Archive for January, 2020

Sharing

January 31, 2020

This post is based on the War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World by Jamil Zaki. Empathy can be broken down into three components: sharing, thinking about, and caring about. Sharing involves sharing experiences, emotional feelings, and personal distress. Zaki elaborates using this anecdote. He asks us to imagine we’re a senior in college, walking with a close friend to his apartment. On our way in he checks his mailbox, then freezes. He says, “Holy shit. This is it.” You know what he means. You’ve seen him work relentlessly for three years in hope of getting into medical school, and into one program in particular. He’s talked with you maybe thirty times since applying, alternately anxious, helpful, or both. You rush upstairs, and he opens the envelope. His face contorts, and you lean forward, for a moment not knowing whether he’s ecstatic or upset. It becomes apparent that he is not crying happy tears.

Zaki continues, “As your friend collapses into a heap, you might frown, slum, and even tear up yourself. Your mood will probably plummet. This is what empathy researchers call experience sharing: vicariously taking on the emotions we observe in others. Experience sharing is widespread—people “catch” one another’s facial expressions, bodily stress, and moods, both negative and positive. Our brains respond to each other’s experiences and thoughts as if we were experiencing those states ourselves.

Experience sharing is the closest we come to dissolving the boundary between self and other. It is empathy’s leading edge. It is evolutionary ancient, occurring in monkeys, mice, and even geese. It comes online early in life: Infants mimic each other’s cries and take on their mothers’ distress. And it occurs at lightning speed. Seeing your friend grimace, you might mimic his face in a fraction of a second.”

Experience sharing provided the foundation of empathy science. Before the word “empathy” existed philosophers such as Adam Smith described “sympathy,” or “fellow feeling” in ways that tightly match experience sharing. For instance Smith writes that “by changing places in fancy with the sufferer…we come to either conceive or to be affected by what he feels.” Zaki summarizes, “From ‘emotion contagion’ in psychology to mirroring in neuroscience, experience sharing has long been the most famous piece of empathy.”

Caring

January 30, 2020

This post is based on the War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World by Jamil Zaki. Empathy can be broken down into three components: sharing, thinking about, and caring about. If your friend is in trouble and all you do is sit back, feel bad, and think about him, you are falling short as a friend. What you should be doing is wishing for him to feel better and come up with a plan for how you can get him there. Researchers call this “empathic concern,” or a motivation to improve someone else’s kind feelings. Saki writes that concern has received less attention from Western researchers than mentalizing or experience sharing, though that is changing now. Concern also hews tightly to centuries-old formulations of “compassion” in the Buddhist tradition. For instance koruna, or the desire to free others from suffering.

But Buddhists do not have a monopoly on caring. Christianity and other religions stress caring for the ill and those who are less fortunate. This is true even for agnostics and atheists. The notion is that there is a “commons.” According to the Wikipedia, “The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. Commons can also be understood as natural resources that groups of people (communities, user groups) manage for individual and collective benefit. Characteristically, this involves a variety of informal norms and values (social practices) employed for a governance mechanism.[1] Commons can be also defined as a social practice of governing a resource not by state or market but by a community of users that self-governs the resource through institutions that it creates.”

This notion also goes beyond physical resources, and also needs to encompass the welfare of all human beings as well as other species. This is a pretty tall order. In fact, it is overwhelming. But it is important not to dismiss these problems, as they need to be addressed as well as they can be addressed. Some people devote their lives to this pursuit, but there is a need for most humans to pursue more or less normal lives, making donations, and making political considerations to address these needs.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. 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.

The War for Kindness

January 29, 2020

The War for Kindness is the title of a new book by Jamil Zaki. The subtitle is Building Empathy in a Fractured World. Saki is a professor of psychology at Stanford University and the director of the Stanford Social Neurosciences Lab. Using tools from psychology and neuroscience, he and his colleagues examine how empathy works and how people can learn to empathize more effectively.

Zaki writes, “Most people understand empathy as more or less a feeling in itself—I feel your pain—but it’s more complicated than that. “Empathy” actually refers to several different ways we respond to each other. These include identifying what others feel (cognitive empathy), sharing their experiences (emotionally empathy), and wishing to improve their experiences (empathic concern).

Empathy’s most important role is to inspire kindness, which is our tendency to help each other, even at a cost to ourselves. Actually, kindness is one of the animal kingdom’s most vital survival skills. Newborns are little bundles of need, and remain mostly helpless for days (geese), months (kangaroos), or decades (us). If parents do not sacrifice to help them survive, they risk leaving no offspring to inherit their selfish nature.
When one creature shares another’s emotions, seeing pain feels like being in pain, and helping feels like being helped.

Zaki writes, “Empathic experience undergirds kind action; it’s a relationship far older than our species. A rat will freeze—a sign of anxiety—when its cage-mate is zapped with electric shocks. Thanks to that response, they also help each other, even giving up bits of chocolate to relieve the casemate’s distress. Mice, elephants, monkeys, and ravens all exhibit both empathy and kind behavior.”

Empathy took an evolutionary quantum leap in humans. Saki notes, “That’s a good thing for us, because physically we’re unremarkable. At the dawn of our species, we huddled together in groups of a few families. We had neither sharp teeth, nor wings, nor the strength of our ape cousins. Moreover, thirty thousand years ago, at least five other large-brained species shared the planet with us. But over millennia, we sapiens changed to make connecting easier. Our testerone levels dropped, our faces softened, and we became less aggressive. We developed larger eye whites than other primates, so we could easily better express emotion. Our brains developed to give us a more precise understanding of each other’s thoughts and feelings.”

We developed vast empathetic abilities as a result of this. We travel into the minds of not just friends and neighbors, but also enemies, strangers, and even imaginary people in films or novels. This helped us become the kindest species on Earth. Humans are world class collaborators helping each other far more than any other species. This has been, and still is, our secret weapon. We are not much to behold as individuals, but together we’re magnificent—the unbeatable super organisms who hunted wooly mammoths, built suspension bridges and took over the planet.

Peter Singer writes in his book The Expanding Circle that though we once cared for a narrow group of people—our kin, perhaps a few friends—over time, the diameter of our concern has expanded beyond tribe, town, and even nation. Singer continues, “The food we eat, the medicine we take, and the technology we use are sourced globally; our survival depends on countless people we will never meet. And we help people we will never know—through donations, votes, and the culture we create. We can learn intimate details about the lives of people half a world away and respond with compassion.”

Singer writes, “WE CAN, but we often don’t, and this raises an important truth about empathy. Our instincts evolved in a world where most of out encounters were, in every sense familiar. Small, tightly knit communities were empathy’s primordial soup, packed with ingredients that made caring easy.”

The modern world has made kindness harder. For the first time in 2007 more people lived in cities than outside of them. By 2050, two-thirds of our species will be urban, but we are increasingly isolated. In 1911, about 5% of British citizens lived alone; a century later that number was 31%. In the United States, ten times as many eighteen-to-thirty-four-year olds live alone now than in 1950—and in urban centers. In parts of Manhattan and Los Angeles, more than 90% live alone.

For the past four decades, psychologists have measured empathy using questionnaires. Empathy has dwindled steadily. The average person in 2009 was less empathic than 75% of people in 1979.

Decreases in empathy foster tribalism and tribalism creates still deeper problems. Look at the political wreckage that has occurred in America. Fifty years ago, Republicans and Democrats disagreed on policy over dinner, but still ate together. Now each side sees the other as stupid, evil, and dangerous. Trolls work tirelessly to provoke as much suffering on the other side as they can. Zaki concludes, “In this bizarre ecosystem, care doesn’t merely evaporate; it reverses.

