Wednesday, August 21, 2019

More diversity in Flow-land.

I will pass on part of an email from Mr. Todd Denen occasioned by my 8/16/19 post, in which he assures me, that unlike the Flow Genome Project and Flow Collective Research Project discussed in that post, his Flow Research University is legit:
“ My name is Todd Denen and I just came across your post on the FGP guys. I just wanted to say not all Flow training programs are bullshit.....
I'm the founder of the Advanced Flow University which teaches the Flow state from the perspective of the Yogi Flow Experts.
In my book, PEAK PERFORMANCE SECRETS, I reveal the Advanced Flow Techniques which have been used by the Yogi Flow Experts for over 5,000 years. This has allowed them to achieve the highest level of Consciousness, the 7th Level of Flow.
If you are interested, I'm doing a promotion on it right now and you can get it for free on Amazon….."
Here is a screen shot showing only three of the numerous free books by Mr. Denen available from Amazon's Kindle offerings.


I couldn't resist downloading and having a look at "Peak Performance Secrets" and "FLOW STATE SEX TEST" (Advanced Flow University Book 3).

Unbelievable stuff.   Kudos to Amazon for its carefully vetted high quality Kindle offerings!

Monday, August 19, 2019

What we see is influenced by what we can do about it

Djebbara et al. do experiments that resolve an ancient debate on the relationship between cognition, movement, and environment, showing that potential actions afforded by an architectural environment influence perception. We perceive the world not as an observer-independent reality but in the mold of potential actions, shaped by the current needs and other personal attributes of the actor–perceiver. I pass on their significance and abstract statements, and then a clip from a description of the work by Gepshtein and Snider.

Significance
Using electroencephalography and virtual reality, our research provides a unique perspective on the centuries-old open-ended debate in cognitive neuroscience and philosophy on the relationship among cognition, movement, and environment. Our results indicate that cortical potentials vary as a function of bodily affordances reflected by the physical environment. First, the results imply that cognition is inherently related to the potential movement of the body; thus, we posit that action is interrelated with perception, actively influencing the perceivable environment. Second, these results indicate that moving in space is to continuously construct a prediction of a world of affordances, suggesting that architects take up the continuity of spaces, given that the unfolding of bodily movement alters perception and experience.
Abstract
Anticipating meaningful actions in the environment is an essential function of the brain. Such predictive mechanisms originate from the motor system and allow for inferring actions from environmental affordances, and the potential to act within a specific environment. Using architecture, we provide a unique perspective on the ongoing debate in cognitive neuroscience and philosophy on whether cognition depends on movement or is decoupled from our physical structure. To investigate cognitive processes associated with architectural affordances, we used a mobile brain/body imaging approach recording brain activity synchronized to head-mounted displays. Participants perceived and acted on virtual transitions ranging from nonpassable to easily passable. We found that early sensory brain activity, on revealing the environment and before actual movement, differed as a function of affordances. In addition, movement through transitions was preceded by a motor-related negative component that also depended on affordances. Our results suggest that potential actions afforded by an environment influence perception.
And, the clip from the review by Gepshtein and Snider:
Djebbara et al. had human participants walking freely while immersed in a virtual environment. A wearable “brain/body imaging setup” included a 64-channel electroencephalographic (EEG) cap that allowed researchers to record the participants’ electrical activity of the brain. The experiment consisted of a series of trials in which participants confronted simulated doors of different widths: Narrow (0.2 m wide), medium (1 m), and wide (1.5 m). At the onset of every trial, the participant was shown 1 of the 3 doors for several seconds. Then the wall framing the door changed its color: To green, prompting the person to pass through the door (the Go condition), or to red, indicating that the person should not approach the door (NoGo). A key result from the analysis of the participants’ brain activity came from the temporal window that just followed the Go/NoGo signal. On average, the part of the brain responsible for processing visual information functioned differently in the Go and NoGo conditions. In the Go condition, brain activity depended significantly on whether the door was passable or not, but in the NoGo condition, no such difference was found.
The authors explain this result by evoking the familiar concept of affordance, introduced by the influential American psychologist James J. Gibson in 1966. Gibson coined the term “affordance” to designate action opportunities offered by objects, trying to find a substitute to the term “value” which he worried would carry “an old burden of philosophical meaning”

