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Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight

by rg Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 08:15:42 PM EST


This diary is to encourage you to watch and then comment on the following video:

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.

The video (20 minutes--well worth it!):

For those who can't watch videos here's the transcript:

http://blog.ted.com/2008/03/jill_bolte_tayl.php#more

All I can say is that her description of life in her right hemisphere sounded a lot like the effects of psilocybin (as I have understood and experienced them.)

She makes an intriguing (for me) statement at the end:

So who are we? We are the life force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where we are -- I am -- the life force power of the universe, and the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form. At one with all that is. Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere. where I become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the "we" inside of me.

My emphases--because as I read it she means that following her experiences she can now switch hemispheres at will.

Maybe I'm reading her wrong.

In the comments after the transcript comes this:

The state of mind of euphoria and oneness with all, described by Dr. Taylor during ensuing brain damage due to stroke somewhat disturbs me. Imagine yourself as a person walking around in the right-brain only perceptual state, being attacked by robbers, hucksters who want money, or any type of opportunist seeking an advantage. In this state, one would simply give them whatever they wanted. One's survival probability would be close to zero. Even if one dies happy, that is still death and therefore immoral.

The method of cult religions is to make people into thought slaves by forcing victims into this same perceptual blindness in which one gives up the "self". This facilitates turning the victim into a physical slave who does not complain and with behavior that is always compliant, even against the victim's survival needs.

Also, a person in this state is not likely to solve problems of the world such as disease no matter how willing one is because solving problems requires insight from realistic analysis of the past and prediction of consequences, a left brain skill. And how likely are people in this state to be motivated to do physical labor such as farming or building structures for shelter, unless they are forced by others who are not in a right-brained perception only state?

This is the kind of reaction I would expect if one assumes that the choice is either right hemisphere OR left hemisphere.  But it seems to me that what Jill Bolte Taylor is saying is different: she is saying that it is possible (at least for her) to move freely from hemisphere to hemisphere; to use the left brain for the "working out the past and anticipating the future" aspects of her life, while using her right brain for the "appreciating the here and now" aspects.

I can see that meditation (as I've understood it) is a tool to bring right brain focus; I can see that the arts are about catching the right brain's attention.

I can see that a person who hasn't had a direct experience of "realizing that my hands looked like primitive claws grasping onto the bar. I thought "that's very peculiar" and I looked down at my body and I thought, "whoa, I'm a weird-looking thing" is going to be wary of subjective experience of this type.

(It's one of the problems when discussing altered consciousness experiences.  Those who have had their consciousness altered talk about experiences they have had; those who haven't talk about experiences they imagine--and what they imagine it signifies.  Sort of like the difference between talking about the summit of the Matterhorn based on what you'd read--and then standing on it.  Or maybe not ;)

After watching the presentation I got an urge to know more about the corpus callosum.  I didn't realise that the left and right hemispheres are entirely separate--when she lets the two hemispheres fall away from each other--

So, this is a real human brain. This is the front of the brain, the back of the brain with a spinal cord hanging down, and this is how it would be positioned inside of my head. And when you look at the brain, it's obvious that the two cerebral cortices are completely separate from one another. For those of you who understand computers, our right hemisphere functions like a parallel processor. While our left hemisphere functions like a serial processor. The two hemispheres do communicate with one another through the corpus collosum, which is made up of some 300 million axonal fibers. But other than that, the two hemispheres are completely separate

What do you think?

Display:
One more thing that I'm not sure can be dealt with by a conversation (=with words):

TED | TEDBlog: Stroke of insight: Jill Bolte Taylor on TED.com

And I lost my balance and I'm propped up against the wall. And I look down at my arm and I realize that I can no longer define the boundaries of my body. I can't define where I begin and where I end. Because the atoms and the molecules of my arm blended with the atoms and molecules of the wall. And all I could detect was this energy. Energy. And I'm asking myself, "What is wrong with me, what is going on?" And in that moment, my brain chatter, my left hemisphere brain chatter went totally silent. Just like someone took a remote control and pushed the mute button and -- total silence.

And at first I was shocked to find myself inside of a silent mind. But then I was immediately captivated by the magnificence of energy around me. And because I could no longer identify the boundaries of my body, I felt enormous and expansive. I felt at one with all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there.

I have had a similar experience--the chatter switching off.  But...how to explain it?  There is still an I...how could there not be if she says:

"...at first I was shocked to find myself inside of a silent mind."

But...there is (in my experience) a difference (certainly qualitative) between the Chatter-I (which I associate with the doomed-to-die work-out-how-to-survive-as-long-as-possible ego) and....I suppose it's what is meant by consciousness--certainly there is active intelligence and it has a locus (I am still I)...but...how can I be thinking if I am not thinking...in words?  Well...(other people's experiences and their ability to describe them appreciated!)...how about:

The ego puts words into linear forms, a never ending monologue...whereas when that shuts up (or off)...it's not that there are no more expressions (which can be formed by words)...rather, there is now the "entire conversation of sensory input"...and "I" am part of that.  The ego-I is an adjunct, a narrative overlay to the film, whereas the I-here is a character who....no...no...

I have never had an experience where language completely disappeared but I have read about them--in the model proposed this would be 'pure' right brain activity--

Can language (the kind I'm using here) be piggybacking on...whatever came before language?

(Cue experts!)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 08:41:50 PM EST
Found another quote were Ram Dass describes a similar state of consciousness:

The Dass Effect

Ram Dass said the stroke had taught him to appreciate silence: "In my head there's a dressing room where my concepts become clothed in words. But that dressing room has been bombed out. I can have clear thoughts but no words for them, so when I speak, you'll see, every once in a while . . . silence." He invited the crowd to "play in the silence" with him, and for the next three hours, when he fell quiet, a peacefulness seemed to descend on the room as people relaxed with him.

I have experienced silence for a few short moments during meditation, but never this kind of full silence. Way to go! :-)

by Fran on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 03:52:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
rg:
I have had a similar experience--the chatter switching off.
When, how, why did that happen?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:36:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Very briefly:

  1. A year or two ago
  2. We were at the Vondelpark, we'd watched a heron and pondered whether it was actually made of wood (it didn't move) only to decide that it was made of wood and then notice that it wasn't there any more (it had flown away--duh!  Moral: herons can stand very still.)  We (three of us) walked to the small pond at the very top centre of the park, lay on the grass and watched the herons sunning themselves.  It was calm, we were three old friends and....the yack yack in my head just slowed down and stopped.  Ah.....  There was nothing extra to say add or do, and rather than falling into some dreamy interior monologue with pictures I was present in the world, it was there and I was there but the yack yack had fallen away.
  3. Because I/we had taken psilocybin (in the form of cubensis mushrooms)--is my guess.  At the time I thought it was because we were, thanks to the psilocybin, "together in the moment" so we were all three happy to be there and so the usual conversational binding techniques (?) were not necessary.

