Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tucson Shambhala - The Heart of Warriorship—Level One: The Art of Being Human

I'm going to really try to get to this seminar.

Tucson Shambhala - The Heart of Warriorship—Level One: The Art of Being Human

There is a basic human wisdom that can help solve the world’s problems. It does not belong to any one culture or religion, but rather to a timeless tradition of human warriorship or bravery. The key to warriorship is not being afraid of who we are. In the Shambhala tradition, meditation is the means of rediscovering ourselves and our basic goodness. Through the practice of meditation, we can learn to live in a confident, brave, and genuine manner.

Our director will be Robert Lehman from Chicago, Ill., and Santa Barbara, Cal.


“By simply being on the spot, your life can become workable and even wonderful”
Chögyam Trungpa,, Founder of Shambhala Training


The Heart of Warriorship—Level One: The Art of being Human
January 8, 9, & 10, 2010

Free public talk on Friday evening, January 8 at 7:00 p.m.
Program continues January 9 & 10: 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

Fee: $120 (scholarships are available). Breakfasts and lunches are included.
Pre-registration fee is $100.


Tucson Shambhala Meditation Center
3250 N. Tucson Boulevard (north of Ft. Lowell)

You can pre-register up to December 31, by mailing a $25 check (made out to Tucson Shambhala) to Douglas Pittman, Box 77026, Tucson, AZ 85703. Please also e-mail Leah Mermelstein at stating your intention to pre-register. For further information write to Leah Mermelstein.

***Please do not use any scented products, including hair products and lotions. Many of us are very sensitive to odors, so please be mindful.

Cultural Psychology of the Self

Way back in my years as an undergraduate psych student, we were required to take a class called social psychology. At the time (1989 or so), this was the only field that I knew about that attempted to look at how social and cultural factors impacted and shaped human consciousness. Although it was only one class, it left a lasting impact in that since then I have tended to see human beings as embedded consciousnesses in physical and cultural contexts.

All of this is one of the many reasons integral psychology made a lot of sense to me when I first read about in Ken Wilber's early books (Up From Eden) and then in Integral Psychology itself.

In the past 10-20 years, there has a arisen a new field of psychology that borrows from evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, social psychology, and many other fields - Cultural Psychology.

One of the things I really like about this model, at least as exemplified in Cultural Psychology of the Self: Place, Morality and Art in Human Worlds by Ciaran Benson (yes, that book is DAMN expensive, another reason I love my Kindle), is that he proposes that mind or Self is a construct built on the interaction of physiology and culture - Self is not separate from place, time, and interactions with other human beings.

This is from the Introduction:
In this book I want to explore the idea that a primary function of the psychological system which is commonly called ‘self’ is to locate or position the person for themselves in relation to others. I want to suggest that self is a locative system with both evolutionary and cultural antecedents.

We cannot imagine being nowhere. We can visualise ourselves being lost, but that is to be somewhere unfamiliar to us, possibly without the means of getting back to a place we know. Where and when, place and time, are the conditions of existence. Being nowhere is quite simply a contradiction in terms. Without being placed or located I would not be, and where I find myself implaced influences not just the fact of my being but also its nature. Where, when and who are mutually constitutive. Lives, selves, identities are threaded across times and places. Who you are is a function of where you are, of where you have been and of where you hope to arrive. There cannot be a ‘here’ without a ‘you’ or an ‘I’ or a ‘now’. Self, acts of self-location and locations are inextricably linked and mutually constructive.

‘Self’ functions primarily as a locative system, a means of reference and orientation in worlds of space–time (perceptual worlds) and in worlds of meaning and place–time (cultural worlds). This understanding of self as an ongoing, living process of constant auto-referred locating recognises the centrality both of the body and of social relations. The antecedents of bodily location are well understood in evolutionary terms, whereas those of personal location among other persons are best understood culturally.

Selfhood and mentality are the most sophisticated synthetic achievements of body and culture in the universe known to human beings. In addition, as Jerome Bruner reminds us, ‘Perhaps the single most universal thing about human experience is the phenomenon of “Self”.’ (pg. 3-4)
To me this seems to fit with both Wilber's model of self-system development and also with Clare Graves' model of biopsychosocial development, two of the primary models that have influenced me.

Essentially, we are born as biological beings with all the evolutionary psychological baggage that entails, AND we are born into interpersonal contexts that also have a profound ability to shape our concept of self - Dan Seigel calls this the The Neurobiology of "We": How Relationships, the Mind, and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are (Sounds True Audio Learning Course) - based on the discussions he had a Upaya Zen Center with Roshi Joan Halifax and others.

Developmentally, we start as biological entities (fulcrum-1), are embedded in an interpersonal and physical environment (fulcrum-2), and from there we begin to develop the rudimentary elements of an egoic self (fulcrum-3) - here is the model from Wilber:

Wave, stage, or level ...Fulcrum .. Age of emergence
Sensorimotor ........................... 1.............. 0-18 months
Emotional / impulse ............... 2 ............. 1-3 years
Representative mind .............. 3 ............. 2-6 years

Anyway, I'm reading the book now and I am excited by the expanded perspective this book can offer. I'll keep you posted.

Maitreya - Recognizing Our Buddha Potential

Buddhist Practices for
Opening to Others

by Rob Preece

Dharma Quote of the Week

In the Uttaratantra by Maitreya, it is said that our recognizing our buddha potential is like a man living in poverty discovering that buried beneath his home is a priceless treasure. It is like discovering a jewel buried in the mud. If our buddha potential is like a golden statue wrapped in filthy rags, the golden image can never be tarnished by the rags--it is merely obscured by them. When I was younger and my understanding of Buddhism was relatively poor, the images that came from this text had a profound effect on me. They gave me an intuitive sense of my intrinsic value in a way that I had never felt previously. The influence of religion in my early years had left me with the belief that I was essentially a sinner and that at the root of my being was an innate badness that I had to overcome. It left me fundamentally unable to trust myself because to let go would be to open up my innate badness. When I met my Tibetan teachers and they spoke of my buddha nature, I felt a huge sense of relief. Perhaps I was not so bad after all, and perhaps when I allowed myself to relax a little and open up, I would find my true nature as something whole and wonderful rather than something to be feared and suppressed.

