Saturday, August 23, 2008

everything i love enlivens me to a nostalgia for some piece of life i never knew

... and yet, the nostalgia does not become ruinous when the thing that inspired it disappears or becomes a relic.

Georgia: I think I've reached a place where I can be happy enough with someone's existence to accept their disappearance from my life when the time comes

Wade: Are you referring to someone or something specific? Give me more.

Georgia: I mean in general - I was thinking about how some of my most treasured have drifted in a way that you would expect from casual acquaintances, and some come back intermittently and some don't - I don't have that aching feeling that accompanies heavy loss like I once did

Wade: You are getting used to people fading, that's a sad event

Georgia: Yes, but it's a nice feeling that I can be happy enough with periods of real love no matter their brevity and appreciate that I've been able to reciprocate them without being possessive of them

Wade: True, but it requires a lack of long term expectation, and people too often fall into that regard toward the nature of friendship

Georgia: I'm not worried about that happening. I don't enter into relationships with people with any expectation of their lasting forever, but I maintain the prospect of their becoming something important and treasurable

Wade: Have you always been this way?

Georgia: No, I spent my life being incredibly possessive and emotionally dependent on any love I could get my hands on.

Wade: ...and now, you are adapting to loss by learned helplessness. What will happen to you if you further develop this lackadaisical expectation of connectedness? You will become cold and sad. We are social creatures, and we crumble without connectedness.

Georgia: Don't call it helplessness, because sad and cold is the opposite of my apparent direction which is why I accept it at all. The connectedness does not disappear with the person or thing, is my point... which is why the love remains, made more fervent by weak nostalgia but also made pleasant by the absence of possessive defeat.

... maybe because those i love most are so grandiose - their own worlds - that i can conceive of our collision as being just emphatic and long enough to have made an impressionable entanglement of selves before ricocheting away - worlds gained and only grossly lost.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

aspirin and parkinson's

arachidonic acid is one of the reasons that a high meat diet contributes to early neurodegeneration - it's not just about caloric intake, it's about the amino acids you accumulate. arachidonic acid is a fatty acid precursor to prostaglandins, which are made in excess when neurons die and release arach. acid into the extracellular system, or when introduced in excess through extensive meat intake.

Aspirin inhibits prostaglandin production. inhibited prostaglandin production releases less arachidonic acid to oxidize other cells. less arach. acid allowed to do damage over time decreases the chances of developing Parkinson's disease.

take Aspririn (or any NSAID, really) to avoid PD when you're eighty. but also, eat less fatty meat.

Monday, August 11, 2008

empty thoughts VIII

1. handedness in mice seems to correlate with a lateralized dominance of dopamine expression; a mouse who prefers to use the left paw has a lower level of dopamine in the right hemisphere (Berneoud et al 1990) [which screws with my mind because in Parkinson's a mouse who has impairment of left paw control has lower levels of dopamine in the right hemisphere... fucking dopamine].

2. human fetuses suck their thumb beginning at the 15th week of gestation. of 75 fetuses who suck their thumbs, the 60 who suck their right thumb all become right handed teenagers. of the 15 who suck their left thumb, 5 become right handed and 10 become left handed (Cabib et al 1995) [so handedness is a developmental thing, not a consciousness thing?... in the vicinity of week 15 the brain is primarily ventricles, aka stem cell pockets, so what, are we talking about dimorphic differentiation as dictated by the notochord?].

3. whether early brain asymmetries contribute more to language development or handedness remains a challenging question (Corballis 2003) [which is damn sweet... that handedness might correlate with language centers, particularly Broca and Wernike's areas localized in the left hemisphere].

4. fibroblast growth factor 8 (FGF8) is secreted from the anterior cortex during development which might be distributed unevenly to the left and right cortical hemispheres, leading to asymetrical topography (Sun et al 2005) [i can't find any studies on whether or not this secretion occurs anywhere near gestation week 15 where striatum and cortex develop from the ventricle cells... and it is driving me mad].

