What is DMT? Not magic!

Alex Grey - Mars 1 LSD Bicycle DayWhoah.  Have you heard how we have this natural chemical in our brain that is released on death and gives us an infinite hallucination?  That would be N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT for short) and some people truly feel that this chemical is spiritual and/or magical.  What is it really?  If you think that stand up comedians and sports casters are enough credentials on the matter, you could consider the following video which many hold to be the truth about DMT:

Additionally, you can visit http://rickstrassman.com/ to see the breeding grounds of DMT and its spiritual associations.

Rick Strassman was the first one to purport theories about DMT that people now take as truth (ie. Joe Rogan). He conducted an experiment with DMT and people back in the 90’s and came up with the hypothesis that DMT is massively released before death and during sleep (F1). However, he never actually provided a reason for thinking so, it is just arbitrary. He could have just as well said the hippocampus instead of the pineal gland, except that we know that the pineal gland is the manufacturer of the endocrine system. So, after reading more about the “spirit molecule” I looked more into current studies of DMT today (it was been 20 years since he proposed these theories, with no real evidence).

Today, we know that DMT is in the same chemical family as psilocybin (shrooms). This is evinced in the typtamines chemical structure which acts on the neurotransmitter serotonin. (F2) We also now know that DMT acts on the Endogenous Sigma-1 Receptor Regulator. (F3) This receptor is chiefly correlated (and hypothesized as the crux of) mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. (F4)

DMT Chemical Structure (F2)

I’m sorry if this is too technical, I just find it really interesting to read about. In everyday life, we have neurotransmitters which inhibit the projection of our cognition. So, when we think about a fire truck, we just imagine it. However, in a dream or by taking drugs like DMT, it affects these neurotransmitters so that our projections actually seem like real external stimulus. The problem is that we do not have any sense of control over these projections, they just continue until the neurotransmitters can be produced again. (F5)

Naturally, our senses presume that anything incoming is external and does not exist in our mind. Our mind has it’s chemicals to help us discern what is external and what is internal thoughts. However, when we influence those chemicals, it should come as no surprise that we think that these hallucinations and visions are real because they appear external. Even though we consciously know we took drugs to influence our senses, we fail to see that these ostensibly external images are, in fact, interally influenced images. What this means is that we will never have a case of someone taking DMT and experiencing a novel experience – it is always within the mind of the user, contrary to what people will say with it’s connection to another dimension. It is a glorified view of the drug which is dangerous because there are dire consequences to consistent use of it.

By constantly stimulating serotonin receptors, there is danger of afflicting schizophrenic symptoms. (F6) The most particular symptom that manifests in DMT users is Alogia – poverty of speech. This is simply the first manifest symptom as it progressively becomes worse and resembles that of schizophrenic disorders and even cocaine addicts (F7). In fact, there are associates of Stressman (the man who originated the “spirit molecule” theory) who oppose him and work very hard to spread caution. For example, Patricio Dominguez, although he takes a more spiritual standing, opposes the use of DMT but makes it sound as though only experienced users ought to take it.

While the truth is that there is a correlary effect of schizophrenic symptoms that develop in most psychadelics due to it’s influence on the sertonin receptors (just as it naturally develops in schizophrenics). Thus, the most significant side effect is mental trauma that even the most prideful ignore and yet succumb to.

Hope this was interesting! What do you think?
F1: http://rickstrassman.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=61&Itemid=60
F2: DMT (2-(1H-indol-3-yl)-N,N-dimethylethanamine) Psilocybin ([3-(2-Dimethylaminoethyl)-1H-indol-4-yl] dihydrogen phosphate) Serotonin (5-Hydroxytryptamine or
3-(2-aminoethyl)-1H-indol-5-ol) if googled, the chemical structures are a good visual.
F3: http://stke.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;323/5916/934
F4: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00213-004-1920-9
F5: I am speaking about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monoamine_oxidase_inhibitor if you want to read up on it
F6: https://www.thieme-connect.com/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-2005-916185
F7: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12871086

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Most/Least Suicidal Person

tat-2Who is the most suicidal person?  By contrast, who is the least likely to commit suicide?  When looking into the statistics to reflect this, I have noticed that these rates are hardly correlated to the rates of homicide.  It elicits several questions and, while I am interested in discussing them, I just want to present the evidence of suicide. There is also the question of attempted suicide and how it is reflected in these stats.  While it is true that women attempt suicide more often than men, it is men that actually commit suicide more often.

It is important to note that, combined, this person’s probability of suicide likely changes drastically.  I am simply providing each category on its own in list form.   With this said, here are the profiles of those people who are least and most likely to commit suicide:

Most Likely to Commit Suicide

Least Likely to Commit Suicide

  • Gender: Female
  • Race: Black
  • Country: Egypt
  • Age: 5-14
  • Sexual Orientation: Straight (Citation above)
  • Income: No significant evidence.
  • Marital Status: Married
  • Occupation: Inconclusive – Cannot find definite evidence for this.  This may require an entire discussion on its own.
  • Favourite Music: Anything but country
  • Has children
  • Is not an alcoholic or gambles

How the Brain Works

When I was first interested in neurology, I tried so hard to find a website that explained, in plain English, a good introduction to how the brain works.  Now that I’m done university, I can see why it was difficult.  However, this article is intended to fill in those gaps and do my best to (hopefully) provide what I wanted back when I started.  I hope that it helps at least 1 person.

First things first, the brain is complicated.  There is no simple way of explaining it.  Not a wiki article, no cliffnotes, sparknotes, etc.  You have to accept that the brain is a reflection of how we live and that is complicated.  However, not impossible.  Though the first step is to realize that there are a lot of variables involved and you have to imagine the working of the brain as an orchestra with various instruments playing at the same time being guide by a conductor.  However, don’t be mislead, it’s still more complicated than that.  In any case, I want to provide some sources and quick notes on how the brain works for newcomers.  The truth is, you’re not going to learn how the brain works in the matter of an hour or 5 minute read, it takes time.  So make sure you’re prepared for reading, and a lot of it.  There’s several routes to take, but I’ll provide the basics.

➡ Introductory Notes

The first thing you have to look at is if you’re after understanding the psychology or the biology of the brain.  The difference between the two is more or less biological vs psychological.  On the biological terms, you’re looking towards reductionism which is saying that all thoughts and behaviour is reducible to biological systems.  On the other hand, psychological concepts (and perhaps spiritual) are looking are more intangible things which I do not really want to delve into here.  If you are inclined to the psychological workings, then you ought to look into developmental psychology.  If you are inclined into the actual biological functions of the brain, then neurology and neuroscience.

