Is brain hard wired?

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
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gavesako
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Re: Is brain hard wired?

Postby gavesako » Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:09 pm

You haven't read Buddha's Brain (a bestseller in America)?
:rolleye:

Review - Buddha's Brain
The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom
by Rick Hanson


Some chapters are excellently researched and full of useful instructions for meditative practices, while are others are repetitive, contradictory, devoid of supporting research and dotted with apparent attempts to pass off personal speculation as scientific consensus. The chapters are summarized below, and are followed by a more detailed discussion of two problems that I see in the book: a tension between traditional Western and Buddhist values that sometimes spills over into outright contradiction and sloppy use of research after the initial section.

Buddha's Brain starts off with an introductory chapter that outlines the format and the purpose of the book, which is to inform the reader about scientific findings that support the idea that progressing along a "path of awakening" (9) can help them improve their brain and "become happier and more effective in daily life" (8). The rest of the book is divided into four parts: the causes of suffering, happiness, love, and wisdom.

Chapter thirteen advises us to relax 'the self', especially considering that the self is just an illusion. by discussing research into the neuronal constituents of 'the self' in a very illuminating manner, this chapter persuasively argues that what we think of as our self is really just a story pieced together by our brain to make sense of the great swath of experiences that our brains have remembered. Again, this chapter is very contradictory, but at least Hanson admits it (217). And, in further defense of Hanson on this point, it is very hard to discuss the idea that we have no 'self' using Western language without being contradictory ('I think that I have no self' does not make sense on any normal reading because in Western Parlance 'I' refers to the self).

The second major problem I have with this book is the haphazard way that research is used. The first section of the book, and a few other subsections, contain lots of relevant research. Unfortunately, though, most of the book contains claims that are not fully supported by the reference given or, more commonly, are not supported by research at all (in some cases this even occurs when relevant research has been conducted). Of the many authoritatively stated but unsupported claims, one example is on page 187, where Hanson claims that you can quieten your mind (the random thoughts that pop into your head) by using "the power of prefrontal intention". The claim is not explained, let alone supported by the results of any kind of test. In the same chapter Hanson presents the speculative theory of another researcher as if it were an uncontroversial fact – that "the brain will sometimes start to hallucinate imagery just to have new information to process" (179 – my emphasis added). Finally, an example of Hanson not citing research for his claims despite that research being readily available can be found in chapter four; Hanson claims that actively thinking about the good things that happened to you each day can help you become happier, but doesn't refer to research by positive psychologist Martin Seligman and his colleagues that provides fairly rigorous support for this claim. This sloppy application of research would normally be forgiven in a self-help book, but this particular book claims to be using the latest in science to inform practical methods for becoming happier, rather than relying on speculation and persuasive language.

http://metapsychology.mentalhelp.net/po ... 443&cn=396
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Javi
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Re: Is brain hard wired?

Postby Javi » Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:07 pm

Hi Bhante

I would also recommend a recent book by Owen Flanagan called "The Bodhisattva's Brain: Buddhism naturalized"
http://www.amazon.com/Bodhisattvas-Brai ... 0262016044

The podcast 'The partially examined life' did an interview with the author which can be seen here
http://www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/20 ... -flanagan/
Non qui parum habet sed qui plus cupit pauper est.
It's not he who has little, but he who craves more, that is poor. - Seneca

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manas
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Re: Is brain hard wired?

Postby manas » Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:41 am

DAWN wrote:
manas wrote:
DAWN wrote:...
Because as Buddha say in forth jhana breathing and body disapear, it means that there is cessetion of brainstem activity.
...


Hi Dawn,

I've read in sutta that in the fourth jhana, the body is completely permeated by a 'clear, bright awareness', but not that breathing and/or the body 'disappear'. Anyway we could discuss this elsewhere as it's not the current topic, but I think you might want to rephrase that, it could (unintentionally) lead to a misunderstanding in someone.

metta


Thanks you for this clairification :anjali:

Actualy i dont know realy if it's in 4 jhan or less or more that breath with body disapear, but there was a topic, if i remember "Breath in jhana", where there is some suttas wich say that there is cessetion of breathing in 4 jhana. So i said 4 jhana :spy: But it may be an another jhana, i dont know, IMO i think it's a subject to claining all these levels of jhana etc. :thinking:
So actualy i dont know. :?

PS : The 'clear, bright awareness' wich permeated whoole body is not avalable until 1 jhana? :thinking:


Hi Dawn,

this is a very involved subject matter, and this isn't the right place to go into it too deeply (would go off-topic). I just need to say here that I am just a student of the jhanas, like I suspect most people here are. I haven't even mastered the first one, what to speak of all four. So I am eager to learn just as you may be. If you can find the sutta where cessation of body-consciousness in fourth jhana is mentioned, I would be glad to look at it, because I do not recall this in the readings I have done.