Reading Jill Bolte Taylor's account, though, I recognised the phenomenon (maybe wrongly!  Very hard to be objective about subjective experiences!): it's very particular because something has definitely stopped--

Talking of things stopping, it's a classic that when one is on psychotropics (including marijuana) that there's a loss of the sense of time.  You can feel that hours have passed, look at the clock and--only twenty minutes?!  Alex had some great comments about this in this diary:

Alex in Toulouse:

LSD is indeed quite strange, I don't know if I've mentioned this here before but I have beaten time back with LSD (when I was younger). For instance, I was at a friends' flat on campus, they were working on some essay so I was bored. I took LSD. Then a few hours later, I was having some pretty wacky time dilation experiences, so I asked them to check their watch before I left the flat. I then left the flat, stopped at the campus bar and chatted with people there, then went in the campus basement to play at getting scared (you know those long corridors with pipes that you get in some horror movies), then went back to my friend's flat ... and only a pair of minutes had passed on the watch. After consultation, I had indeed been at the bar and had had those conversations with people who attested to that effect.

So what happened? There is no way that I could do all that I did in two minutes, nor that I could have bent the laws of physics.

But I'd never heard another person talk about the shutting off of the (what I'll call the) "ego voice"--until I watched this video, which is why I ask if anyone else here has had this experience--certainly I'd imagine Sven has had some contact with such.  (Just a guess of course!)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 10:48:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
rg:
Talking of things stopping, it's a classic that when one is on psychotropics (including marijuana) that there's a loss of the sense of time.  You can feel that hours have passed, look at the clock and--only twenty minutes?!  Alex had some great comments about this in this diary:
Kant said the following in his Critique of Pure Reason
In Kant's view, a priori intuitions and concepts provide us with some a priori knowledge, which also provides the framework for our a posteriori knowledge. For example, Kant argues that space and time are not part of what we might regard as objective reality, but are part of the apparatus of perception. Kant also believed that causality is a conceptual organizing principle that we impose upon nature, albeit nature understood as the sum of appearances that can be synthesized according to our a priori concepts.

In other words, space and time are a form of perceiving and causality is a form of knowing. Both space and time and our conceptual principles and processes pre-structure our experience.

Things as they are "in themselves" -- the thing in itself or das Ding an sich -- are unknowable. For something to become an object of knowledge, it must be experienced, and experience is structured by our minds -- both space and time as the forms of our intuition or perception, and the unifying, structuring activity of our concepts. These aspects of mind turn things-in-themselves into the world of experience. We are never passive observers or knowers.

Kant's "I" -- the "Transcendental Unity of Apperception" -- is similarly unknowable. I am aware that there is an "I," a subject or self that accompanies my experience and consciousness. But since I only experience it in time, which is a "subjective" form of perception, I can know it only indirectly, as object, not as subject.

That time is an a-priori form of our perception means that time is not something external but one of the basic way in which our mind organizes perception.

Kant also argues that arithmetic and geometry are internal counterparts of the external time and space. That is, if there is sensory input it is organised according to time and space. But we don't need any sensory input to do arithmetic. But arithmetic, counting, is based on the cognitive mechanism of sequential attention.

Left brain: serial processor, sequential attention, arithmetic, time; right brain: parallel processor, global attention, geometry, space.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 11:01:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a query about Kant's basic premises--but I'll have to re-read the first section of his critique of pure reason (I'm sure it was the critique) before I propose it.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 12:50:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
passed some marijuana around.  It was part of the lesson, but he did not really explain.  

Normally, each drummer has a part, and the parts interact--interlocking like gears, so to speak.  It goes pretty fast, and you learn to anticipate the other drummers--you know when they are going to strike their drums before they do it--and you anticipate yourself as well.  It all goes pretty fast, and when the rhythm is going well, it is a seamless flow.  Like water, as the expression has it.  

On marijuana it was a little different.  Striking a note in my pattern, I wait for the other drummers' responses.  They take a long time.  Now it is my turn again, time to play my next note.  A huge expanse of time opens up.  When am I supposed to play my note?  Somewhere in this huge expanse of time.  But WHERE?  How will I figure out?--It is all so formless!  Finally I decide to play my note:  I am not sure why.  It is really just a guess, but it seems about right.  I play my note, and watch and wait for the response.  It comes, and I realize that I was not terribly far off.  Now it is my turn again, and this huge expanse of time opens up . . .

Contrast:  This was totally different from his advice to play three beers behind the audience.  If the crowd has had six beers, you should have three.  Too few and you won't be in rapport with them, too many and you won't play well.  

In a different context, I would compute my relativistic motion.  Special Relativity:  You compare your own (internal) clock to the exterior clock, and simple (hyperbolic trig) equations (t/t' = cosh[theta]; v = tanh[theta]) give you your putative relativistic velocity.  Impressive "speeds"--several tenths the speed of light, sometimes more.  ;)

The analogy would go further:  During the following space-out, the twin paradox would break (resolve) and one would discover that it was oneself who had done the accelerating.   Hardly aging at all, one finds it is already the middle of the next day on planet Earth--they have aged and moved on.  

So is time "built in?"  I think so.  Is it a given, and absolute?  I have my doubts.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 02:00:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, maybe OT but...Kant:

Right at the beginning, he separates a posteriori from a priori

Critique of Pure Reason (Prefaces and Introduction)

Experi- ence tells us, indeed, what is, but not that it must necessarily be so, and not otherwise. It therefore gives us no true universality; and reason, which is so insistent upon this kind of knowledge, is therefore more stimulated by it than satisfied. Such universal modes of knowledge, which at the same time possess the character of inner necessity, must in themselves, independently of experience, be clear and certain. They are therefore entitled knowledge a priori; whereas, on the other hand, that which is borrowed solely from experience is, as we say, known only a posteriori, or empirically.