The philosopher Jeremy Rifkin writes, “The most important question facing humanity is this: Can we reach global empathy in time to avoid the collapse of civilization and save the Earth?”

Whether this has to be is the question Zaki explores in this book.

Zaki believes that we can grow our empathy and become kinder as a result. He notes that there are decades of research suggesting that empathy is less like a fixed trait and more like a skill—something we can sharpen over time and adapt to the modern world. Saki explores this research in his book.

A Career Built on Distortion, Exaggeration

January 28, 2020

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Will Hobson on the front page of The Washington Post, 26 Jan ‘20. The article was on the science and selling of CTE. The subtitle was, “Omalu, of ‘Concussion’ fame, has claimed he discovered the disease, He didn’t.

There have been many healthy memory posts on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and on the extreme damages that can occur to the brain in playing contact sports. In the case of soccer the contact is not between individuals but of the ball contacting the head.

The article makes a very good argument that Omalu did not discover the disease and some of his diagnoses of CTE were questionable. It is important to understand that this criticism is technical and is being made by neurosurgeons and other neuroscientists. So they are arguing that some of his diagnosis of CTE were incorrect, not that serious brain damage had occurred that was at best lowering the quality of life or at worst risking life.

These criticisms of Omalu are valid and should be made. He is an absolute genius at self promotion. Yet he still deserves both attention and praise for drawing attention to the damage that can occur to the brain from contact sports. So previous warnings in the blog on CTE should be extended to brain images in general that occur during contact sports. Injuries that are below the concussion level can still cause damage due to cumulative effects of these insults. And research needs to continue on not only active athletes, but also on the effects during childhood that may manifest themselves during adulthood.

So no previous warnings or claims made on this blog, with the distinction of misclassifications at the technical level, are withdrawn. And HM still finds it ironic that educational institutions promote sports that risk injury to the brain.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2020. 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 Can We Keep Technology from Rotting Our Brains

January 27, 2020

First of all it is important to understand that it is not technology that is rotting out brains, it is the way we are using technology that is rotting our brains. If used properly technology provides an ideal means of enhancing our brains and building healthy memories.

The first action should be to get off social media, in general, and Facebook, in particular. The dangers of Facebook are well documented in this blog. Entering “Facebook” into healthymemory.wordpress.com will yield pages of posts about Facebook. The dangers of social media are also well documented in this blog. Besides, Facebook should be paying to use your data. So in addition to the other evils one might also add theft.

We all got along before Facebook and we will find that our lives are better after Facebook. HM certainly did.

One can develop one’s own interest groups on various topics. Go to the healthy memory blog post “Mindshift Resources.” Unfortunately, usually fees are involved in actually getting a degree. Go to
nopaymba.com to learn how to get an MBA-level business education at a fraction of the cost. Laura Pickard explains how to get an MBA for less than1/100th the cost of a traditional MBA.

Go to Wikipedia and search for topics of interest or to just browse. When you find topics worth pursuing, pursue them. This will involve System 2 processing at least.

You can learn juggling on YouTube. Juggling is one of many activities that is good for developing a healthy memory.

As for the GPS, it is recommended to try navigating without GPS. Go to a new, safe, area, traverse it and build a mental topographic map. Two activities that benefit a healthy memory can be engaged here, walking and mental navigating building a mental topographic map.

Visiting museums is another means of developing mental spatial maps. Museums provide another opportunity for engaging in two activities that build healthy memories. Building mental spatial maps, and learning the content present in the museum.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. 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.

Are Satellite Navigation Devices Rotting Our Brains?

January 26, 2020

They are a major convenience. Once you’ve entered the needed data, all one needs is to follow the directions of the device. This would seem to require minimal, if any, hippocampal processing, and even less processing by the caudate nucleus.

So even if these devices are not rotting our brains, they seem to be making us more stupid, or less intelligent, if you prefer. Given the current situation in the United States, it appears that we are suffering from a stupidity pandemic.

When the Affordable Care Act was being debated, a young lady who was highly plugged in was asked what she thought of Obama Care. She said that she was strongly against it. But when she was asked about the Affordable Care Act, she said that she was strongly in favor. Now the two were one and the same. Opponents called it Obama Care and their commentary was highly negative. Clearly the processing of this plugged in young lady was stuck in superficial System 1 processing, and did little, if any, critical thinking (System 2).

Today virtually all knowledge is available on the world wide web. Unfortunately, there is also a large amount of misinformation and disinformation available. So one needs to be careful about information sources and needs to think critically.

Unfortunately, one can easily look up a topic on the Wikipedia and mistakenly think that they know the information. Learning and knowing involve System 2 processing and critical thinking. Too many people think that because they are using technology they’re plugged in and up to date. Sans System 2 critical thinking their information could be wrong.

Moreover, learning involves deep processing, System 2 and possibly above. Enter “Deep Processing: into the search block of the healthy memory blog,
healthymemory.wordpress.com.

So, in answer to the title of this post, it is not only satellite technology, but technology in general that could be rotting our brains, resulting in higher incidences of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2020. 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.

Why Less Processing By the Hippocampus is Harmful to a Healthy Memory

January 25, 2020

 

Processing by the caudate nucleus is faster due to the processing of less information than the spatial information processing that occurs in the hippocampus. So there is a cost benefit trade here, speed and ease at the expense of much richer spatial information.

This is a good place to relate this information to Kahnehan’s System 1 versus System 2 Processing. It is the thesis of this blog that it is System 2 processing that builds cognitive reserve that greatly decreases, if not eliminates, the cognitive decline found in dementia and Alzheimer’s. The defining characteristics needed for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is the formation of amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles. But many autopsies have found these defining characteristics in the brains of people who never exhibited any behavioral or cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The explanation provided for these individuals is that they had built up a cognitive reserve as a result of the mental activity they had pursued during their lifetimes. The position of this blog is that mental activity was System 2 processing.

Remember this distinction: System 1 is fast and makes minimal use of cognitive resources.
System 2 is much slower, is what is commonly referred to as thinking (pardon me while I stop to think), and makes demands on cognitive resources.

To simplify regarding navigation.
Caudate processing is a System 1 process
Spatial processing is much richer and primarily involves System 2 processing.

Remember the previous post titled “Wayfinding.”

It discussed the remarkable navigation feats that enabled, what in popular parlance might be regarded as primitive people, to navigate thousands of miles of ocean to discover and populate islands.

It also discussed aborigines in Australia. Here there are vast landscapes, which are barren to the uninitiated, but which provide information to those who know how to read it. They have developed what the authors names dreamtime cartography. They form stories, dreams if you will, that describe the paths on voyages to different locations.

It discussed people in the Arctic and on how natives are able to read the subtle cues in the ice to navigate. Even today with GPSs being able to read these cues can reveal signs that there may be trouble ahead regarding, for example unsafe ice, which are not available from the GPS.

This so-called “primitive” people were using deep System 2 processing heavily involving the hippocampus. They were not just identifying visual cues, they were integrating this information with other information. This processing was quite sophisticated and involved processing beyond System 2 (See the healthy memory blog posts “Stanovich and the Rational Quotient, and “The Two Causal Reasoners Inside”) that involved large amounts of critical thinking.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2020. 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.

Less Hippocampus, More Caudate Nucleus

January 24, 2020

This post is based on text from Wayfinding, a book by M.R. O’Connor.
Bohbot is concerned that the conditions of modern Life are leading us to flex the hippocampus less while spurring us to rely on the caudate nucleus. She says, “Maybe in the past we never had to go on autopilot. Having jobs in one location and lives being more habitual is new. Industrialization learned to capitalize on the habit-memory-learning system.” HM is in strong agreement with Dr. Bohbot.

