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Could inner zombie be controlling your brain? Long post but semi-interesting

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  • medit8ionsociety
    From MSNBC Could inner zombie be controlling your brain? Evidence suggests self-aware part of our brains isn t always in charge By Carl Zimmer updated 4:15
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 18, 2008
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      From MSNBC
      Could inner zombie be controlling your brain?
      Evidence suggests self-aware part of our brains
      isn't always in charge
      By Carl Zimmer

      updated 4:15 p.m. ET, Tues., Sept. 16, 2008
      If you had to sum up the past 40 years of
      research on the mind, you could do worse than
      to call it the Rise of the Zombies.
      We like to see ourselves as being completely
      conscious of our thought processes, of how we
      feel, of the decisions we make and our reasons for
      making them. When we act, it is our conscious
      selves doing the acting. But starting in the late 1960s, psychologists
      and neurologists began to
      find evidence that our self-aware part is not
      always in charge. Researchers discovered that we
      are deeply influenced by perceptions,
      thoughts, feelings, and desires about which we
      have no awareness. Their research raised the
      disturbing possibility that much of what we
      think and do is thought and done by an unconscious part of the brain —
      an inner zombie.

      Some of the earliest evidence for this zombie
      came from studies of people who had suffered brain
      injuries. In 1970 British psychologists
      Elizabeth Warrington and Lawrence Weiskrantz
      showed a series of words to
      a group of people with amnesia, who promptly
      forgot the list. A few minutes later Warrington
      and Weiskrantz showed them the first three
      letters of each of the words they had just seen
      and forgotten and asked the amnesiacs to add
      some additional letters to make a word. Any word
      would do. The amnesiacs consistently chose
      the words they had seen and forgotten; the inner
      zombie, somewhere beyond awareness, retained
      memories of the words.
      Our inner zombies may also be able to control
      our bodies. In 1988 a woman known as "patient D. F."
      suffered carbon monoxide poisoning
      and lost the ability to recognize objects and
      shapes. Her eyes were still relaying information
      to her brain, but the connections between
      regions of her brain had been damaged so that
      she was no longer aware of what was before her.
      Scientists at the University of Western Ontario set
      a card on a table in front of D. F. and
      then held up a disk with a slot
      in it. They asked D. F. to hold the card at
      the same angle as the slot. She couldn't. But
      when asked to put the card in the slot as if she
      were mailing a letter, she immediately — and
      unknowingly — turned the card to the correct
      angle and slipped it in. These days a number
      of powerful new tools can scrutinize the inner
      zombies in healthy brains. Earlier this year,
      a team of University of Copenhagen researchers
      reported rendering 11 healthy people temporarily
      blind by focusing a beam of magnetism at the
      back of the subjects' heads. This interfered
      with the activity of neurons in a region called
      the visual cortex. For a few minutes the neurons
      were deactivated, and the subjects reported
      that they couldn't see anything.
      At the start of the experiment, the subjects —
      who could see at this point — sat in front of
      three lights, each with a button below it.
      When the center light went on, they had to reach
      out their hand and press the button next to it.
      In some trials, the scientists switched off
      the center light just as the subjects began
      reaching, and turned on a different one. The
      subjects therefore had to shift their hand movement
      to press the correct button. Less than a tenth
      of a second after the light switched, though, the
      scientists zapped the subjects, instantly
      blinding them. With so little time between
      the switch of lights and the zap, the subjects still
      thought the center light was on. Yet a
      significant number of them moved
      their hand away from the center button and
      shifted it to the correct one. Their inner
      zombie didn't need any awareness in order to perceive
      the change and alter the command it
      sent to the hand. In the Danish experiment,
      the subjects were at least aware of their
      goal, even if they didn't know how they were
      achieving it. Other experiments show that our
      unconscious mind can fully act like a
      conscious self. Take a recent experiment in
      which French and English scientists had volunteers
      play a simple game while undergoing a brain
      scan. The subjects held a handgrip while watching
      a computer screen. They were told to squeeze
      the handgrip whenever they saw a picture of
      money on the screen. The more they squeezed,
      the more money they would win. Some pictures
      stayed on the screen long enough to be identified.
      Others raced by. Regardless, the image of a
      British pound caused the volunteers to squeeze
      harder than they did at the sight of a penny, even
      when it appeared so quickly that they
      were not consciously aware of what
      kind of money they were seeing. The brain scans
      allowed the researchers to compare unconscious
      with conscious responses and showed that a
      reward-judging region of the brain, the ventral
      palladium, became active in both cases.
      Mounting evidence of our inner zombie at
      work has led some scientiststo downplay
      the importance of our aware selves. Earlier
      this year in Time magazine, Harvard psychologist
      Steven Pinker declared that "the
      intuitive feeling we have that there's an
      executive `I' that sits in a control room of
      our brain, scanning the screens of the senses and
      pushing the buttons of the muscles, is an illusion."
      But don't give up on consciousness just yet.
      A small but growing number of re¬searchers are
      challenging some of the more extreme
      arguments supporting the primacy of the
      inner zombie.
      "Although these studies are fas¬cinating
      and important," writes Matthew Lieberman,
      a social psychologist at UCLA, "they ultimately
      fall short of supporting the assumptions
      that are seeping into our collective
      understanding of the mind." While our inner
      zombies may be able to do some information processing,
      there are other kinds of processing that
      they cannot do. Studies have shown that people
      can unconsciously prime their minds to perform better
      on memory tests, essentially training for
      a test without explicitly being aware of it.
      To explore the limits of such priming,
