WP .org beckons

•March 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Well, I love this theme layout by chaotic soul on wordpress.com, but I’ve hit a brick wall or maybe …. a black box. In other words, there are a bunch of things I’d like to add to my blog, including transforming it into a CMS website. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like wp.com gives much freedom in this regard.

So….. I’ve been completely sidetracked by the wordpress.org playground. At WP .org one has complete freedom to change not only the html and css, but also the php and some other back-end stuff. You do have to purchase your own domain and a place to host it, so I’ve got my new blog hosted and will be posting the link here as soon as I’ve got something halfway respectable set up!

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Chaos and Choice

•January 26, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I like to think that our individuality is not genetically predestined.  We have no single solution or outcome.  Each day we generate (or destroy…as in that extra glass of bordeaux) neurons and cortical cells; only we can decide what our brains will become.

Bob Dylan has the courage and wisdom to claim, “I accept chaos, I’m not sure whether it accepts me.”  Life is built on a foundation of randomness. Is natural selection truly driving the survival of our genes or is chaos arbitrarily mixing it up with our choices?

I just read about retrotransposons – junk genes or scraps of DNA that randomly play around in the human genome.  They insert themselves into our neurons, arbitrarily altering our genetic programming.

I wonder if the changes are really arbitrary.  Maybe our thought patterns influence the playful retrotransposons.  It seems that stress can cause mutations that lead to cancer, etc.  Maybe practicing a state of calmness can result in content retrotransposons happily cleaning and re-decorating our neurons.

I’m thinking that chaos offers many options.  Why not try setting a trend with the choices you make?  I’m choosing happiness and lining up my neurons to practice the happy dance. 🙂

Green Rain

•January 16, 2011 • 1 Comment

 


Green Rain

Green Rain

I’ve always felt that art is incredibly nourishing.  My eight year old daughter spends so much time with a sketchbook in her hands.  It is her go-to activity whenever she is not whirling around the house stirring up eddies of activity.  I love to see her settled on the couch, sketchbook on her lap, trying out her character creations in different perspectives.

 

Since she could hold a pencil she has had this ability to quickly arrange a few lines to express characters in motion with a wide array of emotion evident in face and body.  Every night, when I check in on her before going to bed, I end up sliding a pencil out of her sleep softened hand.   I spend a few minutes smiling at the pictures she has created…all so original and full of her humor and energy.  What a great way to fall asleep!

Chronic Stress and Neurogenesis

•January 15, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It was a woman scientist, Elizabeth Gould, who discovered in 1989 that chronic stress is devastating to neurons -and most importantly, that the brain Could heal.  The scientific opinion of the day held that brain cells, unlike every other cell in our body, didn’t divide.  It was thought that once infancy was over, the brain was complete.

It wasn’t until 1998 (amazingly recent) that science finally recognized Gould’s research.  The brain, far from being fixed is in a constant state of cellular upheaval – it is constantly creating new neural pathways.  Gould had shown that the amount of neurogenesis is itself modulated by the environment and not just our genes.  High levels of stress can decrease the number of new cells and the hippocampus area, crucial for learning and memory, starts to shrink.  Yikes, that’s why I have started this blog…as my backup -offsite storage.

However, the scars of stress can be healed, adult brains can recover rapidly.  Scientists are discovering that anti-depressants work by stimulating neurogenesis.  They are effective not just because they elevate seratonin but because they increase a class of protein – trophic factors which make neurons grow.  Apparently there is a new class of anti-depressants being developed that target the neurogenesis pathway.  Very cool as long as the pharmaceutical companies don’t price it beyond the reach of the stressed-out population.

“Neurogenesis is cellular evidence that we evolved to never stop evolving.   In the constant turmoil of our cells-in the irrepressible plasticity of our brains-we find our freedom”  -Jonah Lerher

Smooth Overlay

•January 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The jQuery tools available for Website development are like a cookbook full of wonderful recipes to try.  This one is called Overlay, an element (pop-up box) that overlays the web page that you are currently on.  There are three adjustable components to add to your code:  a little javascript, some html code for the overlay and the trigger, and then a liberal sprinkling of CSS.

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Embracing the Wide Sky

•January 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I could read endless books about the brain.  We know so little about the mechanisms of thought and feeling.  I can’t help wanting to grab every new book on the subject, hoping it will offer a little bit of insight or perspective, or at the very least reinforce existing knowledge.

The book I just finished is “Embracing the Wide Sky”, by Daniel Tammet.  Daniel Tammet is a writer with high-functioning autism and a prodigious savant with synesthesia.  Ok, so that sounds a little like name-calling, but Daniel’s book gives a glimpse of his unique reality with these rare neurological conditions.

Continue reading ‘Embracing the Wide Sky’

Proust was a Neuroscientist – Walt Whitman

•January 5, 2011 • 1 Comment

Loved this book.   Lehrer shows that several 19th & 20th century artists – each discovered an essential truth about the mind that neuroscience in now proving in labs.  Wonderful combination of science and art.  Learned so much about perception and artists.  For example:

Walt Whitman – The substance of Feeling.  He believed, despite the philosophy of his time (Civil war), that “the mind depended on the flesh”.

“Come, said my soul,

Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one).”

-Walt Whitman

We are the poem that emerges from the unity of the body and the mind.  Feeling from flesh?  Soul from body?  Body from soul?   The science of neurology is now proving that rationality requires feeling, and feeling requires the body (senses).