When I read this I think, "Hold on!  You can only build logical constructs a posteriori--for a start you have to be alive (contingent) to propose anything."  I also think that the urge to universality is....the urge to apply a rule across all time and space--

Critique of Pure Reason (Prefaces and Introduction)

Even without appeal- P 045 ing to such examples, it is possible to show that pure a priori principles are indispensable for the possibility of experience, and so to prove their existence a priori. For whence could experience derive its certainty, if all the rules, according to which it proceeds, were always themselves empirical, and therefore contingent?

For me, experience would derive its certainty from its...existence.  I experience ergo it is possible.  The alternative: I have proved that existence is not possible ergo nothing exists cannot be the case.  There is no abstracted place where e.g. mathematics happens without humans.  Mathematics (as the classic eg) is a human invention to describe the universe.  When the last human dies, there will not be "the universe in any case acting according to the rules"--the "universe" is a human construct--I mean: there is an out there--from a human perspective.  When the last human dies the "out  there" will get on with its business without regard to mathematics.

2 + 2 = 4 is about relations...ach...

I suppose I'm questioning the idea that human beings can use their brains to arrive at some position above our material existence--some "universality"--as our material existence determines what we consider to be the limits of the case.  The limiting factor is precisely "the limits of our possible experiences"--something like that.


Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 02:45:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When the last human dies the "out  there" will get on with its business

I'd like to correct myself as follows:

"When the last human dies the 'out there' that humans understand will cease to be; as 'in here' and 'out there' are human constructs.

Certainly (to bring this less OT) Jill Bolte Taylor managed to exist at the same time as being unable to see where she ended and everything else began (a sort of pan-consciousness of energy.)  Who knows if conditions of this kind won't--a posteriori--make up human consciousness in 20,000 years?

The only a-priori I can see in the world are the limits on our possible constructs--and science digs or tugs or pushes or works its away to the edges of those limits and proposes those extra 10 more intriguing questions...

Or hardwired = a priori but materially not metaphysically?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 02:53:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know if the 'time shift' experiences are connected with the silence. I had a few experiences were time shifted, but they were not silent. Though my guess is they were connected to altered states of consciousness.

It is said, that when the brain produces more alpha and theta frequencies, time is perceived differently. As in that state also the body and it's 'borders' are often not perceived clearly anymore.

by Fran on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 11:40:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
beautiful diary, rg,

left brain...checking rigging, charting course, weighing anchor, coiling ropes, manning tiller etc

right brain...jumping off the boat for a swim!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:46:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My thinking is:

(In the next world):

left and right brain in synthesis and synchronicity...checking rigging, charting course, weighing anchor, coiling ropes, manning tiller etc

right and left brain...jumping off the boat for a swim!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:55:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This seems to beg a ref to The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by J Jaynes, which I blush to admit I have not actually read (only reviews and excerpts) but has long, long been on my list of Books to Get Around To Sometime Soon.

If the right brain is wordless, then Jaynes' theory about "hearing voices" as an early stage of human bicameral cognition would be invalidated.  But I have always been intrigued by the notion, as I fancy was Neal Stephenson when he wrote about subliminal "programs" or incantations called "namshub" as a means of controlling human behaviour (in his magnificently and rivetingly incoherent novel Snow Crash).

An additional odd note is that recent neurological telemetry suggests that many mammals -- cats and dogs certainly, and probably quite a lot of others -- apparently sleep "in shifts", with one hemisphere sleeping while the other monitors the external senses (sight, smell, hearing).  Only half the brain ever sleeps at any given time.  I can't recall whether primates also exhibit this "shift sleeping" behaviour.

There is something quite fascinatingly eerie about the notion of our two brain hemispheres carrying on their separate lives with only the equivalent of a transatlantic data cable connecting them.  I rather like it -- it's alien and spooky enough to remind us how very strange we large mammals really are, and as if that weren't enough, what a perplexing mystery self-consciousness is on top of it.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 10:44:13 PM EST
If the right brain is wordless, then Jaynes' theory about "hearing voices" as an early stage of human bicameral cognition would be invalidated.

...what about if the right brain came first?  That the language centres kicked up in the left brain, started sending messages through and...language was the most efficient mechanism, first words as signifiers--as centres of attention: father, mother, brother, the sweet tree, the other sweet tree--okay, let's call the first tree the...ru-bee and the second tree we'll call: sweet.  

And they build the first list: ranking similar items in terms of similarity--and noting differences; maybe recalculating: Is the tree-like-the-wind really a tree, or is it more of a bush?  What makes a bush a bush?

On and on goes the left brain (in this model); and the right brain--who sees and acts is dumb.  But canny.  Maybe with connections down to the lizard brain.  Kill it and eat it or run away.

So the language centre mellowed--or the expression mellowed or widened to: Fight or flight.  So flight: must be one of the first concepts.  Now we run; this is flight.

Have you ever read Prometheus Rising?  My experience is congruent with circuits (in his tech model) one to five.  Beyond that I sometimes think, "Ah, yes!"  Sometimes I think, "Uh?"  And often I think...well....this is like reading a science textbook I don't really understand; I'm skipping past the equations so none of the words make much sense--

Maybe we can....how about: The right brain needs to learn as much language as is necessary to function most efficiently on this planet, right where it finds itself.  So senses on!  Sniff sniff.  What's that I smell?  And listen: what's that noise?  Heh!  Once it finds interesting smells and noises, the left brain can keep quiet--but what if the right brain is....evil?  What if it's a right brain out of a horror movie?  Severing its connections to the socially motivated left brain--

Maybe to survive on a desert island the left brain would be useful for the basic knowledge, but soon enough it would take a back seat--somewhere warm, with a lagoon full of fish--but no other humans!  No society--no human society, but lots of other societies--the fraternity of male fang-ants (named for their huge fangs)...

But it's only right now that I think: Who was Prometheus?

Now I'm thinking, "The birth of Gods in language, that the oldest gods are those written down first.  Oral tradition gods are discounted--folk animism.  But here we are at a classic festival: the days when there's an equal amount of light at night as at day.  From now on there'll be more and more light--as opposed to less and less dark--so wahey!  It's snowing!  Now we have hail!"

And no one to tell us how to celebrate it, certainly not the christian church, who were, I discovered today, tied to it because passover is an ancient festival tied to the first full moon after the spring equinox."