--from The Courage to Feel: Buddhist Practices for Opening to Others by Rob Preece, published by Snow Lion Publications

Dalai Lama - A new social model

The Essential Life and Teachings
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama


Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

A new social model

We must attempt the impossible. I am convinced that if we continue to follow a social model that is entirely conditioned by money and power, and that takes so little account of true values such as love and altruism, future generations may have to face far worse problems and endure even more terrible forms of suffering.

...Each one of us lacks one thing or another. I am not exactly sure what we lack, but I can feel we lack something. In the West, even if at the moment you are going through a crisis, you actually have everything, or at least you think you do; all kinds of material goods are there, and are no doubt distributed better than they were in the past. But it seems to me that you are living in a constant state of tension, in an atmosphere of never-ending competitiveness and fear. And those who are brought up in such an atmosphere will find themselves lacking all their lives: they will not know that wonderful quality of depth and intimacy that is the richness of life. They will stay on the surface of the troubled sea, without ever knowing the calm that lies beneath.

~ From The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Inner Peace: The Essential Life and Teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Friday, December 11, 2009

SciAm Mind - The Psychology of Social Status

Interesting stuff.

The Psychology of Social Status

How the pursuit of status can lead to aggressive and self-defeating behavior

By Adam Waytz

Rosemarie Gearhart

Nobel Laureate economist, John Harsanyi, said that “apart from economic payoffs, social status seems to be the most important incentive and motivating force of social behavior.” The more noticeable status disparities are, the more concerned with status people become, and the differences between the haves and have-nots have been extremely pronounced during the economic recession of recent years. Barack Obama campaigned directly on the issue of the “dwindling middle class” during his 2008 presidential run and appointed vice-president Joe Biden to lead a middle class task force specifically to bolster this demographic. Despite some recent economic improvement, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont just two months ago cautioned that “the reality is that the middle class today in this country is in desperate shape and the gap between the very very wealthy and everyone else is going to grow wider.” Concerns about status likely will not be leaving the public consciousness any time soon.

Of course, status differences are not simply relevant to economic standing, but they appear to be on our minds at all times. As renowned neuroscientist, Michael Gazzaniga, has noted, “When you get up in the morning, you do not think about triangles and squares and these similes that psychologists have been using for the past 100 years. You think about status. You think about where you are in relation to your peers.” Between CEO and employee, quarterback and wide receiver, husband and wife, status looms large. Recent work by social scientists has tackled the topic, elucidating behavioral differences between low-status and high-status individuals, and the methods by which those at the bottom of the totem pole are most successful at climbing to the top.

Psychologist PJ Henry at DePaul University recently published an article demonstrating that low-status individuals have higher tendencies toward violent behavior, explaining these differences in terms of low-status compensation theory. Henry began this work by observing that murder rates were higher in regions with landscapes conducive to herding compared to regions that are conducive to farming, consistent with prior research showing an association between herding-based economies and violence. The traditional explanation for this pattern, popularized by psychologists Dov Cohen and Richard Nisbett, is that herding cultures have a propensity for maintaining a Culture of Honor. The story goes that because herders from Southern Britain originally settled in the Southern United States (and also established a herding economy on the new land), this left them in an economically precarious position. The possessions of these herdsmen—the most important of which was their livestock—was susceptible to theft, forcing individuals to develop a quick trigger in response to threats, economic or otherwise. In comparison, the farming economy of the North was far more secure, requiring a less aggressive and protective stance toward one’s personal resources.

Henry took on the traditional Culture of Honor hypothesis to suggest instead that differences between herding and farming cultures in violence actually stem from differences in status. His theory is based on a considerable psychological literature demonstrating that individuals from low-status groups (e.g. ethnic minorities) tend to engage in more vigilant psychological self-protection than those from high-status groups. Low-status people are much more sensitive to being socially rejected and are more inclined to monitor their environment for threats. Because of this vigilance toward protecting their sense of self-worth, low-status individuals are quicker to respond violently to personal threats and insults.

Henry first examined archival data on counties across the American South to show that murder rates from 1972 to 2006 were far higher in counties that were dry and hilly (conducive to herding) than those that were moist and flat (conducive to farming). Above and beyond the effect of geography, however, the level of status disparities in a particular county explained these increased murder rates. Even after accounting for the general level of wealth in a given county (wealthier counties tend to have lower murder rates), status disparity still predicted murder rates. Not content with merely looking at the United States, Henry analyzed data from 92 countries around the world, to find a replication of this pattern. From Albania to Zimbabwe, greater status disparities predicted greater levels of violence.

To provide evidence that tendencies for psychological self-protection were the crucial critical link between status and violence, Henry assessed survey data from over 1,500 Americans. In this nationally representative sample, low-socioeconomic status (low-SES) individuals reported far more psychological defensiveness in terms of considering themselves more likely to be taken advantage of and trusting people less.

Finally, in an experiment with both high- and low-SES college students, Henry demonstrated that boosting people’s sense of self-worth diminished aggressive tendencies amongst low-status individuals. Henry asked some students in the experiment to write about a time when they felt important and valuable. Other students did not receive this assignment, but instead completed a rote task about defining nouns. In a second portion of the experiment, all participants answered questions about how willing they would be to respond aggressively to threats. Consistent with the general population studies, college students from low-SES backgrounds expressed more willingness to respond aggressively to insults, but this tendency diminished markedly for those who first wrote about themselves as important and valuable.

Although this pattern of low-status compensation is important on its own, it is also unfortunate given a separate body of research on how people actually attain higher status. This research, recently summarized in an article by psychologists, Cameron Anderson and Gavin J Kilduff, shows that those who are effective in attaining status do so through behaving generously and helpfully to bolster their value to their group. In other words, low-status individuals’ aggressive and violent behavior is precisely the opposite of what they should be doing to ascend the societal totem pole.

Anderson and Kilduff demonstrated in one study that people in a group math problem-solving task who merely signaled their competence through being more vocal attained higher status and were able to do so regardless of their actual competence on the task. Research by psychologists Charlie L. Hardy and Mark Van Vugt, and sociologist Robb Willer have shown that generosity is the key to status. People afford greater status to individuals who donate more of their own money to a communal fund and those who sacrifice their individual interests for the public good. Demonstrating your value to a group—whether through competence or selflessness—appears to improve status. Anderson and Aiwa Shirako suggest that the amplifier for this effect is the degree to which one has social connections with others. Their studies involved MBA students engaging in a variety of negotiations tasks. They showed that individuals who behaved cooperatively attained a more positive reputation, but only if they were socially embedded in the group. Those who behaved cooperatively, but lacked connections went unnoticed. Social connectedness had similar effects for uncooperative MBA students. Those who were selfish and well-connected saw their reputation diminish.