➡ Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology looks at the progress of human thinking across their lifespan.  Given there is a lot of room for debate here, there is also still a lot of science.  I can’t really give basic introductory notes because there’s a lot to talk about.  However, I can suggest a book and I suggest:

http://www.amazon.ca/Developmental-Psychology-Dr-David-Shaffer/dp/0176416749/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1316641950&sr=8-2

I have had Wood as a professor and am pretty pleased with her background.  The book is well written for any person first interested in learning about human developing psychology.

I know it may seem like a cop-out linking to a book, so I should make a few notes here.  When it comes to developmental psychology and asking how the brain works, there are far too many variables in play.  Remember that it also varies so much depending on age, environment, and biology.  What I can suggest is doing a google search on Piaget.  Piaget has a great deal of research in developmental psychology with some notable videos too.  Here is a link to a video search which showcases videos of developmental psychology:

http://www.google.ca/search?gcx=c&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=youtube+piaget

Neurology

The first and most important thing about understanding the biological science of how the brain works is the neuron.  The neuron is the functional cell of the brain.  There are various kinds of neurons, but what’s important is learning the fundamental cell.  Also, it’s important to learn how neurons communicate with one another.  Once you have an understanding of the neuron, the rest of the brain will be much easier to understand.  Here is a video on the basic anatomy of the neuron:

How neurons communicate is via a neuronal system utilizing synapses.  That may sound complicated but what it means is that neurons don’t actually connect to each other.  There is a small space between their reaching limbs (dendrites) and they communicate in the small space between them.  It is in this space between neurons that exchanges are made to communicate pain, temperature, pleasure, sense, etc.  The small varying chemicals that are exchanged in this space are called neurotransmitters and you may have heard of at least one called endorphins.  Endorphins being the neurotransmitter which act as a natural analgesic to pain, or pleasure, etc.  Here is a video explaining synapses:

Once you have an understanding of neurons and how they communicate, it’s time to delve deeper.

Neurology

Here, I just want to share some links to sources that provide great details on how the brain works.  It was really hard for me to find them when I started, so I help they help someone else.  I will make a few notes I feel may be necessary, but they are mostly complete.  Furthermore, they are from notable sources.

The Society for Neuroscience released a Brain Facts primer on pdf for those likely who would be reading this article.  Please consider:

+ http://www.sfn.org/skins/main/pdf/brainfacts/2008/brain_facts.pdf

For a basic introduction for the common person, about.com gives a fundamental approach to the lobes of the brain.  I think that this is probably the most basic link I can provide in comparison to the others, but maybe the quickest:

+ http://psychology.about.com/od/biopsychology/ss/brainstructure_2.htm

The Centre for Neuro Skills is an organization dedicated to providing knowledge and support for brain injury.  Within their website, they provide an informational map of the brain which I found useful:

http://www.neuroskills.com/brain.shtml

Lastly, once you feel you have a basic understanding, I found some lecture material from the University of Washington on neuroscience.  It is real material taught in neurology classes and gives a great insight into what to expect if you were to enter to the program.  Please consider:

+ http://thalamus.wustl.edu/course/

Closing

At length, how the brain works cannot be explained simply.  It requires dedication and patience.  However, you will learn a lot and it will definitely change your view on you and others.  There are a lot of misconceptions and proverbs that cause a great deal of delusion over the true nature of the brain.  However, with a little research, it’s easy to uncover.

I hope this article helps.  I posted it because search terms for this site reveal a great number of people looking for this sort of detail so, please, if you have any question, ask!

~

Why Dream Interpretation Works

In this article, I wish to provide my personal view on the most common views of dream interpretation followed by my own approach.  There are several approaches to interpreting dreams and many have gained the entire concept a rather pejorative stigma.  However, dream interpretation is still utilized by therapists and counselor’s to help achieve further self-awareness.

I am not an advocate for the clairvoyant or clandestine approaches to dreams.  Like many others, dreams are simply a means to discuss and investigate a persons unconscious and self-awareness.  I have done a great deal of dream interpretation for people and so I’d like to share how I approach it as you could take this approach to yourself as well.

➡ Purpose of Dream Interpretation

When we think of our dreams, we often think of many mysterious symbols and meanings. Our dreams have always had a history of vague purpose and spiritual nature. There have been many methods to interpretation and their purposes are also varied.  Often, people first think of dreams in a spiritual nature. They are often considered a sign or a prediction of things to come. They can also be referred to as a manifestation of your psychopathology.

Scientists will often say that the dreams are manifestations of consciousness. The reductionist will even go so far to say that dreams are just the random firing of neurons during sleep. They assert that there is often no purpose at all.  Clinicians who utilize dream interpretation in their therapy are those in favour of the psychodynamic approach. In this approach, the dreams are representations of unconscious content that have resided in the individuals cognizance since childhood. They are often representations of deeper unresolved conflicts.

Whatever the approach that is taken, we must all take an approach to interpreting them because of how much time we spend doing it! Further, the purpose is always an underlying understanding of the self.

➡ Spiritual

+ “Dream of Aesculapius” by Sebastiano Ricci

The first greatest dream interpreter was Aesculapius. Aesculapius is often depicted as the God of Medicine. The common medicine symbol is derived from the symbol of Aesculapius; a snake entwined around a staff.  The actual living Aesculapius was a formidable doctor who constructed places for baths and dream interpretation. These buildings were known as Asclepeion’s.

Ever since this time, it is natural for humans to look at dreams as spiritual manifestations vis-a-vis the individual. Symbols, people, and animals are all spiritual representations in favour of the individuals personality.  There is no specific institution for spiritual dream interpretation. Even Aesculapius, the first dream interpreter, never wrote any manuals or dictum’s on how he did it.

I would consider the next greatest spiritual dream interpreter to be Carl Jung. Carl Jung was actually a great inspiration to me to study psychology. In his book, “Man and His Symbols” he, and his favoured associates, share their interpretations and work on the symbols in human history. With this, they share how individuals often dream of these symbols and what they would mean to them.

To Jungians, the symbology of humankind is derived from a collective uncsoncious. A sort of unconsciousness that resides within us all and understands the world in unison. Jungian concepts are very powerful and still, to this day, are commonly used in the media and art.