And I was lead down that track because I thought: I know nothing about Prometheus but what I am about to read.  I'll assume they're telling the truth (check the source!), ever on the lookout for weasel words, I suppose we must have a deep snake brain, or worm brain, chop it in half, it grows a new brain and a new tail and now it is two.  Or maybe some do, I never did the experiment.

Prometheus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Prometheus is an ancient Greek God from the "Golden Age" of Greek mythology. The Prometheus myth first appears in the Greek epic poet Hesiod's (ca. the late 8th - early 7th centuries BC) Theogony (lines 507-616). He was a son of the Titan Iapetus by Themis or Clymene, one of the Oceanids. As a son of Iapetus he was also a brother of Atlas, Menoetius and Epimetheus. In the Theogony, Hesiod introduces Prometheus as a lowly challenger to Zeus' omniscience and omnipotence. At a meal marking the "settling of accounts" between mortals and immortals, Prometheus plays a trick against Zeus (545-557). He places two sacrificial offerings before the Olympian: a selection of ox meat hidden inside an ox's stomach (nourishment hidden inside a displeasing exterior), and the ox's bones wrapped in "glistening fat" (something inedible hidden inside a pleasing exterior). Zeus chooses the latter, setting a precedent for future sacrifices; henceforth, humans would keep the meat for themselves and burn the bones wrapped in fat as an offering to the gods. This angers Zeus, who hides fire from humans in retribution. Prometheus, however, steals fire from Zeus and gives it back to humans for their use. This further enrages Zeus, who sends mortal man the first woman, presumably Pandora (590-93): "From her is the race of women and female kind: of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who live amongst mortal men to their great trouble, no helpmeets in hateful poverty, but only in wealth." Prometheus, meanwhile, is chained to a rock where his regenerating liver is eaten daily by a vulture. [2] Years later the Greek hero Heracles would shoot the vulture and free Prometheus from his chains.[3]

Hesiod revisits the story of Prometheus in the Works and Days (lines 42-105). Here, the poet expands upon Zeus' reaction to the theft of fire. Not only does Zeus withhold fire from men, but "the means of life," as well (42). Had Prometheus not provoked Zeus' wrath (44-47), "you would easily do work enough in a day to supply you for a full year even without working; soon would you put away your rudder over the smoke, and the fields worked by ox and sturdy mule would run to waste." Hesiod also expands upon the Theogony's story of the first woman, now explicitly called Pandora. After Prometheus' theft of fire, Zeus sent Pandora to Prometheus' brother Epimetheus. Pandora carried a jar with her, from which she released (91-92) "evils, harsh pain and troublesome diseases which give men death."[4]

Yikes!

What about Prometheus Unbound?

Hold on, what about Prometheus bound?

Prometheus Bound - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The play is composed almost entirely of speeches and contains little action since its protagonist is chained and immobile throughout. At the beginning, Kratos (Force), Bia (Violence), and Hephaestus the smith-god chain Prometheus to a mountain in the Caucasus and then depart. According to Aeschylus, Prometheus is being punished not only for stealing fire, but also for thwarting Zeus' plan to obliterate the human race. This punishment is especially galling since Prometheus was instrumental in Zeus' victory in the Titanomachy.

The Oceanids appear and attempt to comfort Prometheus by conversing with him. Prometheus cryptically tells them that he knows of a potential marriage that would lead to Zeus' downfall. Oceanus later arrives to commiserate with Prometheus, as well; he urges the Titan to make peace with Zeus, and departs. The titan next tells the chorus that the gift of fire to mankind was not his only benefaction; in the so-called Catalogue of the Arts (447-506), he reveals that he taught men all the civilizing arts, such as writing, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, metallurgy, architecture and agriculture.

Prometheus is then visited by Io, a maiden pursued by a lustful Zeus; the Olympian transformed her into a cow, and a gadfly sent by Hera has chased her all the way from Argos. The Titan forecasts her future travels, telling her that Zeus will eventually end her torment in Egypt, where she will bear a son named Epaphus. He adds that one of her descendants (an unnamed Heracles), thirteen generations hence, will release him from his own torment.

Finally, Hermes the messenger-god is sent down by the angered Zeus to demand that Prometheus tell him who threatens to overthrow him. Prometheus refuses, and Zeus strikes him with a thunderbolt that plunges Prometheus into the abyss. [1]

And Prometheus Unbound:

Prometheus Unbound - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This first Prometheus Unbound is thought to have followed Prometheus Bound in the Prometheia trilogy attributed to the 5th-century BC Greek tragedian Aeschylus; The text of the Unbound is lost to us except for eleven fragments preserved by later authors.[1] Nevertheless, these fragments, combined with prophetic statements made in the first play, allow us to reconstruct a broad outline of the play. Based upon a lengthy fragment translated into Latin by the Roman statesman Cicero, it has been argued that the play opens with Prometheus visited by a chorus of Titans. Though Zeus had imprisoned them in Tartarus at the conclusion of the Titanomachy, he has at long last granted them clemency. This perhaps foreshadows Zeus' eventual reconciliation with Prometheus in the trilogy's third installment.

Prometheus Unbound - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shelley

The second Prometheus Unbound is a four-act play by Percy Bysshe Shelley first published in 1820. It is inspired by Aeschylus's 'Prometheus Bound' and concerns Prometheus' release from captivity. However, unlike Aeschylus' version, there is no reconciliation between Prometheus and Zeus in Shelley's narrative. Instead, Jupiter (Zeus) is overthrown, which allows Prometheus to be released. Shelley's play is closet drama, meaning it was not intended to be produced on the stage. In the tradition of William Wordsworth and the other poets creating what we now call Romantic Poetry, Shelley wrote for the imagination, intending his play's stage to reside in the imaginations of his readers. Shelley wrote another play called The Cenci at almost the same time - perhaps moving from one text to the other. This other play was meant to be produced and has been done in New York[1] and elsewhere from time to time. What is remarkable about Shelley writing both plays and at the same time is that while Prometheus Unbound is an exalted, idealistic vision of a perfect bloodless revolution, The Cenci is a horror-stricken Macbeth-like drama of injustice, showing that Shelley was not naive about the realities he sought to change through his writing.

