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Posts Tagged ‘Brain Science’

Your Brain Is the Universe (Part 2)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 11, 2013

By Deepak Chopra, Co-author, ‘Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being’; founder, The Chopra Foundation

Deepak-chopraWe all take the physical world for granted, with no doubt that it will still be here when we wake up tomorrow morning. But in fact the subatomic particles that construct the physical world aren’t “here” when they assume the state of a wave, and it appears that 96 percent of the universe is “dark” matter and energy. “Dark” may mean unknowable, since we seem to be talking about matter not based on atoms and energy not based on quantum interactions like electromagnetism.

In the first post we addressed the fact that the source of reality cannot be physical.  In fact, it is almost certain to be inconceivable.  Our brains are constructs of billions of years of hardware-building, known as evolution.  Even if you accept that the brain is a quantum device (please see our first post for an explanation of this notion), what the quanta spit out are thoughts, wishes, hopes, fears, dreams and science. A seemingly random jumble of processes happening at the very boundary of time and space gives birth to experience. Quarks are allowed to be “spooky,” as quantum physics declares, but not your car, orange juice, and armchair. The physical world, and how we think about it, is limited by time and space.  They are the foundation of our home. Asking the brain to understand where reality comes from is like asking a robot to dismantle itself to find out what it’s made of — you won’t have a machine after the dismantling is done, and therefore no answer.

Yet even if the source of reality is inconceivable, the uncanny match between your brain  and the world “out there” cannot be doubted.  Very well known is how the ring-like structure of benzene was discovered in a dream by Friedrich August Kekulé. More obscure is the fact that using no scientific data, the ancient sages of India made remarkable calculations recorded in the Puranas regarding the age of the universe and the distance to the Sun, to name two out of many. In the Western ancient world, Archimedes made an amazing calculation about the universe’s size in the “Sand Reckoner,” asking how many grains of sand it would take to fill the Greek Kosmos. He had to invent a new number system, since the ancient Greek system was woefully inadequate. When you convert the number of grains of sand that Archimedes found to protons, you come up with the actual number of particles in the universe, known as Eddington’s number. A “coincidence”? Read the rest of this entry »

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How to Inspire Your Brain (Part 2)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 11, 2012

By Deepak Chopra, Co-author, ‘Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being’; founder, The Chopra Foundation

D ChopraEvidence is gathering by the day that the brain isn’t really an object but a continuous and active process. Thoughts and experiences create new pathways in the brain. They even affect the output of genes. What this means for the individual is extremely important. The control center for the brain’s constant shaping and reshaping is you, the person who is using the brain. Although there are many brain processes that run on automatic, they too are highly influenced by experiences — that’s why, for instance, the automatic rise and fall of blood pressure during the day is highly responsive to all the things that happened to you during the day.

Brain health comes down to a simple-seeming formula: maximize the positive input and minimize the negative input. The result will be positive rather than negative output. To some extent the difference between positive and negative input isn’t hard to define:

It’s positive to maintain balanced diet, negative to eat an imbalanced one.
It’s positive to take regular exercise; it’s negative to be sedentary.
It’s positive to have good relationships, negative to have stressful ones.

Anyone who has kept pace with the public campaign in prevention can make the list longer; the risk factors for a healthy lifestyle are well known. But this is where the difference between positive and negative get trickier. Information isn’t the same as compliance. That Americans are getting more obese and sedentary while consuming massive quantities of sugar and fatty junk food isn’t due to lack of information. Non-compliance is about inspiring your brain to function in a better way. This is a role assigned to the mind; the brain can’t inspire itself.

In our book Super Brain, we focus on how to you can best relate to your brain on the basis of more positive thinking, emotions, attitudes, and beliefs. In that regard we are running counter to the prevailing trend, which sees the brain as an organ that needs to be maintained the way one would maintain the heart of stomach. Of course the brain is an organ, but far more importantly, it serves the mind. Therefore, everything you think, say, and do depends on aligning the brain with your desires, intentions, and the vision you have of your life. The brain keeps a constant feedback loop going with the mind and body; if you were to fall into a coma, it can sustain life. Read the rest of this entry »

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How to Inspire Your Brain

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 4, 2012

By Deepak Chopra, Co-author, ‘Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being’; founder, The Chopra Foundation

 GYI0000667336.jpgWe’ve entered a golden age for brain research, but all these new findings haven’t trickled down to the individual. Yet there are broad discoveries that make it possible to everyone to improve their brains. Let me state these succinctly:

• Your brain is constantly renewing itself.
• Your brain can heal its wounds form the past.
• Experience changes the bran every day.
• The input you give your brain causes it to form new neural pathways.
• The more positive the input, the better your brain will function.