➡ Barcode Interpretations

In contemporary times, there are many books and resources which make equation dream interpretations. I like to call this method the “barcode interpretation”.

In this method, one takes a symbol and looks for it in a manual. Under each symbol is a given interpretation.  However, I would not likely call it an interpretation more or less a given definition. There is little insight given to the individual and most likely encourages the person to feel less control of their own dreams and even self-will.  Most people do not adhere to this method but many will succumb to buying, or accidentally buying, a copy of one of these books.

The main problem with this approach is that it completely ignores context and the individuals background. How can you possibly make one interpretation of a symbol completely global and applicable to everyone?  While a symbol like blood is often interpreted as a bad thing, it could easily be contextually good (say, for example, the blood of a cow you just killed to eat, or the blood of an incision that will initiate your life-saving surgery, etc. etc.)

There are many sites that easily do this. You will also often find them covered in advertisements, silly games, and vague or pseudo-intellectual context. For example:

+ My Dream Visions

➡ Scientific

Aristotle provided the first greatest scientific approach to dream interpretation from a scientific approach.

+ “On Dreams” by Aristotle

In this first short record, Aristotle describes the situations in which people fall asleep, wake up, the difference between being awake and sleep, and more.  I personally think the most important point that Aristotle made was how individuals can tell the difference between reality and hallucinations and how this is inhibited in dreams.

Many dreamers can relate this to the short speach given in the popular movie “Waking Life”

+ Key Speech at 0:50

Here, Jason T. Hodge is speaking of how our neurotransmitters facilitate our sensory of our environments. While awake, we have naurotransmitters which facilitate our distinction between imaginary concepts and actual stimulus which exists outside of our cognizance.

This is an important function of the scientific approach to dream interpretation.

The common scientific theory is now called the Activation Synthesis theory, purported by Allan Hobson. In this theory, Allan Hobson ascribes dreams to the random activity of neurons in our brain. This random activity is no longer affected by our distinction of reality and cognition, so the thoughts appear as reality!

Some neuropsychologists might utilize these brain patterns and facilitate certain drugs or lesions to help prevent maladaptive behaviours. However, this is thankfully often a last (if ever) resort.

➡ Freudian/Psychodynamic

Probably the most famous form of Dream Interpretation is by the Sigmund Freud.

+ “The Interpretation of Dreams” by Sigmund Freud

It is not an easy task to sum up Freudian psychoanalysis in a quick paragraph, but I will do my best.

The crux of Freudian Dream Analysis is Wish Fulfillment. In our dreams, Freud would argue that our wishes are fulfilled. Things we wish we had done during the previous day or things we wish would happen in real life would be fulfilled in our dreams.

The idea is derived from his psychodynamic view that we have unresolved conflicts from childhood. These unresolved issues are “wished to be resolved” and are then “resolved” in our dreams. As these issues can easily carry their way far into adulthood, some people will have neurotic dreams or recurring dreams. Freud would accredit these recurring or neurotic dreams to these unresolved issues from childhood. Finding the conflict and then resolving it is the purpose of the psychotherapy. However, I will not delve into psychodynamic psychotherapy.

➡ My Take/Interactionist

Personally, I employ an interactionist model.

As diverse as humans are, we must also employ a diverse model. We need a model that can adapt and change per individuals needs. There are certain steps to this approach, and I will summarize them afterwards.

♦ Step 1: Background: While interpreting a persons dreams, one must take that individuals background into consideration. If that person takes a spiritual approach to dreams, you ought to as well. If they take a barcode approach, you ought to as well.

Afterwards, you ought to ask about them. Ask them what their family was like, their upbringing, their schooling, their interests, etc. I often look at it as like reading a painting and trying to figure out what the artist is trying to say or why they painted it. In this case, the dream is the painting and the artist being the dreamer!

♦ Step 2: Emotions: Further, you must consider all the things that this person feels about the context of the dream. While the dream might sound happy to you, the individual might find it dreadful.

In addition, ask why it is important to them to understand the dream. Often, people just ignore dreams. If they ask for interpretation, their is usually good reason. People do not often ask for dreams about going pee to be interpreted.

In these two steps, you will do two major things:

– Make the individual reminisce on their life

– Make the individual self-aware of their emotions

Once doing this, it is often the case that the person immediately understands their own dream. This is your goal as an interpreter!  However, it is also probably %50 likely that they will still not understand. There are a couple reasons why, so this is the next step.

♦ Step 3: Investigate: Ask open-ended questions about the person and eliminate certain obstacles.

Sometimes, people do not want to understand the dream content. Ask if the person has experienced anything profound that affects them to this day. Try to use neutral questions to avoid leading emotions in good or bad; you want the real emotions left to the dream. Do not create new issues.

Also, often people do not want you to know what the dream is about. Ask them if there is anything about them self they wish they could change or not have experienced.  There are other common possibilities to this further complication and this is where I interact with the other models.

♦ Step 4: Integration: First, most importantly, ask about their biology. Do they have any medical conditions or biological problems. These are easily causes for dream content. If a person has visual problems caused by a concussion, it is very common for them to dream in related to the incident or how they wish it didn’t happen, etc. This can be distressing to them and you must be sensitive to the fact that dreams and manifest content of the persons traumatic incident that causes biological nightmares!

Second, ask about their childhood more deeply. There may be some repressed, or even regressed, issues that are not being attended to. For example; a person may have been molested while young and may truly consciously believe it didn’t happen while unconsciously profoundly affected by it.

If it comes to this state, then you are in the deepest form of interpretation which only a select few in history have been qualified for. On a personal level, I would simply say that it is better to leave it be. If you wish to continue, then you must aim for something referred to as “transference”.

In transference, you are trying to get the individual to transfer onto you the problems they had with childhood. By this time, you ought to have the persons trust and a decent relationship. However, you will want to challenge and confront them about problems relative to the dream content. You want facilitate the conflicts that are likely unresolved and basically play them out yourself.

This can be dangerous, and will likely never be employed by anyone reading this, but I thought I’d go the distance and explain the whole thing.

➡ Conclusion and Summary

My approach can be summarized as:

Background, Emotions, Investigate, Integration

There are many approaches to dream interpretation just as there are to understanding human behaviour. I adhere to the idea that we ought to employ interacting methods that can adapt and acknowledge relative contexts to each individual rather than strive for a sophomoric universal definition.

Further, I do not like the spiritual approach. When one employs that dreams are spiritual, it is implied that our dreams and thoughts are not in our control. If you agree that your dreams are from your thoughts, and that you control your thoughts, I do not think you have grounds to say that dreams are spiritual then.

