Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for the ‘Mind’ Category

New study suggests a better way to deal with bad memories

Posted by Anonymous on April 19, 2014

August Cassens – What’s one of your worst memories? How did it make you feel? According to psychologists, remembering the emotions felt during a negative personal experience, such as how sad you were or how embarrassed you felt, can lead to emotional distress, especially when you can’t stop thinking about it.

When these negative memories creep up, thinking about the context of the memories, rather than how you felt, is a relatively easy and effective way to alleviate the negative effects of these memories, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, led by psychology professor Florin Dolcos of the Cognitive Neuroscience Group, studied the behavioral and neural mechanisms of focusing away from emotion during recollection of personal emotional memories, and found that thinking about the contextual elements of the memories significantly reduced their emotional impact.

“Sometimes we dwell on how sad, embarrassed, or hurt we felt during an event, and that makes us feel worse and worse. This is what happens in clinical depression—ruminating on the negative aspects of a memory,” Dolcos said. “But we found that instead of thinking about your emotions during a negative memory, looking away from the worst emotions and thinking about the context, like a friend who was there, what the weather was like, or anything else non-emotional that was part of the memory, will rather effortlessly take your mind away from the unwanted emotions associated with that memory. Once you immerse yourself in other details, your mind will wander to something else entirely, and you won’t be focused on the negative emotions as much.”

This simple strategy, the study suggests, is a promising alternative to other emotion-regulation strategies, like suppression or reappraisal.

“Suppression is bottling up your emotions, trying to put them away in a box. This is a strategy that can be effective in the short term, but in the long run, it increases anxiety and depression,” explains Sanda Dolcos, co-author on the study and postdoctoral research associate at the Beckman Institute and in the Department of Psychology.

“Another otherwise effective emotion regulation strategy, reappraisal, or looking at the situation differently to see the glass half full, can be cognitively demanding. The strategy of focusing on non-emotional contextual details of a memory, on the other hand, is as simple as shifting the focus in the mental movie of your memories and then letting your mind wander.”

Not only does this strategy allow for effective short-term emotion regulation, but it has the possibility of lessening the severity of a negative memory with prolonged use.


Posted in Mind | Leave a Comment »

Scientists Study Woman Who Can Have Out-of-Body Experiences On Demand

Posted by Anonymous on March 11, 2014

20140310-231031.jpgPlenty of attention being given to a new study with a subject who can apparently have out-of-body experiences (OBEs) on demand:

After a class on out-of-body experiences, a psychology graduate student at the University of Ottawa came forward to researchers to say that she could have these voluntarily, usually before sleep. “She appeared surprised that not everyone could experience this,” wrote the scientists in a study describing the case, published in February inFrontiers in Human Neuroscience.

…The 24-year-old “continued to perform this experience as she grew up assuming, as mentioned, that ‘everyone could do it.'” This is how she described her out-of-body experiences: “She was able to see herself rotating in the air above her body, lying flat, and rolling along with the horizontal plane. She reported sometimes watching herself move from above but remained aware of her unmoving “real” body. The participant reported no particular emotions linked to the experience.”

An unusual find, wrote the scientists, University of Ottawa researchers Andra M. Smith and Claude Messier – this is the first person to be studied able to have this type of experience on demand, and without any brain abnormalities. Instead of an “out-of-body” experience, however, the researchers termed it a “extra-corporeal experience” (ECE), in part because it lacks the strong emotions that often go hand-in-hand (such as shock & awe, for example).

To better understand what was going on, the researchers conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study of her brain. They found that it surprisingly involved a “strong deactivation of the visual cortex.” Instead, the experience “activated the left side of several areas associated with kinesthetic imagery,” such as mental representations of bodily movement. …



The results suggest that the ECE reported here represents an unusual type of kinesthetic imagery that shares some features of previously described out-of-body experiences and some features of more typical motor imagery.

