Archive for March, 2016

Hypnosis

March 30, 2016

This post is based on an interview Shannon Fischer conducted with Laurence Sugarman  that was titled “I can tell you how to heal yourself with hypnosis,” and published in the March 12, 2016 edition of the New Scientist.  Laurence  Sugarman directs the Center for Applied Psychophysiology  and Self-regulation at the Rochester Institute of Technology.  He is a former president of the American Board of Medical Hypnosis and is on the faculty of the National Pediatric Hypnosis Training Institute.

Dr. Sugarman worked for 20 years as a sole primary care pediatrician but found that his training was inadequate for the behavioral and psychophysiological issues he encountered.  He now believes that hypnosis can take healthcare to a new level.  As readers should know, employing the mind in healthcare is a continuing theme  in the healthymemoy blog (enter “Cure” and “The Relaxation Revolution” in the search block of the healthy memory blog for examples).

When asked why is hypnosis not widely used, he responded “In Part, because nobody knows what it is.  We first need to be able to say, this is what hypnosis is, and this is all that it is.  Then we can say how we think it works.”  Dr. Sugarman and his colleagues “propose that hypnosis is simply a skill set for influencing people.  It involves facial expression, language, body movement, tone of voice, intensity, metaphor, understanding how people interpret and represent things.  It isn’t something that you’re in, or that you do:  hypnosis is something you use.  That means that it is not a therapy;  it’s a means to a therapy.”

When asked “Where does the hypnotic trance fit?  he responded “Trance is a process of intense learning.  It happens when we change our minds in significant ways, when we become neuroplastic; we are thoughtful, we pause, change our breathing.  There is a shift in the parasympathetic  part of the autonomic  nervous system—an intensified focus of attention and narrow peripheral awareness.  Trance happens when we are traumatized and when we are in love.  There’s no such thing as “hypnotic trance” as distinct from the trance of yoga or prayer, for example.  But part of the skill set of hypnosis is recognizing and facilitating trance, because it makes whatever you’re learning more effective.”

He states that the ultimate power to change lies within each of us.  An earlier healtymemory blog post on hypnotism was titled  “Self Hypnotism” because ultimately it is the individual who either is letting herself be hypnotized or doing the hypnosis.  Dr Sugarman responded, “People can be influenced into cults and violent religious movements, be depersonalized and become the victims of abuse.  If I have poor self-esteem and self-efficacy, I may let people use hypnosis to “overpower” me.  But ultimately the power to change lies with the person who, as we say, Owns the trance.”

Dr. Sugarman says that hypnosis is a medium for delivering placebos.  He also says that mindfulness meditation is an example of hypnosis.  In other words it is one of many ways of doing mindfulness meditation.  Hypnotism provides a means for directing change.

He notes that we unknowingly use hypnosis on ourselves, and that most of our self-hypnosis  is not very nice.  Most of it is:  “I suck at that, I’m not a very nice person, I’m lazy, I deserve this abuse, every time I do that I am going to get a headache.”  If trance is this intense learning process, we use a lot of that plasticity to reinforce our ruts.”

He goes on to say, “Clinical hypnosis is a way of helping somebody change their self hypnosis, to understand what trance-formation looks and feels like, and use both the novelty and intensity of conversation to teach them to do their own trance.”

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Why Do Schizophrenics Hear Voices?

March 29, 2016

This post is based largely on portions of the sixth chapter in Elixir J. Sternberg’s Book “Neurologic and the Brain’s idea Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior.” The title of this post is the same as the title of Chapter 6.  The subtitle of Chapter 6 is “On Language,Hallucinations and the Self/nonself Distinction.

Auditory hallucinations are two of the symptoms of schizophrenia.  If you saw the movie, “A Beautiful Mind” about the Nobel Prize winning John Nash (Nash Equilibrium), you should have a good idea of the nature of schizophrenia.  Here was an outstanding mind that was cursed with auditory hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking.

In the 1940s the psychiatrist Louis Gould theorized and proved that these hallucinations were coming from subvocal speech.  Sometimes we use subvocal speech when we are thinking or trying to perform a challenging task.  And sometimes this subvocal speech can unknowingly become vocal and can lead to embarrassment.

Unfortunately, when schizophrenics are told that these auditory hallucinations are actually their subvocal speech, they deny that the speech is their own.  Schizophrenics have been known to shriek to silence these voices.  Humming aloud and counting aloud can also diminish, but not eliminate these hallucinations.

It is interesting that schizophrenics who are deaf also experience auditory hallucinations.  Sometimes they contend that they actually hear speech.  At other times they say that they are reading lips or interpreting signing.  What is interesting is the same regions of the brain, the prefrontal cortex and the superior temporal gyrus are involved in following a conversation regardless of the nature of the input.

Sternberg titled one section of this chapter “Why Can’t You Tickle Yourself?”  My first thought was why is this section in a chapter on schizophrenia?  Believe it or not, research has been conducted to answer the question of why we can’t tickle ourselves.  They’ve even developed a machine which allows us to tickle ourselves.  It did not work unless two modifications were made to the machine.  A delay needed to be introduced, and the pattern needed to differ from the pattern used by the participant.  Then it worked.

Apparently we have a mental representation of our actions when trying to tickle ourselves that prevents us from ticking ourselves because we recognize that these actions were performed by ourself.  There is a distinct self/nonself distinction.  This being the case, the question is whether schizophrenics can tickle themselves.  The answer is yes due to a defective self/nonself barrier.

Defective self/noself barriers are key to schizophrenia.  John Nash eventually was able to lead a normal life.  He still had hallucinations, but he was able to ignore them because he had managed to raise he self/nonself barrier.

Why Do People Believe in Alien Abductions?

March 26, 2016

Why Do People Believe in Alien Abductions?