I would like to debate, discuss, or hear from you!  Perhaps lucid dreaming next..?

What do you think…?

~

Homosexuality is Not a Choice

Too often the argument is made that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice and that anyone can overcome this “disability” with will power, therapy, etc. While I am not a homosexual myself, I have a fetish and I know what it is like to be inclined to like something and know that it is not necessarily by choice.

In this article, I want to look at the evidence showing that homosexuality is a physical determinant, not psychological.  Also, I want to show that homosexuality exists in other animals, not just humans.  Finally, I want to look at the actual evidence of homosexuality’s prevalence statistics compared to common perceptions of it.

Furthermore, while homosexuality is a heated debate, I think it is commonly agreed upon that the central reasons are backed by religious justifications.  I do not want to delve into that.  I simple want to look at the evidence of the matter and leave the rest of the religious implications up for debate.  Maybe in another post I will cover my philosophical position on the matter, but for now, I just want to look at the evidence.

Evidence for Biological Causation of Homosexuality in Humans

As per my usual approach, I am not going to offer conjecture like it is objective truth.  Instead, I will reference and highlight scientific journals with real evidence and provide links so you can see the rest for yourself.  If I do not highlight anything (like the one below), it’s because I’m keeping it short and to the point of the important information it has to offer.

Morphometric analysis of the human hypothalamus revealed that the volume of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in homosexual men is 1.7 times as large as that of a reference group of male subjects and contains 2.1 times as many cells. In another hypothalamic nucleus which is located in the immediate vicinity of the SCN, the sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN), no such differences in either volume or cell number were found. The SDN data indicate the selectivity of the enlarged SCN in homosexual men, but do not support the hypothesis that homosexual men have a ‘female hypothalamus’.

+ An enlarged suprachiasmatic nucleus in homosexual men

The anterior commissure, a fiber tract that is larger in its midsagittal area in women than in men, was examined in 90 postmortem brains from homosexual men, heterosexual men, and heterosexual women. The midsagittal plane of the anterior commissure in homosexual men was 18% larger than in heterosexual women and 34% larger than in heterosexual men. This anatomical difference, which correlates with gender and sexual orientation, may, in part, underlie differences in cognitive function and cerebral lateralization among homosexual men, heterosexual men, and heterosexual women. Moreover, this rinding of a difference in a structure not known to be related to reproductive functions supports the hypothesis that factors operating early in development differentiate sexually dimorphic structures and functions of the brain, including the anterior commissure and sexual orientation, in a global fashion.

Sexual orientation and the size of the anterior commissure in the human brain

Later fraternal birth order (FBO) is a well-established correlate of homosexuality in human males and may implicate a maternal immunization response in the feminization of male sexuality. This has led to the suggestion that FBO may relate to other markers of male sexual orientation which are robustly sexually dimorphic. If so, among homosexual males the number of older brothers should strongly correlate with traits such as spatial ability and psychological gender, indicative of greater behavioural feminization, compared to heterosexual males. The present study failed to find significant associations between number of older brothers and these traits.

+ The association between the fraternal birth order effect in male homosexuality and other markers of human sexual orientation

Gonadal steroids have remarkable developmental effects on sex-dependent brain organization and behavior in animals. Presumably, fetal or neonatal gonadal steroids are also responsible for sexual differentiation of the human brain. A limbic structure of special interest in this regard is the sexually dimorphic central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc), because its size has been related to the gender identity disorder transsexuality. To determine at what age the BSTc becomes sexually dimorphic, the BSTc volume in males and females was studied from midgestation into adulthood. Using vasoactive intestinal polypeptide and somatostatin immunocytochemical staining as markers, we found that the BSTc was larger and contains more neurons in men than in women. However, this difference became significant only in adulthood, showing that sexual differentiation of the human brain may extend into the adulthood. The unexpectedly late sexual differentiation of the BSTc is discussed in relation to sex differences in developmental, adolescent, and adult gonadal steroid levels.

+ Sexual differentiation of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in humans may extend into adulthood

Cerebral responses to putative pheromones and objects of sexual attraction were recently found to differ between homo- and heterosexual subjects. Although this observation may merely mirror perceptional differences, it raises the intriguing question as to whether certain sexually dimorphic features in the brain may differ between individuals of the same sex but different sexual orientation. We addressed this issue by studying hemispheric asymmetry and functional connectivity, two parameters that in previous publications have shown specific sex differences. Ninety subjects [25 heterosexual men (HeM) and women (HeW), and 20 homosexual men (HoM) and women (HoW)] were investigated with magnetic resonance volumetry of cerebral and cerebellar hemispheres. Fifty of them also participated in PET measurements of cerebral blood flow, used for analyses of functional connections from the right and left amygdalae. HeM and HoW showed a rightward cerebral asymmetry, whereas volumes of the cerebral hemispheres were symmetrical in HoM and HeW. No cerebellar asymmetries were found. Homosexual subjects also showed sex-atypical amygdala connections. In HoM, as in HeW, the connections were more widespread from the left amygdala; in HoW and HeM, on the other hand, from the right amygdala. Furthermore, in HoM and HeW the connections were primarily displayed with the contralateral amygdala and the anterior cingulate, in HeM and HoW with the caudate, putamen, and the prefrontal cortex. The present study shows sex-atypical cerebral asymmetry and functional connections in homosexual subjects. The results cannot be primarily ascribed to learned effects, and they suggest a linkage to neurobiological entities.

+ PET and MRI show differences in cerebral asymmetry and functional connectivity between homo- and heterosexual subjects

From the above studies, we can conclude that homosexuality has varying biological causation.  We know from the above that:

* The suprachiasmatic nucleus is a variable in sexual orientation depending on size

* The anterior commisure is a determining factor in sexual orientation; it is significantly larger than those of the opposing sexual orientation of the same sex.