5. normal brain asymmetry is disrupted in individuals with schizophrenia, autism, dyslexia, etc. (Herbert et al 2005; Hugdahl 1998; Falkai 1992) [does molecular regulation conjugate brain asymmetry and handedness?... do schizophrenics etc. demonstrate tendancies toward ambidexterity?!... do all these conditions correlate to oxygen deprivation during critical periods of gestation?!...].

6. 90% of the human population is right-hand dominant. of that population, 95% are also language skill dominant in the left hemisphere. of the remaining 10% who are left-handed, only 70% are language dominant in the left hemisphere (Sun and Walsh 2006).

Then... does handedness actually indicate a significant specialization in unilateral hemispheric function? The hand manipulates the environment, and the contralateral brain maps the sensory information into a model... but is the correlation between left-handedness and holistic, intuitive and musical function of the right brain as robust as it is imperfect? And for that matter, is 90% of the human population right handed in correlation with evolutionary utility of the left brain as a linear, language manipulating analytical tool?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

green sulphate umbrella

there is a problem with the climate change sector of energy policy with which i'm particularly irritated... which is that people are either concerned with greenhouse gas emissions, or chemical pollutants, and no one seems to be considering the implications of both. namely... that they complement one another, they are both causing severe problems and they need to be decreased together, not separately. and this segregation of focus is all well and good except for that it completely destroys the ability of policy makers to address the current climate crises in a comprehensive manner. in the particular instance of these two issues, if one is given more weight than the other, or one is addressed without the other, we could all die anyway via the acceleration of the geophysical phenomena that greenhouse and pollutant gases are currently holding at bay.

namely... "global warming" versus "global dimming." very brief summary before i rant: in the 60's, particle pollution began to noticeably reflect a great deal of the sun's rays which had a cooling effect on the globe. this effect continued as pollution continued, the phenomenon being explained by the increased particles polluting clouds giving water a greater surface area on which to collect, and water molecules take much longer to collect enough to outweigh the particle and cause it to fall in a raindrop. while the water takes longer to collect, it stays in the clouds, reflecting a substantial amount of sunlight and preventing it from reaching the earth's surface. so from the 60's to the 80's, global dimming has protected us against the full assault of global warming, which would have otherwise been roughly two-fold. so yes, while pollution has been the cause of something like 135,000 premature deaths a year, it has warded off the 1,000,000 that would have been caused by the effects of accelerated global warming. but then, in the 80's when Congress adopted the EPA's Clean Air Act, pollutants decreased in the clouds and global warming revealed itself more drastically. and voila, in the 00's, if we want to live, we have to address both, and here is my rant...

this whole business of chemtrailing a sulfur umbrella into the stratosphere, if i'm being honest, doesn't seem like such a bad idea. because the world is having so much trouble - fuck it, because the United States is having so much trouble - deciding whether or not we want to assume this problem is real much less address it, it's going to take a few years to get policy implemented effectively. in the meantime, sulfate has a half life of roughly ten years, so it is in actuality one of the more innocuous short-term plans. shoot up the sky with more crap that doesn't belong in it while we, down on the ground, figure out how to decrease both ghg and particle pollutants from the atmosphere in concert.

reducing ghg requires technological implementation. reducing soot requires tighter regulation. the latter is easily done, while the former seems to be... the cause of increased rate of aneurysm and heart attack in our political leaders... for whatever reason... likely because (like so many socioeconomic crises that are incorporated into its implications) ghg emission is an exceedingy comprehensive nexus.

