Have you ever noticed that some people are so complex, everything seems like a challenge to them? Each day is a contest, how can I make each molehill a mountain, what can I do today that will really screw it up? On the other hand, others seem so simple in their approach to life, every tin can turns into gold, water always flows away from them; life is a breeze. While there are some genetic factors at play, mostly it's a case of non-conscious memory construction, based on life experience . . .
Apart from demonstrating how amazing the human brain is, it was difficult to extrapolate something useful to illustrate how equally amazing hypnosis is. Of course, one of the main amazing things that are oft-stated is, the huge number of neurons, in this instance, 86 billion. Although it never fails to amaze me why they do not mention glial cells, e.g.radial glia, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia because without these, the brain simply would not function and scientists are becoming increasingly interested in them. Although, it's not just the lack of a mention that puzzles me but rather, what role they are playing in the processes that are being studied?
Anyway, of interest to me in this study, begins to emerge in para 8, the cost, to us and our survival, that we could pay, if we were to be more precise. Preciseness is achieved as a consequence of increasing levels of complexity but the benefit of that is better accuracy! So, relating this to humans, it is very obvious that people who are stressed, anxious or have self-confidence or self-esteem issues simplicity of outcome (in the short term), is preferable to accuracy. The ideal phrase to demonstrate this is, shoot first, ask questions later. When this amazing piece of equipment is scanning its local environment it uses 6 essential tools, sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and memory. The last of these, memory, is perhaps the most important in terms of survival because what memory actually is, from a survival perspective, is an algorithmic shortcut early warning system. For sure memory, as a whole, is incredibly quick but emotional (implicit/automatic) memory is, very incredibly, quicker. Ans, in life and death situations, we are talking in terms 30 to 40 milliseconds as opposed to 300 to 500 milliseconds for normal non-voluntary movement, e.g. raising your hand to your mouth when sneezing or scratching an itch.
Most of our behaviour is a consequence of memory and many of the memories we have adopted are not specifically our own, but, rather borrowed or acquired from others, often the most influential people we were exposed to in the early developing years of life. Perhaps the most demonstrable of those being language! We not only talk the same language as our parent's but we emulate their accent (or the subtle nuance of both), phrases and often the behavioural traits that go with them. As an example, if one parent is mostly well mannered, calm and quick-witted but, when frustrated or angered becomes loud, abusive and aggressive we may well follow that lead. However, if the other parent is mostly logical, rational and, relatively calm, even in the face of their partner's emotional outbursts, it is the observable benefits, of either or both, that will shape our memory of language. Although what I am really aiming at here, is the way our emotional language is developed and stored in memory.
A certain amount of the way we learn a language does not come into play until we reach the middle and later stages of adolescence. This is the point in life when we are more cognitively aware of the way life appears to happen and it is no coincidence that this is also the part of life when we either grow closer to or further from our parents; often affectionately called the terrible teens! In some sense, what is happening is that a lot of our childhood memories are being slowly and progressively updated. Trauma can occur when this process is neither slow or progressive but rather quick or even instant. Language is the interface between cognition and emotion, this is easily evidenced by the outcome of you saying something nice or complimentary to someone, as opposed to something mean or nasty. It is the way our brain interprets the meaning or intent of what is said that brings about the resultant emotion. As a generalisation, people with emotional issues, poor self-esteem, low self-worth/respect, rarely speak to themselves in a good way. They seldom talk well of others, especially if they are comparing someone else to themselves, sometimes the only way to make us feel good, is to talk ill of another person, in comparison to them; I'm not too bad! Of course, when we say "not too bad," we are talking purely in terms of levels of badness; not goodness!
So, in my hypnotherapy practice, I focus on the holistic self, not just the supposed ubiquitous structure of "the mind!" We are a consequence of the memories of our life, as it unfolded, the experiences we had and how our brain encoded them into memory and how we treat that compilation of experience in a way we call "me!" So, the really empowering message I like to give to clients, is, we don't have to change you or your past, all we have to change is the way your brain interprets life as a corollary of those experiences and their memories! The holistic self is everything about us, what we eat, how we behave, how we think and, not unsurprisingly, there are usually very close links to all three of those aspects of ourself. Change one and it has the potential to influence another, the domino effect!
Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is, especially in its ability to promote clear thinking and good states of mental wellness. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of too much stress, too little or poor quality sleep and too little by way of mental and emotional clarity! So, to get or take back control of your mind and your life, it makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious brain's role in perpetuating negative, vague and ambiguous states of mind. Hypnosis helps us to create calm relaxing states of mind that make life work better! If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want the ability to make your life feel better, then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life!
My objective is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into emotional experiences that may actually be happening but for reasons, we may never have imagined! If you want to know more about Hypnotherapy, why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?
The human brain is a highly advanced information processor composed of more than 86 billion neurons. Humans are adept at recognizing patterns from complex networks, such as languages, without any formal instruction. Previously, cognitive scientists tried to explain this ability by depicting the brain as a highly optimized computer, but there is now discussion among neuroscientists that this model might not accurately reflect how the brain works.
