Can you imagine a world where machines can be controlled by thought alone?
This is what brain- computer interfaces (BCIs) will do, by using computers to decode and translate human thoughts, into machine commands.
Take a look at the infographic of the evolution of BCI technology, its current state and future prospects.
Science has traditionally maintained a ‘material reductionistic’ view of mind and consciousness. Meaning that the phenomenon of consciousness and mind is something to be explained in terms of physical and chemical processes in the brain. On the other hand, certain philosophies and spiritual disciplines have held the inherent assumption that physical reality is totally detached from spiritual reality and one is not accessed through the other. This is of course creating more or less the same problem as in Science.
Many pre-Scientific cultures however have since time immemorial held an alternative and holistic view which transcends beyond these problems. They have seen the human experience in its totality – mind, body and spirit – as being closely interrelated and interconnected with the environment, the healing medicines of nature, the celestial movements and the cycles of the seasons, etc. Everything is causally interconnected in the grand wheel of life.
Our physical and mental health are influenced by the state of our bio-energetic field which in turn is also influenced by the karmic energies of the land, the people around us and the planet as a whole. Similarly, and equally interesting, our spiritual, energetic and non-physical health can be hacked through physical means. The physical is interfaced with our bio-energetic field and also with our multi-dimensional levels of consciousness through our DNA, our nervous and endocrine systems, the energy centres in our body (chakras) and very possibly through quantum communication between the micro-cellular level of our bodies up to the bio-energetic field and beyond to the quantum field that underlies everything (this is the interesting notion of quantum coherence). These physical interfaces or gateways can be hacked, healed or optimised. For instance, we are now starting to understand that our DNA is read-write and not read-only as was previously assumed. That means that our codes are being constantly rewritten even through our diet, lifestyle and stress levels – both positively and negatively.
The obvious had been staring us in the face all along. So many cultures came up with various methods to hack the spiritual through the physical – healing herbs, entheogens, fasting, exercises and even dance movements, meditation and so on. Take for instance the healing medicine plant Ayahuasca – how is it that one molecule – DimethylTryptamine (DMT – often referred to as the ‘spirit molecule’) can unlock powerful healing and cleansing in the biological, mental, energetic and spiritual layers of Self at once?
I would like to share with you my own daily source of nutrients and supplements that can be used by everyone to gain mental, energetic and spiritual health through bio-physical means. Some of the items on the list are common foods items, familiar to most, together with herbs and supplements that are available over the counter. As a disclaimer, I would like to note that this is fruit of my own research and experimentation which might no fit everyone’s lifestyle and taste. Also please consult a physician if you have any conditions that might be affected by diet or food supplements.
Nootropics: Keeping Optimal Brain Performance
Poor diet, stress and a hectic lifestyle can sap our mental energies and brain performance leaving our brain foggy. We feel not up to task to healthily navigate our way through our daily routines. This cascades into other areas of our life, not least our work, relationships and creativity.
Nootropics are the hottest trend of the moment in both the personal development and health and fitness world. They are essentially a group of smart drugs that target cognitive and neurological enhancement most popularly memory, motivation, focus & attention and mood.
Nootropics are approved and regulated smart drugs that can be bought over the counter or internet for under $50. One of the best products on the market so far is Alpha Brain by Onnit. Alpha Brain basically targets focus, mental drive and memory performance. It seriously gives me a powerful mental boost on the tap. I feel mentally focused, clear and sharp to perform my tasks throughout the day without ‘mental fogginess’. Main active ingredients are:
- AC-11: the ‘rainforest super herb’ shown to help the body repair DNA
- Alpha GPC: which supports learning processes through increasing the synthesis and secretion of acetylcholine. Heightened acetylcholine has been linked to memory, focus, mental drive, and REM sleep states
- Huperzine A: known as Northern Firmross it prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine
- Bacopa Monniera: An Ayurvedic herb known for its cognitive enhancing properties.
The Good Fats and the Hippocampus
The benefits of essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 are well known. It is one of the most common food supplements in people’s medicine chest. However I started taking regular intake of Omega-3 seriously when I saw this insightful video by Alberto Villoldo titled “Hacking the human Bio-field”. He points out how parts of the brain like the Hippocampus are damaged by stress-related toxins such as cortisol and adrenaline that are stored in the brain by the body. A damaged Hippocampus, according to Alberto, is what leads us to live in a state of fear where we only see threats instead of opportunities. The good fats, particularly Omega-3 is what is responsible for healing and detoxifying the Hippocampus even in just six weeks of regular intake.
