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Ch. 3: Exploring Your Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison) 
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Post Re: Ch. 3: Exploring Your Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
geo wrote:
youkrst wrote:
i thought about games and books and movies etc and how they might be more or less immersive or more or less your cup of tea depending on what your amygdala has loaded up over the years and in the instant, in the case of say "first person shooter" computer games would you even play an FPS if you had no amygdala.


My wife and I were watching trick or treaters coming up to our house (decked out with some spooky Halloween props). Most kids run past the skeleton in our garage window. To the extent that they know the skeleton isn't real, they're not really scared. But that little bit of scared is thrilling. It seems to me the amygdala is one of the more primitive parts of the brain, "designed" to help us respond to danger by triggering a flight-or-fight response. It's thrilling to feel the surge of adrenalin, especially in an environment the intellect knows is really safe. Maybe that's why the immersive type video games are so fun because they trigger some of those brain chemicals that give us a little thrill, while the intellect part of our brains reassures us that this is not real.

My wife (a psych nurse practitioner) was talking about the kids she works with. Most are from small rural towns in western North Carolina. Many are from broken families, poverty, abuse. And these kids don't really enjoy Halloween. Maybe they have to deal with real horror on a daily basis and so there's no thrill of being scared. Indeed, Halloween is genuinely too scary for them. Their brains have to deal with real world problems to the extent that the playful aspect of life gets suppressed. And there's no reassurance from the intellectual part of their brains. Just musing out loud here.


Many veterans have a disease where this very part of the brain shrinks and we do not respond properly to fear at all. Its a tough disease that I will showcase in my first book. I like the example of the kids you use here. There is much truth in what you write. In my case I almost ignore the sensor that would make you run. One can say the the trigger dulls over time with excessive stimulus. Thanks for this example.



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geo, Harry Marks
Fri Nov 27, 2015 2:34 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3: Exploring Your Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Guy Harrison wrote:
“to focus conservation efforts on entire natural habitats… the web of life is too complex, the components too intertwined, to approach any other way. This is a good way to think of the brain as well, like a vast ecosystem.”


A series of questions about the nature and evolution of the brain can usefully be explored against the framework of this ecological observation. The first point here concerns the nature of causality. There is sometimes a naïve immediate tendency when we are looking for the reason why something happened to focus on the most obvious cause and effect, not fully taking into account the highly complex web of connections and processes that link everything together through space and time.

Harrison points out that each human brain can be seen as like a separate ecosystem itself. The brain requires vastly more blood and energy than any other organ, and its complex responses somehow integrate processes with a speed and efficiency that is vastly better than technology can yet copy in many ways. For example the ability of sport professionals to react instantly to perceptions such as the position of a ball builds on brain capacities that have evolved over millions of years of predation and avoidance to enable us to respond to adaptive pressures.

There is a whole emerging science of behavioural insight that builds on observation of brain function. One example I found really interesting was that when students were asked to remember either a two or seven digit number, and then were offered chocolate or fruit, those who had to stress their brain by remembering a long number were more likely to choose the comfort food. Their cognitive reserves were depleted by the bigger memory task. The stress meant they chose pleasure over health, consumption over investment, the present over the future. This is explained at http://blogs.worldbank.org/impactevalua ... nd-poverty. This surprising finding makes sense as we consider the brain as a whole ecosystem. Rather than seeing the food choice in isolation, it is part of a mental and physical context. It gives new meaning and power to the old kiss saying, keep it simple stupid.

That issue of unexpected causalities within the brain is an interesting one which is relevant for all sorts of situations. For example the ability of people to contribute to a discussion at booktalk is affected by the stress level in their life. Our ability to step back from immediate personal problems and consider bigger issues is directly affected by the physical stresses on our brains. Often we don't realise we are under stress, as in the example of people remembering long numbers.

At that World Bank blog there are a bunch of other fascinating examples. For example holding a grip for a long time is more a test of will and mental energy than of physical strength alone.


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