Tuesday, November 24, 2009

CONSCIOUSNESS IN COMA

"I Screamed, But There Was Nothing to Hear"

[FIRST A WELCOME:
I am happy to welcome to our Blog Mohan Suswaram and another member who gave only a link. I eagerly look forward to your inputs.]

"I Screamed, But There Was Nothing to Hear"

Many times discussants on Advaita raise the question about Consciousness in a Coma patient.

It is true, we do not have a clearcut definition of coma to be able to discuss the state of consciousness under comatose condition. In our Post dated 27th Sept 2009, how a patient in a vegetative state could 'learn' was talked about.

Now we have the shocking report of a patient who was in coma for 23 years but had been conscious all the time!!

What a horrific misery he must have gone through. Unimaginable and heart wrenching even to think!

"For 23 years Rom Houben was ­imprisoned in his own body. He saw his doctors and nurses as they visited him during their daily rounds; he listened to the conversations of his carers; he heard his mother deliver the news to him that his father had died. But he could do nothing. He was unable to communicate with his doctors or family. He could not move his head or weep, he could only listen.........

"I screamed, but there was nothing to hear", he said, via his keyboard.

The Belgian former engineering student said he coped with being effectively trapped in his own body by meditating. ... Sometimes, he said, 'I was only my consciousness and nothing else'.......... 'Powerlessness. Utter powerlessness. At first I was angry, then I learned to live with it,' he tapped out on to the screen during an interview with the Belgian network last night, AP reported.."

The following is from The Guardian:

"In 1988 Jan Grzebski, a Polish railway worker, fell in front of a train and was diagnosed as being in a coma. In 2007, he "woke up" to learn the iron curtain had fallen and he had gained 11 grandchildren. Doctors discovered he had been conscious throughout.

Terry Wallis of Arkansas fell into a coma after a road accident in 1984. When he woke up 19 years later, his wife had gone off with another man, had three children and was embroiled in a legal battle over who was deemed his legal guardian. His mother was with him the day he woke up and a nurse asked: "Terry, who is that?" He opened his eyes and replied, "Mom".

In 1996 Patricia White Bull from Albuquerque, New Mexico, woke after 16 years in a persistent vegetative state, scaring the life out of a nurse who was tucking in her bedding by shouting, "Don't do that!". She had fallen unconscious during the birth of her fourth child.

Twenty years ago, Carrie Coons, an 86-year-old from New York, regained consciousness after a year in a coma. Only days before, a judge had granted her family's request for the removal of her feeding tube.

Mark Newton from Hertfordshire fell into a coma in 1996 after surfacing too quickly while diving. Doctors considered him brain dead and recommended turning off his life support. His mother resisted and he woke up after six months. He had been aware of what was happening around him, but could not communicate."

From Associated Press:

"A coma is a state of unconsciousness in which the eyes are closed and the patient cannot be roused. A vegetative state is a condition in which the eyes are open and can move, and the patient has periods of sleep and periods of wakefulness, but remains unconscious and cannot reason or respond.

"It makes you think. There is still a lot of work to be done" to better diagnose such disorders, said Caroline Schnakers of the Coma Science Group."

Consious Under Anesthesia:

Patients under anesthesia too may oftener be conscious, said Dr. Wong, a surgeon a couple of years ago. The patient cannot express because his/her muscles are paralysed/too relaxed and do not move under his/her command though he/she may be conscious.

Mr. Rom Houben's condition came to light through brain scanning. His case has only just been revealed in a scientific paper released by the man who 'saved' him, top neurological expert Dr Steven Laureys, says a report in Mail Online.

So we can reasonably say 'consciousness' exists even under comatose condition. Modern scanning techniques can tell us many things about the brain as the case of Mr. Houben proves. Can the scans help us understand the brain of a Jivanmukta?

[Neuronal Correlates:

Please see my Posts on Neuronal Correlates of a Jivanmukta. My argument, in short is as follows:

We perceive a world.

But neuroscience clearly shows through studies on illusions/magic etc. that we hardly perceive what really exists 'out there.'

