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"Some people have neurological quirks that give them extraordinary perceptual powers. What can we learn from them? Ordinary people with superior perceptual skills walk among us, absorbing information from the everyday world which is debarred to the rest of us. We cant spot them, but they can pick up the faintest traces of smell or taste. They might see coloured auras that correspond to the expressed emotions of others. Some of them can even experience the pain or pleasure felt by other people. As one of these unlikely superhumans, Mary, a 53-year-old therapist, explains: If I see pain inflicted, I feel pain myself. If I see gentleness in a touch of a hand, I get pleasure from the softness and love I can feel in that touch. In neurological circles, Mary is known as a mirror-touch synaesthete. She literally feels what other people feel. Psychological research I've conducted with colleagues at University College London and the University of Sussex indicates that one to two people out of a hundred experience mirror-touch sensations from childhood. We've noticed that, for such people, observing pain evokes the most intense experience. One of the mirror-touch synaesthetes weve worked with, whom Ill call Alan, has to work hard to reassure himself that hes not actually experiencing the things he feels. When I see someone being touched, I have to consciously remind myself that I am not being touched myself, he says. When I see pain, its the same, except the feeling is more intense; it draws my attention more [and] makes me think, Oh, I am watching pain and it is not there. Such abilities might seem like miraculous gifts, not unlike the supernatural powers given to the character Lydia in the US television series Heroes the ability to feel the emotions, thoughts, hopes, and desires of others or the extraordinary sensory powers bestowed on the streetwise teens in the British comedy-drama Misfits. But these abilities often require careful managing. Mary, for example, finds it impossible to see violence depicted on screen. I hate it when my husband watches violent movies, she told us. I cannot watch them, because I feel overloaded. This is obviously not a pleasant experience and its a downside to my synaesthesia. But the sensations are not always overwhelming. The upside, said Mary, is that I also experience the nice touches, the caresses and the hugs. None of the experiences last for long, and for that I am grateful. Ironically, just as we might imagine what a sensory-enhanced life might be like for a mirror-touch synaesthete, they, too, often try to imagine what a life seemingly benumbed must be like for the rest of us. For Alan, Living with mirror-touch is at its most interesting when I stop and observe it, and think how fascinating it is that other people dont experience it. But when his condition fails to fascinate him, it can be burdensome: It becomes a bit overwhelming at times, especially in crowded places. Terms such as overwhelming or fascinating crop up a good deal when we talk to mirror-touch synaesthetes about their everyday experiences. One man I interviewed reported feeling cold in his fingertips whenever I touched a glass filled with ice. While mirrored thermal sensations are rare, they do share with mirrored touch sensations the quality of anatomical specificity. The mirrored feeling is experienced in exactly the same part of the body as the person actually experiencing the cold, heat or pain feels it a finger for a finger, an arm for an arm, an eye for an eye. For most, the mirrored-touch sensation directly mirrors what they see observing someone touch the left side of the face evokes in them a sensation on the right side of the face. But for a few, the mirrored sensation is anatomically mapped if they see someone touch the left side of their face theyll feel it on the left side of their own face. So while some synaesthetes treat observed touch as though looking directly in the mirror, others rotate their perspective to that of the observed person. With the help of functional brain imaging, we have begun to understand why some individuals possess this particular ability. We asked a group of mirror-touch synaesthetes to watch videos of other people being touched, and gave the same task to a group of people without mirror-touch synaesthesia. When we compared the brain scans of the two groups, we learnt that anyone, synaesthete or not, recruits parts of the brain involved in experiencing touch themselves (the mirror-touch system). Our brains mirror observed experiences. In people with mirror-touch synaesthesia, this empathetic system is over-excitable, and can activate rapidly to reach a threshold that allows them to experience tactile sensations literally. But we still dont understand the precise mechanisms leading to this pattern of brain activity. Experimental findings seem to suggest that we all show a greater tendency to mirror observed touch when the person experiencing the event is more similar to ourselves. And this raises the possibility that the networks involved in distinguishing representations of oneself from others act as a gate to levels of excitability in those brain regions involved in mirroring. It is possible that, in people who experience mirror-touch sensations, the levels of excitability of the neural networks governing the ability to distinguish oneself from others leads to a change in normal mirroring mechanisms. Simply put, the brain of an individual who experiences mirror-touch sensations effectively treats the body of another person as though it were her own. Mirror-touch synaesthetes might be viewed