The cerebellum also shows strong activation that is consistent with the participant’s report of the impression of movement during the ECE. There are also left middle and superior orbital frontal gyri activations, structures often associated with action monitoring….


It is amazing that she can do this easily at will. Recall that the experience can most likely be reproduced in anyone if a brain surgeon stimulates the person’s right angular gyrus:

Olaf Blanke, a neurosurgeon at University Hospitals of Geneva and Lausanne, wasn’t trying to set off the sensations in his patient but was using electrical stimulation to map the activity of her brain in preparation for surgical treatment. But by recording the patient’s reactions and matching them with specific electrodes, Blanke was able to pinpoint the region where out-of-body experiences seem to originate.

“We wanted [and needed] to be sure that what the patient experienced and told us was related to the actual stimulation,” says Blanke.

When Blanke and colleagues activated electrodes placed just above the patient’s right ear — a region known as the right angular gyrus — the woman began to have the strange sensations. Depending on the amplitude of the stimulation and the current position of the patient’s body, her experience varied. Each of the patient’s four episodes lasted about two seconds.

After one stimulation, the patient said she felt as though she were sinking into her bed and then she felt as though she were “falling from a height.” After another stimulation she said felt like she was “floating” about 6½ feet above her bed, close to the ceiling. When she was asked to watch her legs during the stimulation, the patient said she saw her legs “becoming shorter.” …


This isn’t the only case, either. Here’s how it works:

The angular gyrus reacts differently to intended and consequential movement. This suggests that the angular gyrus monitors the self’s intended movements, and uses the added information to compute differently as it does for consequential movements. By recording the discrepancy, the angular gyrus maintains an awareness of the self.



Posted in Biology, Mind, Strange | 2 Comments »

Research: We Unconsciously React to Events Up to 10 Seconds Before They Happen

Posted by Anonymous on March 5, 2014

Can your brain detect events before they even occur? That was the stunning conclusion of a 2012 meta-analysis of experiments from seven independent laboratories over the last 35 years, which found that the human body “can apparently detect randomly delivered stimuli occurring 1-10 seconds in the future” (Mossbridge, Tressoldi, & Utts, 2012). In the studies, physiological readings were taken as participants were subjected to unpredictable events designed to activate the sympathetic nervous system (for example, showing provocative imagery) as well as ‘neutral events’ that did not activate the nervous system. These readings showed that the nervous system aligned with the nature of the event (activated/not activated) – and what’s more, the magnitude of the pre-event response corresponded with the magnitude of the post-event response.

In a more recent paper, researchers have critically analysed these findings, considering possible mundane explanations for the results and also the implications of the results if they truly do point to a paradigm-shaking discovery:

The key observation in these studies is that human physiology appears to be able to distinguish between unpredictable dichotomous future stimuli, such as emotional vs. neutral images or sound vs. silence. This phenomenon has been called presentiment (as in “feeling the future”). In this paper we call it predictive anticipatory activity or PAA. The phenomenon is “predictive” because it can distinguish between upcoming stimuli; it is “anticipatory” because the physiological changes occur before a future event; and it is an “activity” because it involves changes in the cardiopulmonary, skin, and/or nervous systems.

They found that “neither questionable research practices (bias) nor physiological artifacts seem to be able to explain PAA”, and that “the evidence indicates that there is a temporal mirroring between pre- and post-event physiological events, so that the nature of the post-event physiological response is correlated with the characteristics of the PAA for that event.”

The authors of the paper also point out fascinating aspects of the research, such as the fact that “PAA is an unconscious phenomenon” that “appears to resemble precognition (consciously knowing something is going to happen before it does), but PAA specifically refers to unconscious physiological reactions as opposed to conscious premonitions”. The implication is that “there must be a necessity for PAA to remain non-conscious most of the time”, given that “if some part of our nervous system can obtain information about events seconds in the future, wouldn’t we have evolved to make this information conscious?” …


From the paper:

It has been known for some time that arousing and neutral stimuli produce somewhat different post-stimulus physiological responses in humans (Lang et al., 1993, 1998; Cuthbert et al., 1996, 2000). However, what is remarkable is that many of the studies examined here make the claim that, for instance, the same physiological measure that yields a differential post-stimulus response to two stimulus classes also yields a differential pre-stimulus response to those same stimulus classes, prior even to the random selection of the stimulus type by the computer. Authors of these studies often refer to the effect as presentiment (sensing an event before it occurs) or unexplained anticipatory activity; we favor the latter terminology as it describes the phenomenon without implying that the effect truly reflects a reversal of the usual forward causality.

- See more at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00390/full#sthash.Cp1Lp7GR.dpuf

My explanation: Light, from our perspective, is a time traveler. At the speed of light there’s no time to cover any distance, but there’s also no distance to cover. Light is everywhere now (it’s perspective) that it will already (from our perspective) be. Thus, there is no limit to how far ahead we can sense if we are unconsciously processing the full time-spectrum of light. There is really only one photon of light in the universe and it is everywhere at the same time. Think about this: Everything you see in your now is from everywhere and every-when.

Posted in Mind, Paranormal, Physics, Strange | 1 Comment »

New Law: Prison for being gay in Uganda

Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2014

20140224-132437.jpgLast week, it seemed like Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was delaying taking action on the infamous anti-homosexuality bill, suggesting he was interested in hearing from more U.S. scientists about the nature of homosexuality. On Monday, though, he signed the bill into law.
The law, often referred to as the “Kill the Gays” bill because previous versions of it included the death penalty, allows for a lifetime jail sentence for people found guilty of being gay. Some more recent versions of the bill have still included reference to a different law that did allow for the death penalty. First-time offenders can be punished with 14 years in jail. Those who promote LGBT issues would also be in violation of the law, as would anybody who officiates a same-sex marriage.
Museveni explained that he signed the bill because he was concerned that gay people were “recruiting normal people” into homosexuality, using them as prostitutes, and exhibiting themselves. His statement suggests he was fully convinced by the distorted report from Ugandan scientists submitted suggesting that homosexuality as either an “open choice” or something caused by “indoctrination.” He seemed to suggest that any form of public display of affection is inappropriate, but all the more reason that gay people who hold hands or kiss in public should be punished if they cannot be rehabilitated:
Since nurture is the main cause of homosexuality, then society can do something about it to discourage the trends. That is why I have agreed to sign the Bill. […]

Since my original thesis that there may be people who are born homosexual has been disproved by science, then the homosexuals have lost the argument in Uganda. They should rehabilitate themselves and society should assist them to do so.
President Obama condemned Museveni’s decision to sign the bill last week, noting that it will “complicate our valued relationship with Uganda.” On Twitter, Ofwono Opondo, an official spokesperson for the Ugandan government, accused Obama of being arrogant, chiding him for criticizing Uganda’s law more than he has Arizona’s bill allowing religious discrimination against the LGBT community. “Propaganda for blackmail against anti-gay law by European & US media,” he wrote, “won’t derail Pres Museveni signing.”…


Great news, that sexual preference is a choice. That means you can choose to be attracted to anything, like giant squid, waffle irons, the act of paying your taxes… Think of the possibilities! A clear explanation of how to genuinely make this change must be presented before a law that prohibits not doing so. Show the world that it is possible, Museveni, by changing your preference from human women to avocados. No faking it, either. I’m not gay, but your law is beyond stupid.

Posted in human rights, Mind, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Concept work

Posted by Anonymous on February 14, 2014


Do you have a solid enough grasp on how the world works to understand the problem with this picture?

Posted in Mind, Strange | 2 Comments »

Man can play back four symphonies in his head… At once!

Posted by Anonymous on February 2, 2014

Bob Milne is one of the best ragtime piano players in the world, but his talents go further than that – right into the land of amazing. Bob’s brain works a little differently to the rest of us, as he can compartmentalise various functions, which allows him to play complex piano pieces while carrying on a conversation. But when Penn State neuroscientist Kerstin Betterman decided to investigate Bob’s incredible ability, she discovered something even more amazing: he can ‘play back’ four different symphonies at the same time in his head, and what’s more, he says he ‘sees’ these symphonies being played in his head in three dimensions, and can fly around within this audio-visual space and listen to the music change from different perspectives. Here’s an NPR Radiolab feature on Bob Milne and Kerstin Betterman from a couple of years ago that tells the story…


Audio here.

Awesome. I can carry on a conversation and play one of my songs at the same time. This is something that comes in handy when you are leading a band.

I can also listen to conversations of audience members if they happen to be talking while I’m playing. This should not be surprising as playing well in a band is about listening to what everyone else is doing and then very quickly adjusting or signaling them to adjust.

I can play back a symphony in my head, but like the conductor in the MRI test, only one at a time.

Posted in Mind, Music | Leave a Comment »

Meditation Alters Genes Rapidly, Triggers Molecular Changes : Natural Society

Posted by Anonymous on January 31, 2014

http://motheringmother.com/wp-content/uploads/meditation-6.jpgIf you are a practitioner of meditation, the results of a new study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology will likely come as no surprise. But for some scientists, the revelation that meditating can actually trigger molecular changes is groundbreaking.

The researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Institute of Biomedical Research in Barcelona, Spain found subjects who partook of 8-hour intensive mindfulness meditation showed significant molecular changes.

A group of experienced meditation practitioners spent an 8-hour day in mindfulness while a control group spent the day in quiet but non-meditative activities. The meditation group experienced genetic changes including reduced levels of inflammatory genes like RIPK2 and COX2, indicating faster recovery from stressful situations.

As Medical News Today reports:

“The extent to which some of the genes were down-regulated was associated with faster cortisol recovery to a social stress test, where participants were challenged to make an impromptu speech or complete mental calculations in front of an audience.”

In other words, the meditation helped participants keep cool under pressure. ..

via Meditation Alters Genes Rapidly, Triggers Molecular Changes : Natural Society.

Posted in Health, Mind | Leave a Comment »

Apple Wants to Serve You Ads Using Mood-Reading Tech

Posted by Anonymous on January 24, 2014

While Google wants to get all up in your home appliances and your eyeballs, it looks like Apple’s pushing to get straight to the heart of their users. A patent application from the tech giant that was published today and picked up by Apple Insider describes a technology that would infer a user’s mood at any time in order to best serve them relevant ads. …

“Mood-associated characteristic data” could include “heart rate, blood pressure, music genre, sequence of apps launched, rate of UI interactions, etc.” Some of those make more sense when you think of Apple products—music data could be taken from iTunes so content delivery systems can get a heads-up when you’re cracking out the emo records, and app behaviour could be sourced from iPhone usage.

As for heart rate and blood pressure—and the patent application also mentions adrenaline, perspiration, and temperature—that clearly suggests a potential wearable tech element (and something more sophisticated than a mood ring). They could be tasks for the yet-to-materialize iWatch, BGR suggests. The documents also mention the possibility of a camera to recognise facial expressions.

That’s all very clever, but one major issue is that people present different moods in different ways. Therefore, the system would start by compiling one or more “baseline mood profiles” for individual users based on data collected over an initial period. Then, a variation from a person’s usual mood at any given time could be used to infer how they’re feeling at that point.

And in case tracking a person’s actual behaviour isn’t enough, the system could incorporate external events too. “For example, if a tragic event occurred, an

inferred mood can be downgraded. In another example, if the day corresponds to a national holiday, an inferred mood can be elevated,” the patent suggests. “In yet another example, if the weather is particularly nice, an inferred mood can be elevated. Additional uses of user independent mood-associated data items are also possible.\”

Of course, this is just at the patent application stage, so we’re not likely to see it any time soon. Add to that the obvious privacy concerns of a company storing vast amounts of such highly personal data …

via Apple Wants to Serve You Ads Using Mood-Reading Tech | Motherboard.