In a new book, Super Brain, I and my co-author, Prof. Rudolf Tanzi of Harvard Medical School, expand upon the neuroscience behind these broad findings. The old view of the brain as fixed for life, constantly losing neurons and declining in function, has been all but abolished. The new brain is a process, not a thing, and the process heads in the direction you point it in. A Buddhist monk meditating on compassion develops the brain circuitry that brings compassion into reality. Depending on the input it receives, you can create a compassionate brain, an artistic brain, a wise brain, or any other kind.

However, as Prof. Tanzi and I see it, the agent that makes these possibilities become real is the mind. The brain doesn’t create its own destiny. Genetics delivers the brain in a functioning state so that the nervous system can regulate itself and the whole body. It doesn’t take your intervention to balance hormone levels, regulate heartbeat, or do a thousand other autonomic functions. But the newest part of the brain, the neocortex, is where the field of possibilities actually lies. Here is where decisions are made, where we discriminate, worship, assess, control, and evolve. Read the rest of this entry »

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Albert Einstein’s Brain May Provide Clues To His Genius, Study Says

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 18, 2012

Einstein and his theories – the best achievement in the whole human history

By  

Albert Einstein Brain
Called the “embodiment of pure intellect,” Albert Einstein has long been considered one of the most brilliant men who ever lived. During his life and since his death, people everywhere have wondered how one man could have possessed such genius.

Now, scientists may have uncovered a clue within the physicist’s unusual brain.

einstein
The images of Einstein’s brain are published in Falk, Lepore & Noe 2012, (The cerebral cortex of Albert Einstein: a description and preliminary analysis of unpublished photographs, “Brain”) and are reproduced here with permission from the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Spring, Md.

According to a new study led by Florida State University evolutionary anthropologist Dean Falk, “portions of Einstein’s brain have been found to be unlike those of most people and could be related to his extraordinary cognitive abilities.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Buddha Nature and the Divided Brain

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 10, 2012

By John Stanley and David Loy

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a world that honors the servant, but has forgotten the gift.
–Albert Einstein

Except in the light of brain hemisphere lateralization, nothing in human psychology makes any sense.
–neuroscientist Tim Crow

An Old Tale

There’s a traditional Buddhist story about a statue of incomparable value, which is lost and then forgotten. For generation after generation, various kinds of human rubbish and debris accumulate to bury it. Nobody ever suspects that anything important lies under the ground. Eventually a clairvoyant person happens by who comments: “If you dig here, and clean up what you find, you will discover something invaluable.” But who would follow such advice?

Our Divided Brain

In his remarkable book, “The Master and his Emissary,” neurological psychologist Iain McGilchristprovides a wealth of scientific evidence to support his contention that two opposed realities are rooted in the bi-hemispheric structure of the human brain.

Although each hemisphere is specialized, neither functions as an “independent brain.” They integrate their activities to produce physical movements, mental processes and behaviors greater than, and different from, their individual contributions. With functional NMR scanners, real-time brain imaging is now routinely used to determine the functional effects of all kinds of strokes and brain injuries, and in that way we can observe how the hemispheres act together as “opponent processors.”

Basically, the right hemisphere is mute, perceives in a holistic Gestalt manner and synthesizes over space. The left hemisphere, the seat of language, analyzes over time. The right hemisphere codes sensory input in terms of images, the left in terms of words and concepts. Specialization of function offers all kinds of advantages, but integrating those functions is a special point of vulnerability. When it comes to the large and complex human mind-brain, harmony can easily be lost. Read the rest of this entry »

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Good News: You Are Not Your Brain

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 8, 2012

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP, and Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy, Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School Director, Genetics and Aging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

Like a personal computer, science needs a recycle bin for ideas that didn’t work out as planned. In this bin would go commuter trains riding on frictionless rails using superconductivity, along with interferon, the last AIDS vaccine, and most genetic therapies. These failed promises have two things in common: They looked like the wave of the future but then reality proved too complex to fit the simple model that was being offered.

