Tag neuroscience

Society and civilization are made possible by empathy, through the magic of Mirror Neurons

via fora.tv

Profound revelation: All humans are WIRED to experience that which they see happen to others, as if they are having the experience themselves.

Dustin Curtis first told me about this concept on a bus ride from Boston to New York two years ago. I was despondent over how mechanistic and selfish neurobiology seems to paint human beings. Survival of the fittest and all of that. From an economic perspective, we all seek our own rational self-interest above that of others. What prevents us all from becoming infinitely bloodthirsty selfish pirates, anyway?

Dustin replied -- well, there's this thing called mirror neurons. He recently wrote about it in his blogazine. Our brains are wired to experience things that we see happening to others. Ultimately that is what empathy is -- being able to feel what others experience. And it comes built in to every one of us, thankfully.

As Jeremy Rifkin explains in the video above, the arrow of human history is really one about ever-increasing levels of empathy. Before we only had empathy for a our family group, then your tribe, onwards to a whole nation state, and so on. Recent developments in the state-of-the-art in empathy has now extended empathy to all human beings who live, and now even the whole Earth and all its creatures. Through this empathy, we are moving forward human capability, creation, love, and ultimately goodness in the world. 

I'm certain we were put on this earth to make other people's experiences and lives better. So by giving into empathy, we can truly feel the same experiences as others and thereby improve them. This affects your life right now, no matter what you do. If you're creating something, anything, you probably want it to be good. You want to solve problems for your customers. You want their experience to be better. That's good for you, but even better for others. And making things better for others is what it's really all about.

This concept of mirror neurons as an underpinning of empathy and society fills me with great hope. We've got a shot, guys!

Scientifically proven: Night owls are smarter and more good looking. Early risers are big pansies.

After 10 hours of being awake, the early birds showed reduced activity in brain areas linked to attention span, compared with the night owls. The early risers also felt sleepier and tended to perform tasks more slowly, compared with the night owls, when their level of alertness was measured.

“The results suggest that night owls generally outlast early birds in the length of time they can be awake without becoming mentally fatigued,” the study concluded.

Just kidding. But interesting research nonetheless! I think this makes sense, though -- I tend to a waking-up-at-noon / sleeping at 4am to 6am sort of schedule, and it seems to be my most natural schedule.

I find that around 2am or so, often I'm so engaged in something that I have no interest in sleeping. Part of the beauty of working on a startup is being able to work at your most optimal hours. If i'm on a roll, I can keep going til dawn. If I'm not, I'll turn in, and wake up refreshed and ready to rock.

If I was an early riser, I have to go to sleep even when I might have something left in the tank. And I just don't feel like that's a good use of my limited time on this planet.

Hat tip Kenshi Arasaki

More brainhacking sci fi on the horizon: A drug that gives you perfect memory

[Researchers have] found that if they boosted production of a protein called RGS-14 (pictured) in that area of the visual cortex in mice, it dramatically affected the animals' ability to remember objects they had seen.

Mice with the RGS-14 boost could remember objects they had seen for up to two months. Ordinarily the same mice would only be able to remember these objects for about an hour.

via io9.com

That's absurd. and in the comments, someone has highlighted fodder for some unhappy horror sci fi: What if you were taking this drug and saw something you desperately wanted to forget?

Imagine what this would mean for rote memorization for test taking! Maybe this would be awesome. Primary and secondary education could finally expand beyond mechanical drudgery.