Chronic stress, untreated depression, insomnia, and alcohol abuse all can shrink hippocampal volume. Anxiety alone has been shown to impact the spatial learning and memory of rats. Stress and depression seem to affect neurogenesis in the hippocampus, whereas exercise seems to improve learning, memory and resistance to depression, which spurs a proliferation of new neurons. Patients with PTSD have been shown to have lower hippocampal volume. One of the consequences of effective treatment for this disorder such as the use of antidepressants and changes in environment, is increased hippocampal volume.

Bohbot has been led by the widespread prevalence of these conditions to be concerned that by the time children enter young adulthood, they might already have relatively shrunken hippocampal volume that makes them susceptible to cognitive and emotional impairments and behavioral problems. An over reliance on stimulus-response navigation strategies seems connected to a host of destructive yet seemingly unrelated behaviors. Because the circuit is located in the striatum, a brain area involved in addiction, Bohbot started to wonder: Would people who rely on a response strategy to navigate show any difference in substance abuse from those who relied on spatial strategies? In 2013 she published a study of 55 young adults that showed those who relied on response strategies in navigating had double the amount of lifetime alcohol consumption, in addition to more use of cigarettes and marijuana. In a different study of 255 children, she found that those with ADHD symptoms primarily rely on caudate nucleus stimulus strategies. Recently, Bohbot and Greg West showed that ninety hours of in-lab action video games will shrink the hippocampus of young adults who used their caudate nucleus. This is the first clear evidence that the activities we engage in can have negative impact on the hippocampus.

In 2017, Bohbot along with ten researchers published a report called, “Global Determinants of Navigational Ability,’ in which they looked at the performance of 2.5 million people globally on a virtual spatial navigation task. Then they broke the data down to understand whether there were similar profiles in cognitive abilities among countries. The data are that spatial navigation ability starts declining in early adulthood, around nineteen years of age, and steadily slips in old age. People from rural ares were significantly better at the game. When it came to countries themselves, Australians, South Africans, and North American showed generally good spatial orientation skills, but the real outliers were Nordic countries.

The Hippocampus and the Caudate Nucleus

January 23, 2020

This post is based on text from Wayfinding, a book by M.R. O’Connor. When Bohbot did her doctoral research with Lynn Nades, coauthor of The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map, the hippocampus was a fascinating brain structure to study, and it was the only structure known to be involved in spatial memory. But it was conjectured that there were other brain structures involved in different ways to navigate in the environment. At McGill in the mid 1990s fellow researchers Normal White and Mark Packard discovered one other brain circuit. That circuit was the caudate nucleus.

Bohbat wondered if it was possible that people use very different brain structures for different strategies in navigation. So she began to conduct experiments in humans designed to distinguish which strategies were dependent on the hippocampus and which involved the caudate nucleus. She found that there were different circuits with corresponding differences in strategy.

Bohbat explained that the hippocampus is involved in learning to navigate using the relationships between landmarks. Once one has learned the relationship between landmarks, she can derive a novel route to any destination from any starting position in the environment. Spatial memory is allocentric in that it’s independent of one’s starting position. We use spatial memory when we can picture the environment in our mind’s eye. That’s when we are using our internal map to find our way. The caudate nucleus is not involved in creating maps; it’s a structure of directional cues such as “turn right at the corner with the grocery, and turn left at the tall white building”. This creates what are called stimulus-response memories. Bohbot notes if every day we use the same route, at some point it becomes automatic. We don’t think about it anymore. We don’t ask, where do I have to turn? Autopilot takes over. We see the white building, it acts as a stimulus that triggers a response to turn left at the bakery.

Bohbot states that there are three types of stimulus-response strategies. The egocentric strategy involves a series of right and left turns that begin with the starting point. When one leaves home (the stimulus), one turns right (the response). There is also a beacon strategy where one can reach a target location from many different starting positions: the beacon, say a tall white building, is the stimulus and one heads toward it, turning at every corner in its direction (the response). The most common form of stimulus-response: a series of turns in response to various landmarks in the environment.

Even though the caudate nucleus uses repetition to navigate successfully, it’s actually not a spatial strategy. The key difference being that the response strategy does not involve learning the relationships between landmarks, so it becomes impossible to generate a novel trajectory in the environment. All the caudate does is signal—left or right—in response to a cue without engaging one’s active attention.

There is an evolutionary explanation for why nature invented this other circuit; it means we don’t have to retrieve a memory of a route or make spatial inferences every time we need to go home. It gives us the advantage of not needing to make calculations or decisions—or pay very much attention—to where we are going and how we are getting there. Autopilot is fast and efficient, and we don’t have to think.

Bohbot discovered a negative correlation between the two strategies: the human brain is using either the hippocampus or the caudate nucleus to get somewhere, but it never engages the two brain areas at the same time. So, the more we use one, the less we use the other, and the weaker it becomes.

Bohbot conducted a study of 599 children and adults and compared the hippocampal spatial strategies to increased automation. Each of our life histories traces this trajectory: we go from using hippocampal spatial strategies to increased automatization. Bohbot and her researchers compared the spatial strategies preferred to solve tasks. They found that children rely on hippocampal spatial strategies some 85% of the time, but adults over the age of sixty used this strategy just under 40% of the time. The critical question is whether the preferences of one strategy over the other led to physiological differences in gray matter density and volume in the hippocampus.

Bohbot and several researchers published two studies focused on measuring activity and gray matter in both the hippocampus and the caudate nucleus. They mimicked the classical spatial test for routes and applied it to humans by creating a radial maze in a virtual setting and asking participants to navigate it while they tracked their brain activity with fMRI. As expected, individuals who used spatial memory strategies shows increased activity in the hippocampus. Those who used the stimulus response strategy had increased activity in the caudate nucleus.

Then they measured the morphological differences in the two brain regions in each individual. They found a high probability that people who used a spatial strategy had more gray matter density in the hippocampus, and the inverse was also true: those who used a response strategy had more gray matter in the caudate nucleus.

So the big questions are what if we persistently prioritize the caudate nucleus over a hippocampal strategy? And what if this prioritization is happening at an endemic scale?

HM navigates with a response strategy. It is efficient as advertised. There are shortcomings with this strategy that are not made explicit in the text. What happens if there is an accident or heavy traffic that makes one want to alter the route? That can’t be done. HM not only uses a response strategy, he uses a lazy version of the response strategy. He just uses the visual references and pays no attention to street names. This make HM appear to be an idiot (and this might be more than an appearance) because he cannot very readily explain the directions to others.

But these dangers are relatively minor given the weaknesses that develop in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is one of the most important, if not the most important, organ relevant to a healthy memory. One both wants and needs a very healthy or extremely healthy hippocampus.

The Hippocampus

January 22, 2020

This post is based on text from Wayfinding, a book by M.R. O’Connor. The hippocampus was discovered by mistake. In the early 1970s John O’Keefe, a young American scientist, used the wrong coordinates and instead of placing micro electrodes in a rat’s somatosensory thalamus, he inserted the micro electrodes into the rat’s hippocampus. As the single cell O’Keefe was recording began to fire, its pattern struck him as unusual. The cell’s activity was strongly correlated with the rat’s locomotion. O’Keefe began recording single hippocampal cells of rats while they were eating, grooming, and exploring.

After months of recording, O’Keefe began to suspect that the activity of these cells didn’t depend so much on what the animal was doing or why it was doing it, but had something to do with where it was doing it. It didn’t matter which direction the rat was facing, or whether rewards were taken away or changed. The only stimulus that seemed to matter to these cells was the rat’s location. Instead of responding to the changes in stimuli, the cells were signaling the abstract concept of space. O’Keefe called them place cells.

