Thursday, June 22, 2017

Brain & Facial Encoding, 4

Researchers discovered that axes within a multidimensional space, now known as the “face space” can combine in different ways to create every possible face. In other words, there is no Jennifer Aniston neuron. Senior author Doris Tsao, a professor of biology and biological engineering at the California Institute of Technology reported: “We’ve discovered that this code is extremely simple. We can now reconstruct a face that a monkey is seeing by monitoring the electrical activity of only 205 neurons in the monkey’s brain. One can imagine applications in forensics where one could reconstruct the face of a criminal by analyzing a witness’s brain activity.” More tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Brain & Facial Encoding, 3

Primates recognize complex objects such as faces with remarkable speed and reliability. Experiments in macaques demonstrated an extraordinarily simple transformation between faces and responses of cells in face patches. Six general areas of the primate and human brain that are responsible for recognizing faces were identified. Labelled ‘face patches,’ all six face patches were located in the inferior temporal (IT) cortex. Researchers found that these areas are packed with specific nerve cells that activate much more strongly when seeing faces than when seeing other objects. They called these neurons “face cells.” Rather than representing a specific identity, each face cell represents a specific axis within a multidimensional space, which researchers called the “face space.” More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Brain & Facial Encoding, 2

In a paper published June 1, 2017 in the journal Cell, researchers Le Chang and Doris Y. Tsao reported that they have deciphered how faces are encoded in the brain—at least in primates. Previously, some experts in the field believed that each face cell (a.k.a. “grandmother cell“) in the brain represents a specific face. This presented a paradox, according to Doris Y. Tsao, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “You could potentially recognize 6 billion people, but you don’t have 6 billion face cells in the IT or inferior temporal cortex. There had to be some other solution.” It turns out there was. More tomorrow.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Brain & Facial Encoding/Recognition

Earlier this year I mentioned the “Jennifer Aniston neuron,” so called, which led some to believe that the representation of an entire face may be filed in a single neuron. They reportedly touched a single neuron inside a person’s brain and the patient reported seeing Jennifer Aniston’s face. That flew in the face of previous beliefs that memory for faces was somewhat diffuse throughout the brain and that the hippocampus might play a role in searching for pieces to assemble a ‘face’ much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. A new study was recently released that provided some specifics related to facial encoding in a primate brain. That’s what it so exciting about brain-function research—new information is released quite regularly! More tomorrow.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Aphorisms, 8

  • Life is short, art is long
  • Lightning never strikes twice in the same place—well, rarely, anyway
  • Little strokes fell great oaks
  • Live and learn—so you can stop making the same mistakes your whole life
  • Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration
  • Give people fish and they eat for one meal; teach them how and they eat for life
  • Give them an inch and they'll demand a mile
  • Little pitchers have big ears
  • If you’re not with me you’re against me or you’re standing alone
  • Give him enough rope and he'll hang himself

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pratfall Effect, 4

To recap: the pratfall effect is a psychological phenomenon that says your likability actually increases when you make mistakes! Competent people appear more likeable and attractive when they make a mistake than when they are perceived as perfect and flawless. No surprise, it is named after an American expression or slang word for falling on your behind or keister. In one study, psychologist Elliot Aronson asked research participants to listen to recordings of people answering a quiz. Select recordings included the sound of the person knocking over a cup of coffee. When study participants were asked to rate the quizzers on likability, the coffee-spill group came out on top. This means that being real—acknowledging when you make a mistake, apologizing as indicated, and moving on—may make you look better than an individual who seems quite flawless due to being perceived as not being as human. Indeed, mistakes are simply a validation that one is human. Everyone makes mistakes; not everyone learns from them. Therein lies the rub.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Pratfall Effect, 3

There appear to be some male-female differences in terms of the pratfall effect. This from studies by K. Deaux: “To err is humanizing: But sex makes a difference” Representative Research in Social Psychology, p 3, 20-28, 1972).
In general:
  • The effects of pratfall are most directly applicable to males
  • Females tend to prefer the non-blunderer regardless of gender
  • Neither males nor females preferred the mediocre blunderer
Aronson studied a person’s attractiveness as related to his or her making a blunder. His research found that a perceived ‘able’ individual’s attractiveness increased after a blunder in comparison to the control group; while attractiveness decreased in a person perceived as less ‘able.’ (Attractiveness was defined as a combination of liking and respect.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Pratfall Effect, 2

There appear to be some male-female differences in terms of the pratfall effect. This from studies by K. Deaux: “To err is humanizing: But sex makes a difference” Representative Research in Social Psychology, p 3, 20-28, 1972). 
In general:

  • The effects of pratfall are most directly applicable to males
  • Females tend to prefer the non-blunderer regardless of gender
  • Neither males nor females preferred the mediocre blunderer
Aronson studied a person's relative attractiveness as related to his or her making a blunder. His research found that a perceived 'able' individual's attractiveness increased after a blunder in comparison to the control group; while attractiveness decreased in a person perceived as less 'able.' (Attractiveness was defined as a combination of liking and respect.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pratfall Effect

The “pratfall effect appears to be well established in popular culture. It can be described as the tendency for a person’s attractiveness to increase or decrease after he or she makes a mistake, depending on the individual's perceived ability to perform well in a general sense. For example, an individual who is perceived as highly-competent would be, on average, more likable after committing a blunder. The individual would tend to be less likable after making a mistake or faux pas if he or she was perceived as an average person. The pratfall effect was described by Elliot Aronson in 1966. Since then, a plethora of studies have been conducted in an attempt to isolate the impact of self-esteem levels, gender, and the severity of the blunder on perceived changes in attractiveness or likability. The pratfall effect is also referred to as the blemishing effect when it is used as a form of marketing. More tomorrow.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Spotlight Effect, 4

