Ever encountered something so vast, so beautiful, so intense, that your mind struggled to comprehend it? There’s a word for that, and multiple studies have concluded that it’s very good for your health. It’s the experience of awe.
Psychologists describe awe as those feelings we get when we’re touched by the beauty of nature, art, music, thinking about inspiring people, or having a spiritual breakthrough that is so indescribable, it leaves us, well…in awe.
What it does to your brain
Researchers are saying is that we need to experience more awe in life because it boosts happiness and eliminates things like depression and other autoimmune diseases.
UC Berkeley psychology professor Dacher Keltner, Ph.D, co-author of an awe study, says in Greater Good that experiencing the emotion of awe–“a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art–has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.”
One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that inducing awe increased ethical decision-making, generosity, and prosocial values. Just by standing in a grove of towering trees “enhanced prosocial helping behavior and decreased entitlement” among participants. In other words, it made people kinder!
It’s good for the workplace too
If you’re not getting enough hours to get more things done, take note. A study published in Psychological Science found that awe leads to feeling like you have more time available. It also brings you into the present moment, makes you less impatient with co-workers and clients, and helps you to influence your decisions.
More research found that inducing awe at work results in people cooperating, building community, sharing resources, and sacrificing for each other–all altruistic traits of a productive and supportive work setting.
With technology ruling our lives 24/7, with so much of our attention being fixated on our devices, and with so much of our time being spent indoors at work, we are quickly becoming awe-deprived.
Conversely, we are seeing a growing trend known as “walk and talk” — meetings that take place during a walk outdoors instead of generic indoor settings where meetings are commonly held.
Research has found that the mere act of walking actually increases the likelihood of creative thinking, making walking meetings even more effective while increasing the possibility of inducing awe. Other evidence finds that walking meetings lead to more honesty at work and are more productive than traditional sit-down meetings.
Consider taking an “Awe Walk.” Keltner describes it as a “walk within a place of meaning and beauty, where your sole task is to encounter something that amazes and transcends, be it big or small.”
Keltner says you can take an Awe Walk day or night, in rural and urban settings. Here are the steps he goes through during his Awe Walk.
Take a deep breath in. Count to six as you inhale and six as you exhale. Keep doing it throughout the other steps.
Feel your feet on the ground and listen to the surrounding sounds.
Shift your awareness now so that you are open to what is around you, to things that are vast, unexpected, things that surprise, and delight.
Let your attention be open in exploration for what inspires awe — the sights and sounds, big or small, all around you.
Bring your attention back to the breath. Count to six as you inhale and six as you exhale. Coming out of these experiences of awe, we often feel a sense of wonder.
As you move through your day, states Keltner, take note of the moments that bring you wonder, that give you goosebumps: These are your opportunities for awe.
Bringing It home
We are depleting ourselves of the awe-some (yes, I said it) opportunity to experience the wonders and beauty of the natural world, or the wonders and beauty of human interactions that bring value to the workplace. Organizations of every stripe are in a key position to seek out and create the environment for these experiences to take place — the kind that, they’ll find, surprisingly, will lead to productive outcomes.
This is my third day in Japan, and I have already seen and experienced so much! High buildings that tickle my aesthetic sense, people so different from Norwegians (they are so respectful of others, in a way that both amazes me and scares me. When are they allowed to just be themselves?) and tasting food I never thought would enter my digestive track. Today we first went to the imperial palace, and it was fascinating. Right next to the park where skyscrapers, and the contrast of old vs new appealed to me. It was very warm, though, so when we had wandered through it we almost called it a day and went home. But I found the guide-book and I was mystically drawn to an area of Tokyo called Odaiba. It took an hour to get there, and right there and then it seemed like an ordeal to find our way on the busy metro, but when I saw that museum of nature and science was in Odaiba too, me and my brother decided to got there.