The psychologist Tolman published a paper in 1948 in Psychological Review titled “Cognitive Maps in Rats and Men.” At the end of the paper he made the following conjectures. Was it possible that many people’s social maladjustments could be interpreted as the result of having too narrow and limited cognitive maps? In one example Tolman wrote about the tendency for individuals to focus their aggression on outside groups. He wrote that poor southern whites displace they frustrations with landlords, the economy, and northerners onto black American. Americans as a whole displace their aggression into Russians and vice versa. He wrote,

“My only answer is to preach again the virtues of reason—of, that is, broad cognitive maps…Only then can have children learn to look before and after, to see that there are often round-about and safer paths to their quite proper goals—learn that is, to realize that the well-beings of White and Negro, of Catholic and Protestant, of Christian and of Jew, of American and Russian (and even of males and females) are mutually interdependent. We dare not let ourselves or others become so over-emotional, so hungry, so ill-clad, and so over motivated that only narrow strip-maps will be developed.”

Remember that this was published in 1948.

Research has shown that the richness and complexity of an environment influences the quantity of neurons in the hippocampus. In 1997, researchers at the Salk Institute found that mice exploring enriched environments—paper tubes, nesting material, running wheels, and rearrangeable plastic tubes—had forty thousand more neurons than a control group. These additional neurons resulted in an increase in hippocamplal volume of 15% in the mice and significant improvements on spatial learning tests. The researchers concluded that a combination of increased neurons, synapses, vasculature, and dendrites led to the animals’ enhanced performance.

Eichenbaum believed that the hippocampus is capable not only of organizing physical space, but of creating “temporally structured experiences” into representations of moments in time. Eichenbaum has come to understand the hippocampus as the “grand organizer” of the brain. “It’s organizing and integrating all these bits and pieces of information in a contextual framework. It does create a map, I’m all for the cognitive map in the original sense that it’s a map where you put the stuff to remember where they are in relationship to each other. That is a specific, limited, concise sense of moving in geographic space . The other sense is this abstract term, how did I navigate to graduate school? What’s the path to the presidency?”

The most famous case of amnesia in the scientific literature is H.M., an epileptic who in the 1950s at the age of 27 had part of his temporal lobes removed, which included the hippocampus (actually we have two of these, one in each hemisphere of the brain). This caused him to lose his ability to acquire and recollect memories. Although he could recall the past, he could not store the present so he could recall any new information.

HM, not be be confused with H.M. had similar experiences with his mother when she was suffering from dementia. She reached a point when he visited her, and she needed to be taken to the restroom, when she returned she would not remember my visit and would think that I had just arrived. At this point HM realized that the dementia had destroyed her two hippocampi. This was a very sad time.

WAYFINDING

January 21, 2020

The title of this post is identical to the title of a new book by M.R. O’Connor. The subtitle is “The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World.” HM and his spouse enjoy cruising. One looks out at the vast ocean with nothing else in sight. With today’s geopositioning systems it is obvious how ships navigate these waters, even at night and in bad weather. For a long time sextants were needed for navigation. The primary use of a sextant is to measure the angle between an astronomical object and the horizon for the purposes of celestial navigation.

We enjoy cruising the Caribbean islands and visiting these islands, which are populated and have been populated for many hundreds of years. HM’s question is how did people in primitive boats manage to navigate to these islands, and for entire groups of people to relocate. There is nothing special about the Caribbean here. There are islands all over the Earth to which people managed to navigate and resettle. Wayfinding explains how they managed to do so. It turns out that people use not only the stars, but the movement of the sun through the day, sea currents, and the wind to navigate. These signs are very subtle and Wayfinding does not provide a guide as to how to do this. Rather it documents that humans did indeed learn to read and understand these subtle cues.

It is not only on the seas and oceans have humans been able to learn subtle environmental cues to navigate. There is a chapter on the Arctic and on how natives are able to read the subtle cues in the ice to navigate. Even today with GPS’s being able to provide directions, expert wayfarers can see signs that there may be trouble ahead regarding unsafe ice, which are not available from the GPS.

There also is a section on the aborigines in Australia. Here there are vast landscapes, which are barren to the uninitiated, but which provide information to those who know how to read it. They have developed what the author names dreamtime cartography. They form stories, dreams if you will, that describe the paths on trips to different locations.

Ms. O’Connor makes the argument that it is navigation that made us human and gave us the ability to develop advanced civilizations. She cites a portion from Carlo Ginzburg’s book Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method: Man has been a hunter for thousands of years. In the course of countless chases he learned to reconstruct the shapes and movements of his invisible prey from tracks on the ground, broken branches, excrement, tufts of hair, entailed feather, stagnating odors. He learned to sniff out, record, interpret, and classify such infinitesimal traces as tails of spittle, He learned how to execute complex mental operations with lightning speed, in the depth of a forest or in a prairie with its hidden dangers.”

To be sure, these are humble beginnings. But they are the beginnings of advanced thinking that continue to advance to where we are today. But there have been casualties. If any of us who are not hunters were left to survive for ourselves in the woods, most of us would likely fail.

What the Goal of Psychology Should Be

January 20, 2020

The development of Intelligence Quotients was one of the first utilized psychological topics. Unfortunately, it led to placing individuals in groups that indicated they were smart, average, or stupid. And, unfortunately, most accepted these labels as fact. They were attributed to genetic factors and the results were regarded as fixed. Worse yet, these results reinforced and exacerbated already existing social bias.

Further research indicated that there were mitigating factors. And research reported in this blog done by Carol Dweck and others made the important distinction between fixed and growth mindsets. People who believe that their intelligence and other abilities are fixed risk falling short of their true potentials. They tend to quit when they confront frustrations or obstacles. However, people with growth mindsets do not believe that their intelligence and abilities are fixed. When they confront obstacles or frustrations, they continue to grow their personal capabilities.

The same problem has confronted studies of gender. There were cultural beliefs, that initially were supported by psychological research. Further research indicated that these beliefs were in error and are slowly being repealed.

The goal of psychology should be to maximize each human’s potential. Cognitive science will facilitate this goal. Moreover, human potential includes more than cognitive skills. It also includes empathy and the care of our fellow human beings.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. 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.

The Future

January 19, 2020

This post is based on content in Gender and Our Brains by Gina Rippon. She writes, “Early forms of data and data analysis were too crude to offer any insights into individual differences, but we have moved on from them. It is now possible to generate functional connectivity profiles, patterns of task- or rest-related synchronized activity in the brain which, it is claimed, are like a fingerprint, unique to each individual sufficiently distinct that they could be linked to their owners with up to ninety-nine percent accuracy.” This allows us and should compel us to look at brains at the individual level. Evidence about what can affect brains, and when, further indicates that we should do so.

Rippon writes, “We need to really understand the external factors that shape individual differences, with social variables such as level of engagement in social networks and self-esteem, and opportunity variables such as sport, hobbies or video game experience alongside more standard measures such as education and occupation. Each of these can alter the brain—sometimes independently of sex and sometimes very much entangled with it, but they will contribute to the almost unique mosaic that we now know characterize each and every brain.

Individual differences, such as sex, have been studied via statistical approaches. But each human is an individual and there are risks categorizing people via statistical approaches. Intelligence was one example, and sex differences is another. In fairness, statistical approaches were the only techniques available. But brain science is developing, and will further develop, approaches for studying individual differences on an individual basis rather than being lumped into a category.