Friday, August 16, 2019

A Schism in Flow-land? Flow Genome Project vs. Flow Research Collective

In Nov. 2017 I did a scathing review of  the "Stealing Fire" book by Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler - in support of expensive workshops offered by their "Flow Genome Project" - purporting to show the latest science relevant to the flow states of enhanced human performance described in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s original writings on this subject. I judged the book a mess, with very little of substance to offer. A follow up post in Sept. 2018 passed on an exchange between one dissatisfied customer and a representative of the flow genome workshops.

Given this background, I can't resist passing on to MindBlog readers an email I just received indicating that there has been trouble in Flow-land... Mr. Kotler and Mr. Wheal have apparently split up and are now present competing websites, both very slick, with Mr. Kotler's (https://www.flowresearchcollective.com) radiating a bit more gravitas than Mr. Wheal's (https://www.flowgenomeproject.com.) Here is the email:
Hey there, 
I work with Steven Kotler who is featured in this article on your site. I have a critical request to change the text and link from Flow Genome Project to Flow Research Collective as this is Steven's new company. 
Currently there is traffic that is being directed from your site to the old company that Steven resigned from and so it's important that we get this updated so that the piece is accurate and up to date. 
We are not requesting that the mention of Flow Genome Project must be withdrawn in relation to Jamie, just that we need it to be clear that Steven is with the Flow Research Collective and that we're directing toward's [sic] that site. 
Please confirm that this is possible. Thanks, 
Gabby-- Gabby Nuñez Chief Of Customer Service and Satisfaction 
W: flowresearchcollective.com
Continuing in the tradition of the "Stealing Fire" book the link in the email "this article on your site" is not to either of the posts I mention above (Nov. 2017, Sept. 2018), but to all the posts done in Nov. and Dec.  of 2017.

I'm not taking the time to look further into this, but would suggest that any potential clients of these expensive purportedly transformational programs do due diligence. CAVEAT EMPTOR!

How weight training changes the brain.

Gretchen Reynolds points to work by Kelty et al. showing that weight training in rats can ameliorate mild cognitive impairment in rats induced by a injecting a lipopolysaccharide known to induce inflammation in the brain, creating a rodent form of mild cognitive impairment or early dementia. The weight training also induces chemical factors that support new nerve cell growth. How do you get rats to train with weights? Get them to climb a ladder for a Froot Loop reward with weights gently taped to their rear ends! Do three workouts a week, increasing the load as in regular resistance training. Similar experiments (inducing mild cognitive impairment) obviously can't be done in humans, but it would be useful to look more at whether and how much weight training in humans might stimulate the appearance of nerve growth factors that support new nerve cell growth. Numerous studies have shown that aerobic exercise has this effect.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Five myths about consciousness

In a perspective piece for the Washington Post Christof Koch (chief scientist and president of the Allen Institute of Brain Science) does a brief and concise debunking of five common fables about consciousness. I suggest you give it a read. The myths are:
Humans have a unique brain.
Science will never understand consciousness.
Dreams contain hidden clues about our secret desires.
We are susceptible to subliminal messages.
Near-death 'visions' are evidence of life after death.

