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MindNexus

All posts in mind training

From the moment that we’re born, we learn to expect certain outcomes as a result of our actions. When we cry, Mom or Dad comes to our aid to figure out the problem. The expectation is that a cause (crying) will elicit an effect (the arrival of a caregiver). This cause-and-effect system persists in our lives, and mostly for good reason. It’s how we build our lives for normalcy, to make sense of the world. But what happens when the reality of the situation doesn’t meet with our expectations? It can be blinding, even debilitating, and make us question everything we’ve known until then.

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In their book Quicksilver (2010), Michael O’Brien and Larry Shook reference a 2004 National Academy of Sciences paper entitled “Fear fosters flight: A mechanism for fear contagion when perceiving emotion expressed by a whole body“.  This paper is about kinesthetic awareness or body movements that precede emotional states, specifically how we recognize happiness and fear as others telegraph their emotional states.  Until this study, researchers focused mainly on processes associated with facial expressions; this study suggest that bodily movements are just as important for understanding emotional behavior.  One can only think of the archetypal poker player eyeing his opponent for signs of excitement or stress.  Just what is the player noticing that gives him an edge?

As with many research studies, the actual details are technical and sometimes overly complicated however I would suggest the time necessary to work your way through the work is well worth it.  O’Brien & Shook also make an interesting point concerning the permeations possible within our own neural networks:

This is where our emerging knowledge of the brain approaches the mystical.  When we consider that each of the neocortex’s hundred billion neurons has as many as twenty thousand connections to other brain cells, and that those cells connect with millions of other body cells, and that, as neuroscientists  helpfully point out, the potential permutations of these connections exceed the number of molecules in the known universe, we are only beginning to grasp the reality of our circumstances. (p. 83)

Exceed the number of molecules in the known universe?  That sounds like a lot if you ask me.  That is why when I read articles like “Mice Make Their Own Morphine” I am not surprised.

Rather, it makes it silly to assume that we know what is possible in any endeavor.


I was sitting quietly last night enjoying a moment of relative silence and started thinking about how rare silence has become for all of us.  Even as someone who truly appreciates silence,  I find it increasingly difficult to isolate myself, to turn off the constant bombardment of auditory and visual stimuli that pervades my world.

Why is it so difficult to do this, to turn off the onslaught of stimuli that has come to define our “Information Age”- you know the computers, cell phones, television, iPods, white noise, etc.?  Even text messages which I thought would be a great way to keep in touch with my kids, have over-run my ability to respond; and laughing, it has given my cell phone company another way to charge me.

Apparently I am not alone. The first Commercial text message was sent in December of 1992.  Today, the number of text messages sent and received every day, exceeds the total population of the planet.  That a lot of J and no ICBW.  YGTBKM but sadly I am not.  (You have to guess or check out the this link. http://www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/textmessageabbreviations.asp 

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The phrase, information overload, was first used by sociologist and futurologist Alvin Toffler in 1970. His book “Future Shock” has sold over six million copies and can easily be considered the modern grandfather of prophetic insight into this theme.

I mean think of it, in 1970 a mouse was still a mammal, Texas instruments was just introducing its first barely portable “pocket calculator” (2.5 pounds) and Bill Gates was still mowing lawns ( I made the lawn mowing thing up but you get the point).

By the way, Toffler’s definition of “Future Shock” is a personal perception of “too much information in too short a period of time”, and that was back in the informational dark ages when a gigabyte was still a gigabyte.

Of course the game has changed.  For instance in my last post I used the term Exabyte, a new word for me and others from the responses I got.  So I did a little research and came up with a great article, a must read for the obsessed:  http://www2.sims.berkeley.edu/research/projects/how-much-info-2003/execsum.htm

They did a great job of putting the Exabyte into perspective.

    • How big is five Exabyte’s? If digitized with full formatting, the seventeen million books in the Library of Congress contain about 136 terabytes of information; five Exabyte’s of information is equivalent in size to the information contained in 37,000 new libraries the size of the Library of Congress book collections.

Now I have visited Library of Congress and it’s a term paper nightmare of unprecedented proportions.  37,000 of them?  I don’t think so. (Probably why I don’t work for Google)

Ok so there is a whole bunch of information, so what?

That is the thread we are going to explore starting with our next post, starting with physiology. What do the smart guys have to say about how we are holding up, you know, little things like blood pressure, cognitive disruption and moon walking….Until then.


In their book Quicksilver (2010), Michael O’Brien and Larry Shook reference a 2004 National Academy of Sciences paper entitled “Fear fosters flight: A mechanism for fear contagion when perceiving emotion expressed by a whole body“.  This paper is about kinesthetic awareness or body movements that precede emotional states, specifically how we recognize happiness and fear as others telegraph their emotional states.  Until this study, researchers focused mainly on processes associated with facial expressions; this study suggest that bodily movements are just as important for understanding emotional behavior.  One can only think of the archetypal poker player eyeing his opponent for signs of excitement or stress.  Just what is the player noticing that gives him an edge?

As with many research studies, the actual details are technical and sometimes overly complicated however I would suggest the time necessary to work your way through the work is well worth it.  O’Brien & Shook also make an interesting point concerning the permeations possible within our own neural networks:

This is where our emerging knowledge of the brain approaches the mystical.  When we consider that each of the neocortex’s hundred billion neurons has as many as twenty thousand connections to other brain cells, and that those cells connect with millions of other body cells, and that, as neuroscientists  helpfully point out, the potential permutations of these connections exceed the number of molecules in the known universe, we are only beginning to grasp the reality of our circumstances. (p. 83)

Exceed the number of molecules in the known universe?  That sounds like a lot if you ask me.  That is why when I read articles like “Mice Make Their Own Morphine” I am not surprised.

Rather, it makes it silly to assume that we know what is possible in any endeavor.