* Birth order does not seem to play a role in homosexuality

* Sexuality maturates through adulthood and is affected by gonadal steroidal levels

* The amygdala plays a significant role in differing sexual orientations

Homosexuality in Animals

In male rats, androgen deficiency during a critical hypothalamic organizational period was shown to give rise to a predominantly female-differentiated brain, homosexual behavior, and demonstration of a positive estrogen feedback effect. A positive estrogen feedback effect was also induced in intact homosexual men in contrast to intact heterosexual and bisexual men. Thus in 21 homosexual men an intravenous injection of 20 mg Presomen (Premarin) produced a significant decrease of serum LH levels followed by an increase above initial LH values. In 20 heterosexual and in five bisexual men, by contrast, intravenous estrogen administration, while producing a significant decrease of the serum LH level, was not followed by an increase above the initial LH values. Using a radioimmunoassay, plasma testosterone levels and 24-hr urinary excretions of unconjugated testosterone of adult homosexual men were found to be in the normal range as observed in heterosexual men. This finding suggests that homosexual men possess a predominantly female-differentiated brain which may be activated to homosexual behavior by normal or approximately normal androgen levels in adulthood.

+ A neuroendocrine predisposition for homosexuality in men

While this article demonstrates biological sexual determinism in humans, it also has implications for animal homosexuality.

This study examined endocrine components of sexual orientation of male sheep. Sexual orientation of adult rams was identified through standardized sexual performance tests. Four rams that copulated with ewes, four rams that never mounted females and copulated with males, and eight ewes were used in the experiments. Exogenous estradiol benzoate (50 μg, i.m.) stimulated (P < .05) a preovulatory-like LH surge 16-22 hr after administration to females. Estradiol did not (P > .05) affect LH release of heterosexual or homosexual rams. Thirty days after the estradiol challenge, sheep were euthanized and areas of the amygdala (AMY), hypothalamus (HYP), anterior pituitary (AP), and preoptic area (POA) of the hypothalamus were collected. Occupied and unoccupied content of estradiol receptors (ER) was determined. The content of ER in the amygdala of both homosexual rams and ewes was similar, but less than (P < .05) the content of ER in heterosexual rams. The ER content measured in other brain regions did not differ by sex or orientation. In summary, results from these data show that the preovulatory LH surge mechanism that is a characteristic of the female does not occur in either homosexual or heterosexual rams. Conversely, the ER content of the AMY of homosexual rams is similar to that of ewes and differs from the heterosexual male. Differences in ER content between heterosexual and homosexual rams imply that the amygdala serves as a link for input from potential mates. These data suggest that the amygdala not only plays a role in sexual behavior but may be involved in sexual orientation of rams.

+ A comparison of LH secretion and brain estradiol receptors in heterosexual and homosexual rams and female sheep

It is evident that homosexuality is not exclusive to humans.

Prevalence of Homosexuality

In this section, I just want to look at some prevalence statistics and evidence of homosexuality in the face of commonly held views of it.  For example, if you took the media for granted, it would seem that there are more gay women than men.  Also, some people seem to underestimate how common it is.  While I do not want to delve into the dynamics of sexual orientation (ie. the Kinsey sexual orientation scale), I want to look at some statistics from the DSM.  I must note now that it was at this point I looked into the DSM to search for homosexuality and found that it has been removed since the DSM-III.  It is difficult to find statistics on homosexuality because the very definitions is debated let alone people coming out to report it.  However, I want to share some interesting evidence on their prevalence.

Although homosexual activity is prevalent among US teenagers, adolescent homosexuality per se has been a poorly understood phenomenon. The purpose of this investigation is to describe the meaning and experience of homosexuality from the adolescent’s perspective. Twenty-nine male teenagers, self-described as gay (79%) or bisexual (21%), volunteered to participate in a structured interview, the purpose of which was to examine the definition of homosexuality, the acquisition of a gay identity, and the impact of sexuality on family, peers, and community. The youths demonstrated well-established sexual identities by the consistency of their sexual fantasies, interests, and behaviors over time. Homosexuality was more frequently described as a general attraction to men (48%) and an indicator of positive personal attributes (33%) than as an isolated sexual behavior. The subjects reported strong negative attitudes from parents (43%) and friends (41%) toward their sexualities. Discrimination (37%), verbal abuse from peers (55%), and physical assaults (30%) were frequently cited problems. These stressors may place the boys at high risk for physical and psychosocial dysfunction.

+ Male Homosexuality: The Adolescent’s Perspective

This study above shows some differing perspectives that teens have about homosexuality.  I’d elaborate, but I think the abstract is well said.

A nationally representative study of the sexual behavior of men aged 20-39 in the United States shows that the prevalence and frequency of sexual acts (vaginal, anal and oral) and sexual orientation vary by social and demographic characteristics. Analysis of data from 3,321 respondents to the 1991 National Survey of Men reveals that 95% of men have had vaginal intercourse; among them, 23% have had 20 or more vaginal sex partners in their lifetime. About one-fifth of never-married and formerly married men had had four or more partners over a recent 18-month period. However, 41% of never-married men and 32% of formerly married men did not have coitus during the four weeks preceding the interview. Only 20% of men have ever engaged in anal intercourse. Among these, 51% had not done so during the previous 18 months, and 90% had not done so during the previous four weeks. Seventy-five percent of men have performed oral sex and 79% have received oral sex, although 53% of men who ever performed oral sex had not done so during the four weeks prior to interview, and only 11% had done so six or more times. The frequency of receiving oral sex is similar. Only 2% of sexually active men aged 20-39 have had any same-gender sexual activity during the last 10 years, and only 1% reported being exclusively homosexual during this interval

+ The sexual behaviour of men in the united states

While this above article only quotes 2% of men reporting homosexuality, we can find conflicting evidence in other sources, like the one below:

Researchers determining the prevalence of homosexuality in nationally representative samples have focused upon determining the prevalence of homosexual behavior, ignoring those individuals whose sexual attraction to the same sex had not resulted in sexual behavior. We examine the use of sexual attraction as well as sexual behavior to estimate the prevalence of homosexuality in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France using the Project HOPE International Survey of AIDS-Risk Behaviors. We find that 8.7, 7.9, and 8.5% of males and 11.1, 8.6, and 11.7% of females in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, respectively, report some homosexual attraction but no homosexual behavior since age 15. Further, considering homosexual behavior and homosexual attraction as different but overlapping dimensions of homosexuality, we find 20.8, 16.3, and 18.5% of males, and 17.8, 18.6, and 18.5% of females in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France report either homosexual behavior or homosexual attraction since age 15. Examination of homosexual behavior separately finds that 6.2, 4.5, and 10.7% of males and 3.6, 2.1, and 3.3% of females in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, respectively, report having had sexual contact with someone of the same sex in the previous 5 years. Our findings highlight the importance of using more than just homosexual behavior to examine the prevalence of homosexuality.

