Posts Tagged ‘Neuroscience of Learning’

Last free teleseminar: Yoga and the Brain!

February 1, 2009

Head’s and Brain’s UP! Last free teleseminar on YOGA and the BRAIN, upcoming in March!

The Twitter: It’s time to grow new Neural real estate, not grey hairs!

The Big Idea: Scientific research shows that yogic movement meditation changes the brain!

Here at GGI, 2009 is off and running with free teleseminars on YOGA and the BRAIN! (more…)

Neuroscience 2008: Nature/Nuture and Neuro-Plasticity!

November 18, 2008

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!

More tomorrow….

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

Neuroleadership Summit 2008: Quantum Mechanics Dates Neuroscience!

October 29, 2008

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.

Definitions first:

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!

Dr. G.