This post is based largely on portions of the fifth chapter in Elixir J. Sternberg’s Book “Neurologic and the Brain’s idea Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior.” The title of this post is the same as the title of Chapter 5.  The subtitle to this chapter is “On Paranormal Experience, Narrative, and the Development of Strange Beliefs.”  Sternberg begins the chapter with the true story of his ninth grade French teacher who annually told her story of being abducted by aliens.  Moreover, she was convinced that her story was true.  Sternberg covers some statistics indicating that a small minority have claimed similar experiences and that there is no evidence that these people are suffering from any mental maladies.  However, he does offer an explanation in terms of sleep paralysis, a condition first described in 1876  by an American neurologist, Weir Mitchell.   Here is MItchell’s description of the condition.  “The subject awakes of consciousness of his environment but is incapable of moving a muscle; lying to all appearance still asleep.  He is really engaged in a struggle for movement, fraught with acute mental  distress.”

According to Sternberg, “The paralysis typically affects the entire body except for the muscles of the eye and throat.  In many instances,  the respiratory muscles seize up and the person experiences a feeling of suffocation.  Hallucinations, both visual and auditory, often accompany the paralysis.  Subjects hear strange sounds  that they find difficult to characterize after the fact.  They may see ghastly figures and feel the presence of foreign beings in the room.  These hallucinations tend to be shockingly vivid and may have a cimlx narrative arc, making the experience a waking nightmare.”  It is estimated that sleep paralysis affects about 8% of the population.  In the United States about twenty million people have experienced the phenomenon at least once in their lifetimes.  The strength and severity of the symptoms varies wildly.

People who struggle with anxiety are more likely to feel a foreign presence during sleep paralysis.  The stress carries over into sleep exacerbating the haunting visualizations.  People suffering from dysfunctional social imagery are more likely to hallucinate.  This is a mild form of social phobia in which people feel that they are always being watched and judged by her people.  When they experience sleep paralysis they feel that they are being studied and prodded by an alien presence.  Neuroscientists have studied the phenomenon of “felt presence” with brain-imaging techniques and traced its source to the temporal lobe.

Research was conducted on a young woman with temporal lobe epilepsy.  Researchers fired  precise electrical impulses in the region of the left temporal lobe.  After a pulse struck the junction between the temporal and parietal lobes the sun woman felt someone in the room who had not been there previously.

Sternberg describes a gentleman who had ben admitted to the inpatient psychiatric unit.  He was an elderly man with bipolar disorder.  His complaint was that he was dead.  Believe it or not, there is a name for this complaint.  It is the Cotard delusion.  It is a puzzle how the Cotard delusion arises, but the theory is that it is a failure to connect perceptions with emotions.  It’s associated with a  disconnect between the sensory system and the limbic system.  The limbic system includes the amygdala and the hypothalamus, which are located at the interior surface of the temporal lobe.  It processes emotion and memory.  When people feel dissociated from reality, and watch the world as if from afar, it feels like death.  Being dead is the easiest explanation that unconscious mind can come to.

There is a related disorder, the Capgras Syndrome, in which the brain reaches for another bizarre theory.  Patients believe that everyone they know has been replaced by a physically identical imposter.  There is a case where the man thought his wife was replaced by another woman.  After intercourse he would beg his wife not to tell his wife that he was having sex with another woman.   They developed new sexual practices and after forty-five years together he claimed that sex with his wife was too ordinary,  and it was more exciting with this “new woman.”  A CT scan of this man’s brain revealed a shrunken amygdala, hippocampus and temporal lobe—the same regions that are dysfunctional in the Cotard delusion.

Sternberg notes that the unconscious system in the brain can generate any number of narratives to explain the same set of symptoms.  “When concocting a story to reconcile conflicting stimuli, the brain has to dig deep, calling upon our buried convictions, tendencies, and wonders.”  So it is not surprise that the results seem supernatural.

Near death experiences provide interesting data.  A Dutch research group studied 344 patients in ten hospitals who survived a heart attack.  62 patients (18%) reported having some sort of near-death sensory experienced.  Here is a breakdown of the percentage of these patients reporting each type of experience.

Type of Experience                            % of Patients
Awareness of being dead                        50%
Euphoric emotions                                   56%
Out-of-body experience                        24%
Moving through a tunnel                       31%
Seeing bright lights                                 23%
Seeing colors                                              23%
Seeing a celestial landscape                  29%
Meeting with the dead                            32%
Visions reviewing one’s life                   13%

Sternberg also reviews cases in which fighter pilots who have been exposed to extreme stress suffered similar experiences.  Studies of near-death experience have shown that when blood flow to the brain and eyes is compromised, the brain attempts to fill in the gaps of vision.  This process is known as REM intrusion.  REM intrusion is the process by which dreamlike visions enter into consciousness thus blurring the partition between reality and fantasy.  Dreamlike states that creep into the waking mind are example of REM intrusion.  Research on this phenomenon  has found that 60% of people who have had a near-death experience have had some form of REM intrusion in the past.
A region in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus is likely involved generating these visions.  The locus coeruleus releases the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which helps create the body’s physiological response to stress and panic.  This is commonly known as fight or flight.  It is triggered by fear and anxiety and physical stressors such as low blood pressure and oxygen deprivation.  The brain attempts to relax us by sending out neurotransmitters that create a sense of calm.  Somehow this counteraction by the nervous system appears to initiate components of REM sleep blending our dreams with our waking thoughts.

Sternberg concludes this chapter by discussing hostage hallucinations and a phantom spirit.  They contain the basic theme running throughout the chapter, that these phenomena are the result of our unconscious brains trying to construct narratives to explain the impulses it is receiving.

Can You Remember Things that Never Happened?

March 24, 2016

This post is based largely on portions of the fourth chapter in Elixir J. Sternberg’s Book “Neurologic and the Brain’s idea Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior.” The title of this post is the same as the title of Chapter 4.  Regular readers of the health memory blog should know the answer to the question posed in the title.  The answer is “yes.”  Elizabeth Loftus and others have done extensive research in this area.  They have a variety of methodologies for implanting false memories so that they are definitely believed.  I saw an example of one of these experiments on the PBS program NOVA.  In this case the research participants were convinced of a crime that they never had committed.  To find previous posts on this topic enter “Loftus” into the search block of the healthy memory blog.