my point being this: if you deal with ghg emissions alone, we'll experience global cooling complete with drought, famine, disease, loss of populations, loss of species and loss of existence. if you deal with particle pollutants alone, we'll experience accelerated global heating complete with drought, famine, disease, loss of populations, loss of species and loss of existence. ergo... work simultaneously on decreasing them both [and if you're one of those people who thinks increased snowfall in certain areas of the globe this year is a clear sign that global warming doesn't exist, i have some words for your denial]. yes yes, i understand it's going to be oh so very difficult an endeavor... after all, particle pollutants have a shorter half life than do ghg's, and there's math involved, and oh for fuck's sake get over it and alter your nation's productive and consumptive behaviour so that ghg production are decreased more exponentially and particle pollutants more linearly. and then, oh no!, how do we know how much of atmospheric ghg and particle pollutants are from us and how many are natural? what if we accidentally take too much out of the sky and as a result lose oxygen and gravitational pull? [i'm exercising restraint not to comment on the rapture at this point...] after all, there's no way to tell if any of this is actually our fault! so let's continue to mutate our livestock and crops and make sure we adequately feed our greedily unbalanced economic and consumptive habits [i also think that it should be the govt's responsibility to pay farmers for feeding their nation so that we can ween off of this terrible seething monster of supply and demand]... but as per norm, i digress...

if we are indeed going to continue to restrict funding for and forebearance of green technology, then put a sulphate umbrella over our shallow little heads for a few decades while we figure out how to get over ourselves. and no more of this carbon scrubbing shit that cleans primarily sulfur out of industrial burners - if we're going to scrub, scrub both carbon and sulfur; why trap the more benign gas and give the more-difficult-and-expensive-to-remove-from-the-atmosphere gas VIP entrance? clean coal is actually not a bad baby step... since it seems we are going to need some dirt in our clouds for a while longer before the environmental consequences of Bushee's regime wear off and green technology begins to be taken seriously.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

physical component of social pain

on the potentially incapacitating noxious pain of social exclusion, rejection or loss.

leave it to life to knock me upside the head for meandering through a thought like yesterday's...

when Nicole and Anne's moms were lost to breast cancer, when Robin's father was lost to metastatic brain tumors and her mother Diane was then taken by breast cancer a few years later, yesterday when John didn't come in to work because his dad was waiting on the results of a cancer diagnosis (on Friday i had initiated a conversation with him about health and predisposition, self and family, brilliant timing natalie). and then tonight when Cookie went through the ordeal of diagnosing her three-month old kitten with a neural bacterial infection and had to put him down... i suppose i recall the weight that comes down on my heart when people i love suffer.

"it is conceivable that brain circuits for separation distress represent an evolutionary elaboration of an endorphin-based pain network" -Panksepp

sure, it is sensible to propose that noxious pain accompanying an emotional event would serve to focus attention to that event to promote correction and future avoidance. such an adaptation would promote inclusive fitness: death of genetic kin, sexual jealousy, rap and childlessness as noxiously painful stimuli, recognized as aversive would be avoided.

social and physical pain have been shown to share the opioid and oxytocin neuroendocrine systems that work through the cingulate gyrus and periaquaductal gray [as a side note, the PAG is also a sexually dimorphic region specializing in aggressive behavior... larger and more active in males...].

social integration used to mean survival to us. now, we're so hell-bent on independence and establishing self sufficiency that we seemingly strive to eliminate this integration - this is just one example of modern social exclusion, but the first that comes to mind. if we look at our closest cousins, they form strong relationships within their social network because connections to certain individuals mean connectedness to tools of protection, reproduction and food. the most strongly integrated animals are the most likely to survive... this is because we are one of many many species who learn through imitation.

okay. so connectedness is important, and social exclusion can be equivalent to death. therefore, social animals needed physiological mechanisms to help them react to threats of social exclusion, and avoid them. interdependence.

evolutionary theory would suggest something like... as more complex social networks arose, complex response systems within physiological correlates of behaviour probably became associated with already existing mechanisms of threat defense... drumroll... the nociceptive system. [as another side note i loooooove this system. mm.]

if you throw a lobster into a pot of boiling water, it will flap its tail and appear to be trying to climb out. this is actually a nociceptive reflex wherein pain nerves are activated by the heat and recruit a network of other nerves to move the tail in such a way as to quickly escape the threat. this is the same system on which social pain would supervene... but lobsters don't have an emotional correlate to pain [i've written about this before... don't remember when...].