Now, Penn researchers have developed a different model for how the brain interprets patterns from complex networks. Published in Nature Communications, this new model shows that the ability to detect patterns stems in part from the brain's goal to represent things in the simplest way possible. Their model depicts the brain as constantly balancing accuracy with simplicity when making decisions. The work was conducted by physics PhD student Christopher Lynn, neuroscience PhD student Ari Kahn, and professor Danielle Bassett.
This new model is built upon the idea that people make mistakes while trying to make sense of patterns, and these errors are essential to get a glimpse of the bigger picture. "If you look at a pointillist painting up close, you can correctly identify every dot. If you step back 20 feet, the details get fuzzy, but you'll gain a better sense of the overall structure," says Lynn.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers ran a set of experiments similar to a previous study by Kahn. That study found that when participants were shown repeating elements in a sequence, such as A-B-C-B, etc., they were automatically sensitive to certain patterns without being explicitly aware that the patterns existed. "If you experience a sequence of information, such as listening to speech, you can pick up on certain statistics between elements without being aware of what those statistics are," says Kahn.
To understand how the brain automatically understands such complex associations within sequences, 360 study participants were shown a computer screen with five grey squares corresponding to five keys on a keyboard. As two of the five squares changed from grey to red, the participants had to strike the computer keys that corresponded to the changing squares. For the participants, the pattern of colour-changing squares was random, but the sequences were actually generated using two kinds of networks.
The researchers found that the structure of the network impacted how quickly the participants could respond to the stimuli, an indication of their expectations of the underlying patterns. Responses were quicker when participants were shown sequences that were generated using a modular network compared to sequences coming from a lattice network.
While these two types of networks look different to the human eye at a large scale, they are actually statistically identical to one another at small scales. There is the same number of connections between the nodes and edges, even though the overall shape is different. "A computer would not care about this difference in large-scale structure, but it's being picked up by the brain. Subjects could better understand the modular network's underlying structure and anticipate the upcoming image," says Lynn.
Using tools from information theory and reinforcement learning, the researchers were able to use this data to implement a metric of complexity called entropy. "Being very random is the least complex thing you could do, whereas if you were learning the sequence very precisely, that's the most complex thing you can do. The balance between errors and complexity, or negative entropy, gives rise to the predictions that the model gives," says Lynn.
Their resulting model of how the brain processes information depicts the brain as balancing two opposing pressures: complexity versus accuracy. "You can be very complex and learn well, but then you are working really hard to learn patterns," says Lynn. "Or, you have a lower complexity process, which is easier, but you are not going to learn the patterns as well."
With their new model, the researchers were also able to quantify this balance using a parameter beta. If beta is zero, the brain makes a lot of errors but minimizes complexity. If beta is high, then the brain is taking precautions to avoid making errors. "All beta does is tune between which is dominating," says Lynn. In this study, 20% of the participants had a small beta, 10% had high beta values, and the remaining 70% were somewhere in between. "You do see this widespread of beta values across people," he says.
Kahn says that this idea of balancing forces wasn't surprising, given the huge amount of information the brain has to process under a limited amount of resources and without spending too much time on simple decisions. "The brain is already using up a huge amount of metabolic costs, so you really want to maximize what you are getting out," he says. "If you think about something as basic as attention, there is an inherent trade-off in maximizing accuracy versus everything else you are ignoring."
And what about the role of making mistakes? Their model provides support for the idea that the human brain isn't an optimal learning machine but rather that making mistakes, and learning from them, plays a huge role in behaviour and cognition. It seems that being able to look at complex systems more broadly, like stepping away from a pointillist painting, gives the brain a better idea of overall relationships.
"Understanding structure, or how these elements relate to one another, can emerge from an imperfect encoding of the information. If someone were perfectly able to encode all of the incoming information, they wouldn't necessarily understand the same kind of grouping of experiences that they do if there's a little bit of fuzziness to it," says Kahn.
"The coolest thing is that errors in how people are learning and perceiving the world are influencing our ability to learn structures. So we are very much divorced from how a computer would act," says Lynn.
The researchers are now interested in what makes the modular network easier for the brain to interpret and are also conducting functional MRI studies to understand where in the brain these network associations are being formed. They are also curious as to whether people's balance of complexity and accuracy is fluid, whether people can change on their own or if they are "set," and also hope to do experiments using language inputs sometime in the future.
"After better understanding how healthy adult humans build these network models of our world, we are excited to turn to the study of psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia in which patients build inaccurate or otherwise altered models of their worlds," says Bassett. "Our initial work paves the way for new efforts in the emerging field of computational psychiatry."
This research was primarily supported by the U.S. Army Research Office through Grant DCIST- W911NF-17-2-0181 and National Science Foundation through Grant NSF PHY-1554488.
- Christopher W. Lynn, Ari E. Kahn, Nathaniel Nyema, Danielle S. Bassett. Abstract representations of events arise from mental errors in learning and memory. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-15146-7
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