Ambiguous Anatomical Differences

January 18, 2020

This post is based on content in Gender and Our Brains by Gina Rippon, At first glance, nothing could be a clearer way of distinguishing the sexes than by anatomical differences. All one would need to do was to determine how the person urinated. Standing up, male, squatting or sitting down, female. An XX individual will have ovaries and a vagina; an XY individual will have testes and a penis. But there are individuals born with ambiguous gentalia or who later develop secondary sexual characteristics at odds with their assigned gender. These individuals were viewed as intersex anomalies or disorders of sex development (DSDs) requiring medical management, possibly including very early surgical interventions.

In a 2105 article in Nature by Claire Ainsworth called attention to the fact that sex can be more complicated than it at first seems. She found that individuals could have mixed sets of chromosomes (some cells XY, some XX). It was found that this was not a rare occurrence. The evidence that expression of the gonad-determining genes could continue postnatally undermined the concept of core physical sex differences being hardwired. This suggests that manifestations of biological sex occur on a spectrum, which would include both subtle and moderate variations, rather that as a binary divide.

In a 1993 article titled The Five Sexes Anne Faust-Sterling suggested that we need at least five categories of sex to cover intersex occurrences. She felt that this grouping should include males with testes and some female characteristics, and females with ovaries and some male characteristics, as well as “true” hermaphrodites, with one testes and one ovary. Some suggested that gender should not be determined by genitals, but certainly the existence of more than two categories (however defined) should be acknowledged.

Apart from ambiguous anatomical differences, there are behavioral and preference differences in homosexuality. Homosexuality is found across all cultures. What differs is the degree to which it is tolerated, persecuted, or accepted.

At one time it was thought that the hippocampus and the amygdala were larger in males than in females. Subsequent research has encouraged the revision of this position to one of there being no substantial differences when other factors are considered.

These comparisons occurred in a variety of areas and it became clear that there were neither black and white differences nor shades of gray. With further research the difference diminished and the dichotomies disappeared.

Gender and Our Brains

January 17, 2020

The title of this post is identical to the title of a book published in 2019 by Gina Rippon. Gina Rippon (born 1950) is professor of cognitive neuroimaging at the Aston Brain Centre, Aston University, Birmingham, England. The subtitle is How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of the Male and Female Minds. The following quote by Stephen Jay Gould from The Mismeasurement of Man is offered: “Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within.

The penultimate chapter of the book has the title: “Mars, Venus or Earth? Have We Been Wrong About Sex All Along?” The chapter begins with a quote by Amanda Montanez, “The more we learn about sex and gender, the more the attributes appear to exist on a spectrum.”

Here is the first paragraph in the chapter: “As we have seen, the hunt for differences between the brains of men and women has been vigorously pursued down the ages with all the techniques that science could muster. It has been a certainty as old as life itself that men and women are different. The empathic, emotionally and verbal fluent females (brilliant at remembering birthdays) could almost belong to a different tribe from the systematizing, rational, spatial skillful males (great with a map).”

Rippon reviews the claim that there are two distinct groups of people, who think, behave and achieve differently. She asks where might these differences come from. She has reviewed old arguments about the “essence” of males and females and the biologically determined, innate, fixed, hardwired processes that underpin their evolutionarily adaptive differences. And she has reviewed more recent claims that these differences are socially constructed, that men and women learn to be different, shaped from birth by the specific gendered attitudes, expectations and role-determining opportunities on offer in their environment. She mused on even more recent versions that acknowledge the entangled nature of the relationship between brain and culture in which they function, an understanding that our brain characteristics can be just as much a social construction as the printout of a genetic blueprint.

Regardless of the cause, the fundamental premise is that there are differences that need explaining. Whether we are filling empty skulls with birdseed, or tracking the passage of radioactive isotopes through the pathways of the brain, or testing empathy or spatial cognition we will find these differences. Both separately and together, through the centuries, psychologists and neuroscientists have pursued the question what makes men and women different? The answers have been extensively researched, widely reported, and either enthusiastically believed or heavily criticized.

However, in the twenty-first century, psychologists and neuroscientists are beginning to question the question. Exactly how different are men and women, not only at the behavioral level but at the fundamental brain level? Have we spent all this effort looking at two separate groups who aren’t actually that different, and might not even be distinct groups.

The Life Effects of Volunteering

January 15, 2020

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Jami Zaki in the Health & Science section of the 14 January, 2020 Washington Post. Saki begins by quoting Martin Luther King Jr.”

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”

Dr. King also described a mistake that wastes many lives. He called it the drum major instinct, “a desire to be out front to lead the parade, a desire to be first.”

Human children remain helpless for years. They crave attention; without it they would die. Zaki writes,”But instead of subsiding with age, the drum major instinct spreads across our lives. We’ve even elevated it into an ideology, defining success as the ability to beat our enemies and outshine our peers—as though self-obsessed competition will make us thrive.

This notion is both comically and tragically backward. Decades of evidence demonstrate that social connections sustain us. Chronic loneliness increases mortality risk about as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We flourish not by besting others, but by being part of something greater than ourselves. By clamoring for status, we deprive ourselves of one thing that would actually help us—each other.”

Psychologist Jennifer Crocker and her colleagues asked freshman college students about their social goals. Some cared most about making a good impression: showcasing their strengths and hiding their weaknesses. Although this might appear to be a wise strategy among young adults sizing one another up, it wasn’t.

The more students focused on themselves, the more lonely, depressed and anxious they became, and anxiety, in turn, made students worry even more about their image.

Zaki writes, “Scratching the itch of their drum major instinct, they made it worse.”

The drum major instinct is poison, but there is an antidote. Zaki calls it the drummer’s instinct: an urge not to lead the parade, but to be part of it—in rhythm with others, creating something together that no one could alone. The drum major instinct zooms us in on ourselves, but the drummer’s instinct drives us to care for our bandmates, and it runs deep. HM, being a former drummer who marched in bands with a drum major, really appreciates this analogy. Zaki continues, “young children crave attention, but they also prefer kindness over cruelty, and spontaneously help others in need.”

Crocker measured not just the college students’ desire to stand out but also to be kind. Students who held these “compassionate goals” suffered less depression and loneliness. They received more support from their peers, but that is not what predicted their well-being. Those who helped others were more likely to thrive.

Zaki reports, “Children and adults draw joy from helping others. Doctors who feel compassion for their patients burn out less often. Colleagues who support one another perform more effectively and are more fulfilled at work. And older adults who volunteer live longer and remain healthier than those who don’t.

Given this uncontroversial evidence, why do we still want to be drum majors”? Zaki gives two reasons.

“Individualistic cultures like ours valorize selfish pursuits, and then teach us—wrongly—that whether we like it or not, selfishness is at our core. This turns up the volume on our desire for attention, making the drummer’s instinct harder to hear.”

“”People often help others to help themselves. We give to charity for that rush of “warm glow,” or to confirm our character in moments of doubt. We advertise our virtues by changing our profile picture, or donating just enough to get our names on the opera house wall. These acts are generous on the surface, but hide the drum major instinct underneath.”

There is a healthy memory blog post titled “Trump vs. a Buddhist Monk” that argues that the Buddhist Monk lives a happier and more fulfilling life than Donald Trump. Should you not agree with this title, please read this post.

“Eudaimonic” means conducive to happiness. There will be many future posts on this topic.

Coffee Actually Can Be Good to the Last Drop

January 14, 2020

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article from Consumers Reports published in the Health and Science Section of the 5 November, 2019 Washington Post. Edward Giovannucci, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says, “The most important thing we’ve learned about coffee in the past 20 years is that there’s very little indication that it’s bad for you. If anything, there’s more evidence that it might be healthy to drink.”

