Curiosity is an essential part of being human. The process of discovering what is new about our world, new knowledge, perspectives, new people is exciting and pleasurable. Examining and learning about minds/brains at work should similarly be irresistible. After all, our minds are a playground far more compelling and engaging than most toys and computer games. The purpose of the site is to stimulate our sense of play in considering the ideas and knowledge about how minds work.
Welcome to the mindsinplay, a website devoted to exploring some of what we know about minds/brains. On this site you will find mind/brain science stories/reports, projects. Art is used to enhance text entries. The website has two related aims; 1) provide an overview and sketch of what we have learned from mind/brain science research and 2) identify new opportunities to apply that science for enhancing our lives.
This website, Mindsinplay.com is a revision of an earlier version of this site. The style of this website is devoid of bells and whistles (such as audio or video material). It is the content itself that is designed to kindle the imagination of those interested in mind/brain science.
Overview of the site: The ‘about’ section of the website will provide you with details about the site and its content and how to navigate around this website.
This website is also linked to two companion book entitled Minds in Play. In it you will find mind/brain science themes and each page entry can be read in under a minute. You can request a copy of the PDF version of the book by emailing me your email address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gallery Bank section of this site displays some of the art work that is incorporated with the mind/brain science content on this site as well as in the book Minds in Play
On, this, the homepage of the website, you will see a few of the thumb nail sketches of the science reports/stories that are developed more fully in the ‘stories and projects section’ of the site. These appear below.
You will also find topics, questions that will be explored in the near future. These ideas for development are listed under the title “Log, notes, questions for development”
Viewer, please note that this website is in the initial stage of revision of the earlier version of this website. Please be patient.
Summary of stories and themes to be posted
Thinking about mind/brain science
To be able to see I need to put on my other glasses. Even then things remain out of focus. Many people think about the mind as if it were an entity separate from brain. I would hope that some of the content on this website can dispel that belief. The indivisibility of mind and brain is perhaps the most important concept to be grasped from this book and is universally accepted by all scientists interested in understanding what makes us human. (read more about it in the stories section of the website and in Section I in the Mindsinplay book)
Locating language and how we use words in the brain
If I know where my sense of language originates in my brain would I understand the nature of language better than I do now? Nothing ends up as simple as first thought. This is certainly also true for how our brains process language (read more about it in the stories section of the website and in Section V in the Mindsinplay book)
Valuation: What is it worth to you? (has been posted as a project)
What’s it worth to you? What you pay for a pastrami sandwich? How much is something worth now compared to a week from now or a month from now? Would you control what you eat now, and tomorrow, and for several months so that you might successfully lose some weight? We are forever making valuation decisions.
Faces of addiction: From humans to elephants to ants
What does it mean that all sorts of mammals can become addicted to substances such as alcohol? Furthermore should our picture of addiction change knowing that ants can be addicted to drugs like morphine? (read more about it in the stories section of the website and in Section IX in the Mindsinplay book)
Finding fear in the brain (story has been posted)
Mind/brain science has revealed the neurobiological circuitry, (including the microanatomy and neurochemistry) which is the foundations of our experience of fear. We need to be able to experience fear since without being able to experience that emotion we can often be in significant danger. (read more about it in the stories section of the website and in Section VII in the Mindsinplay book)
Imagine the brain imagining: A bit more about the power of thought (story has been posted)
Our imagination can carry us to places where cruise ships never go. Psychoactive drugs or a neuropsychiatric disorder allow us to leave the real earth. Some phenomena require a great deal of knowledge in order for us to imagine what others have described i.e., (a black hole). Our imagination can also provide us with a safe cognitive place, a substitute, for experiencing the real world. Scientists sometimes use imaginary experiments that can’t be done in the laboratory and thereby consider concepts and possible solutions to problems that lead to totally new views of scientific dilemmas. Lastly there are some research findings so stunning and dramatic that it kindles imaginings that turn what we thought we always new upside down….and forever.
Approaches to science and art
‘Doing’ science and art share a good deal in common. One of the dichotomies in scientific thinking and research is Top-down vs. bottom up thinking. The starting point in top-down approach to sc9ience is a concept, a theory, which then generates the path of research and discovery. It is a focused, systematic, and where strategies are well mapped out from the start. A bottom up approach to doing science builds theory and concepts starting with the bits and pieces that emerge from empirical work and observation. This sort of research is more likely to capitalize on serendipity , a broad perspective of an area of inquiry, a wide context for thinking about a phenomena.
Differences in approach to art can also be dichotomized in similar fashion. Some artists approach a project by having a clear understanding of what they want to accomplish. Many sketches may precede the final piece of art. In contrast, other artists are more likely to be led along by reacting to either the whole or parts of their own art production. Art that is in progress is the inspiration for what will come next in producing a piece of art that is seen as complete.
Log, notes, questions for development
Turning on and turning off memories and other behavior with a light switch
Sometimes a the development of a new technology can revolutionize our world. For example the invention of the telescope totally altered our view of the the universe out in the space around our planet. The development of optogenetic methods that allow us to turn on and off all sorts of neurons responsible for a wide range of behaviors from memory to eating. For example using optogenetic methods (light-dependent manipulations of the animals’ neurons) researchers were able to alter connections between hippocampal neurons—which encode “where” memories—and amygdala neurons—which code for either positive or negative emotions. See the complete details in the 27 August issue of Nature authored by Susumu Tonegawa and colleagues. In a similar, related, study Roberto Malinow, at University of California, San Diego used light to stimulate key nerve connections in the brains of rats, and were then able to erase certain memories, and then restore them with a second type of light (see the June 1 2014 issue of Nature).
In the last 3 years we have seen an explosion of detailed knowledge about how brain events result in how we behave. To get a flavor of the power and excitment behind this development I would urge you to read the May 18, 2015 issue of the New Yorker. It features an article that describe in detail the life and work of Karl Deisseroth, a psychiatrist and a neuroscientist at Stanford University who was the discover and developer of optogenetic methods. Amazing!!
What does learning mean? Metal sheets ‘remember’ how they were bent, computers can learn more effective strategies for beating chess masters, one-celled organisms such as amoeba are capable of changing how they function based on experience. Do we really need a brain to learn? While we are at it what do we mean by learning or ‘knowing’ something that we may have learned?
Can you wait 20+ years for a baseball pitcher who can be bred to throw a 125 mph curve ball? Or what about a 300 lb. football player that can run a hundred yards in 6.2 seconds? Gene editing will be increasingly useful in the development of superior agricultural products, and breast cancer free women. Why not make facets of being human superhuman? But wait a minute; nature has already shown us the way.
How do those birds do it? How do birds fly from China….to Africa …over the ocean…. What does that tell us about how information is stored and used in the brain….any brain. How do you pack so much information in a bird brain? Come to think of it, in terms of loads of information in a small package….think of our genome…..all the information to make every cell in our body, all of our bodies chemistry and so much more. In terms of information ‘per square inch’ it puts cloud storage sites to shame.
What is willpower all about? Willpower is driven by your brain and not your spinal chord. Willpower is brain activity at work and therefore takes energy much like a muscle. That energy can be depleted and willpower like a muscle can fatigue. Your experience tells you that stress compromises, weakens willpower. That is not just your imagination. That explains why we find it particularly hard to stick to a diet when we feel stressed out. In addition, as you well know, alcohol erodes willpower so….stopping drinking to access is that much harder when you are drinking.