Sternberg begins the chapter with a quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez that largely captures the workings of our memories.  “He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”

A research group in Israel filmed a young woman, with no history of memory problems for two days straight.  Except for the cameras they were ordinary days.  At various intervals over the next few years she filled out questionnaires that tested her memories of those days.  The researchers used fMRI while she was filling out these questionnaires.  Over time the more distorted her memory became for the details.  What was especially interesting was how her brain activity changed over time while filling out the recall questionnaires.  As time passed and the memory errors accumulated, her memory appeared to be less endless reliant on the activity of the hippocampus.  The fMRI revealed reduced activation there as her recollection became more distant.  Other regions of the brain, including the medial prefrontal cortex and associated regions, became more and more active.  The medial prefrontal cortex is associated with self-centered thinking.  Her memory was accessing not simply a record from a neurological file, but a representation stored across multiple systems.  Her memory drifted away from accurately recording the details of that time period and instead became focused on her.

“To a large extent, our memories define us.  Our personal history forges our self-image and assembles our store of knowledge.  When the unconscious system in the brain encodes our memories, it is shaping who we are.  It doesn’t record our experiences impartially as a video camera would, because it focuses on our role in the story, on the aspects that we care about.   At any given moment, there is a context of how we are feeling, our emotions at that instant, what we are expecting or dreading, and what that moment means to us.  It is on that basis that the brain begins to compose its first draft.”

Three years after 9/11, two groups of New York City residents were enrolled in an experiment to learn how their emotions at the time of the attacks might have affected their memory.  The first group of people who were in downtown Manhattan that day close to the World Trade Center, and who personally witnessed the events of that day,  The second group consisted of people who were in midtown several miles away.  As would be expected, the downtown group rated their memories as being more vivid, more complete, and more emotional instances that the midtown group did.  And they had more confidence in the accuracy of their memories, but the neurological results revealed a different story.

The hippocampus is the area key to episodic memory, of which recalling 9/11 is a conspicuous example, but depending on the type of memory being accessed, other areas of the brain may be recruited to varying degrees.  For example, the amygdala may be activated when the memory is of an emotional nature, and the posterior parahippocampal cortex will become more involved when the brain attempts to access the more meticulous spatial details surrounding the event.  The members of the midtown group showed activation of the posterior  parahippocampal cortex as they recalled the details of 9/11, but only trivial amygdala activity.  It was just the opposite for the downtown group.  They exhibited striking activity in the amygdala but not in the posterior parahippocampal cortex.  This neuroimaging suggests that the downtown group recalled the events of the day for their emotional impact at the expense of remembering peripheral details.  Studies have revealed that the more emotionally  affected people are in recalling 9/11, the better they are at consistently describing the central events of what happened to them that day, but the worse they are at providing reliable description of the emotionally  neutral details.

There is a technical difference between telling a lie and confabulation.  A person telling a lie knows that he is telling a lie.  However, a person confabulating is trying to make a coherent story where substantial memory loss has occurred.  The chapter begins and ends with a man with both severe mental and addiction problems and a faulty memory.  He continually tries to put together a coherent story from the scraps of memory he can access, because he does not want to admit that he does not know.  Although his is a clinical case, we all work to make coherent stories from what memories we can find.  The unconscious system takes a self-centered egocentric approach to construct good narratives.

Can Your Imagination Make You a Better Athlete?

March 22, 2016

This post is based largely on portions of the third chapter in Elixir J. Sternberg’s Book “Neurologic and the Brain’s idea Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior.” The title of this post is the title of Chapter 3.  The Chapter begins with a quote from the famous golfer Bobby Jones, “Golf is a game played on a five-inch course—the distance between your ears.

Let me remind you of the role of memory.  Memory serves as a source of information to help you plan for and execute actions in the future.  One of the functions of memory is to serve as a mental simulator.  We can simulate the outcomes of different course of action.  We can also simulate, mentally practice, actions for athletic performances.

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are two more famous golfers for whom mental practice was central to their preparation for tournaments.  Of course mental practice is not restricted to golf.  Steve Backley was the javelin thrower  who won the bronze medal  in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.  Just months before the 1996 games in Atlanta, he sprained his ankle.  He was unable to walk and needed crutches to walk for six weeks and was not able to train physically.  However, he was able to prepare mentally.  Barkley sat in a chair and closed his eyes and began a grueling workout in his mind.  He imagined the javelin in his hand and felt his fingers curl around the cool metal shaft.  He imagined using perfect throwing form, tensing his muscles as he released the javelin on a high-arching path.  He watched as it sailed into the distance, looking like a pin as it reached its peak, and came careening down as gravity thrust the spear into the earth.  When he recovered from his ankle injury, after one thousand imaginary throws, he found that he had not lost any ground in his preparation.  His throws were just as good as they were before he hurt his ankle.  He improved over his bronze performance in the 1992 Olympics and won silver in Atlanta.  Michael Jordan and Roger Federer are two more outstanding athletes who practice mentally.

Research has been done on this mental simulator.  When asked to imagine a particular course of action, say getting some food from the refrigerator, the mental simulation of the activity takes about the same time as the actual performance of the act.

Neurologists ran an experiment to compare the brain activity of people while they engaged in real versus imagined movements.  Participants faced a set of four numbered buttons and practiced pressing them according to a sequence:  4,2,3,1,3,4,2.  Their brain activity was recorded as their fingers pushed the buttons.  They then placed their hands in their laps and just imagined pressing the buttons in the same order.  When these two activation patterns were compared, they overlapped most notably in the area of the motor cortex that controls finger movements.  Mentally picturing finger movements triggered an fMRI signal that was nearly indistinguishable from the signal observed during actual finger movements.

Another experiment used three groups in a task in which cards were to be pointed to in defined numerically sequences.  One group performed this task physically.  A second group performed this task mentally.  A third group served as the control group.  When the actual performance of the groups was tested, the mental practice group performed almost as well as the physical practice group, and both groups clearly outperformed the control group.

