Saturday, August 25, 2012

Logic, Emotion and Survival

S wrote:I have always understood survival to be instinctual, hence the term "survival instinct". My impression is also that instinct is based more on logic than any other concept. I don't believe you'll find "survival" on any list of emotions or desires.

Yes, survival is primordial, basic and instinctual.
Emotions, etymologically, 'to move' are the basic modules that drive humans to move away (e.g. fear, sadness) from dangers that threaten survival and move towards (love, bonding) that which will enhance survival. To sustain the above, i.e. threatened or enhanced survival, the consequences of both are pain and pleasure respectively.

Logic is activated by the later 'higher' brain modules that evolved billions of years after the instinctual and limbic emotional brain the mid-brain.

Logic 'Alone' without the emotions meant there is no movements toward sustaining the primary purpose of survival at all costs. Logic when used rationally enhances and optimizes survival.
The instincts may seem logical, but that is only an after-thought that is imposed on what is going on by using language. Instincts are logical but it is not logic per-se.

For humanity, logic (not pure logic but rationality) is the most critical element to sustain optimal survival for humanity. However it must be used in complementary with the other basic faculties in a balanced way.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lucid Dreaming - Self-Awarenes in Brain

ScienceDaily (July 27, 2012) — Studies of lucid dreamers show which centers of the brain become active when we become aware of ourselves in dreams.

Brain regions activated more strongly during lucid dreaming than in a normal dream. (Credit: MPI of Psychiatry)
Which areas of the brain help us to perceive our world in a self-reflective manner is difficult to measure. During wakefulness, we are always conscious of ourselves. In sleep, however, we are not. But there are people, known as lucid dreamers, who can become aware of dreaming during sleep. Studies employing magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) have now been able to demonstrate that a specific cortical network consisting of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the frontopolar regions and the precuneus is activated when this lucid consciousness is attained. All of these regions are associated with self-reflective functions. This research into lucid dreaming gives the authors of the latest study insight into the neural basis of human consciousness.

The human capacity of self-perception, self-reflection and consciousness development are among the unsolved mysteries of neuroscience. Despite modern imaging techniques, it is still impossible to fully visualize what goes on in the brain when people move to consciousness from an unconscious state. The problem lies in the fact that it is difficult to watch our brain during this transitional change. Although this process is the same, every time a person awakens from sleep, the basic activity of our brain is usually greatly reduced during deep sleep. This makes it impossible to clearly delineate the specific brain activity underlying the regained self-perception and consciousness during the transition to wakefulness from the global changes in brain activity that takes place at the same time.
Scientists from the Max Planck Institutes of Psychiatry in Munich and for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig and from Charité in Berlin have now studied people who are aware that they are dreaming while being in a dream state, and are also able to deliberately control their dreams. Those so-called lucid dreamers have access to their memories during lucid dreaming, can perform actions and are aware of themselves – although remaining unmistakably in a dream state and not waking up. As author Martin Dresler explains, “In a normal dream, we have a very basal consciousness, we experience perceptions and emotions but we are not aware that we are only dreaming. It’s only in a lucid dream that the dreamer gets a meta-insight into his or her state.”
By comparing the activity of the brain during one of these lucid periods with the activity measured immediately before in a normal dream, the scientists were able to identify the characteristic brain activities of lucid awareness.

“The general basic activity of the brain is similar in a normal dream and in a lucid dream,” says Michael Czisch, head of a research group at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry. “In a lucid state, however, the activity in certain areas of the cerebral cortex increases markedly within seconds. The involved areas of the cerebral cortex are the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, to which commonly the function of self-assessment is attributed, and the frontopolar regions, which are responsible for evaluating our own thoughts and feelings. The precuneus is also especially active, a part of the brain that has long been linked with self-perception.” The findings confirm earlier studies and have made the neural networks of a conscious mental state visible for the first time.