What is the bottom line here? Other people are not paying attention to you nearly as much as you may think they are. Knowing this can give you permission to be yourself, help you feel less embarrassed in public when something untoward happens, and take it a bit easier when you do make a mistake. Kenneth Savitsky put it like this: "You can’t completely eliminate the embarrassment you feel when you commit a faux pas, but it helps to know how much you’re exaggerating its impact.” Studies have shown empirically that a drastic over-estimation of one's effect on others is widely common. Once you know about the spotlight effect, you can choose to become more realistic in terms of how much you believe you really are the center of attention and in a social spotlight. The perception of being under constant scrutiny is a mind construct, and the self-doubt you feel after making a mistake appears not to truly reflect reality. That’s good news! 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Spotlight Effect, 3

An article by Gilovich, et al, entitled: “The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one's own actions and appearance,” (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(02), 211–222), pointed out that aspects of social judgment are impacted by the spotlight effect. That is, people routinely overestimate the extent to which their contributions make an impact on those around them, especially the significance of one’s ideas and contributions within a group. Researchers found that in a group setting, contributions by an individual are perceived by that individual as being more significant than the contributions of their group members. No surprise, the other members in the group believe the same thing about their own individual contributions. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Spotlight Effect, 2

Thomas Gilovich and Kenneth Savitsky reportedly coined the term “spotlight effect,” in 1999, although behaviors related to this phenomenon had been described earlier than that. What are some of those behaviors? When individuals are anxious about something they tend to overestimate the extent to which their anxiety is obvious to onlookers. When an individual is embarrassed by something (e.g., a run in one’s stocking, a tear in one’s shirt), the likelihood of the spotlight effect rearing its head is increased. The timing of the incident also plays a part. Immediate exposure increases the spotlight effect, while delayed exposure decreases it. Psychologists at Cornell University reportedly asked study participants to wear an embarrassing T-shirt and then estimate how many people noticed what they were wearing. The participant estimates were twice as high as the actual number. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Spotlight Effect

Yes, this is real phenomenon that plays a significant role in many different aspects of society. The term Spotlight Effect refers to a general perception by people that they are being noticed much more than they really are. According to some sources, research on this phenomenon has been pioneered primarily by four individuals: Thomas Gilovich, Kenneth Savitsky, Victoria Medvec, and Thomas Kruger. The underpinnings of the spotlight effect is the innate tendency of many individuals to forget that although each person is the center of his or her own world, that person is not the center of everyone else’s world. Being that one is constantly in the center of one's own world, an accurate evaluation of how much one is noticed by others is uncommon. The spotlight effect may be more pronounced, however, when a person does something that is not typical behavior for them. More tomorrow.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Brain-Body Community

Dr. Bruce Lipton pointed out that if you were the size of an individual cell so you could see your body from that perspective, you would see yourself, not as a single entity, but as a bustling community of more than 50 trillion individual cells. Most of the cell’s structures are referred to as organelles, which are its ‘miniature organs,’ suspended within a jelly-like cytoplasm. Organelles are the functional equivalents of the tissues and organs of your own body. Each nucleus-containing cell (eukaryote) possesses the functional equivalent of your nervous, digestive, respiratory, excretory, endocrine, skeletal, circulatory, skin, and immune systems. Groups of specialized cells that form the tissues and organs of the nervous system, are concerned with reading and responding to environmental stimuli. The nervous system’s job is to perceive the environment and coordinate the behavior of all the cells in the vast cellular community.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Aphorisms, 7

Aphorisms, 7

  • All things come to the one who is patient—only some of which may be wanted
  • All we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history
  • All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl--all play and no work makes Jill a dumb girl.
  • Never give up your ship.
  • Doubt is the beginning, not the end, of wisdom.
  • Early to bed, early to rise, makes you healthy, wealthy and wise--if you’re working wisely while you’re awake.
  • Easier said than done.
  • East is East and West is West and better the twain shall meet.
  • North or South, East or West, travel’s great but home is best.
  • Easy come, easy go—and not necessarily to find again.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Brain and Sodas, 4

Sudha Seshadri is a professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine (MED) and a faculty member at the University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Senior author on both study papers containing data related to drinking sugary drinks and sodas of any type, Seshadri reportedly said that the study conclusions make it appear that there is not very much of an upside to having sugary drinks, and substituting the sugar with artificial sweeteners doesn’t seem to help. Smaller overall brain volume? Poorer episodic memory? A shrunken hippocampus? A higher risk for stroke and dementia? Both sugary and diet drinks are linked with an increased risk of accelerated brain aging? I don’t think so; not for me. True, research studies do not say anything about a specific individual. Nevertheless, water is my beverage of choice and part of my Longevity Lifestyle journey. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Brain and Sodas, 3

