Check out my new site at http://www.bodiesinspace.com!
Welcome to the White House Mr. President! We at The George Greenstein Institute salute you, extend our best wishes (and mazel!) and send our support to help America “dust itself off and back on its its feet”!
On our end, we will do our best to provide up to date and empirically valuable research as well as share the most balanced, most cogent, most compelling views on improving health, creativity and optimal performance and offer our hand in training future neuroleaders of all ages! We’re working as quickly as we can to get our new website up and running to accomplish that goal!
In the meantime, to honor your new administration vision, we are offering a series of free teleseminars focused on Yoga and the Brain — designed to introduce the public to the healthy art and science of meditation. Ideal for for the visionary corps of teachers, doctors, coaches, trainers, and students dedicated to health and wellness! Readers: please scroll down to the next blog for more info! Or write for more info in the comment box below!
It’s a great day in the U.S.A. and for the world in general!
P.S. For those readers interested in helping President Obama make a solid and wise choice about supporting more wholistic health research and school programs, please go now to the following site and Vote “Up.”
To all somanauts and neuronauts!
The Twitter for the hour: 2008 The Year of the Brain… Wow! What a Year!
We are now reaching the end of 2008 and the Year of the Brain has ushered in some stunning discoveries!
In recent days, the news over the web has taken on great evolutionary proportions: Brains from the Iron Age have survived!: “The oldest surviving human brain in Britain, dating back at least 2000 years to the Iron Age, has been unearthed during excavations on the site of the University of York’s campus expansion at Heslington East.”
I wonder what kind of meditation, exercise or powerbars these guys used to keep their brains alive? (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
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: 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 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,