Wanna learn more about neuroplasticity, brain science & wholistic lifestyles:
Check out my institute e-zine:
Wanna learn more about neuroplasticity, brain science & wholistic lifestyles:
Check out my institute e-zine:
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!
For all of the somanaunts, neuronauts, neuroleaders and seekers of yogic meditation, an auspicious holiday message shared by the unsung poet laureate of the yoga community: YogaDawg, author of My Third Eye Itches:
It happened in a Saturday morning yoga class. Exhausted from preparations for the holidays, the yogi was looking forward to a yoga session. During a particular pose, the yogi closed his eyes, felt a calm awareness and was surprised to find he was perfectly aligned. That had never happened before as he was a novice at yoga.
As he continued to hold the pose, the students around him smiled as they admired its perfect alignment. The teacher stopped teaching the class to study the pose and called other yogis into the studio to show it to them. As word spread, yogis from other studios gathered around to admire it also. All seemed to agree that they had never seen a pose done with such poise.
Those studying the pose became more flexible, felt happier; more alive. Wrinkles disappeared; digestion improved; aches and pains were relieved while glass jaws, rope burns, paper cuts, blackheads, spring fever, homesickness, halitosis, corns, bunions, warts, the heebie-jeebies, shyness, unexplained weeping, in-grown toenails and gunshot wounds were all mysteriously cured.
As word of the pose passed from yogi to yogi, it became the number one discussion on yoga blogs and websites. Photos of the pose were scanned, faxed, emailed, made into posters and appeared on billboards. It was featured on the six o’clock news. The pose made the cover of Yoga Journal and the magazine renamed itself, “The Pose”, shortly thereafter. Famous yoga stars started making yoga videos, writing yoga books and offering yoga workshops about the pose. The pose began to be referred to as “The Pose”.
Novelists incorporated The Pose into their books. A famous author penned a pivotal work titled “The Perfect Pose” which went on to become the best selling novel of all time. The novel was made into a movie; the movie was adapted to a one act play; the play was made into a musical which gave way to a major opera called “La Pose”. This made the Italians very happy. Consequently, ancient yoga texts were rewritten to include The Pose. Yoga scholars discussed it in new commentaries on said ancient texts and new scholarly works were written about it.
The Pose enabled people to sleep peacefully through the night (without snoring), charm cobras, leap buildings in a single bound, acquire untold wealth and speak fluent Sanskrit and Swahili. They also gained the ability to compose complex jazz melodies while walking in the park.
The Pose went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for physics, a Heisman Trophy, an Oscar for best supporting actress and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by the President of the United States. A small pacific island nation changed its name to the Island of Pose, (Subsequently becoming the most prosperous nation on the face of the earth by offering workshops and conferences to teach The Pose to yogis around the world).
Endangered species began to reproduce rapidly, rescuing them from extinction. The lamb lay next to the lion and leprechauns were seen riding on unicorns. The sun always shined; the plants were always watered; the dog was always walked; the hole is the ozone was closed.
All creatures on the earth sang along to the Music of the Spheres; Gabriel blew his horn and the Sirens chanted hallelujah! Energy became unlimited and non-polluting; the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse got off their horses to practice The Pose…and…
As the yogi opened his eyes and came out of the pose, he remarked to himself, “I sure wish I was better at this yoga stuff…”
May the Breath Be With You!
The George Greenstein Institute, coaching bodies, brains and minds!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL OF MY READERS AND THOSE WHO HAVE VISITED THIS SITE THIS YEAR!
MAY THE BREATH BE WITH YOU, YOUR FRIENDS, YOUR FAMIILIES AND ALL THOSE WHO ENCOURAGE YOUR CURIOSITY, YOUR CONFIDENCE, AND YOUR POTENTIAL TO LEARN, TO TRANSFORM, TO HEAL.
Dr. G., Founding Director, The George Greenstein Institute, dedicated to creating a sustainable future by coaching bodies, brains and minds!
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!
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 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: 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!
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!
You can imagine how pleased I am to be amongst a group of keen pattern recognizers and visionary conceptualizers (corporate “belief monks” opines one TEDster) for 4 days!!! And you might guess how lucky I felt to witness Day I presentations by the likes of palentoanthropologist Louise Leakey (of the esteemed Leakey family!), neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor (former stroke victim) spiritual teacher Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, expert (comedian) John Hodgman, particle physicist Patricia Burchat and palentologist Peter Ward show how the micro is connected to the macro, the brain to the mind, the breath to non-violence, the indeterminate universe to Sheherazad like story telling (with tongue firmly planted in cheek)… and the human to other uprights standing great apes! A brilliant orchestration of ideas, shared by a brilliant roster of people sharing their research and gifts.