The second study was published in Stroke in April of 2017. Here the researchers, using data only from the older Offspring cohort, looked specifically at whether participants had suffered a stroke or been diagnosed with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. After measuring volunteers’ beverage intake at three points over seven years, the researchers then monitored the volunteers for 10 years, looking for evidence of stroke in 2,888 people over age 45, and dementia in 1,484 participants over age 60. They found that people who drank at least one diet soda per day were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia. Researcher Matthew Pase reportedly commented that it was somewhat surprising to discover that diet soda consumption led to these outcomes. He added that scientists have put forth various hypotheses about how artificial sweeteners may cause harm, from transforming gut bacteria to altering the brain’s perception of “sweet,” but “we need more work to figure out the underlying mechanisms.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Brain and Sodas, 2

The first study was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia in March of 2017. Researchers examined data, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and cognitive testing results, from about 4,000 people enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study’s Offspring and Third-Generation cohorts (children and grandchildren of the original FHS volunteers enrolled in 1948.) They looked at people who consumed more than two sugary drinks a day of any type (soda, fruit juice, and other soft drinks) or more than three per week of soda alone. Among that “high intake” group, they found multiple signs of accelerated brain aging, including smaller overall brain volume, poorer episodic memory, and a shrunken hippocampus, all risk factors for early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. You may recall that the hippocampus, often called the brain’s search engine, plays a part in transferring memories from short to long term storage in the brain and in the retrieval of those memories. More tomorrow.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Brain and Sodas

It seems that the average person has had a difficult time with internalizing study data that have linked consumption of sodas not only with weight gain but also with an increased risk of disease processes such as diabetes. And a subset appears to believe that if they just use diet sodas, they are home free. There’s an old saying that a brain convinced against its will is of the same opinion still, so I have no agenda for convincing a brain that water is the best bet for a beverage of choice for optimum brain function. However, data just released from two studies at Boston University, USA, links soda consumption with brain problems—and that has definitely caught my brain’s attention. Sudha Seshadri, a professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine (MED), a faculty member at Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center, and senior author on both papers, has been quoted as saying: “It looks like there is not very much of an upside to having sugary drinks, and substituting the sugar with artificial sweeteners doesn’t seem to help.” More tomorrow.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Abstractive Function

The brain function of abstraction is one of the cognitive functions are believed to work in conjunction with many other neural processes to create your belief systems (among other things). Abstraction acts as a doorway between direct perception and consciousness, for humans depend on concepts, labels, and words to shape their awareness. This is problematic when it comes to spiritual matters, which, by definition, refer to realms that have no physical reality. Newberg points out that young children can form categories for concrete objects, but they have enormous difficulties with abstract concepts such as freedom, fairness, right and wrong, or God. The brain transforms reality into abstract categories and labels, and these labels are intangible beliefs, assumptions about a world that cannot be directly perceived. In this sense, labels, beliefs, and reality are one and the same. If an ability to abstract is lost, the individual likely will end up living in a state of perpetual confusion, unable to navigate in the world, and unable to form beliefs.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Prayer and the Brain

In most forms of prayer/meditation, the practitioner has a purpose (e.g., to calm the mind, to become more mindfully aware, to experience God or a spiritual event). Newberg said the act of prayer is a problem-solving device, designed to consciously explore a spiritual perspective or belief and to integrate that awareness into daily life. This requires increased activity in the attention area of the brain. Brain scans have shown activation of the frontal lobes, especially the prefrontal cortex just above the eyes, during prayer and meditation. In addition, activity in the parietal lobes (that interpret sensory information to create a three-dimensional representation of one’s surroundings) becomes deactivated, allowing one to become more connected with the object of his/her attention. Quantifying the world is so important to brain function that it even impacts religious rituals. For example, recommendations are for Hindus to pray three times a day, Muslims five times a day, Roman Catholics seven times a day, and an orthodox Jew one hundred times a day.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Senses & the Brain

Do you remember the old question: If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound if no one is present? I was reading a book by Newberg and Waldman entitled Why We Believe What We Believe, and came across a couple interesting comments. Music is a neural interpretation of sound. Color is a neural interpretation of light—and to the brain color is primarily a subjective experience. There is no neural receptor that distinguishes any gradation of gray. It, like many other colors the human brain imagines, is a belief construction within the brain—a form of understanding. A thought. This leads to the supposition that no two brains ever hear or see anything in identically the same way. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


A dream can be described as a succession of internal mental pictures or images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that typically occur involuntarily in the mind during specific stages of sleep, notably during rapid-eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. During REM, brain activity is high and resembles that of being awake. According to Wikipedia, the content and purpose of dreams are not fully understood, though they have been a topic of scientific speculation, as well as a subject of philosophical and religious interest, throughout recorded history. Dream interpretation is the attempt at drawing meaning from dreams and searching for an underlying message. The scientific study of dreams is called Oneirology.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Brain and Dreaming

As pointed out by Psychology Today, why we dream is still one of the behavioral sciences' greatest unanswered questions. Researchers have offered many theories—memory consolidation, emotional regulation, threat simulation—but consensus does not exist. Researchers say that the brain paralyzes the body during dreaming so it cannot physically respond. Dreams seem unreal only when we awake and a different system of belief—and reality—take over. Ilana Simons PhD has pointed out several theories for dreaming:

  • To practice responses to threatening situations
  • To create wisdom
  • To ‘defragment’ your brain’s hard drive
  • To engage in some psychotherapy

