Neurological Rock Stars – Robert Sarpolsky

Some time ago YouTube started spitting lectures about human behaviour at me by this bloke called ‘Robert Sarpolsky’. (1)

Robert Sarplosky is a lecturer at Stanford University in the US.

In the interests of science I decided to investigate and watch.

Initially, I was really stuck by the ‘Slash’ hairdo (of Gun’s N’ Roses fame) with a beard for intellectual credibility. What really struck me was this curly chimp lover’s quirky teaching style.

Neurology and behaviour shouldn’t be so interesting, but he manages to make what could be a series of lectures that make as much sense as ‘Lost’ and go way over Kiefer Sutherland’s ‘24’ hours of viewing REALLY interesting and valuable time spent.

The lectures that are available to watch are Stanford’s Human Behavioural Biology Module from 2010.(2)

Personally, I find them gripping and if you are also interested in this kind of thing then all 25 lectures are available to watch online.

One of the benefits of this course is that if like me you do not have the kind of background and finances that can get you a place at Stanford, the online lectures are the closest you or I will ever get to this world class course.

Sarpolsky cover’s human behavioural biology in a way that is really broad. The first lecture mentions some of the reading list recommendations such as ‘Chaos: Making A New Science’ the best-selling book by James Gleick that first introduced the principles and early development of chaos theory to the public.(4) Apparently reading this could be so life transforming ‘you may never need to meditate again’ I quote.

What I like about the way the subject is presented is that as the introduction of chaos theory suggests, the course content is diverse. The subjects may be viewed separately, but once they are woven together this is the first time I have seen a full western science course try to piece together human behavior and neurology in a way that acknowledges everything is interconnected.

I have to warn you that although the course is a GREAT deal more interesting and makes more sense than ‘Lost’ I still haven’t finished watching all of the lectures and need to go away and do a PHD on every single one, but for those fortunate to have PHD in genetics, or biology, neuroscience or even if you like me went to the university of ‘life’ this is a really challenging and rewarding series. Don’t be put off by the titles just get stuck in.

It covers topics like, evolutionary behavior, molecular genetics, area’s of the brain, schizophrenia and neuroscience. Perhaps just grazing through them will give you an idea of their flavour.

Anyone who wants to have a look at Sarpolsky’s work in a more accessible way, check out ‘Stress, Portrait of a killer’ documentary 2008. (4)

Human behaviour can be baffling, but you may never need to get lost in ‘Lost’ again.

 

1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Sapolsky#Books

2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNnIGh9g6fA

3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=fvwp&v=_KVWidu_sWo&NR=1

4) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYG0ZuTv5rs&feature=endscreen&NR=1

One Moment At A Time – What Is MBSR And Who Is Jon Kabat-Zinn?

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Jon Kabat-Zinn(1) (2)

In search of mindfulness I have been following the progress of mindfulness teaching locally and have been pleasantly surprised recently with the numbers of classes advertised.

A couple of weeks ago I saw one that was titled ‘Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction’ and was intrigued.

Another article in January/February Scientific American Mind 2013 related to mindfulness; it is titled ‘Focus on Your-self to Alleviate Social Pain’. The article discusses the benefits of mindfulness for pain, stress, anxiety and depression, but also how a new study recently that has shown it reduces feelings of loneliness or social isolation. Mindfulness was also shown to reduce inflammation and the risk of heart attacks.

So where did all this research start and why is there so much interest in mindfulness for health?

Taking to you-tube (as you do) I came across this one titled ‘The Healing Power of Mindfulness’.(1)

It has sparked my interest in Jon Kabat-Zinn who talks about his life and how at college he was one of 5 students who went to see a monk lecture on this topic. During the lecture he describes how he had one of those ‘Ah-ha!’ moments as he realised that what he had just been taught to do should be something that everyone gets to learn in kindergarten.

‘Being in the moment’ sounds like something we all could benefit from, but how many of us are actually present without our mobile phone, computer, television or radio?