noxious pain gives information about tissue damage to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord and the periaquaductal gray (PAG). the affective experience of pain depicted by activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus that signals an aversive state and motivates behaviour to escape the noxious stimulus. and it is this affective component whose circuit social pain might directly utilize. hot.

these two circuits - physical and social pain circuits - could become associated through very early-on sensory experiences... with physical pain and separation. for instance, when an infant experiences physical discomfort, it is alleviated by physical contact with the maternal figure - what Bowlby calls the attachment figure (1970's). however, this simultaneously teaches the infant that isolation and physical pain go together.

on a more physiological level, it has been demonstrated that the opiates released in infants when physical pain is alleviated during attachment are stimulated to do so by the PAG. this same pain inhibition in the dorsal horn by opiate stimulation from the PAG occurs when adults experiencing social exclusion related pain - death, sexual jealousy, etc. - are able to alleviate it through social attachment. and when they are isolated or cannot otherwise inhibit the affective component of pain, endogenous opioid production does not occur.

freaking cool that social pain to promote survival in social animals may have developed by mapping onto the more primitive mechanism of noxious pain.

so in other words, fuck you, modern independence epidemic. every social or affective pain i have ever experience - death, social exclusion, medical or financial crisis - has been ameliorated by a hug.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

electron tunneling

In case you were wondering what gets me off...

" By comparison of the measured IETS (*inelastic electron tunneling spectroscopy) spectrum of this molecule with the computed one, it is possible to examine the relative intensities of the different vibrational normal modes, thereby to deduce the pathway for transport. We find that the electrons are injected through the terminal methyl group, tunnel through the sigma bridge to the etheric linkage, mix with the pi electrons, pi tunnel through the aromatic, and switch back to the sigma tunneling, through the thiol and out onto the counter electrode (Galperin and Ratner)."

Bit of background... this was a studying looking at molecular transport junctions wherein a molecule is placed between two electrodes and subjected to applied voltage. This kind of analysis shows particular modes of transport pathways for electrons across the molecule by way of interpreting the molecular junction geometry. This is hot shit because delocalization of electrons across molecules - and in particular, proteins - has the potential to give a great deal of information about protein folding mechanisms...

Protein folding is a fairly simple concept: when DNA copies, it translates its code into a sequence of amino acids. The aa sequence comprises what is called the primary protein structure. AA then fold, through several types of electromagnetic interaction, into secondary structure which begins to take on 3D characteristics. Secondary structure can then fold into several different types of final form, depending on the protein's destined function. But for the purpose of where I'm going with this, I'm going to refer only to primary and secondary structure.

there's a reason that computer modeling has trouble accurately replicating the speed in which proteins fold into their final conformation. that reason is electron tunneling.

in proteins there have been found to exist very significant long-distance tunneling currents of superposed paths over which electrons can delocalize across an entire structure - not just between neighboring atoms which was the conventional assumption.

what this means is that an electron localized to... atom A... can enter into a more delocalized, higher energy superposition between atoms A and B. when it yields back this high energy state, the electron can then relocalize to B rather than back to A, if this is energetically favorable. sound familiar? this is basic electron transfer. now imagine the same mechanism occurring between amino acids of primary and secondary protein structures. because the distance between aa is so much greater than between individual atoms, electron coupling falls away and electrons must delocalize via tunneling currents, connected by "bridges" which enhance tunneling along multiple superposed paths within the molecule.

for instance, in the tubulin protein alpha and beta dimers that make of microtubules (previous post) contain a somewhat patterned arrangement of tryptophan amino acids, arranged all within 2 nanometers of each other. because tryptophan aa contain not only an aromatic ring, but a double aromatic ring (an indole), they provide a tremendously stable delocalization site for electron density, and are thought to be key players in the tunneling current in and between tubulin dimers [this is the tunneling that causes the conformational change in alpha and beta monomers that result in the propagation of an electrical signal down their lattice in the microtubule].

the signal is not just propagated by means of the tryptophan current network; there is also a lattice composes of the aromatic substituents of histidine and phenylalanine amino acids, which correspond to an additional three tunneling possible tunneling patterns. this current-strengthening effect is responsible for the nature of the electromagnetic signal as it is transfered down a microtubule, and from one microtubule to another.

it works as such: the transfer of an electron from one space in a primary structure to another space causes a conformational shift which directs the primary structure to take on secondary characteristics. cysteine amino acids will be reoriented such that they are within few enough angstroms of one another to be reduced to form disulfide bridges... hydrogen bonding will cause proline rings to the outer surface of the molecule such that a helix is left handed as opposed to right, etc. the reason protein folding can occur so rapidly is that this works the other way as well: conformational change of the protein as it folds influences changes in the tunneling current pattern so that the tunneling options electrons have are altered (Balabin and Onuchic 1998).

the remaining question, then, is what controls the dynamics of tunneling electrons? something to do with phonons (vibrational degrees of freedom) as produced by tunneling effects, which then enhance feedback between tunneling current and conformational changes. my understanding of electron-phonon interaction, however, is excruciatingly limited.

i must find someone to educate me on this one... quite frankly, i'm tired of staring at primary literature trying to navigate my way around equations for this shit. where is my on hand physicist?... i can't fit this into my theory of conscious DNA until phonon emission finds its place! gr. grumble. pass out.

selective attention vs psychokinesis

do we see red coats worn everywhere because, coincidentally, an epidemic of red coats was brought to explicit consciousness by selective attention? or do we see them everywhere, psychokinetically, to prove to our inner thinker that they are truly everywhere?

and what's more, which is evolutionarily beneficial?

reproduction used to be the name of the game; now, those of us who have developed higher intelligence are interrupting the expression of our survival traits with a panoply of stimuli over which to ruminate. numerous strains of fly - mayfly, cattle grub, Bembix - have only one objective upon maturity: propagation. they have no mouth. when you live for sex alone you do not need to be attentive to anything else, and, as such, there is no call for your mind to be selective. this works for such creatures, evolutionarily speaking. they fertilize, lay parasitic nests and call it good. there's no hierarchical categorization of voluntary or involuntary attention, and there's certainly no psychokenesis... right?

here's what i think is interesting about the concept of mind over matter: there is no trace of the more basic mechanism from which it evolved that is given any regard in evolutionary biology. whyyy?! because it doesn't appeal to congenital impulses? that's complete crap. psychokenesis is just as relevant to survival as inhibition of return (a cohort of attention which keeps a creature from re-attending to an object), it's just shoved into the corner there is no observable suggestive behavior in lower animals. personally (and also, reluctantly), i think it's a concept just as observable in the morphogenetic fields of an amoeba as in the wannabe-telekinetic demonstrations of humans who think that bending a spoon by exerting more force than you convince yourself to be necessary is proof of internal electromagnetic command (no, not Sheldrake's concept of MF, the Gurwitsch original).

selective attention. psychokenesis.

i'm chewing.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

speech, autism and collective consciousness

“…a creature cannot have thoughts unless it is the interpreter of the speech of another.” -Donald Davidson (1975, p. 9)

Initial response: ...what?!

Secondary response:

The man is suggesting that communication through speech is the only means by which a creature is able to generate thought, implying that language is the primary vehicle of thought, rather than vice versa. I think that's dumb. The primary vehicle of thought need not be speech; it could more than conceivably be entirely driven by behaviour.

Follow me for a minute here.

A thought can be a belief. A belief is based on the way things are in the actual world. The way things are in the actual world can be interpreted through the behaviour of creatures in the world. Even if it were true that belief emerged only in those organisms capable of interpreting the behaviour of others, it doesn’t follow that that interpretation need be of speech. Thought could be generated merely on the basis of interpretation of behaviour for which speech is not necessary.

[note: the necessity of internal language is an entirely separate issue...]

Translating this into an example - as my philosophy professors would demand is crucial to my train of thought - say two primitive children witness an avalanche of boulders cascading down a nearby mountain. They may be standing close enough to the avalanche to feel the ground shake, and that a small stone may ricochet from it’s main course and hit one child in the arm. The child, having felt the sting of the stone, generates a thought correlating bounding stones with pain, and that if such a small stone inflicts pain then standing beneath the whole cascade will deliver far worse. The child can then infer that it is a good idea to avoid being in close proximity to avalanches. And... run. The second child, having witnessed the discomfort expressed by and the fleeing of the first, may infer from his behaviour that it is wise to avoid avalanches. The first child generated a thought about avalanches based on the behaviour of the cascading boulders, and the second child generated the same thought based on the behaviour of the first child... with speech being a component of neither scenario.

Yes, it can also be provoked by speech alone if a creature were to be told by another that an approaching avalanche was potentially very harmful. However, provocation of thought about the avalanche through the latter scenario would require that the creature, in order to recognize the implication of an avalanche from only the speech of another creature, must have seen it inflict harm before in the content of the phrase “approaching avalanche” could have any meaning. This doesn't make it less likely that the creature could have a belief about the avalanche as solely regarded through speech. Rather, it suggests that witnessing an avalanche harming someone does not require speech to communicate that one might want to avoid cascading boulders...

The other confound of the "no thought without speech" theory is that it can be used to argue against thought in higher animal organisms, as people actually do make the argument that non-human animals can't communicate through speech [this is another assumption with which I have extensive arguments]. And while I'm a proponent of learning and memory being entirely biochemically and anatomically structured in some processes, there is also a component of consciousness that becomes necessary to explain the acquisition of the kind of behaviour learned in higher animals. There's a communication that occurs between human and animal in instances of learning that are not classical conditioning, which suggests thought in the mind of the animal as it interprets the behaviour of its trainer or owner, or what have you.

And then we have the instance of Davidson's awkward collision with cases of Autism. Since he purports that to be a thinker you must be a speaker interpreting other speakers, it then follows that Davidson must believe that Autistic people - who have monstrous trouble interpreting the minds of others but who can put together their own coherent thoughts (Baron-Cohen 1995; Harris 1991)- are not capable of thought. Which, as you might imagine, perplexes me. Thought, as I categorize its nature, can exist irrespective of lingual communication, and as such, does exist in the minds of autistic beings despite their inability to interpret the mental states of others through their speech. Since Davidson's original argument was way back in 1975, it's a struggle to get my hands on - but am still trying to locate - his response to this more recent confound to speech being the primary vehicle of thought, and thought being nonexistent without interpretation of speech. I imagine him saying something to the like of, "autistic beings do indeed interpret speech, they simply do so incorrectly and so they are able to have thought, but only based on fallacious interpretation." [and yes, he would use the word, fallacious]. Then again, responding as such negates Davidson's other stipulation which is that to be translated into a thought, the speech of another person must be interpreted as the speaker intended.

What I maintain is that when Davidson originally proposed this theory, it was meant to be applied to a confined arena of communication and interpretation... in that one might not be able to have correctly designed thought unless in response to the speech of others.

Here is where I skid off the rail, but where my train gets interesting.

In terms of collective consciousness... it would seem that interpretation of speech were completely devoid of purpose, and that Davidson's theory would be completely null. If we are all linked by consciousness (and that includes non-human animals on the level at which they exhibit it) then interpretation of speech is a useless tool except to distance us from being aware that collective consciousness might exist. So there we have the collective conscious arguing against the utility of speech. Then again, if collective consciousness were a fully functional medium, we would never misinterpret one another's speech... or letters... or online chatter... would we. But by the same token, would autistic beings - under the condition that they might even be able to participate in collective consciousness - cease to have this symptom of not quite being able to grasp the mental states of others as portrayed by their speech or any other means?

So perhaps, if we were, as a species - or as a kingdom of organisms, for that matter - to become aware of our collective conscious, would our interpretation of one another improve? Would we disable the function of war? Wouldn't we have a more comprehensive understanding of the international economic dynamics such that "globalization" and recession could be side-stepped entirely? Would sociology even be necessary?

And there you have it. Thought as independent of interpreting speech. Davidson, I like you. Don't say dumb shit.