Friday, May 19, 2017

Aphorisms, 6

  • You need to take a bull by the horns—as long as you’re a knowledgeable bull fighter
  • You're never too old to learn—that you’d be better off if you’d been learning all along
  • You can’t fix stupid in anyone but yourself
  • Straddling two boats definitely increases your risk of getting wet—unless the boats are in dry dock
  • Why is it that when a dog bites a person it’s not news, but when a person bites a dog, it is?
  • Old habits die hard
  • Once bitten, twice shy
  • Opportunity never knocks twice—typically others grasp the ones you missed or walk through the door that you ignored
  • Opposites attract
  • Out of sight, out of mind, but not necessarily out of danger

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Animals and Feelings

Dolphins have a paralimbic lobe that the human brain does not possess, an area associated with the capacity for elaborate social communication and emotions relating to maternal feelings and separation anxiety. Emotional responses become more limited in simpler animals. Most researchers, for example limit nonhuman mammalian emotions to anger, fear, loneliness, and joy. Among reptilian species, emotions seem limited to primitive fight-or flight reactions. According to the author of If Dogs Could Talk, many animals that humans eat on Memorial or Remembrance Day, Xmas, and other national holidays, are capable of feeling anger, sadness, depression, and affection. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Children and Beliefs

Children use storytelling to help them organize thoughts and feelings about the world. The most important stories are those that incorporate cultural and religious myths. By identifying with the characters in the stories, young children vicariously experience moral conflicts and solutions that will have great relevance later in life. Adult belief systems, especially those concerning religion and spirituality, contain significant remnants of the stories these adults heard and read while growing up. Extensive research by Altemeyer and Hunsberger showed that children who grow up in fundamentalist families tend to obey authorities and follow rules. However, they also tend to be self-righteous, prejudicial, and condemnatory toward people outside their group. They tend to develop an ‘us versus them’ mentality that many maintain throughout life. The studies also pointed out that fundamentalist congregations tend to experience a 50 percent dropout rate among members over time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Frontal Lobes and Feelings

Powerful feelings (that tend to be created in the frontal lobes) tend to suppress activity in those same frontal lobes, which contain executive functions such as planning, paying attention, making decisions, choosing, morality, creating one’s feelings, and so on. This reaction form allows more primitive fight-or flight reactions of the limbic system to dominate. On the other hand, acts of forgiveness stimulate frontal-lobe circuits that are associated with compassionate beliefs, which in turn reduce activity of amygdalae in the limbic system associated with anger and fear. Note: Humans are much more likely to mete out a harsh punishment when angry compared with actions taken when feelings of compassion or sadness predominate. Unfortunately, angry decision makers react instinctually and aggressively, with unrealistic optimism and overconfidence in the rightness of their own actions.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Emotions and Belief, 2

Powerful emotions create strong memories; and memories, when coupled with language, are the basis for forming conscious beliefs. This level of belief is what we often call ‘knowledge’, but if it doesn’t have an emotional appeal, the belief will not register deeply in a person’s mind. The hippocampus, often dubbed the brain’s search engine, utilizes emotions to help establish long-term memory. Very emotional events tend to be written into memory more strongly than nonemotional events. Memories are affected by stress. Studies at Yale concluded that the neuropeptides and neurotransmitters released during stress can alter the functioning of areas of the brain directly involved with memory formation and recall. This may interfere with the laying down of memory traces for incidents of childhood abuse, and may possibly lead to long-term distortions for the facts, or even amnesia.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Emotions and Belief

Some say, "If I didn't have to deal with emotions my life would be so much smoother." Perhaps but you would likely not have energy to accomplish much in life. Emotions function as energy sources. Without an energy source an analog or digital clock would not show the time. Turns out that emotions are also essential for making moral and ethical decisions. Emotions bind your perceptions to your conscious beliefs, making whatever you are thinking about seem more real at the time. In addition, strong emotions (particularly anger, fear, and passion) can radically alter your perceptions of reality. Many beliefs, including moral beliefs, can be easily altered by authoritarian and peer-group pressure. The two most significant factors in undermining individual morality are group conformity and the power of authority to override personal objections and doubts. Controversial psychology experiments in 1963 by Stanley Milgram imply that with increased intimacy, physical or verbal, people will treat each other with greater compassion and respect.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Reductionist Thinking

Reductionist thinking is another of the six cognitive functions that are believed to work in conjunction with many other neural processes to create (among other things) a person’s belief systems. As compared with holistic thinking, reductionist thinking attempts to reduce the whole to its parts in an effort to make the world seem more comprehensible and manageable. The left hemisphere appears to carry out primarily reductionist thinking. But the beliefs they generate can give one only a partial view of reality. If taken to the extremes, you can become so absorbed in details that you forget about the larger world and fail to see the forest because of the trees. Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, for example, reflect an overly reductionist brain. Lost in a labyrinth of details, and in order to control the resulting anxiety, patients resort to complex rituals designed to organize and control chaotic feelings and thoughts. They often develop rigid systems of beliefs, which essentially act as a defense mechanism to prevent them from being overwhelmed. The human brain is capable of both holistic and reductionist thinking but not at the same time.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Holistic Thinking

Holistic thinking is one of six cognitive functions that are believed to work in conjunction with many other neural processes to create (among other things) a person’s belief systems. The right hemisphere is primarily involved in holistic representations, perceiving how things are connected into a whole. For example, facial recognition relies heavily on holistic processing. Holistic functions are not language based and so are more difficult to define or communicate. Spiritual experiences seem to rely on the brain’s holistic functions. Individuals often define spiritual experiences in broad, sweeping, poorly defined terms (e.g., enlightenment, transcendence) rather than more definite and precise terms—remember that language is believed primarily housed in the left hemisphere regardless of handedness. When holistic processing predominates, one consciously does not feel a very strong need to analyze, compare, quantify, or justify one’s perceptions or beliefs. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Cognitive Functions

