Saturday, March 30, 2013

Received - Integral Recovery: A Revolutionary Approach to the Treatment of Alcoholism and Addiction by John Dupuy

I recently received a review copy of Integral Recovery: A Revolutionary Approach to the Treatment of Alcoholism and Addiction by John Dupuy from SUNY Press (release date is May, 2013). As the publication date nears, I hope to get a review posted here.

Excelsior Editions
SUNY series in Integral Theory

Table of Contents


Introduction: Why Another Book on Recovery from Addiction?

1. Recovery from What?
2. The Integral Map
3. Stages and Spiral Dynamics
4. Working the Lines
5. Integrating Healthy States of Consciousness
6. Understanding Types
7. Bringing It All Together: Integral Recovery Treatment
8. Building the Body
9. Transforming the Brain
10. Healing the Emotions and the Power of the Shadow
11. Healing the Spirit
12. Practice and the Path to Mystery
13. The Family Component
14. Relapse Beings When You Stop Practicing

Appendix 1. On Becoming an Integral Treatment Provider
Appendix 2. Integral Recovery and the Greater Field of Addiction Treatment.
Appendix 3. Integral Recovery: An AQAL Approach to Inpatient Alcohol and Drug Treatment (A Case Study)
Appendix 4. Integral Recovery Twelve Steps

Price: $75.00
Hardcover - 312 pages
Release Date: May 2013
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-4613-4

Price: $24.95
Paperback - 312 pages
Release Date: May 2013
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-4614-1

Price: $24.95
Electronic - 312 pages
Release Date: May 2013
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-4615-8

Brené Brown - Can We Gain Strength From Shame?

Brené Brown is the author most recently of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (2012), and before that, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (2010), as well as other books and audio courses (available from Sounds True).

In the TED Weekend show from NPR a couple of weeks ago, she was one of the guests for the show themed on Making Mistakes - and she is the perfect person to speak to this topic, since her work is in part about daring to mistakes and NOT beating ourselves up (self-shaming) if we fail or make a mistake. As the Japanese proverb teaches, "Fall down seven times, get up eight."

This segment from NPR contains both of Brown's best known TED Talks - "Listening to Shame" and "The Power of Vulnerability" (see below).

Can We Gain Strength From Shame?

March 11, 2013

Listen to the Story

TED Radio Hour
12 min 2 sec

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Making Mistakes.

More From This Episode: Making Mistakes

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of every meaningful experience we have.
- Brené Brown
About Brené Brown's TED Talk

Shame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior. Brené Brown studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. She discusses what can happen when people confront their shame head-on.

About Brené Brown

Brené Brown has spent the last 10 years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. She spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls "Wholeheartedness." She's a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and the author of Daring Greatly!

Brown poses the questions: How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough — that we are worthy of love, belonging and joy?

9-Year-Old Philosopher Ponders the Meaning of Life and the Universe

Jami (my partner) watched this the other day and I watched over her shoulder - it's entertaining to see a 9-year-old thinking in such meta-philosophical ways. NPR picked up the story and now so has Open Culture. Enjoy.

9-Year-Old Philosopher Ponders the Meaning of Life and the Universe

March 30th, 2013

He’s nine years old. And they call him “The Philosopher.” Give the clip a few seconds and you will see exactly why. The Philosopher tackles the biggest questions: Why are we on earth? What’s our place in the universe? Is there life elsewhere in that universe, or, for that matter, do we live in a multiverse? What’s the meaning of life? And, finally, might our life be predestined — all scripted out for us in advance? Watch it, and then ask yourself: Do you know many adults who can reel off better answers? Doubt you will say yes. 

via NPR via @Alyssa_Milano

Friday, March 29, 2013

NPR - What's It Like To Have A Psychotic Episode?

This was Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Unquiet Mind from last weekend. In this TED Talk she speaks about her experience with schizophrenia and recovery. She is pro-psychopharmacology, which may be a trigger for some followers of this blog. In her case the medications seem to be helping her live an essentially normal life.

Moreover, she is a mental health law scholar and writer, she speaks for the rights of mentally ill people - she works to protect the rights and dignity of the mentally ill.

Her autobiography is The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness (2007).

What's It Like To Have A Psychotic Episode?

February 06, 2013 

Listen to the Story 

TED Radio Hour
13 min 22 sec

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Unquiet Mind.

About Elyn Saks' TED Talk

"Is it OK if I totally trash your office?" It's a question Elyn Saks once asked her doctor, and it wasn't a joke. A legal scholar, Saks came forward in 2007 with her own story of schizophrenia, controlled by drugs and therapy but ever-present. In this powerful talk, she asks us to see people with mental illness clearly, honestly and compassionately.
“I used to say, 'I don't want to use a crutch.' I now say, 'If my foot were broken, I'd use a crutch — aren't my neurotransmitters entitled to as gentle treatment as a broken foot?' - Elyn Saks

About Elyn Saks

Saks asks bold questions about how society treats people with mental illness. As a mental health law scholar and writer, she speaks for the rights of mentally ill people. It's a gray area: Too often, society's first impulse is to make decisions on their behalf. But it's a slippery slope from in loco parentis to a denial of basic human rights. Saks has brilliantly argued for more autonomy — and in many cases, for a restoration of basic human dignity.

In 2007, deep into her career, she dropped a bombshell — her autobiography, The Center Cannot Hold. In it, she reveals the depth of her own schizophrenia, now controlled by drugs and therapy. Clear-eyed and honest about her own condition, the book lent her new ammunition in the quest to protect the rights and dignity of the mentally ill.