Mental rehearsal can not only benefit physical performance, it can also enhance physical strength.   Dr, Guang Yue had participants imagine flexing one of their elbows and pinky finger  for fifteen minutes a day for five days a week.  After twelve weeks the strength of their muscle contractions had increased by 13.5% in the elbow and 35% in their little fingers.  For comparison physical practice for the same time period enhanced muscle strength by about 50%.  Of course,  participants who did not practice showed no improvement.

Some might be incredulous that mental practice could enhance physical strength.  Yue observed the brain waves that appeared in the motor cortex before, during, and after the practice sessions.  Yue’s hypothesis was that mentally rehearsing a motor act would amplify the signal voltage that reached the muscle cells, causing them to contract more intensely.  His hypothesis was correct.

Sports scientists Paul Holmes and David Collins propose a seven-point mental imagery program for athletes using the acronym PETTLEP.  Here’s what is stands for

Physical—mentally simulate every movement necessary for the activity.
Envionment—Imagine the environment and the sounds from the spectators.
Task—Imagine not only the task, but the objective of the task.
Timing—Simulate the time it would take to complete the act
Learning—Adjust the imagery as you improve to reflect you progress.
Emotion—Feel the big moment, the pangs of nervousness, your heart racing.
Perspective—Experience the imagery in the first person.

Mental rehearsal has been tried for people recovering from strokes.  It does not work if the parts of the brain involved in the rehearsal have been damaged.  However, if the relevant parts of the brain have suffered minimal or no damage, then mental rehearsal should work.

Can Zombies Drive to Work?

March 20, 2016

The title of this post is identical to Chapter 2  of Elizier J. Sternberg’s “Neurologic:  The brain’s Hidden Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior.”  I believe all of us who drive have had the experience of driving someplace and having no memory of the drive itself.  We might as well been a Zombie during the drive.  So there you have the answer to the question posed in the title of the chapter.  The chapter is about how our unconscious minds perform well-trained behaviors while doing something else.  Sometimes we can perform some behaviors that have not been previously practiced.  Sternberg provides an example in which a man was able to drive to a house and murder someone without having any conscious awareness of it.  Moreover, he was acquitted of murder at his trial on the grounds that he had no conscious intention of murdering someone and that all this was the result of non conscious processing.

A large part of this chapter is devoted to multi-tasking, and how we are able to multi-task.  However, he never mentions the costs of multi-tasking, and I regard this failure as being not just highly irresponsible, but dangerously irresponsible.  There have been many healthy memory posts on the dangers of multi-tasking.  Enter “multitasking” or “Strayer” into the healthy memory blog search block to find some os these posts.  Sternberg even cites some of  Strayer’s research in the chapter, but never mentions the risk of multi-tasking that is the point of Strayer’s research.

I think a distinction can be made between intentional multi-tasking and unintentional multi-tasking.  Unintentional multi-tasking is more commonly known as distraction or mind wandering.  There was an article in the February 21 Washington Post (A14) by Michael Laris titled “Why Do Metro rail operators keep running red signals?”

Red signals indicate that a train should go no further until the signal changes, just as on the road.  But according to the Federal Transit Administration there have been at least 47 “red signal” violations since the beginning of 1912.  And some of these violations ended just short of some very severe accidents.

It is important to realize that these are not incompetent or careless individuals.  If we understand how our conscious attention works, they can be quite understandable. Under one situation in which there was single tracking, the operator responded to the red signal and stopped.  He waited for the train to pass.  In most cases only one train passes.  However, in this case there was a second train.  As the operator was expecting only a single train, he ignored the red signal and proceeded and found that a second train was coming.  Fortunately, he stopped and a collision was avoided.

In another case, a novice operator out for her first run boarded a train on the wrong track.  This was her first actual day on the job and she was overwhelmed.    She gave the controller the number of the track she was on, but the controller failed to tell her that she was on the wrong train and she proceeded.  Again, the mistake was corrected before a collision occurred.

Another operator was told that a complaint had been levied against her to which she ended to respond.  This distracted and she missed the red signal.

It is not unusual for people to respond and think that they actually performed correctly., but the documented evidence is to the contrary.  Personally, I have had many such experiences where I am virtually certain that I saw or did something, but the facts indicate that I was in error.

It should be noted that similar problems trouble Transportation Security Administration  agents gazing  at X-ray images and surgeons peering into incisions.

It needs to be realized that multitasking always entails costs.  And that cost is more the the sum of the costs of the multiple tasks being performed.  There is also a cost to switching between  between or among the multiple tasks.  If the task is important, concentrate on that task and devote all your attention to it.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How Do We Create the External World?

March 18, 2016

This post is based largely on portions of the first chapter in Elixir J. Sternberg’s Book “Neurologic and the Brain’s idea Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior.”  The subtitle of Chapter 1 is “On Perception, Dreams, and the Creation of the External World.”    Many people believe we see directly what is in the external world.  These people are called naive realists and they could not be more wrong.

Human vision is the brain’s highly processed representation of what’s out there.  As it is highly processed, much detail will be left out.  Hopefully, there will be enough detail and you can get some sense of what is involved.  The brain breaks down the processing of visual information into many components.  For example what an object is and where it is  result from two different processing components.  The motion of objects and the objects themselves are processed by different components.  There are people who can see objects in motion, but not stationary objects.  Such people are said to be suffering from Riddoch’s Syndrome.  And there are people who can see objects, but cannot see objects in motion.  If this problem has a name, I don’t know it.

The brain uses at least two distinct systems to process information.  There is the conscious system, of which we are aware, and there is an unconscious system which operates with the Neurologic after which the book is named.  There is an unconscious system that recognizes patterns using expectations based on past experience, and figures how these patterns fit together.  The conscious system monitors the outputs of this unconscious processing.

Consider the following sentence:
How many animals of each type did Moses take on the Ark?
Most people respond with the answer,”two”, neglecting to remember that it was Noah, not Moses, who piloted the Ark.  The answer “two” came directly from unconscious processing.  If you noted that the statement was incorrect, then your conscious system was performing its duties correctly.

Here’s another example of a trick question.

If a plane crashes in a foreign country, where do they bury the survivors?

Noticing that survivors should not be buried indicates that you conscious processing is performing its job.