Proteins & cutting down on Gluten & Sugars
Another interesting insight from Alberto Villoldo’s talk, regards how sugar and gluten are also responsible for damaging the brain. He points at anthropological studies that show how for instance the rise of war and religion in society propped up when humanity shifted from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural based society. The diet shifted from fats & proteins to grain derived products like bread which are laden with gluten and sugar. The underlying epigenetic effect partly gave rise to the result that human society became more fear-based and aggressive. This is a very interesting point but now back to the kitchen.
My experiments in carb-free, Gluten-free and sugar-free diets have had an immense beneficial effect to my wellbeing and even mood overall. My last meal is before 6pm, then I break fast with a high protein meal – for example egg with tuna, spinach and topped with Guacamole. I snack on nuts, green smoothies then have a mini-lunch and early dinner with greens and fish ( or if you prefer meat).
Antioxidants play also a crucial part in detoxifying the mind and body. I take my antioxidants from the super foods I eat – mainly dark green veg, nuts and green tea ( I take Matcha green teawhich has 137 times the antioxidants of normal green tea). Another source of antioxidants is from small bits of dark chocolate I put in my smoothies (dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants).
Serotonin is a neuro-transmitter in the brain synthesised from the amino acid Tryptophan. It is responsible for improving mood, promoting happiness, relaxation and the ability to get a good night sleep. Hence hacking your serotonin levels is crucial to reinforcing your overall wellbeing, not least spiritually and energetically. One way of doing this is through a natural amino acid supplement called 5-Hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP for short. 5-HTP is synthesised in the brain into serotonin with the effect of elevating your mood and leaving you feel relaxed but focused at the same time.
The Calming Herbs:
Other natural tools to calm the mind and the nervous system are relaxing herbs such as valerian root, passion flower, lemon balm, chamomile and holy basil among others. These can be taken separately or combined together and steeped into teas. Ideal for winding down after a hard day or as an aid to get a good night of restorative sleep.
Article by Gilbert Ross: Gilbert Ross is a writer and author of ‘The Art of Simple Living‘. He is passionate about exploring and teaching people about positive life transformations and the limitless potential of the human mind. You can read his blog Soul Hiker or follow him on Facebook, G+ and Twitter. You can also hire Gilbert to write for you here.
Three Austrian men have become the first in the world to undergo a new technique called “bionic reconstruction”, enabling them to use a robotic prosthetic hand controlled by their mind, according to new research published in The Lancet. All three men suffered for many years with brachial plexus injuries  and poor hand function as a result of motor vehicle and climbing accidents.
The new technique was developed by Professor Oskar Aszmann, Director of the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Restoration of Extremity Function at the Medical University of Vienna, together with engineers from the Department of Neurorehabilitation Engineering of the University Medical Center Goettingen. It combines selective nerve and muscle transfers, elective amputation, and replacement with an advanced robotic prosthesis (using sensors that respond to electrical impulses in the muscles). Following comprehensive rehabilitation, the technique restored a high level of function, in all three recipients, aiding in activities of daily living.
“In effect, brachial plexus avulsion injuries represent an inner amputation, irreversibly separating the hand from neural control. Existing surgical techniques for such injuries are crude and ineffective and result in poor hand function”, explains Professor Aszmann. “The scientific advance here was that we were able to create and extract new neural signals via nerve transfers amplified by muscle transplantation. These signals were then decoded and translated into solid mechatronic hand function” 
Before amputation, all three patients spent an average of 9 months undergoing cognitive training, firstly to activate the muscles, and then to use the electrical signals to control a virtual hand. Once they had mastered the virtual environment, they practiced using a hybrid hand—a prosthetic hand attached to a splint-like device fixed to their non-functioning hand (Figure 1 page 3 and video).
Three months after amputation, robotic prostheses gave all three recipients substantially better functional movement in their hands, improved quality of life, and less pain. For the first time since their accidents all three men were able to accomplish various everyday tasks such as picking up a ball, pouring water from a jug, using a key, cutting food with a knife, or using two hands to undo buttons.
Brachial plexus injuries occur when the nerves of the brachial plexus – the network of nerves that originate in the neck region and branch off to form the nerves that control movement and sensation in the upper limbs, including the shoulder, arm, forearm, and hand – are damaged. Brachial plexus injuries often occur as a result of trauma from high speed collisions, especially in motorcycle accidents, and in collision sports such as rugby and American Football .
According to Professor Aszmann, “So far, bionic reconstruction has only been done in our centre in Vienna. However, there are no technical or surgical limitations that would prevent this procedure from being done in centres with similar expertise and resources.”
Writing in a linked Comment, Professor Simon Kay who carried out the UK’s first hand transplant, and Daniel Wilks from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Leeds, UK say, “The present findings—and others—are encouraging, because this approach provides additional neural inputs into prosthetic systems that otherwise would not exist. However, the final verdict will depend on long-term outcomes, which should include assessment of in what circumstances and for what proportion of their day patients wear and use their prostheses. Compliance declines with time for all prostheses, and motorised prostheses are heavy, need power, and are often noisy, as well as demanding skilled repair when damaged.”