      University of Kentucky psychologist Nathan
      DeWall and his colleagues recently conducted a study
      to see if consciousness is important in
      completing logic puzzles. One group of volunteers
      first arranged words having to do with logic and
      reasoning into sentences; another group
      arranged neutral words into sentences. Then
      the scientists had the volunteers complete
      fragments of words. The fragments could be
      completed with a logic-related word or one
      not related to logic. (For example, correct
      answers for L_G_ _ included
      LOGIC and LIGHT.) Finally, DeWall tested the
      subjects on actual logic puzzles.
      Although the volunteers who had been primed
      with logic words tended to choose logic-related
      terms in the word-completion task, priming didn't
      help them with the puzzles. The zombies failed.
      On the other hand, explicitly instructing people
      to think about logic-related ideas,
      tapping into their conscious mind, did make
      them perform better on logic tests.
      Brain scans also provide ammunition to beat
      back the zombies. If our inner zombie really
      is in charge, then we would expect to see some
      distinct patterns of brain activity when we
      performed a task. If we did something unconsciously,
      only the "zombie network" of regions would
      be detected. If we did the same thing consciously,
      the zombie network would light up, but this
      time along with the few other regions of the
      brain that give us a feeling of awareness.
      Lieberman and his colleagues have been running
      experiments whose results don't fit those
      zombie brain patterns. To map conscious and
      unconscious processing of information, Lieberman
      used a classic psychology experiment in which
      subjects learn arbitrary rules about
      stringing letters together, known as an artificial
      grammar. People can learn these rules consciously
      (by being told, for example, that v always
      follows t). They can also learn artificial
      grammar unconsciously by looking at a lot of
      "words" that follow the rules. Later, when
      psychologists show them strings of letters,
      they can tell the researchers whether or not
      they are valid, without being able to say
      what the rules are.
      Lieberman showed his subjects an artificial
      grammar that incorporated two types of rules,
      one that could be learned consciously and another
      that tended to be picked up only unconsciously.
      Then, as he scanned their brains, the subjects
      were shown another set of letter strings and
      had to judge whether their grammar was valid.
      One region of the brain became active when
      the subjects identified conscious rules, while a
      different region became active for the unconscious
      rules. The two regions followed an inverse
      relationship: When one was more active, the
      other was less so. The conscious brain took
      its own, distinctive path. Lieberman got similar
      results when he showed a group of subjects
      pictures of other people's faces while the
      researchers scanned their brains. In some
      trials Lieberman had his subjects choose two words to
      describe each face's expression, forcing
      them to consciously reflect on the emotions
      they saw. In other trials, subjects chose a name for
      each face, but no attention was drawn to its emotion.
      The brain activity in the two groups was
      strikingly different. When people merely chose
      a name for an angry face, the amygdala region of the
      brain became very active. The amygdala plays a
      central role in how we respond unconsciously to
      emotional situations. Among the volunteers who
      used words to describe the faces—consciously
      reflecting on the emotions they saw—the amygdalas
      remained quiet. But an entirely
      different region, called the right ventrolateral
      prefrontal cortex, became active. This area is
      energetic during reflection, reasoning, and
      self-control. The inner zombies of the subjects
      who focused consciously on the faces' emotions
      were silenced. Such studies don't mean that our
      inner zombie doesn't exist. A number of networks
      in our brain process information without troubling
      our awareness. But we shouldn't be so captivated
      by this insight that we think of our conscious
      self as nothing but a passive moviegoer in the
      theater of the mind. It may be that our conscious
      and unconscious minds are parallel systems, each
      specialized for handling different kinds of tasks.
      Perhaps our inner zombies play the same role
      as the address books on our computers. We can
      memorize people's addresses and phone numbers,
      but it takes effort, and we're prone to recall
      them incorrectly or forget them. Computers store
      them automatically, leaving us free to
      spend our time thinking about more interesting
      things. The zombie mind may take over simple,
      repetitive tasks from our conscious mind, leaving
      the latter free to focus on the kinds of thought
      we do best with self-awareness. As Lieberman says,
      "The zombielike processes may be
      taken offline when more reflective processes are
      brought online." So we may have a mind that is
      capable of free will and awareness after
      all — it just needs a little help from its
      friendly neighborhood zombie.
      © 2008 Discover Magazine
      FAIR USE NOTICE
      This site contains copyrighted material the
      use of which has not always been specifically
      authorized by the copyright owner. We are
      making such material available in our efforts
      to advance understanding of environmental,
      political, human rights, economic, democracy,
      scientific, spiritual, and social justice issues,
      etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use'
      of any such copyrighted material as provided
      for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.
      In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107,
      the material on this site is distributed
      without profit to those who have expressed a
      prior interest in receiving the included information
      for research and educational purposes. For more
      information go to:
      http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.
      If you wish to use copyrighted material from this
      site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use',
      you must obtain permission from the copyright owner
    • Jeff Belyea
      Thanks, Bob. Pardon the top post, but the article is long. It is interesting that the term zombie (walking dead) was chosen. In spiritual or theistic terms,
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 19, 2008
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        Thanks, Bob. Pardon the top post,
        but the article is long. It is interesting
        that the term "zombie" (walking
        dead) was chosen.