I saw a pattern in the talks: drawing on ancient technologies and survival skills to survive our present, whether it’s knowing the size of the skull of our African homonid forbearers or learning to exploit our “reptitilian potential” to produce H2S to survive possible great cosmic catastrophes! And of course, the ancient practice of developing elegant neuroplasticity and restoration of the body/mind by means of breathing practice and ritual. Talks by Anthropologist Wade Davis, Jill Bolton Taylor and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gave heartfelt, intelligent presentations on how we can balance our understanding of our minds, ourselves and the complex world in which we live by engaging awareness of breath, ritual and the right hemisphere of our brains!
Tomorrow I will offer to teach cellular respiration (one of the many restorative practices basic SpaceSuit Yoga) to the TEDsters during our breaks. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will be offering meditation sessions at TED in Montery.
Wednesday 11:07 p.m, Aspen Colorado
21 May 2007
Hey there Somanauts!
Where ever you are in the biotech discussion, may I suggest you tune into the recent keynote speech given by inventor and forecaster Ray Kurzweil at the Killer APP Expo in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Author of THE AGE OF SPIRITUAL MACHINES, Kurzweil is a “pioneer in the fields of optical character recognition, health, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, technological singularity and futurism.” The Killer App speech outlines the future of biotechnology, from remote 3-d representations of “self” to predictive genetics for the Baby Boom. I leave it to your imagination and curiosity to figure out how somatic education fits into the biotech picture.
One can access the speech by going to Kurzweil’s website and click on
or type into the url space the following link:
4 May 2007
Inner Space, Outer Space, Hyperspace, Cyber Space…. Which meme has captured our current kinesthetic imagination? Or to put it another way, what relevance does the image of the floating spaceman in Outer Space have for those of us falling out bed, into our cars or onto a surfboard as the sun rises? What vivid import does the idea of the human body wafting towards Earth’s moon’s surface have for our bodies recreated daily as avatars maneuvering around virtual space?
Nearly a month ago, I had the chance to attend the 23th National Aerospace Symposium held at the swanky Broadmoor Hotel tucked into foothills of the Rockies in Colorado Springs. Finding my way through the sea of big bodies negotiating big deals that will redefine space travel and missile defense in this century, I had a chance meeting with the consummately gracious educator, Gerald Miller, the director of the EVA. EVA –- Extra Vehicular Activities — is a special research unit within United Space Alliance that prepares astronauts for the surprising, multi-sensory, perceptual experiences they will encounter when they step into “outer space.” Given the non-gridded, spatial orientation presumed by somatic practitioners of trapeze antics or restorative movement practices like Continuum or SpaceSuit Yoga, I proceeded to pose to Mr. Miller, a series of comparative questions I’ve had regarding teaching astronauts how to reorganize sensing patterns to accommodate moving in zero gravity fields of space. I soon learned that even in zero gravity, a 350 pound spacesuit, on top of body weight, is a helluva lot of mass to maneuver while figuring out in gridless space, which way is up, down, left and right. For the surfers reading this blog, astronauts, like boardies, must develop their “Spidey senses” and the chance for the novice astronaut, like the novice surfer, to “wash out” in not uncommon. (The life-threatening implications of washing out in outer space carry comparative import).
The metaphor of aerospace travel, growing out of nautical science, points to our desire to “star sail:” To travel into the sparkling depths of the universe, far from terra ferma, is a long held human dream. The closest many of us will come to obtaining that dream, at least in the immediate future, will be to learn to engage the somanautic potential that is innate to the human body as it exists gravitationally on Planet Earth.* SpaceSuit Yoga is one of those movement practices that is dedicated to encouraging the somanautic potential. (Somanutics, taught by Gil Hedley, is a dissection training practice dedicated to a similar end.)
In weeks to come, I hope to interview Gerald Miller about the comparative kinesthetics of astronautics and somanautics, and place that interview in the space of this blog. Will keep you posted!
*The chance to simulate moving in outer space was recently tested by the reknown Stephen Hawking.
(See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6594821.stm) For those interested in Zero Gravity Space Tunnel opportunities, tunnel experiences will be offered at the upcoming conference on transhumanism in Chicago. (Click on http://transvision2007.com)
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