I have rarely been so glad that I conquered skepticism before. The museum was amazing! From the start, when I read the introduction to the museum, I was energized. We could see a drawing on the floor that showed ways science can develop. I do not remember all the paths to enlightenment, but coincidences and integration through the exchange of information were two of them. It felt like somebody GOT me, and I knew this was the place to be. I was so touched that I almost started crying, filled with awe. Here was a place full of knowledge and desire to educate visitors.
I liked it that all the exhibits had a question at the end. “What would you do if you could help improve the climate?”. There were many challenges to think about. This was especially relevant when it came to the presentation of robots. On the one hand, the importance of robots and the technology that follows was highlighted, but it also encourages us to think about ethical issues on the other hand.
At four o’clock we sat down with others to see a real robot. I got goosebumps . It seemed as though I had the future right in front of me, that a curtain had been drawn that showed tomorrow in all its splendor. Perhaps that’s how it felt for those who sat in front of the television before the first moon landing? I realized how many opportunities we have. I realized how different it is to actually see the manifestation of something I have only read about before. Seeing robots that resemble people and talk like them was excruciatingly exciting. I was not the one who was fascinated and moved. I saw a little girl next to her mother who was “talking” with one real robot. First she cried, because it must have been uncomfortable to see something so alike a human being, that wasn`t quite like one. After a while, she became more curious, and calmed down when the mother continued as if everything was normal. I thought: These children, they are building our future. They have already taken the step into the future and might therefore accept it with open arms. I hope their enthusiasm also contains a dose of skepticism. Robots with consciousness are potentially dangerous. When I saw the robot who could kick a ball and jump on one leg, I imagined a fraction of a second, how scare it could be if they started to “think” for themselves and wanted nothing to do with the stupidity of our human race. Like everything else in life: one should hurry slowly. Most things can be used both for positive things and negative. This is a good example of nuclear power.
The world is a fascinating place, and every day we are getting closer to advancing into a world very different than how it is now. Education is the key to build a peaceful world, where we use technology for the benefit of humankind.
When I wrote a paper to become a specialist in clinical psychology, I focused on EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and the brain. When I woke up today I was inspired to learn even more, and maybe try to do more research the coming years. To summarize my paper, I tested a woman with neuropsychological test before and after treatment with EMDR to see if there were any changes in the test results. The result showed that her memory scores became better after EMDR. To educate myself further, I started to read an article today about trauma and the brain, where EMDR was one of the treatment methods mentioned. I want to share the most interesting part of the article, here.
Decades ago, Harry Harlow compared monkeys raised with their mothers to monkeys raised with wire or terrycloth “surrogate mothers.” Monkeys raised with the surrogates became socially deviant and highly aggressive adults. Building on this work, other scientists discovered that these consequences were less severe if the surrogate mother swung from side to side, a type of movement that may be conveyed to the cerebellum, particularly the part called the cerebellar vermis, located at the back of the brain, just above the brain stem. Like the hippocampus, this part of the brain develops gradually and continues to create new neurons after birth. It also has an extraordinarily high density of receptors for stress hormone, so exposure to such hormones can markedly affect its development. Something as seemingly inconsequential as five minutes of human handling during a rat’s infancy produced lifelong beneficial changes. New research suggests that abnormalities in the cerebellar vermis may be involved in psychiatric disorders including depression, manic-depressive illness, schizophrenia, autism, and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder. We have gone from thinking of the entire cerebellum as involved only in motor coordination to believing that it plays an important role in regulating attention and emotion. The cerebellar vermis, in particular, seems to be involved in the control of epilepsy or limbic activation. Couldn’t maltreating children produce abnormalities in the cerebellar vermis that contribute to later psychiatric symptoms? Testing this hypothesis, we found that the vermis seems to become activated to control— and quell—electrical irritability in the limbic system. It appears less able to do this in people who have been abused. If, indeed, the vermis is important not only for postural, attentional, and emotional balance, but in compensating for and regulating emotional instability, this latter capacity may be impaired by early trauma. By contrast, stimulation of the vermis through exercise, rocking, and movement may exert additional calming effects, helping to develop the vermis.
