Tag Archives: Biology

The Origin of Personality and Culture

The bouba/kiki effect is a non-arbitrary mapping system between speech sounds and visual shapes that we are biologically wired to do. If asked to name the objects below using the words bouba & kiki, the word kiki will most often be used to name the sharper object, and the word bouba used to name the softer object. It is because the sound kiki is sharper than the word bouba. Our subjective language is shaped by our objective environment.

If the implication of this connection between subject and object is unpacked across larger scales such as individual personalities and cultures, we can see how certain languages and customs would be sharper in tone as a result of the communication telegraphed through the social and objective environment by harsher climates. Ice ages and seasonal environments, or natural events such as volcanoes would communicate a certain perspective that would be different than a tropical island environment with steady access to food all year round and not as much need for shelter and so on. This objective communication by the environment would incline the subjective maps and behaviors developed by the people in that environmental womb to reflect that localized aspect of nature. We can see this type of bouba/kiki effect reflected linguistically (our subjective maps) as well as behaviorally (objective expressions) in our personalities and in our cultures and so on.

In other words; our identity to a large degree is based on patterns (echoes) of being repeatedly informed by, and responding to environmental cues. These cues define our form much like the rising sun would warm a rock, defining the properties of its form for a time. We are a collection of adaptive behaviors that were shaped by environmental factors over time which favored behaviors that were required to remain coherent in that context. (to survive) Harsher climates would have demanded harsher “kiki like” actions and words, and these traits would carry forward (perhaps past their shelf life) as acquired adaptations even if they became maladaptive in the context of a changing environment. This would have a self perpetuating effect, where harsh behaviors would craft a feedback loop of harsh behaviors, much like corn produces corn seeds, which produces corn and so on.

Understanding this concept may offer us the opportunity to strategically decide what to “plant” because although we cannot control every variable, our opportunity to participate in what will contribute to what we experience as our future depends in part on what behavioral seeds we cultivate.

 

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What goes into what we perceive as perception?

A Grain of Salt. Each episode asks a useful question, shares some perspective on it, then attempts to leverage that understanding so we can navigate toward a more effective and meaningful life.

Season 01 Episode 06:

What goes into what we perceive as perception?

A Wide Angle Lens on Life & Biology

My guess is the chief inhibitor to unlocking a clear vision of what the multivariate factors are that drive our experience of life is largely due to the linear reductionist lens we tend to apply when looking at relational systems such as ourselves. Linear reductionist lenses are like using a black and white crayon in an attempt to render a full spectrum image. While it gives us information, some of it quite useful, there is a diminishing law of returns which turns to a negative rendering value after a certain point of inflection.

Linear, fixed focal point lenses are not capable of rendering a full understanding of the workings of complex adaptive systems since, for instance, there is no inherent beginning or end to a given system, but diffuse nested fields of interrelated influences. As a consequence of using unifocal lenses, we often become enchanted with the linear images produced through it, albeit we also become blind in a sense, because much of the rendering is a function of the lens and not an accurate representation of the relational landscape it is pointed toward.

If we apply a systemic relationship lens to biology for instance, we then see a porous increasingly diffuse nested set of influences between organisms rather than distinct isolated organisms separated by fixed membranes. There is a porous interdependent set of relational bonds that lead to the same unified whole which we can detect by picking any point in a system. For instance; we can see the connections between the atoms, organelles, cells, and organs inside our body, and this inward coherency then extends outward to the microbiome, the local environment, the larger ecosystem, planet, star system galaxy etc. all the way to the whole of the cosmos. Were we to pick any other point in that nested collection we could also trace it from that focal point to the nested fields of influences which define that point, and extend again to the whole as well. In effect, linear images are useful, but have their limits. Whenever we choose a focal point, we also sacrifice the larger context.

When we use a systemic relationship lens through which to look at the whole biological economy, we can see with greater depth into the larger biological body of life in which we live, and on which we depend. What defines our local experience in terms of stability or instability in the final analysis is more like a cultivated commitment of a parliamentary nature than any kind of sovereign relational theme. Coherency is built on the strength of serving mutual needs of nourishment and defense. Our experience is cultivated on the preponderance of relationships that are sometimes necessary, sometimes laced with compromise, but always that serve purposes in relation to adaptation โ€“ that of remaining a coherent by way of sufficient nourishment and defense as an entity over time in the context of the environment. We realize this threshold of “being” by way of finding and maintaining this coherent equilibrium in the context of the larger environment. We see things like our individual identity and group sociality built on this same engine of nested influences. Understanding this is both the key to maximal growth, and a sustainable equilibrium in relationship to the carrying capacity of the environment.