The above story is based on materials provided by The Lancet. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Reading bedtime stories, engaging in conversation and eating nightly dinners together are all positive ways in which parents interact with their children, but according to new research, none of these actions have any detectable influence on children’s intelligence later in life.
Florida State University criminology professor Kevin Beaver examined a nationally representative sample of youth alongside a sample of adopted children from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and found evidence to support the argument that IQ is not the result of parental socialization.
The study analyzed parenting behaviors and whether they had an effect on verbal intelligence as measured by the Picture Vocabulary Test (PVT). The IQ tests were administered to middle and high school students, and again when they were between the ages of 18 and 26.
“Previous research that has detected parenting-related behaviors affect intelligence is perhaps incorrect because it hasn’t taken into account genetic transmission,” Beaver said.
The findings were published in the article, “A closer look at the role of parenting-related influences on verbal intelligence over the life course: Results from an adoption-based research design,” in the journal Intelligence.
The subject of how much influence parents have on intelligence has long been debated. Some research that shows parents who socialize their children in accordance with certain principles like reading with them often or having nightly family dinners, have children who are smarter than children whose parents do not do those things.
There is also an argument that it’s not a parental socialization effect, but that intelligence is passed down from parent to children genetically, not socially. In order to test these two explanations, Beaver used an adoption-based research design.
“We thought this was a very interesting set up and when we tested these two competing hypotheses in this adoptive-based research design, we found there was no association between parenting and the child’s intelligence later in life once we accounted for genetic influences,” Beaver said.
Studying children who share no DNA with adoptive parents eliminates the possibility that parental socialization is really just a marker for genetic transmission.
“In previous research, it looks as though parenting is having an effect on child intelligence, but in reality the parents who are more intelligent are doing these things and it is masking the genetic transformation of intelligence to their children,” Beaver said.
Does this mean parents can neglect or traumatize their children and it won’t affect them?
“My response is no,” Beaver said, “but the way you parent a child is not going to have a detectable effect on their IQ as long as that parenting is within normal bounds.”
Beaver collaborated on the study with Joseph A. Schwartz from the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice; Mohammed Said Al-Ghamdi and Ahmed Nezar Kobeisy from the Center for Social and Humanities Research and King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia; Curtis S. Dunkel from Western Illinois University’s Department of Psychology; and Dimitri van der Linden from Erasmus University’s Institute of Psychology in The Netherlands.
The above story is based on materials provided by Florida State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
The precision with which people make decisions can be predicted by measuring pupil size before they are presented with any information about the decision, according to a new study published in PLOS Computational Biology this week.
The study, conducted by Peter Murphy and colleagues at Leiden University, showed that spontaneous, moment-to-moment fluctuations in pupil size predicted how a selection of participants varied in their successful decision making. A larger pupil size indicated poorer upcoming task performance, due to more variability in the decisions made once the relevant information was presented. The authors also found that certain individuals who had the largest pupils overall also tended to be the least consistent in their decisions.
The results were obtained by measuring pupil size before each segment of the task began and monitoring each participant’s subsequent performance in deciding which direction a cloud of dots was moving in. These results were then combined with a simple mathematical model that described how people make decisions.
These findings reveal that a person’s state of responsiveness, as measured by pupil size, is a key determinant of the variability of the decisions they make about the world around them. When hyper-responsive, our decision making appears to be less reliable and will more likely lead to undesirable outcomes. Critically, the findings also open up areas for future research aimed at improving the precision with which we make decisions, to help us achieve better outcomes from the choices that we make.
The results were obtained by measuring the pupil size of 26 volunteers as they performed a visual choice-based task designed to mimic the kinds of challenging perceptual decisions that are frequently encountered in everyday life. Pupil size gives a good indication of how responsive a person is at any given moment, with larger pupils correlating with increased responsiveness, though little was previously understood about how pupil size might relate to our ability to make reliable perceptual judgements.
Dr Murphy comments, “we are constantly required to make decisions about the world we live in. Researchers have long known that the accuracy and reliability of such everyday decision making can be tremendously variable for different people at different times, but we understand quite little about where this variability comes from. In this study, we show that how precise and reliable a person is in making a straightforward decision about motion can be predicted by simply measuring their pupil size. This finding suggests that the reliability with which an individual will make an upcoming decision is at least partly determined by pupil-linked ‘arousal’ or alertness, and furthermore, can potentially be deciphered on the fly. This new information could prove valuable for future research aimed at enhancing the precision of decision making in real time.”
The above story is based on materials provided by PLOS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.