS MEN AND WOMEN!
More to come on brain matters.
In the meantime, may the long days of summer ahead provide you with a chance to take time out to nourish, empower and embody brain!
I’m writing this tonite, after a week of travel — much to report from the front lines of neuroscience but right now a personal note: I’ve just learned that one of my dearest friends and colleagues has suffered a massive stroke. On the heels of Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk, it seems all the more auspicious to bring to your attention the wisdom of entraining your brain toward relaxation and restoration by means of some contemplative practice. Please take note of the followings symptoms of stroke which Dr. Taylor noted in her talk:From the American Stroke Foundation web page, http://www.americanstroke.org
If you believe you or someone you know is experiencing any of these signs do not hesitate to call 911 for immediate treatment!
Suddenly feeling weak in an arm, hand or leg
Cannot feel one side of your face or body
Suddenly cannot see out of one eye
Suddenly have a hard time walking
Cannot understand what someone is saying
Feeling dizzy or losing your balance
Having the worst headache you have ever had
How to Recognize a Stroke
If you think someone is having a stroke, remember the 60 second test:
1. Ask the individual to smile.
2. Ask him or her to raise both arms.
3. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “It is sunny out today.”
IF THE INDIVIDUAL HAS TROUBLE WITH ANY OF THESE TASKS, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY!
Reduce your Risk of Stroke
Be aware of your family history
Maintain a healthy weight for your body type
Get regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks
If diabetic, manage your blood sugar levels
Take your medications accordingly
And to this list, may I add: Please give yourself hemisphere balancing opportunities by means of relaxation or contemplative practices like T.M. or Breathing meditation from any number of traditions like Zen, Qi Gong … or the breathing practices taught by yours truly, SpaceSuit Yoga.
May the Breath Be With All of You Tonite!
I’m working to get images from TED posted onto this blog, in the meantime, a thought about hemispheric time outs: Stroke or Rest?
I mentioned Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED 2008 talk on hemispheric activity and now after a New York Times article on “secular sabbaths,” a brief plug for a hemispheric time out. Rather than wait for the stress of living to force a neurological shut down, NY Times author Mark Bittman confesses to the benefits of a “virtual” out, that is, countering his own OCD addiction to high tech interface with a “secular sabbath.” I don’t think it’s just technology that holds us neurologically and psychologically captive — it’s the need to step off the wheel of “samasara” as the Buddhists call it, the grinding cycle of life that becomes an imprisoning routine when not embodied.
My mentor and Contemplative Movement teacher Barbara Dilley has been talking about “self-retreats,” e.g. a designated time out that gives us a chance to breath and feel our feet on ground, to listen to the sounds of silence, to look up at the stars, free of social obligations and techno-gizmos — laptops, phones or even electron telescopes (revealed at TED and ironically speaking now on the WEB!). Dilley’s suggestion echoes Bittman’s p.o.v.
The benefits? We should ask Dr. Taylor about the effects of stress on stroke victims vs the effects of hemispheric time outs.
Also see Sharon Begley’s discussion on neuroplasticity, meditation and stroke recovery.
Sending breath your way!
M. A. from L. A. a.k.a. Dr. G.