The psychologist Daniel Kahneman is famous for many accomplishments.  Foremost among these is his two system model of information processing.  System One, refers to unconscious processing, and System Two refers to conscious processing.

An experiment was conducted in which he research participants read three kinds of sentences.

Meaningful sentences such as

Baseball is played in the summer.

False sentences such as

Basketball is played outside in the winter.

and trick sentences like the two examples of trick sentences.

The participants indicated whether the sentences were true or false.
The brains’ of the participants were also monitored throughout the experiment.
The responses of the brain were normal for all three types of sentences except when the participants noted the error in the trick sentences.

I found the drawings in Neurologic of congenitally blind children and normal sighted children to be especially interesting.  What was interesting was that I could not determine which drawings were done by the sighted students and which drawings were done by the congenitally blind students!  Even though they are obviously processing different kinds of information, they are able to derive fairly accurate models of the world that are difficult to distinguish.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Distracted Driving Increasing Pedestrian Deaths

March 17, 2016

An article in the March 8, 2016 Washington Post by Ashley Halsey III is titled “Pedestrian deaths jump, report says.”  The subtitle is “There are more drivers and more walkers, and both are distracted.”  The report is from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA).  The report estimates that the number of pedestrian fatalities jumped by 10% last year, a year-to-year increase that comes after a 19% increase from 2009 to 2014.  This projected 10% increase would bring pedestrian deaths to their highest total since 1996, when 5,449 pedestrians were killed.

Driver deaths are decreasing due to better designed cars.  There are a variety of reasons for the increased pedestrian deaths, but distracted driving is either at the top or near the top of the list.  A number that is not given is the number of pedestrian deaths caused by pedestrians being on their phones.  This is a matter of smartphones making their users dumb and dead.  I’ve seen pedestrians so engrossed in their smartphones that they step directly into traffic without looking.  One of my abiding fears is that I’ll run into one of these people.  The fact that the pedestrian was responsible  would not prevent me from my personal trauma.

Another factor bearing on pedestrian deaths is walking at night.  I see two problems here.  One is that many pedestrians seem to think that there is a symmetry between what they see and what the driver sees, but the cars are big and illuminated and the pedestrian is small and in the dark.  This problem is further exacerbated by dark clothing.  When I was in school there were posters telling us to wear white after dark. Whatever became of those posters, in particular, and wearing light clothes, in particular.

To see more posts on the problems of distracted driving enter “Strayer”  in the search block of the healthy memory blog.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking

March 15, 2016

“Mindware:  Tools for Smart Thinking” is by Richard E. Nisbett who is a Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan.  He is respected worldwide, who has received a slew of prestigious awards.  HIs research deals primarily with how we think.  So these tools for smart thinking are based on solid research.  These tools taken together constitute mindware on how to use our minds.

Nisbett has divided the book into six parts.  Part I deals with thinking about thought.  All our thoughts are inferences, which he explains in some detail.  The situation in which events take place are very important and should influence our thinking. As has been mentioned many times previously in the healthy memory blog  a vast amount of cognitive processing is unconscious.  Our conscious thought is merely the tip of the iceberg.  He discusses the rational unconscious.

Part II is titled The Formerly Dismal Science.  The dismal science is economics and Nisbett addresses behavioral economics.  Classical economics is based on a rational human, but the economic behavior of humans is far from rational.  NIsbett  discusses the common economic errors humans commit and how to avoid them.

Part III is titled Coding, Counting, Correlation, and Causality.  He explains how you can perform your own data analysis, and assess correlations.  And he discusses when inferences regarding causality can be valid.

Part IV is titled Experiments.  It explains how to avoid the HIPPO, the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.  He distinguishes between natural experiments and experiments proper.  He reviews accepted programs and practices that have not been proven to be effective.  Sometimes there is little, and sometimes there is no evidence for their existence (Rorschach tests, for example).  He advises researchers not to ask, because many times research participants cannot tell you why they thought or performed certain actions.  Ver often, these explanations are after the fact explanations generated, unknowingly, by the participant.

Part V is titled Thinking, Straight and Curved.  Here the role of logic is discussed along with dialectical reasoning.  The immediately preceding post briefly addressed dialectical reasoning.

Part VI is titled Knowing the World.  The philosophy and history of science is discussed here.  The concepts of reductionism and emergence are reviewed.  Thomas Kuhn’s important book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” is discussed with respect to psychological research.

The conclusion is titled “The Tools of the Lay Scientist.”  I fear that too many people, including many who vote are naive realists.  Nisbett disabuses them of their naivety.  But he goes way beyond that.  He provides the tools we need as lay scientists.   Believe me, if we lived in a culture of lay scientists we would be much better off than being in a culture in which people are suffering from hardening of their categories and strongly held beliefs.  Lay scientists make much better citizens.

I strongly recommend MIndware.  It is a volume ideally suited for growth mindsets.

Three Principles Underlying Eastern Dialecticism

March 14, 2016

These three principles are according to the psychologist Kaiping Peng, which I found in Nisbet’s superb book, “Mindware:  Tools for Smart Thinking.”  They are

  1.   Principle of Change
    Reality is a process of change.
    What is currently true will shortly be false.
  2.   Principle of contradiction.
    Contradiction is the dynamic underlying change
    Because change is constant, contradiction is constant
  3.   Principle of relationships (or holism)
    The whole is more than the sum of its parts
    Facts are meaningful only in relation to the whole.

These principles ring true with my life experience.  Moreover, I regard them to be especially relevant to our current time.   Particularly in the current political arena, they have a large relevance.  We ignore these principles at or peril.

It is interesting note that the physicist Niels Bohr was highly knowledgeable about eastern dialectics.  He attributed his development of quantum theory in part  to the metaphysics of the East.  The centuries long debate in the West about whether light consists of particles or waves was resolved  by realizing that light can be thought of in both ways.  The concept of action at a distance was also comprehensible using eastern dialectics.  However, Nisbet notes that empirical science provided convincing evidence that these events did occur.

