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Metaphysics & Psychology

Loneliness Kills: What Do We Do About It?

If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, then you may enjoy this New Republic article on the phenomenon of loneliness and its impact on physical health. It’s full of all sorts of interesting asides about who experiences loneliness and why.

The New Republic:

A famous experiment helps explain why rejection makes us flinch. It was conducted more than a decade ago by Naomi Eisenberger, a social psychologist at UCLA, along with her colleagues. People were brought one-by-one into the lab to play a multiplayer online game called “Cyberball” that involved tossing a ball back and forth with two other “people,” who weren’t actually people at all, but a computer program. “They” played nicely with the real person for a while, then proceeded to ignore her, throwing the ball only to each other. Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans showed that the experience of being snubbed lit up a part of the subjects’ brains (the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) that also lights up when the body feels physical pain.

I asked Eisenberger why, if the same part of our brain processes social insult and bodily injury, we don’t confuse the two. She explained that physical harm simultaneously lights up another neural region as well, one whose job is to locate the ache—on an arm or leg, inside the body, and so on. What the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex registers is the emotional fact that pain is distressing, be it social or physical. She calls this the “affective component” of pain. In operations performed to relieve chronic pain, doctors have lesioned, or disabled, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. After the surgery, the patients report that they can still sense where the trouble comes from, but, they add, it just doesn’t bother them anymore.

It’s tempting to say that the lonely were born that way—it’d let the rest of us off the hook. And, as it turns out, we’d be about half right, because loneliness is about half heritable. A longitudinal study of more than 8,000 identical Dutch twins found that, if one twin reported feeling lonely and unloved, the other twin would report the same thing 48 percent of the time. This figure held so steady across the pairs of twins—young or old, male or female, notwithstanding different upbringings—that researchers concluded that it had to reflect genetic, not environmental, influence. To understand what it means for a personality trait to have 48 percent heritability, consider that the influence of genes on a purely physical trait is 100 percent. Children get the color of their eyes from their parents, and that is that. But although genes may predispose children toward loneliness, they do not account for everything that makes them grow up lonely. Fifty-two percent of that comes from the world.

Evolutionary theory, which has a story for everything, has a story to illustrate how the human species might benefit from wide variations in temperament. A group that included different personality types would be more likely to survive a radical change in social conditions than a group in which everyone was exactly alike. Imagine that, after years in which a group had lived in peace, an army of strangers suddenly appeared on the horizon. The tribe in which some men stayed behind while the rest headed off on a month-long hunting expedition (the stay-at-homes may have been less adventurous, or they may just have been loners) had a better chance of repelling the invaders, or at least of saving the children, than the tribe whose men had all enthusiastically wandered off, confident that everything would be fine back home.


Metaphysics & Psychology

Cell migration: is there another personality inside you?

Perhaps you believe that your body and mind are yours alone. In fact, you are a fusion of many organisms – possibly including another person, says BBC Future.

Once upon a time there was a very simple description for human origins: a man and a woman met, had fun, and then – relatively quickly – a tiny fertilized egg turned into a screaming newborn baby.

Everything was very clear: the man was half father, half mother, but 100% owned by himself.

However, this simple story has become quite complicated over the past decades. As it turned out, in addition to the genes passed on to us by our parents, we are home to an extensive set of viruses, bacteria and even, possibly, other personalities.

Moreover, if you have a twin, particles of it are likely to be present in your body (including your brain). And they are not just present, but, possibly, capable of influencing your behavior.

A monster named toxoplasma

“People are not individuals, but superorganisms,” says Peter Kramer of the University of Padua. “A huge variety of organisms are constantly fighting for power over our body.”

Co-authored with Paola Bressan, Dr. Kramer recently published an article in the scientific journal Perspectives in Psychological Science that urges psychologists and psychiatrists to consider the possible impact of this factor on human behavior.

For some, this will be alarming news, but scientists have long known that the human body is a jumble of different organisms.

Gut microbes are capable of producing neurotransmitters that alter our mood ; some researchers even speculate that microbes can influence a person’s appetite, forcing us to consume their preferred food.

And infection with a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii can kill you in some cases. By infecting a rat or mouse, this microbe changes the consciousness of the host in such a way that he ceases to be afraid of cats and even reaches out to their habitats – for reproduction, Toxoplasma certainly needs to get into the cat’s body.

However, Toxoplasma can also infect a person in the same way, as a result of gaining control over human behavior: some of those infected become prone to unnecessary risks, while others are more likely to develop schizophrenia or suicidal depression.

Meanwhile, despite the potentially dangerous consequences of infection for humans, about a third of all meat sold in Britain is infected with this parasite . “We need to end this,” says Kramer.

Twins are closer together than they might seem

Thus, it becomes clear that we are not necessarily entirely responsible for our own behavior.

This alone is enough to make a person doubt the usual perception of their own identity, but the thought that our brain is inhabited not only by tiny microbes, but also by other human beings, becomes really uncomfortable.

Siamese twins, who share a common brain for two bodies, are the most graphic illustration of this, Kramer says. However, even ordinary, non-fused twins may have common organs that they are not even aware of.

During early embryonic development, cells of twins or triplets are able to migrate from one embryo to another.

Previously, scientists believed that this happens very rarely, but it turned out that such a scenario is very common. So, about 8% of non-identical twins and 21% of non-identical triplets have one, but two blood groups: the blood of one group is produced by their own cells, and the blood of the other is produced by cells migrated from the twins.

In other words, they are “chimeric” or hybrid organisms. Moreover, the matter is not limited to blood – a similar situation is observed with cells of various organs, including the brain.

This hybridity in relation to the brain can have very serious consequences.

For example, it is known that the relative position of different parts of the brain is very important for its normal functioning.

The presence of foreign tissue in the brain, for the development of which foreign genes are responsible, can disrupt its architecture.

This can explain, for example, the fact that twins are very often left-handed – it is believed that the distribution of motor functions between the right and left sides of the body depends precisely on the organization of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Perhaps it is hybridity that upsets this balance.

Even if you have never had a twin in your life, it is possible that your body still contains cells from another human being.

It so happens that two embryos fuse into a single whole at the stage of early development. As a result, the cells of one embryo enter the tissues of another and, at first glance, develop without deviations. However, they carry the genetic information of another person.

“You may feel like you are one, while there are foreign cells in your body – so there were two of you since birth,” says Kramer.

There was even a case when a genetic study found that a woman is not the biological mother of her two children.

The opposite also happens – the cells of the older child remain in the mother’s body and, after the conception of the younger child, move into the embryo.

Whichever way this happens, it’s entirely possible that another person’s cells can cause the brain to develop in completely unexpected ways, says Lee Nelson of the University of Washington. She is studying the possibility of the mother’s cells entering the baby’s brain.

“Depending on the number and type of cells, as well as in what period of embryo growth they migrate, there are different scenarios for the deviation of the child’s brain from normal development,” says Nelson.

As it turned out, even adults are not immune to the penetration of other people’s cells into their body.

A man is in a woman

Several years ago, Nelson and William Chen of the University of Alberta, Canada, decoded genomes taken from female brain slices. They looked for signs of a male Y chromosome.

In about 63% of the samples studied, the researchers found male cells. “We didn’t just find male DNA in the female medulla – it was present in several parts of the brain at once,” says Chen.

In other words, women’s brains were stuffed with male cells. According to scientists, the stem cells of a male child somehow overcome the placenta barrier and enter the mother’s brain.

Interestingly, according to some reports, the presence of male cells in the brain of women reduces the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease in the latter – although exactly why this happens remains a mystery.

Some researchers are even starting to wonder if the baby’s cells may affect the mother’s mood during pregnancy.

Our knowledge of the human “superorganism” is still very fragmentary, and many of the implications of such a symbiosis are now discussed only in the form of theoretical calculations.

The purpose of Cramer and Bressan’s paper was not to provide clear answers to the questions at hand, but to educate other psychologists and psychiatrists about the many organisms that make us who we are.

“We are not able to fully understand human behavior, considering a person as only one individual, – notes Kramer. “It is necessary to consider it as a collection of organisms in order to understand why we behave in one way or another.”

For example, scientists often use the study of twins to get closer to understanding human behavior.

However, the fact that even non-identical twins could exchange fragments of brain tissue at the stage of early development casts doubt on the purity of such experiments.

Caution must be exercised when using the findings of twin studies to study diseases such as schizophrenia, which can be caused by inappropriate brain architecture, warn Bressan and Kramer.

However, do not worry about foreign organisms in our own. After all, it is they who make us who we are.

“For better or worse, we’re going to have to share the body with these ‘immigrants,’” Nelson says. “And I think the pros of this cohabitation outweigh the cons.”

By David Robson

Source BBC com

PS: The phenomenon of subpersonalities has long been studied in the psychological literature. Now classical science has come close to this question.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Consciousness Affects Reality: Repetition and consolidation of experience?

Dr. Joe Dispenza was one of the first who began to study the influence of consciousness on reality from a scientific point of view. His theory of the relationship between matter and consciousness brought him world fame after the release of the documentary “We Know What the Signal Does.” 

A key discovery made by Joe Dispensa is that the brain does not distinguish between physical and mental experiences. Roughly speaking, the cells of the “gray matter” absolutely do not distinguish between the real, i.e. material, from the imaginary, i.e. from thoughts.

Few people know that the doctor’s research in the field of consciousness and neurophysiology began with tragic experience. After Joe Dispenza was hit by a car, doctors suggested he fasten the damaged vertebrae with an implant, which could subsequently lead to lifelong pain. Only in this way, according to doctors, could he walk again. But Dispenza decided to quit taking out traditional medicine and restore his health with the power of thought. After only 9 months of therapy, Dispenza could walk again. This was the impetus for the study of the possibilities of consciousness.

The first step in this direction was communication with people who experienced the experience of “spontaneous remission”. This is a spontaneous and impossible from the point of view of doctors healing a person from a serious illness without the use of traditional treatment. During the survey, Dispenza found out that all people who went through a similar experience were convinced that thought is primary in relation to matter and can heal any disease.

The theory of Dr. Dispenza claims that each time, experiencing some kind of experience, we “activate” a huge number of neurons in our brain, which in turn affect our physical condition. It is the phenomenal power of consciousness, due to the ability to concentrate, that creates the so-called synaptic connections – connections between neurons. Repeated experiences (situations, thoughts, feelings) create stable neural connections called neural networks. Each network is, in fact, a certain memory, on the basis of which our body in the future reacts to similar objects and situations.

According to Dispensa, our entire past is “recorded” in the neural networks of the brain, which form the way we perceive and feel the world as a whole and its specific objects in particular. Thus, it only seems to us that our reactions are spontaneous. In fact, most of them are programmed with stable neural connections. 

Each object (stimulus) activates one or another neural network, which in turn causes a set of certain chemical reactions in the body. These chemical reactions make us act or feel in a certain way – to run or freeze in place, rejoice or be upset, become excited or fall into apathy, etc. All our emotional reactions are nothing more than the result of chemical processes caused by established neural networks, and they are based on past experience. In other words,

The basic rule of neurophysiology is:

nerves that are used together are connected.

This means that neural networks are formed as a result of repetition and consolidation of experience. If the experiment is not reproduced for a long time, then the neural networks break up. Thus, a habit is formed as a result of regular “pressing” the buttons of the same neural network. This is how automatic reactions and conditioned reflexes are formed – you have not yet had time to think and realize what is happening, and your body is already reacting in a certain way …

Our character, our habits, our personality are just a set of stable neural networks that we can weaken or strengthen at any time thanks to a conscious perception of reality! By focusing consciously and selectively on what we want to achieve, we are creating new neural networks.

… Previously, scientists believed that the brain is static, but studies by neurophysiologists show that absolutely every smallest experience produces thousands and millions of neural changes in it that affect the body as a whole. In his book “The Evolution of Our Brains, the Science of Changing Our Consciousness,” Joe Dispenza asks a logical question: if we use our thinking to cause certain negative states in the body, will this anomalous state eventually become the norm?

Dispenza conducted a special experiment to confirm the capabilities of our consciousness. People from the same group daily pressed the spring mechanism with the same finger for an hour. People from another group had only to imagine that they were clicking. As a result, the fingers of people from the first group got stronger by 30%, and from the second – by 22%. 

Such an influence of purely mental practice on physical parameters is the result of the operation of neural networks. So Joe Dispenza proved that for the brain and neurons there is no difference between real and mental experience. So, if we pay attention to negative thoughts, our brain perceives them as reality and causes corresponding changes in the body. For example, illness, fear, depression, a surge of aggression, etc.

Another conclusion from Dispenza’s research concerns our emotions. Stable neural networks form unconscious patterns of emotional behavior, i.e. a tendency to some form of emotional response. In turn, this leads to a repeated experience in life. We step on the same rake only because we don’t realize the reason for their appearance! But the reason is simple – each emotion is “felt” due to the release of a certain set of chemicals into the body, and our body simply becomes somewhat “dependent” on these chemical combinations. Having realized this dependence as a physiological dependence on chemicals, we can get rid of it. Only a conscious approach is needed.

Of course, despite the studies of Dispenza, official science is distrustful of his claims. But why wait for official approval from scientific minds, if now the results of these discoveries can be applied in practice? The main thing is to realize that thought is capable of changing the physical world.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Can the Universe consciously imitate its own existence?

According to the new hypothesis, the Universe imitates its own existence in a “strange loop”. In an article published by scientists from the Institute for the Study of Quantum Gravity, it is argued that the basis of the hypothesis is the theory of panpsychism, according to which everything in nature is animated. 

The article was published in the journal Entropy and, as the authors of the work write, is designed to combine understanding of quantum mechanics with a non-materialist point of view. In other words, scientists want to understand how real we are and everything that surrounds us. Agree, this is at least an interesting question for modern science and our understanding of the Universe.

What is reality?

How real is reality? What if all that you are, all that you know, all the people in your life, as well as all events do not physically exist in reality, but are a very complex simulation? Like in the series of the animated series “Rick and Morty” when one of the characters got into a simulation and did not even notice it. Our regular readers know that the philosopher Nick Bostrom addressed this issue in the foundational article “Do we live in computer simulation?”, Which suggests that our entire existence may be the product of very complex computer models (simulations) controlled by advanced creatures whose the true nature we may never know.

I am not a supporter of this idea, but despite all the seeming madness of Bostrom’s assumption, we really don’t know what reality is. Modern science is not yet able to cognize the quantum world and understand, for example, why at the atomic level particles change their behavior when they are watched. At a time when physicists are working on building a mission that can figure out if a parallel universe or universes exists, Bostrom’s idea does not look extraordinary.

But the new theory takes a step forward – what if there are no advanced creatures, but everything in “reality” is self-imitation that generates itself from “pure thought?”

Frame from the series Rick and Morty. The moment Jerry found out that all this time he lived in a simulation

The Physical Universe is a “strange loop”, writes Quantum Gravity Research, a Los Angeles-based Institute for Theoretical Physics, founded by scientist and entrepreneur Clay Irwin. The work is based on the Bostrom modeling hypothesis, according to which all reality is an extremely detailed computer program – and they ask: instead of relying on advanced life forms to create the technology necessary to create everything in our world, is it not better to assume that the Universe itself is a “mental imitation of oneself”? Scientists associate this idea with quantum mechanics, considering the universe as one of many possible models of quantum gravity.

One important aspect that distinguishes this point of view from others similar to it is related to the fact that the initial hypothesis of Bostrom is materialistic and considers the Universe as physical. For Bostrom, we could just be part of an ancestral simulation created by posthumans. Even the process of evolution itself can simply be a mechanism by which future beings experience countless processes, purposefully moving people through levels of biological and technological growth. In this way, they generate the alleged information or history of our world. Ultimately, we will not notice the difference.

But where does physical reality come from that would spawn a simulation? Their hypothesis takes a non-materialistic approach, arguing that everything in the universe is information expressed in the form of thought. Thus, the Universe “self-realizes” into its own existence, relying on the underlying algorithms and the rule that researchers call the “principle of an effective language”. According to this proposal, the simulation of everything is only one “great thought”.

How could a simulation have arisen on its own?

Surprisingly, the answer is simple: she was always there, researchers say, explaining the concept of “timeless emergentism”. This idea says that there is no time at all. Instead, there is a comprehensive thought, which is our reality, offering a built-in semblance of a hierarchical order, full of “sub-thoughts” that extend down to the wormhole to basic mathematics and fundamental particles. The effective language rule also comes into force, which assumes that people themselves are such “emergent sub-thoughts” and experience and find meaning in the world through other sub-thoughts (called “code steps or actions”) in the most economical way (well, then) .

We do not know much, which means we must consider all hypotheses without exception

In correspondence with Big Think, physicist David Chester said:

Although many scholars advocate the truth of materialism, we believe that quantum mechanics can give a hint that our reality is a mental construct. Recent advances in quantum gravity, such as the vision of spacetime arising from a hologram, are also a hint that spacetime is not fundamental. In a sense, the mental construction of reality creates space-time to effectively understand itself, creating a network of subconscious entities that can interact and explore the totality of their capabilities.

Scientists associate their hypothesis with panpsychism, which considers everything that exists as thought or consciousness, the purpose of which is to generate meaning or information. If all this is difficult to understand, the authors offer another interesting idea that can connect your everyday experience with these philosophical considerations. Think of your dreams as your own personal simulations, the team suggests. Although they are fairly primitive (by the superintelligent standards of the future AI), dreams tend to provide better resolution than modern computer modeling and are a great example of the evolution of the human mind.

Of course, not everyone will like it, but the Universe can really have consciousness. 
At least we cannot rule it out.

Most notable is the ultra-high resolution accuracy of these mind-based simulations and the accuracy of the physics in them. They point to lucid dreaming – when the dreamer realizes that he is in a dream – as examples of very accurate simulations created by your mind that at times cannot be distinguished from any other reality. So how do you know, while you are reading this article, that you are not in a dream? It turns out that it is not so difficult to imagine that the extremely powerful computer that we can create in the near future will be able to reproduce a similar level of detail.

Of course, some of the ideas of Clay and his team in the academic community are called controversial. But the authors of the work believe that “we should think critically about consciousness and some aspects of philosophy that are inconvenient for some scientists.” We can not agree, because in science there are no or, should be no authorities. 

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