Several cognitive functions are believed to work in conjunction with many other neural processes to create your belief systems (among other things). Those six cognitive functions are:

  • Abstractive - dealing with ideas rather than events
  • Quantitative – measuring by the quantity of something rather than its quality
  • Cause-and-effect – a relationship between actions or events in that one or more events result from the action or actions (some say that for every action there is a reaction, some being more obvious than others)
  • Dualistic-oppositional- a perspective that two concepts, ideas, beliefs, perspectives, or things are polar opposites or antonyms of each other
  • Reductionist - reducing the whole to its parts in an attempt to make the world seem more comprehensible
  • Holistic - perceiving how things are connected into a whole

Monday, May 8, 2017

Brain and Cognition

Cognition can be described as the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses ( It encompasses processes such as knowledge, attention, short- and long-term memory, working memory, judgment, evaluation, reasoning, computation, problem solving, decision making, comprehension, the production of language, etc.. Human cognition is conscious and unconscious, concrete or abstract, as well as intuitive (as in the knowledge of a language) and conceptual (as in a descriptive model of a language). Cognitive processes use existing knowledge and generate new knowledge. Thus they are key to ‘high-level critical’ thinking, learning, and turning information into knowledge. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Aphorisms, 5

  • All play and no work makes Jack a dumb boy.
  • As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines
  • Be brave enough to disengage from those who do not respect and affirm you
  • Beware of women who advertise their age--a woman who reveals her age is capable of anything.
  • Children should be seen and not heard—in a restaurant.
  • Fire only when you see the whites of their eyes.
  • Never foul your own nest
  • Do the quality of work during the day that allows you to sleep at night
  • Know thyself—so you won’t mistake yourself for someone else
  • Know on which side your bread is buttered

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Power of Beliefs

According to Newberg and Waldman, beliefs shape personal behaviors and spiritual ethics throughout life, governing nearly every aspect of life. They are our most important human commodity and help people flourish and survive. They can also be used to suppress others and justify immoral or sadistic acts. They can also connect one with transcendent dimensions of experience, and give inspiration and hope, essential tools for confronting moments of confusion and doubt. They help people build civilizations, make revolutions, create music and art, determine our relationship to the cosmos, makes us fall in love and drive us into hate. Once beliefs are established, their validity is rarely challenged even when the person is faced with contradictory evidence. The brain is instinctually prone to reject information that does not conform to one’s prior experience and knowledge. It has a propensity to reject any belief that is not in accord with one’s own view. The human brain can alter its system of beliefs far more rapidly than that of any other organism on the planet.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Belief, 5

A child’s perceptual and cognitive evaluations of people’s moods and feelings are often different from those of an adult. Childhood memories and beliefs turn out to be particularly inaccurate and can be easily influenced—even falsified—by other people. Because they’ve been repeated and reinforced over many years, however, those memories are often the least likely to be modified or rejected as a result of later experiences and beliefs. The power of emotion can turn fantasy into a supposed fact. False memories are more difficult to dismiss, perhaps because the dissonance between fact and fiction causes a stronger emotional reaction within the limbic areas, which in turn interfere with one’s ability to use logic and reason in evaluation beliefs about the world. The more traumatic an event, the more likely the victim is to construct beliefs that border on the bizarre.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Belief, 4

The memory of the sense of one’s body becomes so ingrained in the neural circuits governing self-experience that the brain has difficulty reorganizing itself after a crippling accident or stroke. If painful enough, the person may not be able to accept the truth. A false belief can be constructed, triggering an emotional memory that feels utterly present and real (e.g., man with phantom erections after penis removal; person ‘sees’ fat on their body where there is none in anorexia nervosa). fMRI scans showed that the sensory motor areas of the body do not distinguish between imaginary and actual images and activities. Human beings have a great capacity for sticking to false beliefs with great passion and tenacity. According to Dr Bruce Lipton, even-rational scientists are not immune.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Belief, 3

Any intense experience, if maintained for more than half an hour, can leave permanent changes in the neural circuits involving emotion and memory. If the experience is frightening, the memory can continue to traumatize the individual for year. Brain-scan studies find that it takes less than one second for a word or a phase to trigger an emotional reaction in your brain. Negative states stimulate intensive limbic activity, and this causes the hippocampus to embed it into long-term emotional memory. Pleasant experiences do not trigger as strong a reactions and therefore are harder to recall than unpleasant ones. The more you obsess on a specific feeling, the more real I will appear to be. Newberg and Waldman suggest it is important to be careful what you pray for, meditate on, or obsess about, because it may eventually become your personal truth.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Belief, 2

Studying about bias and prejudice led me to delve into research on ‘beliefs.’ Studies have shown that neither children nor adults have a well-developed capacity to distinguish the accuracy of their own beliefs. Adults are particularly vulnerable with regard to maintaining self-deceptive beliefs, especially when comparing their own intelligence and attractiveness with that of others. Most people overestimate their personal abilities, and unfortunately their inflated beliefs cause them to suspend their ability to test reality (e.g., smokers underestimate their risk of lung cancer, managers make overly optimistic forecasts that lead their organizations into initiatives that typical fail or fall short of expectations). In surveys, approximately 90% of the respondents believed they were smarter, healthier, and more industrious than the average individual.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Each person is free to choose the beliefs to accept and those to reject. Therefore, there are more than 6 billion belief systems in the world and no two are identical. The frontal lobe is critical in directing our ability to act freely and make decisions. One may have less conscious choice that ordinarily believed, however. Studies by Benjamin Libet showed that several milliseconds before a person makes a conscious decision, there is electrical activity in the brain that likely represents a subconscious generation of the thought the person is about to have. Which means that humans are likely not responsible for every thought that crosses their mind. They likely are responsible for the thoughts they continue to harbor and cogitate upon once the thought reaches conscious awareness.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Bias Can Convert