In other words, there is a disconnect between the ‘reality out there’ and our perception. This means that the sensory apparatus (senses and the respective cortical neurons) are inadequate to show what "exactly" is 'out there.'

2. Our brain makes a “map” of the perceptions received from the senses and interpretation made by the sensory cortex. We are actually aware of that map formed in our head. We don't have a clue what "exactly" is out there.

This “map” in our head is obviously made up of ‘thoughts’ (generated by neuronal electrical pulses as waves), or thought-stuff - whether it is beautiful girl or an ugly duck or a river or a table, these are all represented as thoughts in brain. So the constituent of all so called perceived ‘objects’ is thought-stuff.

3. The thought itself is cognized by us because we have "consciousness." Or as philosophers put it, consciousness illuminates (shows up) the thoughts.

4. A ‘me’-thought acts as the ‘seer’ of the map in our head. This is the ego providing continuity in time, coherence to experience and ownership to knowledge. It gets generated based on autobiographical information.

5. Neuroscience is as yet unable to understand how "Consciousness" is engendered in us.

6. Non-dualists find a shift in their perception. Instead of seeing the 'map' of the world in their brain with ego at the center, they identify themselves with the illuminating Consciousness. And this shift happens within and to an individual.

7. Can this shift then not be a play or happenstance in the brain itself of a Non-dualist ?

8. I wish we could get some brain scans of a Jivanmukta to see if the autobiographical memory based I-thought (i.e. 'self') collapses in him/her to give place to a "Universal Self."]

Comments are welcome.

***
Comment Added on : 19 May 2011:  Vegetative and minimally conscious states:
"A person in a vegetative state will open their eyes spontaneously and make reflexive movements, but has no cognitive function and likely does not feel pain. Recovery is possible, but the chances of improvement are greatly diminished after a year. Someone in a minimally conscious state, by contrast, has intentional, non-reflexive but inconsistent responses to stimuli. They might speak a few words or track their image in a mirror, and they feel pain. In minimally conscious and healthy people the frontal cortex would then send a message back to the temporal cortex. The reason for this is uncertain; it may be to let the temporal cortex know what to expect in the future. But for people in a vegetative state, the communication was one-way: signals passed from the temporal to frontal area, but not back."
http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110512/full/news.2011.287.html?WT.ec_id=NEWS-201\
10517


Comment Added on Sept 1, 2011: REM Sleep could prompt life-saving Decision:
The minimally conscious state, persistent vegetative state and coma are all disorders of consciousness caused by severe brain damage. Minimally conscious individuals tend to have better outcomes than vegetative individuals, but distinguishing between them is difficult and misdiagnosis is common. Getting it wrong can sometimes mean that a person who might otherwise recover has their life-support machine switched off.
The brain waves associated with sleep and dreaming could be helpful for distinguishing between people in a persistent vegetative state and those who are minimally conscious – a distinction that could seal the fate of the individual.


Comment Added on Dec 01, 2011: The mystery of anaesthesia:
"For years we had been looking at vegetative and coma patients whose brains were
responding to speech and getting terribly seduced by these images, thinking that
they were conscious," says Owen. "This told us that they are not conscious."

Similar findings are coming in from studies of people in a coma or persistent
vegetative state (PVS), who may open their eyes in a sleep-wake cycle, although
remain unresponsive. Laureys, for example, has seen a similar breakdown in
communication between different cortical areas in people in a coma. "Anaesthesia
is a pharmacologically induced coma," he says. "That same breakdown in global
neuronal workspace is occurring."

Comment Added on Dec 05, 2011:  Ambien Revives the Unconscious:
"In 1999, Louis Viljoen was hit by a truck and declared vegetative, kept alive by machines for three years before his doctor prescribed him zolpidem thinking it might stop him from clawing his mattress in the middle of the night. Twenty minutes after receiving his first dose, he woke up and started talking to his mother. He floated in and out of consciousness over the next several days, waking up for increasingly long periods after receiving his zolpidem until he stayed awake without the drug."
http://the-scientist.com/2011/12/05/sleep-aid-revives-unconscious/