More another time, and in another forum. And my apologies if I came across as though I know alot about this subject matter, I don't, and I did not mean it to sound like that! Just that, by a combination of studying various suttas where jhana (and mindfulness of the body) is discussed, plus comparing the texts, plus my own modest experience thus far, I am getting the impression that we are not meant to abandon the body in the rupa-jhanas, but rather to be fully present with the body-mind complex - in a very special way, of course - so that we can see it as it really is, and gain insights into it's impermanent, unsatisfactory and self-less nature.

with metta,
manas. :anjali:

danieLion
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Re: Is brain hard wired?

Postby danieLion » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:53 am

gavesako wrote:You haven't read Buddha's Brain (a bestseller in America)?
:rolleye:

Review - Buddha's Brain
The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom
by Rick Hanson


Some chapters are excellently researched and full of useful instructions for meditative practices, while are others are repetitive, contradictory, devoid of supporting research and dotted with apparent attempts to pass off personal speculation as scientific consensus. The chapters are summarized below, and are followed by a more detailed discussion of two problems that I see in the book: a tension between traditional Western and Buddhist values that sometimes spills over into outright contradiction and sloppy use of research after the initial section.

Buddha's Brain starts off with an introductory chapter that outlines the format and the purpose of the book, which is to inform the reader about scientific findings that support the idea that progressing along a "path of awakening" (9) can help them improve their brain and "become happier and more effective in daily life" (8). The rest of the book is divided into four parts: the causes of suffering, happiness, love, and wisdom.

Chapter thirteen advises us to relax 'the self', especially considering that the self is just an illusion. by discussing research into the neuronal constituents of 'the self' in a very illuminating manner, this chapter persuasively argues that what we think of as our self is really just a story pieced together by our brain to make sense of the great swath of experiences that our brains have remembered. Again, this chapter is very contradictory, but at least Hanson admits it (217). And, in further defense of Hanson on this point, it is very hard to discuss the idea that we have no 'self' using Western language without being contradictory ('I think that I have no self' does not make sense on any normal reading because in Western Parlance 'I' refers to the self).

The second major problem I have with this book is the haphazard way that research is used. The first section of the book, and a few other subsections, contain lots of relevant research. Unfortunately, though, most of the book contains claims that are not fully supported by the reference given or, more commonly, are not supported by research at all (in some cases this even occurs when relevant research has been conducted). Of the many authoritatively stated but unsupported claims, one example is on page 187, where Hanson claims that you can quieten your mind (the random thoughts that pop into your head) by using "the power of prefrontal intention". The claim is not explained, let alone supported by the results of any kind of test. In the same chapter Hanson presents the speculative theory of another researcher as if it were an uncontroversial fact – that "the brain will sometimes start to hallucinate imagery just to have new information to process" (179 – my emphasis added). Finally, an example of Hanson not citing research for his claims despite that research being readily available can be found in chapter four; Hanson claims that actively thinking about the good things that happened to you each day can help you become happier, but doesn't refer to research by positive psychologist Martin Seligman and his colleagues that provides fairly rigorous support for this claim. This sloppy application of research would normally be forgiven in a self-help book, but this particular book claims to be using the latest in science to inform practical methods for becoming happier, rather than relying on speculation and persuasive language.

http://metapsychology.mentalhelp.net/po ... 443&cn=396

Good critique. I found the book too elementary.
Daniel J. Siegel's books The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being and Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation are a little more useful. And here's a link to his Mindsight and Interpersonal Neurobiology work. I also found Gerald Huther's The Compassionate Brain useful.

This field is kind of a dead end, though--like the Neuron Doctrine.

KennC
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Re: Is brain hard wired?

Postby KennC » Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:44 am

A reseach by Eileen Luders, an assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, and colleagues, have found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (“folding” of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate. Further, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, possibly providing further proof of the brain’s neuroplasticity, or ability to adapt to environmental changes. http://www.buddhastation.com/articles/evidence-builds-that-meditation-strengthens-the-brain/

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Re: Is brain hard wired?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Dec 18, 2012 11:11 pm

vinodh wrote:
danieLion wrote:If the brain's hard-wired then all I need to fix it when it breaks is a screw driver and some duct tape, right?


How can you forgot Lobotomy which can re-wire and fix all our brains :thinking:

V



Except that lobotomy, and most/all current anti-depressants are still too imprecise to alter the mind in a RIGHT way. They are still like throwing a grenade trying to kill a fly.
"dust to dust...."


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