It is easier for the brain to first quantify objects into pairs and then to differentiate them into opposing groups: right or wrong, lights or dark, Republican or Democrat, etc. This neural process of simplification and generalization is a form of biological stereotyping because it does not take into account individual differences and nuances. Once an oppositional dyad is created, the brain will then impose an emotional bias on each (root for favorite sports team and disparage the other). This includes people from different cultural, religious, and ethnic background. Unfortunately, this inborn us-versus-them mentality easily converts into racism. So it appears that bias in innate, prejudice is learned.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Bias appears to be built into the brain as a function. Meaning that the fastest determination the brain is believed to make when confronted with something new is whether or not the new something is like you or unlike you; something you’ve seen before or never seen before. Brain scans have shown that the amygdalae (two little almond shaped organs, one in each cerebral hemisphere) that registers fear, react when one first observes a person from a different ethnic background. However, there can be a significant variance in the response based on a variety of internal and external influences. The brain’s initial reaction can decrease in less than half a second. When faced with any belief that conflicts with one’s own, it takes additional effort and time to override biologically-based cognitive biases, but by doing research suggests that you can become more open minded. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Fish, PTSD, & Social Transmission

A report in Proceedings of the Royal Society B described a study that showed fish can learn fear from role models. According to the study’s authors, environment can influence the social transmission of fear. The study showed how risk aversion can be learned. The researchers also suggest their study may shed light on how fear disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develop in humans, which research shows can be influenced by social environment. For example, PTSD symptoms can be acquired from friends or family who have suffered trauma.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Aphorisms, 4

  • Stop hiding your light under a bushel.
  • The cover of a book may not always match its contents
  • The more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • The pen is mightier than a sword and a computer more powerful than dynamite
  • The quality of genuine mercy is not strained.
  • Less is more
  • You are shaped by what you choose to love
  • The only things certain are change, taxes, and death
  • You become like those you choose to hang with
  • You are the average of the people you spend the most time with

Thursday, April 20, 2017

EQ in the Workplace, 9

Four key behavioral characteristics describe and define the dimension of Emotional Sensibility:

  • Able to respond to emotional stimuli of low intensity (don’t need to be hit over the head with high intensity to get your attention)
  • Can be empathetic (different from sympathy) and yet can still get the job done
  • Experience improved interpersonal relationships (tend to live at ‘joy’ and are not knocked down or become immobile by the choices of others)
  • Choose a positive can-do mindset, self-talk, and use affirmation—a positive style of speaking—when communicating with yourself and others

Likely you have some of these dimensions already in place. Identify and hone those that are missing or relatively undeveloped. You can do it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

EQ in the Workplace, 8

Five key behavioral characteristics describe and define the dimension of Emotional Maturity
  • Are self-aware (as brain matures)
  • Care for yourself and help to develop others (as the superego develops with brain maturation)
  • Able to delay immediate gratification for a more desirable long-term reward
  • Can adapt (each brain only has its own opinion and you know yours but can alter it or agree to disagree)
  • Are flexible (able to brainstorm options and alternatives successfully and can compromise to reach group consensus when necessary)
More Tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

EQ in the Workplace, 7

Dr. Dahlip Singh of India has described three psychological dimensions of high EQ at work that motivate individuals on the job to maximize productivity, manage change, and resolve conflict. They are Emotional Competency, Emotional Maturity, and Emotional Sensitivity. I’ll comment on each of these individually. Four key behavioral characteristics describe and define Emotional Competency:

·         Tackles emotional upsets and avoids emotional exhaustion (no ‘stuffing it’ or creating a ‘slush fund’)
·         Possesses optimum self-esteem (neither under- or over-inflated but balanced)
·          Handles egoism (takes the initiative to prevent and/or resolve conflict)
·         Uses tactful responses to emotional stimuli (no overt response may be most appropriate at the moment)
More tomorrow.

Monday, April 17, 2017

EQ in the Workplace, 6

Here’s an example of a low JOT behavior. Jerry set his alarm to be on time for an initial job interview over breakfast at the hotel. He was the first to arrive at the restaurant. Instead of ordering a cup of something to drink, patiently reading the paper, and showing he’d cared enough about the interview to be on time, Jerry allowed himself to get very upset. My time is important, too.” After five minutes he left and went back to his room and dwelt on these unhelpful thoughts, gripping, fuming, and grumbling until he jumped to conclusions (they must not be very interested in me), took it personally (My time is important, too!) and became more and more angry. When the boss texted seven minutes later that they had arrived at the restaurant and wondered where Jerry was, Jerry overreacted, firing back, “I was there on time. Where were all of you?” No surprise, the boss selected another candidate and Jerry still hasn’t seem to figure out how his overreaction may have played into that decision. More Tomorrow.