Added on Apr 06, 2012: As you awaken from anesthesia:
"We expected to see the outer bits of brain, the cerebral cortex (often thought to be the seat of higher human consciousness), would turn back on when consciousness was restored following anesthesia. Surprisingly, that is not what the images showed us. In fact, the central core structures of the more primitive brain structures including the thalamus and parts of the limbic system appeared to become functional first, suggesting that a foundational primitive conscious state must be restored before higher order conscious activity can occur."
http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-04-primitive-consciousness-emerges-awaken-anesthesia.html

Added on 16 Jun 2012:  Communicating with people in a vegetative state:
"Despite highly controversial debate of consciousness, Owen believes that up to20 percent of people in a vegetative state in the United States are capable of communicating. "What we're seeing here is a population of totally locked-in patients. Over the past decade, he has used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as a sort of interrogation tool—mapping the brain activity of comatose people as he asks them a series of questions. He has found that in a subset of patients thought to be far gone, the brain activity in response to questioning was comparable to what's observed in healthy people."
http://the-scientist.com/2012/06/14/fmri-mind-reader/
(See also: Brain Scans of Comatose Patients 
 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-brain-scans-comatose-patients-reveal-conscious-state)

Added on 14 Nov 2012:  An “Unconscious” Man Talks:
"Scott Routley, a 39-year-old Canadian patient that doctors had considered vegetative and incapable of communicating following a car crash 12 years ago, was able to tell doctors that he’s not in pain via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of his brain. Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind."
http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/33264/title/An--Unconscious--Man-Talks/

Added on 27 Nov 2012:  Brain in a Coma:
"Compared with healthy patients in the study, high-traffic hubs of brain activity are dark in coma patients while more quiet regions spring to life. Scientists still don't understand exactly how human consciousness works, but the twilight state of a coma could reveal some insight. Past research revealed that a person in a coma is closer to being anesthetized than being asleep. Other studies have found that vegetative and minimally conscious patients have very different brain activity. But for the most part, it was hard to find obvious differences in brain functioning between healthy patients and those who have lost consciousness. In healthy patients, about 40 regions lit up in concert with many other parts of the brain. These high-traffic hubs, like busy airports, apparently process much of the electrical firing in the brain. But in the coma patients, many of these hubs were darkened, and other, normally peripheral regions took their place. Intriguingly, coma patients had fewer hubs in a region called the precuneus, which is known to play a role in consciousness and memory."
http://www.livescience.com/25030-coma-brain-reorganized.html

Added on 05 Dec 2012:  Brain networks restructured in comatose patients:
"By analysing the connectivity at a local level, the authors of the study have observed that some brain regions ("hubs"), which are highly connected in healthy volunteers, are less well connected in comatose patients. Conversely, the less densely connected regions in the network in healthy subjects become "hubs" in comatose patients."
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-12/ind-trr120412.php

Added on 19 Apr 2013:  Measuring Consciousness: 

"Over the past 5 years, researchers have made significant progress in understanding what happens in the brain as consciousness departs and returns. Peering into the anesthetized brain with neuroimaging and electroencephalograph (EEG) recordings, scientists have found evidence to support the "integrated-information theory," which holds that consciousness relies on communication between different brain areas, and fades as that communication breaks down. EEG studies have also revealed distinctive brain wave patterns that signal when consciousness is lost and regained, offering easily identifiable markers for this impairment of communication. Though many questions remain, advances in brain activity monitoring promise to shed light the neural basis of consciousness."
http://www.the-scientist.com//?articles.view/articleNo/35140/title/Measuring-Con\sciousness/


Also See:  http://beyond-advaita.blogspot.com/2010/09/research-on-non-dualism-self-and.html



Thursday, November 19, 2009

HAPPY END TO DUKHI’S SORROWFUL SAGA

HAPPY END TO DUKHI’S SORROWFUL SAGA
It is one more of the ostentatious gala functions of a jet set Swami who claims to possess the secret key for happiness. The pompous guru mumbled some mantra, loyal assistants furiously clapped and basketfuls of flowers were strewn all around him. Matching with the scene, the background music reached a tumultuous crescendo. The Swami obviously mastered the history, geography, science, linguistics and what-not of living happily. With condescending looks he began the sermon. He exhorted people to play-act thumping hay, pounding rice, grinding pulses and washing clothes. Dukhiram was one of over a hundred thousand who attended, every one trying to steal a slice of happiness from the Swami. Dukhi, however, returned home disappointed.