Shelley's own introduction to the play explains his intentions behind the work. He defends his choice to adapt Aeschylus' myth - his choice to have Jupiter overthrown rather than Prometheus reconciled - with:

" In truth, I was averse from a catastrophe so feeble as that of reconciling the Champion with the Oppressor of mankind. The moral interest of the fable, which is so powerfully sustained by the sufferings and endurance of Prometheus, would be annihilated if we could conceive of him as unsaying his high language and quailing before his successful and perfidious adversary. "

Shelley compares his Romantic hero Prometheus to Milton's proto-Romantic hero Satan from Paradise Lost.

" The only imaginary being, resembling in any degree Prometheus, is Satan; and Prometheus is, in my judgement, a more poetical character than Satan, because, in addition to courage, and majesty, and firm and patient opposition to omnipotent force, he is susceptible of being described as exempt from the taints of ambition, envy, revenge, and a desire for personal aggrandizement, which, in the hero of Paradise Lost, interfere with the interest.

Now, can anyone--relate to that ;)

And I was wondering, Gaianne's around, if s/he can maybe read something behind the original myth--I'm still looking forward to the diary on the ancient astronomies!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 07:27:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
</one of those evenings>

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 07:27:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry,

"And I was wondering, Gaianne's around, if you can..."

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 07:40:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To me as well it seems her comments are unambiguous:  She has learned how to move from one mind to the other at will, and sees no possible impediment for ANYONE to do the same.  

Though how shall they LEARN to do it?  

This is a really major find, rg:  

A brain-wonk doing true enlightenment.  (Not as delusion); AS enlightenment.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 12:55:06 AM EST
I think the amazing thing was that she was able to stay 'conscious' during the whole experience.

I think that is the key to do the same. From my expierence the 'easiest' way to learn that is meditation and relaxation. Though it something that needs practice, as most people (at least at the beginning) tend to fall asleep when the brain waves slow down.

Another phenomenon were I believe something similar happens is in lucid dreaming.

by Fran on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 11:49:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The first thing that came to mind when I read this was my personal experience with lucid dreaming. I've always had a rich dream life and got interested in lucid dreaming in the seventies. There was a manual out about supposed Senoi dream culture (and a badly reasoned article by Crick on why dreams should be forgotten.)

I began writing and drawing dreams every morning but it peaked with writing after each dream session. A problem I quickly encountered in writing down dreams was to differentiate "actors" within the dream as well as the dream "watcher" who could float in and out of "points of view" or "actors." By systematically writing dreams, dreaming became far richer, and lucid dreaming was fairly constant- whatever "lucid" means. I presume it means the capacity to reason within the dream and alter the dream's course at "will."

Basically "lucid" dreaming has a "watcher" who can be passive or active while other dream activity is going on.

This can spill over into the wakened state as a possibility to observe one's own thought processes or actions. I guess it's some sort of meta-thought process, such as being able to observe and then recall a sequence of thoughts and what other stimuli may have entruded during that given time span. In a certain way it reflects on the limits of language as a means of codifying sensations, the structural linearity of thought-in-tongue. Yet thinking in words at the same time has a rich latitude of meanings and associations that seem to glimmer on the surface without gaining significance in a conscious context. Dreaming on the contrary appears to exploit language's fertile ambiguities.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 07:30:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Right here right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where we are -- I am -- the life force power of the universe, and the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form. At one with all that is. Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere.

I am not sure that she meant that literary; science and meditation communities would be rocked. She would have described that not only when speaking about general peaceful coexistence.

BBC has a lecture series with Vilayanur S. Ramachandran - really fascinating. Here is an (unrelated) Youtube clip with this guy talking about split brains. (Is it the left hemisphere "religious" and right "atheist" or other way around? If you listen carefully, he is not consistent on that point.)

(Besides, there is an older BBC series, with Susan Greenfield. Here is a youtube clip.)

by das monde on Tue Mar 25th, 2008 at 06:14:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You know, I think I might want to get a copy of her book just to settle the question - or to find that she's also vague in the book on whether she's speaking metaphorically or factually.

We could also drop her an e-mail pointing her to this blog entry.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 25th, 2008 at 06:22:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is why I've been studying the brain for the last 5 years.  The damn thing is just weirdly interesting.  And the more I learn the more I know what I, and we, don't know.

As far as Left/Right hemisphere split goes, much of it is overstated.  The hemispheres are more 'unified' than split.  See Hemispheric Asymmetry by Joseph B. Hellige, Harvard U Press, ISBN 0-674-38730-9

As to the other, well, look -- neurons don't "know" anything.  They get a signal and if it is the right signal, at the right time, for the right duration, under the right circumstance, they pass it on.  If any of these are wrong, then it isn't passed on.  Damage to the corpus collosum, by definition, means something isn't right.  Either the neuron(s) are getting the Right Stuff and not passing it on when they should or they are getting the Wrong Stuff and passing it on when they shouldn't.  

The Mind arises from the brain somehow -- and nobody but nobody knows how that happens.  What we do know is a damaged brain usually causes a dysfunction in the Mind.  A dysfunction is not necessarily 'bad.'  It may be a significant change for the 'better.'  Yet this dysfunction must be viewed skeptically, especially when claims are made subjectively or purely by anecdotal evidence, the worst kind.  We have to be hard-nosed precisely BECAUSE we know so little.  

A corollary of this is, because we know so little these reports shouldn't be immediately dismissed, either.  

sigh

The only real course of action we can to help settle this is to chop her head off and dissect her brain to see what happened.  Since killing people to cut them up is contraindicated by Moral Philosophers (the sissies) fMRI investigations might show something.  There are a thundering herd of Personality Tests available from the psych crowd but unless she took one, or more, before the stroke we lack a baseline to compare against post-stroke.

sigh²

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 02:28:01 AM EST
The only real course of action we can to help settle this is to chop her head off and dissect her brain to see what happened.

I didn't get from what she said that she'd had any problem with her corpus collosum--that intrigued me simply because I'd never heard of it before (me learn slow!)--and I'd never seen how separate the two hemispheres are--I thought there was a thin membrane between the two halves across which passed information--that was my model, rather than what I (think I) saw: two separate organs joined by a bridge (like having two kidneys sort of thing--if they were communicating via a cross-connection.)

