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Everything posted by PhDwannabe

  1. To echo what Psycho said: exactly. Might omega-3s be important for neurological health in the long-term? Yes. I'd even be willing to go with probably. Does that mean they'll make you smarter? A thousand times no. There is a gulf between those two assertions you'd need a jet airliner to get across.
  2. Indeed, anyone will be able to find a "study"--or even several of them--that shows some positive neurological benefit of these and many other substances. The problem is that stuff that doesn't work shows up efficacious in studies all the time. That's why we keep doing them. The problem is that you have to know a lot about the area to carefully critique a study's methods and the limitations on its findings. It's the body of literature that counts, and its context in the larger trend of science in the area. And the body of literature does not currently say that B vitamins, or ginko, or omega-3s are going to make you noticeably smarter.
  3. I'm sure you have. So have I. But because I'm in the psych field, and to some extent know the research, and get to hang around smart people who are part of the field and know the state of the field, I can speak to the scientific status of those things with at least some authority. Can "memory" be "improved?" Of course it can. With tricks. That's how people memorize thousands of digits of pi, or incredible amounts of holy books: tricks. They're not difficult to come by, not difficult to learn. But that's somewhat distinct from what he's asking.
  4. It might not be exactly what you're looking for, but I love this cool little review article; it's a discussion of how and why cold-turkey is still the most efficacious quit method. I think you'll find some items of interest there.
  5. Psycho is right in his characterization of the relatively dim understanding we have of these processes. Essentially, our ability to add function to already-functioning brains is almost zero. The research is there, but it's pretty paper-thin at this point. There is simply not enough to go on yet. There is nowhere trustworthy I can direct you to, and you're right to smell a gimmick--right now, it's just about 100% gimmick. Give it a few decades. Sorry to be the bringer of bad news.
  6. This is not really an account of the neurophysiology of anxiety that really adds anything to a discussion. We don't explain anything about anxiety by just saying that there are catecholamines involved. This is not really a helpful analogy. And this, finally, this is a homoncular view of consciousness and cognition which has more or less been pretty easily disproven at least since the early critics of Descartes.
  7. It's most helpful if people read previous posts so as not to repeat, without substantial addition or variation, the thoughts of others already expressed earlier in a thread.
  8. 1. Yes. 2. I have no data on which to answer, but I lean towards "no, not quite."
  9. William James was no slouch--I have a professor fond of saying that, in a century of experimental social and behavioral science, we really haven't killed a single one of his major hypotheses. If you read the passage, though, he's not really raising the possibility, he's trashing an idea he regards as so silly--phosphorus is a "though chemical"--that he simply refers to it as an error. And why would you say there's no way of testing it. James describes, in the passage which you just linked us to, exactly how one might test it! At any rate, it's a bit insane to imagine a single chemical "responsible for consciousness." Consciousness is the activity of the brain, an epiphenomenon of its various doings. All of its chemicals are "responsible for consciousness." It's like imagining that there's a chemical responsible for the throwing motion of my arm. Everything that comprises the structure of my arm is responsible. And why on earth would more of such a chemical, if things were so simplistic that something like it actually existed, result in higher intelligence? Consciousness is not intelligence. More consciousness is not higher intelligence. Those two things are decidedly not the same thing, at all.
  10. You mean, why is it this way? It is that way because it is that way--the brain is set up to acquire information with great rapidity in childhood. We could talk about all of the evolutionary, distal causes for that, which are somewhat well-known. But as for the proximal, mechanical causes, well, that's something any neuroscientist would step over grandma to figure out. Take language acquisition: through a neurocognitive process called "fast mapping" (it's actually just one major hypothesis of how things work), toddlers acquire dozens (some people say hundreds) of new words or concepts daily, sometimes with just a single or double exposure. It's absolutely astounding. If we knew exactly how it worked, we might be able to go a long way towards replicating it, and your high school French class would take about a week to finish. Simple answer: we don't know how it works. Couple of Nobel Prizes in store for the folks who figure it out.
  11. This entire thread is founded on a gigantic and apparently unrecognized false dilemma between determinism and free will. Serious thinkers in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and consciousness studies no longer regard these "options" as necessarily mutually exclusive, and have not for a generation. There are serious arguments to be made that the two are compatible. Go read some philosophy. Better yet, go take a couple of classes in it, rather than allowing yourself the indulgent arrogance of autodidacticism on matters that are likely well-beyond all of us.