The next thing to go into the recycle bin might be the brain. We are living in a golden age of brain research, thanks largely to vast improvements in brain scans. Now that functional MRIs can give snapshots of the brain in real time, researchers can see specific areas of the brain light up, indicating increased activity. On the other hand, dark spots in the brain indicate minimal activity or none at all. Thus, we arrive at those familiar maps that compare a normal brain with one that has deviated from the norm. This is obviously a great boon where disease is concerned. Doctors can see precisely where epilepsy or Parkinsonism or a brain tumor has created damage, and with this knowledge new drugs and more precise surgery can target the problem.

But then overreach crept in. We are shown brain scans of repeat felons with pointers to the defective areas of their brains. The same holds for Buddhist monks, only in their case, brain activity is heightened and improved, especially in the prefrontal lobes associated with compassion. By now there is no condition, good or bad, that hasn’t been linked to a brain pattern that either “proves” that there is a link between the brain and a certain behavior or exhibits the “cause” of a certain trait. The whole assumption, shared by 99 percent of neuroscientists, is that we are our brains.

In this scheme, the brain is in charge, having evolved to control certain fixed behaviors. Why do men see other men as rivals for a desirable woman? Why do people seek God? Why does snacking in front of the TV become a habit? We are flooded with articles and books reinforcing the same assumption: The brain is using you, not the other way around. Yet it’s clear that a faulty premise is leading to gross overreach. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can Your Brain Fall in Love?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 10, 2012

By Deepak Chopra

This post is co-authored by Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP and Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy, Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School Director, Genetics and Aging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

The human brain is an exquisitely sensitive instrument. It registers the slightest nuance of any experience you have ever had. This is no more evident than in love. Imagine someone whispering, “I love you.” In romantic terms these are desirable words — probably the most desirable any of us will ever hear. The brain responds to “I love you” with an orchestration of positive reactions. People who are in love feel less stressed; their blood pressure goes down. When a couple who enjoys a long-term loving marriage hold hands, even their response to physical pain is strengthened.

These points and others in the same vein were detailed in a recent New York Times opinion piececalled “The Brain on Love” by writer-poet Diane Ackerman. We found it an empathic article, one that celebrates human bonding from the first moment a newborn baby imprints on its mother. Bonding takes place via complex brain mechanisms that follow us throughout our lives. The sense of oneness that characterizes a strong mother-child relationship morphs over time. It persists among happily married adults and gives such pleasure, as well as a sense of security, that our brains seek “at-one-ness” the way an addict seeks cocaine. Ackerman is quick to point out that love isn’t exactly the same as cocaine use, but her argument involves the same receptors for morphine-like chemicals in the brain as well as an impressive description of hormonal responses and other neurological particulars.

Yet the basic premise of the article is problematic. She doesn’t crudely claim that your brain is in love and therefore you are, too. (We suppose that’s why the article is titled “The Brain on Love” rather than “The Brain in Love.”) But at bottom it’s still the standard materialist argument, bolstered by tons of data from neuroimaging, which fails to separate brain from mind. When a person experiences love, the brain registers and expresses that experience through electrical and chemical reactions, the way a radio playing music registers and plays every note that Mozart wrote. But the brain isn’t in love any more than the radio is enjoying music. Read the rest of this entry »

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Good News: You Are Not Your Brain

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 27, 2012

 

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP, and Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy, Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School Director, Genetics and Aging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

Like a personal computer, science needs a recycle bin for ideas that didn’t work out as planned. In this bin would go commuter trains riding on frictionless rails using superconductivity, along with interferon, the last AIDS vaccine, and most genetic therapies. These failed promises have two things in common: They looked like the wave of the future but then reality proved too complex to fit the simple model that was being offered.

The next thing to go into the recycle bin might be the brain. We are living in a golden age of brain research, thanks largely to vast improvements in brain scans. Now that functional MRIs can give snapshots of the brain in real time, researchers can see specific areas of the brain light up, indicating increased activity. On the other hand, dark spots in the brain indicate minimal activity or none at all. Thus, we arrive at those familiar maps that compare a normal brain with one that has deviated from the norm. This is obviously a great boon where disease is concerned. Doctors can see precisely where epilepsy or Parkinsonism or a brain tumor has created damage, and with this knowledge new drugs and more precise surgery can target the problem. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Does Our Consciousness Change the Structure of the Brain and Then Our Life?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 20, 2012

By Peter Baksa Investigative Journalist/Entreprenuer/Author of ‘The Point of Power’

Meditation and Neuroplasticity

After spending time interviewing Tibetan monks while in Beijing, China, at the Lama Temple, correlations between their rituals and how they aligned with modern neuroplastic science began to surface.  I was able to spend time with the Dali Lama himself and found that he was curious about the question “Does consciousness in and of itself,  force changes in the structure of the brain? ”  Does the mind create physiological change in the brain and then thereby alter life situations in the natural?  I decided to find out. 