The sum of these findings can begin to explain the troubled circumstances of those lowest in status. Ongoing efforts to maintain a positive view of oneself despite economic and social hardships can engage psychological defense mechanisms that are ultimately self-defeating. Instead of ingratiating themselves to those around them – this is the successful strategy for status attainment - low-status individuals may be more prone to bullying and hostile behavior, especially when provoked. Research identifying factors that lead to successful status-seeking provides some optimism, though. Individuals capable of signaling their worth to others rather than being preoccupied with signaling their worth to themselves may be able to break the self-defeating cycle of low-status behavior.

Adam Waytz is a postdoctoral researcher in Psychology at Harvard University

Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life

Another interesting lecture.


Presented by Dacher Keltner. Prof. Keltner will be presenting work related to his recent book "Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life":

"In this talk I will survey the latest evolutionary and neuroscience that aligns with Charles Darwin's thesis that sympathy is our strongest instinct, or that we are born to be good. I will take the audience on a tour of recent evolutionary thought, which suggests that our hyper vulnerable offspring rearranged our brains, genes, and social structures. I will detail new research on the vagus nerve and oxytocin, branches of the nervous system that have evolved to enable cooperation, trust, and caretaking. I detail new signaling systems -- tactile communication and vocalization -- which are critical to the transmission of prosociality across individuals. Throughout the talk I integrate the latest science with the wisdom found in Eastern thought."

Dr. Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, and Director for Greater Good Science Center.

Burke Lecture: Buddhism in a Global Age of Technology

I may have posted this before, but even if I have, it's still interesting.

A distinguished scholar of Buddhism, Lewis Lancaster founded the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative to use the latest computer technology to map the spread of various strands of Buddhism from the distant past to the present. Series: "Burke Lectureship on Religion & Society" [6/2008]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rachel Maddow Demolishes Therapist Who Claims He Can Make Her Straight

I love Rachel Maddow.

Richard Cohen is an idiot. The idea that you can make gay people straight is laughable at best and abuse in reality. Homosexuality is a genetically determined predisposition, and you cannot undo that with "therapy" or anything else. This guy was kicked out of the American Counseling Association for ethical violations. He is not licensed in any state.

Maddow quotes from Cohen's book:
Maddow: Let me ask - I‘ll just read from your book, OK? Page 49, “Homosexuals are at least 12 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals. Homosexual teachers are at least seven times more likely to molest a pupil. Homosexual teachers are estimated to have committed at least 25 percent of pupil molestation; 40 percent of molestation assaults were made by those who engage in homosexuality.”
Those "stats" are absolutely false, and he does not acknowledge that when he says he plans to take them out of the 3rd edition of the book that is being used in Uganda to justify killing gay men and women.

You can read the whole transcript here.

Or you can just watch the videos.

Part One:

Part Two:

December 10th is Human Rights Day

From Ovi Magazine.

Human Rights: The Emergence of the Person Human Rights: The Emergence of the Person
by Rene Wadlow
2009-12-10 08:21:56

"All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. While the significance of national and regional peculiarities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be born in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (1993)

December 10th is Human Rights Day, marking the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Among the efforts to codify universal human values in modern times, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the best known and most widely cited, both by governments and civil society. In a world where people from many different cultures and societies come together in increasing frequency, there must be some mutually recognized codes of conduct and mutual respect. In order to reaffirm the Universal Declaration and the other international human rights instruments which flow from the Declaration, the United Nations organized a World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993. The “Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action” reasserts the universality of all human rights as the birthright of all human beings. “Human Rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings; their protection and promotion is the first responsibility of Governments.

The Universal Declaration is fundamentally based on the idea that rights are inherent in the nature of the person. Thus it is important to look at our understanding of the person and the relation of the individual to groups of which he is also a member.

The image of the person was largely formed some 2000 years ago in the Mediterranean world in the debates among Jews, Christians, Gnostics, Greeks, with additional currents of thought coming from Persia and India. There was no single image at the start. Rather, it was the debates among all these complementary and conflicting currents that led to the complex image of the person that we have today. It was the Roman Stoics who brought all these currents together with the image of the person who became the citizen. The idea of the person is a compound of legal rights and moral responsibility. The Latin persona is the person behind the mask.

It was only in the Mediterranean world that there was such a long-lasting and multi-current discussion of ethics, of individual destiny and the relation of the individual to society. In human history, there have been periods when there is a collective response to new challenges and thus new ways of organizing thought and society. Most of the world’s great religious and philosophical systems were formulated at about the same time — 500 BCE: Confucianism and Taoism in China, Hinduism-Buddhism-Jainism in India, Zoroastrianism in Persia, the Prophetic impulse in Judaism, Socrates-Plato-the mystery schools in Greece, and the Druid teachings among the Celts.

In most parts of the world, this period of intellectual creativity lasted for 100 to 200 years before it was absorbed into the culture of the specific area. Confucianism and Taoism helped provide a common ethic for all the tribal groups of China but remained limited to the Chinese-influenced areas; Hinduism and Jainism remained Indian while Buddhism spread to the edges of the Indian world; Zoroastrianism became identified with the Persian world and spread to Central Asia. While there continued to be intellectual debates within each of these traditions, there was little cross fertilization of ideas.

It was only in the Mediterranean world first with Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic period and then the Roman Empire that multicultural exchanges took place at an intellectual level. Out of these multicultural exchanges came the concept of the person — the individual as separate from a group identity. This synthesis of the person was re-awakened during the Renaissance and further developed during the 18th century Enlightenment. In Europe and North America, individuality meant liberty, progress and individual initiative. The same concepts of the individual person were spread by European colonialism and European systems of education imposed by the colonial powers. Within the colonial educational system, individuals were pulled away from traditional thought and encouraged to develop individual self-awareness, but there were limits to this self-expression set by the colonial regimes.