A powerful new tool for treating PTSD is eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which seems to quell flashbacks and intrusive memories. A moving visual stimulus is used to produce side-to-side eye movements while a clinician guides the patient through recalling highly disturbing memories. For reasons we do not yet fully understand, patients seem able to tolerate recall during these eye movements and can more effectively integrate and process their disturbing memories. We suspect that this technique works by fostering hemispheric (Reprint from www.dana.org a non-profit dedicated to brain research) integration and activating the cerebellar vermis (which also coordinates eye movements), which in turn soothes the patient’s intense limbic response to the memories.
You find the rest of the article by following this link:
I normally don`t ask my readers to share any of my posts. But I would be very grateful if you consider this one. I find this article fascinating, and even if I haven`t completely figured out what it means, I think it will broaden your mind and maybe inspire you to get out there and explore the world.
This is a reblog of an article published in The Guardian that I was made aware of by my friend Monty. It fits nicely to what I have been thinking about myself recently. I won`t start theorizing here, but before you read the article, feel free to read this or this post if you are interested To briefly sum it up: After reading “Smashing Physics” by J. Butterworth, I feel the answers we are searching for closing in. The universe is still a mystery, but research is increasing rapidly. The more we know, the easier it becomes to understand the universe. In my gut I know this will lead to us surviving as a human species; We will be able to apply the science in myriad of ways. Sometimes it feels like we are at the brink of extinction, but I stubbornly refuse to be that dogmatic. To prevent us from destroying ourselves, you must do your part. The best thing is; Doing your part is easy: You must search for your purpose in life. If you do, the universe will give you what you need.
Physicists have announced the discovery of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime that were first anticipated by Albert Einstein a century ago.
“We have detected gravitational waves. We did it,” said David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo), at a press conference in Washington.
The announcement is the climax of a century of speculation, 50 years of trial and error, and 25 years perfecting a set of instruments so sensitive they could identify a distortion in spacetime a thousandth the diameter of one atomic nucleus across a 4km strip of laserbeam and mirror.
The phenomenon detected was the collision of two black holes. Using the world’s most sophisticated detector, the scientists listened for 20 thousandths of a second as the two giant black holes, one 35 times the mass of the sun, the other slightly smaller, circled around each other.
At the beginning of the signal, their calculations told them how stars perish: the two objects had begun by circling each other 30 times a second. By the end of the 20 millisecond snatch of data, the two had accelerated to 250 times a second before the final collision and a dark, violent merger.
The observation signals the opening of a new window onto the universe.
Why discovering gravitational waves changes everything
“This is transformational,” said Prof Alberto Vecchio, of the University of Birmingham, and one of the researchers at Ligo. “We have observed the universe through light so far. But we can only see part of what happens in the universe. Gravitational waves carry completely different information about phenomena in the universe. So we have opened a new way of listening to a broadcasting channel which will allow us to discover phenomena we have never seen before,” he said.
“This observation is truly incredible science and marks three milestones for physics: the direct detection of gravitational waves, the first detection of a binary black hole, and the most convincing evidence to date that nature’s black holes are the objects predicted by Einstein’s theory.”
The scientists detected their cataclysmic event using an instrument so sensitive it could detect a change in the distance between the solar system and the nearest star four light years away to the thickness of a human hair.
And they did so within weeks of turning on their new, upgraded instrument: it took just 20 milliseconds to catch the merger of two black holes, at a distance of 1.3 billion light years, somewhere beyond the Large Magellanic Cloud in the southern hemisphere sky, but it then took months of meticulous checking of the signal against all the complex computer simulations of black hole collision to make sure the evidence matched the theoretical template.
The detector was switched off in January for a further upgrade: astronomers still have to decipher months of material collected in the interval. But – given half a century of frustration in the search for gravitational waves – what they found exceeded expectation: suddenly, in the mutual collapse of two black holes, they could eavesdrop on the violence of the universe.
Prof B S Sathyaprakash, from Cardiff University’s school of physics and astronomy said “The shock would have released more energy than the light from all the stars in the universe for that brief instant. The fusion of two black holes which created this event had been predicted but never observed.”