as societys natural empathisers people wired to excel at putting themselves in another persons shoes. This can be a delight, or a burden. Or a peculiarly human, if amplified, mix of the two. In studies Ive undertaken with Jamie Ward, professor of psychology at the University of Sussex, weve found that people who experience mirror-touch show heightened levels of emotional reactive empathy that is, the ability to understand and share the affective states or feelings of others. Another study Ive been involved in, published in the Journal of Neuroscience (2011), indicates that individuals with mirror-touch are significantly better than the rest of us at recognising the facial emotions of others, though not necessarily better at recognising who those people are. Mirror-touch synaesthetes outperform control subjects when tasked with naming the facial emotions of people photographed smiling, fretting, frowning, puzzling, gurning and so forth. We were able to rule out any suggestion that their better scores were the result of greater effort, or that they were better with faces generally, because when tested on their ability to name the people in the photographs, those with mirror-touch performed no better than those without. One of the ways we understand other peoples emotions is by putting ourselves in their place. To understand if someone is angry, we simulate what it is like to experience anger ourselves. If someone is sad, we simulate sadness. When these simulation mechanisms are over-excitable, as in mirror-touch synaesthesia, they can spill over and facilitate other abilities, such as emotion-recognition, which also use mirroring processes. In this sense, people with mirror-touch can tell us how much the degree to which we simulate the experiences of others can contribute to broader social-perception abilities, such as emotion-recognition and empathy. It is not just synaesthetes who possess apparent superpowers. Supertasters, for example, perceive stronger taste sensations from a variety of everyday substances, including alcohol, coffee and green tea. To supertasters, sugar tastes sweeter, the bitterness of, say, Brussels sprouts, is exaggerated, carbon dioxide bubbles in fizzy drinks are more pronounced, and there is more burn from oral irritants such as alcohol. On the whole, supertasting might be more of an irritating power than a superpower. Indeed, some supertasters experience less enjoyment from food and drink and are therefore less likely to indulge, which might explain why female supertasters at least are thinner than non-tasters (people at the other end of the tasting spectrum). At root, supertasters have a greater number of fungiform papillae (the mushroom-shaped dots on the front of your tongue) and taste buds. There are no known complex neural pathways involved in this particular ability. But its a different matter with super-recognisers. These are a rare group of individuals who excel in the ability to remember faces. First reported in 2009 by researchers at Harvard University and Dartmouth College, these are people who really never forget a face. They can recognise people whom they might have seen only a few times in their lives or, as Brad Duchaine, one of the Dartmouth College research team, puts it, an extra they saw in a movie years before. Such people can identify casual staff that served them years earlier, a waitress at a motorway inn they passed through, a car-park attendant they once glimpsed, or a fellow department store shopper with whom they never interacted. The difficulties that this super-ability might cause in social settings are easy enough to imagine, and many super-recognisers will hide their memory of long-ago encounters to avoid discomfiting people who never even registered them. Work is ongoing to determine just how common super-recognisers are, but there is some evidence to suggest that they can put their skills to good use. For example, the Metropolitan Police Service in London used super-recognisers in their ranks to help identify individual rioters during the 2011 riots across the capital. So, some people can feel the sensations of others, some can pick up on the faintest emotions, and some can excel in their memory. What about the rest of us? Are these abilities simply out of our reach or are there ways in which we might enhance these faculties in ourselves? With supertasting, it would seem that biological factors stand in our way, but what about developing a superior memory, or the ability to excel in emotion sensitivity? This is an avenue that many labs are now starting to pursue testing the extent to which we can improve perception and memory by using training and techniques that help us to modulate brain activity in order to aid performance. By studying people with superior psychological skills we can begin to unpack key processes that aid their abilities, processes which, in turn, could be used to help the rest of us become a bit more superhuman." Source: http://aeon.co/magazine/being-human/michael-banissy-mirror-touch-synaesthesia-and-empathy/ So SAB, any super humans amoung us? Don't be shy.
Yeti101 posted a topic in Chill SpaceHi All, My partner is doing her honours project in Psych this year and urgently needs lots of people (at least 250) to complete her online survey. See official ethics committee sanctioned blub and the link to the survey below: Other participants are reporting that it does not take 40 min. Please help out if you can by taking the survey. Your participation would be greatly appreciated. If there is an issue with the link please let me know, but it should work as intended. Edit: Survey closed so I removed the link.