More on CTE

March 12, 2016

That’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.  There have been several previous healthy memory posts on this important topic (see “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy,” and “Watching Football, Feeling Guilty”.  The March 5, 2016 edition of “The Economist” contains two articles on this topic.

The first part of this post is taken from the article “Bang to Rights.”  The road to CTE starts with concussions.  About one instance in five of these then leads  to post-concussion syndrome, which is a period of cognitive impairment the may last months, in which sufferers have headaches, unsteadiness, and other problems.  It seems likely that repeated concussions can lead to CTE.

The underlying biology  is becoming apparent. It begins with the release of certain chemicals  when axons, the connections between nerve cells, are damaged.  Concussion is caused by the internal movement and distortion of the brain as it bounces around inside the cranium upon impact.  This bouncing stretches and deforms bundles of axons that connect different regions of the brain.  This defamation shears some axons directly, releasing their protein contents, including tau, which with time can form abnormal tangles similar to those found in Alzheimer’s disease.  It also causes abnormal inflows of sodium and calcium ions in unsecured but damaged axons. These trigger a process which releases protein-breaking enzymes that destroy the axon, further disrupting the brain’s internal communication.  The blood-brain barrier is also damaged.   This barrier is a system of tightly joined cells that surround the capillaries that service he brain.  The purpose of the blood-brain barrier is to control what enters and exits the central nervous system.  One consequence of damaging the blood-brain barrier is that a brain protein called S100B is released into general circulation.  The body’s immune system mounts a response against this protein, and the antibodies it generates can find their way back into the brain and damage healthy brain cells.  Researchers think that repeated damage could set the stage for a continuous autoimmune attack on the brain.

This connection between concussion, post-concussion syndrome and CTE itself is still an hypothesis and is yet to be established.  This connection is important as it provides a basis for assessing the long term consequences of an injury.  Another protein released  during concussion, SNTF, is also of interest.  Research on concussed ice-hockey players suggests its level in the blood after a blow to the head  predicts the severity of the concussion.  Presumably, a test for SNTF or S100B might be a means to determine the prognosis of an injured individual.

Most coaches and players do not appreciate the damage caused by concussions.  Many return to the field before  before the brain’s physical healing is complete.  A survey of university athletes fond that 20% believed  they had suffered a concussion, but almost 80% of those decided to continue to play rather than to seek medical attention.

Research continues to find an objective measure of the damage a concussion  causes.  A rugby club in London is having it players wear impact sensors to monitor collision and provide  samples at the end of every game.  The researchers hope to find chemical associated with brain injury that could be used to develop a blood test.  Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix is conducting a similar project  to study football players at Arizona State University.

Brain scanning is also being used to reveal reduced brain flow in the brains of athletes who have suffered concussions.  There are also commercially available apps called Headcheck and Braincheck, which are intended  to help athletes  asses their baseline brain performance and allow the tracking of the brain’s health.  These are not approved as medical devices, so they cannot be used to diagnose concussions.

Children are of special concern, as their brains are more vulnerable.  In 2012 an article by Andrew Mayer at the University of New Mexico reported that subtle brain changes in children who have sustained a concussion press for months after the injury, even when thee are no longer obvious symptoms.  Work by Charles Hillman of the University of Illinois found that children who had sustained a single sports-related concussion still had impaired brain function  two years later.  Ten-year-olds with a history of concussion  performed worse on tests of working memory, attention, and impulse control  that did their uninjured counterparts.  Among children with a history of concussion, those injured earlier in life  had larger deficits.

The second Economist article, “Schools and hard knocks,” addressed this children issue further.  The risks of concussion are even greater in rugby than they are in American football.  Rugby now has “head-injury assessment” rules that look players who have suspects-concussions to be substituted  temporarily  so they they can be checked by medical staff.  All 50 American states have “return to play” laws that require medical clearance before younger athletes who have sustained a concussion can return to the field again.  Of course, the obvious issue here is whether it is safe to play a game whose rules require people to slam into each other.  Remember that the purpose of athletics is to promote health, primarily, and sometimes to promote team building.  It is doubly ironic when schools, who should have the objective of building minds, promote activities that injure the primary organ underlying the mind.  At least the American football coaches at Ivy League universities have agreed to get rid of “full contact” training sessions during the playing season.

Children still remain a special case.   Research at the University of Illinois  have found that children who had sustained a singe sports-related concussion still had impaired brain function two years later.  The governing body US Soccer has banned headers for children aged ten and under, and restricted then for 11-to-13-year olds.

Clearly, much more needs to be done.

CTE Goes Beyond the NFL

March 11, 2016

CTE stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.  Previous healthymrmory posts titled Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), and Watching Football, Feeling Guilty have discussed this devastating brain condition.  After much legal action the NFL has set up a mechanism for compensating players who suffer from this disease.  It is estimated that at least one-third of NFL players will suffer from early onset Alzheimer’s.  Others can  suffer symptoms that border on, if not cross, insanity and this insanity causes them to commit suicide.

The Sports section of the March 4, 2016 Washington Post contained two articles on CTE.  One article ty Rick Maese is titled “Chastain will donate brain for research.”  This is Brandi Chasten who played parts of 12 years for he U.S. national soccer team, helping the American win a pair of Olympic gold medals and two World Cup titles.  She has become an advocate for making soccer a safer sport, urging youth leagues to ban heading the ball by athletes under age 14.  Her brain eventually will go to the brain bank run by the Concussion Legacy Foundation, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Boston University School of Medicine.  Currently only 4 of the 307 brains in this brain bank are from women.  This shortcoming is especially important because the female brain may be more prone to injury and adverse long-term outcome that the male brain .  Injury data  for both college and high school athletics has found that women suffer more concussions than men who compete in similar sports.

Another article by Steven Goff titled, “Concussion symptoms lead D.C. United’s Arnaud to retire” reviews how Davy Arnand is retiring because he has been unable to shake the symptoms he’s suffered from recent concussions.  He said that he had been unable to shake the “drunk, dizzy feeling” of a head injury suffered heading the ball in practice last summer.  Other  soccer players, Bryan Namoff, Josh Gros, Alecko Eskandarin, Devan McTavish, and Taylor Twellman are other players who have been forced into retirement by head injuries.

