Tag Archives: love

To Be Human in this Lifetime: Top 3 Discoveries in Neuroscience

16 Oct

Oh, to be human in this lifetime.

Our mind is an elegant dance of simultaneous balance with tremendous layers of synchronicity, symmetry and replication. The brain is far more complex than any computer. Scientists have just begun to understand this complexity with the advent of new technologies in brain science. For example, there are more neural synapses than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy – roughly 100 trillion. No computer could possibly match this staggering complexity, and our efforts to understand it or even comprehend the vastness have been elementary at best thus far.

In fact, a single human brain has more “switches” than all of the computers on the Earth (Blow 2007).

brainbow

Example of array tomography imaging.

Consider this image. Known as a “brainbow,” this is a real image of quasi-randomly colored fluorescent proteins in a composite image of a mouse brain that is made from thousands of millions of actively firing synapses. In the human brain, we have more synapses than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and we know less about our own brains than our very own home galaxy system. If Carl Sagan was right that “we are a way for the cosmos to know itself,” we have a long way to go.

  1. The top three scientific developments in the field of psychology and neuroscience begin with the discovery of the “neuronal plasticity” of the brain by the father of neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal (Fuchs & Flügge 2014). This was a bombshell revelation that carried two equally critical implications. For one, the brain is capable of being internally damaged such that it may affect its functioning and structure. Two, that the brain is capable of healing, which is now understood to occur structurally, functionally, and electro-chemically. This is easily the most important development in the science of psychology because of the relevance of the following discovery.
  2. The second most important discovery in psychology validates the first as the most important. Paul Broca accidentally discovered cortical localization of function in the brain, scientifically proving the theory of cortical localization correct. Combined with Cajal’s discovery of neuroplasticity, behavior could now begin to be explained through neurological explanations, which is now the fundamental basis of psychology. Contemporary brain science and neuroimaging show the causal relationship between nerve specificity and cortical localization, enabling emerging and exciting therapies to be developed based on new understandings of brain damage and dysfunction.

    The indomitable Alex Gray

  3. Finally, perhaps the most inspiring discovery in all of psychology research is as poetically romantic as it is scientifically invigorating. Building on Harlow’s research on physical loving comfort and cognitive-social development in baby monkeys (Harlow 1958) is the advancing theory of interpersonal limbic synchronicity, a label I’ve developed to describe the following three distinct processes: limbic resonance, limbic regulation, and limbic revision (Lewis & Amini 2000). In limbic resonance, research has shown that our nervous systems and brain chemistry can interact without verbal communication, posing exciting possibilities in the future human communication, conflict resolution, deepening intimacy, and empathy studies (Schore 1994).

Ramon y Cajal’s sketch of neurons. In the planetarium show at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, this is precisely how an artist rendered imagined images of dark matter in the universe. 🙂 

One example of this interaction would be eye contact between two people, whether between strangers who have just met and are experiencing chemistry, or twin siblings who merely need a look to “read” one another. This interaction can result in activation of both parties’ nervous systems, particularly the limbic system (Schore 1994), resulting in anything from increased heart rate to a shared spike in dopamine. Limbic regulation refers to a more long-term effect of how these interactions can influence our body systems and brain chemistry (Schore 1994), such as when living with a spouse of many years. Finally, limbic revision refers to how these processes can be influenced with deliberate action in therapeutic contexts (Schore 1994).

I argued in my psychology capstone thesis that such processes are part of a larger complex interplay at work in the resolution of trauma pathways for survivors of developmental trauma in the context of loving relationships. Essentially, that love heals trauma in the brain.

I’d be curious to further study these processes in the context of facilitated ego-death transpersonal experience, such as in psychedelic-assisted altered states of consciousness or meditative yoga nidra. One day I’ll put a couple in love, on lysergic acid diethyl amide or MDMA into an fMRI machine, and have them get it on. You know, for science. Of course, MAPS is already supporting research on MDMA and PTSD as well as couples’ therapy.

These discoveries illuminate the shadows of previous mysteries that have been integral to the human experience, allowing us to better understand our past as a species.

Finally, they provide compelling avenues for further research that will usher in the most exciting chapter in human history. What delight in contemplating our immense potential for healing and shared experience in these perilous and critical times to be human in this lifetime. 

References

Blow, N. (2007). Following the wires. Nature Methods. 4, 975 – 981
doi:10.1038/nmeth1107-975

Fuchs, E., & Flügge, G. (2014). Adult Neuroplasticity: More Than 40 Years of Research. Neural Plasticity, 1-10. doi:10.1155/2014/541870

Harlow, H. F. (1958). The nature of love. American Psychologist, 13(12), 673-685. doi:10.1037/ h0047884

Lewis, T., & Amini, F. (2000). A general theory of love. New York: Random House.

Schore, A. (1994). Affect regulation and the origin of the self: the neurobiology of emotional development. Hillsdale, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates.

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Murder on Rt 80: The Long Road from Selma

1 Mar

First of all, put on some Jimi Hendrix. Ok, now you may continue.

viola-liuzzo-1

Proud sidenote: Viola was a longtime Unitarian… Go Unitarian Unversalists! (I was born ‘n’ raised, y’all!)

In an instant, teenage Penny Liuzzo was overcome with a sense of dread. While watching television in 1965, she doubled over in a fit of nausea. She knew exactly why. “Oh my God, my mother is dead.” Her mother, Viola Liuzzo, had driven to Selma, Alabama to join the civil rights protests after the Bloody Sunday march to Montgomery. After a premonition, she begged her mother not to go. But Viola, fiercely independent and determined to make a difference, carried on.

Hours later, Penny lied awake in bed, unable to sleep. Her father called. Her intuition was correct. Her mother was dead. ‘Then something happened that Penny still cannot explain 40 years later. Her 6-year-old sister, Sally, walked into the bedroom and said, “No, Mama’s not dead. I just saw her walking in the hall.”‘

…chills!!

Liuzzo’s mother was brutally murdered by the KKK for being a voice in the civil rights movement. Now, the murder that divided a generation is again in the headlines, as it symbolizes a story with a revolving narrative in our society. From FBI conspiracies to the galvanizing of a social movement, to the tragedy of a family forever traumatized by being publicly scapegoated for their tragedy, to the reaching of the point of no return in a nation divided by the murder of a white woman in the deep south of Selma, Alabama.

This story starts out with shock and continues to build upwards past outrageous, finally culminating as an unforgettable injustice made worse by public backlash and government lies. The life and death of one of America’s greatest unsung (s)heroes of the civil rights movement comes to a head as the US Supreme Court heard arguments challenging the 1965 Voting Right’s Act.

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Feminism and Valentine’s Day: A Holiday for Consciousness-Raising and Romantic Rebellion

13 Feb

The colliding of two worlds, you suggest? Mutually exclusive perspectives from different sides of society?

I disagree. But we’ll get to that.

The Commercials

There’s a flooding of sappy jewelry commercials every early February. No doubt – Valentine’s Day is the other Christmas for the shiny-metal and gems industry, and a multi-billion-dollar industry it is. Big business and big opportunity! A marketing field day. Fourteen of them in a row, to be sure.

Some of the commercials are downright disturbing – I won’t share publicity with them by naming names, but one phrase went, The “Let’s Skip Dessert Store” or something sexualized like that. Message: buy me something expensive that everyone thinks is pretty, that I can adorn myself with as women have throughout history to show their social status, and I will fuck you.

No thanks, sweetheart!

Messages like these are rife within the industry, and they only get worse around a day loaded with romantic, expensive expectations.

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