On the Real Meaning of LSD and Hallucinogens There is an article, I believe, from the recent New Yorker about someone who took Acid (LSD) in the seventies and wonders what happened to the youth of today who prefer the shutting down drugs such as Prozac versus the opening up drugs such as Acid. He claims that society no longer wants to take risks, preferring to keep it safe. He believes that our choice of drugs is indicative of the general zeitgeist, reflecting the world we live in. In the early years (the 70’s) we craved freedom; now we crave security. He seems to be nostalgic for those old Acid days. And doesn’t discuss their dangers enough; and I believe it is one of the most dangerous drugs around. What does it do? Grosso modo, it immediately depletes serotonin and other Gaba chemicals('he later posted on the website as a reply that this sentence is wrong and should have been edited out before being published' - Distracted), and diminishes the work of the gates, thus allowing all kinds of pain on all levels from surging ensemble toward the prefrontal cortex. Gamma amino butyric acid is a repressor holding down pain and blocking against feeling hurt. What Acid does is disrupt gating and allow us to feel our pain…..but all at once. Since that constitutes an overload, the exact feelings are blocked or disconnected but their energy level gets through to higher centers. And what do those higher centers do? They absorb all that force and begin the cognitive defense against it. They do what any person does when overloaded with imprinted pain; they manufacture far-out, bizarre ideas to encapsulate the force. This is true with LSD and in everyday life. That is why LSD is sometimes called a psychotomimetic. The ideas are far out because they are forced by a heavy load into concocting something. And the leitmotif of the feeling, the feeling of feeling, gets through so that the content of the hallucination somehow reflects what the person is dealing with. Someone is trying to kill me (death is near). Or they feel a cosmic oneness with the universe, which seems like an hallucination to me. Since what the person is thinking is idiosyncratic solely to her. And what helps eradicate the hallucination it for the moment is a tranquilizer/pain-killer. It is so easy to see the connection between pain and hallucinations since pain-killers stop those beliefs in their tracks. The frontal cortex is the last refuge of defense; going psychotic to keep from becoming insane. Absorbing heavy energy with beliefs before they can affect the heart to produce a fatal cardiac arrest. It is not the drug that makes hallucinations; it is the pain that has no specific context that drives the higher levels to become exotic. There is a context but it is usually a very early imprint with no specific scene attached. Its force, however, is preverbal with life-threatening consequences. There is no specific scene for the cortex to hang onto. If at first you had a good trip, it is because you have a good enough defense system to allow only some of the pain through….like smoking pot. But you will have a bad trip when first line terrors and rage surge through to produce the equivalent of a nightmare. And indeed, the trip is a nightmare. Daymares are nightmares with the sunlight. Otherwise, no difference. Terror is terror, day and night. The physiology does not change when the sun goes down. It bursts through unchecked because beliefs which work in see-saw fashion with imprinted feelings, are not strong enough to hold them down. Then you make no sense. These neural gates are not Huxley’s ‘Doors to Perception; on the contrary they block perception in specific ways and allow only global perceptions”; so-called Universal Truths. You are never “one with yourself or with the cosmos.” You mind has flown into pieces and you can only recapture pieces of yourself. You feel liberated because the lid of the repressive load has been temporarily lifted. It is primal therapy on speed. Instead of getting to one feeling at a time and integrating it; you get to all at once and it is really too much. But you do not have enough critical faculties left to understand what is happening. We did LSD research decades ago and found the brain very speeded up but with low amplitude which means to us the breakdown of defenses. We see on patients on the verge of deep non-verbal feeling that defenses mount with the heightening of the amplitude. When they crash, so does the amplitude. And after some ten trips the effects last for years; trouble sleeping, needing tranquilizers, cannot concentrate and unstable behavior, in general. That is the danger of rebirthing and drugs that prematurely unleash early pains out of sequence. You can and do often get hallucinations; “at one with the cosmos,” etc. I have seen it over and over in those who take drugs, smoke pot all of the time, or go to rebirthing centers. They come to us overloaded and seemingly “in space.” They are not all there. When a booga booga therapist thinks this is a good response to his therapy, watch out. When his beliefs merge with the patient all is lost. When the therapist thinks that “at one with the universe” is to be fervently sought they are both hallucinating. Integration is the sine qua non of progress in psychotherapy. Nothing artificial can make that happen. It is a biologic law; not to be abrogated because someone has invented a quick way to ourselves. To defy biologic laws is to contravene nature and natural law. To bypass nature means not to get well, for it is only through nature that we can be cured. We need to go at nature’s pace, follow the rhythm of the evolution and not hurry the process up. The human brain is a delicate instrument. We need to play it carefully. LSD has been used for treating depression. What it does is ease the cap of repression and thereby easing depression, which, as I have said over and over, depression is repression elevated to a high level. One no longer feels the specific feelings; they are usually preverbal and heavy valence so that they cannot be accessed easily. The writer in the article (Marc Lewis) went from LSD to heroin. No surprise since the gates had been flung open by LSD and needed closing. What better way than through a powerful painkiller. If he did our therapy he would not need heroin. He would have felt the pain in all its agony one piece at a time. LSD shows us nothing except how it feels not to repress pain for a brief moment. That is good. Getting there through drugs is definitely not good. Doing the artificial can never produce natural responses. And it is always nature we are after. We are after inner harmony, and only nature can provide it. http://cigognenews.b...of-lsd-and.html This is an interesting way of thinking, a kind of thinking I don't think many of the people in circles we know would agree with. It seems heavily based on his belief of Primal Therapy so i'm trying to understand more about his Primal Therapy theories to better understand what he's talking about in this blog. Anyone else know about Primal Therapy and can shed some light on the topics discussed in this article? :D