Dr. Bennet Heakandu Omalu who discovered, diagnosed, and define the condition is especially concerned about youth playing football.  Their brains are especially vulnerable at those ages.

I find it ironic when athletics, whose primary objective is, or should be, health result is serious debilitating conditions.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thinking 2.0

March 9, 2016

This  post was inspired by an article in the February 26, 2016 edition of the “New Scientist” written by Michael Brooks.  The title of the article is “A new kind of logic:  How to upgrade the way we think.”    There are many healthymemoy blog posts about the limitations of our cognitive processes.  First of all, are attentional capacity is quite limited and requires selection.  Our working memory capacity is around 5 or fewer items.  There are healthy memory blog posts on cognitive misers and cognitive spendthrifts.  Thought requires cognitive effort that we are often reluctant to spend making us cognitive misers.  And there are limits to the amount of cognitive effort we can expend.  Cognitive effort spent unwisely can be costly.

Let me elaborate on the last statement with some personal anecdotes.  Ohio State was on the quarter system when I attended and my initial goal was to begin college right after graduation in the summer quarter and to attend quarter consecutively so that I would graduate within three years.  Matters when fairly well until my second quarter when I earned the only “D” in my life.  Although I did get one “A” it was in a course for which I had already read the textbook in high school.  I replaced and continued to attend consecutive quarters, but only part time during he summer.  I was in the honors program and managed to graduate in 3.5 years with a Bachelor’s of Arts with Distinction in Psychology.  I tried going directly into graduate studies, but found that I had already expended my remaining cognitive capital.  So I entered the Army to give my mind a rest.

When I returned and began graduate school I was a cognitive spendthrift who wanted to learn as much as I could in my field.  However, I found that I could not work long hours.  If I did my brain turned to mush and I was on the verge of drooling.  So I found it profitable to stop my cognitive spendthrift days and marshal my cognitive resources. It worked and I earned my doctorate psychology from the University of Utah.

Michael Brooks argues that we are stuck in Thinking 1.0.   He mentions that our conventional economic models bear no resemblance to the real world.  We’ve had unpredicted financial crises because of incorrect rational economic models.  This point has been  made many times in the healthy memory blog.  Behavioral economics should address these shortcomings, but it is still in an early stage of development.

Ioannidis’s article has convinced  statisticians and epidemiologists that more than half of scientific papers reach flawed conclusions especially in medical science, neuroscience and psychology.

Currently we do have big data, machine learning, neural nets, and, of course, the Jeopardy champion Watson.  Although these systems provide answers, they do not provide explanations as to how they arrived at the answers.  And there are statistical relations in which it is difficult to determine causality, that is, what causes what.

Michael Brooks argues that Thinking 2.0 is needed.  Quantum logic makes the distinction between cause and effect (one thing influencing another) and common cause (two things responding to the same effect).  The University of Pittsburgh opened the Center for Causal Discovery (www.ccd.pit.edu) in 2014.

Judea Pearl, a computer scientist and philosopher at UCLA (and the father of the tragically slain journalist Daniel Pearl) says “You simply cannot grasp causal relationships with statistical language.”  Judea Perl has done some outstanding mathematics and has developed software that has made intractable AI programs tractable and has provided for distinguishing  cause and effect.  Unlike neural nets, machine learning, and Watson, it provides the logic, 2.0 logic I believe, as to reasoning behind the conclusions or actions.

It is clear that Thinking 2.0 will require computers.  But let us hope that humans will understand and be able to develop narratives from their output.  If we just get answers from machine oracles will we still be thinking in 2.0

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Too Much Carbon Dioxide May Cloud Our Thinking

March 8, 2016

The title of this post is the same as the title of an article by Marlene Cimons in the Health Section of the March 1, 2016 Washington Post.  The bottom line is that due to two recent studies, we have something new about which to be concerned, and a reason to be even more concerned about global warming.    Until recently it was thought that carbon dioxide  was harmless except at what was regarded as extremely high levels of 5,000 parts per million (PPM) or more.

In 2012 scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory decided to conduct their study after finding two small Hungarian studies suggesting that indoor carbon dioxide was harmful at levels lower than 5,000 ppm.  The study found  significant reductions on six scales to decision-making performance at carbon dioxide levels of 1,000 ppm and large reductions on seven of the scales  (that is one additional scale) at 2,500 ppm.  In other words that even at 1,000 ppm there were some adverse effects on decision making,and 2500 produced dysfunctional performance.

Outdoor concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air are around 400 ppm.  Building operators have tried to keep levels blow 1,000 ppm as an indication of adequate general ventilation, not be cause they were concerned about carbon dioxide itself.  Indoor levels can reach  several thousand ppm with concentrations in classrooms occasionally exceeding 3,000 ppm.

Researchers at Harvard and from SUNY Upstate Medical Center used similar testing methods but monitored performance over a longer period confirming the results from the 2012 study.  These researchers studied the effects of different concentration of air pollutants including carbon dioxide as well as performance under high and low ventilation.  Cognitive scores were 61% higher on days with low concentrations if pollutants, compared with the same participants’ scores when they spent  in a low-ventilation environment with elevated levels of pollutants, and 101% better on days with the most ventilation.

For seven of the nine areas of productive decision-making, the average scores decreased as the level of carbon dioxide grew higher.  Compared with the two days of high ventilation, cognitive function scores were 15% lower on the day with moderate carbon dioxide, about 945 ppm and 50% lower  on the day with carbon dioxide concentrations around 1,400 ppm.

Joseph Allen, an assistant professor of exposure assessment science at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that spending money to increase ventilation in office buildings would be very cost-effective for employers by estimating the cost of doubling indoor ventilation rates at $40 per person annually against a productivity gain of $6500 per person per year.

So there is ample justification for improving building environmentally and for being concerned by global warming.

I am curious about the long-term effects of breathing high levels of carbon dioxide.  I am also curious as to whether increased oxygen intake  can improve performance.  Perhaps there is justification for oxygen heavy rooms or for facilities where people can take an extra shot of oxygen.  s

Wealth and Leisure Go Hand in Hand—except in the U.S.

March 6, 2016

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article b Christopher Ingraham in the Business section of the 28 February 2016 issue of the Washington Post.  That wealth and leisure go hand in hand has been a belief held by many, economists included.  Quite some time ago the famous economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that his grandchildren would have 15-hour work weeks due in part  to increased productivity from new machines and technology.  There have been many healthy memory posts on this topic (enter “Why Are We Working So Hard” in the healthymemory search block).  I’ve mentioned many times that when I was in elementary school back in the fifties that we were told that we would have ample free time today due to technology.  At that time it was unusual for women with children to work.  Today it appears that everyone is working more hours, so what happened to the benefits to technology?

Two economists, Charles  Jones and Peter Klenow have examined the number of hours worked as a function of the fraction of per person GDP.   So the value for the U.S is 1, and the values for other country are some percentage of 1.  The average annual number of hours worked per capita in the U.S is 877.  The only countries in the study with a higher number are Malawi, India, and Mexico.  The average number of hours worked per capita in France is 535 hours.   So the average number of hours worked in France is less than two-thirds as much as the average hours worked in the U.S.  The average number of hours worked in Italy and the United Kingdom are slightly higher than in France.

The standard of living of these countries is close to that of the U.S.  Moreover, the social  amenities offered in these countries are often superior to those offered in the U.S.   For example, medical care is free in the United Kingdom.  Not only is medical care free, but statistics indicate that the quality of medical care is superior in the United Kingdom.

So why is this the case in the United States, and why do citizens in the U.S. tolerate this situation?  I think this situation in the United States is not beneficial to health, in general, and memory health, in particular.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cognitive Misers, Cognitive Spendthrifts, and Democracy

March 4, 2016

I fear that an earlier post, “Cognitive Misers and Democracy,” did not adequately explain the term “cognitive miser.”  It referenced previous healthy memory blog posts, but unless you went back and read those posts or are an assiduous healthy memory blog reader, I do not think that the term was clear.  To make the term clearer, I have created a new term, cognitive spendthrift.

Here is a quick synopsis of how we process information.  The default upon the receipt of new information is to believe it. This is Kahneman’s System One processing. This default value makes sense because if we questioned everything when we came out of the womb, we would not be able to survive.  When we receive new information, if it is in accord with previous information, it is accepted.  However, when discordant information is received, the brain responds so that it is obvious from brain recordings.  This is an example of Kahneman’s System 2 processing.  An important role for System 2 is to monitor the processing from System 1.  To resolve this discordant information requires thinking, searching for, and trying to discover additional information.   This is effortful System 2 processing.  This can require substantial effort. This is basically what scientists do.  They look for discrepant information, and then conduct research to resolve this discrepant information.  Of course this is an oversimplification of the process, but it is a very brief synopsis of what occurs.  And it is science, the systematic use of tis process, that provides the basis for the advancement of civilizations.

So, by default we are cognitive misers.  Moreover, we have defense mechanisms that makes us feel that we know more and perform better than we actually do, but these mechanisms will be discussed in another post (until then, enter “overconfidence” into the healthy memory blog search block).  Unfortunately the internet typically facilitates further biased searches, which exacerbate the problem further.The term cognitive spendthrift refers to someone who questions and thinks about many things.  The internet is an ideal too for cognitive spendthrifts when they use the internet to explore contrary opinions and new information.   If too much cognitive capital is spent, mental illness and other adverse consequences result.  Even scientists ned to be focused on a subset of questions that they can handle.

The healthy memory blog encourages growth mindsets.  Growth mindsets require the spending of cognitive capital to think and to grow, but this expenditure of cognitive capital must be expended with regard to a budget.  You grow within the constraints in which you are comfortable and continue to grow.

The primary point of “Cognitive Misers and Democracy” was to encourage people to think.  Democracy is important enough to warrant the expenditure of cognitive capital.  And politics is an area where beliefs can be deeply held.  But these deeply held beliefs do need to be questioned.  They always need to be amenable to change.  This is why I was so disturbed by the survey indicating beliefs and principals were more important than the willingness to compromise.  Without  any compromise, democracies cannot survive.

Watching the political debates in one of the parties this year suggests that some opinions are not even being governed by beliefs, but rather by anger and disenchantment.  I am not sure that the opinions these people offer even make it to the cortex.  They see to come directly from the limbic system,

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Some Thoughts on Privacy and Data Security

March 2, 2016

The current iPhone controversy regarding whether Apple should be required to unencrypt the phone of the California terrorist shooters to enable the identification of potential future terrorists motivated this post.  This information could potentially save an unknown number of lives.  The fear is that personal privacy could be compromised.

I find irony in the way the public regards personal privacy.  On networks such as Facebook detailed personal information is published.  I frequently wonder why people regarded this information of being of any interest to other people.  We frequently read how this information is used against people to preclude employment or to embarrass them.  Yet when the government wants access to information for purposes of national security and to obtain information that could save lives, there is a large degree of push back.

I perceive some personal conceit in this concern.  Why do people think the government would have any interest in them. Personally, I would be flattered to learn that I was under surveillance and to think that the government regarded me as that important.  And I know that they will find nothing to make me personally liable.

But apparently people fear that they have data that the government can use against them.  They perceive the government as evil and they want laws to protect themselves against this evil government.  But it would be the government that enforces these laws.  So why regard  this evil government as being trustworthy.  I do not think it would be difficult to find laws in totalitarian  states that protect their citizens, but which are never enforced.

And why be concerned only about governments?  I believe that business has more data and will always have more data on me than the government.  There are also individuals who can access information and demand payment or threaten to release information.

Focusing on collection will not work.  Laws should be passed on how this information is used.  Should information be used to embarrass or cause financial loss, the laws should carry severe penalties against persons or organizations, including government.  Legitimate uses such as prosecuting criminals or preventing terrorist acts would be exempted.  Today criminals are released because of the way information was collected.  This is wrong and is due to the locus of the laws.  Again, laws should be focused on how information is used rather than how information is collected.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.