I could be missing something(s)

Here is an example of the diffuse bonds of influence that conspire to shape what we experience as life and being.

Opinion: Microbial Mind Controlโ€”Truth or Scare?

Normal brain function may have evolved to depend on gut microbes and their metabolites.

https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/opinion-microbial-mind-controltruth-or-scare-36352

The Behavioral Theme of Biology is Nourishment and Defense

One of the major themes expressed through biological systems of all types on many scales is activity that lends itself to supporting coherence over time. The strategies are numerous, but pivot on the theme of coherence by way of “renewal” actions over time. In a variable environment with antagonistic agents that break down systems that need continual renewal to remain coherent, coherence sometimes means making sacrificial gestures that may not appear to serve from a short term perspective, but are necessary in when the perspective shifts to the long term. Here is one of those examples: *How a slime mold near death packs bacteria to feed the next generation* “…In the final frenzy of reproduction and death, social amoebas secrete proteins that help preserve a starter kit of food for its offspring.” https://www.sciencenews.org/article/how-slime-mold-near-death-packs-bacteria-feed-next-generation

The Purpose of Life is Written into the Structure of Biology

A skin cell does many vital jobs over the course of it’s life. It is arguably part of the more defensive oriented aspects of our biological economy. Each cell lives and dies, in part, to protect the whole body that gave birth to it and nourished it to maturity. Skin cells share a common legacy with all cells, to serve nourishing and, or defensive roles in relation to the community, whose integrity depends on enough of that shared value for the interdependent community to survive, and if there is a sufficient commitment to that end, to flourish.

The whole process takes around 6 weeks, from being “born”, to being pushed up through the layers in about 4 weeks, to dying and serving even in death for about two weeks as part of the stratum corneum. (Outer layer of skin) Other cells in our body live much longer, but all that are significant (not antagonistic to the body) are also aligned around the purpose of nourishing and defending the whole community which also nourishes and defends them.

My guess is this statement made through this biological economy, happens on many scales. It applies to biological organisms like us in reference to the ecological economy in which we live and on which we depend as a species. Finding and serving this role of constructive service is also the difference between a significant life and a meaningless life for us. It seems to depend on whether or not we found and played a role, no matter how small, in leaving something more constructive in our wake than the sacrifices that had to be made for us to be here at all.

This understanding and constructive expression of significance strikes me as the key to a satisfied life. We appear to be biologically wired to be satisfied by finding and expressing our nourishing and/or defensive role in the context of the community. I am pretty sure this is why we never meet anyone who is both malignantly selfish to the parasitic and predatory exclusion of others, and satisfied at the same time. Again, as far as I can tell, this move toward constructive significance seems to make the difference between an existence that is both to the self and frustrated in terms of purpose, and one that is more reflective of recognizing and fulfilling a role that supports the relationship economy on which we all depend for our present and our future. It is also the way evolution makes selective decisions about what will continue forward in time, and what will be selected out.

I could be missing something(s)

The Integumentary System, Part 1 – Skin Deep

Biological Influences on Identity Being and Personality

The influences that conspire to define what we experience as things like identity, being and personality type are built on a deep ocean of context based relationships which we have only begun to see with any real clarity, much less harness to our advantage. The currents of influence on which we ride have yet to be captured by the meager net of abstractions we feebly waggle into the depths in hopes of capturing something of value. Here’s a look at one tiny portion of this vast ocean of opportunity we have yet to discover and settle by way of leveraging our understanding toward progress.

An Ancient Virus Lurking in Our Genes Could Play an Important Role in Some Addictions

“…An unusual version of a retrovirus nestled between genes involved in brain chemistry is more common in individuals with a drug dependency than the rest of the population.*

https://www.sciencealert.com/endogenous-retrovirus-hk2-insertion-dopamine-gene-role-in-addiction

An Advance in Protecting the Brain from Dementia

Mitochondria is an organelle (tiny organ) inside our cells. One of the vital roles of it plays in the biological community is to produce a molecule we use as energy. It is like a central bank of our cells. It produces the currency by which things get done. The energy molecule is called ATP. (adenosine triphosphate) A loss of function in mitochondria can negatively impact our biological systems in a number of ways. ATP is not the only role of mitochondria. They also produce many other things by way of their own DNA. Among these biologically meaningful structures is a peptide called humanin.