The finding completed the scientific arc of prediction, discovery and confirmation: first they calculated what they should be able to detect, then decided what the evidence should look like, and then devised the experiment that clinched the matter. Which is why on Thursday scientists around the world were able to hail the announcement as yet another confirmation of their “standard model” of the cosmos, and the beginning of a new era of discovery.
Astronomers have already exploited visible light, the infrared and ultraviolet, radio waves, x-rays and even gamma-rays in their attempt to understand the mechanics of stars, the evolution of the galaxies and the expansion of the universe from an initial big bang 13.8bn years ago.
Thursday’s announcement was the unequivocal first detection ever of gravity waves. The hope is that gravity wave astronomy could start to answer questions not just about the life of stars but their deaths as well: death by collision, death in a black hole, death in some rare stellar catastrophe so fierce that, for a few thousandths of a second, the blast is the brightest thing in the universe.
Even before the Ligo detectors in two US states reopened for business late last year, researchers were confident that a detection would follow swiftly. The announcement came after months of speculation, and decades of theoretical and practical work by an international network of more than a thousand scientists and engineers in Britain, Europe, the US and around the world.
Professor Kip Thorne, of the California Institute of Technology, and one of the founding fathers of Ligo, said that until now, astronomers had looked at the universe as if on a calm sea. All of that had changed.
“The colliding black holes that produced these gravitational waves created a violent storm in the fabric of space and time, a storm in which time speeded up and slowed down, and speeded up again, a storm in which the shape of space was bent in this way and that way,” he said.
Prof Neil Turok, director the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics at Waterloo in Canada, and a former research colleague of Prof Stephen Hawking, called the discovery “the real deal, one of those breakthrough moments in science”.
The discovery, he said, completes a scientific arc of wonder that began 200 years ago, when the great British scientist Michael Faraday began to puzzle about how action was transmitted across the distance of space; how the sun pulled the Earth around. If the sun moved 10 yards, very suddenly, would the Earth feel the difference?
He reasoned that something must cross space to transmit the force of gravity. Faraday’s reasoning inspired the great British mathematician James Clerk Maxwell to think about how an electric force travelled, and arrive at an understanding of light and a prediction of radio waves.
“Einstein, when he came to write down his theory of gravity, his two heroes were Faraday and Maxwell,” said Turok. “He tried to write down laws of the gravitational field and he wasn’t in the least surprised to discover that his predictions had waves, gravitational waves. The Ligo discovery signals a new era in astronomy, he said.
“Just think of radio waves, when radio waves were discovered we learned to communicate with them. Mobile communication is entirely reliant on radio waves. For astronomy, radio observations have probably told us more than anything else about the structure of the universe. Now we have gravitational waves we are going to have a whole new picture of the universe, of the stuff that doesn’t emit light – dark matter, black holes,” he said.
“For me the most exciting thing is we will literally be able to see the big bang. Using electromagnetic waves we cannot see further back than 400,000 years after the big bang. The early universe was opaque to light. It is not opaque to gravitational waves. It is completely transparent.
“So literally, by gathering gravitational waves we will be able to see exactly what happened at the initial singularity. The weirdest and wonderful prediction of Einstein’s theory was that everything came out of a single event: the big bang singularity. And we will be able to see what happened.”
• The headline to this article was amended on 12 February 2016. An earlier version said the discovery was a breakthrough after two centuries of expectation. This has been corrected.
A Norwegian study of twins expands the role of genetics in the development of a personality disorder, yet cautions that expression of a disorder depends on a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
In the study, experts posited that avoidant and dependent personality disorders are characterized by anxious or fearful traits.
People with avoidant personality disorder are often anxious in the company of others and prefer to be alone. On the other hand, people with dependent personality disorder feel more secure in the company of others and tend to need other people for decision-making and excessive support.
Prior studies have suggested that genetic factors explain about one-third of the individual differences in these personality disorder traits, while the remaining variation is best explained by environmental influences.
