New Brain Research

//New Brain Research

Similar to the call of JFK in 1963 to land man on the moon safely, President Obama issued a new research initiative in April which has as much impact as JFK’s 50 years ago: to invent and refine new technologies to understand the human brain. Referred to as the Brain Activity Map (BAM) it comes on the heel of the EU’s initiative called the Human Brain Project (HBP) announced earlier this year in January to simulate the human brain using a supercomputer. The BAM has been compared to the Human Genome Project (HGP) which was  an  international, collaborative research program whose goal was the complete mapping and understanding of all the genes of human beings. The HGP was the natural culmination of the history of genetics research and the results were surprising. Despite identifying the genes, researchers  still have not succeeded in identifying genes that predispose us to common chronic diseases. The researchers only found 20,500 or so genes, when they expected many more to explain the over 140,000 different expressions of those genes within the human system. They found that  genes can be expressed differently without altering the sequencing of the gene itself, and that those changes can be passed on. Essentially, we can change our genetic expression within our life and pass that on. The field of research that explores the processes and outside influences that alter gene expression is called  epigenetics. Today, a wide variety of illnesses, behaviors, and other health indicators already have some level of evidence linking them with epigenetic mechanisms, including cancers of almost all types. Cognitive dysfunction, respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, autoimmune, and neurobehavioral illnesses all have growing research indicating an epigenetic link. Despite the obvious impact on an organism from “outside” influences, this science is still in its infancy wanting of more attention, research and funding.   The mechanistic approach to mapping the brain could discover the same type of thing: that despite understanding the workings of the brain and all of its interconnections to the body, scientists might be surprised and be no where closer to understanding the inner workings of the brain because they haven’t factored in the epigenetic “outside influences” on it.

Some scientists refer to this time as the  “Golden Age for the Brain”.  Your brain contains roughly 100 billion nerve cells forming anywhere for a trillion to perhaps even a quadrillion connections called synapses. These connections are constantly in motion and changing, responding to the world around you. Your brain not only interprets the world, but creates it.  And therein lies the problem, much like what was discovered by the HGP: how do we explain the many possible combinations of reactions by only looking at the synapsis or mechanics of what is happening within this 3 lb universe made of brain tissue? If the HGP proved anything, it proved that there are outside influences that must be taken into consideration to explain the complex changes in the expression of the gene without changing its basic sequencing.  Doesn’t it follow that scientists should factor in the impact of the human mind on the brain if they are to truly understand how the human system works?

Of the many questions being looked at today is the idea of brain versus mind.  This duality basically states that while the brain and mind are clearly connected, they two are separate entities. The brain is easy to define and now is going to be mapped by President Obama’s initiative.The  brain takes information and translates it into chemical signals which are sent to the rest of the body,  to those genes that express specific DNA sequencing. We now know, these genes can be expressed differently due to outside influences despite being of the same sequence. But how does one explain the mind, which can be conceptualized as the consciousness, the “I” of you? What is creating the instructions for the brain to follow? The brain experiences consciousness and provides the interface much like a computer interacting with the world wide web. Depending on what a person chooses to pay attention to will influence the information  the brain will interpret. It comes down to approach in the end: reductionism used in the HGP to map the human genome showed that it could not explain the effects of the environment on gene expression, consequently an immense amount of interest has been directed toward a better understanding of the epigenetic links (outside factors) that influence the genes. What will this reductionist approach reveal about the mind and brain dualism and the impact of choice on the human body?

Perhaps this new initiative will discover that the real key to understanding the brain will be to understand the mind.   Eastern civilizations have looked at consciousness as a means to map the mind  and have used this knowledge for millennia in their different practices.   If the key to the brain is the mind, then the key to the mind is consciousness itself.  Through practices that focus on awareness itself such as meditation, one creates the possibility of a different expression, or change in the instructions that follow from the brain to the body, which implies to the genes themselves. A 2010 joint study at UCLA and UC San Francisco showed that meditation can lead to increases of certain enzymes, and went a step further to show that the psychological benefits of meditation are linked to these enzymes as well (1). It makes sense that our bodies are participating wordlessly through our thoughts as expressed by our genes.  Thus we could say that the body is impacted by the mind via the brains signaling process. Will we, after all of this effort to map the brain, find out we have missed the bigger picture?  Will research on the effects of consciousness follow a similar fate to epigenetics ?

Scientists are awaiting with baited breath about what both the Brain Activity Map (BAM) and the Human Brain Project (HBP) will bring in terms of new tools not yet available to them and the progress in treating diseases like Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury this long-term and very expensive research may provide. While all of that is taking place, perhaps one could skip the waiting and take a pro-active role in their own health by using ancient and readily available practices like meditation and other awareness and centering techniques. These methods of going to the source of the input  (and the influencing inherent factors) have  already provided evidence that they have physical and psychological impacts that might prove to be much more helpful in the long run and are economical to boot!

 

1. http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=9669

By | 2017-12-17T04:48:46+00:00 April 25th, 2014|Blog|4 Comments

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4 Comments

  1. Armen Jalalian May 1, 2013 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    Hello,

    I agree with all said above. One model of joining the mind and the brain that I formulated is called Sense of Position State of Position.
    A living organism like our selves have trillions of sensory inputs. Each hair represents a single sensory input. Each muscle fiber represents a single sensory input and so on. Each sensory input represents a measure of displacement, velocity, acceleration. At any millisecond in time a matrix of generated that can numerically represent the total of all sensory inputs at that millisecond in time.

    Two things happen at that millisecond in time. That state is saved in memory and that state is matched against all other states previously stored in memory. The comparison of Sense of Position with the State of Position triggers a pattern of neural signals that trigger patterns of muscle fiber contractions that represent movement/behavior. In control systems this is known as State Space Systems. This is how a objects in space can be controlled. This I believe is the same control system that joins the brain and the mind.

    I am new to your forum, I would like to join the conversation. Yes for personal gratification knowing that logic and understanding of the mechanisms of life will allow us to better respect life and possibly save it from terminating.

    • Don Estes September 6, 2013 at 10:34 pm - Reply

      Hi Armen,

      Thanks for your interest in our technologies and for your comments above. A lot of our work is centered around theory I put forth long ago about Sensory Resonance that was about how consciousness connects to the brain through the autonomic nervous system. And your probably right about the control system of the brain. What we’ve been focusing on is the relationship between this evolutionary machine part of ourselves and the existential operator part that controls it.

      • Armen Jalalian November 24, 2013 at 6:58 pm - Reply

        Hi Don,
        Not funny but reality that you mention your theory on Sensory Resonance. Consciousness connected to the brain through the autonomic nervous system. In this theory, I am sure we wonder why?

        System control tools commonly characterize (Sensory) Resonance with a specific resonating frequency. Are the parameters of that resonating frequency also shared by other living things. I know of only one behavior shared by all living things and only one molecule present in all living things.

        Love and DNA

        So does the resonating frequency of DNA equate to Love? If so is the control objective in the DNA code to propagate Love?

        Once this cause and effect relationship is scientifically proven, then all who have a brain will no longer have any doubts about what their purpose in life is. At that time, all who have control of their minds will direct their minds towards propagating Love. Potentially misunderstood theories on competition and survival of the fittest purpose of our being will be replaced by EMPATHY.

        Jack Lange, introduced his book on Pathologic Physiology by stating Pathology is a disorder of physiology. That establishes the actual order in physiology as the formula for life. I can not think of any greater undertaking than elucidating the actual order of the brain.

        That order, respected, shall direct human behavior, to preserve our world for life intended.

        Armen

        • Don Estes June 22, 2014 at 5:20 pm - Reply

          Beautifully put Armen! That’s what it’s all about!

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