I am sitting here with the computer and a phone so I am clearly not a shining example of being present within myself just right now.

When do we ever switch off?

Something else I am interested in is the research into ‘neuroplasticity’.  Jon Kabat-Zinn studied molecular biology in 1971 at MIT.

In the film he talks about how studies have now gone on to show that not only is the mind plastic but so are genes, and he describes how the corrosive acid of stress wears down our DNA causing problems within the body. Mindfulness meditation research is showing that this can be stopped and reversed.

He has been teaching and studying the effects of mindfulness since 1979 and is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Although watching you-tube isn’t always a mindfulness practice, I was really relaxed and centered when I had finished watching, and participating at one point(audience participation!), spending time with this innovative out of the box thinker talking about his life’s work with mindfulness.

I hope you feel that you can take the time to watch him as well, and perhaps take away some of his mindful thoughts and experiences on the benefits of being present in the mind and body.

You come from nothing, you go back to nothing, it’s what you do in between that matters. Don’t you want to always be present?

(For people in the area there are some good classes advertised at the Treehouse if you are looking for a teacher http://www.treehousewales.co.uk/ )

1)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_If4a-gHg_I

2)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Kabat-Zinn

Guest Post – Who Am I?

Today I am very honoured to have a guest blog post from http://rosewinelover.com/

Thank-for sharing your experiences!

First of all, I would like to thank Epilepsy Me And Neurology for inviting me to guest blog here. This has added a whole new aspect to my line of “work” – to advocate for epilepsy  from my living room, reaching a target audience all over the world.

So, who am I? Allow me to introduce myself…

My name is Gemma. I’m a thirty-nine year old housewife, married to a wonderful man who I have been with for five years now. I have a profoundly autistic son from a previous marriage, who lives with a foster family because I am not strong enough – physically or mentally – to be able to handle his behaviours without significant harm coming to others and myself. I do love him fiercly though, and so my husband and I visit him as often as we can. Continue reading

‘Disability is a crushed spirit’ as defined by Aimee Mullins –‘Ability’ or ’Disability’ what is it all about?

For me disability is about education and empowerment. Of myself and others.

Not talking about disability, in my case epilepsy, leads to fear and ignorance, it creates taboo and prejudice.

Not embracing epilepsy or disability as a part of me would be to deny my whole self. Until it sits alongside me as my reflected other half I am not whole.

Treating disability with a ‘Fight Club’ mentality (The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club) (1) will not lead to health (you only have to watch the film to see how destructive this type of thinking can be! (2)).

Disability for me is about acceptance of myself, but in the wider social context to be accepted by society would be the ideal.

Not accepting our differences leads to disharmony within the self and society.

There is a fine line between ‘accepting’ and ‘labelling’ disability. It is about how we see ourselves as much as how others see us.

http://www.drfranklipman.com/aimee-mullins-redefines-the-word-disabled/

Frank Lipman’s blog about Aimee Mullins is one of my favourite posts from 2012. In it she talks about all the disempowering negative language that is associated with the word ‘disability’, and gives her new definition.

One of the most frustrating things about having epilepsy is people who tell me I’m sick. Actually, they often never get as far as the word disability, I am ‘sick’.

Disability its self is a big label to be handing out, but sickness!

Normally, I might add, my personal experience of the word ‘sickness’ is that it is banded about in the context of work!

I am NOT sick, I am not DEAF, I am epileptic, but I am capable, I am intelligent and I can use my voice and prove everyone who ever said I can’t do something that they are wrong about me! I don’t define myself by my disability but it really did help to make me who I am today.

‘Disable’, (verb)

To crush a spirit, to withdraw hope, to deflate curiosity, to promote an inability to see beauty, to deprive of imagination, to make abject.

Ant.  To make poss-able

Aimee Mullins 2009 new (and better!) Thesaurus  2009 Edition

Here she is in her TED talk, which is titled ‘The Opportunity of Adversity’.