In addition to the brain giving rise to thoughts, hopes, beliefs and emotions that add up to this thing we call the mind, could it be that the mind also acts back on the brain to cause physical changes in the very manner they were initiated?  If so, then pure thought (our consciousness) would change the brain’s activity, its circuits or even its structure.  Joe Dispensza suggests in his book “Evolve Your Brain” that if we choose to rely soley on our inherited circuits (DNA) we are stuck with those traits and patterns, good, bad or indifferent.

There are two ways to make new synaptic connections in the brain: to learn new things and to have new experiences. I am suggesting a third, and that is through observation of our thoughts and refining our consciousness. Hence, not only are our brains plastic enough to keep adapting though learning and experiences, but we can choose how to sculpt our minds by altering our perceptions intentionally. This supposition has also led to the discovery that neuroplasticity cannot occur without attention. So, if a skill becomes so routine that you can do it nearly automatically — like walking, for instance — then practicing it will no longer change the brain.  And if you take up mental exercises to keep your brain young, they won’t be as effective if you find yourself able to do them without paying much attention.  Like any good exercise, you need to change it up every so often. This, according to researcher Michael Merzenich.

How we choose to sculpt our minds has actual physical measurable changes etched within the grey matter of our brains. Such practices as meditation and Chi Gong can keep the old mental circuits active and form new ones, leading to a cycle of continual self-improvement. Of course, practitioners of meditation have been saying this for centuries. I asked Erdijanzi (age 23) a third-generation Tibetan Monk, “How much time do you spend in mediation per day?” He said he did not know.  It turned out that almost any free moment, even in between interview questions, he would turn to his Mala Beads to quiet his mind.  This practice was his chosen method of brain sculpting.  It also occurred to me that once the mind was quieted and an intention was inserted that the effect of this intention at the quantum level would be magnified and crystal clear, allowing for more effective manifestation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Memories and Emotions: All in The Mind or the Brain?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 27, 2011

By Deepak Chopra

Co-authored by Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi

Current brain research is hot on the trail of mysteries that need solving. Current imaging techniques can show, with remarkable precision, what happens in specific parts of the brain when we feel an emotion, for example. Eventually, neuroscientists may be able to pinpoint the exact process that leads to the emotion of love. Indeed they already feel that they are close, since there’s a map for tracing the hormones that make falling in love feel ecstatic, along with the areas of the brain responsible for emotions.

But close does you no good if your model has a serious flaw. In this case, the flaw is to assume that the physical mechanisms associated with love are the same as love itself. What if love takes place in the mind rather than the brain?

To many, that’s a distinction without a difference. The mind is invisible, yet everything it thinks or feels requires a physical response in the brain. If you know what the brain is doing, you know what the mind is doing, or so the scientific method, based on materialism, holds to be true. But a huge mystery, known as the mind-body problem, is being begged. As long as we ignore the mind, we may be making profound mistakes about the brain.

The words “I love you” give us a perfect example. Imagine that you are sitting close to someone who has not made clear what he or she feels. The moment is right; the mood is intimate. In your ear you hear the words “I love you.” Stop action. If we ask a neuroscientist what happens next, he will unfold a trail of physical events. Air molecules vibrate when those words are spoken, and in turn they vibrate the ear drum. Tiny bones in the middle ear transmit the signal, which gets turned into electrochemical reactions in the inner ear. As soon as electricity and chemicals are involved, we are in the precinct of the brain, which goes to work rapidly. Various areas light up, involving a complex interaction between those areas that process sound, meaning, memory and emotions. Even if it takes years or decades for neuroscience to trace this pattern exactly, the result is the same: Your heart jumps for joy, you flush and the delight of hearing “I love you” overtakes your body. Read the rest of this entry »

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