However, the study format used by earlier researchers was a single-occasion interview. In the new study, researchers used two different measures of assessment at two different time-points in order to better measure personality disorders traits.
In 1998, researchers coordinated testing of 8,045 young adult twins using a questionnaire that included questions about personality disorder traits. Some years later, 2794 of these twins took part in a structured diagnostic interview.
Both identical (monozygotic) and fraternal (dizygotic) twins participated. Identical twins share 100 percent of their genetic material, while fraternal twins share on average 50 percent — meaning they are genetically similar to other siblings.
Researchers then compared how similar the two types of twin pairs were on a particular trait. As such, the variation between individuals was calculated and assigned to either a genetic or environmental source.
The researchers found that two-thirds of the variation in avoidant and dependent personality disorder traits could be explained by genes and that the most important environmental influences were those unique to each twin. The environmental influences can be any factor(s) that contribute to the twins in a pair being different, e.g. the influence of different friends, teachers, activities or various life events.
Researchers state that it is important to emphasize that the term heritability does not refer to individuals per se.
Heritability is a statistic that relates to the population as a whole, and is expressed as a proportion of how much the total variation in a trait, such as personality disorders, is influenced by genes.
By using two different assessment techniques at different times, researchers were better able to estimate the role of heritability than in studies that measure personality disorder once and with one instrument only.
The dual method applied in the current study allowed researchers to capture the core of these personality disorder traits and not random effects, or effects specific to a certain time point or method of assessment, said Ph.D. student and first author of the study Line C. Gjerde.
The key finding that genes are so influential in the development of personality disorders emphasizes the importance of obtaining a thorough family history from patients with symptoms of such disorders.
However, this does not mean that personality disorders are not treatable. Gjerde emphasizes that the strong genetic influence found in the study does not imply any form of determinism or prediction of disease development. That is, if a person has a family history of personality disorders, this does not necessarily mean that he or she will develop a personality disorder.
Whether or not a genetic vulnerability leads to the expression of a certain trait or disorder depends on a complex interplay of both genetic and environmental factors.
Ohio State researchers believe they have developed and validated a new method to identify which people are narcissistic.
And, the beauty is that the tool is only a single question.
In a series of 11 experiments involving more than 2,200 people of all ages, the researchers found they could reliably identify narcissistic people by asking them this exact question (including the note):
To what extent do you agree with this statement: “I am a narcissist.” (Note: The word “narcissist” means egotistical, self-focused, and vain.)
Participants rated themselves on a scale of one (not very true of me) to seven (very true of me).
Results showed that people’s answer to this question lined up very closely with several other validated measures of narcissism, including the widely used Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI).
The difference is that this new survey — which the researchers call the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS) — has one question, while the NPI has 40 questions to answer.
“People who are willing to admit they are more narcissistic than others probably actually are more narcissistic,” said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.
“People who are narcissists are almost proud of the fact. You can ask them directly because they don’t see narcissism as a negative quality — they believe they are superior to other people and are fine with saying that publicly.”
Bushman conducted the study with Sara Konrath of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (formerly of the University of Michigan) and Brian Meier of Gettysburg College.
The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.
“Understanding narcissism has many implications for society that extend beyond the impact on the individual narcissist’s life,” Konrath said.
“For example, narcissistic people have low empathy, and empathy is one key motivator of philanthropic behavior such as donating money or time to organizations.”
“Overall, narcissism is problematic for both individuals and society. Those who think they are already great don’t try to improve themselves,” Bushman said.
“And narcissism is bad for society because people who are only thinking of themselves and their own interests are less helpful to others.”
Bushman emphasized that the one question tool (SINS) shouldn’t be seen a replacement for the longer narcissism questionnaires (NPI, etc) as other instruments can provide more information to researchers, such as which form of narcissism someone has.
“But our single-item scale can be useful for long surveys in which researchers are concerned about people getting fatigued or distracted while answering questions and possibly even dropping out before they are done,” Bushman said.
He noted that if it takes a person 20 seconds to answer the single question in the SINS measure, it would take him or her 13.3 minutes to answer the 40-question NPI.