There are those who say that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a “Western document”. This is only partly true. It is certain that without the crimes of the Second World War, human rights would not have been made a priority of the newly-formed United Nations. When we look at the number of years that it has taken to write and negotiate other UN texts, the two years spent on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights resembles a 100 yard dash. Nevertheless, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not exclusively “Western”. It is the outgrowth of the emergence of the idea of the person spread by Western colonialism but also in reaction to colonialism.

Before colonialism, social allegiance referred to ethnic and religious identity. Colonialism brought in a third level, national identity, but national identity could be gained only by the development of a personal identity as the struggle for national independence required individuals who could propose new approaches, people who organized themselves in non-traditional associations and clubs, who created journals and newspapers and who used the idea of human rights in order to defend themselves against colonial power.

Thus by 1948, the idea of human rights was assumed by persons everywhere, both in independent and in still colonized countries. Human rights as a philosophy was found everywhere but not in everyone. Even today, many people continue living in a ‘group consciousness’.

Today, the image of the person is often imprecise, delicate, and fragile. It is an image which requires further elaboration by better integrating the link between nature and the individual into the image of the person. We need a revitalized sense of who we are as human beings — an image of humanity that is uplifting and inclusive and that better integrates the dimension of nature. Such a new attitude toward nature will go hand in hand with a new, more complex understanding of the person and its potentials.

Human rights are universal because the subject of human rights is the universal world citizen and not the political citizen as defined by state citizenship. Human rights inaugurate a new kind of citizenship, the citizenship of humanity. Human rights gives people the sense that world law belongs to them. It is in this spirit that we mark December 10th as our common standard and goal for action.
We still have a LONG way to go.


Another evolutionary psychologist weighs in on morality and human nature. In this case, he's partially correct, as is generally true, but for the great many people, religion is a powerful source of morality.

Where I intend to be divisive is with respect to the argument that religion, and moral education more generally, represent the only — or perhaps even the ultimate — source of moral reasoning. If anything, moral education is often motivated by self-interest, to do what's best for those within a moral community, preaching singularity, not plurality. Blame nurture, not nature, for our moral atrocities against humanity. And blame educated partiality more generally, as this allows us to lump into one category all those who fail to acknowledge our shared humanity and fail to use secular reasoning to practice compassion.

by Marc D. Hauser

MARC D. HAUSER an evolutionary psychologist and biologist, is Harvard College Professor, Professor of Psychology and Program in Neurosciences, and Director of Primate Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. He is the author of The Evolution of Communication, Wild Minds: What Animals Think, and Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong.

Marc Hauser's Edge Bio Page


For many, living a moral life is synonymous with living a religious life. Just as educated students of mathematics, chemistry and politics know that 1=1, water=H2O, and Barack Obama=US president, so, too, do religiously educated people know that religion=morality.

As simple and pleasing as this relationship may seem, it has at least three possible interpretations.

First, if religion represents the source of moral understanding, then those lacking a religious education are morally lost, adrift in a sea of sinful temptation. Those with a religious education not only chart a steady course, guided by the cliched moral compass but they know why some actions are morally virtuous and others are morally abhorrent.

Second, perhaps everyone has a standard engine for working out what is morally right or wrong but those with a religious background have extra accessories that refine our actions, fuelling altruism and fending off harms to others.

Third, while religion certainly does provide moral inspiration, not all of its recommendations are morally laudatory. Though we can all applaud those religions that teach compassion, forgiveness and genuine altruism, we can also express disgust and moral outrage at those religions that promote ethnic cleansing, often by praising those willing to commit suicide for the good of the religious "team".

None of my comments so far are meant to be divisive with respect to the meaning and sense of community that many derive from religion. Where I intend to be divisive is with respect to the argument that religion, and moral education more generally, represent the only — or perhaps even the ultimate — source of moral reasoning. If anything, moral education is often motivated by self-interest, to do what's best for those within a moral community, preaching singularity, not plurality. Blame nurture, not nature, for our moral atrocities against humanity. And blame educated partiality more generally, as this allows us to lump into one category all those who fail to acknowledge our shared humanity and fail to use secular reasoning to practise compassion.

If religion is not the source of our moral insights — and moral education has the demonstrated potential to teach partiality and, therefore, morally destructive behaviour — then what other sources of inspiration are on offer?

One answer to this question is emerging from an unsuspected corner of academia: the mind sciences. Recent discoveries suggest that all humans, young and old, male and female, conservative and liberal, living in Sydney, San Francisco and Seoul, growing up as atheists, Buddhists, Catholics and Jews, with high school, university or professional degrees, are endowed with a gift from nature, a biological code for living a moral life.

This code, a universal moral grammar, provides us with an unconscious suite of principles for judging what is morally right and wrong. It is an impartial, rational and unemotional capacity. It doesn't dictate who we should help or who we are licensed to harm. Rather, it provides an abstract set of rules for how to intuitively understand when helping another is obligatory and when harming another is forbidden. And it does so dispassionately and impartially. What's the evidence?

To experience what subjects in some of our studies experience, see the moral sense test . It asks for information about gender, age, nationality, education, politics and religion. Once logged in, there is a series of scenarios asking participants to judge whether a particular action is morally forbidden, permissible or obligatory.

Most of the scenarios involve genuine moral dilemmas. All are unfamiliar, for a reason. Unfamiliar and artificial cases have an advantage over familiar scenarios, such as abortion, euthanasia and charitable donations: no one has a well-rehearsed and explicit moral argument for such cases, and for all the cases we create, neither the law nor religious scripture provides any guidance.

For example, if five people in a hospital each require an organ to survive, is it permissible for a doctor to take the organs of a healthy person who happens to walk by the hospital? Or if a lethal gas has leaked into the vent of a factory and is headed towards a room with seven people, is it permissible to push someone into the vent, preventing the gas from reaching the seven but killing the one? These are true moral dilemmas — challenging problems that push on our intuitions as lay jurists, forcing us to wrestle with the opposing forces of consequences (saving the lives of many) and rules (killing is wrong).

Based on the responses of thousands of participants to more than 100 dilemmas, we find no difference between men and women, young and old, theistic believers and non-believers, liberals and conservatives. When it comes to judging unfamiliar moral scenarios, your cultural background is virtually irrelevant.