+ The prevalence of homosexual behavior and attraction in the united states, the united kingdom and france

It is clear that there is conflicting evidence in the prevalence.  However, it is consistent that that are more gay men than gay women.

On another note, some people claim that legalizing gay marriage would lead to higher divorce rates.  However, the study below shows the contrary.

According to provisional data from the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control’s National Vital Statistics System, 5 of the 10 states, plus the District of Columbia, with the lowest divorce rates per thousand people (of the 44 states, plus D.C., that had available data) are also among the nine jurisdictions (a group that includes eight states and the District of Columbia) that currently perform or recognize gay marriages. Of course, states with more marriages naturally have more chances for divorce. But the trend also holds up when one looks at divorces as a share of marriages. In states that recognize or perform gay marriages, the number of divorces in 2009 was 41.2 percent of the number of marriages. In the 36 other states for which 2009 data are available, it was 50.3 percent. Remove the outlier Nevada, the state with by far the lowest divorce rate by this metric (16.3 percent), likely due in part to Las Vegas’s status as a wedding hotspot for out-of-state couples who may get married there but divorced elsewhere, and the figure jumps to 53.2 percent.

+ Divorce rates lower in states with same-sex marraige

Conclusions

My intent of this article was simply looking at the evidence of biological homosexuality.  I ought to note here the Kinsey sexual orientation scale.  This scale was used in Kinsey’s extensive research on sexuality because it was evident that people are not truly on extremes as imagined.  It is not the case there there it is simply gay, straight, and bi.  There is a plethora of evidence supporting this dynamic because it is a reflection of the dynamic of the human mind:

Kinsey Sexual Orientation Scale

 

This dynamic scale also illustrates the diversity in the biological homosexuality.  While it is evident that biological properties cause homosexuality, it is obvious that these biological properties are not clear cut and do vary in size, degree, potency, etc.  I imagine the differences in these biological constructs are reflected in this scale.

At length, homosexuality is not a choice deliberately made by humans.  While we can willfully deter this behavior and it’s manifestation in our everyday life, it is clear that it is not something arbitrarily chosen.  Furthermore, I liked to point out that there are more gay men than women.  Furthermore, embracing same-sex rights is related to lower divorce rates, something which many people imagined would be contradictory.

I am glad to see people are more accepting of the dynamic nature of the human mind.  We are not a simple coin that has only two sides with the rare middle.  Humans are a powerfully diverse and broad being.  We need to respect that.  We need to also respect that somethings are not within our choice, we are our biology.  You cannot will a sixth finger.  You cannot will a second head.  You cannot will additional arteries.  You cannot will lesions in the brain to remove characteristics.  I embrace this about ourselves.  Enjoy what you do have and respect others for who they are.

Edit: I found a great video with the same title

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Left vs Right Brain

Left vs right brain concepts are discussed as though they are obvious rudimentary concepts within psychology. However, left-right brain psychology is not an academic concept and grossly misrepresents how the brain works.

Left vs Right Brain

➡ The Two Hemispheres Are Not Even Connected

What left/right brain concepts are reaching for is what is called brain lateralization. This term means that a certain cognitive function is specific to one hemisphere of the brain; brain functions being lateralized to one region. The brain has two major hemispheres and a brain stem. The two sides are connected by a few fissures but most notably the corpus callosum. Some sources will claim that the hemispheres are completely independent and separated with no connections at all.  This is absurd as a simple image search for corpus callosum will show otherwise.

Each Hemisphere is Entirely Responsible for Certain Behaviors

The next argument would be to say that behaviors are specific to one hemisphere; that they are lateralized. There is a lot of evidence in the scientific community and a lot of it will admit that further research might reveal lateralization. I have yet to find an article that actually shows lateralization but does shoe predominance, which is the next venue for debate. However, let us look at some examples of what I mean:

“We have found marked anatomical asymmetries between tile upper surfaces of the human right and left temporal lobes. The planum temporale (the area behind Hesch’s gyrus) is larger on the left in 65 percent of brains; on the right it is larger in only 11 percent. The left planum is on the average one-third longer than the planum. This area makes up part of the temporal speech cortex, whose importance is well established on the basis of both anatomical findings in aphasic patients ans cortical stimulation at operation.”

+ Human Brain: Left-Right Asymmetries in Temporal Speech Region

– This article, trying to demonstrate speech lateralization, shows a predominance of the left temporal lobe. However, it is still evident that both hemispheres interact in order to facilitate the function.

“Reviews research on brain damage, psychiatric disorders, and normal emotion, which has shown the importance of the right hemisphere’s holistic and nonverbal conceptualization to emotion. Studies of hemispheric asymmetries in psychiatric patients have suggested the importance of specific and apparently lateralized arousal systems in the brain that support the differential cognitive capacities of the 2 cerebral hemispheres. The operation of these arousal systems seems to vary closely with the individual’s affective state. Research on emotional effects of unilateral lesions has suggested that the hemispheres may be specialized not just for the kind of emotion but for its valence, positive or negative. Research issues and methods in this area are still at an early stage of development, yet it seems clear that further research on the lateralization of emotion should reveal how emotional processes are at one level dependent on basic neurophysiological activation processes and at another level intrinsic to the differential forms of conceptualization of the 2 cerebral hemispheres. (3½ p ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)”

+ Lateral brain function, emotion, and conceptualization.

– In this case, the study is looking at nonverbal perception of emotion. In this case, there is evidence that predominance is taken for certain emotions, but still interactive. Furthermore, the article suggests that further research ought to be invested in for lateralization, implying that there may be strong correlations, but not locality.

While these are the consistent results in scientific inquiry, there are some originating significant results that initially caused reason for thinking there is lateralization:

* Broca’s Area: This area of the brain, mostly in the left hemisphere, is responsible for speech production. However, it is now noted that this region shares a significant contributor in the right hemisphere. While it is predominantly in the left hemisphere, it still relies on communication with the right hemisphere.

* Wernicke’s Area: Dominantly responsible for understanding writing and language. This region is predominantly in the left hemisphere. However, it is now shown that this region is connected with other regions within the right hemisphere and different lobes of the brain (not just the temporal)

To further demonstrate this point, if a behavior is only relying on one hemisphere of the brain, then we ought to be able to separate the two hemispheres and have no interference in regular functions. However, split-brains often have significant behavioral changes, challenges, and debilitating effects. While split-brains can compensate for the loss and operate normally at times, it is definitely apparent that there are handicaps and distinguishing differences. Let’s look at some sources:

“Tested 4 commissurotomy patients (described in a previous study by J. Levy et al; see record 1973-11433-001) for ability to match tachistoscopically presented stimuli with pictures in free vision, according to either structural appearance or functional-conceptual category. Patients were given ambiguous, structural, or functional instructions on any given run of trials with simultaneous double stimulus input to the 2 cerebral hemispheres. With ambiguous instructions, appearance and function matches were performed by the right and left hemispheres, respectively. When instructions were specific, appearance instructions tended to elicit appearance matches and right-hemisphere control. When function instructions were given, left-hemisphere control and function matches tended to be elicited. In 3 of the 4 patients, however, there was a significant number of dissociations between controlling hemisphere and strategy of matching. (24 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)”

+ Metacontrol of hemispheric function in human split-brain patients.

– This study is looking at how split-brains problem-solve ambiguous situations or how they respond when given instructions on how to solve ambiguous situations. For a significant amount of the time, there was significant amount of challenges to strategic problem-solving.

There are further sources, offline, suggesting that memory deficits are obvious in split-brains. This suggests that both hemispheres are required for accurate recollection and short-term memory tests. Furthermore, split-brains have grammatical and vocabulary challenges indicating a dependent relationship between the hemispheres for linguistic operations as a whole.

+ Tramo MJ, Baynes K, Fendrich R, Mangun GR, Phelps EA, Reuter- Lorenz PA, Gazzaniga MS (1995): Hemispheric specialization and interhemispheric integration: Insights from experiments with commissurotomy patients. In: Epilepsy and the Corpus Callosum 2. Reeves AG, Roberts DW, eds. New York: Plenum, pp. 263-295

+ Kandel E, Schwartz J, Jessel T. Principles of Neural Science. 4th ed. p1182. New York: McGraw–Hill; 2000. ISBN 0-8385-7701-6

Thus, it cannot be the case that a hemisphere is completely responsible for such gross behaviors. If this were the case, split-brains would not have such significant deficits. Furthermore, there is a plethora of evidence demonstrating predominance.

➡ Okay so left/brain predominance

In this case, we can say that there are predominant regions for behaviors. However, we cannot let that exaggerate to locality or lateralization. It is definitively evident that, while a behavior may be predominantly functioning in a region, it is still dependent on other regions for complete functionality. As an analogy, a guitar may make music predominantly from the pickups, but definitely not entirely. The entire guitar is responsible for producing its sound.

At length, it is easy to see how left/right brain concepts come to rise. We must appreciate how dynamic and complex the brain is instead of trying to grossly mis-represent and simplify it. The brain is far more complex than a simplistic chart of functions to a certain side. If anything, the lobes of the brain ought to be focused on for their specific functionality, not hemispheres.

What do you think…?

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Male vs Female Brain

Articles make claims about sexual dimorphism all the time; differences betweeen male and female brains.  However, most of them are either exaggerated or simply wrong.  I’d like to share my sources in human sexual dimorphism to really show what the difference is between male and female brains.  I’d like to show that it is not that simple.  There are far too many other variables which really make a difference between males and females. Furthermore, the differences are more gender related, social related, culturally related, than simply the structure of the brain.  Humans are dynamic and pointing it to just one thing is insulting to our incredible existence.

Now to look at the real evidence of human sexual dimorphism.  I’m not going to mention speculations or social related conjecture about differences.  What I am going to focus on is the simple structure of the brain and it’s common differences.  I say common because, as I said, humans are dynamic.  The differences can only be averaged between the two sexes.  Before continuing, I think it important to tackle some terminology.

Initial Definitions

Sexual Dimorphism: The difference between males and females within a species.  For this article, specifically the brain.

Sex: The physiological structure of a being.  Simply the biology of an organism.

Gender: The social representation and interaction of an organism.

Neurons: The functional cell of the central nervous system.  “Brain cells” that facilitate all brain functions.

It is important to note that both sex and gender use male and female.  However, they are used within different contexts (ie. sex, gender).  I will do my best to mention which I mean, but it will most often be sex in this article.

➡ Brain Structure

To best understand the differences between males and females, it’s best to take a quick look at the basic overall structure of the brain.  I won’t delve into too much detail, just generalities.  The specifics we can lay within the sexual dimoprhism.  Here, I will just focus on introducing the main structures that will be mentioned.

Lobes of the Brain

The brain is grouped into four main lobes:

Frontal lobe: Area of consciousness, thought, general personality, memory. etc.

Parietal lobe: Significantly imporant in sensory interpretation, visualspatial processing, etc.

Occipital lobe: Predominantly concerned with visual senses.

Temporal lobe: Related to memory, smell, interpreting sound, recognition, etc.

Corpus Callosum

The corpus callosum is the structure of the brain which connects the two major hemispheres of the brain.  However, this is not the only cross-over point, there are other smaller sections but this one is the most pertinent.

Sexual Dimorphism

Females

* Remotely larger areas within frontal lobe correlated with problem-solving, and decision-making

* Somewhat larger size within limbic system regulating emotions

* Brain functions primarily with white matter (white matter indicating more networking between neurons)

* Females corpus callosum is larger than males encouraging faster communication between hemispheres

* Hippocampal regions larger in females than males, which is significant for long-term memory

Males

* Parietal cortex enlargements encouraing spatial perception

* Some enlargements within amygdala regulating sexual and social behaviour

* Brain functions primarily with grey matter (grey matter indicating more density of neurons)

* Males have larger cerebral volume, simply meaning a larger brain in general.

* Larger regions of the hypothalamus, regulating endocrine system (hormones)

Online Sources

+ Brains Apart: The Real Difference Between the Sexes

+ Sexual Dimorphism in the Human Corpus Callosum

+ Sexual Dimorphism in Developing Human Brain

+ Normal Sexual Dimorphism of the Adult Human Brain Assessed by In Vivo Magnetic Resonance Imaging

+ For further references and citations, please ask.

Okay.. so tell me simply.. tl;dr

If you want the quick run down of my own interpertation of this data, it is like this:

Mens brains depend more on density and number of neurons.  This means that neurons tend to focus more and not consider relations between between activiations. Mens brains only real advantage over the common female brain is visuo-spatial interpretation. This means they could play tetris better or better “visualize” how to do something or plan things.  Furthermore, men have more active hormonal systems, which seems pretty redundant to mention.