Dukhi has been on antidepressants for some time. Neurologists shifted him from simple tranquilizers to more impressive sounding 'serotonin re-uptake inhibitors'. Dukhi has a cushy job with handsome emoluments and all the perks that a modern society can offer - air-conditioned house, chauffeur-driven cars and latest gadgets that operate by a remote switch for all and sundry household chores you can name. He doesn’t have to exert nor strain the body for anything. There is no obvious reason for his unhappiness or depression.

The problem is we human beings seem to come with two-in-one personalities. Philosophers interpreted this in the east and west in their own style. Vyasa said that the ‘mind’ was irrepressible for ‘us’ like wind. Buddha compared our mind to an uncontrollable elephant. St. Paul said that the Spirit and the flesh were perpetually opposed to one another. Freud took this dualistic approach a step further. He designed a psychoanalytical system to strengthen ‘us’ (conscious self) to take control of the id (basic instincts). Psychologist Dr. Haidt compared ‘us’ to a meek rider sitting on a mighty elephant called mind.

Strictly speaking, we do not come with two (as many suppose) or three (as Freud hypothesized) or four (as ancient Indian scriptures said) parts of mind. It is all one mind, one brain and one purpose. Mind is simply what the brain does and its purpose is to protect the organism (you). The brain has been developing, learning its tricks of trade through evolution over several hundreds of millions of years. Like a renovated house with more rooms added upstairs utilizing same old type of building material, brain too has grown adding new layers over the pre-existing structure using the same old neurons.

The older part of the brain structure, however, perfected the art of living for the moment on a ‘here and now’ basis. It learnt to work on autopilot in preserving and protecting the organism without the need for ‘our’ conscious intervention. After all it comes with time-tested proof of its worth through millions of years of evolution and so we and other animals continue with it. Our brain suited us particularly well in our primitive living conditions in caves or in the wilderness where we never knew to which beast we could have possibly become dinner the next moment.

Group living, tool usage, agriculture, trade and allied skills gradually contributed over time for our greater security. These changes helped the new layers in our brain to develop confidence in ‘planning for future’ instead of ‘living for the moment’. A language module too coevolved in the brain. But the new modules vested with higher cognitive abilities have not yet had enough time in evolution to be perfected in their functioning. Consequently, the lower brain layers still continue to work for our protection. Because of this, an apparent clash of interests takes place between these two modules – the conscious ‘us’ with our plans, social niceties and etiquettes and the old proven devil working on autopilot. We find the base animalistic pulls of the old brain antagonistic and some times embarrassing in today’s secure environment where we do not have to struggle as much for food or mate. However, as Noble laureate Prof. Kandel said almost ninety percent of our functions are even now taken care of by the old brain without our conscious thinking or intervention.

When the body works hard for its needs – whether obtaining food (for sustenance) or sex (for procreation), the old brain rewards with a squirt of dopamine spray, a neurotransmitter. The spray produces a ‘feeling of happiness’. It is this ‘feel good’ mechanism that primes the organism to act. When the body gets all its requirements fulfilled without any exertion, this spray of dopamine doesn’t kick in. Consequently, the body feels unrewarded, bored and therefore unhappy. Continuous unhappiness depletes another neurotransmitter called serotonin and we begin to feel depressed. To avoid this trap it is necessary to make the body work for its needs and let it feel ‘Ha, I-earned-my-reward!’

It so happened that Dukhiram’s office arranged a retreat for their staff in a remote jungle far away from phones, conveyances or packed fast foods. No electric power, nor time-pieces. Participants had to depend on the sun for time, gather firewood, cook their meal and spend the day in hard labor while keeping the ‘planning, language etc. modules’ of the brain busily occupied with a constant vigil on issues of safety. At the end of the day, the body had earned its ‘reward.’ It slept soundly and was fully refreshed to face the challenges next morning. Dukhiram was so happy during the fifteen days of the camp-life that he resolved to give up a whole lot of his modern gadgetry at home. He decided to let his body do that little bit of extra work and earn its brownies. He also learnt that Psychologist Dr. Bargh discovered that even subliminally suggestive words like sad, sorrow, old etc. can impact our attitudes without our conscious knowledge. So Dukhi (sad) changed his name too fittingly to Santosh (happy).