What guides your judgments is the universal and unconscious voice of our species, a biological code, a universal moral grammar. We tend to see actions as worse than omissions of actions: pushing a person into the factory vent is worse than allowing the person to fall in. Using someone as a means to some greater good is worse if you make this one person worse off than if you don't. This is the difference between an evitable and inevitable harm. If the person in the hospital or in the factory is perfectly healthy, taking his life to save the lives of many is worse than if he is dying and there is no cure. Distinctions such as these are abstract, impartial and emotionally cold. They are like recognising the identity relationship of 1=1, a rule that is abstract and content-free.

If this code is universal and impartial, then why are there are so many moral atrocities in the world? The answer comes from thinking about our emotions, the feelings we recruit to fuel in-group favouritism, out-group hatred and, ultimately, dehumanisation.

Consider the psychopath, Hollywood's favourite moral monster. Clinical studies reveal that they feel no remorse, shame, guilt or empathy, and lack the tools for self-control. Because they lacked these capacities, several experts have argued that they lack the wherewithal to understand what is right or wrong and, consequently, to do the wrong thing. New studies show, however, that this conclusion is at least partially wrong. Psychopaths know full well what is right and wrong but don't care. Their moral knowledge is intact but their moral emotions are damaged. They are perfectly normal jurists but perfectly abnormal moral actors. For the psychopath, other humans are no different from rocks or artefacts. They are disposable.

Here lies the answer to understanding the dangers of nurture, of education and partiality. When we fuel in-group biases by elevating and praising members of the group, we often unconsciously, and sometimes consciously, denigrate the "other" by feeding the most nefarious of all emotions, the dragon of disgust.

We label the other (the members of the out-group) with a description that makes them sub-human or even inanimate, often parasitic and vile, and thus disgusting. When disgust is recruited, those in the in-group have only one way out: purge the other.

When the Dalai Lama stated that the Chinese were attempting "cultural genocide" against the Tibetans by attempting to stop protests, he was not only making a statement about the Chinese per se but about a particular form of moral education, one that fails to acknowledge autonomy, preaches partiality and feeds disgust and dehumanisation. The Chinese must stop their attempt to purge the Tibetans of their cultural heritage and right of cultural expression. And the nations of the world, and their diverse peoples, must remain vigilant against any attempts at cultural decimation.

The good news about the psychology of prejudice, of creating distinctive classes of individuals who are in the tribe and outside of it, is that it is flexible, capable of change and — viewed from an evolutionary perspective — as abstract and content-free as the rules that enter into our moral grammar.

All animals, humans included, have evolved the capacity to create a distinction between members of the in-group and those in the out-group. But the features that are selected are not set in the genome. Rather, it is open to experience.

For example, we know from studies of child development that within the first year of life, babies prefer to look at faces from their own race to faces of a different race, prefer to listen to speakers of their native language over foreigners, and even within their native language prefer to listen to their own dialect. But if babies watch someone of another race speaking their native language, they are much more willing to engage with this person than someone of the same race speaking a different language.

These social categories are created by experience, and some features are more important than others because they are harder to fake and more indicative of a shared cultural background. But, importantly, they are plastic. Racial discrimination is greatly reduced among children of mixed-racial parents. And adults who have dated individuals of another race are also much less prejudiced. On this note, moral education can play a more nurturing role by introducing all children, early in life, to the varieties of religions, political systems, languages, social organisations and races. Exposure to diversity is perhaps our best option for reducing, if not eradicating, strong out-group biases.

Lest there be any confusion about the claims I am making, I am not saying that our evolved capacity to intuitively judge what is right or wrong is sufficient to live a moral life. It is most definitely not and for two good reasons.

For one, some of our moral instincts evolved during a period of human history that looked nothing like the situation today. In our distant past, we lived in small groups consisting of highly familiar and often familial individuals, with no formal laws. Today we live in a large and diffuse society, where our decisions have little-to-no impact on most people in our community but with laws to enforce those who deviate from expected norms. Further, we are confronted with moral decisions that are unfamiliar, including stem cells, abortion, organ transplants and life support. When we confront these novel situations, our evolved system is ill-equipped.

The second reason is that living a moral life requires us to be restless with our present moral norms, always challenging us to discover what might and ought to be. And here is where nurture can re-enter the conversation. We need education because we need a world in which people listen to the universal voice of their species, while stopping to wonder whether there are alternatives. And if there are alternatives, we need rational and reasonable people who will be vigilant of partiality and champions of plurality.

NATALIE ANGIER - The Circular Logic of the Universe

Cool article from The New York Times.

Vasily Kandinsky, “Several Circles,” 1926.

The Circular Logic of the Universe

Published: December 7, 2009

CIRCLING my way not long ago through the Vasily Kandinsky show now on display in the suitably spiral setting of the Guggenheim Museum, I came to one of the Russian master’s most illustrious, if misleadingly named, paintings: “Several Circles.”

Those “several” circles, I saw, were more like three dozen, and every one of them seemed to be rising from the canvas, buoyed by the shrewdly exuberant juxtapositioning of their different colors, sizes and apparent translucencies. I learned that, at around the time Kandinsky painted the work, in 1926, he had begun collecting scientific encyclopedias and journals; and as I stared at the canvas, a big, stupid smile plastered on my face, I thought of yeast cells budding, or a haloed blue sun and its candied satellite crew, or life itself escaping the careless primordial stew.

I also learned of Kandinsky’s growing love affair with the circle. The circle, he wrote, is “the most modest form, but asserts itself unconditionally.” It is “simultaneously stable and unstable,” “loud and soft,” “a single tension that carries countless tensions within it.” Kandinsky loved the circle so much that it finally supplanted in his visual imagination the primacy long claimed by an emblem of his Russian boyhood, the horse.

PAINTING IN THE ROUND “Circular Forms,” oil on canvas by Robert Delaunay.

Quirkily enough, the artist’s life followed a circular form: He was born in December 1866, and he died the same month in 1944. This being December, I’d like to honor Kandinsky through his favorite geometry, by celebrating the circle and giving a cheer for the sphere. Life as we know it must be lived in the round, and the natural world abounds in circular objects at every scale we can scan. Let a heavenly body get big enough for gravity to weigh in, and you will have yourself a ball. Stars are giant, usually symmetrical balls of radiant gas, while the definition of both a planet like Jupiter and a plutoid like Pluto is a celestial object orbiting a star that is itself massive enough to be largely round.