Monday, August 12, 2019

It’s not just how the game is played, it’s whether you win or lose

An open source article from Molina et al.:
Growing disparities of income and wealth have prompted extensive survey research to measure the effects on public beliefs about the causes and fairness of economic inequality. However, observational data confound responses to unequal outcomes with highly correlated inequality of opportunity. This study uses a novel experiment to disentangle the effects of unequal outcomes and unequal opportunities on cognitive, normative, and affective responses. Participants were randomly assigned to positions with unequal opportunities for success. Results showed that both winners and losers were less likely to view the outcomes as fair or attributable to skill as the level of redistribution increased, but this effect of redistribution was stronger for winners. Moreover, winners were generally more likely to believe that the game was fair, even when the playing field was most heavily tilted in their favor. In short, it’s not just how the game is played, it’s also whether you win or lose.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Ingroup vigilance in collectivistic cultures

Fascinating work from Liu et al., who provide a more nuanced view of how people in more collectivist cultures are more suspicious of possible unethical intentions in others than people in more individualistic cultures.

Significance
Decades of research have described East Asian cultures as collectivistic, often characterized by ingroup relationships that are harmonious and cooperative. We find evidence that people in collectivistic cultures can also be more vigilant, mindful of ingroup members’ bad intentions. Participants imagined what coworkers and classmates would do in competition. Compared with individualistic Americans, people in China expected more unethical competition. Is this a “China phenomenon” or a phenomenon of collectivistic culture? We next compared regional cultures within China to rule out between-country alternative explanations. We found that people from China’s collectivistic rice-farming regions were more vigilant than people from the individualistic wheat-farming regions. This research suggests a more balanced view of collectivism, revealing tensions that can co-occur with harmony.
Abstract
Collectivistic cultures have been characterized as having harmonious, cooperative ingroup relationships. However, we find evidence that people in collectivistic cultures are more vigilant toward ingroup members, mindful of their possible unethical intentions. Study 1 found that Chinese participants were more vigilant than Americans in within-group competitions, anticipating more unethical behaviors from their peers. Study 2 replicated this finding by comparing areas within China, finding that people from China’s collectivistic rice-farming regions exhibit greater ingroup vigilance than people from the less collectivistic wheat-farming regions. The rice/wheat difference was mediated by greater perceived within-group competition. Study 3 found that Chinese participants were more likely than Americans to interpret a peer’s friendly behavior as sabotage in disguise. We also manipulated within-group competition and found that it increased ingroup vigilance in both cultures. Finally, study 3 identified two boundary conditions where cultural differences in ingroup vigilance decrease: an unambiguously competitive win–lose situation where Americans also exhibit vigilance, and an unambiguously cooperative win–win situation where Chinese participants relax their vigilance. This research contributes to a more balanced view of collectivism, revealing its interpersonal tensions in the forms of within-group competition and ingroup vigilance.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Feeling pleasure from music - brain correlates of why people differ

From Martínez-Molina et al.:

SIGNIFICANCE
Music is one of the most important sources of pleasure for many people, but at the same time there are important individual differences in the sensitivity to musical reward. Previous studies have revealed the critical involvement of the functional connectivity between perceptual and subcortical brain areas in the enjoyment of music. However, it is unknown whether individual differences in music sensitivity might arise from variability in the structural connectivity among these areas. Here we show that structural connectivity between supratemporal and orbitofrontal cortices, and between orbitofrontal and nucleus accumbens, predict individual differences in sensibility to music reward. These results provide evidence for the critical involvement of the interaction between the subcortical reward system and higher-order cortical areas in music-induced pleasure.
Abstract
People show considerable variability in the degree of pleasure they experience from music. These individual differences in music reward sensitivity are driven by variability in functional connectivity between the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), a key structure of the reward system, and the right superior temporal gyrus (STG). However, it is unknown whether a neuroanatomical basis exists for this variability. We used diffusion tensor imaging and probabilistic tractography to study the relationship between music reward sensitivity and white matter microstructure connecting these two regions via the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in 38 healthy human participants (24 females and 14 males). We found that right axial diffusivity (AD) in the STG–OFC connectivity inversely correlated with music reward sensitivity. Additionally, right mean diffusivity and left AD in the NAcc-OFC tract also showed an inverse correlation. Further, AD in this tract also correlated with previously acquired BOLD activity during music listening, but not for a control monetary reward task in the NAcc. Finally, we used mediation analysis to show that AD in the NAcc–OFC tract explains the influence of NAcc activation during a music task on music reward sensitivity. Overall, our results provide further support for the idea that the exchange of information among perceptual, integrative, and reward systems is important for musical pleasure, and that individual differences in the structure of the relevant anatomical connectivity influences the degree to which people are able to derive such pleasure.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Can an uprising of decency win the next presidential election?