Certainly if I were a reseacher and could contact her I'd ask if we could run some tests where she could (if I've read her right, of which I'm not sure)--flip hemisphere approach (I'm assuming that she doesn't switch one off and the other on; rather, she can access data predominantly with the 'all together' right side or with the 'me and everything else' left side.)  So she should be able to score differently on the same test, maybe in three ways: more right brain, more left brain, balanced central point--I mean, if she has a meta-position she can call "I" which exists somehow beyond the left-I and the right-I, then that super-I should be able to jink around with the tests in such a way to demonstrate....that fact...

All I know about her is the video, so if anyone knows more--please post!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:06:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Information" is a loaded word.  Better to say the cc passes signals between the hemispheres.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 03:45:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, but aren't signals a form of information?  (If it contained no information could it be called a signal?)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 03:48:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, in the sense of signal processing.

You could calculate the information entropy of the signal. If it is low, it's basically noise.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 04:02:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, Shannon.

Yes.  No.  Maybe.  Perhaps.  It all depends.

LOL²

But what kind of noise?  (It comes in designer colors, you know!  :-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 04:26:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Information entropy can only be calculated with reference to a specified neutral distribution, something people are fond of omitting.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 04:29:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good point.

And that triggers a discussion of Frames of Reference.

Let's not Go There.  (I promise not to if you won't.  ;-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 04:40:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's not, though I still have to PN your comment about the logistic equation.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 04:46:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So when do I get to read the Frames of Reference diary?

The diary being the first frame of reference, or....

We act within frames of reference, and I've understood both your comments so far.  Are there some terrible equations you are both thinking of?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 07:52:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru, this is why I felt you should have written the diary.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:13:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"should" in the sense of "more intriguing for me"

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:13:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No!  No!  You have this whole other angle is what I mean, and in a diary I'd see it better, maybe.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:15:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm, you say that in response to this Shannon nonsense?

The information entropy of the signals crossing the corpus callosum seems to me a sideshow, and one I know nothing about in the first place.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 05:55:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I must have read and not understood what I was reading.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 07:44:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We can avoid discussing Frames of Reference™ by focusing on relative entropy or mutual entropy between two probability distributions.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 05:59:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't know enough about entropy to be able to contribute to a discussion.  

Perhaps kcurie will weigh in?


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 12:47:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So do I get this right:

Low(er) entropy is noise--no/low information?

So high(er) entropy is the existence of/more information?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 07:49:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gah, I got it backwards - low entropy = high information = signal; high entropy = low information = noise.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:30:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Shannon's Information Theory entropy is the smallest message that can carry a give unit of information.

See the wikipedia entry.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 12:19:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah yes, terrible (for me!) equations:



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 07:47:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a definition, not an equation.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 12:27:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The definition is an equation

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 03:22:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the equation has no information on the left hand side, and there is nothing to solve for.

That it's an equation is not your problem, your problem is it's a formula.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 03:31:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My problem is I don't understand it, except that it has an equals sign in it (I thought equation came from to equal so if there's an equals sign....heh...my lack of knowledge!)

Also, it says "Shannon's Entropy Equation" just above it.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 03:58:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Did you stop as soon as you hit the first formula?Information entropy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Information entropy is characterised by these desiderata:
If you like, every time you see a formula read it aloud as "wowowowowowow" and say to yourself "oh my god, that sounds like a golden retriever". And move on. Don't let the fact that you don't understand one formula stop you fron reading what comes after.

Example: in

Maximum
The measure should be maximal if all the outcomes are equally likely (uncertainty is highest when all possible events are equiprobable).

Hn(p1, ..., pn) ≤ Hn(1/n, ..., 1/n)

the formula Hn(p1, ..., pn) ≤ Hn(1/n, ..., 1/n) is shorthand for The measure should be maximal if all the outcomes are equally likely (uncertainty is highest when all possible events are equiprobable). So there is no information lost by not reading the formula.

There is only loss of information when the formulas are strung together in a derivation where each formula implies the next. there is nothing of the sort in this particular wikipedia article (which is rather bad, IMHO).

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 25th, 2008 at 06:10:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the question I've spent 35 years trying to answer and here is the results of my labors:

Yes.  No.  Maybe.  Perhaps.  It all depends.

LOL


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 04:02:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thank you for another interesting diary. Taylor's experience reminded my of a interview with Ram Dass, former Richard Alpert - talking about how he experienced his stroke. Unfortunately it was in a magazine and I can't find the article anymore. The best I could find so far with google is the follwing:

Conscious Choice: Ram Dass: Slower Mind, Deeper Wisdom

VL: In your latest book Still Here, you say that you are happier since your stroke in 1997. Why is this?

RD: It's a comfortable role. The wheelchair gives me a great seat every place I go. I'm dealing with the fact that my body is old. The stroke brought me to my appreciation for this place of existence. I had always been busy living in other spiritual planes and never really acknowledged my body. But the stroke said, "It's time."

VL: Didn't you have your stroke right when you had finished the first draft of your manuscript for Still Here?

RD: That's right. I thought my leg had collapsed underneath me just because I was thinking about what it means to be an old person. Somehow I thought my mind had created the whole experience for me. Of course I didn't realize that the stroke had happened. I couldn't quite distinguish which reality the collapsing leg had happened in.

VL: Were you afraid at all?

RD: No.

VL: How has having a stroke altered your perception of life?

RD: It brings the notion of illness down to size. Because I had a stroke, control of the muscles in my arm has gone. So if you look at me as a man who's had a stroke, that's one perception. But if you look at me as a soul, that is a completely different perception.

But I can say that the stroke has brought me closer to my guru. At first, when I came to and people told me I was a stroke victim, I thought that my guru must have gone out to lunch. Then I started talking to him about my feeling that he had abandoned me and found that those conversations increased my faith. He had been giving me faith all the time, but I wasn't experiencing it. Ironically, the experience of faith is reliant on your faith. What occurred to me is that I didn't have the faith to be able to handle the stroke. As I went deeper and deeper and deeper into my faith, I came out to a place where the stroke doesn't matter.

by Fran on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 03:15:40 AM EST
Found another one:

Stroke of Wisdom

Lying there in the dark, I wondered why what I'd written seemed so incomplete, not quite rounded, grounded, or whole. I tried to imagine what life would be like if I were very old -- not an active person of sixty-five, traveling the world incessantly as a teacher and speaker, caught up in my public role -- but as someone of ninety, say, with failing sight and failing limbs. I fantasized how that old man would think, how he'd move and speak and hear, what desires he might have as he slowly surveyed the world. I was trying to feel my way into oldness. I was thoroughly enjoying this fantasy when the phone rang. In the process of my fantasy, I'd noticed that my leg seemed to have fallen asleep. As I got up to answer the phone, my leg gave way under me and I fell to the floor. In my mind, the fall was still part of my "old-man fantasy." I didn't realize that my leg was no longer working because I'd had a stroke.
by Fran on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 03:37:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bob's visits to Tanzania suddenly came to mind.  That the kids need to believe in something, to have some model of the world they can attach hopes to and get some chance of having them realised--positive reinforcement....but it seems that humans can positively reinforce to negative models, accept that life is X, Y, Z as proposed by the model and then live within the possible pleasures and pains of the model...