Related Stories

Self-awareness in humans is more complex, diffuse than previously thought

IMAGE: Researchers at the University of Iowa studied the brain of a patient with rare, severe damage to three regions long considered integral to self-awareness in humans (from left to right:...
Click here for more information.

Ancient Greek philosophers considered the ability to "know thyself" as the pinnacle of humanity. Now, thousands of years later, neuroscientists are trying to decipher precisely how the human brain constructs our sense of self.

Self-awareness is defined as being aware of oneself, including one's traits, feelings, and behaviors. Neuroscientists have believed that three brain regions are critical for self-awareness: the insular cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the medial prefrontal cortex. However, a research team led by the University of Iowa has challenged this theory by showing that self-awareness is more a product of a diffuse patchwork of pathways in the brain – including other regions – rather than confined to specific areas.

The conclusions came from a rare opportunity to study a person with extensive brain damage to the three regions believed critical for self-awareness. The person, a 57-year-old, college-educated man known as "Patient R," passed all standard tests of self-awareness. He also displayed repeated self-recognition, both when looking in the mirror and when identifying himself in unaltered photographs taken during all periods of his life.

"What this research clearly shows is that self-awareness corresponds to a brain process that cannot be localized to a single region of the brain," said David Rudrauf, co-corresponding author of the paper, published online Aug. 22 in the journal PLOS ONE. "In all likelihood, self-awareness emerges from much more distributed interactions among networks of brain regions." The authors believe the brainstem, thalamus, and posteromedial cortices play roles in self-awareness, as has been theorized.

The researchers observed that Patient R's behaviors and communication often reflected depth and self-insight. First author Carissa Philippi, who earned her doctorate in neuroscience at the UI in 2011, conducted a detailed self-awareness interview with Patient R and said he had a deep capacity for introspection, one of humans' most evolved features of self-awareness.

"During the interview, I asked him how he would describe himself to somebody," said Philippi, now a postdoctoral research scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "He said, 'I am just a normal person with a bad memory.'"

Patient R also demonstrated self-agency, meaning the ability to perceive that an action is the consequence of one's own intention. When rating himself on personality measures collected over the course of a year, Patient R showed a stable ability to think about and perceive himself. However, his brain damage also affected his temporal lobes, causing severe amnesia that has disrupted his ability to update new memories into his "autobiographical self." Beyond this disruption, all other features of R's self-awareness remained fundamentally intact.

"Most people who meet R for the first time have no idea that anything is wrong with him," noted Rudrauf, a former assistant professor of neurology at the UI and now a research scientist at the INSERM Laboratory of Functional Imaging in France. "They see a normal-looking middle-aged man who walks, talks, listens, and acts no differently than the average person."

"According to previous research, this man should be a zombie," he added. "But as we have shown, he is certainly not one. Once you've had the chance to meet him, you immediately recognize that he is self-aware."

Patient R is a member of the UI's world-renowned Iowa Neurological Patient Registry, which was established in 1982 and has more than 500 active members with various forms of damage to one or more regions in the brain.

The researchers had begun questioning the insular cortex's role in self-awareness in a 2009 study that showed that Patient R was able to feel his own heartbeat, a process termed "interoceptive awareness."

The UI researchers estimate that Patient R has ten percent of tissue remaining in his insula and one percent of tissue remaining in his anterior cingulate cortex. Some had seized upon the presence of tissue to question whether those regions were in fact being used for self-awareness. But neuroimaging results presented in the current study reveal that Patient R's remaining tissue is highly abnormal and largely disconnected from the rest of the brain.

"Here, we have a patient who is missing all the areas in the brain that are typically thought to be needed for self-awareness yet he remains self-aware," added co-corresponding author Justin Feinstein, who earned his doctorate at the UI in February. "Clearly, neuroscience is only beginning to understand how the human brain can generate a phenomenon as complex as self-awareness."