  12. I'll echo much of what Ringer had to say, with minor additions: 1. Yeah, structural differences are going to be tough to spot. Differences in activity, less so. 2. Indeed, getting to the "same state" is a tough idea to handle. In general, the answer is what you think it is: almost all learning is less efficient in adulthood than it was in early childhood (for language, motor acquisition) or adolescence (for most other academic things). 3. You present a false dichotomy, because you're right on both counts. Yes, learning generates new synapses, as well as alters the activity of existing synapses. Look up "long-term potentiation" if you want to find out a bit about one of the basic neurophysiological mechanisms of learning. It is also true that synapses fall away constantly after early childhood, in the same way that many neurons are dying--this is called "pruning." It does not mean that new ones cannot be created, even though the net total is generally a loss. 4. Ringer is correct, (though, your term "body" is not maximally clear, but I do see what you're talking about). Better to just say that it is the axon itself is myelinated--the axon is itself the long, stringlike projection. A synapse is like a shadow--it sort of doesn't exist, really, it's just a space. IIRC: Myelin, however, is continually produced, as it wears out and is recycled and replaced by oligodendrocytes, which are constantly generating new myelin projections to grab onto nearby axons.
  13. What? You were viewing yourself. You were viewing yourself. That is literally what subjectivity is. There is honestly not anything I can think of that is less objective than that.
  14. First off, Catcher in the Rye is by Salinger. JD Salinger. And second: what?
  15. David: Difficult to say anything at all from a distance, thirdhand, without making some kind of more comprehensive assessment. I can think of an hour's worth of questions I'd want to ask this person to really tease things apart. So, you'll have to consider all of this quite blindly speculative and not suggestive of diagnosis or treatment in any fashion. Pseudoephedrine, as you know, can cause some uncomfortable excitation or anxiety, so that's obviously sort of the first place to look here, Occam's Razor and all. Though it is, admittedly, unusual for those side effects to onset so far into treatment. And the onset of new and powerful anxiety symptoms around the time of the introduction of the Xanax does seem to suggest cause there. There are some individuals who experience paradoxical responses to benzodiazapines, so there's another possibility, though it strikes me that this would also be fairly unusual, since .25mg q.d. is a nearly negligible dose of alprazolam for an adult. Nonetheless, given the story of "anxious person given Xanax, person starts getting panic attacks," it's actually a fairly decent guess. This is particularly likely in individuals already elevated "on their own"--by some mental health condition, let's say--or "artificially," as by pseudoephedrine. Anecdotally, people given an upper and a downer all at once can sometimes wig out a little bit. Since the duration of useful treatment effects for such a fast acting drug--particularly at such a low dosage--is within such a small window, it might be useful to know if those panic attacks actually occurred within that window. If we're seeing attacks a few hours after dosing, I'd be inclined to think paradoxical reaction. If we're seeing them 8 hours later, as most of the drug is metabolized, I might almost suspect a mini-rebound phenomenon--essentially, anxious withdrawal symptoms from a single dose of the drug. The final possibility I can think of is that the individual may have had a couple of days of useful placebo effect--three of them, sounds like--and for whatever reason (the triggering effect of some uncomfortable somatic event, let's say) that placebo effect fell off the cliff on the fourth day, and you saw not only a return to anxiety symptoms, but a bit of a rebound bounce as well. These are all my best guesses, and indeed they are guesses.
  16. No, there is at this time no recognized diagnostic category as such. Individuals who exhibit frequent lying behavior might fall under diagnoses of Antisocial Personality Disorder (though they would likely be doing so for some kind of material gain, or possibly just simple enjoyment) or perhaps Borderline Personality Disorder (though they'd likely be doing so as part of an unhealthy relationship--as a means to punish or keep someone close, etc.) or perhaps Histrionic Personality Disorder (though, for attention). Conduct Disorder in children often includes a lot of lying, but again, this lying is usually going to be focused towards attempting to evade consequences for the large amount of trouble they're usually getting themselves into.
  17. It says nothing about different species. How could you possibly arrive at this interpretation? I've been talking about h. sapiens the entire time and everything I linked you was about humans. All this is saying--one of the most difficult-to-disagree-with things that I can think of--is that human consciousness does not exist in a state of "on or off," but on a spectrum. Sixty seconds after I wake up, I'm more conscious than I was when I was asleep, but somewhat less conscious than I am right now. That's it. That's all it's saying. No scientific or medical authority really disagrees. You continue to fail miserably at trying to find peoples' philosophical or rhetorical motivations. I'm an atheist. I'm begging you--please stop trying to pin down the belief systems which inform peoples' posts. For one, nobody can really do that accurately off of just a few words in most circumstances, two, you are showing yourself to be particularly unskilled at it, three, it typically adds nothing to the discussion. This is not a sweeping statement based in theology, this is a sweeping statement based in cognitive science. It's not a terribly mainstream one at this point in history, but that doesn't mean it isn't based in science. It is not science that I am going to spend time attempting to explain to you, because it is complicated and subtle and--again, Greg, I'm sorry--you continue to absolutely mangle the simplest and clearest of points. It furthermore also doesn't have anything to do with the extremely simple point that I've being going around and around with you on about six times, which I've explained here yet again, and which I'm done explaining or posting on in any fashion. You're going to have to exhaust someone else.
