Archive for the ‘Mind’ Category
For the first time in history, the secrets of the living brain are being revealed by a battery of high tech brain scans devised by physicists. Now what was once solely the province of science fiction has become a startling reality. Recording memories, telepathy, videotaping our dreams, mind control, avatars, and telekinesis are not only possible; they already exist. The Future of the Mind gives us an authoritative and compelling look at the astonishing research being done in top laboratories around the world—all based on the latest advancements in neuroscience and physics. One day we might have a “smart pill” that can enhance our cognition; be able to upload our brain to a computer, neuron for neuron; send thoughts and emotions around the world on a “brain-net“; control computers and robots with our mind; push the very limits of immortality; and perhaps even send our consciousness across the universe. Dr. Kaku takes us on a grand tour of what the future might hold, giving us not only a solid sense of how the brain functions but also how these technologies will change our daily lives. He even presents a radically new way to think about “consciousness” and applies it to provide fresh insight into mental illness, artificial intelligence and alien consciousness. With Dr. Kaku’s deep understanding of modern science and keen eye for future developments, The Future of the Mind is a scientific tour de force–an extraordinary, mind-boggling exploration of the frontiers of neuroscience.
This issue of LEARNing Landscapes shares historically, theoretically, and practically how the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and education are working together to get a more cohesive understanding of the physiology of the brain, and to implement learning in more effective ways. In the 1970s classroom teachers were influenced by the renewed interest in the work of pragmatist and educator, John Dewey, who advocated strongly for learning by doing and for including the arts/aesthetics in education, and by the work of psychologist, Jean Piaget, who demonstrated the significance of the early learning that occurs when a child interacts with his or her environment. By the 1980s, the work of Lev Vygotsky had been translated from Russian into other languages, and educators realized that language mediates learning and, therefore, the social interaction among peers, with caregivers, and teachers, contributes significantly to how learners construct and understand their worlds. The work of psychologist Howard Gardner on multiple intelligences sent a message to the world about the need to tap into the various strengths of students and to permit them to use multiple modes for “receiving” and communicating/representing their learning. At the same time, sociolinguist and educator Shirley Brice Heath was showing not only how important it is to start the learning from where the child is and where his/her propensities lie, but also to be aware of and value where the child is coming from to enhance his or her potential. A missing piece in the evolving understanding of learning was what was developing in the field of neuroscience, particularly in the 1990s. New and sophisticated imaging technology permitted scientists to actually see the brain at work and provided new insights about learning. It is the recent integration of mind, brain, and education (MBE) research that is helping to enhance our understanding of learning and contribute to more effective teaching. This issue illustrates many aspects of MBE work and how practice is being affected by it.
This article presents results from an exploratory study of what college students from northern Ontario think about and do to manage their mental health. Data gathered in semistructured interviews were analyzed using the constant comparative method. The purpose of the study is to advance our understanding of the ontogeny, substantive nature and deployment of mental health literacy (MHL). MHL has hitherto been defined as “knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders that aid their recognition, management or prevention.”. This definition effectively translates to knowledge of the contents of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, currently in its fifth edition. Results of the study suggest that the current definition of MHL is overly narrow, that individuals use knowledge of various types from various sources to manage their mental health, and that the literacies that inform mental health management practices are developed through iterative engagement in autologous knowledge-translation, at the core of which are cultured resonance, meaning-making, metacognitive evaluation, and heuristic experimentation. MHL is redefined as the self-generated and acquired knowledge with which people negotiate their mental health. Broadening the definition of MHL has potential to enhance the capacity of individuals and communities to manage mental health effectively.
What happens when we accept that everything we feel and think stems not from an immaterial spirit but from electrical and chemical activity in our brains? In this thought-provoking narrative—drawn from professional expertise as well as personal life experiences—trailblazing neuro-philosopher Patricia S. Churchland grounds the philosophy of mind in the essential ingredients of biology. She reflects with humor on how she came to harmonize science and philosophy, the mind and the brain, abstract ideals and daily life. Offering lucid explanations of the neural workings that underlie identity, she reveals how the latest research into consciousness, memory, and free will can help us reexamine enduring philosophical, ethical, and spiritual questions: What shapes our personalities? How do we account for near-death experiences? How do we make decisions? And why do we feel empathy for others?