These benefits are likely because of anti-inflammatories and antioxidants found naturally in coffee: polyphenols (such as chlorogenic and quince acids) and diterpenes (such as cafestol and kahweol). These health perks probably extend to decaf, too, because with decaf only the caffeine, not these other compounds are removed.

Giovannucci states where the current research is solid and where more investigation is needed.

*Strongest evidence: Coffee lowers the risk of endometrial cancer, gallstones, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer, oral cancers and Type 2 diabetes.

*Moderate evidence: Coffee lowers the risk of colorectal cancer, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers, Parkinson’s disease and respiratory disease; and it improves alertness, concentration, focus, energy level, and mood.

*Some evidence: Coffee lowers the risk of age-related cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, depression, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer; and it increases the variety of healthy bacteria in the gut.

*Limited evidence: Coffee lowers the risk of weight gain and falls by the elderly, possibly because caffeine increases alertness or reaction time.

There are some people for whom too much coffee irritates the stomach, causes anxiety or the jitters, disrupts sleep and increases the frequency of heart palpitations. In some people prone to migraines three or more cups can trigger them. Pregnant women, people who are at risk of osteoporosis, and those taking certain drugs (including some antibiotics, antidepressants and antipsychotics) should limit their intake of caffeinated coffee.

The Evangelist

January 11, 2020

The title of this post is identical to the cover article of the Washington Post Magazine, 12 Jan, 2020. This article by Nick Tabor motivated this post. The subtitle of this article is “Can Shane Claiborne’s Progressive Version of Evangelical Christianity Catch On With a New Generation?” HM hopes that Claiborne’s version of evangelical christianity also catches on with the old generation.

It appears that Claiborne’s current focus is on gun violence. One can argue that violence was the tool of the first large scale Christian activity, the crusades. Christianity is the religion of love and of turning the cheek when one is struck. It stands in marked contrast to the Old Testament where it was a matter of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The most violent act Christ ever did was to drive the moneychangers out of the temple.

But what were the Crusades? They were attacks against Muslims where they murdered, robbed, and raped them. It was not a religious crusade of conversions. Subsequently, Christianity was advanced primarily by the sword conquering other countries. After Martin Luther there were violent wars between the protestants and catholics to determine who prevailed.

Claiborne is not the only person trying to persuade Christians to follow the teachings of Christ rather than the preaching that comes from certain evangelical pulpits. There have also been healthymemory posts on the Rev. Jim Wallis. He has written an important book Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus. He is exalting these evangelicals to do the work of Christ. Unfortunately, too many evangelicals have formed a moral police working through government and the courts to force other people to behave according the Evangelicals’ beliefs. Apparently they see their role much as the moral police in Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is an authoritarian country, not a supposedly free country like the United States.

It is remarkable how many evangelicals are supporting perhaps the most immoral President the United States has ever had. Apparently the largest reason for supporting this aberration is to make abortion illegal. They regard the killing of unborn children as something that should be illegal. And this is what is taught from their pulpits. There are a number of issues here, one is that the United States is a free country, and one of those freedoms is religious freedom. So the religious beliefs of certain religions should not be forced on the religious beliefs of other religions. Too many people say that this is a free country, but then go to reduce the freedoms of others. This is the height of hypocrisy.

Biological life should be irrelevant to religion. Souls are what is relevant to religion. Without going beyond biological life, all hopes of eternity go down the crapper. So the question is what happens to the soul when an abortion is performed.

Here is HM’s belief based on his thinking, meditation, and prayer. Each of us has the ability to meditate and pray to a spiritual entity, which is God. HM is well aware of the miserable lives lived by unloved children. And just loving a child is insufficient, the child must be attended to and cared for, and this has large costs in time and attention.

In about the middle of the 20th century a large uptick in violent crime was anticipated due to the large number of children being born. Surprisingly, that uptick did not occur. When searching for reasons, some seized upon Roe v. Wade and the legalization of abortion.

HM’s God is a merciful God. HM’s God would prefer for a potentially unloved fetus to be destroyed. He would save the soul until parents became available that offered a moving and caring upbringing. Only the sole is immortal.

So how does HM know this? It is via prayer and meditation. Each of us can communicate directly with God. In pantheism, God is present in all living beings. So it follows that God is in each of us. So one can pray up, or one can pray within oneself.

It should also be noted that abortions were commonly performed in Christ’s time, but nothing is written condemning abortions in the four gospels that are readily available.

HM also believes in a judgment day. Consider how you might feel if you found one of your religious leaders burning in hell, or a reasonable facsimile. It would be too late to file a malpractice legal suit.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. 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.

Our Dangerous Fear of Pain

January 10, 2020

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by James D. Hudson in the Outlook section of the 1 December 2019 issue of the Washington Post. He writes, “It’s good to have a healthy fear of pain. It protects us from injury and reminds us to allow time for healing. Acute pain can be made more tolerable by a short course of opioid medication (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends only three to seven days, even after surgery or injury). And there is a good case for opioids over longer periods to treat end-stage cancer and other terminal ailments that can bring unbearable suffering. Palliative care in those situations is almost always necessary and compassionate.”

Dr, Hudson continues, but otherwise, the fear of pain, and the belief that a pain-free existence is optimal or even possible, has been a catastrophe for patients. Before the opioid revolution, doctors understood that pain was important to keeping us safe, to be lived with and managed. Even if this meant we bore frequent episodes of discomfort, that was better than the nationwide crisis America faces today. “Life isn’t ‘pain free.’ If we want to end the epidemic of addiction, we need to relearn that lesson.”

The opioid industry bears the ultimate responsibility for this epidemic. It did heavy lobbying of legislatures and of physicians. According to a study in the journal JAMA Network Open, this marketing correlated with overdose deaths. The CDC has thoroughly-documented the rapid rise in opioid prescriptions and deaths since 1999.

Dr. Hudson writes, “many doctors listened to the marketing campaign. In our hubris, we began to think we had the capacity to banish chronic pain. Pharmaceutical companies were developing ever stronger and longer-lasting opioids, and surgeons were replacing more and more worn-out joints. New techniques meant the pain anesthesiologists could block nerves, sever the signals to the brain, and insert catheters or electrodes into spinal columns and brains. Pain was to become a thing of the past, conquered by modern medicine.” This could have been true, but they ignored the addiction problem.

Obviously patients did not benefit. So who benefited besides the drug companies? “Physician experts” compensated by drugmakers hawked these medications at conferences, telling doctors that new and more potent analgesics were not addictive when prescribed for pain. They said that there was no upper limit on dosing, that patients would develop tolerance to medication and that some would need extremely high doses for their pain. But they said that physicians were not to worry, that this was normal. A new unsubstantiated ailment called “pseudo addiction” was offered as an explanation for patients who ran out of pills early and borrowed more from friends and family or got their drugs on the street. There is no such thing as pseudo addiction, only real addiction.

In addition to the drug companies, many got rich. There were new business opportunities. Physicians and health systems benefited from an explosion of diagnostic testing with CT and MRI scans. Unethical medical practioners were opening “pill mills,” often taking only cash for almost unlimited amounts of addictive medications with no real attempt to make a diagnosis or assess the need for such prescriptions.

The Medical Group Management Association, reported that anesthesiologists who specialize in pain management earn almost $530,000 on average annually, making this a lucrative speciality. By comparison, primary-care providers make less than half this (while the average physician makes $300,000).

Fortunately, the medical profession is maturing in educating patients about pain management However, the article makes no mention of hypnotism or meditation.