She’s my heroine.

1)      http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0137523/quotes

2)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fight_Club

some of you may be interested in making a contribution to this post about ‘abiltiy’ or ‘disability’. I know I am.

The Autistic Voice

Hi Readers

Playing devil’s advocate today…

I recently gave a session on autoethnography and reflexive writing at Sheffield Hallam and I included several examples of autoethnography of my own.  One example was some reflexion I had done during the Paralympics.  Someone suggested I put it in a blog to encourage debate:

‘So the past month has been about planning, and watching the olympics and paralympics, which have really got me thinking about disabilities – in fact it is not about disability but all about ability.  Even the language used is interesting – political correctness talks about people of restricted height for example, but paralympics talk about dwarfism.  Language is much more direct, honest and matter of fact.  Is PC for the benefit of the ‘inflicted’ or is it to make the public feel more empathetic to individuals’ feelings?  Do we worry too much about upsetting people?

One amputee…

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Music and the Mind – Avatar Music For Health?

This post is inspired by the blog: http://dragonandrose.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/epilepsy-classical-music/

Another area around music and brain caught my eye today.

Eduardo Miranda (1) is featured in the BBC report http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20799961

for his work in Brain Computer interfaces(2).

His research at Plymouth university (3) where ‘music’ meets ‘avatar’, is funded to breakdown Beethoven’s seventh symphony and reinterpret the music on a computer as heard by 3 individuals, a ballerina, a gulf war veteran and Dr Miranda himself.(4)

All the subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning to take pictures of the emotional responses to the music in the brain so that they could be reapplied to the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th symphony.

Listening to the BBC report is fascinating, as you can hear the difference between the ballerina’s more jerky interpretation of the music (Dr Miranda puts this down to her possible use of body movement in interpretation of music), whereas Dr Miranda’s version is more fluid and different instruments are more audible, he thinks this is because he hears it as someone who plays the piano.

The brain computer interface has also been used by Dr Miranda’s team to help someone with ‘locked in syndrome’ (5) to make music from their brainwaves. Electrodes trigger music from the brainwaves.

The results are a bit weird, but they are wonderful, and Dr Miranda hopes to utilise the technology to perhaps invent a prescription of musical health for people suffering from depression and other emotional health problems, by identifying patterns of brain waves and changing them.

Maybe one day this will even help epilepsy?!

Some basic information about brainwave states can be found at:

http://www.doctorhugo.org/brainwaves/brainwaves.html

As well as some information about Neurofeedback Therapy which has already been used to treat epilepsy as well as migraine, autism, sleep deregulation and others at:

http://www.projectchilld.com/10.html

 

(1)    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eduardo_Reck_Miranda

(2)    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain-computer_interface

(3)    http://neuromusic.soc.plymouth.ac.uk/

(4)    http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-09/23/music-writing-computer

(5)    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locked-in_syndrome

 

 

Epilepsy & Classical Music

epilepsy and classical music experiences

just read this blog which starts with ‘skilful communication allows someone to speak from the heart’ really quite impressed by the essay and reading it made me think about how this could be useful in validating emotions.

Stanford Epilepsy Centre – Ammunition to Understand Epilepsy

http://neurology.stanford.edu/divisions/e_videos.html

Follow the link to find lots of videos about epilepsy, and also a great resource centre with many other articles and information at Stanford School of Medicine and Neurology and Neurological Sciences.

Recovery – Living the Experience of Hope

more about recovery, this time recovery from mental illness which is not given enought advertising or promotion. A lovely post from a mental health advocate about a mental health advocate.

Ignite Your Life Though Action

I have found the link to this video in my spam folder, boy am I glad I checked it out. The message of Hope and Recovery from a Mental Illness Diagnosis from someone who has lived it, is a ‘must share’ to encourage everyone not to give up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_FolgAZ3YuU

 

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