“That is a big difference if you’re doing a study in which participants have to complete several different survey instruments and answer a long list of other questions,” he said.
The 11 different experiments took a number of different approaches to determine the validity of SINS. Some used undergraduate college students, while others involved online panels of American adults.
One experiment found that SINS was positively related to each of the seven subscales of the NPI which measure various components of narcissism (vanity, exhibitionism, exploitativeness, authority, superiority, self-sufficiency, and entitlement).
Another study found that that participants tended to have similar scores on SINS when tested 11 days apart.
One experiment replicated past work that showed people scoring high in narcissism were more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors and had difficulty maintaining long-term committed romantic relationships.
“People who scored higher on narcissism on the SINS had both positive and negative outcomes,” Bushman said. They reported more positive feelings, more extraversion, and marginally less depression.
But they also reported less agreeableness, and more anger, shame, guilt, and fear. In addition, people scoring high on SINS showed negative interpersonal outcomes, such as having poor relationships with others and less prosocial behavior when their ego was threatened.
“The advantage of SINS compared to other measures,” Bushman said, “is that it allows researchers to identify narcissists very easily.”
“We don’t think SINS is a replacement for other narcissism inventories in all situations, but it has a time and place,” he said.
Warning: If you have been abused this post might be triggering. The picture underneath offers a lot of information based on science and knowledge gathered over time. It is easy to understand, and might help us in understanding what contributes to psychopathy. It also created some questions: Why is psychopathy more prevalent in USA and in white people? Evolutional theorists have discussed it psychopathy is relatively rare because psychopathic behavior would be “discovered” and for that reason not lead to any evolutionary advantages. USA and other individualistic countries are known for becoming more “egoistic”, and USA is known for more lenient attitudes towards weapons. This is just loud thinking on my part, so don`t take it as truths.
The picture is reproduced from this link: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1cXNdb/:2mHUbAkb:TeSCEaSC/www.bestcounselingdegrees.net/serial-killerhttp://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1cXNdb/:2mHUbAkb:TeSCEaSC/www.bestcounselingdegrees.net/serial-killer
Psychological research has had a tendency to study negative effects of behavior both on the individual and cultural level. But new research has started to focus more on the positive aspects of behavior. I like this shift, as I think it will change how we interact with the world. In one TED talk I watched, scientists were studying genetic superhumans. That is, people with genetic ‘flaws’ that has proven to give these people abilities normal people don’t have. By getting more knowledge about these ‘superhumans’ we are also a step closer to knowing which environmental, psychological and biological factors contribute to their genetic make-up.
Humans in a big crowd have an inclination to behave the same way. It is difficult to resist the force of it. This is why people, who ordinarily are sensible, can do things that they regret afterwards . It is also the reason people who normally are harmless can become violent.
If I could do a study as a researcher, I would want to look at how positive mass-suggestion could affect us . Let’s for fun’s sake call it a social media experiment. If every person shared the research hypothesis I’m about to present with one person, it would be interesting to see what would happen next.
My hypothesis would be something like: Can we by mass-suggestion, make people around the world do the same thing on the same day?
For example I could propose that the 30th of september, every one of us tried to do one random act of kindness. What do you think would happen? Could it affect us all in a positive way?
The date could be set one year in advance to make sure that many get the message, but as information can spread like fire in the right circumstances maybe it would not be necessary to wait that long.
So, would somebody be interested in an experiment like that? What can each and all of us do by simply being kind towards others?
Advancements in genetics and neuroscience are undoubtedly leading toward direct methods of mind control, albeit only with good intentions … if government and establishment science can be believed. However, an array of hi-tech methods have been announced which show clear potential for negative manipulation.
But it is memory research that might be among the most troubling.
As I’ve previously suggested in other articles, our memories help us form our identity: who we are relative to where we have been. Positive or negative lessons from the past can be integrated into our present decisions, thus enabling us to form sound strategies and behaviors that can aid us in our quest for personal evolution. What if we never knew what memories were real or false? What if our entire narrative was changed by having our life’s events restructured? Or what if there were memories that were traumatic enough to be buried as a mechanism of sanity preservation, only to be brought back to us in a lab?
