Most psychiatrists of a certain age began their careers thinking marijuana use – even daily marijuana use – was no big deal. We bought the conspiracy theory (somewhat accurate, somewhat false) that marijuana was histrionically banned in the 1920s through sneaky back-room deal making by Hearst and DuPont in order to get rid of hemp, which was a threat to their business models (making paper and nylon respectively). The terrifying, effects of weed on the human mind – particularly the nonwhite human mind, but also the white female mind – was the scare tactic these corporations used to accomplish their financial objectives. And thus, tragically, in white America’s panic to avoid miscegenation and race wars, which turned out merely to deprive them of superior paper and nontoxic, organic clothing and rope – both superior by far to wood pulp paper and cotten clothes and nylon rope – we got rid of a perfectly safe drug.

Increasing the firing rate of prefrontal cortical neurons via agonism of serotonin receptors with LSD looks like this (All credit to reddit!) For further information: Effects of LSD on EEG (from 1960, when reserach was still legal) The Pharmacology of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: A Review Review in Nature Reviews Neuroscience Serotonergic Modulation of the Prefrontal Cortex: […]

In contrast the the modern belief that the universe is physical, Pythagoras (among other ancients) believed that the universe’s basic “stuff” was mathematical. After a century or so of incoherent materialism, are we finally coming back around to that idea? Quanta magazine has a nice writeup of a new theory (not yet empirically tested, but consistent […]

If the results stand up, they provide intriguing evidence that “emotional eating” binges may be just the opposite – efforts to turn off emotion. Have people who binge eat after distressing experiences stumbled upon a hypothalamic emergency brake?

The NYT has a loving and heart-warming replica of Watson’s letter describing the discovery of DNA to his 12 year old son in 1953. To say something nice about it, it’s amazing to see what a good teacher Watson was – he describes the double-helix, first-time out, from a standing start, better than it is usually described by professional educators in high school and college. What’s even more amazing and heart-warming is that Watson completely forgets to mention Rosalind Franklin to his son. You know, Rosalind Franklin…the Jewish woman chemist who took the x-ray diffraction picture of DNA that led directly to Watson’s theory? Never heard of her? Riiiiiiiiiight.

As I brought up last week, we should watch the merging of DOD and NIH monies in the pursuit of neuroscience research. Here’s an article on one use the Pentagon may want to put all this research to: “Pentagon to build robots with real brains.” As a side note, this seems far-fetched.

If you don’t think there aren’t a few neocons salivating at the thought of future fleets of American neurosoldiers cutting through the Mongol hordes, you haven’t been watching enough House of Cards. DARPA’s got skin – big skin – in this game for a reason. Visions of neuroweaponry are dancing through at least some of their heads. Isn’t it time to ask some questions about it? America’s just flubbed two wars, at incredible expense, in which overconfidence in DARPA weaponry played a huge role. Let’s find out exactly what their thinking about the BRAIN initiative is, and how this military-scientific collaboration is supposed to play out. And let’s hope that we don’t have a new challenge on our hands – to keep not only weapons out of the wrong hands, but the wrong heads. And let’s follow their mission statement and funding patterns closely over the years. NYT, what do you say? Want to give cynicism a shot? I’ve heard it’s something that reporters – and even Presidents – used to do.

Yesterday I posted that the White House’s upcoming BRAIN initiative was conceptually incoherent, and I snarkily implied the NYT needed some science-fiction checkers for its overly credulous reporting of what we could expect out of the initiative.

What a difference a day makes! In an article today they write: “the new initiative… has, as yet, no clearly defined goals or endpoint. Coming up with those goals will be up to the scientists involved and may take more than year.”

For anyone reading today’s NYT article on the ADHD “epidemic” (sidenote: the only epidemic is in the eyes of the diagnosticians and, worse, the school administrators who ensure that normal boys look hyperactive by sticking them in classrooms at 8am every morning), it wasn’t hard to notice someone conspicuously absent: Jaak Panksepp. If you haven’t read Panksepp’s most recent article on the normal evolutionary function of attentional shifting, and on the necessity of reorganizing our grade schools to make recess the first class of the day, read it now (link here…)

As a rather precise analogy, knowing the distribution of cell phones in the United States might tell you this much (pinchy fingers) about what Americans are saying to one another. A complete list of every phone’s contact history (eg, who is calling who, and when, and for how long) would tell you this much (hands a foot apart) about what Americans are saying. But actually recording all of the conversations would tell you this much (arms stretched as wide as possible) about what Americans are saying.

Everything you ever wanted from a nervous system and more. Perception, analysis, intentionality, persistence, problem solving, and motor behavior up the wazoo.

Einstein famously hated this idea, wanting all cause-effect relationships to be “local” (meaning limited in speed to c). He petulantly referred to it as spooky action at a distance. Bell’s theorem gave it credibility, and now a series of experiments are proving it empirically.

Time was when the cell body was the telephone mouthpiece and the axon was the telephone cord. Axons just passively conducted the information fed into them like so many cables. But this new article Neurosci. Res. 2013 Sasaki sets forward a summary of recent evidence that astrocytes camped out along the axon modify the signals that cell […]

A nice 6-minute film in which the viewer looks back, from a rocketship, as she moves from the surface of the planet through the universe. Various scientific landmarks and facts are displayed over the course of the trip. Good for kids and context.

The phrase “impossible person” was coined by James Joyce. In this post I will define the term (or at least begin to) and in the posts that follow in this section I will try to shed light on the inner logic of impossible people, and on some of the techniques that can be used to make them possible.

Many prisons in America are privately run, and wardens, making $40,000/year per inmate, have reasons to keep people in – the inmates are in a sense (unwilling) customers. So when they write that “this pattern of results raises the possibility that brain activity in regions such as the ACC, elicited by a simple experimental task, may lend incremental utility to existing behavioral risk factors in the ability to predict rearrest,” one worries about how, exactly, this information might be used.

It is not enough to have expelled the barbarians who have bloodied our land for two centuries; it is not enough to have restrained those ever-evolving factions that one after another mocked the specter of liberty that France dangled before you. We must, with one last act of national authority, forever assure the empire of liberty in the country of our birth; we must take any hope of re-enslaving us away from the inhuman government that for so long kept us in the most humiliating torpor. In the end we must live independent or die.

If you’ve never seen someone drop 4 Mentos into a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke (let alone done it yourself) you’re in for a treat. And if you’ve never dropped the speed of light into an inertial frame of reference before you’re in for an even bigger one. Because the Mentos/Diet Coke thing will blow your mind […]

“The law is this: that each of our leading conceptions, each branch of our knowledge, passes successively through three different theoretical conditions: the Theological, or fictitious; the Metaphysical, or abstract; and the Scientific, or positive….the phenomena of human life… are yet equally subject to invariable laws; laws which form the principal objects of Positive speculation… [Positivism] rests at every point upon the unchangeable Order of the world. The right understanding of this order is the principal subject of our thoughts; its preponderating influence determines the general course of our feelings; its gradual improvement is the constant object of our actions.”

Out of 100 minutes of psychotherapy, a patient can expect at most 1-5 minutes to involve interpretations of what was “really” going on. It seldom seems that way because interpretation is what a patient remembers. But a seasoned shrink has learned that patients drop out of treatment if you bombard them with unwanted ideas about themselves. And that defeats the point of treatment. 1-5% of the time is plenty.

So here we go, on what will probably a long, drawn out excursion: the tools of my trade. If I were a dentist, what I’d be describing would be my picks and drills. If I were a basketball player these would be my moves. If I were a photographer these would be my camera settings and lenses. In psychiatry they just happen to be words. Which just happen to be the easiest kind of thing to distribute across the internet. Enjoy!

10:21 – I still think the story of this debate is that Romney has a huge wellspring of arrogant aggression at his disposal, and seems unable to modulate it sufficiently to appear Presidential. Obama comes close to naming it and challenging it, but pulls up short each time. Candy Crowley fails to discuss or contain it. And none of the audience members pulls an audible and ask Romney why he’s so angry.

As, then, nature abhors a vaccuum (of which anon), but all parts are bound to come together to prevent it, it follows from this that the parts cannot really be distinguished, and that extended substance in so far as it is substance cannot be divided.

I suppose Popper has done us a favor here: he has combined bad thinking about memory, emergence, and materialism with sweeping arrogance. It’s a kind of apotheosis of bad anti-psychism, and should lead any curious person to wonder whether something isn’t terribly amiss (and insecure!) in modern materialism.

10:18 Let me follow Ryan’s pro-life reasoning here.
1. My firstborn child looked like a bean on ultrasound in the womb.
2. After my firstborn child was born, we nicknamed them “bean”
3. Beans are human beings
4. Therefore I am against abortion.

10:19 Question: can somebody get a photograph of Paul Ryan eating beans? And then arrest him for murder?

The huge mistake Descartes made – and for which we are all still paying – is to conflate mass with extension. We know today that mass is not extension – we think of mass and extension as two different things, and that matter has both properties. They overlap so seamlessly – everything with mass has extension, and the only things we really can sense has mass – that we can forgive Descartes for missing that there are things in this world that have extension but not mass.

It is fashionable these days to “not believe in dualism,” though typically, if the conversation deepens, what is believed in its place turns out to be vague. Ask someone to explain – precisely – what they believe instead of dualism, and they often end up sounding like Obama in his first debate with Romney. There’s a […]

Note: reprinted without permission (but in fear of it disappearing) from here. Please read it there. Happy to take this down if the owner prefers. Short discussion on Wikipedia here. My comments on this here. In proposing to treat here of light, the first thing I want to make clear to you is that there can be […]

It’s football day again, and so it brings to mind that last Monday night I was watching the Bears destroy the Cowboys (until Kyle Orton came in!) and was surprised to hear, after Brandon Marshall caught a TD, one of the color on-field commentators mention in a matter of fact way that he had Borderline Personality Disorder

Thus, the inhabitants of the universe were conceived to be a set of fields, an electron field, a proton field, an electromagnetic field, and particles were reduced in status to mere epiphenomena. In its essentials, this point of view has survived to the present day, and forms the central dogma of quantum field theory: the essential reality is a set of fields, subject to the rules of special relativity and quantum mechanics; all else is derived as a consequence of the quantum dynamics of these fields.

The screenshot above is of an aggressive, slightly impulsive male primate named Chris Matthews describing the neuroselves of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Like me (check out the transcript of my live blog here) Matthews was watching the nonverbals during last night’s debate, and like me Matthews noticed that Romney’s were dominant and Obama’s submissive.Unlike me, his head exploded.

But if you think about it, the dynamic didn’t begin with nonverbals. It began with the verbals and then infected the nonverbals. If you think back to the (very weird) start of the debate, Obama led with a staggeringly submissive idea.