Thursday, January 17, 2019

Upstairs/ Downstairs in our Brain - Who (or what) is running our show?

I want to pass on to MindBlog readers the lecture notes and slides from a talk I gave yesterday to "NOVA" - one of five senior learning programs hosted by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the Univ. of Texas. The talk has the title of this post. Here is a final summary slide from the talk:

Upstairs/Downstairs - Who or what is running our show?

I.  What is happening as our “I” acts and senses in the world?

  A. Our subjective “I” is predictions that are late to sensing and acting.
  B.  What we experience is our prediction of what is out there, or what the sensory consequence of our actions will be
  C. We can place our experienced body inside or outside our actual one.
  D. The “I” or self that we experience is an illusion, a virtual avatar in our brain.

II.  What behaviors are coming from upstairs and downstairs?

   A. Downstairs dominates rapid actions and judgements.
   B. Upstairs modulates this with slower reasoned responses.
   C. Reasons and emotions cause each other.
   D. Different personality types have different upstairs profiles.

III.  What is happening in paying attention versus mind wandering?

  A. Mind wandering is a transient loss of mental autonomy.
  B. Mind wandering and default mode networks stabilize our self model. 
  C. Mind wandering facilitates creative incubation.
  D. A wandering mind can be an unhappy mind.

IV. How might we observe and influence what our brains are doing?

  A.  Attention can be trained by meditation-like activities
  B.  Attention training, like training for other skills, causes brain changes. 
  C.  Attention training can allow more autonomy in choosing actions and emotions, making us more pilot than passenger of our ship.  

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