Because scientists don't have a sophisticated knowledge of meditation, they have defaulted to measuring meditation expertise by the number of hours a person has practiced, says Dr. Willoughby Britton. This way of defining expert meditators is both misleading and skews research results. She then quotes the old adage: Practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect. One of problems she cites that results from this lack of understanding is the benefits of meditation are being "way over-hyped."
In this entertaining video clip, she also talks about the Blobology Effect: If we see something explained or proven by a colorful blob on a fMRI scan, we tend to think it is true, even if preposterous. The fMRI becomes a marketing opportunity, and the Blobology Effect underscores how impoverished our self-knowledge is if we need to look to technology to read how we are feeling in our minds and bodies.
In this TEDxTalk, Professor Willoughby Britton tells us that happiness is not about getting what you want. She discusses our mental qualities as habits we practice and she sheds light on an important link between neuroscience and contemplative studies.
Kosslyn and Miller are researchers I admire. They are quite right to take issue with what they call dated and crude ideas of hemisphere difference. So do I. ‘Dated’ and ‘crude’ are by definition bad. Agreed, management jargon about almost entirely fictional differences between the hemispheres are a hurdle one has to get over: I wrote a book taking such ideas to task. But that is quite different from suggesting we would be wrong to think in terms of hemisphere difference at all.
They write, as if it is some revelation, that ‘the brain doesn’t work one part at a time, but rather as a single interactive system, with all parts contributing in concert, as neuroscientists have long known’. Who, one feels like asking, do they think their readers are?
It is not that they are wrong to point to ‘top-bottom’ differences in the brain: in fact the idea is so plainly right, and has been known to be the case for so long, that I cannot imagine who it is they think might disagree with them. ...
While visions of brain scans dance in our head, we may not be as impressed by them as we were a few years ago. Or maybe we never were all that impressed? Just how impressed were we—and how impressed are we now? These are questions to which we have yet to find clear answers.
There's something deeply compelling about "seeing" the mind at work with the help of relatively new neuroscientific tools, such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), which furnish the images of brain activation that often accompany popular science coverage. Indeed, a well-known 2008 paper by McCabe and Castel reported that people thought articles containing fMRI images of the brain reflected better scientific reasoning than matched articles that did not.
Yet a series of recent papers suggests the story may be more complex. If we are seduced by neuroscience, it might not be the pretty pictures that people find so alluring.
So brain images may have some effect on people's responses to scientific news reports, but it's unlikely to be a particularly powerful or pervasive one. These new results challenge both the 2008 findings and the compelling intuition that there's something special about a picture of the brain.
First, why the failure to replicate the original 2008 results?
Seeking to engage children in neuroscience research and stimulate interest in the subject, UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience Robert Knight last Monday launched an online scientific journal mainly edited by students between the ages of 8 and 18.
The journal, called Frontiers for Young Minds, officially launched at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego. Under the slogan “science edited for kids, by kids,” the journal collects neuroscience-related research articles and sends them to children around the world who edit and review the articles under the guidance of professors and scientists.
Knight said in an email that his inspiration for the journal stemmed from his belief that kids are the future and that science education needs a boost. He said the journal can be a tool to involve kids from different countries and socioeconomic statuses.
I highly recommend watching at least the first session to be reminded of how much the field is in its infancy and how complex it is. And how simplistic are many of the conclusions we hear, such as oxytocin being a love molecule. I enjoyed greatly the criticism of the trolley problem, too.
You may access online the entire paper titled "Applying the neuroscience of creativity to creativity training" (Frontiers in Human Neuroscience); abstract below. I recommend reading it if you have an interest in the brain and creativity. The paper includes sections titled "Teaching the Neuroscience of Creativity" and "The Applied Neurocreativity Course"; the latter presents many details of the creativity course.
From that second section:
All the theory is subsequently boiled down to a simplified and easily comprehensible model that we have labelled NeuroCreativity, consisting of five key concepts based on basic brain processes (priming, close and remote associations, inhibition, fixation and the release of inhibition—referred to as incubation) we see as being most important, in addition to well documented neurological processes needed to understand the neural processes of creative behavior. The main idea behind this approach is based on Mednick’s (1962) theory that creative processes can be understood as the ability to rearrange knowledge that already exists in the mind, and thus the greater the number of associations (especially remote associations) an individual has to the requisite elements of a given problem, the greater the probability of reaching a creative solution. Our theoretical framework is therefore a merge between associative theories of creativity and basic neuroscientific knowledge of how the brain’s associative networks function and their natural limitations (e.g., how the neurological principles of lateral inhibition can be used to understand cognitive fixation). ...
I am grateful to my friend and colleague Bonnie Badenoch for giving me permission to post here the excellent, deft interview she conducted of Iain McGilchrist for her GAINS (Global Association for Interpersonal Neurobiology Studies) newsletter. Click to learn more about GAINS.
And now click to read the interview; if you are interested in your brain and the brains of other people, you certainly do not want to miss it.
What is the difference between empathy and compassion? Is it possible to train compassion? Can it be measured? How useful is compassion training in schools, clinical settings, and end-of-life care? Can the brain be transformed through mental training?
The free eBook: Compassion. Bridging Practice and Science by Tania Singer and Matthias Bolz describes existing secular compassion training programs and empirical research as well as the experiences of practitioners. The state-of-the-art layout of the eBook includes video clips and a selection of original sound collages by Nathalie Singer, and artistic images by Olafur Eliasson