I want to point to this massively cogent piece by David Brooks, and also pass on a video done by the democratic presidential candidate he mentions, Marianne Williamson. He credits her with being the only candidate who most effectively cuts to the real heart of what is at issue in the next presidential election: who we are as a people, our national character, and the moral atmosphere in which we raise our children.
It is no accident that the Democratic candidate with the best grasp of this election is the one running a spiritual crusade, not an economic redistribution effort. Many of her ideas are wackadoodle, but Marianne Williamson is right about this: “This is part of the dark underbelly of American society: the racism, the bigotry and the entire conversation that we’re having here tonight. If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.”
And she is right about this: “We’ve never dealt with a figure like this in American history before. This man, our president, is not just a politician; he’s a phenomenon. And an insider political game will not be able to defeat it. … The only thing that will defeat him is if we have a phenomenon of equal force, and that phenomenon is a moral uprising of the American people.”
They are unready for it, but it falls on the Democrats to rebuild the moral infrastructure of our country. That does not mean standing up and saying, “Donald Trump is a racist!” 500 times a day. It means reminding Americans of the values we still share, and the damage done when people are not held accountable for trampling on them. The values are pretty basic and can be simply expressed:
Unity: We’re one people. Our leader represents all the people. He doesn’t go around attacking whole cities and regions.
Honesty: We can’t have deliberative democracy without respect for the truth. None of us want congenital liars in our homes or our workplaces.
Pluralism: Human difference makes life richer and more interesting. We treasure members of all races and faiths for what they bring to the mosaic.
Sympathy: We want to be around people with good hearts, who feel for those who are suffering, who are faithful friends, whose daily lives are marked by kindness.
Opportunity: We want all children to have an open field and a fair chance in the great race of life.
Trump has put himself on the wrong side of all these values. So Democrats, go ahead and promote your plans. But also lead an uprising of decency. There must be one Democrat who, in word and deed, can do that.
Here is the Williamson video:

Friday, August 02, 2019

What can we do when facts don't matter?

Some of Trump’s most ardent supporters are those whose lives are most diminished and compromised by his actions. They do not let facts cloud their beliefs. A similar situation is seen in the anti-science denial of the scientifically proven benefits of vaccinations or genetically modified foods. The Dunning Kruger effect is in force. Those who know the least think they are experts. As Carroll points out in his NYTimes opinion piece, only subtle persuasion can be used to nudge those who are immune to factual knowledge. Some clips:
In a paper published early this year in Nature Human Behavior, scientists asked 500 Americans what they thought about foods that contained genetically modified organisms.
The vast majority, more than 90 percent, opposed their use. This belief is in conflict with the consensus of scientists. Almost 90 percent of them believe G.M.O.s are safe — and can be of great benefit.
The second finding of the study was more eye-opening. Those who were most opposed to genetically modified foods believed they were the most knowledgeable about this issue, yet scored the lowest on actual tests of scientific knowledge.
Carroll points out that...
A great deal of science communication still relies on the “knowledge deficit model,” an idea that the lack of support for good policies, and good science, merely reflects a lack of scientific information.
The problem is that experts have been giving accurate information for years to little effect.
In 2016, a number of researchers argued in an essay that those in the sciences needed to realize that the public may not process information in the same way they do. Scientists need to be formally trained in communication skills, they said, and they also need to realize that the knowledge deficit model makes for easy policy, but not necessarily good results.
It seems important to engage the public more, and earn their trust through continued, more personal interaction, using many different platforms and technologies. Dropping knowledge from on high — which is still the modus operandi for most scientists — doesn’t work.