I dunno, they're just words.  For me, "faith" is an obstacle course while "belief" is a (de)motivating force--that faith is not a force, it's a mindset, a belief...that the right thought pattern will change the external reality; while belief--can generate that world view, but it also generates others, I'm thinking of the...eight basic scripts.

I'm fumbling around--it's just the word "faith"--is one of those ET ALARM words, so I thought I'd pull it out and...say what I thought about it.  Hope that's okay!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:10:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight
Also, a person in this state is not likely to solve problems of the world such as disease no matter how willing one is because solving problems requires insight from realistic analysis of the past and prediction of consequences, a left brain skill. And how likely are people in this state to be motivated to do physical labor such as farming or building structures for shelter, unless they are forced by others who are not in a right-brained perception only state?

Looking at today's state of the world, I wonder if the left brain skill is so great? I guess we would have to define first what realistic analysis is. More and more I have the feeling many of our current problems evolve from so called realistic analysis. :-)

by Fran on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 03:46:05 AM EST
We may even be using the left brain to be more stupid - anything can be rationalized! Especially with the ego sitting in the left hemisphere... The modern age provokes the "rational" ego-thinking too readily.

Common stories of near-death wholistic experiences seem to indicate that the left hemisphere is switched off earlier; or does this mean that only the cases with left hemisphere still alive have good chances to return?

The picture of parallel sensory processing and sequential filtering makes sense. The wholistic view emerges as a sensory model of the world - only later the "self" and "other" senses are differentiated.

by das monde on Tue Mar 25th, 2008 at 06:31:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't want to dismiss anyone's subjective experience, and I do realise that left brain-logical, right-brain-creative was a metaphor that seemed to fit the observable facts for a very long time.

However, I thought neuroscientists had demonstrated fairly clearly that
it's a bit more complicated than that.

What's more, I'm struggling to understand the alleged totality of Jill Bolte-Taylor's either/or situation.

Presumably, when she's in her euphoric right hemisphere state, something has got to make the rational decision to bring her back to eat?

My own subjective experience is that there's rather a lot of co-processing in the two "halves" of my brain.

Look at the picture below. In which direction is the figure turning?

See what it's supposed to say about your hemispheric bias here

In my case, the figure regularly switches between clockwise and anti-clockwise motion.  In fact, I've had it open in the preview box while typing, and I'm now feeling distinctly sick.

I think there's a clockwise bias, but as soon as I consider measuring it, it goes the other way  ;)

by Sassafras on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 07:16:48 AM EST
heh...a while back we had a long discussion here about that picture.

What is intriguing for me about her situation is that the blood clot happened in the left hemisphere, steadily knocking out its functionality so she got an extreme case of "what if there is only the right hemisphere?"  Normally there will be information moving between the two, so balance might be defined as effective communication between--across--hemispheres.

A good comparison would be if there were a self-account of the opposite: a blood clot occurring in the right brain, to compare extremes.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 07:58:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be more persuasive if interlocking accounts came from people who hadn't been exposed to the left-brain/right-brain idea.

We know that the brain makes things up when faced with a narrative gap.

Obviously, she had no way of knowing at the time that the clot was in her left hemisphere.  But we have no way of knowing that she really experienced what she thinks she did.

That's not to say I don't believe her.  I'd just rather the experience was recounted by someone whose expectations it didn't fulfill.

by Sassafras on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:42:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sassafras:
Obviously, she had no way of knowing at the time that the clot was in her left hemisphere.
Oh, yes, her right arm went limp.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:55:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent point.  So she did know.

I'm not looking for reasons to dismiss her testimony.  Just sounding a note of caution.

by Sassafras on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 09:09:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe.

The same symptom will arise from damage to the pons, cerebellum, or upper spinal cord at the C1 - C3 areas.

Or some combination of these.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 03:53:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just to clarify that they did discover the physical cause of her symptoms:

TED | TEDBlog: Stroke of insight: Jill Bolte Taylor on TED.com

Two and a half weeks after the hemorrhage, the surgeons went in and they removed a blood clot the size of a golf ball that was pushing on my language centers.


Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 07:52:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The brain can do an awful lot of things. Could it tell the right arm to go limp ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 01:25:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Worse than that, the mind can tell the right arm to go limp.  That's what psycho-somatic illnesses are, after all.

Tho' some people claim there is a physical cause of such and we don't know enough to be able to figure it out.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 04:32:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, actually, she describes the moment when she realized she was having a stroke (when her arm went limp) in this way:

And in that moment my right arm went totally paralyzed by my side. And I realized, "Oh my gosh! I'm having a stroke! I'm having a stroke!" And the next thing my brain says to me is, "Wow! This is so cool. This is so cool. How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out?"

And then it crosses my mind: "But I'm a very busy woman. I don't have time for a stroke!" So I'm like, "OK, I can't stop the stroke from happening so I'll do this for a week or two, and then I'll get back to my routine, OK."

She thought it was cool that she could observe her own brain as it was having a stroke. So we can give her the benefit of the doubt and believe the she was acting in the tradition of many scientists that went before who conducted experiments on themselves.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 10:02:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It might be informative to see FMRI data corresponding to what she thinks of as hemisphere shifts.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 04:11:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
JBT doesn't speak of logical vs. creative, but of sequential vs. parallel. Sequential processing requires focusing attention, and yout link from rense.com says'Right Brain' or 'Left Brain' - Myth Or Reality?
The left brain, they reckoned, focused on detail. This would make it the natural home for all those mental skills that need us to act in a series of discrete steps or fix on a particular fragment of what we perceive--skills such as recognising a friend's face in a crowd or "lining up" words to make a sentence.
 