One of the most impressive surgeries HM has read about is the surgical removal of a scrotal tumor while the patient was under hypnotism.

Some research on pain perception has used buckets of ice water. This is called the cold presser task. It becomes extremely painful fairly quickly, and participants feel a need to pull their arm out of the ice water. During these experiments the participants make ratings of their pain. While hypnotized, participants were able to provide consistent ratings of their pain perception and they were able to keep their hands in the ice water at ratings they would have felt forced to pull their arms out. In fact, the experimenter had to tell them to remove their arms before tissue damage occurred.

Highly skilled meditators actually focus on the pain, but reinterpret it. Most of us deal with pain by trying to ignore it and think of something else. But if one is an experienced meditator they are likely to focus on the pain and reinterpret their perception as not being of pain.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. 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.

When tiredness, sleepiness can be warning signs

January 9, 2020

The title of this post is the same as the title of an article by Emily Sohn in the Health and Science section of the 17 December 2019 issue of the Washington Post. In conversation, people use the terms sleepiness, fatigue, and tiredness interchangeably. But their definitions do differ medically. Sleepiness is a need of sleep that makes it difficult to stay awake, even while driving, working, or watching a movie, and even after ingesting caffeine.

On the other hand, fatigue is a deeper sort of an inability, either physical or mental, to do what you want to do, such as get to the grocery store. In the middle is tiredness, a desire to rest that is less debilitative than fatigue and less dramatic than sleepiness. One can still be productive while tired.

In a 2014 survey by the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation, 45% of adults said they had been affected by poor sleep or not enough sleep in the previous week. As many as 20% of people report excessives sleepiness on a regular basis. A National Safety Council survey reported in 2017 that 76% of people felt tired at work. If you’re bothered by how tired you feel, there might be some simple explanations. The most basic is not enough sleep. A third of Americans don’t get the recommended seven or more hours a night, according toe the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And as needs very widely, even seven hours isn’t enough sleep for many people. And one should not set their alarm for exactly seven hours of sleep, because nobody sleeps 100% of the time that they’re in bed. So it might take eight hours of pillow time to get seven hours of sleep.

Should tiredness be making it hard for you to get through most days or otherwise getting in your way, experts recommend visiting a primary-care clinic first to be evaluated for common causes of fatigue or tiredness, including depression, autoimmune diseases, vitamin levels, and thyroid issues. The article warns that this appointment might be frustrating because many doctors lack training in sleep medicine. Primary-care physicians don’t routinely ask patients about sleep. They also often miss the signs of insomnia, or they suggest ineffective treatments for it, a 2017 study found. Insomnia affects up to 15% of adults and studies show that behavioral therapies work better than medication. Primary-care physicians can identify problems such as iron deficiency, fibromyalgia, celiac disease, encephalitis, plus others.

If none of these causes turn up in the regular clinic, the article recommends seeing a sleep specialist, whose evaluation is likely to include screening for sleep apnea. This disorder, which causes people to periodically stop breathing in their sleep, affects up to 10% of adults. The rates are higher for people who are overweight. About 85% of people who have sleep apnea are undiagnosed and untreated.

Prestigious Universities

January 8, 2020

Given the news on prestigious universities and on the rich providing bribes to get their children into prestigious universities, HM feels obliged to relate his experience as an employer and manager of students from prestigious universities. Graduates from prestigious universities did not perform better than graduates from public universities. In rare incidents, some graduates might act as if they were a gift and that we were lucky to get them. These incidents were rare. Although attending a prestigious university might be helpful in providing useful connections, they do not provide better educations.

What is especially bothersome is that one cannot even count on basic skills from graduates of prestigious universities. HM has had experience with such graduates, from graduate programs even, who could not write adequately.

Moreover, the requirements prestigious universities apparently desire might preclude their acceptance of certain exceptional students. When students are prepping for entrance tests, participating in sports and social activities, they might be taking time better spent in developing their skills in actual educational pursuits. Consider a student absorbed in a science project. Of course, if that project wins an award that would be helpful. But what if the student just has strong interests in an academic subject? Do these universities actually request papers and work documenting their knowledge and accomplishments? Or is it easier to check for test scores and lists of activities?

Then also, there are the exorbitant costs of education. There needs to be public education available at affordable prices. But too few realize that they can get an entire college education online.

Go to the healthy memory blog post “Mindshift Resources.” Unfortunately, usually fees are involved in actually getting a degree. Go to
nopaymba.com to learn how to get an MBA-level business education at a fraction of the course. Laura Pickard explains how to get an MBA for less than1/100th the cost of a traditional MBA.

Quite frankly, HM would value an autodidact higher than a graduate of any prestigious or conventional university. This would indicate a genuine love of the subject and the initiative to pursue that love with passion.

The Man Who Sold America

January 7, 2020

The title of this book is identical to the title of a book by Joy-Ann Reid. The subtitle is “Trump and the Unravelling of the American Story.” It provides an excellent summary and a superb analysis of what Trump has done to the Republican Party, and, more importantly, to the United States. Regarding the goals of the healthy memory blog, it provides an ideal subject for growth mindsets. For American citizens it summarizes the damage that Trump has done to the United States and democracy and a summary of the risks Trump presents to the future of this democracy.

There is an excellent chapter for white people who are afraid of becoming a minority. It is a chapter titled “What America Can Learn from South Africa.” It will make clear that there is nothing to fear and that such a development will be beneficial to the United States. As expected, there is disinformation that contests this point. But HM has a professional colleague who is a citizen of South Africa, who is doing well, and will attest to a good and fulfilling life as a minority white person.

Regarding Russia, it notes that Donald Trump’s attraction to Russia has been on display since at least 1987, when he and his first wife, Ivana, traveled to Moscow to inquire about a potential real estate deal. It is widely believed to have been arranged by Soviet Intelligence services. The Soviets were reportedly alarmed by Ronald Reagan’s hawkishness and were looking to develop contacts with an American they might turn toward their point of view. Experts suggest the Soviet Union’s interest in Trump and his family likely stretches back much further. A November 2017 article for Politico Magazine by Harding, noted that the KGB may have opened a file on Trump as early as 1977, when he married Czech-born Ivana. Harding notes that Ivana, as a citizen of a communist country, would have been of interest both to the Czech intelligence service, the StB, and to the FBI and CIA. Craig Unser’s book, House of Trump, House of Putin: The Unfolding Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia was reviewed in an earlier healthy memory blog post.

Given this information, and given the evidence reported in this blog on how Russia helped Trump become president, it is surprising that people have difficulty understanding Putin’s influence on Trump. A question that needs to be asked here is where did Trump’s money come from for his developments and projects since no U.S. banks would provide funding given that he has had serial bankruptcies. His son has provided the answer to this question and the answer is Russia. It is obvious that Trump will not reveal his taxes or finances because they would indicate that Putin owns him. Democrats behave as lawyers rather than politicians by continuing to pursue this question in the courts. True politicians would make it incumbent for him to reveal his sources of finances to prove that he is not owned by Putin.

The Closing of the Newseum

January 6, 2020

Most people reading this post will wonder what was the Newseum and why is its closing significant. The Newseum opened 22 years ago in Rosslyn, Va. HM’s office was in the same building as the Newseum. It is convenient to have a museum in your building for two reasons. One reason should be obvious. And it was also convenient when you had give people directions to your office, all one had to do was to tell visitors to follow the signs to the Newseum.