        In spiritual or theistic terms, this
        "inner knowing" would be regarded
        as holy - as in Holy Spirit or
        Paraclete (one who walks beside).

        In the most religious sense, a
        passage of scripture from the
        Book of Proverbs in the OT
        comes to mind:

        "Lean not upon your own
        understanding. Acknowledge
        me in all your ways and I will
        direct your path."

        In the Mystic Heart Meditation
        this "inner knowing" is referred
        to as a "wisdom whisper from
        the heart" or an experience of
        pure intuitive consciousness.

        The premise is that we have
        been so socialized to consider
        our conscious, rational, linear
        process as THE way to know
        that we have forgotten or lost
        touch with our intuitive capacity -
        and meditation (silencing the
        inner chatter) is a means to
        tapping into this inner knowing -
        or what I interpret Ramana Maharshi
        to have meant when he referred
        to the I-I.

        Just some early coffee-induced thought
        bubbles from the waking zombie.



        --- In meditationsocietyofamerica@yahoogroups.com, medit8ionsociety <no_reply@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > From MSNBC
        > Could inner zombie be controlling your brain?
        > Evidence suggests self-aware part of our brains
        > isn't always in charge
        > By Carl Zimmer
        >
        > updated 4:15 p.m. ET, Tues., Sept. 16, 2008
        > If you had to sum up the past 40 years of
        > research on the mind, you could do worse than
        > to call it the Rise of the Zombies.
        > We like to see ourselves as being completely
        > conscious of our thought processes, of how we
        > feel, of the decisions we make and our reasons for
        > making them. When we act, it is our conscious
        > selves doing the acting. But starting in the late 1960s, psychologists
        > and neurologists began to
        > find evidence that our self-aware part is not
        > always in charge. Researchers discovered that we
        > are deeply influenced by perceptions,
        > thoughts, feelings, and desires about which we
        > have no awareness. Their research raised the
        > disturbing possibility that much of what we
        > think and do is thought and done by an unconscious part of the brain —
        > an inner zombie.
        >
        > Some of the earliest evidence for this zombie
        > came from studies of people who had suffered brain
        > injuries. In 1970 British psychologists
        > Elizabeth Warrington and Lawrence Weiskrantz
        > showed a series of words to
        > a group of people with amnesia, who promptly
        > forgot the list. A few minutes later Warrington
        > and Weiskrantz showed them the first three
        > letters of each of the words they had just seen
        > and forgotten and asked the amnesiacs to add
        > some additional letters to make a word. Any word
        > would do. The amnesiacs consistently chose
        > the words they had seen and forgotten; the inner
        > zombie, somewhere beyond awareness, retained
        > memories of the words.
        > Our inner zombies may also be able to control
        > our bodies. In 1988 a woman known as "patient D. F."
        > suffered carbon monoxide poisoning
        > and lost the ability to recognize objects and
        > shapes. Her eyes were still relaying information
        > to her brain, but the connections between
        > regions of her brain had been damaged so that
        > she was no longer aware of what was before her.
        > Scientists at the University of Western Ontario set
        > a card on a table in front of D. F. and
        > then held up a disk with a slot
        > in it. They asked D. F. to hold the card at
        > the same angle as the slot. She couldn't. But
        > when asked to put the card in the slot as if she
        > were mailing a letter, she immediately — and
        > unknowingly — turned the card to the correct
        > angle and slipped it in. These days a number
        > of powerful new tools can scrutinize the inner
        > zombies in healthy brains. Earlier this year,
        > a team of University of Copenhagen researchers
        > reported rendering 11 healthy people temporarily
        > blind by focusing a beam of magnetism at the
        > back of the subjects' heads. This interfered
        > with the activity of neurons in a region called
        > the visual cortex. For a few minutes the neurons
        > were deactivated, and the subjects reported
        > that they couldn't see anything.
        > At the start of the experiment, the subjects —
        > who could see at this point — sat in front of
        > three lights, each with a button below it.
        > When the center light went on, they had to reach
        > out their hand and press the button next to it.
        > In some trials, the scientists switched off
        > the center light just as the subjects began
        > reaching, and turned on a different one. The
        > subjects therefore had to shift their hand movement
        > to press the correct button. Less than a tenth
        > of a second after the light switched, though, the
        > scientists zapped the subjects, instantly
        > blinding them. With so little time between
        > the switch of lights and the zap, the subjects still
        > thought the center light was on. Yet a
        > significant number of them moved
        > their hand away from the center button and
        > shifted it to the correct one. Their inner
        > zombie didn't need any awareness in order to perceive
        > the change and alter the command it
        > sent to the hand. In the Danish experiment,
        > the subjects were at least aware of their
        > goal, even if they didn't know how they were
        > achieving it. Other experiments show that our
        > unconscious mind can fully act like a
        > conscious self. Take a recent experiment in
        > which French and English scientists had volunteers
        > play a simple game while undergoing a brain
        > scan. The subjects held a handgrip while watching
        > a computer screen. They were told to squeeze
        > the handgrip whenever they saw a picture of
        > money on the screen. The more they squeezed,
        > the more money they would win. Some pictures
        > stayed on the screen long enough to be identified.
        > Others raced by. Regardless, the image of a
        > British pound caused the volunteers to squeeze
        > harder than they did at the sight of a penny, even
        > when it appeared so quickly that they
        > were not consciously aware of what
        > kind of money they were seeing. The brain scans
        > allowed the researchers to compare unconscious
        > with conscious responses and showed that a
        > reward-judging region of the brain, the ventral
        > palladium, became active in both cases.
        > Mounting evidence of our inner zombie at
        > work has led some scientiststo downplay
        > the importance of our aware selves. Earlier
        > this year in Time magazine, Harvard psychologist
        > Steven Pinker declared that "the
        > intuitive feeling we have that there's an
        > executive `I' that sits in a control room of
        > our brain, scanning the screens of the senses and
        > pushing the buttons of the muscles, is an illusion."
        > But don't give up on consciousness just yet.
        > A small but growing number of re¬searchers are
        > challenging some of the more extreme
        > arguments supporting the primacy of the
        > inner zombie.
        > "Although these studies are fas¬cinating
        > and important," writes Matthew Lieberman,
        > a social psychologist at UCLA, "they ultimately
        > fall short of supporting the assumptions
        > that are seeping into our collective
        > understanding of the mind." While our inner
        > zombies may be able to do some information processing,
        > there are other kinds of processing that
        > they cannot do. Studies have shown that people
        > can unconsciously prime their minds to perform better
        > on memory tests, essentially training for
        > a test without explicitly being aware of it.
        > To explore the limits of such priming,
        > University of Kentucky psychologist Nathan
        > DeWall and his colleagues recently conducted a study
        > to see if consciousness is important in
        > completing logic puzzles. One group of volunteers
        > first arranged words having to do with logic and
        > reasoning into sentences; another group
        > arranged neutral words into sentences. Then
        > the scientists had the volunteers complete
        > fragments of words. The fragments could be
        > completed with a logic-related word or one
        > not related to logic. (For example, correct
        > answers for L_G_ _ included
        > LOGIC and LIGHT.) Finally, DeWall tested the
        > subjects on actual logic puzzles.
        > Although the volunteers who had been primed
        > with logic words tended to choose logic-related
        > terms in the word-completion task, priming didn't
        > help them with the puzzles. The zombies failed.
        > On the other hand, explicitly instructing people
        > to think about logic-related ideas,
        > tapping into their conscious mind, did make
        > them perform better on logic tests.
        > Brain scans also provide ammunition to beat
        > back the zombies. If our inner zombie really
        > is in charge, then we would expect to see some
        > distinct patterns of brain activity when we
        > performed a task. If we did something unconsciously,
        > only the "zombie network" of regions would
        > be detected. If we did the same thing consciously,
        > the zombie network would light up, but this
        > time along with the few other regions of the
        > brain that give us a feeling of awareness.
        > Lieberman and his colleagues have been running
        > experiments whose results don't fit those
        > zombie brain patterns. To map conscious and
        > unconscious processing of information, Lieberman
        > used a classic psychology experiment in which