Mitochondria communicate back to the cell and actively engage in determining major cellular policies in that larger context through signals communicated through structures like humanin. (these are called retrograde signals) Humanin, and many other signals are encoded in the nuclear genome of the organelle and play a crucial “voice in the choir” role in making sure the whole relationship economy functions. Humanin in particular plays a protector role in the cell against damage. (This is called a cytoprotective role). When the population of humanin, and other peptides that together provide for proper function of cells like ours (eukaryotic cells) becomes disproportionate the cellular needs, we suffer degradation of the systems we depend on. This can include dementia when it comes to brain function. Here’s a closer look at how the understanding of these roles can lead us to forming effective treatments.

๐— ๐—ถ๐˜๐—ผ๐—ฐ๐—ต๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ฎ๐—น ๐—ฃ๐—ฒ๐—ฝ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ ๐—ฃ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐˜๐˜€ ๐—”๐—ด๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ป๐˜€๐˜ ๐——๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜๐—ถ๐—ฎ

“…researchers to believe that humanin levels play an important function in the aging process and the onset of diseases linked to older age… Because of the beneficial effects of humanin, a decrease in circulating levels could lead to an increase in several different diseases of aging, particularly in dementia”

https://www.technologynetworks.com/neuroscience/news/mitochondrial-peptide-protects-against-dementia

Discovering Biological Friends and Foes

 

Not all viruses are dangerous. For instance; some are vital to how we function. The effects of endogenous retroviruses (those that stitch themselves into the human genome) are thought to have been essential for the evolutionary development of placental mammals as one example. Viruses can strategically trigger actions such as reproduction and, or go dormant depending on the biological climate at the time. The fact that cell replication in complex organisms like ourselves takes place and then goes dormant strategically may be due, at least in part, to the influence of viruses in the form of the genetic remnants of the traits that are now embedded in our genes. This, along with many other functions in human biology are parallel to, and could potentially be a result of, the influence of viral behaviors.

In addition to physiology, viruses are known to affect other behaviors such as those we categorize as psychological. The rabies virus is one well known virus that causes increased saliva flow and aggression in mammals. The borna disease virus can infect a number of animals, including humans. It has been known to cause hyperactivity, somnolence, depression and agitation. The point being; our experience as humans is built on a biological relationship economy that extends well beyond a stable set of genes. The relationship field from which we are composed can be cultivated, but it requires understanding how the whole process works. We have a long way to go, but we have made progress.

The spectrum of relationships in nature spans from constructive to destructive and that constructive vs. destructive trait depends on context. Some biological relationships contribute adaptive value, in these cases they are conserved. Viruses, like bacteria and so on can play destructive roles in the context of one system and a neutral or beneficial role in the context other systems. Like the role our various systems play from the respiratory system which carries nutrients in the form of oxygen to our cells, to the immune system which seeks out and destroys perceived antagonists, viruses also exist on this spectrum.. Some are lytic, in that they damage the relationship systems the host cell(s) depend on in such a way that the system is disrupted or destroyed. Understanding this destructive end of the biological spectrum, and how to remedy and or prevent these things from happening in the context of human systems is an important part of the further development of medicine. Here is a look at some of the work going on at the forefront of that discovery process:

๐——๐—ฒ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐——๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ด๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐˜€ ๐—Ÿ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ฉ๐—ถ๐—ฟ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ฒ๐˜€

“…Most people on the planet are thought to carry the HHV-6 virus, which doesnโ€™t cause symptoms in the majority of cases. Antibodies to the virus can be found in anywhere from 95 to 100 percent of healthy individuals, showing that most adults have become infected at some point. Itโ€™s thought to be harmless, but in people that have undergone organ transplant, take immunosuppressants, or get a chlamydia infection, the virus can become active… Two types of the virus exist; HHV-6B tends to infect infants and HHV-6A is usually asymptomatic. It does, however, integrate into cellular DNA, where it can remain for a lifetime. It has recently been suggested that the virus can reactivate and may play a role in a variety of diseases including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or Alzheimer’s… This work indicates that some prescriptions drugs might be able to reactivate HHV-6, leading to life-threatening danger for the patient. It may be very useful to identify these cases early.”

https://www.labroots.com/trending/microbiology/12741/detecting-dangerous-latent-viruses

The Relationship Engine that Defines Biology

 

If we step out of our structural model of โ€œorganismโ€ and โ€œgeneticsโ€ and look instead through a relational model that defines biology in general, we see a relationship climate in the biological landscape spectrum that spans from obligate (necessary) mutualism, through commensal relationships that benefit both parties, all the way to predatorily competitive where one benefits and the other is destroyed. Through this lens we begin to see the basis for the emergent intertwined systems we see in biology.