Research has commenced into many facets of how memory can be restructured, whether it is erasing memories, the implantation of false memories, or triggering memories of fear when none previously existed. (Source)
MIT researchers, for example previously claimed to have found the specific brain switch that links emotions to memory. MIT went on to admit that these findings could lead not only to direct intervention via manipulation of brain cells through light, but a new class of drugs to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Once again, memory tinkering is making the news. This time it comes from the University of Toyama, Japan, where researchers claim to have for the first time, “linked two distinct memories using completely artificial means.” I have highlighted areas of the press release below which are consistent with similar research into supposed solutions for PTSD. The same disturbing language is present that seems to indicate a desire to reverse engineer the process and create fear-based trauma.
So far, ethical boundaries seem fuzzy at best, and downright non-existent in various areas of brain study. It is a time when more light needs to shine upon this research, who is funding it, and what is permissible. Given the outrageous abuses already committed by government-directed science, and a global climate of centralized health control, we would do well to read between the lines of these announcements and prepare to become very critical of their pursuits.
The ability to learn associations between events is critical for survival, but it has not been clear how different pieces of information stored in memory may be linked together by populations of neurons. In a study published April 2nd in Cell Reports, synchronous activation of distinct neuronal ensembles caused mice to artificially associate the memory of a foot shock with the unrelated memory of exploring a safe environment, triggering an increase in fear-related behavior when the mice were re-exposed to the non-threatening environment. The findings suggest that co-activated cell ensembles become wired together to link two distinct memories that were previously stored independently in the brain.
“Memory is the basis of all higher brain functions, including consciousness, and it also plays an important role in psychiatric diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder,” says senior study author Kaoru Inokuchi of the University of Toyama. “By showing how the brain associates different types of information to generate a qualitatively new memory that leads to enduring changes in behavior, our findings could have important implications for the treatment of these debilitating conditions.”
Recent studies have shown that subpopulations of neurons activated during learning are reactivated during subsequent memory retrieval, and reactivation of a cell ensemble triggers the retrieval of the corresponding memory. Moreover, artificial reactivation of a specific neuronal ensemble corresponding to a pre-stored memory can modify the acquisition of a new memory, thereby generating false or synthetic memories. However, these studies employed a combination of sensory input and artificial stimulation of cell ensembles. Until now, researchers had not linked two distinct memories using completely artificial means.
With that goal in mind, Inokuchi and Noriaki Ohkawa of the University of Toyama used a fear-learning paradigm in mice followed by a technique called optogenetics, which involves genetically modifying specific populations of neurons to express light-sensitive proteins that control neuronal excitability, and then delivering blue light through an optic fiber to activate those cells. In the behavioral paradigm, one group of mice spent six minutes in a cylindrical enclosure while another group explored a cube-shaped enclosure, and 30 minutes later, both groups of mice were placed in the cube-shaped enclosure, where a foot shock was immediately delivered. Two days later, mice that were re-exposed to the cube-shaped enclosure spent more time frozen in fear
than mice that were placed back in the cylindrical enclosure. The researchers then used optogenetics to reactivate the unrelated memories of the safe cylinder-shaped environment and the foot shock. Stimulation of neuronal populations in memory-related brain regions called the hippocampus and amygdala, which were activated during the learning phase, caused mice to spend more time frozen in fear when they were later placed back in the cylindrical enclosure, as compared with stimulation of neurons in either the hippocampus or amygdala, or no stimulation at all.
The findings show that synchronous activation of distinct cell ensembles can generate artificial links between unrelated pieces of information stored in memory, resulting in long-lasting changes in behavior.
By modifying this technique, we will next attempt to artificially dissociate memories that are physiologically connected,” Inokuchi says. “This may contribute to the development of new treatments for psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, whose main symptoms arise from unnecessary associations between unrelated memories.” Recently by Nicholas West: