This is Your Brain in Virtual Space

We break up the world into concepts and labels in our everyday functioning. When we walk down the street, we label the car as a car. We cross someone on the street and label them as a woman and it’s associations. Attractive. Caucasian. Tall.. etc.

When we do this labeling, and conceptualization, we subtly create a duality between our self and other. Patients who have lesions in the back part of the brain called the association cortex are not able to distinguish between self and other. One patient with that lesion was not able to point to any items outside his own body.

There are different types of space; physical, psychological, and mental space. The sense of space can also go away which results in a substrate space. There is also non-dual space where the subject and object collapse.

Previc1)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16439158 describes 4 levels of physical space:

  1. Peripersonal – space within 6.5 ft of our body. The posterior inferior parietal region.
  2. Extrapersonal focal – representation of objects above the horizontal plane and recognizes faces at distances beyond 6.5 ft. Inferotemporal region.
  3. Extrapersonal action – system that allows us to navigate. Superior and medial temporal regions.
  4. Extrapersonal ambient – orients us in space. Parietooccipital region.

The occipital to temporal pathway controls the WHAT. The occipital to parietal pathway controls the WHERE. The posterior parietal cortex and the posterior superior temporal sulcus are usually engaged in exercises where you have to point out objects in space. Allocentric space is the space of the objects we represent outside ourselves. This is contrasted with an egocentric frame of reference which is how we represent objects in the world with us in the center.

Very clever experiments have been conducted in the virtual reality space. Space gets distorted in the virtual world. We can still identify with our arm even if it is lengthen to twice it’s length. 

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Self Regulating the Brain and Neurofeedback

brain.jpg-min

With neurofeedback now going mainstream1)http://www.newsweek.com/neurofeedback-brain-regulation-neuroscience-457492 it’s important to take a closer look at it’s underlying mechanics. Neurofeedback works by reading electrical activity of the surface of your brain scalp with EEG(electroencephalography). This data is in turn fed to a computer and represented visually or auditory. The brain learns what the reward signals are and over time works to modulate itself according to the feedback given to it.

Neuroplasticity

The brain is able to physically reorganize itself to form to neural connections throughout its lifetime.  Through neuroplasticity the brain is constantly getting shaped as we experience, adapt, and learn.

neurons that fire together, wire together

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Complexity

Self organization and self regulation are a fundamental part of brain operation. Complex systems like the brain self organize, are open, and constantly exchange information across boundaries. Brain doesn’t only process information, it also generates information. Complex systems are defined by their nonlinearity and it’s behavior cannot be predicted solely on the interactions of its lower level components. The behavior of the brain as a complex system cannot be predicted by the sum of the local interactions of it’s neurons. Brain waves organize in a way that show self similarity over time. The fluidity of brain processes depends on evolving complexity. Neurofeedback seeks to tune brain oscillations to achieve a balance between network flexibility and stability.2)http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fncom.2016.00020/full

Phase Resets

One study showed that network resets in the medial prefrontal cortex of rats correlated with letting go of prior beliefs in favor of exploratory behavior. 3)http://science.sciencemag.org/content/338/6103/135 There was an updating of the belief system in these rats. It reflected a network switch to a state of instability, which then diminishes as the new stable representations are formed.

Brain Structures 

The [Precuneus], anterior cingulate, and angular gyri are thought to control self-referential thinking. PET scans in one Danish study 4)H. Lou, B. Luber, M. Crupain, et al. Parietal cortex and representation of the metal self. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 2004; 101:6827-6832. The effective stimulation had a latency of 160ms showed increased activation in the left prefrontal cortex, medial precuneus, and posterior cingulate regions.

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.newsweek.com/neurofeedback-brain-regulation-neuroscience-457492
2. http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fncom.2016.00020/full
3. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/338/6103/135
4. H. Lou, B. Luber, M. Crupain, et al. Parietal cortex and representation of the metal self. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 2004; 101:6827-6832. The effective stimulation had a latency of 160ms