On a more down-to-earth level, eyeballs live up to their name by being as round as marbles, and, like Jonathan Swift’s ditty about fleas upon fleas, those soulful orbs are inscribed with circular irises that in turn are pierced by circular pupils. Or think of the curved human breast and its bull’s-eye areola and nipple.

Our eggs and those of many other species are not egg-shaped at all but spherical, and when you see human eggs under a microscope they look like tranquil suns with Kandinsky coronas behind them. Raindrops start life in the clouds not with the pear-shaped contours of a cartoon teardrop, but as liquid globes, aggregates of water molecules that have condensed around specks of dust or salt and then mutually clung themselves into the rounded path of least resistance. Only as the raindrops fall do they lose their symmetry, their bottoms often flattening out while their tops stay rounded, a shape some have likened to a hamburger bun.

Sometimes roundness is purely a matter of physics. “The shape of any object represents the balance of two opposing forces,” explained Larry S. Liebovitch of the Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences at Florida Atlantic University. “You get things that are round when those forces are isotropic, that is, felt equally in all directions.”

In a star, gravity is pulling the mass of gas inward toward a central point, while pressure is pushing the gas outward, and the two competing forces reach a dynamic détente — “simultaneously stable and unstable,” you might say — in the form of a sphere. For a planet like Earth, gravity tugs the mostly molten rock in toward the core, but the rocks and their hostile electrons push back with equal vehemence. Plutoids are also sufficiently massive for gravity to overcome the stubbornness of rock and smooth out their personal lumps, although they may not be the gravitationally dominant bodies in their neighborhood

In precipitating clouds, water droplets are exceptionally sticky, as the lightly positive end of one water molecule seeks the lightly negative end of another. But, again, mutually hostile electrons put a limit on molecular intimacy, and the compromise conformation is shaped like a ball. “A sphere is the most compact way for an object to form itself,” said Denis Dutton, an evolutionary theorist at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

A sphere is also tough. For a given surface area, it’s stronger than virtually any other shape. If you want to make a secure container using the least amount of material, Dr. Liebovitch said, make that container round. “That’s why, when you cook a frankfurter, it always splits in the long direction,” he said, rather than along its circumference. The curved part has the tensile strength of a sphere, the long axis that of a rectangle: no contest.

The reliability of bubble wrap may help explain some of the round objects found among the living, where the shapes of body parts are assumed to have some relation to their purpose. Eggs are a valuable commodity in nature, and if a round package is the safest option, by all means, make them caviar round. Among many birds, of course, eggs are oval rather than round, a trait that biologists attribute to both the arduous passage the egg makes through the avian oviduct, and the fact that oval eggs roll in a circle rather than a straight line and thus are less likely to fall out of a nest.

Yet scientists admit that they don’t always understand the evolutionary pressures that sculpture a given carbon-based shape.

While studying the cornea at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Liebovitch became curious about why eyeballs are round. “It seemed like their most salient feature,” he said. He explored the options. To aid in focusing? But only a small region of the retina is involved in focusing, he said, and the whole spherical casing seems superfluous to the optical needs of that foveal patch. To enable the eye to roll easily in the socket and dart this way and that? But birds and other animals with fixed eyes still have bulging round eyeballs. “It’s not really clear what the reason is,” he said.

And for speculative verve, nothing beats the assortment of hypotheses that have been put forth to explain the roundness of the human female breast. It’s a buttock mimic. It’s a convenient place to store fat for hard times. It’s a fertility signal, a youth signal, a health signal, a wealth symbol. Large breasts emphasize the woman’s comparatively small waist, which is really what men are interested in. As for me, I’m waiting for somebody to explain why a man’s well-developed bicep looks like a wandering breast.

Whatever the prompt, our round eyes are drawn to round things. Jeremy M. Wolfe of Harvard Medical School and his colleagues found that curvature was a basic feature we used while making a visual search. Maybe we are looking for faces, a new chance to schmooze.

Studying rhesus monkeys, Doris Tsao of the California Institute of Technology and her colleagues identified a set of brain cells that responded strongly to images of faces, monkey and otherwise. The only other sort of visual stimulus that aroused those face tracing neurons, Dr. Tsao said, were round objects — clocks, apples and the like. She suspects the results would be similar for humans. We make a fetish of faces. “If you have a round object with two spots in the middle,” she said, “that instantly attracts your attention.”

Or maybe the circle beckons not for its resemblance to human face but as a mark of human art. Dr. Dutton, author of “The Art Instinct,” pointed out that perfect shapes were exceedingly rare in nature. “Take a look at a billiard ball,” he said. “It’s impossible to imagine that nature threw that one up.” We are predisposed to recognize “human artifacture,” he said, and roundness can be a mark of our handiwork. When nature does play the meticulous Michelangelo, we are astonished.

“People come to see the Moeraki boulders of New Zealand,” he said, “and ooh and aah because they’re so amazingly spherical.”

Artists in turn have used the circle as shorthand for the divine: in mandalas, rose windows, the lotus pad of the Buddha, the halos of Christian saints. For Kandinsky, said Tracey Bashkoff, who curated the Guggenheim exhibition, the circle was part of a “cosmic language” and a link to a grander, more spiritual plane. A round of applause! We’ve looped back to Kandinsky again.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Most Antidepressants Miss Key Target of Clinical Depression

Way back in what now seems like the dark ages of depression medications, the most effective and widely used drugs were MAOIs, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors. The MAOIs have some serious risks for those who do not avoid certain foods in their diets:

When ingested orally, MAOIs inhibit the catabolism of dietary amines. When foods containing tyramine are consumed (so-called "cheese syndrome"), the individual may suffer from hypertensive crisis. If foods containing tryptophan are consumed, hyperserotonemia may result. The amount required to cause a reaction varies greatly from individual to individual, and depends on the degree of inhibition, which in turn depends on dosage and selectivity.