Rick Hanson - The Neurology of Awakening (with Rick Mendius)

Here is the 4-part series from neuropsychologist Rick Hanson and Rick Mendius - delivered at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Hanson and Mendius work together at
Richard Mendius, M.D., is a board certified neurologist in private practice in Marin County, California. He graduated from Stanford University, then attended medical school at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received his M.D. in 1977. He trained in neurology at the Wadsworth VA Medical Center in Los Angeles under the direction of Dr. W. W. Tourtellotte, then did fellowship training in clinical electroencephalography and clinical epilepsy under Dr. Jerome Engel at UCLA Medical Center. He also did simultaneous training in neurobehavior under Drs. Frank Benson and Jeff Cummings. He has held faculty positions at UCLA School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, and Stanford University School of Medicine. During his teaching career, he received the OHSU Silver Hammer award and the Stanford University Lysia Forno award for teaching excellence. 
Dr. Mendius has a subspecialty in the neurobiology and practice of meditation. His meditation practice began in Los Angeles, with training from Shinzen Young in the 1980s. Since moving to Marin County, he has made Spirit Rock his home base and has taught classes and participated in retreats with Jack Kornfield, among others.
* * *
Rick Hanson, PhD began meditating in 1974 and has practiced in several traditions. A neuropsychologist, writer, and teacher, he co-founded the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom (see and edits the Wise Brain Bulletin. First author of Mother Nurture (Penguin, 2002), he has authored the books Buddha's Brain and Just One Thing. He started sitting at Spirit Rock in 1993 and served a nine-year term on its Board. A graduate of the Community Dharma Leader training program, he leads a weekly meditation group in San Rafael.
On with the podcast . . . .

Rick Hanson - The Neurology of Awakening (with Rick Mendius): Part 1, Overview & Practice 

50:40 | 2013-03-16

Download Listen Order

The latest brain research has begun to confirm the central insights of the Buddha and other great teachers. And it’s suggesting ways you can help your brain to enter deeper states of mindfulness, quiet, and concentration. Suffering, joy, and freedom all depend on what happens within your nervous system. Skillful practice thus means being skillful with your own brain. This experiential workshop will offer user-friendly information with lots of practical methods. No background in neuroscience or mindfulness is needed, though teaching are also appropriate for health care professionals.

We’ll cover: 
  • Implications from brain research for steadying the mind... quieting it... and bringing it to singleness 
  • The brain during the jhanas or other states of deep concentration 
  • How to help lay the neurological foundation for liberating insight

* * *

Frans de Waal - The Brains of the Animal Kingdom

Esteemed primatologist Frans de Waal's latest book is The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates, published by Norton on Monday. In this new book, which clarifies and expands his ground-breaking research with bonobos, de Waal argues that morality is generated by God(s), nor is it the strict realm of religion. Rather, morality is something that comes from within our primate history, developed and refined through evolution.

Here is the publisher's synopsis of the book:
Book Description
Publication Date: March 25, 2013 | ISBN-10: 0393073777 | 12 Illustrations | Edition: 1st

In this lively and illuminating discussion of his landmark research, esteemed primatologist Frans de Waal argues that human morality is not imposed from above but instead comes from within. Moral behavior does not begin and end with religion but is in fact a product of evolution. For many years, de Waal has observed chimpanzees soothe distressed neighbors and bonobos share their food. Now he delivers fascinating fresh evidence for the seeds of ethical behavior in primate societies that further cements the case for the biological origins of human fairness. Interweaving vivid tales from the animal kingdom with thoughtful philosophical analysis, de Waal seeks a bottom-up explanation of morality that emphasizes our connection with animals. In doing so, de Waal explores for the first time the implications of his work for our understanding of modern religion. Whatever the role of religious moral imperatives, he sees it as a “Johnny-come-lately” role that emerged only as an addition to our natural instincts for cooperation and empathy.

But unlike the dogmatic neo-atheist of his book’s title, de Waal does not scorn religion per se. Instead, he draws on the long tradition of humanism exemplified by the painter Hieronymus Bosch and asks reflective readers to consider these issues from a positive perspective: What role, if any, does religion play for a well-functioning society today? And where can believers and nonbelievers alike find the inspiration to lead a good life?

Rich with cultural references and anecdotes of primate behavior, The Bonobo and the Atheist engagingly builds a unique argument grounded in evolutionary biology and moral philosophy. Ever a pioneering thinker, de Waal delivers a heartening and inclusive new perspective on human nature and our struggle to find purpose in our lives.
What follows below is an adapted excerpt from the book that was published in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal last Saturday. The book has received a LOT of good reviews already, including Scientific American, Publisher's Weekly, and The New Prospect (although they ding him for being too gentle on religion).

The Brains of the Animal Kingdom


March 22, 2013

New research shows that we have grossly underestimated both the scope and the scale of animal intelligence. Primatologist Frans de Waal on memory-champ chimps, tool-using elephants and rats capable of empathy.

Associated Press

A herd of African elephants drink water at a dam inside the Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Who is smarter: a person or an ape? Well, it depends on the task. Consider Ayumu, a young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University who, in a 2007 study, put human memory to shame. Trained on a touch screen, Ayumu could recall a random series of nine numbers, from 1 to 9, and tap them in the right order, even though the numbers had been displayed for just a fraction of a second and then replaced with white squares.

I tried the task myself and could not keep track of more than five numbers—and I was given much more time than the brainy ape. In the study, Ayumu outperformed a group of university students by a wide margin. The next year, he took on the British memory champion Ben Pridmore and emerged the "chimpion."

How do you give a chimp—or an elephant or an octopus or a horse—an IQ test? It may sound like the setup to a joke, but it is actually one of the thorniest questions facing science today. Over the past decade, researchers on animal cognition have come up with some ingenious solutions to the testing problem. Their findings have started to upend a view of humankind's unique place in the universe that dates back at least to ancient Greece.

Aristotle's idea of the scala naturae, the ladder of nature, put all life-forms in rank order, from low to high, with humans closest to the angels. During the Enlightenment, the French philosopher René Descartes, a founder of modern science, declared that animals were soulless automatons. In the 20th century, the American psychologist B.F. Skinner and his followers took up the same theme, painting animals as little more than stimulus-response machines. Animals might be capable of learning, they argued, but surely not of thinking and feeling. The term"animal cognition" remained an oxymoron.

A growing body of evidence shows, however, that we have grossly underestimated both the scope and the scale of animal intelligence. Can an octopus use tools? Do chimpanzees have a sense of fairness? Can birds guess what others know? Do rats feel empathy for their friends? Just a few decades ago we would have answered "no" to all such questions. Now we're not so sure.

Experiments with animals have long been handicapped by our anthropocentric attitude: We often test them in ways that work fine with humans but not so well with other species. Scientists are now finally meeting animals on their own terms instead of treating them like furry (or feathery) humans, and this shift is fundamentally reshaping our understanding.

Elephants are a perfect example. For years, scientists believed them incapable of using tools. At most, an elephant might pick up a stick to scratch its itchy behind. In earlier studies, the pachyderms were offered a long stick while food was placed outside their reach to see if they would use the stick to retrieve it. This setup worked well with primates, but elephants left the stick alone. From this, researchers concluded that the elephants didn't understand the problem. It occurred to no one that perhaps we, the investigators, didn't understand the elephants.

Think about the test from the animal's perspective. Unlike the primate hand, the elephant's grasping organ is also its nose. Elephants use their trunks not only to reach food but also to sniff and touch it. With their unparalleled sense of smell, the animals know exactly what they are going for. Vision is secondary.

But as soon as an elephant picks up a stick, its nasal passages are blocked. Even when the stick is close to the food, it impedes feeling and smelling. It is like sending a blindfolded child on an Easter egg hunt.

What sort of experiment, then, would do justice to the animal's special anatomy and abilities?

On a recent visit to the National Zoo in Washington, I met with Preston Foerder and Diana Reiss of Hunter College, who showed me what Kandula, a young elephant bull, can do if the problem is presented differently. The scientists hung fruit high up above the enclosure, just out of Kandula's reach. The elephant was given several sticks and a sturdy square box.

Kandula ignored the sticks but, after a while, began kicking the box with his foot. He kicked it many times in a straight line until it was right underneath the branch. He then stood on the box with his front legs, which enabled him to reach the food with his trunk. An elephant, it turns out, can use tools—if they are the right ones.

While Kandula munched his reward, the investigators explained how they had varied the setup, making life more difficult for the elephant. They had put the box in a different section of the yard, out of view, so that when Kandula looked up at the tempting food he would need to recall the solution and walk away from his goal to fetch the tool. Apart from a few large-brained species, such as humans, apes and dolphins, not many animals will do this, but Kandula did it without hesitation, fetching the box from great distances.

Another failed experiment with elephants involved the mirror test—a classic evaluation of whether an animal recognizes its own reflection. In the early going, scientists placed a mirror on the ground outside the elephant's cage, but the mirror was (unsurprisingly) much smaller than the largest of land animals. All that the elephant could possibly see was four legs behind two layers of bars (since the mirror doubled them). When the animal received a mark on its body visible only with the assistance of the mirror, it failed to notice or touch the mark. The verdict was that the species lacked self-awareness.

But Joshua Plotnik of the Think Elephant International Foundation modified the test. He gave the elephants access to an 8-by-8-foot mirror and allowed them to feel it, smell it and look behind it. With this larger mirror, they fared much better. One Asian elephant recognized herself. Standing in front of the mirror, she repeatedly rubbed a white cross on her forehead, an action that she could only have performed by connecting her reflected image with her own body.

A similar experimental problem was behind the mistaken belief, prevalent until two decades ago, that our species has a unique system of facial recognition, since we are so much better at identifying faces than any other primate. Other primates had been tested, but they had been tested on human faces—based on the assumption that ours are the easiest to tell apart.

When Lisa Parr, one of my co-workers at Emory University, tested chimpanzees on portraits of their own species, they excelled at it. Selecting portraits on a computer screen, they could even tell which juveniles were born to which females. Having been trained to detect similarities among images, the apes were shown a female's portrait and then given a choice between two other faces, one of which showed her offspring. They preferred the latter based purely on family resemblance since they did not know any of the depicted apes.

We also may need to rethink the physiology of intelligence. Take the octopus. In captivity, these animals recognize their caretakers and learn to open pill bottles protected by childproof caps—a task with which many humans struggle. Their brains are indeed the largest among invertebrates, but the explanation for their extraordinary skills may lie elsewhere. It seems that these animals think, literally, outside the box of the brain.

Octopuses have hundreds of suckers, each one equipped with its own ganglion with thousands of neurons. These "mini-brains" are interconnected, making for a widely distributed nervous system. That is why a severed octopus arm may crawl on its own and even pick up food.

Similarly, when an octopus changes skin color in self-defense, such as by mimicking a poisonous sea snake, the decision may come not from central command but from the skin itself. A 2010 study found gene sequences in the skin of cuttlefish similar to those in the eye's retina. Could it be: an organism with a seeing skin and eight thinking arms?

A note of caution, however: At times we also have overestimated the capacities of animals. About a century ago, a German horse named "Kluger Hans" (Clever Hans) was thought to be capable of addition and subtraction. His owner would ask him the product of multiplying four by three, and Hans would happily tap his hoof 12 times. People were flabbergasted, and Hans became an international sensation.

That is, until Oskar Pfungst, a psychologist, investigated the horse's abilities. Pfungst found that Hans was only successful if his owner knew the answer to the question and was visible to the horse. Apparently, the owner subtly shifted his position or straightened his back when Hans reached the correct number of taps. (The owner did so unknowingly, so there was no fraud involved.)

Some look at this historic revelation as a downgrading of Hans's intelligence, but I would argue that the horse was in fact very smart. His abilities at arithmetic may have been flawed, but his understanding of human body language was remarkable. And isn't that the skill a horse needs most?

Awareness of the "Clever Hans Effect," as it is now known, has greatly improved animal experimentation. Unfortunately, it is often ignored in comparable research with humans. Whereas every dog lab now tests the cognition of its animals while their human owners are blindfolded or asked to face away, young children are still presented with cognitive tasks while sitting on their mothers' laps. The assumption is that mothers are like furniture, but every mother wants her child to succeed, and nothing guarantees that her sighs, head turns and subtle changes in position don't serve as cues for the child.

This is especially relevant when we try to establish how smart apes are relative to children. To see how their cognitive skills compare, scientists present both species with identical problems, treating them exactly the same. At least this is the idea. But the children are held by their parents and talked to ("Watch this!" "Where is the bunny?"), and they are dealing with members of their own kind. The apes, by contrast, sit behind bars, don't benefit from language or a nearby parent who knows the answers, and are facing members of a different species. The odds are massively stacked against the apes, but if they fail to perform like the children, the invariable conclusion is that they lack the mental capacities under investigation.

A recent study, tracking the pupil movements of chimpanzees, found that they followed the gaze of members of their own species far better than that of humans. This simple finding has huge implications for tests in which chimpanzees need to pay attention to human experimenters. The species barrier they face may fully explain the difference in performance compared with children.

Underlying many of our mistaken beliefs about animal intelligence is the problem of negative evidence. If I walk through a forest in Georgia, where I live, and fail to see or hear the pileated woodpecker, am I permitted to conclude that the bird is absent? Of course not. We know how easily these splendid woodpeckers hop around tree trunks to stay out of sight. All I can say is that I lack evidence.

It is quite puzzling, therefore, why the field of animal cognition has such a long history of claims about the absence of capacities based on just a few strolls through the forest. Such conclusions contradict the famous dictum of experimental psychology according to which "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

Take the question of whether we are the only species to care about the well-being of others. It is well known that apes in the wild offer spontaneous assistance to each other, defending against leopards, say, or consoling distressed companions with tender embraces. But for decades, these observations were ignored, and more attention was paid to experiments according to which the apes were entirely selfish. They had been tested with an apparatus to see if one chimpanzee was willing to push food toward another. But perhaps the apes failed to understand the apparatus. When we instead used a simple choice between tokens they could exchange for food—one kind of token rewarded only the chooser, the other kind rewarded both apes—lo and behold, they preferred outcomes that rewarded both of them.

Such generosity, moreover, may not be restricted to apes. In a recent study, rats freed a trapped companion even when a container with chocolate had been put right next to it. Many rats first liberated the other, after which both rodents happily shared the treat.

The one historical constant in my field is that each time a claim of human uniqueness bites the dust, other claims quickly take its place. Meanwhile, science keeps chipping away at the wall that separates us from the other animals. We have moved from viewing animals as instinct-driven stimulus-response machines to seeing them as sophisticated decision makers.

Aristotle's ladder of nature is not just being flattened; it is being transformed into a bush with many branches. This is no insult to human superiority. It is long-overdue recognition that intelligent life is not something for us to seek in the outer reaches of space but is abundant right here on earth, under our noses. 
—Mr. de Waal is C.H. Candler Professor at Emory University and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, both in Atlanta. His latest book, "The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism among the Primates," will be published by Norton on Monday.

~ A version of this article appeared March 23, 2013, on page C1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Brains of Animal Kingdom.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"Brain Waves" Challenge Area-Specific View of Brain Activity

From Ku Leuven's news blog, the below is a summary of some new research into brain wave activity that calls into question the standard modular mind model of the brain. Their research suggests that brain activity occurs in wave-like patterns (traveling waves) and is more global than local, as the modular mind model would suggest.

This is interesting research. My sense is that there is both modularity and wave patterns occurring simultaneously during brain activity.

‘Brain waves’ challenge area-specific view of brain activity

Our understanding of brain activity has traditionally been linked to brain areas – when we speak, the speech area of the brain is active. New research by an international team of psychologists led by David Alexander and Cees van Leeuwen (Laboratory for Perceptual Dynamics) shows that this view may be overly rigid. The entire cortex, not just the area responsible for a certain function, is activated when a given task is initiated. Furthermore, activity occurs in a pattern: waves of activity roll from one side of the brain to the other.

A still-shot of a wave of brain activity measured by electrical signals in the outside (left view) and inside (right view) surface of the brain. The colour scale shows the peak of the wave as hot colours and the trough as dark colours. | © D.A.

The brain can be studied on various scales, researcher David Alexander explains: "You have the neurons, the circuits between the neurons, the Brodmann areas – brain areas that correspond to a certain function – and the entire cortex. Traditionally, scientists looked at local activity when studying brain activity, for example, activity in the Brodmann areas. To do this, you take EEG's (electroencephalograms) to measure the brain’s electrical activity while a subject performs a task and then you try to trace that activity back to one or more brain areas."

Activity waves

In this study, the psychologists explore uncharted territory: "We are examining the activity in the cerebral cortex as a whole. The brain is a non-stop, always-active system. When we perceive something, the information does not end up in a specific part of our brain. Rather, it is added to the brain's existing activity. If we measure the electrochemical activity of the whole cortex, we find wave-like patterns. This shows that brain activity is not local but rather that activity constantly moves from one part of the brain to another. The local activity in the Brodmann areas only appears when you average over many such waves.”

Each activity wave in the cerebral cortex is unique. "When someone repeats the same action, such as drumming their fingers, the motor centre in the brain is stimulated. But with each individual action, you still get a different wave across the cortex as a whole. Perhaps the person was more engaged in the action the first time than he was the second time, or perhaps he had something else on his mind or had a different intention for the action. The direction of the waves is also meaningful. It is already clear, for example, that activity waves related to orienting move differently in children – more prominently from back to front – than in adults. With further research, we hope to unravel what these different wave trajectories mean."

The full text of the study "Traveling waves and trial averaging: the nature of single-trial and averaged brain responses in large-scale cortical signals" is available on the website of Neuroimage

Video 1 (above): A wave of brain activity measured by electrical signals at the surface of the brain. The electrodes have been implanted into the left hemisphere of a patient with intractable epilepsy, prior to surgical treatment. The two head views show the electrode array viewed from either the outside surface (left view) or the inside surface (right view). The wave takes about 125 milliseconds to traverse the area of cortex shown. The times displayed at the bottom are relative to the subject's voluntary finger movement at zero milliseconds. The travelling wave originates from the back of the cortex and propagates toward the frontal region. The colour scale shows the peak of the wave as hot colours and the trough of the wave as dark colours.

Video 2 (above): A wave of brain activity measured by the magnetic field it generates externally to the head. The left view of the head is shown on the left side of the image and the right view of the head on the right side of the image. This wave takes about 100 milliseconds to traverse the entire surface of the brain. The travelling wave originates on the lower-left of the head and travels to the lower front-right of the head. Most of the magnetic field shown in this video is generated by brain activity close to the surface of the cortex. The times displayed at the bottom are relative to the subject pressing a button at time zero. The colour scale shows the peak of the wave as hot colours and the trough of the wave as dark colours.

Here is the Abstract and Introduction to the original research article summarized above.

Traveling waves and trial averaging: The nature of single-trial and averaged brain responses in large-scale cortical signals

Open Access Article 

David M. Alexandera, Peter Juricab, Chris Trengovea, Andrey R. Nikolaeva, Sergei Gepshteinc, Mikhail Zvyagintsevd, Klaus Mathiakd, Andreas Schulze-Bonhagee, Johanna Rueschere, Tonio Balle, Cees van Leeuwena.


Analyzing single trial brain activity remains a challenging problem in the neurosciences. We gain purchase on this problem by focusing on globally synchronous fields in within-trial evoked brain activity, rather than on localized peaks in the trial-averaged evoked response (ER). We analyzed data from three measurement modalities, each with different spatial resolutions: magnetoencephalogram (MEG), electroencephalogram (EEG) and electrocorticogram (ECoG). We first characterized the ER in terms of summation of phase and amplitude components over trials. Both contributed to the ER, as expected, but the ER topography was dominated by the phase component. This means the observed topography of cross-trial phase will not necessarily reflect the phase topography within trials. To assess the organization of within-trial phase, traveling wave (TW) components were quantified by computing the phase gradient. TWs were intermittent but ubiquitous in the within-trial evoked brain activity. At most task-relevant times and frequencies, the within-trial phase topography was described better by a TW than by the trial-average of phase. The trial-average of the TW components also reproduced the topography of the ER; we suggest that the ER topography arises, in large part, as an average over TW behaviors. These findings were consistent across the three measurement modalities. We conclude that, while phase is critical to understanding the topography of event-related activity, the preliminary step of collating cortical signals across trials can obscure the TW components in brain activity and lead to an underestimation of the coherent motion of cortical fields.


► We analyzed data from the MEG, EEG and ECoG, quantifying several signal components.
► We compared topographies of activation across large-scale cortex. 
► The topography of evoked responses was primarily a function of within-trial phase. 
► Within-trial phase topography was modeled as traveling waves. 
► Traveling waves explained more signal than the trial-averaged phase topography.


A wealth of evidence links cross-trial averaged, evoked response (ER) measures to various stages of perception, cognition and action. However, the mechanisms responsible for the ER are poorly understood. Here we relate ERs to cortical traveling waves (TWs). The functional significance of TWs, at the columnar scale (Eckhorn et al., 2004 and Nauhaus et al., 2009), Brodmann area (Freeman and Barrie, 2000, Prechtl et al., 1997, Rubino et al., 2006 and Takahashi et al., 2011) and in large scale cortex (Alexander et al., 2006b,Ito et al., 2007, Klimesch et al., 2007 and Massimini et al., 2004) is the subject of a growing literature. The goal of this study is to analyze the composition of the ER, considered as a large-scale pattern of TW activity.

The ER is the trial-average of the measured time-series. ER measurements across the entire scalp are typically used in source localization techniques, for both event-related potentials and event-related fields (Liu et al., 1998 and Pascual-Marqui et al., 1994). An underlying assumption is that ERs reflect the magnitude and location of brain activity and its time-course. Areas or intervals with low ER magnitude therefore tend to be ignored. The ER, along with other cross-trial measures such as coherence (Hipp et al., 2011 and Lachaux et al., 1999), targets brain activity that consistently summates across trials. Brain activity that does not consistently summate across trials is not considered functionally important; sites of low phase consistency are generally considered to reflect activation uncorrelated with the task. This activity is assumed to behave randomly across trials (Britten et al., 1992 and Ray and Maunsell, 2011).

Though technically challenging, it is possible to fit the equivalent current dipole to individual trial data and then compute the average source location, or range of locations, indicated by these single trial fits (Liu and Ioannides, 1996). The resulting evidence suggests that the sequence of activations in the trial-averaged signal does not accurately reflect the sequence of activations within individual trials. In the present research we consider the sequence of activations in the cortex by analyzing TWs within trials.

The issue of trial-averaging also arises in discussions of the relative importance of amplitude and phase to the ER. Two alternative ideas of ER generation have emerged in the literature. In the evoked model, changes in amplitude contribute to the ER, both directly and by selectively enhancing the amplitude of some phase components (Mäkinen et al., 2005 and Shah et al., 2004). In the phase resetting model, only the phase of the signal will affect the ER, via changes in cross-trial phase locking initiated by experimental events (Gruber et al., 2005 and Makeig et al., 2002). In this discussion of ER generation, the relative effects of phase and amplitude on evoked responses are often considered only for a limited number of recording sites (Barry et al., 2004, Gruber et al., 2005 and Fell, 2007 cf. Makeig et al., 2002). Consistent with this approach, oscillatory components that have been isolated using independent components analysis also summate in a manner that suggests a topography of activity arising from localized cortical sources (Makeig et al., 2002). However, if there are large-scale topographical relationships in the way phase and amplitude interact, they may be missed when only sites with maximum ER magnitude are considered. In particular, in the trial averaged signals, TWs are often not clearly in evidence. However, this does not preclude TWs from being prominent in the unaveraged signal. This we investigate here. The topography of phase might be explained better by TWs at the single trial level than by any component of the trial-averaged signal.

An alternative to cross-trial measurement is to characterize the amplitude and phase prior to collation of signals across trials. This may be achieved by considering the topography of these components at the single-trial level. Useful information can be extracted from single trials even without analyzing the Fourier components of the signal, for example, Arieli et al. (1996) considered the topography of local field potentials in cat visual cortex. They found that the spatial pattern of within trial activity dominated the signal; the ER was merely a relatively small component. The preceding within-trial activity was an excellent predictor for within-trial activity at the latency of the ER; a much better predictor than was the trial-averaged ER topography. Thus the within trials topography of activity is highly structured, not simply noise on top of an ER (Arieli et al., 1996).

Within trials topographical information has also been critical for detecting TWs, either by amplitude deflections or by phase estimates (Alexander et al., 2006b, Eckhorn et al., 2004, Massimini et al., 2004 and Rubino et al., 2006). The present research tested the prevalence of TWs as an instance of highly structured activity patterns within trials, also in order to assess the strength of such patterns against trial-averaged components such as ERs and phase coherence. Whereas the former collates signals across space but within trials, the latter, more commonly used measures, collates signals for individual sites but across trials.

Theory and simulation of cortical mechanisms have predicted the existence of large-scale TWs (Nunez and Srinivasan, 2006 and Wright et al., 2001). Essentially, the global resonances that account for the 1/f spectra of cortical activity are also associated with TW dynamics. Using the electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetoencephalogram (MEG), global cortical waves have been shown to arise at a variety of frequencies, from the sub-delta through to gamma bands (Alexander et al., 2006b, Alexander et al., 2009, Ito et al., 2007,Massimini et al., 2004, Ribary et al., 1991 and Sauseng et al., 2002). These waves are typically of long wavelength, with a spatial period of the order of 10 to 20 cm. Over one temporal cycle of the wave, wave peaks typically traverse the entire EEG/MEG recording array.

The functional significance of TWs has been established by noting their close correspondence with the latency topography of known visual and auditory ERP components, such as the P1–N1 complex, P2–N2 complex, as well as the P3b (Alexander et al., 2006b, Alexander et al., 2009, Anderer et al., 1996, Fellinger et al., 2012 and Klimesch et al., 2007). For these event-related potential (ERP) components, the latency, temporal frequency and task-dependency of evoked TW components are consistent with latency, temporal frequency and task-dependency of the corresponding ERPs.

ERPs aside, more evidence needs to be brought to bear on the functional relevance of large-scale TWs at the single-trial level. Some progress has been made toward this goal in analyzing wave activity differences across defined brain states, such as rest (Ito et al., 2005 and Ito et al., 2007), deep sleep (Massimini et al., 2004) and working memory (Fellinger et al., 2012 and Sauseng et al., 2002). Single-trial TWs have also been used to uncover genetic differences in brain activity (Alexander et al., 2007), differences across age groups and clinical groups and in correlations with clinical symptoms (Alexander et al., 2006a, Alexander et al., 2006b, Alexander et al., 2008 and Alexander et al., 2009).

Large-scale patterns of activity in the scalp EEG are partly a function of blurring due to volume conduction of the dura, skull and other tissues; to a lesser extent blurring effects also apply to MEG and electrocorticogram (ECoG) measurements. However, a number of analyses clearly indicate that TWs measured in the EEG are not an artifact of volume conduction. TWs can still be detected in the EEG using sparse electrode arrays with a minimum electrode separation of 10 cm (Alexander et al., 2009); the spatial resolution of the measurement is matched to the spatial resolution of the signal to discount blurring artifact. TWs in EEG can also be detected by measuring latency delays rather than spatial patterns, per se (Alexander et al., 2006b, Fellinger et al., 2012, Manjarrez et al., 2007, Massimini et al., 2004, Nauhaus et al., 2009 and Patten et al., 2012). Since volume conduction effects are essentially instantaneous, to explain away the motion of the apparent waves requires a more complicated hypothesis than volume conduction alone provides (see Ray and Maunsell, 2011, for one such hypothesis; c.f. Nauhaus et al., 2012). To further address the issue of blurring by volume conduction, in the present research we analyzed data from a range of imaging modalities: MEG, EEG and ECoG. We chose these modalities because they have different effective spatial resolutions: approximately 4 cm, 10 cm and 1 cm for MEG, EEG and ECoG, respectively (Bullock et al., 1995 and Srinivasan et al., 2007). Establishing the ubiquity of TWs using each of these measurement modalities would add further evidence against the argument that TWs arise as an artifact of volume conduction.

The results of this study show that phase plays the major role in the ER topography, more-so than amplitude, consistently across imaging modalities. We also observed that the topography of trial-averaged phase, while correlated with ER topography, co-occurs with ubiquitous episodes of TW activity at the single-trial level. In the three data sets analyzed here, the topography of within-trial phase was better described by TWs than by trial-averaged phase, suggesting a loss of information in the latter case. Linking TWs back to ER topography, we show that at some event-related times and frequencies, the ER topography can be approximated as a trial-average of TW components estimated at the single trial level. The existence of smooth spatial gradients of phase within trials, i.e. TWs, is entirely consistent with spatial and temporal variations in cross-trial phase locking. We propose that ER magnitudes are partly the product of TWs that summate and cancel differentially across measurement sites.
Read the whole article.

Arguments For And Against Same-Sex Marriage [NSFW]

Via The Onion . . . of course. Do NOT read this at work, or anywhere else if you are easily offended.

Arguments For And Against Same-Sex Marriage

INFOGRAPHICISSUE 49•13 • Mar 27, 2013

This week, the Supreme Court heard challenges to California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, bringing the question of legalizing gay marriage to the national forefront. Here are the cases made by same-sex marriage advocates and opponents:

  • Always fun to piss off really religious people
  • Little lesbian girls around the country would one day get to live their dream of standing together in front of a county clerk’s office employee and working through the bureaucracy to obtain a marriage license
  • Straight couples could finally unload their unused fondue sets from their marriages
  • Just to see the look on Rick Perry’s dumb fucking face
  • Every citizen should have the right to have their special day where young and old alike can awkwardly dance to the “Cha Cha Slide”
  • The two women from the popular Internet video “Asian and Black Chick Lesbians Dildo Fuck SO HOT Squirting Bitch” could finally get married
  • Gay wedding episode of Modern Family will help ABC take a big victory in the 18-to-49 demo
  • Bestowing dignity upon a wrongfully oppressed minority just a nice thing to do

  • Leviticus 18:22, Deuteronomy 23:17, Romans 1:26
  • Could further weaken traditional American values like prejudice, intolerance, and hatred
  • Nation running out of citizens to make second-class
  • Love is a cruel, vicious demoness no man should have thrust upon his person
  • Would successfully prevent the erosion of the immaculate, utterly flawless American family
  • Everything on registry too expensive
  • Runs against article of U.S. Constitution explicitly barring homosexual marriage
  • If we let gays marry, what’s to stop people from marrying animals or trees or tables? …Okay, we know this is pretty stupid, but we really needed some more things to fill out this side of the list

Susan Greenfield - Mind Change: New Technologies & The Future of the Brain

Cool video from Susan Greenfield - Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University, a neuroscientist, writer, and broadcaster - in which she talks about how new technologies are changing the ways our brains function. Greenfield is the author of The Private Life of the Brain (2001), ID: The Quest for Meaning in the 21st Century (2011), and many other books.

Mind Change & The Future of the Brain

Published on Mar 19, 2013

A vast range of new technologies are transforming our lives. Could it be that the human mind is also undergoing unprecedented changes? Susan Greenfield presents her provocative work on what she considers to be the crisis of our changing world.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mindfulness at School Reduces Symptoms of Depression Among Adolescents

Yet another study demonstrating the real world benefits of mindfulness, this time among depressed adolescents - who also experienced less anxiety and stress.

This comes via Ku Leuven.

Mindfulness at school reduces symptoms of depression among adolescents

Secondary school students who adhered to an in-class mindfulness programme exhibited decreased symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress both immediately after and six months after the programme. Moreover, young people who followed the programme were less likely to develop pronounced depression-like symptoms. The study, conducted by Professor Filip Raes (Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences), is the first to examine the effects of mindfulness on depression in a large sample of adolescents in a classroom setting.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation therapy focused on exercising ‘attentiveness’ over one's thoughts. Depression is often rooted in a downward spiral of negative feelings and worries. Once a person learns to more quickly recognise these feelings and thoughts, he or she can intervene before depression sinks in.

While mindfulness has already been widely tested and applied in patients with depression, this is the first time the method has been studied in a large group of adolescents in a school-based setting, using a randomised controlled design. The study was carried out at five middle schools in Flanders, Belgium. 408 students between the ages of 13 and 20 took part. The students were divided into a test group and a control group. The test group followed an in-class mindfulness training programme which consisted of instruction in mindful breathing and body scan exercises, sharing experiences of these exercises, group reflection, inspiring stories, and education on stress, depression and self-care. The control group, meanwhile, received no training. Before the study, both groups completed a questionnaire designed to reveal symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. Both groups completed the questionnaire again directly after the training, and then a third time six months later.

Before the start of the training, the test group (21%) and the control group (24%) had a similar percentage of students reporting evidence of depression. After the mindfulness training, that number was significantly lower in the test group: 15% versus 27% in the control group. This difference persisted six months after the training, with 16% of the test group versus 31% of the control group reporting evidence of depression. The results suggest that mindfulness can lead to a decrease in symptoms associated with depression and, moreover, that it guards against the later development of depression-like symptoms.

The full study can be found at:

The study was carried out in cooperation with the Belgian not-for-profit Mindfulness and with support from the Go for Happiness Foundation.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: In Conversation with the Dalai Lama

From Snag Films, a documentary about Western Buddhist teachers in conference with the His Holiness the Dalai Lama back in 1993.

H.H. Dalai Lama: In Conversation with the Dalai Lama

(2011) 165 mins

H.H. Dalai Lama: In Conversation with the Dalai Lama Synopsis

In March 1993 a group of western Buddhist teachers went to Dharamsala for a conference with H.H. the Dalai Lama. For the first time western Buddhists of all the major traditions and from several different countries met with one of the most highly revered spiritual leaders in the world today.

Film Credits

Presented by Gonzo Distribution

Lenny Moss - Moral Molecules, Modern Selves, and Our “Inner Tribe”

This article from Professor Lenny Moss is in the new issue of the Hedgehog Review. This interesting article looks at how we "hard-wired" to be social creatures, dependent on others for our survival - but we are also fairly "tribal" (ethnocentric) and we often group ourselves into "us vs. them" perspectives.

It's a long and serious piece - this is only the first few paragraphs.

Moral Molecules, Modern Selves, and Our “Inner Tribe”

Lenny Moss

Reprinted from The Hedgehog Review 15.1 (Spring 2013). 

An Ethos of Ambiguity

We are almost certainly on the threshold of a new understanding of our nature as social beings, which is being provoked and informed by developments in psychology, biology, and the social sciences. Just how we interpret and assimilate these new findings has become a topic of considerable controversy. Inasmuch as morality, however one defines it, has to do with how we treat each other, the stakes of this controversy are raised by its ostensibly moral and thereby also political implications. Less obvious, especially to the public, is the extent to which academic disciplinary statures and commitments are also hanging in the balance.

Our nature as social beings is ostensibly paradoxical. On the one hand, we are unquestionably social in nature. We are born dependent upon the care of others; we crave companionship and often go to great lengths to avoid loneliness. Short of death or physical torture, enforced solitary confinement is considered the most severe and hateful punishment that can be inflicted upon a human being. On the other hand, perceptions of individuality govern our life choices—we are seldom far from consulting our private interests when it comes to making decisions of any consequence. We find ourselves, as individuals, in an ongoing, pervasive, and often strenuous competition with the multitudes for status, recognition, and every good we seek and desire up to and including walking space on a busy urban sidewalk. We thus experience most of our fellow humans, most of the time, as potential impediments to outmaneuver and outdo in order to achieve our ends. The Enlightenment’s late-eighteenth-century “Sage of Königsburg,” Immanuel Kant, pithily referred to this seemingly contradictory state of affairs as our “unsocial sociability.”

How we understand our unsocial sociability, even if just implicitly, is of no small consequence. Those for whom social life is nothing but some minimally constrained expression of Hobbes’s “war of all against all” are prone to act accordingly. For Kant the very possibility of having rational hope for the future of humanity required a story to tell about the place of our unsocial sociability, and all of the historical sufferings and depredations wrought by it, within a framework of possible human “development.” More simply stated, we need a way of understanding “human nature” that allows us to make sense of the evils in human history without foreclosing the possibility of seeing ourselves as moving toward improvement in general, and more specifically toward something like global peace and general human wellbeing. Kant helped himself to a providential outlook but in the form of a theoretical teleology. Kant analogized the human species with an organism that, in effect, undergoes “growing pains” on its developmental path toward maturity. Just as the parts of an organism are always responding to the forces and factors of their immediate environment, and yet all told are contributing to the developmental ends of the organism, individual people live for the most part in their local world pursuing individual ends constitutive of a developmental trend in human history. Kant’s idea was that our unsocial sociability, our individualistic will to get ahead of each other, played out at the macro-level as an impetus for the further cultivation of the species, technologically, culturally, etc. The down side of course was that our unsocial sociability also resulted in massive amounts of human cruelty and immiseration. For Kant, these events, while morally uncondonable, were, as learning experiences, unavoidable parts of human self-development. Only by force of painful experience would humanity learn the value of peaceful co-existence. Sadly, the two-plus centuries since have not easily lent themselves to confidence in a steady, progressive, human learning curve.

Two of the key elements of Kant’s story—the idea that our social behavior is driven by inherent species proclivities and his providential/teleological assumption that we are invested with these proclivities for a reason—may not, on closer examination, look as foreign as one may initially have imagined. In place of talk about inherent proclivities, we now have talk about genes and chemical messengers. In place of a providential account of why (and to what end) we have the proclivities we do, we now have evolutionary arguments about why (and to what end) we have the genes and chemical messengers that we do. How to best interpret the significance of evolution, genetics, and neurochemistry for our understanding of human sociality, morality, and the implications for human conduct, however, is where present controversies first begin.
Read the whole article.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

AZ SB 1045 - Discrimination Against TRansgender People and Anyone Who Does Not Identify or Appear as Biologically Male or Female

I received this email today from the Arizona Counselors Association - I have sent a letter to Mr. Kavanagh, who drafted this "strike everything" amendment to Senate Bill 1045 expressing my concerns around legalizing discrimination against anyone who does look or identify as strictly male or female by traditional standards.

If you are a counselor or even a concerned citizen in Arizona, please write to one the representatives below.

Social Justice Action

Transgender SB1045 - No Loo 4U

Re: SB 1045
Who: All Mental Health Professionals
When: ASAP, prior to March 27th 2pm
How To: See Below

Transgender SB1045
No Loo 4U

The Appropriations Committee will be hearing a strike everything amendment tied to SB 1045 proposed by state Representative John Kavanagh. The strike everything amendment is clearly targeting and discriminating transgender individuals and is an affront to civil rights and human rights. The Government Relations/Public Policy Committee and AzALGBTIC of the Arizona Counselors Association are asking that Professional Counselors, Counselor Educators, and Counseling Students write the members of the Appropriations Committee expressing their reasons that they vote "NO" on the Kavanagh Amendment. As counselors, part of our identity is addressing oppression and abuses of power and privilege, this is an opportunity for counselors to practice Social Justice. Please take a few minutes and write to the Appropriations Committee.

This is a link to read the strike out amendment:

Here are some talking points you can pick and choose from:

There is no problem for this bill to solve. There are no cases of transgender people causing problems in "private" spaces. It is unnecessary and only promotes discrimination. Instead of the government protecting the most vulnerable, this only encourages people to bully them.

This law tries to single out transgender people with targeted discrimination. It serves no purpose but to deny a specific minority with rights others enjoy. Such laws are unconstitutional.

This is fear mongering, a victimization of transgender people. The problem isn't them, it's other people's irrational and unjustified fear. Legislating discrimination against the innocent to satisfy the irrational fears of the privileged is the worst kind of discrimination.

This bill is written with the presumption that transgender people are inherently dangerous and society needs to be protected from them. There is no rational basis for this.

Transgender people are struggling with a recognized medical condition, they face horrible levels of discrimination, and most of them live in poverty. This just encourages people to pick on the weakest among us. This is bullying in law.

Transgender people are the most murdered minority in America. We are the ones who need protection. Others do not need protection from us. Laws like this promote the hate that gets people killed.

Everyone has a gender expression, not just transgender people. This makes it legal to humiliate men for having long hair by forcing them to use a women's room, or degrading women who wear pants by pointing them at the men's room.

This bill in no way addresses physical anatomy, which is what Kavanagh claims it is about. It just characterizes all transgender people as deserving denial of access to all private places.

Last week, Mr. Kavanagh said all transgender people should be in jail. This week he says they should just be degraded and humiliated when trying to use a public restroom. Perhaps next week he will actually get to know one of us and realize that we are just people. You are rushing in and passing laws on something you know nothing about. This is not governance.

This is an inappropriate revision to the law to be coming out of Appropriations. This law has absolutely nothing to do with government expenditure and is nothing but condoning of discrimination in the private sector.

Please send your emails to the members of the Appropriations Committee before 2:00 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

Chairman: John Kavanagh (R) 602-926-5170
Vice-Chair: Justin Olson (R) 602-926-5288
Lela Alston (D) 602-926-5829 fref=ts
Rick Gray (R) 602-926-5993 fref=ts 
Michelle Ugenti (R) 602-926-4480
Paul Boyer (R) 602-926-4173 fref=ts
Adam Kwasman (R) 602-926-5839
Chad Campbell (D) 602-926-3026
Stefanie Mach (D) 602-417-3126
Thomas Forese (R) 602-926-5168
Andrew Sherwood (D) 602-926-3028

I would also copy your state Senators and Representative by using the link below to find out who they are:

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, Elizabeth Forsyth (, or Chad Mosher (

Thank you for your efforts to stand for justice and equality,

Gordon Gray and Elizabeth Forsyth (President of the Arizona Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling- AzALGBTIC)

Gordon Gray II
Government Relations/Public Policy Chair
AzALGBTIC Bylaws Chair
Arizona Counselors Association
P.O. Box 38652
Phoenix, AZ 85069
602-300-6198 (Cell)
623-748-9599 (FAX)