Tag Archives: Neuroscience

Biology Reveals Insights into Human Culture

This is an excellent documentary that illustrates how biological ecosystems find an equilibrium that is a suitable adaptive response to the environment. This means all the organisms that express nourishing and defense behaviors in a given ecosystem become specifically suited to the environment and each other. Islands are one of the places this biological balance is illustrated clearly; where the particulars of the environment along with the baseline biological ecosystem that inherited the island come to express a behavioral economy that is adaptive in that specific context. Islands with no large land predators may bring about flightless birds for instance because of the lack of need to fly away.

Christmas Island is an excellent illustration of how that biological equilibrium can be dramatically disrupted by a newcomer to the biological social economy. This disruption can expose weaknesses that are present because there was no need to build defenses against the strategies of the imported invader prior to its arrival. This is what drives biology’s own evolutionary expression of a “Game of Thrones” and may also be a good insight into the way the various human cultures evolved throughout the world – a reflection of populations finding equilibrium with the environment, reflecting its nature, coupled with the periodic need to adapt to “invaders” as we began to cross pollinate as a result of things like trade, climate shifts and so on, leading to the human version of “Game of Thrones”.

Powerful Influence from Small Changes

While this article is on *Brain Inflammation and Obesity* specifically, there seems to be a number of deeper implications if we apply a wide angle lens to the fact that certain infections, or microbiome populations, or traumas, etc. in the context of our complex biological system can shift behavioral expressions on more than physical scales. This influence on our relational landscape has a powerful influence on our experience of life. Extrapolated further we might begin to get a glimpse of how our evolution, history, culture and sense of identity might all be far more nebulous and arbitrary than we are used to believing.


The Language of Biology

Biology is a complex relational economy that produces coherent “meaning” in the form of structures and ongoing relationships that are aimed at specific goal oriented ends. Like verbal language and its capacity to produce the more complicated structures that are possible within its range of expression, like comedy or drama for instance, to accomplish the communication effectively requires certain contexts in order for them to work as intended. We see this same communication requirement in biology. Here’s an example of how that opportunity for a complex communication to convey something constructive or restorative can be destroyed by context:


How Smell Shapes Our Lives

There is no thing that we do on a macro scale that does not exist on a micro scale. Recurring echoes of self similarity with a blend of melodic dissonance is what makes up the magnificent symphony of structure we call biology. Smell is no exception:

How our Personality is Wired

Today’s wake up word is Myelin: It is a fatty insulator that surrounds the axon of some kinds of nerve cells allowing signals to pass through preferentially over those channels. When we learn motor skills like an instrument, our body responds by mylenating certain channels to make that happen easier over time. This is why we become competent at tasks. Myelin is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Myelin is the reason habits form (including what we call our identity and character in many respects) and why patterns of behavior are harder to break once established whether in an individual or a culture, and why these rituals may serve us or imprison us depending on how they are wired and how that wiring serves to help us navigate the variables of our environment.

The Relationship Economy that Defines a Coherent Body of Life

The article link below describes how a single species of gut bacteria can reverse autism-related social behavior in mice.

The fact that a single organism can have so much influence on mouse behavior and experience is also a glimpse not only into the powerful biological drivers that result in what all organisms experience as life, but indeed what life experience is founded on. Our behaviors and experience, including whether and how much we are social, as well as whether or not we remain a coherent part of the biological economy over time and so on are based on the relational climate that forms as a result of a parliament of organisms and environmental conditions which together operate as a coherent body which influence behaviors and experience on multiple scales.

The notion that we are an individual species, defined by our local genetics and completely separate entities from other species is dissolving as a useful means to clearly define biology. A lens that sees biology as a relational economy that transcends our notions of individual species – one that renders the image that a coherent biological body consisting of organisms of many different genetic makeups networked together in diverse ways, forming a meta body, complete with a coherent integrated metabolism and the defense mechanisms to defend that integrity in the face of antagonists – is a more appropriate lens.


On Free Will, Awareness and the Nature of Being

Many of us think we have agency – the capacity as individuals to perceive a certain portion of the local landscape of reality and use that as the basis to act independently, making our own free will choices. It comes as a surprise to some of us to discover that while an element of that perception of reality and corresponding response using a component of agency may be a piece of the puzzle, it is a small piece, if a piece at all.

Most of what we perceive and experience can be more accurately characterized as being “along for the ride” on a wave of relationship dynamics that occur on many scales, including molecular scales which are driven by the trillions of microbial life forms that live in and on us. In other words, we do not experience things due to what’s going on solely in our head, we experience things that stem from any number of sources known and unknown for which we manufacture what is in our mind a plausible explanation for those experiences.