Friday, April 14, 2017

EQ in the Workplace, 5

Low levels of EQ can been seen in more inappropriate or undesirable behaviors that one can even imagine. I tend to talk about JOT behaviors. “J” stands for jumping to conclusions; “O” represents overreactions; and “T” means taking things personally. Just working to reduce the incidence of JOT behaviors can take you a long way toward raising your level of EQ. When is the last time you exhibited one or more JOT behaviors? Remember, you can only deal effectively with behaviors that you can label and describe. Initially you may not even recognize a JOT behavior for days, weeks, or months. As you gain skills, however, the recognition time gets shorter and shorter. The goal, of course, is to become aware of an impulse to exhibit a JOT behavior BEFORE you have started down that path and course-correct. It’s amazing how many ‘messes” this can prevent. A “mess” prevented is one less to clean up.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

EQ in the Workplace, 4

Perhaps because EQ contains the word ‘emotional,’ many think that EQ is synonymous with emotions. Not really. EQ describes how you handle, manage, express, and behave in terms of the four core emotions. Because the brain takes years to become developed (e.g., the prefrontal cortex right behind your forehead is likely not ‘done’ until mid to late twenties), you were fortunate if you had parents and care providers who possessed high levels of EQ. That way growing up you at least were exposed to desirable behaviors—whether or not you chose to hone the skills yourself. [Although this group of blogs is directed toward EQ in the workplace, as your EQ skills improve you will discover they benefit you in your personal arena, as well.] More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

EQ in the Workplace, 3

The formula for your Success Quotient goes like this: IQ plus EQ equals SQ (Success Quotient). What is fascinating is that IQ is estimated to contribute only 20% to your SQ, while EQ contributes 80%. As you likely already know, IQ or Intelligence Quotient describes potential inherited abilities for specific types of academic intelligence. EQ or Emotional Intelligence Quotient describes learned abilities distinct from, but complementary to, academic intelligence. (Refer to definition of EQ in yesterday’s blog.) At work, successful managers tend to have high levels of EQ, while less successful managers often have high IQ but low EQ. Dahlip Singh PhD, author of Emotional Intelligence at Work, has created an EQ Assessment that he hopes will be eventually approved and utilized by Human Resource Departments when interviewing and hiring new EQ employees. After all, reduce that 18% (refer to Monday’s blog) and potentially the company can be more profitable. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

EQ in the Workplace, 2

How do you suppose company executives view the importance of high levels of EQ when their managers spend nearly a fifth of their work time dealing with employee conflicts instead of working on company business? It’s expensive, that’s what! To make sure we’re on the same page, this is my definition of EQ: Emotional Intelligence (EQ) involves the ability to know what feels good, what feels bad, and how to get from bad to good in a way that results in positive outcomes; including the ability to recognize each of the four core emotions (joy, anger, fear, and sadness quickly obtain the information the emotion is attempting to convey, and to exhibit actions and behaviors that tend to result in positive outcomes. Unfortunately, many try to get from feeing bad to feeling good by becoming involved with addictive behaviors, a strategy that tends to increase the likelihood of receiving a negative outcome with undesirable consequences. More tomorrow.

Monday, April 10, 2017

EQ in the Workplace, 1

What it your work style in terms of emotional control? Is it the same in situations where you perceive have more control versus those in which you have less control? Interesting questions because many a high-IQ brain has failed to be hired in top management positions—even though they possessed the skills requisite for the job. What blocked them? Their low level of Emotional Intelligence or EQ. Meaning that they failed to evidence EQ skills in terms of how they managed their emotions. In fact, US State News, August 19, 2006 reported that managers spend 18% of their time managing employee conflicts and that the percentage had doubled since 1996. No surprise, many of those employee conflicts involved low levels of EQ. More tomorrow

Friday, April 7, 2017

Aphorisms, 3

Enjoy some more aphorisms

  • A bird on your finger is worth three in a tree
  • A bad penny always turns up when you least expect it
  • A barking dog rarely bites—very hard
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • A penny saved is a penny earned—or at least not spent
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder
  • Actions speak louder than words
  • All for one and one for all
  • All that glitters is not gold
  • All the world's a stage and we are only players—but there are players and there are players

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Good News & Bad News

A variety of conditions including surgery, cancer chemotherapy, peripheral nerve damage, and heart attack can lead to poor memory, depression, fatigue, and exaggerated responses to pain. A common feature of these conditions is that they induce inflammatory responses in the body, which lead to an impact on the brain and central nervous system or CNS. Until recently the CNS and peripheral immune system were thought to operate independently. Indeed, the term “immune system” is not generally included in the indexes of current major texts in neuroscience nor the terms “CNS” and “brain” included in the indexes of major texts in immunology. This is changing, however, due to new research that identified a physical connection between the immune system and the brain. Immune vessels go through the three meningeal coverings of the brain. There is also increased understanding of how immune-related events in the peripheral nervous system can influence CNS processes, thereby altering cognition, mood, and behavior. Moreover, these advances are suggesting that inflammation may have important long term implications for the brain. Indeed, the brain and immune system appear to have their hands shoved so deeply in each other’s pockets that it’s hard to tell which is which. Take good care of your brain and the immune system will likely benefit and vice versa.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Triggers for Inflammation, 2

In addition to lack of optimum nutrition and nutritional deficiencies (e.g., B12, Vitamin D, essential fatty acids, and vitamin C), other factors may trigger inflammation. For example:

  • Some medications (e.g., frequent use of acid blocking medications, overuse of antibiotics)
  • Individual response to stress, especially chronic stressors
  • Environmental toxins (e.g., pesticides, herbicides, food additives, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners)
  • Exposure to toxic metals (e.g., mercury, lead, cadmium)
  • History of repeated infections
  • Sedentary habits with a lack of physical exercise
  • Failure to obtain adequate amounts of sleep
These and other factors may actually damage the GI tract and trigger inflammation, which may then spread throughout the body and the brain. Remember, the GI tract is filled with neurons, perhaps as many as are in the brain itself.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Triggers for Inflammation

Some believe that inflammation may have its roots in the digestive system or gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the body’s main line of defense against what comes into the body. When working optimally, the GI tract is designed to remove toxins and harmful organisms such as bacteria and viruses from the food you eat before it has a chance to reach the rest of the body. Unfortunately, the digestive system may become overwhelmed by what is put into it and/or by what could be helpful but is not put into it. Reportedly some foods are more likely to trigger gut inflammation than others, including:

  • Refined sugars and candy and deserts made with them
  • Processed and refined foods - white rice, commercial white bread, and products made with white flour such as cookies, pastas, crackers, and many deserts
  • Highly acidic foods
  • Dairy products, especially whole milk products
  • Animal fats
  • Caffeine, alcohol, and sugary beverages
  • Food allergens and/or sensitivities

Monday, April 3, 2017

Inflammation – Brain

Inflammation can contribute to neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer’s, and other types of dementia. Inflammation can also attack brain tissue. This can be problematic because the brain is contained within a bony skull, so there is little expansion room for the heat, redness, swelling, and swelling that typically accompany inflammation—to say nothing of loss of pain and loss of brain functions. Encephalitis is an example of inflammation of the brain. It may be caused by an infection or from the immune system attacking brain. It often begins with flu-like symptoms that can worsen quit rapidly. Studies have also shown a link between brain inflammation and mood / mental disorders: anxiety, depression, autism, forms of dementia, and schizophrenia. Fortunately, some identified triggers of inflammation involve factors and items that may be partially if not completely within one’s control. More tomorrow.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Inflammation – Chronic, 2

Inflammation can become chronic due to differing factors. In addition to injury or infection, those factors may include poor quality nutrition or failure to implement portion control that can lead to morbid obesity, emotional or mental or physical stressors, lack of physical exercise, and exposure to chemical and environmental toxins. There is not always a specific cause that can be pointed to, and sometimes no cause may be identified at all. Some continuing inflammatory conditions are known as autoimmune diseases, which come in many different forms. Often what autoimmune diseases have in common is that the body misidentifies part of itself as being an invader and mounts an unnecessary and unwanted attack against itself. Multiple sclerosis is an example of a chronic condition where the body begins to destroy the myelin that is the fiber-optic wrapping around the long axons of some neurons. As the myelin begins to disappear, messages do not always quickly or accurately transmit across neuron pathways. Although medicine rarely uses the term ‘cured’ with autoimmune diseases, the good news is that enough is now known about them that those who carefully follow treatment guidelines and recommendations often experience long remissions and can enjoy productive and satisfying lives.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Inflammation – Chronic

Think of inflammation as an immune system response to injury, infection, environmental irritants, poisons and toxins—to name just a few. Earlier I mentioned immune system pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. When the immune system is activated by a trigger, pro-inflammatory substances signal white blood cells to go to the site of the infected or damaged tissue. When they have done their work, anti-inflammatory substances arrive and orchestrate the healing process. If everything goes right, that is. All things being equal when the immune system is working properly, a collaborative balance exists between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory agents. If the immune system gets stuck in the pro-inflammatory phase and the anti-inflammatory agents do not activate, chronic inflammation may result. This simply means that your body’s normal defense system, does not shut down appropriately and continues an inflammatory state longer than needed when there is no longer an infection to fight or because something unusual triggered the inflammatory state to start with. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Inflammation – Mediators

In addition to the classic signs, there are mediators of the inflammatory process. Some of these are chemical in nature such as histamines and serotonin. Others are hormonal, cortisol being one example. Still others are immune system cytokines, both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory types. The good news is that inflammation is a healthy and protective immune response to injury, illness, or infection. protective response involving immune cells, blood vessels, and molecular mediators—designed to resolve the initial cause of cell injury, clear out necrotic cells and tissues damaged from the original injury as well as from the inflammatory process, and to initiate tissue repair. When the healing is complete, however, inflammation should shut down! The body’s endocrine system has, as one of its responsibilities, attempting to keep all inflammation within the bounds of desirability. Unfortunately, it does not always succeed.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Inflammation – Signs

Classic signs of inflammation include heat, redness, swelling, pain, and loss of function, although they may or may not all be present. These symptoms result from physiologic changes that occur during the inflammatory process. Briefly, major components of the inflammation process include:
·         Hemodynamic changes – blood vessels begin to dilate, which allows for increased blood flow, accounting for redness and heat.
·         Increase capillary permeability – tiny blood vessels in the microcirculation start to allow fluid to leak out into the surrounding tissue. This contributes to swelling and edema around the site.
·         Exudation – the oozing of fluid, pus, or serum, as well as white blood cells that rush to the site do what they can to neutralize the damage or take out the germs or foreign particles. This, too, contributes to the swelling and pain.

Taken together, even when the inflammation is contributory to healing, there is usually pain and some loss of function, at least temporarily.