The information in the newseum was priceless. And there were many interesting objects:

the twisted antenna from the World Trade Center North Tower

the door that was jimmied during the Watergate burglary

hunks of the Berlin Wall from when it was torn down

a copy of the Washington Post front page from 9 Aug 1974 with the headline “Nixon Resigns” this sat in a display case near a political bumper sticker reading, “Support Nixon, Impeach the Nation

Miscues in the form of poorly worded headlines decorated the walls of the restrooms such as

“Genetically Modified Crops Talk of Meeting” & “Panda lectures this week at National Zoo.”

There was a gallery of Pulitzer Prizewinning photographs

There was a memorial for journalists who had been killed working on their articles.

These artifacts, and they are just some of the artifacts, are nice, but the real importance of the Newseum was to have all our First Amendment’s rights displayed in one place. One of the people said about the Newseum, “Anybody can see one exhibit, but you don’t get the big picture of how important that is.” Indeed the Newseum provided that big picture.

After eleven years in Rosslyn, the Newseum was moved to an impressive building in DC on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Although the Newseum was not part of the museums owned by the Smithsonian Institution, it certainly held its own with these other museums, and exceeded several of them.

It was the lack of financing that caused its closing. Unfortunately, it needed an entrance fee to survive, and that fee kept increasing.

The real tragedy is that its closing reflects the general decline in newspapers, which have played a critical role in the development and survival of our democracy. It is not only the technical revolution that is the problem here. The larger problem is the decline in critical thinking that has been replaced by alternative facts and believing in alternative realities. Critical thinking is being replace by magical thinking according to Kurt Andersen.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. 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.

FANTASYLAND: HOW AMERICA WENT HAYWIRE: A 500-YEAR HISTORY

January 4, 2020

The title of this post is identical to the title of a book by Kurt Andersen. The title encompasses the nature of the book. It offers an explanation of how the United States ended up in this current crisis. The first English colony established in the United States was at Jamestown in what was to be Virginia (Virginia for the Virgin Queen of England). These settlers were bent on finding gold and becoming rich. But Andersen would explain the making the perilous passage to an unknown country to become rich was an example of magical thinking.

However, the colonists settling in New England were idealistic, not mercenary. They were in quest of religious freedom, but the freedom they sought was for their religion. They had low tolerance, if any, for other religions. Now all of these religions were Christian religions, dedicated to following the teachings of Christ. Religious differences were not due to differences in the teachings of Christ, but rather how men interpreted these teachings. Previous healthy memory blog posts have emphasized the difference between a belief in God, and a belief in a particular religion. Individual humans believed in God or some godlike sprit long before the creation of religions by religious leaders emerging who professed to be providing teaching and guidance from God. This conundrum exists today. The Constitution guarantees religious freedom as one of its freedoms. It does not specify any given religion even though there are Christian churches saying that the religion is Christianity, when it is definitely not. So here we have religious people violating one of the ten commandments.

It is both ironic and a conundrum. Apparently some evangelicals, rather than following the obvious teachings of Christ, are trying to impose their religious beliefs and laws that stem from their religious beliefs, via government. So most of their effort has been in the political arena, promoting politicians who advocate their beliefs, which obviously impose on the freedoms of others. These people would deny any resemblance between what they are doing and the religious police found in Saudi Arabia.

The new religion of Mormonism, founded by Joseph Smith, emerged in the 1800s. A new testament of the bible was promoted that described the religious activities in a much earlier time period. Religions and religious practices have emerged and are still emerging, but they differ primarily in religious dogma. Medical quacks became prominent and another Gold Rush in California occurred and quickly exhausted itself.

In the era between 1900 and 1960 , Andersen writes that there was Brand-New Old-Time religion. He also writes that the business of America became show business.

In the 1960s and ‘70s there were the hippies, the intellectuals, the Christians, politics and conspiracies, and Living in a Land of Entertainment.

Here are the chapter headings from the section ”1980s through the turn of the century”

Making Make-believe More Realistic and Real Life More Make-Believe

Foreover Young: Kids “R” Us Syndrome

The Reagan Era and the Start of the Digital Age

American Religion from the Turn of the Millennium

Our Wilder Christianities: Belief and Practice

America Versus the Godless Civilized World: Why Are We so Exceptional?

Magical but Not Necessarily Christian, Spiritual but Not Religious

Blue-Chip Witch Doctors: The Reenchantment of Medicine

How the Mainstream Enabled Fantasyland: Squishes, Cynics, and Believers

Anything Goes—Unless It Picks My Pocket or Breaks My Leg

The final section is titled : “The Problem with Fantasyland: From the 1980s to the Present and Beyond”
Here are the chapter headings:

The Inmates Running the Asylum Decide Monsters are Everywhere

Reality is a Conspiracy: The X-Filing of America

Mad as Hell, the New Voice of the People

When the GOP Went Off the Rails

Liberals Denying Science

Gun Crazy

Final Fantasy-Industrial Complex

Our Inner Children? They’re Going to Disney World!

The Economic Dreamtime

As Fantasyland Goes, So Goes the Nation

HM’s view, one that, in fairness, oversimplifies Anderson, is that he argues that our problems are due to magical thinking, and he implies that our situation in the U.S. is unique.

HM is skeptical about his claim that our problem is unique to us. And rather than use the term magical thinking, HM prefers to use psychological processes, such as lack of Kahneman’s System Two Processing, and the failure to think critically. These, in turn, can be explained in terms of serious shortcomings in mental effort or mental laziness.

Homo Sapiens

January 3, 2020

As the immediately preceding post said “Too many humans are not living up to the name of their species” readers might have drawn the conclusion that these humans are all Republicans. The objective of this post is to correct this possible misconception. First of all, not all Republicans are guilty, there remain a few Republicans who hold fast to their true Republican beliefs. The husband, if he is still the husband, of Kellyanne Conway is one of these individuals, who is both extremely intelligent and extremely articulate.

There are many Democrats and liberals who also do not live up to the name of their species. One concerns GMOs (genetically modified organisms). GMOs have been developed by scientists to solve the hunger problem in the world. Farmers are provided the information and technology needed to promote crop growth. Entirely new crops, that are not only safe, but also more healthy, have been developed. Many hundreds of studies have resulted in the consensus that GMOs are safe to eat. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine commissioned a comprehensive study of the science, and in 2016 their report declared GMOs both safe to eat and environmentally benign. Of the scientists in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 88% think it’s safe to eat GMO foods. This is almost exactly the same percentage of those scientists who say climate change is real and man-made, the latter a data point regularly used to demonstrate right-wing anti-science craziness. So people on the left also choose to ignore evidence and disbelieve important science they find upsetting. It is also the case, that there will never be 100% agreement on any topic. Rather one uses a measure of the strength of consensus.

Another example is the false belief that vaccines cause autism and other terrible illnesses derives from an excessive mistrust of experts, and the conviction that some vicious conspiracy is behind everything. The study that ignited the hysteria appeared in 1998, when diagnoses of autism had been increasing. A doctor studied ten children who showed autistic behavior after they were vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella, published research in a medical journal, and became the guiding light of a new movement.

Replication is the sine qua non of science. This research could not be replicated by other doctors and scientists. Nor could another article of faith, that a mercury-based preservative was the autism trigger, be substantiated. Major study after major study ever since has found stronger and stronger evidence that vaccines do not cause autism. Not until a dozen years after publishing the original paper—after the doctor was stripped of his medial license and found to have acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” did The Lancet finally retract his study calling it “utterly false.” The other major British journal called it an “elaborate fraud.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., had been the movement’s big star, repeating the argument that the U.S. government scientists were “involved in a massive fraud.” So even prominent liberals and Democrats provide doubts about belonging to Homo sapiens.

Other examples could be cited, but the basic point is that all of us can reason in a manner counter to Homo sapiens.