By contrast, the right brain concentrated on the broad, background picture. The researchers believed it had a panoramic focus that made it good at seeing general connections; this hemisphere was best able to represent the relative position of objects in space and to handle the emotional and metaphorical aspects of speech. So, in a neat and complementary division of labour, one side of the brain thought and saw in wide-angle while the other zoomed in on the detail.
So, no contradiction there.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:31:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but if you read all the way to the end, it also refers to instances where the "wrong" bit of the brain lights up.

Like I said, it's a bit more complicated.

It would be really interesting to know how those cognitive tests would work out with JBT in the scanner...now, and at the time of maximum damage.

by Sassafras on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:55:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, I see it turning clockwise.  She is going backwards, very natural.  (Counterclockwise would be forward right?)  So I am using the "right" (parallel processing) brain.  

So I am reading the article, to see what it says about all this, and she SWITCHES DIRECTION.  According to the article, I am now "left brain" oriented.  (She is STILL going backward though; somehow her body has done a mirror reversal.)

I quit reading.  She switches again, returning to clockwise.  Supposedly I am (again) "right brain."  

It is as though they have got it right.  Very curious.  But why should the different brains have different preferred directions?  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 01:11:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aha! I just found a way to make the perceived direction switch (for me) -- shift gaze to place the image far into peripheral vision, reach for a perception of the resulting blur as oscillation in a plane, then reversed rotation, then gaze directly again. ("Reach for a perception"?) I can't switch my perception while gazing directly, at least not in a short time.

Your experience while typing with the image peripherally visible sounds similar.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 04:26:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The fun thing is to get her to sway back and forth without turning her back on you.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 07:42:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight

She makes an intriguing (for me) statement at the end:

So who are we? We are the life force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where we are -- I am -- the life force power of the universe, and the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form. At one with all that is. Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere. where I become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the "we" inside of me.
My emphases--because as I read it she means that following her experiences she can now switch hemispheres at will.

Maybe I'm reading her wrong.

That's what I would like to know, too. Is she being metaphorical or literal, here?

Of course, if she spent 8 years of her life rebuilding her left hemisphere, she might have just acquired that ability.

What I find intriguing about all this is the possibility (none of this is implied by JBT: it's my own guesses) that

  1. this is what meditation is about: learning to quieten the "inner chatter" in your brain as a way to temporarily wind down the left hemisphere;
  2. this is what psychotropic substances such as LSD are all about

Note that for a few hours from the start of her stroke she was still conscious, aware of herself and of her surroundings, but in an altered state of consciousness. In a way, whatever she experienced in that state was real - same sensory input, different mental construction. This is not the same as being asleep or unconscious where presumably sensory inputs are cut off. As an analogy, if you close your eyes you can probably see patterns even though there is no external stimulus the visual cortex (includes the retina) still produces perception. This is quite different from altered perceptions of stimuli. Unfortunately, we have only one word, phosphenes to describe both nonvisual stimulation of the retina and random viring of visual cortex neurons, and this doesn't cover what one could call "altered states of vision".

So, this brings up the question of what is the nature of reality.

All very Kantian, IMHO (see also my comment in a parallel thread about time and space as external a-priori forms).

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 05:03:42 PM EST
Ah, found it. Distinct from phosphenes is Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder
Although certain visual aberrations can occur periodically in healthy individuals - e.g. afterimages after staring at a light, noticing the floaters that lay atop the surface of the eye, or seeing specks of light in a darkened room - the difference is a matter of degree. HPPD induces a hyper-sensitivity to ordinary visual phenomena that would otherwise be negligible in their strength. The disorder is thus capable of transforming mundane perceptual effects into a source of distress. In this respect, HPPD can be considered a "disinhibition of visual processing"(Psychedelic Drugs, Abraham, et al, pg. 1548). Yet it is important to emphasize that HPPD is chiefly responsible for creating new disturbances, rather than merely exacerbating those already in existence. It also should be noted that the visuals do not constitute hallucinations in the clinical sense of the word; people with HPPD recognize the visuals to be illusory and thus demonstrate no inability to determine what is real (in contrast to Schizophrenia and other disorders that are known for serious changes in perception).


It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 05:09:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
My emphases--because as I read it she means that following her experiences she can now switch hemispheres at will.

I understood the same thing.

Migeru:

So, this brings up the question of what is the nature of reality.

Who's reality - because isn't our reality colored by our concepts of reality, past experiences, expectations, etc.?

by Fran on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 05:11:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the nature of reality is that it is whose reality, that's a partial answer to the question, isn't it?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 05:13:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that's definitely what the press release for her book claims:
Based upon her academic training and personal experience, Jill helps others not only rebuild their brains from trauma, but helps those of us with normal brains better understand how we can `tend the garden of our minds' to maximize our quality of life.  Jill pushes the envelope in our understanding about how we can consciously influence the neural circuitry underlying what we think, how we feel, and how we react to life's circumstances.  Jill teaches us through her own example how we might more readily exercise our own right hemispheric circuitry with the intention of helping all human beings become more humane.  "I believe the more time we spend running our deep inner peace circuitry, then the more peace we will project into the world, and ultimately the more peace we will have on the planet."
(my emphasis)

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 05:35:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be very useful, I think, if there's anyone reading this who has these kinds of contacts, to get her into a brain-scanning machine (a non dangerous one--I'm sure they're all non-dangerous!), then run some questions by her, ideally I'd have Fran ask her questions--maybe use the person who's going to take the readings to be the control, and one other--an undergraduate in neuroscience who is only told "You'll be asked some questions"--

to see if she really can flip those switches such that the change in brain activity can be noted--

But why?  Because as ATinNM wrote, there are disorders of the brain--which are distressing to the individuals maybe, or just plain confusing to everyone involved--so visual evidence of the ability to switch from left to right at will--

I can imagine clinical trials, esp. with...I dunno, science has its ways and pharmaceutical companies employ people--

But as a science project, as a brian scientist I'm sure she'd be interested.

In fact, I'd put it the other way and say if she isn't involved in these researches--

If she hasn't been asked--what an excellent research opportunity!

If she's been asked and said no--why would she say no?

And...the bell of caution (the electrons ring--like bells!)...

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:27:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As an addition to my fantasy research proposal I would ask her to try some of the classic taste, smell, sight, memory, touch, sound, etc. tests;

see what's firing in there--see if any useful data might be collected?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:32:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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