Female brains depend more on networking and interaction of neurons.  This means that neurons will interact often and integrate information from various other sources.  Females only real advantage over the common male brain is long-term memory.  This seems redundant to explain, but women tend to be better at recollection and relating various different memories to that concept.

Conclusion

At length, men and female brains are actually more similar than otherwise.  While the differences are evident, it is not as significant as magazines will imply.  These are generalities and with that comes the fact that some men will have larger hippocampal regions or women will have more grey matter.  Humans are dynamic and we are all obviously unique.  The fact is that both brains use the same neurons, same structures, same neurotransmitters, but with varying density and numbers.  We are all an orchestra utilizing a different number of instruments and scores.  Don’t buy into the magazine ads implying these differences are so exaggerated that they are nearly polar opposites.  The fact is that our differences lay on a dynamic line and this is why transsexuals and transgendered people exist.  Evolution and natural selection has maximized efforts to make sure that males and females can mate but all other social roles and cultural interpretations are relative to the pertinent time and culture.

Next time.. left vs right brains.  What do you think…?

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Psychology Myth: Perfect Memory?

Although we all suffer common idiosyncrasies of memory recall, a significant group of people maintain that memory is an infallible mechanism of our consciousness.  We often hear people say, “How could I forget?  It was so traumatic/emotional/vivid/etc.”  However, those reasons given are actually reasons to NOT trust the memory recall.

In the extreme, flashbulb memories are those times of vivid experience and recollection.  Common examples are 9/11, the Challenger explosion, moon landing, etc.  These are things we can ask people, “Where were you when X happened?” and they will be able to recall.  However, psychology research revealed that people’s apparent perfect recollection of flashbulb memories are actually susceptible to fabrication.  This example, of the Challenger explosion, takes the recollection of one persons experience 24 hours after experiencing it and then two years later;

Description 1. “I was in my religion class and some people walked in and started talking about [it]. I didn’t know any details except that it had exploded and the schoolteacher’s students had all been watching which I thought was so sad. Then after class I went to my room and watched the TV program talking about it and I got all the details from that.”

Description 2. “When I first heard about the explosion I was sitting in my freshman dorm room with my roommate and we were watching TV. It came on a news flash and we were both totally shocked. I was really upset and I went upstairs to talk to a friend of mine and then I called my parents.”

In addition, our recollection is susceptible to false memories and integrating details that were never there to begin with!

False memories were a common problem with psychotherapists of the psychodynamic approach.  With enough persuasion or self-rationalization, memories that never happened will be recalled as real experiences.  Causes for these are memories that were actually in dreams or memories that are invented to explain behaviour as “repressed memories”.  However, many apparent repressed memories are truly invented memories created to help adapt or explain current maladaptive behaviours.

In another experiment, it was shown that one could confuse details that never happened to actually have happened.  In the simple wording of a question, one can be mislead into details about a past experience.  For example, “About how fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?'” compared to “‘About how fast were the cars going when they contacted each other?'” renders a significant difference in recollection of the speed of cars in an accident.

In addition, we are often mislead by others in thinking that the more details one gives, the more reliable their experience must be.  However, the most reliable testimony and traumatic experiences actually render very little details but broad and vague recollections.  For example, an unreliable testimony would say, “I remember him wearing a fleece jacket with a comb in his shirt and I also noticed that he had two fillings” whereas a reliable testimony is more likely to say something along the lines of “I remember him.. holding a gun.. I was scared”.

We all consider ourselves masters of consciousness and that is the main reason why we are all susceptible to these mistakes.  Our own conscious memories require attention and questioning.

What do you think…?

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Psychology Myth: Only use 10% of our brain?

You hear it all the time: “they say we only use 10% of our brain.”

When William James said, “Most people only use about 10% of their intellectual capacity” I don’t think he realized how people would interpret it.  Self-help guru’s of all kinds changed this statement to mean something completely different than what James meant.  Take a look at the common phrase itself – it implies that we do not know the boundaries of our brains capacity.  If that is true, and we do not know our brains limitations, then how can you quantify a percentage on top of it?  What William James was speaking of, in his quote, is the lackadaisical respect for each individuals own intellectual perspicacity.

To best illustrate the problem with the misconceived quote of today, let’s look at an example.  Let us say you and your buddies go on a road trip.  You don’t know where you’re going, you’re just driving.  Your friend asks, “How far along are we?” and you answer “we’re 10% of the way there” but you have no idea where you’re going.

The idea laying within the quote is that there are “sleeping” parts of our brain that are not activated and, with proper meditation and practice, you could activate them.  However, there have been countless electrical stimulation of the brain that uncover not a single sleeping entity.  Some may argue that electrical signals cannot stimulate these parts – and to argue so is to simultaneously be ignorant of how the brain works (ie.neuronal transduction).

There are several reasons to doubt that 90% of our brains lie silent. At a mere 2–3% of our body weight, our brain consumes over 20% of the oxygen we breathe. It’s implausible that evolution would have permitted the squandering of resources on a scale necessary to build and maintain such a massively underutilized organ. Moreover, losing far less than 90% of the brain to accident or disease almost always has catastrophic consequences.

This myth belittles the already creative genius of our brains.  Just my thoughts on the matter.

What do you think…?

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Psychology Myth; Low Self-Esteem=Mental Problems

It is a common belief, especially of self-help guru’s, that self-esteem is significantly correlated to mental health.  It is commonly associated with positive thinking and books like “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne.   It is also commonly held among many parents that self-esteem is a significant factor in the mental health of children.  However, self-esteem is not a significant contributing factor to any mental health problem.

In a meta-analysis by Roy Baumeister with over 15,000 cases, it was found that self-esteem is, at most, minimally related to mental health problems.  Moreover, it was found that although there is a positive correlation with self-esteem and school performance, it is that school performance contributes to high self-esteem, not high self-esteem contributing to school performance.

In addition, we commonly think that self-esteem is a contributing factor to depression.  It almost seems intuitive.  However, the same study (and additional) finds that self-esteem is neither sufficient nor sometimes even relevant to depression.  This aspect truly demonstrates the actual perspective of depression that many people mistake.

While positive psychology has a lot of foundational support and study, self-esteem self-help guru’s are misleading and misrepresenting information and psychology.  You do not suffer mental health issues because of how you view yourself.  It is not your fault that you have problems.  These are attempts to give control and power to the individual but in the wrong light.  Yes, you have power over yourself and you can control how you feel.  However, we can never ignore the important factors of the environment and the need to find strategies to cope with those things that we have no power over.

What do you think…?

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