Dr. S. Ilardi, author of “The Depression Cure” published in June 2009 says: “As a species, humans were never designed for the pace of modern life. We're designed for a different time — a time when people were physically active, when they were outside in the sun for most of the day, when they had extensive social connections and enjoyed continual face time with their friends and loved ones, when they experienced very little social isolation, when they had a much different diet, when they got considerably more sleep and when they had much less in the way of a relentless, demanding, stress-filled existence.” It was also found by anthropologist, Dr. E. Schieffelin “that the Kaluli people of the New Guinea highlands — whose day-to-day existence of foraging and gardening is akin to that of our remote ancestors — are almost completely free of depressive illness.”

Prof. Y. Shoenfeld believes “that depression has biological roots and may be an immune system response to certain physiological cues.” He finds that certain aromas are effective in relieving depression. Dr. J.S. Gordon says in his book “Unstuck” that depression isn't really a disease, but “a life out of balance.” He advises a change in life-style with adequate exercise, nutritional supplements and self-help strategies. Antidepressants should be the last resort according to him.

*****
Added on 20 July 2011:
"We found that the more these drugs affect serotonin and other neurotransmitters in your brain -- and that's what they're supposed to do -- the greater your risk of relapse once you stop taking them. All these drugs do reduce symptoms, probably to some degree, in the short-term. Our meta-analysis suggests that when you try to go off the drugs, depression will bounce back. This can leave people stuck in a cycle where they need to keep taking anti-depressants to prevent a return of symptoms. Depression may actually be a natural and beneficial -- though painful - state in which the brain is working to cope with stress.. Longitudinal studies cited in the paper show that more than 40 per cent of the population may experience major depression at some point in their lives."
From: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-07-patients-anti-depressants-relapse.html

Added on 09 Aug 2011:
"Making music might help lift more depressed people out of the dumps than common antidepressant medications do, the results of a new study suggest. Music is known to have a strong effect on the human psyche. Learning to play an instrument boosts the brain's auditory ability and even makes it easier to learn foreign languages, studies show. Music can also trigger memories by activating the medial prefrontal cortex, which sits in the brain just behind the forehead. This region is one of the last areas of the brain to atrophy during Alzheimer's, explaining why many Alzheimer's patients can recall songs from the distant past.
These emotional and communicative effects may explain the mood-boosted effect found in the new study."
From: Click

Added on 07 Jan 2012: Low vitamin D levels linked to depression:
"Low levels of vitamin D already are associated with a cavalcade of health woes from cardiovascular diseases to neurological ailments. Higher vitamin D levels were associated with a significantly decreased risk of current depression, particularly among people with a prior history of depression. Low vitamin D levels were associated with depressive symptoms, particularly those with a history of depression."
http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-01-vitamin-d-linked-depression-psychiatrists.html

Added on 2 Mar 2012: Depression could be evolutionary byproduct:
"Infection was the major cause of death in humans' early history, so surviving infection was a key determinant in whether someone was able to pass on his or her genes. The authors propose that evolution and genetics have bound together depressive symptoms and physiological responses that were selected on the basis of reducing mortality from infection. Fever, fatigue/inactivity, social avoidance and anorexia can all be seen as adaptive behaviors in light of the need to contain infection."
http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-03-depression-evolutionary-byproduct-immune.html

Added on 26 Apr 2012: A few days steeped in nature boosts creativity, insight and problem solving:
"We’ve got information coming at us from social media, electronics and cell phones. We constantly shift attention from one source to another, getting all of this information that simulates alarms, warnings and emergencies. Those threats are bad for us. They sap our resources to do the fun thinking and cognition humans are capable of. Nature is a place where our mind can rest, relax and let down those threat responses. Therefore, we have resources left over — to be creative, to be imaginative, to problem solve — that allow us to be better, happier people who engage in a more productive way with others.There’s growing advantage over time to being in nature."
http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-04-wild-boosts-creativity-insight-problem.html

Added on 15 May 2012:
A walk in the park gives mental boost to people with depression:
"Our study showed that participants with clinical depression demonstrated improved memory performance after a walk in nature, compared to a walk in a busy urban environment."
http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-05-mental-boost-people-depression.html

Added on 16 Jun 2012:
Socialising helps to alleviate symptoms of depression:
""Simply going out for a coffee or chatting to a friend can reduce the symptoms of depression experienced by people with mental health problems. Increased social interaction helps sufferers to rebuild their self-esteem which in turn enables them to maintain and develop positive relationships and friendships."
http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-06-socialising-alleviate-symptoms-depression.\htm

Added on 01 Jul 2012:
Why Stress Makes You Miserable:
"Stress really does mess with your mind. A new study has found that chronic stress can create many of the brain changes associated with mood disorders by blocking a gene called neuritin—and that boosting the gene's activity can protect the brain from those disorders."
http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/06/why-stress-makes-you-miserable.html?ref=em

Added on 31 Aug 2012:
Depression Linked with Hyperconnected Brain Areas:
"Scientists found that the limbic and cortical areas, which together produce and process our emotions, sent a barrage of neural messages back and forth to one another—much more than in the brains of healthy patients. These signals can amplify depressed people's negative thoughts and act like white noise, drowning out the other neural messages telling them to move on.”
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-depression-connection&WT.mc\_id=SA_CAT_MB_20120829

Added on 06 Oct 2012: 
The Evolutionary Advantage of Depression:
"Increasingly, researchers are identifying how genes contribute to depression. As we learn more about the human genome, scientists are finding evidence that while depression seems incredibly maladaptive, it was actually adaptive (helpful) to our ancestors. Some of the alleles (forms of genes) that increase one's risk for depression also enhance immune responses to infections. Depressive symptoms are inextricably intertwined with -- and generated by -- physiological responses to infection that, on average, have been selected as a result of reducing infectious mortality across mammalian evolution. While immune-modulating therapies may be effective in treating some cases of depression, these therapies may not be effective against all types of depression."
http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/10/the-evolutionary-advantage-of-depression/263124/

Added on 06 Nov 2012:
ANGST - Origins of Anxiety and Depression by Jeffrey P. Kahn, OUP, 2012, pp: 312
"Basically, we are built to be sheep, but for some reason prefer to be human. The downside of this is that our sheepish instincts complain in the form of Anxiety and Depressive Angst. ANGST provides a reasoned and entertaining new framework for understanding our knowledge of psychiatric neuroscience, clinical research, diagnosis and treatment. Ranging from Darwin and Freud to the most cutting-edge medical and scientific findings—drawing from ancient writings, modern humor and popular lyrics, and with many amusing cartoons— ANGST offers us an exciting new slant on some of the most pervasive mental health issues of our time."
Sourced from: http://www.amazon.com/Angst-Depression-Jeffrey-P-Kahn/dp/0199796440


Added on 27 Nov 2012:  Lack of nutrients and Depression:
"A low intake of folate and vitamin B12 increases the risk of melancholic depressive symptoms, according to a study among nearly 3,000 middle-aged and elderly Finnish subjects. On the other hand, non-melancholic depressive symptoms are associated with an increased risk for the metabolic syndrome. Based on these new observations, melancholic and non-melancholic depression may be separate depressive subtypes with different etiologies in terms of proinflammation and diet. Melancholic depression involves typical depressive symptoms, such as a depressed mood. Non-melancholic depression is characterized by other types of symptoms, such as low self-esteem and feelings of worry and anxiety."
http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-11-lack-nutrients-metabolic-syndrome-linked.html


Added on 07 Dec 2012:  Pathway leading to depression:
"Scientists have identified the key molecular pathway leading to depression, revealing potential new targets for drug discovery. The study reveals that the 'Hedgehog pathway' regulates how stress hormones, usually elevated during depression, reduce the number of brain cells. The severity of symptoms can range from feelings of sadness and hopelessness to, in the most severe cases, self-harm or suicide. Recent studies have demonstrated that depression is associated with a reduction in a brain process called 'neurogenesis'- the ability of the brain to produce new brain cells. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, are generally elevated in stress and depression. The researchers discovered that a specific signalling mechanism in the cell, the 'Hedgehog pathway', is responsible for damaging the production of new brain cells."

Added on 08 Dec 2012:  Drug fights hard-to-treat depression:
"A first-of-its-kind antidepressant drug discovered by a Northwestern University professor and now tested on adults who have failed other antidepressant therapies has been shown to alleviate symptoms within hours, have good safety and produce positive effects that last for about seven days from a single dose."

Added on 08 Dec 2012:  CBT proves effective at reducing depression:
"Studies done on 469 adults (aged 18 years) who had not responded to at least 6 weeks of treatment with an antidepressant from 73 general practices across the UK. Participants were randomised to either continue with usual care provided by their general practitioner, which included continuing on antidepressant medication (235 patients), or to receive CBT in addition to usual care (234 patients) and were followed up for 12 months. After 6 months, 46% of participants who received CBT in addition to usual care had improved (reporting at least a 50% reduction in depressive symptoms) compared to 22% of those who continued with treatment as usual."

Added on 13 Feb 2013: Most Common and Powerful Triggers of Depression: 
"Certain painful experiences are more likely to precede depressive episodes than others. And some forms of loss can trigger depression more quickly than previously realized. For people who are especially vulnerable to depression, even mild stress or a minor loss can spark a depressive episode relatively quickly."

Added on 23 Feb 2013: Antidepressants alone are not enough:
"The latest studies have shown that antidepressants restore the capacity of certain areas of the brain to repair abnormal neural pathways. Recovery requires redirection of these pathways through practice, rehabilitation or therapy. Antidepressants reopen a window of brain plasticity, which allows the formation and adaptation of brain connections through the patient's own activities and observations, similarly to a young child whose brain and experiences about the world develop in response to environmental stimuli.When cerebral plasticity is reopened, problems caused by false connections in the brain can be addressed."

Added on 17May 2013: Body's clock (circadian rhythms) linked to depression:

 "The disruption of sleep and other bodily rhythms that often accompanies clinical depression may leave a mark on the brain. A study of gene activity in the brains of people who suffered from depression reveals that their daily clocks were probably out of whack. In mammals, daily rhythms such as sleep,hormone cycles and eating patterns are guided by a master clock in the brain whose rhythms are maintained in part by genes and patterns of light and darkness. The master clock can get out of sync with clocks elsewhere in the brain and body. This discord, for example, produces the out-of-sorts feeling of jet lag. People with depression also often have off-kilter body rhythms. But the molecular and cellular mechanisms behind these disrupted cycles have been hard to pin down."http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/350401/description/Bodys_clock_linked\_to_depression_


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

HOW MANY UNIVERSES MAKE A MULTIVERSE? – THE STORY OF BHETALA

First A WELCOME:

A Warm Welcome to The EMPEROR, Irene Harvey and Mark. We thank you for joining the Blog and look forward to your valuable contributions.


ONE UNIVERSE FOR EACH CREATURE!

We come across several instances in Yogavaasishta where the concept of multiverse (many universes) is exemplified. One such story is that of the enigmatic questions of Bhetala in Sarga 70, Book-I of Chapter: Nirvana.

Bhetala, the enlightened poltergeist, posed six questions to the King who was about to become Bhetala’s dinner with the promise that the King could save himself if he (the King) answered the questions correctly.

The first question was: What is that beginingless Star in whose illumination all the Universes appear as mere specks of dust?

The King replies poetically comparing the universe we live in to a fruit.

King: "Bhetala!

Think of the universe that we are all living in to be a humongous fruit.

There is a bough with thousands of those fruits.
There is a tree with thousands of such boughs.
There is a wood with thousands of such trees.
There is a mountain with thousands of such woods.
There is an island with thousands of such mountains.
There is a huge globe (mahi peetha) with thousands of such islands.
There is a huge star system with thousands of such globes.
There is a heavenly egg with thousands of such star systems.
There is a sea with thousands of such heavenly eggs.
There is an ocean with thousands of such seas.
Thousands of such oceans will be the waters in the stomach of a man.
That man’s name is Vishnu.

Another great man wears a necklace of a hundred thousand of Vishnus.
His name is Rudra.

Millions of Rudras shine in the form of hair-follicles on the body of a very great man. His name is Aditya (= one who has been there right from the beginning; sun).
He is none other than the Supreme Consciousness.

He illuminates all the universes of my gargantuan conception.
He is the Brahman with attributes.
He has also an absolute form that is much more fundamental.
The qualities of ‘doership’ and ‘experiencership’ which seem to exist in the Brahman with attributes do not at all affect the Absolute Brahman.

The star you are referring to is the Brahman with attributes."

Thus the King shows that Bhetala’s knowledge was as yet incomplete because Bhetala was still conceptualizing in terms of Brahman with attributes and not the attributeless (Nirguna) Brahman who is beyond. As long as one conceives of Brahman with attributes, worlds appear. Worlds cease and there is no "doer" or "experiencer" in attributeless Absolute Brahman.

Dr. Einstein had always been uncomfortable with Quantum Theory which states that multiple states exist until a measurement collapses the system to give raise to a single observed event. Dr. Schrödinger who helped in the development of quantum mechanics was himself puzzled with the possibility of multiple states. He designed the well known thought experiment: The Schrodinger's Cat. As per Quantum theory, the cat would both be living and dead at the same time until one actually lifts the lid and observes it either to be dead or alive in the cage. Dr. Niels Bohr explained it saying that our 'consciousness' influences the decision whether the cat is dead or alive. Thus we would become a partner in the system instead of a distant observer.

Hugh Everett, a young physicist at that time tried to resolve this problem of uncertainty in Quantum theory by proposing a theory of multiple worlds. According to him the world goes on splitting into many worlds at every moment and we exist in one of those daughter worlds. That is to say, as Dr. Tegmark expalined, "You are in Universe A as you read this sentence. Now you are already in Universe B as you read this sentence." Or saying it differently, you could be a little baby in some other universe at the time you are reading this Blog in this universe and 500 years old or dead in a different universe! That means all possibilities co-exist at the same time! This theory did not get much support at that time.

However, developments in String Theory showed the mathematical possibility of the existence of multiple universes (multi-verse instead of uni-verse). The calculations indicated that there could be 10 raised to the power of 500 ( i.e. one followed by 500 zeroes) universes in existence with different physical laws. Dr. Susskind called it a "lnadscpae" of universes. We live in one such universe where the conditions are favorable to our type of life.

This week "Cosmologists Andrei Linde and Vitaly Vanchurin at Stanford University in California raised the provocative notion that the [number of universes] may depend on the human brain.

If observers are an integral part of the cosmic formula, then it may not matter how many universes exist - just how many a single observer can tell apart. If the observer is a person, that depends on how many bits of information the brain can process. "Based on the number of synapses in a typical brain, a human observer can register 10 to the power of 16," says Linde. That means humans can differentiate 10 to the power of 10 raised to the power 16 (10^10^16) universes."

While discussing the neural circuits involved in the formation of memories in flies, Dr. Gero Miesenb√∂ck of the University of Oxford said that "even simple organisms may turn out to have a ‘surprisingly rich mental life.’"

Recently Non-Dualist Rupert Spira observed: "In fact each person's thoughts, images, sensations and perceptions are entirely private and personal, even when we are sitting next to one another conversing in a room." He further clarified: "[T]here is no evidence of a world outside perception and perceptions themselves are not ‘shared.’ They cannot perceive one another. In other words there is not one world shared by six billion people but rather there are six billion simultaneous ‘worlds’ shared by one Consciousness. It is the mind that says six billion, whereas Consciousness sees only One." [emphasis by me.]

Thus each universe may just be an imagination of that creature as Yogavaasishta holds! And every creature lives in its iamginary world!!