The exact mechanism by which tyramine causes a hypertensive reaction is not well understood, but it is assumed that tyramine displaces norepinephrine from the storage vesicles.[4] This may trigger a cascade in which excessive amounts of norepinephrine can lead to a hypertensive crisis. Another theory suggests that proliferation and accumulation of catecholamines causes hypertensive crises.
Here is an explanation of how the MAOIs work, from the Mayo Clinic:

How MAOIs work

Researchers believe MAOIs relieve depression by preventing the enzyme monoamine oxidase from metabolizing the neurotransmitters norepinephrine (nor-ep-ih-NEF-rin), serotonin (ser-oh-TOE-nin) and dopamine (DOE-puh-mene) in the brain. As a result, these levels remain high in the brain, boosting mood.

Antidepressants, in general, may also work by playing a neuroprotective role in how they relieve anxiety and depression. It's thought that antidepressants may increase the effects of brain receptors that help nerve cells keep sensitivity to glutamate — an organic compound of a nonessential amino acid — in check. This increased support of nerve cells decreases glutamate sensitivity, providing protection against the glutamate overwhelming and exciting key brain areas related to anxiety and depression.

Therapeutic effects of antidepressants may vary in people, due in part to each person's genetic makeup. It's thought that people's sensitivity to antidepressant effects, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor effects, can vary depending on:

  • How each person's serotonin reuptake receptor function works
  • His or her alleles — the parts of chromosomes that determine inherited characteristics, such as height and hair color, that combine to make each person unique

Antidepressant medications are often the first treatment choice for adults with moderate or severe depression, sometimes along with psychotherapy. Although antidepressants may not cure depression, they can help you achieve remission — the disappearance or nearly complete reduction of depression symptoms.

Because of the risks involved with these drugs, and based on the unsupported assumption that serotonin is the most important neurotransmitter in depression, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) were developed to address this element of brain chemistry. They do not work for many people, and sometimes figuring out which one might work takes several trials. They do have fewer severe risks, but as many or more overall side effects, most notably weight gain (they interfere with glucose metabolism, i.e., cause diabetes in some people) and loss of sexual desire/function.

Turns out, according to this new study, that they really are only making us stoned on serotonin, not addressing the real issues of depression in our brain chemistry.

It seems the original idea, that the MAO inhibitors address the neuro-chemistry of depression, if we can make them safer.

Most Antidepressants Miss Key Target of Clinical Depression, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Dec. 8, 2009) — A key brain protein called monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) -- is highly elevated during clinical depression yet is unaffected by treatment with commonly used antidepressants, according to an important study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The study has important implications for our understanding of why antidepressants don't always work.

Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) used an advanced brain imaging method to measure levels of the brain protein MAO-A. MAO-A digests multiple brain chemicals, including serotonin, that help maintain healthy mood. High MAO-A levels excessively remove these brain chemicals.

Antidepressant medications are the most commonly prescribed treatments in North America, yet 50 per cent of people do not respond adequately to antidepressant treatment. Dr. Jeffrey Meyer the lead investigator explains, "Mismatches between treatment and disease are important for understanding why treatments don't always work. Rather than reversing the problem of MAO-A breaking down several chemicals, most antidepressants only raise serotonin."

Understanding the Problem of a Persistent Illness

Depression ranks as the fourth leading cause of disability and premature death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Recurrent illness is a major problem. Even under the most optimal treatment circumstances, recurrence rates for clinical depression are at least 20 per cent over two years.

The new study also focused upon people who had fully recovered from past episodes of clinical depression. Some people who appeared to be in recovery actually had high levels of MAO-A. Those with high levels of MAO-A then had subsequent recurrence of their depressive episodes.

This new idea of high levels of MAO-A lowering brain chemicals (called monoamines), then falling into a clinical depression is consistent with the historical finding that medications which artificially lower monoamines can lead to clinical depression as a side effect. In the 1950's some medications to treat high blood pressure also lowered monoamines and people began to experience depressive episodes. When the medications were removed, people recovered.

From Technology to Treatment

VP of Research Dr. Bruce Pollock highlights the study's use of advanced brain imaging technology. "CAMH has the only positron emission tomography (PET) centre in the world that is dedicated solely to mental health and addiction treatment and research. As a consequence, we were able to develop this new technology to measure MAO-A levels."

Virginia Wilson knows first-hand the struggle it can be to find effective medication. After being diagnosed with depression, eight years passed before a medication was developed that worked well for her. "During this time I was on every type of antidepressant available. This process was enormously frustrating, painful -- and took a great toll on my personal life." The current research into depression gives Virginia hope for others who struggle as she did. "Understanding of the biochemical mechanisms behind depression is so important and can really improve the treatments that are available -- it can save lives."

Some early antidepressant medications did target MAO-A, but these MAO-A inhibitors fell out of favour in the 1970s due to adverse interactions with certain foods. There have been advances that overcome these problems, but the vast majority of antidepressant development and use has overlooked the MAO-A target.

According to Dr. Meyer, "Since most antidepressants miss MAO-A, we are counting on the brain to heal this process of making too much MAO-A, and that doesn't always happen. The future is to make treatments that tell the brain to make less MAO-A, even after the antidepressant treatment is over, to create better opportunities for sustained recovery."

~ Dr. Meyer is a Canada Research Chair in the Neurochemistry of Depression and the Head of the Neurochemical Imaging Program in Mood Disorders. The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.

Journal Reference:

  1. Meyer et al. Brain Monoamine Oxidase A Binding in Major Depressive Disorder: Relationship to Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Treatment, Recovery, and Recurrence. Archives of General Psychiatry, 2009; 66 (12): 1304 DOI: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.156

Does Biocentrism Allow for Immortality?

Or maybe some weird version of reincarnation? I'm not a big fan of my life continuing after this body rolls into the furnace, which makes me a bad Buddhist to some traditional thinkers. The idea of Heaven scared this sh!t out of me when I was a kid. Somehow, I find great comfort in knowing (thinking? believing?) that this is a one-shot effort, that there is no do-over, and that there is no immortality. Maybe I'm just weird that way.

Does Death Exist? New Theory Says 'No'

Robert Lanza, M.D.

Posted: December 8, 2009 04:06 PM

Many of us fear death. We believe in death because we have been told we will die. We associate ourselves with the body, and we know that bodies die. But a new scientific theory suggests that death is not the terminal event we think.

