Archive for November, 2006

The body acting as the subconscious mind, the “control over emotion” debate, and love potion #9

Emotion centers in the brainWhat will Neuro-Programmer version 10 or 20 look like? Will it even incorporate the same technology? Perhaps by then we’ll all be jacked in like Neo, or swimming with dolphins like John C. Lilly. Or by that time, will something so radically different have taken hold of the industry. There has been some buzz lately in the neuroscience community regarding emotions and motivation, and how to obtain conscious control over them. Humans have thus far exercised extreme control over the physical environment – air conditioners, light bulbs, molecularly engineered fabric for every season  – why not move this scientific energy to controlling our emotional environment? The debate promises to be very interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out. People who already have significant control over their emotions regard them more as conscious choices than experiences, while anyone who has experienced chronic depression or anxiety would vehemently disagree. The interesting part is that research on the brain seems to agree with both, though advances in this field in the short term are more likely to focus on neurochemicals such as serotonin and oxytocin (implicated in love and human bonding). A recent study used an oxytocin spray to reduce the fear response in subjects. Maybe one day love potion #9 will truly become a reality, and in an easy to use spray bottle!

Mind Body CommunicationA few weeks ago, I listened to a speech and question/answer segment given by Candace Pert, as I was making the 3 hour trek to visit with relatives. Pert is best known to scientists as a discoverer of the opiate receptor, and known to everyone else as the author of the book “Molecules of Emotion” and a contributor in the controversial movie “What the Bleep?!”. She presented a radical idea based on evidence that many neurochemicals are not exclusive to the brain, and that neuropeptides and their receptors can be found all over the body. Conversely, body chemicals like insulin can also be found in the brain (interestingly, in the emotional centers). She calls neuropeptides “information gatherers” and suggests that communication is not one sided, but is a constant flow, back and forth between the body and the mind – using many chemicals most people think are exclusive to the brain. Based on this, Pert presents the fascinating idea that the body IS the subconscious mind, or at least a significant part of it – challenging the idea that the mind is the one and only seat of thought.

Here is a small excerpt from the speech, appropriately entitled “Your body is your subconscious mind”:

Candace Pert Excerpt

I imagine many in the neuroscience community would be skeptical of some of the more radical ideas expressed in the speech. There are lots of intriguing ideas floating around right now, and at this point I approach them more as “brain candy” than facts. I have always enjoyed discussing science fiction concepts such as the idea of transporting the brain to a new body. Could you become immortal simply by downloading the data in your brain to a computer? It is interesting to wonder how much of a person would change in a new body, or by abandoning the body altogether.

What we’ve been up to lately:

A new brainwave entrainment clinic is opening up near Santa Cruz today, and I’m happy to say they have chosen to use our software. I had a great chat with the owner and clinician, after a few weeks of phone tag, and I’m wishing them great success. If anyone in the Santa Cruz/Soquel area is interested I can probably find out where it is.

We’re still plugging away on the new project I mentioned in the last post. Nothing interesting to report. Let me just say that there is a reason we’re the only ones in the industry to implement Undo and Copy/Paste functionality.

I’m looking forward to testing some new equipment we received from AVStim, and we may have a new product in the accessories area soon if our tests prove successful. Over the last 6 months we’ve also been testing cordless headphones, but unfortunately we have yet to find a set that is adequate for use with entrainment or hypnosis – for music it is great, but for entrainment, not so much. There are too many cut outs, bursts of static, random reductions in volume, and other problems that can easily jolt you out of an otherwise relaxing session. Hopefully we will find one that works well and be able to offer it (or at least recommend it) on our site. I know the feeling of emerging from a session in a spider’s web of headphone cords – kind of ruins the euphoria. :)

 

By the way, I talked a bit about MRI in the last entry, here’s an interesting article featuring footage of the first MRI and the latest advances: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5371748.stm

Till next time, all the best!

Adam

Some thoughts on the neural mechanisms of voting, auditory illusions and paranoia

With elections only a few days away here in the States, I find myself wondering – as I always do every 2 years – what is behind the vote I’m casting, and the votes of others. Although most of us probably think we vote on issues alone, research on the brain suggests that many people vote with their identity instead. If you tend to relate to a certain party’s identifying characteristics, or perhaps if your family has voted with a particular party for generations, your subconscious will tend to shift your thinking in favor of that party. There is a neurological basis for this. In 2004 Drs. Freedman and Iocaboni, at UCLA, used MRI to analyze which areas of the brain “light up” when subjects are shown political content associated with a particular candidate. If the candidate was already preferred by the subject, neural areas associated with empathy became highly active, while areas of negative emotion lit up when presented with information associated with opposing candidates. The content of the message itself is less important than the context in many cases. Subconsciously, the mind finds a reason to dislike messages seen to be outside of our own identity. It is interesting to observe this happening in my own brain as I view the hundreds of campaign ads bombarding the airwaves, some of which are hard to affiliate with a particular party until well into the commercial.

As always, the political process is fascinating to me, and I’m enjoying watching it all unfold. Ohio just implemented touch screen voting, so I’m looking froward to using that for the first time, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed hoping the technology behind it is well made. The techie in me wants to see elections move into the modern age. But with the modern age comes modern paranoias. I remember when we first started the company an individual in a discussion group warned others not to use our software because the government embeds “microchips” in all white noise to control the populace. Another customer contacted us a year ago, convinced that she heard “buy this software” subliminally while playing our sessions. It turned out she wasn’t even using our software at all, having confused us with another company – but even so I would be willing to bet it was just an auditory illusion.

More than a few people hear words and other auditory illusions in some of the background sound files we have used over the years, to the point where sometimes I have to manually edit the sound file and take out the “human-sounding” portions. When a sound file is used repeatedly the mind can start to identify patterns where none exist, and I sometimes wonder if what people hear in these sound files is a kind of representation of the subconscious mind, sort of like the famous inkblot test.

Well on to what we’ve been up to here at Transparent:

Mind Stereo has been a great success. I didn’t know what to expect in releasing it – nothing like it has really been done before. While making it I often sat back and wondered to myself if I was being arrogant in assuming people would want yet another media player on their computer, even one as unique as this. But, just the other day a few customers indicated they are actually using it as their default, so I’m real proud of that.

There has been some discussion lately of moving to other platforms, like OSX, PocketPC, Linux, etc. I want everyone to know that we hear you, and I’m really hoping to look more into this next year. I just heard that our software has some troubles on Windows Vista, so I’m going to be working on making that work before Vista is officially released to the public. So much to do!

Meanwhile, we’re all hard at work here on a big new project. This one has me really excited. I’m hoping to start beta testing on it in a month or 2, but the more we develop and the more we research, the more ideas pop up! We’ll often be in the middle of a project and then add a dozen new features that, while exciting, add a lot of time to the whole process.

I’m hoping to release more details about our new developments soon, maybe even along with some pre-release screenshots. :)

Wishing everyone all the best. To those readers in the U.S., happy voting on tuesday!

Adam