With this model a full spectrum of behaviors would happen in the context of a single organism for instance. Our own system has certain obligate mutualistic relationships such as that between our vital organs. We have commensal relationships with microbes that provide valuable services for the proper processing of food and get to flourish themselves as a result. We also have an immune system that predatorily looks for antagonists and seeks to destroy them.

Systems that align themselves around coherence through the acquisition and support of sustainable nourishment and defense of that coherence through the destruction, or compensation for antagonistic factors (pathogens) that are perceived to threaten that coherence. (Autoimmune diseases would be an example of a disproportionate response in this process)

This twofold relational axiom (Coherence and defense of coherence) is what defines adaptive biological systems. When we look through this coherence lens, the membrane that defines sustained coherence is not defined by genetics, or by the skin of any one organism, neither is it based on a singular organism. It is defined by an adaptive array of relationships across the spectrum that lend themselves to establishing and maintaining coherence. These various relationships are threaded through many organisms and sometimes only parts of other organisms which together define a single relational system.

A sustainable relational economy is one that is adapted to the environment with a proportional amount sampled from that full spectrum. In other words, nourishing coherence and defense of coherence is threaded through many creatures that form a collective body.

Here is an accidental discovery that happened to discover one of these defensive systems in plants which occurred when trying to study the effects of gravity on plants.

๐—”๐—ป ๐—”๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜‡๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—›๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜€ ๐—ช๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—ฎ ๐—ฃ๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—š๐—ฒ๐˜๐˜€ ๐—›๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐˜, ๐— ๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—บ ๐— ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐—ฆ๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ถ๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ฟ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—”๐—ป๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—น๐˜€

“…When plants are under attack… their defense systems are raised in other parts…. plants use the same signalling molecules that animals use in their nervous system… the signals as they travel in waves through plants in response to a stressor… there’s this systemic signalling system, and if you wound in one place the rest of the plant triggers its defense responses… if a plant gets wounded, an electrical charge fires, propagating across the plant. In animals, an excited nerve cell releases an amino acid called glutamate, which triggers a wave of electrically charged calcium ions that propagate to cells farther and farther away from the site… what happened to the plants is… Waves of light flow out from the source of the wound, spreading through the plant… once the wave hits, defensive hormones rise in that region of the plant.”

https://www.sciencealert.com/plant-damage-response-defence-calcium-ions-glutamate-fluorescent

Exploring the Origins of our Social Nature

When we are in a stadium or a packed movie house experiencing something on the edge, do we feed on the mindset of the crowd? Do we lose our sense of individuality and become part of the group body? Can cultures incentivise the adoption of ideas; not because the ideas themselves are valid, but because they act as symbolic markers of inclusion? Do these ideas become the de facto currency of social inclusion, something we tend to adopt because we are biologically wired to seek inclusion as a primary drive?

Could this be how intense stress can act to spawn populist movements with fierce devotees that tend to act on more narrow and non nuanced principles? Could this natural tendency toward a desire for coherence make us convinced of an idea, not because of its validity, but because of our need to belong to a group for protection, especially under perceived stress? Is this what happens on differing scales of intensity as a function of our social nature?

Is this holding of ideas as a means of ritual expressions that cement social bonds something we may do without being consciously aware? Is it possible we are not in touch with because we’re lost in our own little words while actually being carried on biological currents that are far deeper and powerful?

This article might reveal a clue of the origins of this type of behavior we see at many levels:

๐—›๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐˜€๐—น๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฒ ๐—บ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ฑ ๐—ด๐—ฒ๐˜๐˜€ ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ด๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ถ๐˜‡๐—ฒ๐—ฑ

“… a unicellular organism that may transition into a multicellular organism under stress, has just been found to have a tissue structure that was previously thought to exist only in more sophisticated animals. What’s more, two proteins that are needed by the slime mold to form this structure are similar to those that perform the same function in more sophistical animals.”

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110314172317.htm