One well-known aspect of quantum physics is that certain observations cannot be predicted absolutely. Instead, there is a range of possible observations each with a different probability. One mainstream explanation, the "many-worlds" interpretation, states that each of these possible observations corresponds to a different universe (the 'multiverse'). A new scientific theory - called biocentrism - refines these ideas. There are an infinite number of universes, and everything that could possibly happen occurs in some universe. Death does not exist in any real sense in these scenarios. All possible universes exist simultaneously, regardless of what happens in any of them. Although individual bodies are destined to self-destruct, the alive feeling - the 'Who am I?'- is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain. But this energy doesn't go away at death. One of the surest axioms of science is that energy never dies; it can neither be created nor destroyed. But does this energy transcend from one world to the other?

Consider an experiment that was recently published in the journal Science showing that scientists could retroactively change something that had happened in the past. Particles had to decide how to behave when they hit a beam splitter. Later on, the experimenter could turn a second switch on or off. It turns out that what the observer decided at that point, determined what the particle did in the past. Regardless of the choice you, the observer, make, it is you who will experience the outcomes that will result. The linkages between these various histories and universes transcend our ordinary classical ideas of space and time. Think of the 20-watts of energy as simply holo-projecting either this or that result onto a screen. Whether you turn the second beam splitter on or off, it's still the same battery or agent responsible for the projection.

According to Biocentrism, space and time are not the hard objects we think. Wave your hand through the air - if you take everything away, what's left? Nothing. The same thing applies for time. You can't see anything through the bone that surrounds your brain. Everything you see and experience right now is a whirl of information occurring in your mind. Space and time are simply the tools for putting everything together.

Death does not exist in a timeless, spaceless world. In the end, even Einstein admitted, "Now Besso" (an old friend) "has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us...know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." Immortality doesn't mean a perpetual existence in time without end, but rather resides outside of time altogether.

This was clear with the death of my sister Christine. After viewing her body at the hospital, I went out to speak with family members. Christine's husband - Ed - started to sob uncontrollably. For a few moments I felt like I was transcending the provincialism of time. I thought about the 20-watts of energy, and about experiments that show a single particle can pass through two holes at the same time. I could not dismiss the conclusion: Christine was both alive and dead, outside of time.

Christine had had a hard life. She had finally found a man that she loved very much. My younger sister couldn't make it to her wedding because she had a card game that had been scheduled for several weeks. My mother also couldn't make the wedding due to an important engagement she had at the Elks Club. The wedding was one of the most important days in Christine's life. Since no one else from our side of the family showed, Christine asked me to walk her down the aisle to give her away.

Soon after the wedding, Christine and Ed were driving to the dream house they had just bought when their car hit a patch of black ice. She was thrown from the car and landed in a banking of snow.

"Ed," she said "I can't feel my leg."

She never knew that her liver had been ripped in half and blood was rushing into her peritoneum.

After the death of his son, Emerson wrote "Our life is not so much threatened as our perception. I grieve that grief can teach me nothing, nor carry me one step into real nature."

Whether it's flipping the switch for the Science experiment, or turning the driving wheel ever so slightly this way or that way on black-ice, it's the 20-watts of energy that will experience the result. In some cases the car will swerve off the road, but in other cases the car will continue on its way to my sister's dream house.

Christine had recently lost 100 pounds, and Ed had bought her a surprise pair of diamond earrings. It's going to be hard to wait, but I know Christine is going to look fabulous in them the next time I see her.

Robert Lanza, MD is considered one of the leading scientists in the world. He is the author of "Biocentrism," a book that lays out his theory of everything.

Samdhong Rinpoche - Buddhist Meditation

Interesting interview.

Childhood traumas linger as health risk factors for adults

We know that childhood trauma is one of the best predictors for adult mental illness, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, dissociative disorders, and so on. New research seems to indicate that it also increases the risk of other health issues.

Childhood traumas linger as health risk factors for adults

Research from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London has found that negative experiences in childhood may alter not only mental health but also physical health, into middle age and beyond.

1,000 individuals have been followed from birth to age 32 as part of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study in New Zealand. This latest research from the study suggests that sustained health risks stem from childhood abuse, neglect, social isolation or economic hardship.

The findings, which appear in the December issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, suggest that childhood experiences can affect nervous, immune and endocrine functioning, which agrees with earlier findings in animal experiments.

At age 32, the study subjects who had experienced these childhood traumas were more likely to exhibit depression, chronic inflammation and metabolic markers of increased health risk. These three factors are known to be associated with the physiology of stress-response systems, and predict higher risk for age-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia.

Adults who had been maltreated as children were twice as likely to suffer major depression and chronic inflammation. Children who grew up poor or socially isolated were twice as likely to show metabolic risk markers at age 32. After the analysis controlled for family history and other established risk factors, it showed that adults who had two or more of the adverse childhood experiences were nearly twice as likely to have disease risk factors as those who hadn't had suffered in childhood.

"We live increasingly longer lives and our extra years of life should be healthy, productive and enjoyable, not years of disease and disability," says lead author Dr Andrea Danese, Clinical Lecturer at Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and MRC Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry at King's. "In this study, we observed that childhood experiences may affect health in old age, regardless of the risk factors that health policies are currently targeting. Therefore the promotion of healthy positive experiences for children is a necessary and potentially cost-effective target for the prevention of age-related disease."

Co-author Professor Avshalom Caspi, Duke University, US, adds: "What we're learning is that poor adult health is, in part, manufactured in childhood. It is multiple and cumulative childhood experience that predisposes adults to poor health."

The authors now wish to further study how adverse psychosocial experiences can become biological risks in childhood.


Notes to Editors

The authors are Andrea Danese, Terrie E Moffitt, HonaLee Harrington, Barry J Milne, Guilherme Polanczyk, Carmine Pariante, Richie Poulton, Avshalom Caspi.

The study was conducted with colleagues from Duke University, North Carolina, US and Dunedin School of Medicine, New Zealand. It was funded by the UK Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Mental Health and the National Institute on Aging. Dr Danese was a Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellow.

'Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adult Risk Factors for Age-Related Disease' Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009;163[12]:1135-1143. Available pre-embargo to the media at JAMA/Archives Media Relations at 312/464-JAMA (5262) or e-mail

Riz Khan interviews Nobelist John Nash of A Beautiful Mind

Via 3 Quarks Daily.

This is an interesting and occasionally uncomfortable interview with John Nash, who very seldom gives interviews.

Part One:

Part Two: