Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dalai Lama - Reflecting on Birth and on the Nature of Mind and Body

by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
trans. and ed. by Jeffrey Hopkins, PhD


Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

On top of the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness, and death, we encounter the pains of facing the unpleasant, separating from the pleasant, and not finding what we want. The basic problem lies with the type of mind and body that we have. Our mind-body complex serves as a basis for present sufferings in the form of aging, sickness, and death, and promotes future suffering through our usual responses to painful situations.

By reflecting on birth and on the nature of mind and body, you will be moved from the depths of your heart to seek relief, thinking, "If I could only be free from a life driven by afflictive emotions and karma!" Without such reflection on pain, your knowledge of your own condition will be limited, which itself will put a limit on your compassion. As Tsonghkapa says:

"If you do not cultivate a genuine sense of disenchantment with cyclic existence--whose nature is a mind-body complex under the sway of afflictive emotions and karma--you will have no chance to develop a genuine attitude intent on liberation, and there will be no way to develop great compassion for beings wandering in cyclic existence. Therefore, it is crucial to reflect on your situation." (p.151)

--from Becoming Enlightened by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, trans. and ed. by Jeffrey Hopkins, PhD

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All in the Mind - Dialogue with the Dalai Lama - Part 1 - happiness, sadness and everything in between

Very cool - Natasha Mitchell of All in the Mind was fortunate to be able to interview His Holiness the Dalai Lama while at the Happiness and Its Causes Conference. Also joining the conversation are Marco Iacoboni (proponent of mirror neuron theory), B Alan Wallace, Paul Ekman, and Patrick McGorry.

Dialogue with the Dalai Lama - Part 1 - happiness, sadness and everything in between

Is sadness important for happiness? How does compassion become a mental habit? From the Happiness and Its Causes Conference, His Holiness the Dalai Lama joins Natasha Mitchell with a panel of top scientific minds.

Show Transcript


The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

Marco Iacoboni
Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences
Director of the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Lab at the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center
University of California Los Angeles

Paul Ekman
Psychologist and author
Manager of the Paul Ekman Group, LLC.
San Francisco,

Patrick McGorry
Executive Director of Orygen Youth Health
Professor of Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne
Director, National Youth Mental Health Foundation (headspace)
2010 Australian of the Year
Melbourne, Australia

B. Alan Wallace
Buddhist Scholar and author
President and founder, Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies

Further Information

Dialogue with the Dalai Lama: Part 1 of 3 (2009, All in the Mind)
From the stage of the 2009 Mind and Its Potential conference, His Holiness the Dalai Lama joins All in the Mind's Natasha Mitchell in an extended conversation about the mind, science and much else. Parts 2 and 3 feature the founder of the field of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, leading Harvard evolutionary biologist Marc Hauser, and Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace.

Dialogue with the Dalai Lama - Part 2 of 3 (2009, All in the Mind)
His Holiness the Dalai Lama joins All in the Mind's Natasha Mitchell and leading scholars in a dialogue about science, wellbeing and our moral minds. Harvard evolutionary biologist and author of Moral Minds, Marc Hauser, asks - does biology constrain our mind's potential and our moral capacity? Is there a place for moral outrage?

Dialogue with the Dalai Lama - Part 3 of 3 (2009, All in the Mind)
His Holiness the Dalai Lama joins All in the Mind's Natasha Mitchell and leading scholars in a dialogue about science and the self. This week, founder of the field of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, and Buddhist scholar Alan Wallace consider with him what it takes to flourish...really flourish...individually and collectively.

Happiness and Its Causes Conference - Science of Mind forum with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, June 2011
Featuring leading scientists and clinicians in dialogue with the Dalai Lama, and facilitated by ABC Radio National's Natasha Mitchell.

Natasha Mitchell on Twitter

All in the Mind blog


Title: Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect with Others
Author: Marco Iacoboni
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (2008)

Title: Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Barriers to Psychological Balance and Compassion
Author: The Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman
Publisher: Times Books, 2008

Title: Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life
Author: Paul Ekman
Publisher: Times Books; 2003

Title: The Recognition and Management of Early Psychosis: A Preventive Approach
Author: Henry J. Jackson (Editor), Patrick D. McGorry (Editor)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2nd edition, 2009

Title: Cognitive Psychotherapy of Psychotic and Personality Disorders: Handbook of Theory and Practice
Author: Carlo Perris and Patrick D. McGorry
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1999

Title: Contemplative Science: Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge.
Author: B Alan Wallace
Publisher: Columbia University Press, 2007

Title: The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind.
Author: B Alan Wallace
Publisher: Wisdom, 2006.

Title: Cortical Mechanisms of Human Imitation
Author: Iacoboni M, Woods RP, Brass M, Bekkering H, Mazziotta JC, Rizzolatti G.
Publisher: Science. 1999 Dec 24;286(5449):2526-8.

Title: Neural mechanisms of empathy in humans: a relay from neural systems for imitation to limbic areas.
Author: Carr L, Iacoboni M, Dubeau MC, Mazziotta JC, Lenzi GL.
Publisher: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Apr 29;100(9):5497-502.

Title: Grasping the intentions of others with one's own mirror neuron system.
Author: Iacoboni M, Molnar-Szakacs I, Gallese V, Buccino G, Mazziotta JC, Rizzolatti G.
Publisher: PLoS Biol. 2005 Mar;3(3):e79.

Title: Entering adolescence: resistance to peer influence, risky behavior, and neural changes in emotion reactivity.
Author: Pfeifer JH, Masten CL, Moore WE 3rd, Oswald TM, Mazziotta JC, Iacoboni M, Dapretto M.
Publisher: Neuron. 2011 Mar 10;69(5):1029-36.

Title: Understanding emotions in others: mirror neuron dysfunction in children with autism spectrum disorders.
Author: Dapretto M, Davies MS, Pfeifer JH, Scott AA, Sigman M, Bookheimer SY, Iacoboni M.
Publisher: Nat Neurosci. 2006 Jan;9(1):28-30.

Title: Atypical neural networks for social orienting in autism spectrum disorders
Author: Greene DJ, Colich N, Iacoboni M, Zaidel E, Bookheimer SY, Dapretto M.
Publisher: Neuroimage. 2011 May 1;56(1):354-62

Title: Single-Neuron Responses in Humans during Execution and Observation of Actions.
Author: Mukamel R, Ekstrom AD, Kaplan J, Iacoboni M, Fried I.
Publisher: Curr Biol. 2010 Apr 7.

Title: Mirror Neurons -- Rock Stars or Backup Singers?
Author: David Dobbs
Publisher: Scientific American, 2007

Title: Mirror Neurons and the brain in the vat
Author: V.S Ramachandran
Publisher: (Edge Third Culture essay, 2006)


Natasha Mitchell


Natasha Mitchell/Corinne Podger

Ginger Campbell, MD - Why Neuroscience Matters

Good stuff from Dr. Ginger Campbell at the Brain Science Podcast.

Why Neuroscience Matters

On May 11, 2011 Ginger Campbell, MD gave a talk entitled "Why Neuroscience Matters" at the London Skeptics in the Pub. Episode 42 of Books and Ideas is an edited version of that talk, including the lively Q and A with the audience.

listen-to-audio-20 Listen to Episode 42 of Books and Ideas

Free Episode Transcript (Download PDF)

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From the Brain Science Podcast


  • Dr. Campbell will be a speaker at The Amazing Meeting 9, which is coming up in Las Vegas, Nevada July 14-17.

Please send your feedback to Dr. Campbell at gincampbel at mac dot com, or post a comment on the Facebook Fan Page.

Don't forget to sign up for Ginger Campbell's Newsletter so you can get show notes for every podcast.

Friday, June 24, 2011

PTSD, Neurogenesis, and Panic Attacks

These three articles have kind of found themselves linked in my head through my recent return to trauma studies as part of my internship work. The most interesting of the three to me is the finding that fearful experiences (i.e., trauma) causes neurogenesis in the hippocampus (a major memory hub), and those cells act as blank slates for the newly encoded memories (making them apparently much harder to eradicate, or least to remove the negative charge).

So let's do that one first.

New Neurons May be Factor in Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms

June 18th, 2011 | A News Headline

Researchers have discovered a link between neurons and fearful memories. The new study suggests that in fearful situations, new neurons, created by the hippocampus, act as a canvas on which new memories are imprinted. Researchers state that these newly generated neurons are responsible for strong memories linked to fearful and traumatic experiences. “We remember emotional events much more strongly than daily experiences, and for a long time we have known that connections between the amygdala and hippocampus help to encode this emotional information,” said Kaufer, an assistant professor of integrative biology and a member of University of California, Berkeley’s Wills Neuroscience Institute. “Our research shows that amygdala input actually pushes the hippocampus to make new neurons from a unique population of neural stem cells. This provides completely new cells that get activated in response to emotional input.”

These results are significant for exploring the symptoms related to post-traumatic stress and other issues that develop as a result of emotional memory. “Many affective disorders involve disordered emotional memories like PTSD, depression and anxiety. We think that newborn neurons may play a role in creating these emotional memories,” she said.

Kaufer conducted the study with Aaron Friedman and Elizabeth Kirby, lead author, by altering the basolateral amygdala of rats, resulting in decreased production of new cells. They elicited a fear response in the rats, and subjected them to the same fearful experience, and a non-threatening experience, the following day. They discovered that the newly created neurons were active as a result of the fearful event, but the neurons did not react in the altered basolateral amygdala.” The research suggests that newborn neurons play a role not only in the formation of memory, but also in helping to create the emotional context of memory,” Kirby said. The researchers hope to further explore the effects of similar negative emotions, such as anxiety or stress, on the amygdala to determine the impact on newly developed neurons.

Those are some important findings - it may be possible to inhibit neurogenesis in the hours following a rape, witnessing a murder, and so on, and thereby prevent or reduce the symptoms of PTSD.

A little more on this study was available at the Medical News Today site:

The finding comes a year after brain researcher Fred Gage at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., showed that the formation of new memories is associated with increased activation of two-week-old newborn nerve cells in the hippocampus that are derived from adult neural stem cells. Adult stem cells appear to differentiate continually into new nerve cells - nearly 100 each day - yet half of those newborn neurons are slated for death within four weeks after their birth. If they are highly activated, however - such as in learning new complex information - many more of them will survive and presumably help in establishing new memories in the brain.

Kaufer, who conducts research on the effects of stress on the brain, knew that many types of positive and negative experiences, such as exercise and stress, affect the rate of neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Along with graduate students Elizabeth Kirby, the lead author of the study, and Aaron Friedman, she was intrigued by the idea that emotions might affect neurogenesis in the hippocampus, since the brain's clearinghouse for emotions, the amygdala, is connected to the hippocampus via multiple neural circuits. To test this, Kirby focused on the basolateral amygdala, the region of the almond-shaped structure that handles negative emotions, including stress, anxiety and fear.

Using rats, Kirby surgically destroyed the basolateral amygdala and discovered that the production of new nerve cells in the hippocampus decreased. To make sure that the cell damage created when the amygdala was surgically destroyed was not affecting the experiment, the researchers borrowed a gene therapy technique from Robert Sapolsky's lab at Stanford University to genetically introduce potassium channels into the amygdala, which shut down the activity of the nerve cells without causing injury. This also decreased neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

They next tested Gage's theory that new neurons are especially sensitive to input two weeks after they form. Kirby and Kaufer labeled hippocampal cells created over a three-day period in a group of rats, and then conditioned a fear response in these rats two weeks later. They then confronted the rats with the same fearful situation or a neutral yet novel context the next day. When they examined the brains, they found that the newborn neurons had been specifically activated by the fearful situation. However, when they destroyed the basolateral amygdala, new neurons were no longer activated in response to the fearful memory.

"The research suggests that newborn neurons play a role not only in the formation of memory, but also in helping to create the emotional context of memory," Kirby said. It also suggests that the basolateral amygdala drives the ability of new neurons to be part of an emotional memory.

The team now plans to see whether other negative stimuli, such as stress and anxiety, similarly cooperate with amygdala activity to alter neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

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This article from Psychology Today (The Mindful Self-Express blog) has been hanging around since early May, but I kept it in my tabs because it shows a connection between PTSD and other forms of disease - more confirmation of the "stress causes disease" hypothesis. Greenberg sees the whole mind-body-spirit thing as inseparable.

Research Shows Strong Links Between PTSD & Disease
PTSD patient in anguish

The pain and suffering of PTSD should not be underestimated

The trauma, pain and suffering of our nation's veterans in the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars has been tremendous. About 20% suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a devastating condition characterized by long-term nightmares, feelings of terror, problems in intimate relationships, anger, emotional numbing and suicide risk.

The DSMIV-TR, the major diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association conceptualizes PTSD as an Anxiety Disorder and has research-based criteria for its for its diagnosis. Cognitive-Behavioral treatments are effective at decreasing PTSD symptoms and are considered state of the art. Yet I do not consider PTSD to be a mental health problem. Rather, I see it as a chronic, systemic problem of mind-body-spirit in which long-term stress responses deplete both mental and physical health.

I have been trained in Health Psychology and the Biopsychosocial Model (Engel, 1977) which, in contrast to our current fragmented approach to healthcare, does not see mental and physical health problems as separate. Having major depression, for example, substantially elevates the risk of developing chronic pain and heart disease. Research suggests PTSD or its subclinical forms are linked to a chronic or life-threatening medical problems and risky behaviors, many of which may require preventive intervention.

A study conducted by Harvard and Boston University researchers analyzed data from the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study. Specifically, the researchers compared the health records of male veterans who had completed PTSD symptom questionnaires in 1986 and 1990. The men were followed for 10-15 years and their health status documented. A striking finding was the veterans with more PTSD symptoms were more likely to have heart attacks in subsequent years. The researchers noted that "For each level increase in symptoms on the 1990 assessment, the risk of heart attack or chest pain rose 18 percent - even after controlling for smoking, alcohol use and high blood pressure.". A limitation of the study was that most participants had subclinical levels of PTSD and did not meet full diagnostic criteria. We also don't know if the same results would be found for women. The researchers also didn't measure how frequently the men exercised, so we don't know whether those with more PTSD symptoms were more likely to avoid exercising and this might have accounted for the effect.

Why might PTSD or its symptoms be bad for the veteran's health? Well-designed research studies have found that veterans with PTSD are more likely to smoke cigarettes than those without PTSD. People who are chronically anxious or "on edge" often smoke to calm themselves down or as a nervous habit. Also both experiencing trauma and having PTSD symptoms have been linked to a higher incidence of chronic pain complaints, especially low back pain and headaches. Here the picture gets complicated because many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan also have mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) and have experienced concussions and been injured.This raises a "chicken and egg" problem in that the pain could be due to PTSD, TBI, the combination of the two, or all three conditions could be due to the original injury.

Health Psychology is Larger Than Mental Health

In other research, veterans with PTSD have been shown to have more autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis and psoriasis, than those without. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system becomes overactive, mistaking parts of the person's own body for a foreign object and mounting an immune response resulting in chronic inflammation. In PTSD, the person becomes hypervigiilant to threat, chronically on edge, and more likely to perceive neutral events as dangerous. Being in a constant state of alertness might stress out the heart and make the immune system hyperactive. In other research conducted by the Army, of veterans returning from Iraq, those with PTSD reported worse health status and had more missed workdays in the first year than those without. This raises the spectre of increased financial costs of PTSD due to disability and lower productivity. It is not yet known if these effects continue long-term.

A new research study, summarized this weekend in Science Daily, suggests a possible mechanism for PTSD's link with having shorter life. In this recent study, conducted by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco. veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who were diagnosed with PTSD had shorter telomeres than those without. The study defined telomeres as "DNA-protein complexes that cap the ends of chromosomes and protect them from damage and mutations." They stated that "Short telomere length is associated with an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as early death." Other analyses indicated that those in the PTSD group with more childhood traumas, including neglect, physical abuse or sexual abuse, had the shortest telomeres. This suggests a possible additive effect of PTSD and childhood traumas in predicting telomere length and risk for early mortality. Unfortunately, the study could not address this question directly because those without PTSD had few childhood traumas.

These results allude to possible hidden financial and personal costs of the wars that the US has participated in. These costs include healthcare, pain and suffering and disability. While mental health aspects of PTSD are widely publicized, less attention has been paid to the longer-term physical health risks. Implications for treatment are that veterans with PTSD should be monitored closely by their doctors, educated about the possible health risks, and given preventive lifestyle and mind-body interventions as well as medications for PTSD. Integrative interventions such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation treat the whole person, may involve breathing stretching, or relaxation, and, if tolerated by the veterans, may be good adjuncts to psychiatric and/or Cognitive-Behavioral treatment for PTSD. Thinking about PTSD as just a mental health issue that can be medicated away does a disservice to our nation's veterans. Instead, seeing PTSD as a complex mind-body problem opens the door for thinking about innovative and integrative healthcare solutions.

Link to the Science Daily article:

link to the Biopsychosocial Model


Melanie Greenberg PhD is a Clinical Health Psychologist with a private practice in Marin County, CA. She specializes in helping individuals deal with life stress due to chronic illness, role demands, traumas and major life transitions. She is also available for workshops and speaking engagements. To find out more about my clinical practice, background, and scientific publications, visit my website at For more articles, check out my blog

Follow me on twitter (@drmelanieg) & facebook

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From the Intrepid Insights blog comes this podcast on the neurobiology of panic.

June 13th, 2011

There are few experiences more terrifying than a panic attack. These extreme and sudden episodes of intense fear are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress. And unless treated, recurring panic disorders can incapacitate an individual physically, mentally, and even socially.

While the exact causes of panic disorder are still the subject of intense scientific debate, the most widely accepted notion is that the periaqueductal gray area of the brain – or the PAG – is involved with the panic response, and that the neurotransmitter serotonin plays a key role in modulating this region.

In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Frederico Graeff of the University of Sao Paulo. Dr. Graeff is one of the leading experts in the scientific study of anxiety and panic. Be sure to join us as we talk about the key brain systems involved with both disorders, and what exactly differentiates panic at a neurobiological level.

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Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje - Freedom from the Heavy Darkness of Suffering

The Life, Art and Teachings of
the Seventeenth Karmapa,
Ogyen Trinley Dorje
by Michele Martin

Dharma Quote of the Week

The Buddha's teachings can be divided into two main categories: the scriptures and realization. A verse states:

The teachings of the Teacher have two aspects:
Scripture and realization presented as they truly are.
There is nothing else to do but
Sustain them, speak of them, and practice them.

When we practice listening, reflecting, and meditating, the teachings will free us from the heavy darkness of suffering. They are like a never-setting sun whose luminous rays reach to the farthest corners of this world. Among the eighty-four thousand teachings of the Buddha are those found in Tibet that maintain the unity of the sutra and mantra traditions. These teachings are like a tree trunk with numerous branches: a variety of lamas hold lineages within diverse traditions.

...In showing how to cut through the delusion of duality, these teachings open up to every living being the possibility of attaining true mastery over the immense and profound gates to the eighty-four thousand teachings. They are precious because they make nonconceptual wisdom manifest and bring forth the amrita of all-pervading emptiness. Like placing a perfect fruit in the palm of our hand, these teachings bring about two kinds of wisdom: the wisdom that sees the multitude of all phenomena distinctly and the wisdom that sees clearly into their nature.

Relying on an appropriate path allows the fruition of practice to manifest. This result is possible because buddha nature is found in the mindstream of all living beings. (p.160)

--from Music in the Sky: The Life, Art and Teachings of the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje by Michele Martin, published by Snow Lion Publications

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Chomsky: Wealthiest 1% Rule Our Politics -- But There's Hope in the Fight Against Global Capital

Noam Chomsky was interviewed by Michael Lerner recently for Tikkun and it was picked up by AlterNet. It's a good interview and Chomsky is his usual erudite and optimistic self.

Chomsky: Wealthiest 1% Rule Our Politics -- But There's Hope in the Fight Against Global Capital

June 14, 2011 | In the past thirty years there has been enormous concentration of wealth in a very tiny part of the population. Noam Chomsky talks about how to fight back.
To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun's free newsletter or visit us online. You can also keep up with Tikkun on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Michael Lerner (ML): You have made many excellent analyses of the power of global capital and its capacity to undermine ordinary citizens’ efforts to transform the global reality toward a more humane and generous world. If there were a serious movement in the U.S. ready to challenge global capital, what should such a movement do? Or is it, as many believe, hopeless, given the power of capital to control the media, undermine democratic movements, and use the police/military power and the co-optive power of mass entertainment, endless spectacle, and financial compensations for many of the smartest people coming up through working-class and middle-income routes? What path is rational for a movement seeking to build a world of environmental sanity, social justice, and peace, yet facing such a sophisticated, powerful, and well-organized social order?

Noam Chomsky (NC): There is no doubt that concentrated private capital closely linked to the state has substantial resources, but on the other hand we shouldn’t overlook the fact that quite a bit has been achieved through public struggles in the U.S. over the years. In many respects this remains an unusually free country. The state has limited power to coerce, compared with many other countries, which is a very good thing. Many rights have been won, even in the past generation, and that provides a legacy from which we can move on. Struggling for freedom and justice has never been easy, but it has achieved progress; I don’t think we should assume that there are any particular limits.

At the moment we can’t realistically talk about challenging global capital, because the movements that might undertake such a task are far too scattered and atomized and focused on particular issues. But we can try to confront directly what global capital is doing right now and, on the basis of that, move on to further achievements. For example, it’s no big secret that in the past thirty years there has been enormous concentration of wealth in a very tiny part of the population, 1 percent or even one-tenth of 1 percent, and that has conferred extraordinary political power on a very tiny minority, primarily [those who control] financial capital, but also more broadly on the executive and managerial classes. At the same time, for the majority of the population, incomes have pretty much stagnated, working hours have increased, benefits have declined -- they were never very good -- and people are angry, hostile, and very upset. Many people distrust institutions, all of them; it’s a volatile period, and it’s a period which could move in a very dangerous direction -- there are analogues, after all -- but it could also provide opportunities to educate and organize and carry things forward. One may have a long-term goal of confronting global capital, but there have to be small steps along the way before you could even think of undertaking a challenge of that magnitude in a realistic way.

ML: Do you see any strategy for overcoming the fragmentation that exists among social movements to help people recognize an overriding shared agenda?

NC: One failing of the social movements that I’ve noticed over many years is that while they are focusing on extremely crucial and important social issues like women’s rights, environmental protections, and so on, they have tended to ignore or downplay the economic and social crises faced by working people. It’s not that they are completely ignored, but they are downplayed. And that has to be overcome, and there are ways to do it. So, to take a concrete example right near where I live, right now there is a town near Boston where a multinational corporation is closing down a local plant because it’s not profitable enough from the point of view of the multinational. Members of the workforce have offered to purchase the plant and the equipment, and the multinational doesn’t want to do that; it would rather lose money than offer the opportunity for a worker self-managed plant that might well become successful. And the multinational has the power to do what it wants, of course. But sufficient popular support -- community support, activist support, and so on -- could swing the balance. Things like that are happening all over the country.

Take Obama’s virtual takeover of the auto industry. There were several options at that point. One option, which the Obama administration chose, was to restore the old order, assist in the closing of plants, the shifting of production abroad and so on, and maybe get a functioning auto industry again. Another option would have been to take over those plants -- plants that are being dismantled -- and convert them to things that are very badly needed in the country, like high-speed rail -- it’s a scandal that the United States doesn’t have this kind of infrastructure, which many other countries have developed. In fact at the very time that Obama was closing down plants in the Midwest, his transportation secretary was in Europe trying to get contracts from Spain for high-speed rail construction, which could have been done in those very plants that were being dismantled.

To move in the direction that I suggest would take substantial organization, community support, national support, and recognition that worker self-managed production aimed at real social needs is an option that can be pursued; if it is pursued, you move to a pretty radical stage of consciousness, and it could go on and on from there. Unfortunately, that was not even discussed.

Read the rest of the interview on

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun and author of The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right (HarperSanFrancisco, Feb, 2006).

RSA - What Does it Mean to be You? with Julian Baggini

This talk by Julian Baggini is based on and promotion for his new book, The Ego Trick: In Search of the Self, which has received excellent reviews so far.

What Does it Mean to be You?

26th May 2011; 13:00

Listen to audio (the audio is longer than this video)

Please right-click link and choose "Save Link As..." to download audio file onto your computer.

RSA Thursday

What is the self? Is it something solid which remains constant over time? Or something far more elusive?

Can we ever fully “know” ourselves? Or are we as mysterious to ourselves as others are to us? Do we have an unchanging core or is the self simply a constantly mutating bundle of sensations and thoughts?

Drawing on a wide range of sources, from modern brain science to ancient Buddhist thought, acclaimed philosopher Julian Baggini embarks upon one of the most fundamental of philosophical enquiries. What is the “you-ness” of you?

Speaker: Julian Baggini is the founder of the Philosopher’s Magazine and author of a number of best-selling books, including The Pig that Wants to be Eaten and, most recently, The Ego Trick.

Chair: Dr Jonathan Rowson, the RSA Social Brain project.

Thursday, June 23, 2011 - Carl Zimmer: A Planet of Viruses

Good stuff . . . we are about 90% alien DNA ("Our own bodies are made up of 10 trillion human cells, 100 trillion bacteria, and 4 trillion very busy viruses"), so this is highly relevant to making sense of our biology, as well as the entire ecosystem of our planet. Zimmer's new book, and the basis for this talk, is A Planet of Viruses.
Carl Zimmer - A Planet of Viruses

The frontier of biology these days is the genetics and ecology of bacteria, and the frontier of THAT is what's being learned about viruses. "The science of virology is still in its early, wild days," writes Carl Zimmer. "Scientists are discovering viruses faster than they can make sense of them."

The Earth's atmosphere is determined in large part by ocean bacteria; every day viruses kill half of them. Every year in the oceans, viruses transfer a trillion trillion genes between host organisms. They evolve faster than anything else, and they are a major engine of the evolution of the rest of life. Our own bodies are made up of 10 trillion human cells, 100 trillion bacteria, and 4 trillion very busy viruses. Some of them kill us. Many of them help us. Some of them are us. Viral time is ancient and blindingly fast.

Science journalist Carl Zimmer's new book, A Planet of Viruses, is the best introduction to the subject. His previous books include Parasite Rex and Microcosm.

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io9 - Helping out strangers is hard-wired into human nature

I've been trying track some of the recent articles on altruism and cooperation in human evolution, many of which offer a different understanding than Richard Dawkins's "selfish gene" hypothesis, which has been widely accepted.

I'm not sure that this study actually suggests that helping strangers is hard-wired into our nature (which is what the authors seem to propose) - there could be any number of factors involved, including cultural norms, hope for personal gain, etc. But what is does suggest is how one group of people related mostly by language could band together to overwhelm another group and steal their resources.

If this was also true of our ancestors (and primate studies suggest it might have been), then who we are today is in part a result of which early bands of humans cooperated to steal resources from other bands (who likely did not survive).

I'm sure Dawkins would look at this research and see it as an example of our selfish genes encoding behavior to ensure their survival.

Unfortunately for the Turkana people in Kenya (the subjects of this study), their lifestyle and culture is being eradicated by well-meaning but ignorant missionary groups. They need food and water resources, not Western clothes, Bibles, and religion.

Helping out strangers is hard-wired into human nature

Humans are the only animals who display loyalty to individuals we don't personally know. Scientists had assumed this was a new development made possible by the rise of centralized governments. But it might actually be part of how we evolved.

No country could exist - indeed, no group larger than a small village could exist - without the human ability to form allegiances with total strangers. All other animal species are fundamentally distrustful of any individuals outside their immediate social groups. Until now, this was considered a byproduct of the development of complex human societies, as humans were forced to learn how to trust strangers as technological innovations brought more and more humans into regular peaceful contact.

But a nomadic group in east Africa tells a different story. The Turkana people were recently interviewed by UCLA researchers Sarah Mathew and Robert Boyd. They spoke with 118 men in the ethnic group about their customs. The Turkana are nomadic, living in small households that regularly move around in search of better pastures for their animals. And yet, if a group of Turkana men want to go to war and take the livestock of other, non-Turkana ethnic groups, they can quickly build up a force of several hundred men.

That's a remarkable feat, since there's no centralized Turkana government that can facilitate these communications or even provide a rallying point for all the men involved. Most of the combatants will be complete strangers to each other, and most are going to war on behalf of a few people they've never met. And these livestock raids are not without their perils - there's a 1.1% chance of being killed in any attack, 43% of all raids saw desertions before combat began, and 45% of raids saw someone act in what was later judged to be a cowardly fashion.

Those last bits might actually explain how the Turkana are able to maintain these combat allegiances. Those who deserted or were cowards in combat are punished by their community, often being tied to trees and beaten. The researchers suspect it's this fear of punishment that allows this cooperation to continue, despite all the risks.

Now, it's dicey comparing modern nomads with the hunter-gatherers of hundreds of thousands of years ago, and this definitely isn't proof that our ancient, isolated ancestors could rely on similar cooperation. However, this is evidence that such cooperation doesn't require the presence of a centralized government, and this behavior might well predate the rise of such social structures. If that's the case, the ability to cooperate strangers might be another piece of what makes our evolutionary history so unique.

PNAS via New Scientist.

Changesurfer Radio - Tech for People, not for Corporate Control

Kalle Lasn founded Adbusters Magazine, definitely one of the coolest magazines on the planet - and a center of culture-jamming activities. I think this may be the first time I have heard him interviewed - and I always envisioned him much younger for some reason.

This podcast comes from the

Tech for People, not for Corporate Control

Kalle Lasn

Changesurfer Radio

Posted: Jun 18, 2011

Dr. J. chats with Kalle Lasn, founder of Adbusters Magazine, The Media Foundation, and The Powershift Ad Agency, TV Turnoff Week and Buy Nothing Day, author of Culture Jam: How to Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge—And Why We Must and co-author of the spoof Cyborg Manifesto. (Originally broadcast February 11, 2005)


NIH - Translational Neuroscience for Schizophrenia

This is geeky stuff, but it's also very cool. It's impressive that we are beginning to see what goes wrong in the schizophrenic brain at the genetic and molecular levels. Now if we can only figure out why.

Neuroscience Seminar Series - Translational Neuroscience for Schizophrenia

Dr. Akira Sawa is the Director of the Program in Molecular Psychiatry and Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Department of Neuroscience Graduate Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine. He received his MD and PhD from the University of Tokyo, Japan in 1990 and 1994, respectively. From there he moved to Johns Hopkins University to do postdoctoral work with Dr. Solomon Snyder, and he subsequently became part of the Hopkins faculty.

The research in his laboratory is directed towards understanding the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric illnesses, especially schizophrenia and neurodegenerative disorders, at the molecular level. In a bottom-up approach, the lab focuses on molecular targets, such as disease risk gene products and/or key cellular mediators, testing how such molecular targets are functionally related with each other in cells and neuronal networks of animal models, and how they contribute to development of disease phenotypes during a time course. A recent study indicates that schizophrenia-associated alteration of Disrupted-In-Schizophrenia (DISC1) leads to disturbance of proper development in cerebral cortex. In a top-down approach, clinical information and patient tissues are analyzed towards identifying novel molecular targets or new biomarkers of disease. Biopsy of olfactory epithelium from schizophrenics is used to characterize neuronal cells, and lymphoblastoid cells collected from peripheral blood are analyzed with microarray and proteomic approaches to identify novel and useful biomarkers for schizophrenia.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

BBC - What would Carl Jung make of 2011?
This story ran on the BBC's News Magazine page around the day of the 50th anniversary of Carl Gustav Jung's death. This is a nice look at the influence of Jung's work on both psychology and popular culture - he never is considered in the same sphere of influence of his early mentor (and eventual enemy) Sigmund Freud, but in my opinion he deserves to be more widely recognized for his contribution to the field.

Let's just say, there are a lot more people willing to call themselves Jungians than there who will call themselves Freudians.

What would Carl Jung make of 2011?

Mark Vernon | June 6, 2011

Montage picture from top left, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (PA),  Carl Jung (BBC), student protest (Reuters), technology (Thinkstock) and commuters (Getty)

Carl Gustav Jung died 50 years ago today. Alongside Sigmund Freud, he is arguably one of the two people of the 20th century who most shaped the way we think about who we are. But what would he make of the 21st century so far, asks Mark Vernon.

Have you ever discussed whether you were introverted or extroverted? Undergone a personality test on a training course? Wondered what lurks in the shadow side of your character? Carl Jung is the person to thank.

The Swiss psychologist devised a series of personality types. He coined introvert for someone who needs quality time on their own and extrovert (although Jung spelled it "extravert") for the person who never feels better than when in a crowd. Personality tests, such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicators, draw directly from them.

The shadow side of your character is that part of you which is normally hidden, but sometimes leaps out, catching you unawares. Why is it that the calmest people curse and swear when driving in traffic? Why is it that upright citizens sometimes commit crimes of passion? Jung had an answer - we all carry a shadow.

He also put his culture and times "on the couch" - or rather, in a chair, as he was the first psychotherapist to sit opposite his patients, like a counsellor. He tried to understand the terrible collective energies that drove the two great events of his life, World War I and II.

Carl Jung's life

  • Born in Switzerland in 1875
  • Studied science and medicine at the University of Basel, graduating in 1900
  • Worked at Burgholzli, a psychiatric hospital in Zurich
  • Met Sigmund Freud in 1907 - their first conversation is reputed to have lasted 13 hours
  • Declared scientific differences with Freud in 1912 and 1913
  • The Red Book, also known as Liber Novus, was published in 2009
  • Died on 6 June 1961

So what might Jung make of our psychological wellbeing today?

He would see signs of progress. Take the way we worry about the care of children. In the last 50 years, attitudes towards parenting have shifted markedly. Psychologists now widely recognise that children do best when they receive the dedicated attention of their mother or other primary carer from an early age.

This has much to do with the work of British psychotherapists like John Bowlby. But Bowlby's "attachment theory", as it is called, was anticipated by Jung. While Freud spoke of incestuous passions in his infamous Oedipus complex, Jung had a very different point of view.

As Anthony Stevens points out in Jung: A Very Short Introduction, it was Jung who first theorised that a child becomes attached to its mother because she is the provider of love and care.

Alternatively, consider the way that our culture tries to tackle ageism and cares about older employees. That again is absolutely right, Jung would say.

"The afternoon of life must have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage of life's morning," he wrote. For a culture with an ageing population like ours, Jung offers a vision of the glories of growing old, seeing it as a path to wisdom rather than a decline into senility.

We shouldn't despair over our mid-life crises, he thought, but seize them as the chance to find new vision and purpose.

Man with head in hands

The last 50 years have seen changes in the way mental health is viewed

Modern neuroscience has done much to back up Jung's understanding of the unconscious too. It confirms that emotional intelligence as well as reason is vital when making decisions.

Further, in much the same way that you mostly aren't conscious of your heart pumping or your lungs breathing, Jung argued that the unconscious mind is continually working for us. Personality development, he thought, has a lot to do with becoming more attentive to how you are affected by the whole of your inner life, in a process he called individuation.

An integrated personality is what we should seek. It's the rounded character we love in our wise grandmother or someone famous who has become a reflective national treasure.

But Jung would also be troubled by the way life is unfolding now. For example, he lived in a period "filled with apocalyptic images of universal destruction", as he observed - thinking of the Cold War and nuclear bomb.

These particular horrors have receded. But it is striking how quickly they have been replaced by new threats. The most obvious is the devastation that is anticipated as a result of climate change. Or you could point to terrorism. And it does not stop there.

We seem to have a fascination with ruination that extends beyond the possible or probable to the purely imagined. Look at how the end of the world provides an irresistible storyline in movies. Or recall how the Rapture predictions of Harold Camping spread like wildfire across the internet last month.

Key theories and concepts

  • The idea that personality types can be introverted or extroverted
  • The theory of psychological types - which forms the basis of Myers-Briggs
  • The belief that dreams reveal more than they conceal - pioneer in the field of dream analysis
  • The existence of a collective unconscious
  • The theory that certain archetypal images and stories repeat themselves across the collective history of mankind

Jung would spot the high levels of mental illness in modern society as well, marked by the boom in prescribed anti-depressants and other drugs in the years after his death. He would see that even politicians and economists are becoming concerned that while a nation's material wealth can grow inexorably, it does not appear to deliver true happiness or fulfilment.

There are many factors that contribute to these trends. Jung was gripped by those that are psychological and reasoned that such concerns - real or imagined - arise in large part when we become disconnected from our spiritual side.

He argued that while modern science has yielded unsurpassed knowledge about the human species, it has led, paradoxically, to a narrower, machine-like conception of what it means to be a human individual.

This presumably explains why complementary therapies are flourishing in the 21st Century. They try to address the whole person, not just the illness or disease. Or it suggests why ecological lifestyles are appealing, because they try to reconnect us with the intrinsic value of the natural world.

In short, the life of the psyche is crucial. Jung believed it is fed not just by psychology, but better by the great spiritual traditions of our culture, with their subtle stories, sustaining rituals and inspiring dreams. The agnostic West has become detached from these resources.

It is as if people are suffering from "a loss of soul". Too often, the world does not seem to be for us, but against us.

Towards the end of his life, Jung reflected that many - perhaps most - of the people who came to see him were not, fundamentally, mentally ill. They were, rather, searching for meaning.

It is a hard task. "There is no birth of consciousness without pain," he wrote. But it is vital. Without it, human beings lose their way.