        > subjects learn arbitrary rules about
        > stringing letters together, known as an artificial
        > grammar. People can learn these rules consciously
        > (by being told, for example, that v always
        > follows t). They can also learn artificial
        > grammar unconsciously by looking at a lot of
        > "words" that follow the rules. Later, when
        > psychologists show them strings of letters,
        > they can tell the researchers whether or not
        > they are valid, without being able to say
        > what the rules are.
        > Lieberman showed his subjects an artificial
        > grammar that incorporated two types of rules,
        > one that could be learned consciously and another
        > that tended to be picked up only unconsciously.
        > Then, as he scanned their brains, the subjects
        > were shown another set of letter strings and
        > had to judge whether their grammar was valid.
        > One region of the brain became active when
        > the subjects identified conscious rules, while a
        > different region became active for the unconscious
        > rules. The two regions followed an inverse
        > relationship: When one was more active, the
        > other was less so. The conscious brain took
        > its own, distinctive path. Lieberman got similar
        > results when he showed a group of subjects
        > pictures of other people's faces while the
        > researchers scanned their brains. In some
        > trials Lieberman had his subjects choose two words to
        > describe each face's expression, forcing
        > them to consciously reflect on the emotions
        > they saw. In other trials, subjects chose a name for
        > each face, but no attention was drawn to its emotion.
        > The brain activity in the two groups was
        > strikingly different. When people merely chose
        > a name for an angry face, the amygdala region of the
        > brain became very active. The amygdala plays a
        > central role in how we respond unconsciously to
        > emotional situations. Among the volunteers who
        > used words to describe the faces—consciously
        > reflecting on the emotions they saw—the amygdalas
        > remained quiet. But an entirely
        > different region, called the right ventrolateral
        > prefrontal cortex, became active. This area is
        > energetic during reflection, reasoning, and
        > self-control. The inner zombies of the subjects
        > who focused consciously on the faces' emotions
        > were silenced. Such studies don't mean that our
        > inner zombie doesn't exist. A number of networks
        > in our brain process information without troubling
        > our awareness. But we shouldn't be so captivated
        > by this insight that we think of our conscious
        > self as nothing but a passive moviegoer in the
        > theater of the mind. It may be that our conscious
        > and unconscious minds are parallel systems, each
        > specialized for handling different kinds of tasks.
        > Perhaps our inner zombies play the same role
        > as the address books on our computers. We can
        > memorize people's addresses and phone numbers,
        > but it takes effort, and we're prone to recall
        > them incorrectly or forget them. Computers store
        > them automatically, leaving us free to
        > spend our time thinking about more interesting
        > things. The zombie mind may take over simple,
        > repetitive tasks from our conscious mind, leaving
        > the latter free to focus on the kinds of thought
        > we do best with self-awareness. As Lieberman says,
        > "The zombielike processes may be
        > taken offline when more reflective processes are
        > brought online." So we may have a mind that is
        > capable of free will and awareness after
        > all — it just needs a little help from its
        > friendly neighborhood zombie.
        > © 2008 Discover Magazine
        > FAIR USE NOTICE
        > This site contains copyrighted material the
        > use of which has not always been specifically
        > authorized by the copyright owner. We are
        > making such material available in our efforts
        > to advance understanding of environmental,
        > political, human rights, economic, democracy,
        > scientific, spiritual, and social justice issues,
        > etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use'
        > of any such copyrighted material as provided
        > for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.
        > In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107,
        > the material on this site is distributed
        > without profit to those who have expressed a
        > prior interest in receiving the included information
        > for research and educational purposes. For more
        > information go to:
        > http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.
        > If you wish to use copyrighted material from this
        > site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use',
        > you must obtain permission from the copyright owner
        >
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