  18. Saying that you'll not oppose me in that suggests that you think I was claiming that. That has nothing to do with what I was claiming. Incidentally (although this is a completely separate issue), I don't believe nonhuman animals are consciously aware at all. But again, that's irrelevant, because--broken record here--that's not what I was saying at all. Please tell me where I said that. You are inventing claims. But I'm pleased that you'll not oppose me on the things which I have not said and do not believe. It saves time. Greg, not more than a few posts ago, you were criticizing what you imagined to be my yoga/mystic like notions of consciousness. Your goal of bashing pseudoscience is noble. Gods know, I do it for a damned living. But I have to tell you, you're not doing a tremendously careful job of it.
  19. Split-brain studies show fascinating things about the hemispherical independence of certain cognitive and perceptual functions. There is no reliable evidence of "personality differences" between split hemispheres. If you think you have some, show it to me: peer reviewed; something from Gazzaniga or Sperry or something that cites either one of them (there's no serious neuroscience on the topic that would leave out their work). That would be exceedingly difficult to demonstrate even if it were true, since we assess personality essentially through verbal means, and only one of the hemispheres can actually "talk" to you.
  20. That sentence isn't even consistent. A within-subjects comparison can be made for a brain damaged individual, since their level of consciousness would be expected to change over time. But I'm not talking about brain damaged individuals exclusively, and I'm not talking about comparative psychology (e.g., animals). Greg, I'm going to repeat this, one more time: no one... no one in cognitive science, brain science, medicine, physiology... no one who does serious research or has serious understanding of any of those areas would deny, unqualified, the concept of "levels of consciousness." Seriously, the fact that conscious awareness lies on a continuum has to be one of the most obvious, self-evident things I can think of. To say that it's some perfectly dichotomous light switch is like saying that a bladder is either completely full or completely empty. It's patently not. You don't even need any kind of scientific understanding to get this; it's perfectly accessible to ordinary phenomenological introspection. I'm having trouble believing that this isn't some kind of joke.
  21. It's a decent thought, but to be honest, post-hoc evolutionary reasoning like this can be pretty dangerous. Nature cannot help but make perfect sense, but she seldom makes the kind of sense we expect her to.
  22. The mirror test is pretty highly criticized these days, although you have to give it credit for being a fairly cute attempt to demonstrate empirically what we really can't ever evaluate directly: self-awareness. If you want to know the summary of the most substantial criticism, it's simply this: the mirror test does not so much demonstrate conscious self-awareness as it does the ability to use reflective surfaces. Which is, if you ask me, a criticism damned near as cute as the test.
  23. I might be forgetting something, but I think you might be thinking of someone else. Are you talking about where I rejected your idea that consciousness is defined entirely by the ability to respond? I don't recall "stating emphatically" that you're conscious while you dream because you can remember dreams. Then why do medical professionals show constant interest in rigorously and reliably assessing level of consciousness, with the understanding that it lies on a continuum? Do you realize how massively self-evident this thing you're denying is? Have you actually just found a random yoga/weird new-agey website and convinced yourself that I must've gotten my ideas from there? Does that actually strike you as somewhat plausible? No, actually, I don't practice yoga. I don't generally have a problem with those who do, since it seems to me to be largely harmless glorified stretching. I do have a problem with pseudoscientific medical/"spiritual" beliefs that often seem to accompany it, which have essentially nothing to do with what I'm talking about in terms of the measurement of degrees of a conscious state, which is a concept that most practitioners of scientific medicine would find more or less self-evident. I'm a committed apologist for Western science and Western medicine. If what I'm saying looks any different to you, all I can say is that you appear to be confused about the positions that I'm actually advocating, or perhaps I've failed in making them adequately clear. To the extent that it may be the latter, I offer my regrets. Again, I'm a little confused by your suddenly bringing up yoga and astrology, two things I don't do--indeed make fun of on a regular basis--and have no relation to anything I've said so far about levels of consciousness. It would appear, rather, that it is.
  24. No serious scientist in the area is going to offer you some kind of bright dividing line of consciousness. They might try to define it, but not dichotomously. There are many levels of consciousness, along the lines of both quantitative and even qualitative difference. I was conscious a few minutes ago, recalling my sessions from Tuesday and writing clinical notes. I was conscious two hours ago, driving to work, but perhaps slightly less so. I was conscious an hour before that, dragging myself into the shower, but somewhat less so. I was conscious fifteen minutes before that, in a half-awake state between my first alarm and second alarm, but substantially less so. To be honest, you could make an argument that I'm more conscious during a dream state--as it is the sleep stage nearest in most senses to wakefulness--than I am when I'm in deep, non-dreaming sleep. Are we conscious while dreaming? It's just a false question that betrays some ignorance of the area. It's like arguing about whether a person is "old when they turn 21." This, on the other hand, needs no nuanced discussion, as it's pretty much just patently insane.
  25. Clearly you are not using the accepted definition of consciousness.
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