Category: Developmental Neuroscience

Amygdala regulation

Ain’t easy. Especially on low sleep. I recently stumbled upon some literature describing the relationship between the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system. Specifically it went over the connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdalae. Will have to come back here & post the link(s) but wanted to jot this down here, as it’s timely & highly relevant to mood disorders.

Sleep is a fickle thing & it seems that quality and duration of sleep is related to one’s ability to keep their amygdala functioning well. The absence of good quality sleep of proper duration can lead one to experience impulsiveness, out-of-control distractibility and responsiveness to irrelevant stimuli, and immense irritability. Take it from me: the vast gulf between being contented & calm or being a murderous monster can be crossed, in part, by hitting the hay.

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F&c% you, NAC

And no, I don’t mean N-Acetyl Cysteine. I’m talking about the nucleus accumbens. This devilish bit of brain tissue is one that seeks for its larger meat-sack the experience of reward and short-term pleasure. To be honest the NAC isn’t the only zone related to that tendency: the frontal striatum and a few other areas are instrumental as well. To finally reach the end of the fall semester a bit bruised and battered reveals to me that my own proclivity for pressuring pleasure to pop up in the present is pretty problematic.

So the quest now is to develop skills and habits that enable the delay of gratification. In order to conduct this oversized ganglion through larger and longer movements I’ll be getting in touch with some professionals in the area who focus on this issue specifically. How exciting! Will post updates as that moves along. Here’s some soul food for any of you mind-wanderers wondering what to read about to get a sense of the issue.

Delay of gratification in childhood linked to cortical interactions with the nucleus accumbens

Frontostriatal White Matter Integrity Predicts Development of Delay of Gratification: A Longitudinal Study.

Reduced delay of gratification and effortful control among young children with autism spectrum disorders

 

what are the essential properties of consciousness?

 

Phenomenology, thought experiments and contemplation have in some instances provided valuable insights to physicalist forms of knowledge, i.e. physics or neuroscience. Not unlike Einstein’s successful attempt to access concepts in relativity through thought experiments, Giulio Tononi wants to create step-by-step definitions and images that allow theorization about the subject at hand: in this case, consciousness, subjectivity, selfhood, the feeling of what it’s like to be something.

Plot twist: he completely dodges a great question about unification of conscious experiences in the case of stroke patients. I’m not sure why he neglected to answer or even address that question directly.

 

 

 

baby consciousness…we meet again

Photo on 5-12-17 at 9.09 PM #4.jpg

this kid is too darned adorable. I’m currently with him at his momma & poppa’s – they’re out on a date. and lucky them, because both of them are pretty swell folks. as is their little boy here – his facial expressions are so remarkably nuanced. sitting with him & constantly smiling at him, trying to make him smile back – i am instantly reminded that He Sees Through Me, and wont be irrationally tickled into a happy state. immense and subtle is his learning – amazing to watch him move, grasp, re-grasp, squeak, re-grasp, drop……like a drop of ink falling into the water. the ink (baby) & its environment (water) are not separate, but are distinct…..& adjust, mingle, altering one another reciprocally. even most contemporary language in the world of developmental psychology and developmental neuroscience is suggestive of this idea that babies are ‘learning the skills needed to be an adult,’ as if the passivity of embodiment suddenly vanishes at old age. in my experience both the adult (or the advanced adult/senior/cute old prune) and the child follow this same ink-water relationship. perhaps the adult-ink has settled more equally into the water, and is more familiar with the turnings of the water, and vice versa. but both follow the same rules, & neither is entitled to magic intentionality.

as a helpful reminder (or perhaps the very prompt) for these lines of thinking are some of the books that mom & dad have sitting around here. The Soul of an Octopus is the clear Ian-choice:

“Popular naturalist Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus, the remarkable connections it makes with people, and the vibrant community that arises around this complex, intelligent, and spirited creature. Practicing true immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, Montgomery befriends individual octopuses with strikingly different personalities – gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma – who show their cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures, creative trickery to get food, and jetting water to bounce balls. Montgomery also chronicles scientists’ growing appreciation of the octopus’s problem-solving as she tells a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.”

but resting just nearby is another consciousness-themed text. Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy. I would type the description of that one but it’s too long, and this baby over here is murmuring/moving in his sleep.

Be back soon

field notes (4/23/2017)

First woke around 11:27am to what sounded like corvids. A LOT of corvids. My rotating fan was quite loud & my mind quickly reconnected the alleged crow cacophony with its original input signal-the sound of the fan. I lay facedown still half asleep, & was sad to only have imagined it. The thought of so many crows (the sound, rather) is what had jolted me out of sleep and out of bed, & I tried to forcibly allow myself to calm those adrenals atop my kidneys & return to unconsciousness. But then I was certain I was hearing them, & my heart exploded with urgency, & my skin prickled with excitement. I flew rapidly towards the foot of my bed to turn off the fan. And with the loudest and most opaque of signals now silent, rather than battering my eardrums with white noise, I could hear a quiet & clear symphony – at LEAST ten crows, yelling at each other.

It was a rather redeeming moment. Life right now feels quite tertiary in that none of the outward effort, energy, or regular and committed karmic seeds have had any form of positive or improved/bettered effect on my current standing. It seems there are valuable traits I exude sometimes…but it doesn’t often matter. Positive traits seem to matter for others but not for me- At least not right now. Frequently (almost daily) friends offer feedback that my attentiveness or time or support is of utmost and foundational importance to their well being. For a while that was nice to hear. But..planting personal values or watering my unnoticed and withered bits is hard work. And it feels like that work yields no sustenance in the form of recognition…In my own selfish and needy way it just feels like unpaid labor. There is always cognition: other humans do talk to me, & my family especially puts in forethought or attention in to their actions. Friends do sometimes think or engage with my thoughts or engagements without being prompted. But in my last relationship (especially) and in my current friendships whiny ol’ me feels like a farmer trying to run the show on his own & all without eating. No fruit for the farmer until the harvest? Or something. It’s sorta like I’m tilling the dirt and planting and watering but nothing is coming up in my own field – the neighbor’s field, sure. But no fruit in mine. And yes – the field is healthy, the table already has food on it (literally and figuratively). Life is okay. But in terms of income, interpersonal connection…it’s lonely to feel un-re-cognized. Super lonely. Especially while all of the people who are really important to me are quite literally spreading their wings to fly far away across the globe for their own well-earned adventures in self-discovery.
All’s to say even if the crows only come for the seed (BIRD seeds in the literal sense…ha) it is so immediately rewarding. It is so rewarding to coax these midnight missiles to my home, and to know that there is mutual benefit in their being here.

Having turned off the fan I could, in my sleepy & unclothed state, leap towards the window and peek outside without immediate concern of my phalanges being visible from the street. My attic window renders my lower bits nonviewable from the street, so in the interest of time I sent my hand on a life-or-death race to the venetian blinds of the west window. Aggressively sticking my hand between a pair of them, & opening a crevice to look outside, I didnt see much – but at that INSTANT the loud conversation just outside escalated to a collection of rhythmic screams. Their voices sometimes lined up in their pitter-pattering, forming the same illusory depth as the perceived connections in a large applause. Within half a second I could see through my hasty window-crack & saw they were not on the roof. The screaming of the birds startled me the half-second prior & I thus had no issue rapidly drawing the blinds in an attempt to get a glimpse of the source of my autonomic excitement.

And wow, did I see quite the something. Across the street no less than 12 or 15 crows (tried to count amidst my erotic panic) were desperately and forcefully exiting the tree, almost as if I had thrown a stone right towards them. They were banking up & around as to fly south away from the area, & I knew immediately at this moment – not 6 seconds after being asleep & horizontal – that I had scared them off. That seems to happen often. The elation and sorrow both were embodied. At no time recently, or ever, had such a clear response to my bird-feeding been sitting there. Apparent. Those birds are beautiful. But as far as me, I am a bit off-putting to them & I feel quite bad for rendering their moment an interrupted one. Next time, for their benefit (but also for the benefit of my behavioral/interspecies voyeurism) I will remember my mini-mantra:

FLIGHT > SIGHT

In essence this is a reminder that the real intent is to feed & sustain them; to contribute to their unhunger, to make this bit of life’s locality more sustaining and relaxing for them. To see or pester or talk to them is in itself (for the time being) outwardly aggressive & only serves my own enjoyment of the associated autonomic response. Yes, those corvids do stir me quite deeply, and I must remember that to stir them back is likely not at all enjoyable for them. As such they rapidly flew south towards Hague or perhaps Laurel. I lowered the blinds and blushed.