Churchland appreciates that the brain-based understanding of the mind can unnerve even our greatest thinkers. Accepting that our brains are the basis of who we are liberates us from the shackles of superstition. It allows us to take ourselves seriously as a product of evolved mechanisms, past experiences, and social influences. And it gives us hope that we can fix some grievous conditions, and when we cannot, we can at least understand them with compassion.
Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) Teams at the 2012 National Academies Keck Futures Initiative Conference on The Informed Brain in the Digital World explored common rewards and dangers to humans among various fields that are being greatly impacted by the Internet and the rapid evolution of digital technology. During the conference, IDR Teams grappled with the idea of the Internet and other digital technology as largely unexplored phenomenon in relation to neurology. Participants agreed that there was insufficient research published about the relationship between the Internet and the brain. Each topic seemed to imply great gains and potential dangers for humans, and the tone of the conference was that it is not clear which way the pendulum will swing.
As people move into a digital world where the possibilities seem infinite, it is important to continue to consider whether or not this is a world people will want to live in, and how individuals will maintain some degree of control over their environment. What will be the result on individual behavior and the actions of societies if we have access to unlimited knowledge, can read people’s minds, remember everything that occurred in the past or know years in advance how one may die? However much humans try to harness technology and use innovation to their benefit, it may be impossible to predict the effect of technological change and anticipate its consequences.
Most recent studies depict mind wandering as a costly cognitive failure with relatively few benefits. This perspective makes sense when mind wandering is observed by a third party and when costs are measured against externally imposed standards such as speed or accuracy of processing, reading fluency or comprehension, sustained attention, and other external metrics.
There is, however, another way of looking at mind wandering, a personal perspective, if you will. For the individual, mind wandering offers the possibility of very real, personal reward, some immediate, some more distant.
The dominant approach of the last century to behaviour was ‘associationism’ – reducing the complexity of behaviour to the homogeneous strengthening and weakening of simple connections between stimuli and responses. Chomsky‘s devastating critique of this account of human language in the 1960s, resulted in a cease fire with human’s allowed ‘cognitive minds‘ with more expressive machinery, and animals resigned to the graveyard of associations. As messy as all ceasefires, this one left some animal researchers thinking associationism as bad a theory for animals as for people. But the good effect was that there was a broad appreciation that no one discipline would understand the complexities of the mind, and their origins. This book brings comparative and developmental psychology, robotics, linguistics and philosophy to bear on the problem of understanding the biological continuities and discontinuities of the human mind.
What does anybody need a brain for? Brains are energetically expensive to make and to use, and susceptible to making mistakes. Accordingly, not learning, i.e. sticking to an innate or random strategy, is often the best thing to do. Still, humans and other animals display sophisticated learning and cognition. Recent research shows that each animal has specific learning abilities and lacks others according to its environment and evolutionary history. Understanding what different brains are used for can help us understand why they evolved.
Dr. Anna Dornhaus is Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. Her lecture was given on March 9, 2010, as part of the College of Science Mind and Brain Lecture Series.
What does the brain do? The ancients thought it was a radiator, cooling the blood. Modern views see it as an activator, using inputs from the environment in combination with prior knowledge to generate behaviors (walking, talking, eating and drinking) and mental states (feelings, desires and beliefs). Recently the idea has emerged that the brain acts as a predictor, using inputs and stored knowledge to generate models of the world, and of the consequences of possible actions we and others might pursue. These models can predict what will happen in the next minute, hour or decade, and allow us to behave in the most adaptive way.
On February 23, 2010, Dr. Lynn Nadel, University of Arizona Regents’ Professor, Psychology, presented “Building Brains, Making Minds” in the first lecture of the College of Science’s Mind and Brain Lecture Series.
We have been brought up to believe that the mind is located inside the head. But there are good reasons for thinking that this view is too limited. Recent experimental results show that people can influence others at a distance just by looking at them, even if they look from behind and if all sensory clues are eliminated. And people’s intentions can be detected by animals from miles away. The commonest kind of non-local interaction mental influence occurs in connection with telephone calls, where most people have had the experience of thinking of someone shortly before they ring. Controlled, randomized tests on telephone telepathy have given highly significant positive results. Research techniques have now been automated and experiments on telepathy are now being conducted through the internet and cell phones, enabling widespread participation.