to our bi-weekly
of Amsterdam Journal.
"For a long period
of time brain researchers told us that our brains are not malleable.
A person would be the same at 7 and 70. Recent technological developments
allowed scientists to have "a closer look" AT the brain. These
days, as Einstein's relativity theory peaks IN popularity among ordinary
people, researches conclude that the brain is actually malleable. But
how do we define this plasticity? How do we change our brains? Does
placing electrodes to our heads for brain feedback OFFER a solution
to persistent problems such as drug addiction, aggression or obsessions?
Present technologies offer a level of happiness that can be achieved
through years of meditation. Could this be a solution to the illnesses
our societies suffer as A RESULT of wrongs we have committed through
a greedy relationship with technology?
Aren't we all sharing an
overwhelming feeling that our societies are heading IN a wrong direction?
Could using science and technology the "right way" be an answer
to our critical questions?"
In case you
would like to hear more and also share your thoughts, visit our next
future of the Brain
on March 19. NEW!
Society, Nieuwmarkt 4, 1012 CR Amsterdam [Center of the Nieuwmarkt]
science and technology
by Iclal Akcay,
the brain can be described as its ability to learn and alter its
structure. This capacity for change is crucial since it may allow
even persistent habits, such as addictions, to disappear when
it is given enough stimulation. Given the complexity of the world
and the problems we struggle to cope with, the understanding of
plasticity becomes an important source of hope for a future of
social human transformation.
The development of computerized imaging techniques and technologies
has finally made it possible to examine the brain through two
or three dimensional, colorful images and examine its activities.
This development has opened enormous possibilities for understanding
and learning about the brain. The examination process can be simply
compared to gaining access to the hardware of a computer to understand
how it really works, instead of examining its parts and looking
at its screen. Although this is an emerging field that may require
years of interdisciplinary research to reach conclusions, brain
plasticity is one of the insights that is already changing our
fundamental views of the brain's workings.
But change also requires an optimum or a model. Just as building
a model requires creativity from its builder in terms of choices
she/he has to make, some psychologists and neuroscientists chose
a high ranked Buddhist monk's brain as an optimum. They also draw
parallels between science and Buddhism for further research. Like
other contemplative practices, Buddhism offers an awareness for
getting rid of the burden of destructive emotions that distort
human perception and observation, building a path to genuine happiness.
Although the dialogue and relationship between different schools
of Buddhism and some scientists has created controversy, more
research is being increasingly devoted to the methods of Buddhist
contemplation and its relationship with science.
Contemplation is a way of achieving a level of objective distance
to one's own emotions and of mastering a so-called pure perception
of reality. Buddhist contemplation has special techniques and
methods for training the mind and gaining control over one's emotions
and happiness. Gaining this ability, however, requires years of
devotion to disciplined training and meditation.
The benefits of contemplation were earlier reflected in biofeedback
as alternative medicine. Biofeedback was the first attempt to
translate mindfulness into what was until then considered a purely
scientific space. Signals from the body were used as feedback
for a patient to improve bodily functions or alter brain activity.
This laboratory process can now be accepted as the beginnings
of today's research and its translation to technological methods.
Neurofeedback and other so-called mind harmonizing methods are
the technological world's answers to these dialogues with an inspiration
gained from contemplation. Neuroscientists , psychologists, and
other interdisciplinary scientists who are willing to commit to
building a dialogue between contemplative practices and the scientific
method may not yet have anything to say about the gadgets, software
and laboratory practices that are aimed at calming, harmonizing
and optimizing the brain, but such technological answers to the
need of altering or improving one's brain also signal a change
in the world of technology. According to David F. Noble (America
by Design: Science, Technology, and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism,
Oxford University Press) "From the start, modern technology
was nothing more nor less than the transformation of science into
a means of capital accumulation, through the application of discoveries
in physics and chemistry to the processes of the commodity production."
Although this observation is about the origins of modern technology
going back to the end of the 19th century, it remained valid at
least for some parts of the technological developments throughout
the last century. Technology's continuously accelerating speed
in feeding society and production space with new, complicated
models contributed to the creation of a new human role as a spectator
instead of participant in society. But the incentive of capital
accumulation is -albeit slightly- losing ground in favor of improving
the human condition with neurofeedback or other related technology
based mindfulness practices.
Meditation used to be seen as a practice specific to spiritual
devotees. Not only is this perception changing, but it is also
gaining space in Western society. Once the dialogue between neuroscientists
and Buddhist scholars gains momentum, it might be possible to
look for further translations of its benefits and a relationship
to technological practices.
is the moderator at our next event about
future of the Brain
future of the Brain
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Society, Nieuwmarkt 4, 1012 CR
Amsterdam [Center of the Nieuwmarkt]
The conference language is English.
Our speakers are
PhD, Researcher in Cognitive Neuroscience, "Sapienza"
University of Rome and RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan
of meditation states and traits
Maitreya Institute Amsterdam
Consciousness at the Crossroads or Mind in
and Researcher, Alpha-Up | Brain Balancing Institute, Amsterdam
How the brain
can heal itself - The promise of neurofeedback
and Media Theorist
Iclal Akcay, Research Journalist
of Amsterdam blog
of Amsterdam blog
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about the Future
Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009
The European Year of
Creativity and Innovation aims to raise awareness of the importance
of creativity and innovation for personal, social and economic development;
to disseminate good practices; to stimulate education and research,
and to promote policy debate on related issues.
Creativity and innovation contribute to economic prosperity as well
as to social and individual wellbeing.