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    rubber band brains
    A theme has presented itself over the past two days: the flexibility of the human brain and the way things are. or aren't.

    I was grilling my parents on Jesus the other day in anticipation of his day of birth (let it be known that I wasn't raised with any sort of religion and have never fully explored the origins of the world's religions) and it was brought to my attention that in the beginning, the Christians were a much maligned minority. Though in retrospect my surprise is merely the byproduct of a certain ignorance, it also fascinated me that in the beginning, people were extremely resistant to a worldview that has held so much sway over the Western world for the past few centuries. This was the first bit of information that got me thinking about how hard/easy it is to revise the dominant reality paradigm.

    NEXT I'm reading a book about sensory deprivation and I come across the following phrase
    "conventional criterion of sanity." This criterion is just something we agree upon, and throughout the world the divide between insanity and sanity exists on a sliding scale. (in Holland the saying goes, "act normal, that's crazy enough." Meanwhile, the Truk islanders from the Western Pacific are so accustomed to getting lost at sea and experiencing the hallucinatory effects of isolation, insanity is a much more frequent, and therefore normal occurrence.)

    FURTHERMORE, the way we actually see the world is determined by our culture and surroundings. In the rectangular western world we have a strong sense of perspective, while the Zulus, who live mostly amongst circles and posses very few rectangular objects don't generally experience a strong sense of perspective in their day to day lives. People who live in densely forested areas lack advanced depth perception because they need only perceive things through clearings, so when shown something far away, it appears to them as small rather than distant.

    all the red lines in these disgrams are straight, and while most western observers perceive them as bent, the Zulu's don't perceive a distortion

    THEN, I went on a hike today and had a conversation about paleolithic man who, according to the superintelligence that is Carel Struycken, essentially had the same brain as modern man. In other words, you could throw a paleolithic baby into modern day Los Angeles and it would grow up just like a baby born yesterday and vice versa.

    AND THEN, to top it all off, i just picked up a book called Proust was a Neuroscientist, turned to a random page, and what do you know. It's all about brain elasticity and neurogenesis. The brain IS elastic, "neurogenesis is evidence that we evolved to keep evolving," because the brain is constantly changing and changeable. FURTHERMORE; a new variety of anti-depressants is being developed that work by stimulating neurogenesis. THE CREATION OF NEW BRAIN CELLS MAKES UP HAPPY!

    BY GOD, the human brain must have been the inspiration for rubber bands. Reality can be anything we want it to be, we can re-invent our personal or inter-personal reality frameworks over and over and over again. It's fucking incredible. But I'm left with one question: if the human brain is so changeable, why is so much of humanity resistant to change? And if our everyday experience can be adapted to any reality, why do we agree on this particular one?

    With that, I'm off to imagine/inhabit some more possible realities, ones that don't involve sitting in traffic, watching television, or behaving rationally.

    Fri, Dec 28, 2007  Permanent link

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    cupcakewizard     Fri, Dec 28, 2007  Permanent link
    “if the human brain is so changeable, why is so much of humanity resistant to change? And if our everyday experience can be adapted to any reality, why do we agree on this particular one?”

    It is curious that we are biologically built to evolve yet on a conscious level we seem to have a different agenda. I think this reinforces the theory that our ‘self’ is separate from our brain in function. Maybe on a macro level, with each evolutionary cycle we encounter growing pains, which are engrained in our systems setting off alarm with the onset of change. On a micro/individual level I think that many of us unconsciously behave in ways we assume others want for us to behave. I’m sure that this was developed as a result of social conditioning predominantly in the Western world. Change can be scary for people. So can the idea that we could be solely responsible for the influence and outline of our realities.

    Imagine if someone told you that all you had to do is make a list of all the things you ‘want’? It took much discipline for me to draft up my list because I put limitations on what I ‘wanted’ and I kept making excuses as to why it simply wasn’t realistic to make such requests. Finally I snapped out of it and made very specific definitions of how I would choose to sculpt my life in the near future. I’ve been stupefied in retrospect at the results I’ve conjured up.

    Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words.
    Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions.
    Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits.
    Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character.
    Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.


    Megan- thanks for the inspiration!
         Fri, Dec 28, 2007  Permanent link
    The Christian religion was popularized by the failing Roman government by Emperor Constantine. He realized that the people were not happy with the connotations of the decadent image that the olden roman gods brought forth, and with the full realization that he could use the force of [by then commonly accepted by the majority of the population of the roman empire] full knowledge of how the world works, (Knowledge being power) to manipulate the people to keep on following him, he created the beginnings of Roman Catholicism. I'll write an entry on this subject of commonly accepted paradigms and sense of reality/brain plasticity to complement yours if my environmental circumstances allow me to continue [hahaha]

    However, I'm really quite confused about the statement where you say that most antidepressants stimulate brain growth. Sure, the creation of brain cells may make us happy by giving us more to be happy about, but as far as I know from the testimony of people I know that use them, antidepressants don't automagically make you a happy person. In fact, most people that I know get quite fucked up over their use, because when they have to eventually come off of them or if their prescription runs out, they're in a fairly painful situation. Also, from what I've learned how they work, they either do one of two things (excluding tricyclic antidepressants because I forget how those work): They either stop the amine pumps in your synapes that (selectively, as what I'm talking about are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or more commonly known as SSRI's such as Paxil or Prozac) clean out serotonin receptors from, or they inhibit monoamine oxidase which works to wipe out amine chemicals from the synaptic gap (Monamine Oxidase Inhibitors, don't remember any brand names but you also see them used when people want to potentiate the effects of tryptamines or take certain kinds in certain preparations orally). So, how does this result in brain growth... And am I wrong about your statement said on antidepressants yielding happiness being a bit of a misunderstanding?
    meganmay     Sat, Dec 29, 2007  Permanent link
    Perhaps variety of anti-depressants he's talking about are just now in the works and not yet on the market, but this is a quote from the book:

    Other scientists have discovered that antidepressants work by stimulating neurogenesis (at least in rodents), implying that depression is ultimately caused by a decrease in the amount of new neurons, and not by a lack of serotonin. A new class of anti-depressants is being developed that targets the neurogenesis pathway.

    to resolve the misunderstanding, i'm more interested in how inducing the growth of new brain cells makes people happy than in prescription medications that may or may not get you there.
         Sat, Dec 29, 2007  Permanent link
    I figured this out a fair bit further.