The research team included Daniel Tranel, UI professor of neurology and psychology and director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program; Gregory Landini, UI professor of philosophy; Antonio Damasio, professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California; Sahib Khalsa, co-chief resident of psychiatry at the University of California Los Angeles; and Kenneth Williford, associate professor of philosophy and humanities at the University of Texas at Arlington.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Mathers Foundation and the UI Carver College of Medicine funded the research.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Meaning of Life

IMO, "Know Thyself" is fundamental to philosophy and life. The essence is to 'know thyself' amidst the scheme of reality and the world of living things.

By induction, it is obvious a fundamental 'universal' of life is; every living entities strive to survive at all costs to their last drop of blood or breath. For that we can infer such a personal striving to survive at all costs contribute to the survival of the specie. Which specie exists with a purpose to be extinct? There is none. (Note selfish genes, but that is another issue).

For non-humans, the universal principle of life, i.e. to survive at all costs and preservation of the specie, are driven and supported by programmed instincts. (there are exceptions of mass suicides by whales, dolphins, etc. but that is not normal nor it is done with conscious intent, could be due to accidental cross connections in their brains). To ensure all living things survive at all costs, they are programmed with avoidance modules in the nervous systems and brain to steer clear of threat. In higher animals, pain and pleasure, flight or fight, and various emotions (fears) are programmed to manage and avoid the threats of death.

Humans are the only exception within all living entities with a strong sense of self-awareness and high degree of autonomy to enable them to think for themselves and use their discretion to act. The worst is where this self-awareness make them conscious and sub-consciously aware of their inevitable death which triggers the associated fears. The process of suppressions of this fears misled humans to interpret their meaning of life in terms of this suppressive acts. This is where religious purposes are used as one purpose of life which lead to qualifed positive and at the worst it manifests all sort of evils. In other cases, people will invent a purpose (good and evil) and for those who cannot hinged to any purpose, they just float where the current take them or they commit suicide.

If anyone were to take a philosophical pause and ask, what is the meaning of life, the best bet is start with the impulse of  'know thyself'.

From evolutionary biology and psychology, one should know that in terms of evolutionary time, it was only a split second ago that humans evolved and emergerd from non-humans based brain. The human brain evolved in humans not too long ago. Most of the human brain are of non-human nature. Note Paul Maclean's triune brain.
If 95% of the active brain is based on the non-human aspect of the brain, then it is only effective that it is correlated with the fundamental of life of that non-human aspects, i.e. survive at all costs and preservation of the specie.

As such, when we 'know thyself' to this extend, we have no choice but to accept 'survive at all costs and preservation of the specie' for the individual and specie as a meaning and purpose of life. If we do not align ourselves with this purpose, there will only be sufferings. For example if we do not eat, we will suffer hunger pangs. There is a whole range of natural sufferings and pains if we do not align with the fundamental purpose of life, i.e. survive at all costs.

Thus it is essential that all humans strive to 'know thyself' and adopt 'surivival at all costs and preservation of the specie' as a fundamental purpose of life with allowance for exceptions. This fundamental purpose will thus reconcile and align our purpose with the machinery we are built for.
However, humans are endowned with self-consciousness, reason, and limited autonomy. With this faculties, human can then establish sub-categories of meaning or purpose of life that do not contradict with its fundamental purposes. These sub-categories can relate to performance levels, self-actualization (Maslows), careers, etc.

In the exceptions, some humans are driven to self-destruction, suicides and negative to humanity. These inccidents are due to the misconnections of neural pathways which not aligned to the fundamental purposes of life. The corrections for such variations is to strive for 'know thyself' and take corrective actions to align with the fundamental purpose of life, i.e. strive to survive at all cost for the sake of specie preservations.