Posted in human rights, Mind, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Bo Bergman’s “Shut down the Internet” letter goes viral in Sweden

Posted by Anonymous on January 15, 2014

http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/19cj4yqenmgm1jpg/k-medium.jpgA 73-year-old Swedish man has become an unlikely Internet celebrity due to a letter he wrote to a newspaper demanding officials “shut down the Internet.”

Bo Bergman of Simlangsdalen gained fame when a letter he sent to the Hallands-Posten newspaper — demanding an end to civilian use of the Internet — went viral online, TheLocal.se reported Tuesday.

“My proposal: Shut down the Internet! You can’t, it’s gone on for too long, you’ll all surely answer. No!” he wrote. “Return the internet to the military department … before everything crumbles. Destroy it while it’s there.”

Johan Hammerby, who is in charge of the letters sent to the newspaper, said the letter has been viewed more than 30,000 times on the newspaper’s website, making it one of the site’s most popular items of all time.

“It’s been shared on Facebook and retweeted so much,” Hammerby told The Local. “Readers seem to think he’s just a funny old man who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. They point out that he doesn’t have any good argument, but they love the way he writes.

“The funniest thing is that he’s an Internet celebrity and he doesn’t even know it,” Hammerby said.

Bergman said he was surprised to hear his letter had gotten so much attention, but he stands by his argument.

“Like a worm in an apple, the Internet eats us from within and takes over,” he said.

via Bo Bergman’s “Shut down the Internet” letter goes viral in Sweden – UPI.com.

Good point. The Internet eats us from within. So did TV, but now that TV is gone, if we return the Internet to the military, we should also return books to the Church. But wait… Isn’t it ideas that are the real problem?

Ideas eat us from within. Then again, some ideas feed us and make us live, laugh and love. Ah. So all it depends on which ideas we allow to grow. And if we admit that that responsibility is ours for ideas, we go back and see that we don’t need to return the Internet after all, now do we?

We just need to learn to use it wisely. I think we can, in time.

Posted in Mind, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Scientists pinpoint age when childhood memories fade

Posted by Anonymous on January 13, 2014

20140112-222638.jpgMost adults struggle to recall events from their first few years of life and now scientists have identified exactly when these childhood memories fade and are lost forever.

A new study into childhood amnesia – the phenomenon where early memories are forgotten – has found that it tends to take affect around the age of seven.

The researchers found that while most three year olds can recall a lot of what happened to them over a year earlier, these memories can persist while they are five and six, but by the time they are over seven these memories decline rapidly.

Most children by the age of eight or nine can only recall 35% of their experiences from under the age of three, according to the new findings.

The psychologists behind the research say this is because at around this age the way we form memories begins to change.

They say that before the age of seven children tend to have an immature form of recall where they do not have a sense of time or place in their memories.

In older children, however, the early events they can recall tend to be more adult like in their content and the way they are formed.

Children also have a far faster rate of forgetting than adults and so the turnover of memories tends to be higher, meaning early memories are less likely to survive.

The findings also help to explain why children can often have vivid memories of events but then have forgotten them just a couple of years later.

Professor Patricia Bauer, a psychologist and associate dean for research at Emory college of Arts and Science who led the study, said: “The paradox of children’s memory competence and adults’ seeming “incompetence” at remembering early childhood events is striking.

“Though forgetting is more rapid in the early childhood years, eventually it slows to adult levels.

“Thus memories that “survived” early childhood have some likelihood of being remembered later in life.”

Professor Bauer and her colleagues studied 83 children over several years for the research, which is published in the scientific journal Memory. …

via Scientists pinpoint age when childhood memories fade – Telegraph.

Posted in Mind | Leave a Comment »


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