Our capacity to produce plausible explanations is the real talent of our brain – producing things that are useful, but not necessarily things that are accurate. These explanations are inaccurate at best and often miss the mark completely, yet they produce a convincing picture, leaving us embraced in the comforting delusional cocoon of beliefs that may serve us, but do not correspond to the reality of the situation. Here is a small glimpse at the real world we so rarely get a glimpse of with our minds:


Where does Intelligence Reside?

The one on the left is a wasp, the one on the right is a moth. The question is; Where, how and on what level does the intelligence by which this mimicry takes place reside?


If we define intelligence as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, examples of mimicry like the example detailed in this story (linked below) have always left me wondering how a biological organism would be able to perceive and respond, at whatever level it takes, to recognize and assemble this cloak of deception without some capacity to sense “other minds” as well as a capacity to carry out a morphological change in response to that recognition of what’s going on in the mind of the other species…

For this moth to drape itself in the cloak of a wasp is a remarkable event, which we seem to be able to adequately describe, but our descriptions are certainly not explanations. In terms of explaining the event, what we typically call out, (adaptation, which is a description, not really an explanation) seems inadequate on its own without some kind of recognition of a sophisticated capacity for conceptualization and response embedded in the biological framework going on at some level that produces this sophisticated expression of adaptation. Just thinking out loud here.


Humans are Part of a Much Larger Biological Parliament of Relationships

We humans are part of a much larger biological parliament of relationships. It is this wide context of relationships that transcends “human” and includes the other life forms we live in the context of is what defines how we experience our life. It is the whole community, not any isolated part that defines what we call “us”. Injuries that impact this larger biological parliamentary body of relationships we are composed of can powerfully shape us over time. Minor injuries for instance can heal without any long term effects, but deeper kinds of injuries can echo for long periods. We commonly know that serious wounds to our physical body, or severe trauma experiences can reshape our brain structure and define how we respond to the world from that point forward,. What is not as commonly known is that injuries to the collection of microbes that live in and on us (called the microbiome) can also affect the way we see and respond to the world for a long time. In this case, research done in mice indicates that a mother under stress can result in injuries to the microbiome we depend on for many aspects of development. This can cause cognitive defects and anxiety in the child, and the effects of these injuries can persist all the way through adulthood.

Life is an interconnected tapestry of relationships that requires certain conditions to be cultivated in order to be able to realize it’s full potential. Recognizing these the widely dispersed cause and effect cues in this complex relationship field is the key to being able to shape them intentionally.

Click here to read further “Stress During Pregnancy Negatively Impacts Fetus, Microbiome may Explain Why

The Evolution of Behaviors

Behaviorism Will Peck For Food

In 1948, B. F. Skinner published a landmark paper illustrating how animals develop superstition. Basically, if an animal is fed at irregular intervals it associates whatever behaviors it happened to be doing right before receiving food with receiving food. After that, it thinks those behaviors are what brings the food. It develops a “superstitious connection” between the unrelated behavior and the food.

This understanding of how connections are developed has been the foundation of behavioral conditioning and behavioral psychology since its discovery. This capacity for false (or true) association based on whatever happens to coincide at a particualr time is stitched onto our perception faculties and consequently, our psychology. People given mild stimulants unbeknownst to them have been recorded associating the effects of the stimulant with the things happening in their local happenings for instance. It is also important to emphasize that while the perception faculties sometimes falsely associate correlations, sometimes these factors are actually causal, and understanding this causal connection can lead to a survival advantage. This is probably why the capacity is seated in our biological makeup to begin with.

Our biological perception tendency to weave coincidental happenings into causal connections (which may be true or untrue) has an enormous implication in terms of understanding ourselves, our culture, our history, and the level of trust we can place on our individual certainties if we apply the information appropriately. It easily explains the reason medicine was stagnated for centuries by such notions as humors. It explains the cultural prevalence and behaviors that flow from beliefs in omens, and may be the foundation for all the world’s superstitions and religions. It may also be a strong if not causal factor in some disorders such as O.C.D. and other destructive compulsive behaviors. It has strong implications on our sociality because of the underlying message of acceptance or rejection we get for adopting certain ideas or behaviors as well. This may also be the foundation of bird song and language itself. The list goes on…

Behaviorism Will Press Lever For Food

While this symbolic association built into our perception faculties has definite survival value in that it is rooted in searching for a cause in order to more intentionally choose specific behaviors that lead toward survival, it is also true that these faculties are not entirely accurate, and come with a downside. This aspect of evolutionary biology, where a benefit comes with a potential downside is not unusual in the least. Evolution in peppered with these cost/benefit aspects, and much of who and what we are is a product of those competing priorities