When one act in alignment with the fundamental purpose of life, all the basic circuits of pain and pleasure will flow accordingly. The higher brain will act as a steering wheels to navigate steadily through the calm and stormy seas of life.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gamma Ray Burst

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are the most luminous events known in the universe since the Big Bang. They are flashes of gamma rays coming from seemingly random places in deep space at random times. GRBs last from milliseconds to many minutes, and are often followed by "afterglow" emission at longer wavelengths (X-ray, UV, optical, IR, and radio). Gamma-ray bursts are detected by orbiting satellites about two to three times a week, as of 2007, though their actual rate of occurrence is much higher.
The majority of observed GRBs appear to be collimated emissions from the core-collapse of rapidly rotating, high-mass stars into black holes. A subclass of GRBs (the "short" bursts) appear to come from a different process, possibly the collision of neutron stars orbiting in a binary system. All known GRBs come from outside our own galaxy, though a related class of phenomena, SGR flares, are associated with Galactic magnetars). Most GRBs come from billions of light years away.
When a GRB occurs, the energy output exceeds that of the entire known universe for the duration of the burst. For an idea of just how much energy this is, consider this: the total energy produced in all the years mankind has been utilizing energy (via fire, electricity, etc.) does not even add up to 1/1,000,000th of 1% of the energy put out by our own sun in one second.


One line of research has investigated the consequences of Earth being hit by a beam of gamma rays from a nearby (about 500 light years) gamma ray burst. This is motivated by the efforts to explain mass extinctions on Earth and estimate the probability of extraterrestrial life. The consensus seems to be that the damage that a gamma ray burst could do would be limited by its very short duration, but that a sufficiently close gamma ray burst could do serious damage to the atmosphere, perhaps wiping out the ozone layer and triggering a mass extinction. The damage from a gamma ray burst would probably be significantly greater than a supernova at the same distance.
The idea that a nearby gamma-ray burst could significantly affect the Earth's atmosphere and potentially cause severe damage to the biosphere was introduced in 1995 by physicist Stephen Thorsett, then at Princeton University. [42] Scientists at NASA and the University of Kansas in 2005 released a more detailed study that suggests that the Ordovician-Silurian extinction events of 450 million years ago could have been triggered by a gamma-ray burst. The scientists do not have direct evidence that such a burst activated the ancient extinction, rather the strength of their work is their atmospheric modeling, essentially a "what if" scenario. The scientists calculated that gamma-ray radiation from a relatively nearby star explosion, hitting the Earth for only ten seconds, could deplete up to half of the atmosphere's protective ozone layer. Recovery could take at least five years. With the ozone layer damaged, ultraviolet radiation from the Sun could kill much of the life on land and near the surface of oceans and lakes, disrupting the food chain. While gamma-ray bursts in our Milky Way galaxy are indeed rare, NASA scientists estimate that at least one nearby event probably hit the Earth in the past billion years. Life on Earth is thought to have appeared at least 3.5 billion years ago. Dr. Bruce Lieberman, a paleontologist at the University of Kansas, originated the idea that a gamma-ray burst specifically could have caused the great Ordovician extinction. "We don't know exactly when one came, but we're rather sure it did come - and left its mark. What's most surprising is that just a 10-second burst can cause years of devastating ozone damage." [43]
Comparative work in 2006 on galaxies in which GRBs have occurred suggests that metal-poor galaxies are the most likely candidates. The likelihood of the metal-rich Milky Way galaxy hosting a GRB was estimated at less than 0.15%, significantly reducing the likelihood that a burst has caused mass extinction events on Earth. [44]

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Meaning of Life -2

The meaning of life rest of the following sequence of critical issues;

1. Dead or not-dead
2. To be alive
3. To live optimally

Re Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, the lowest needs, breathing, water, sleep, homeostasis, food, security, excretio are the ones that ensure one is not dead, i.e. to strive to keep on alive.

It is only after the above basic needs has been sustained that one began to strive to live optimally.

Thus the meaning of life need to be view in the above perspective.

Related Post
The Purpose of Your Life

Friday, June 29, 2012

Meaning of Life - A list of Examples

The list below are examples from wiki, not what I would define as the 'meaning of life'.

From Wiki
Main Article.

Popular views
"What is the meaning of life?" is a question many people ask themselves at some point during their lives, most in the context "What is the purpose of life?"[4] Here are some of the life goals people choose, and some of their beliefs on what the purpose of life is:

To realize one's potential and ideals

  • To chase dreams.[6]
    To live one's dreams.[133]
  • To spend it for something that will outlast it.[134]
  • To matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.[134]
  • To expand one's potential in life.[133]
  • To become the person you've always wanted to be.[135]
  • To become the best version of yourself.[136]
  • To seek happiness[137][138] and flourish.[7]
  • To be a true authentic human being.[139]
  • To be able to put the whole of oneself into one's feelings, one's work, one's beliefs.[134]
  • To follow our destiny.[140]
    To submit to our destiny.[141]
  • To create your own destiny.[142]
  • To achieve eudaimonia,[143] a flourishing of human spirit.

To achieve biological perfection

To seek wisdom and knowledge

  • To expand one's perception of the world.[133]
  • To follow the clues and walk out the exit.[155]
  • To learn as many things as possible in life.[156]
  • To know as much as possible about as many things as possible.[157]
  • To seek wisdom and knowledge and to tame the mind, as to avoid suffering caused by ignorance and find happiness.[158]
  • To face our fears and accept the lessons life offers us.[140]
  • To find the meaning of life.[159]
  • To find the purpose of life.[160]
  • To find a reason to live.[161]
  • To resolve the imbalance of the mind by understanding the nature of reality.[162]

To do good, to do the right thing

  • To leave the world a better place than you found it.[6]
    To do your best to leave every situation better than you found it.[6]
  • To benefit others.[12]
  • To give more than you take.[6]
  • To end suffering.[163][164][165]
  • To create equality.[166][167][168]
  • To challenge oppression.[169]
  • To distribute wealth.[170][171]
  • To be generous.[172][173]
  • To contribute to the well-being and spirit of others.[174]
  • To help others,[7][173] to help one another.[175]
    To take every chance to help another while on your journey here.[6]
  • To be creative and innovative.[174]
  • To forgive.[6]
    To accept and forgive human flaws.[176][177]
  • To be emotionally sincere.[134]
  • To be responsible.[134]
  • To be honorable.[134]
  • To seek peace.[134]
Meanings relating to God
  • To reach the highest heaven and be at the heart of the Divine.[178]
  • To have a pure soul and experience God.[134]
  • To understand the mystery of God.[140]
  • To know God.[179]
  • To know oneself, know others, and know the will of heaven.[180]
  • To attain union with God.[181]
  • To love something bigger, greater, and beyond ourselves, something we did not create or have the power to create, something intangible and made holy by our very belief in it.[6]
  • To love God[179] and all of his creations.[182]
  • To glorify God by enjoying him forever.[183]
  • To go and make new disciples of Jesus Christ.[184]
  • To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.[185]

  • To love, to feel, to enjoy the act of living

    • To love more.[6]
    • To love those who mean the most. Every life you touch will touch you back.[6]
    • To treasure every enjoyable sensation one has.[6]
    • To seek beauty in all its forms.[6]
    • To have fun.[174]
      To enjoy life.[140]
    • To seek pleasure[134] and avoid pain.[186]
    • To be compassionate.[134]
    • To be moved by the tears and pain of others, and try to help them out of love and compassion.[6]
    • To love others as best we possibly can.[6]

    To seek pleasure

    • To eat, drink, and be merry.[187]

    To have power, to be better

    Life has no meaning

    • Life or human existence has no real meaning or purpose because human existence occurred out of a random chance in nature, and anything that exists by chance has no intended purpose.[162]
    • Life has no meaning, but as humans we try to associate a meaning or purpose so we can justify our existence.[6]
    • There is no point in life, and that is exactly what makes it so special.[6]

    One should not seek to know and understand the meaning of life

    • The answer to the meaning of life is too profound to be known and understood.[162]
    • You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.[6]
    • The meaning of life is to forget about the search for the meaning of life.[6]

    Life is bad