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Neurohacking - Tutorials
Written by NHA   
Friday, 10 April 2009 16:31
Article Index
Neurohacking Tutorial 2 - N1 & N2 + Self Assessment
New Perspective On Mental Health
Sleep and Food
Epigenetics and Input Control
Summary and Exercices
All Pages

 

 

Neurohacking Tutorial 2

Shaping Up Networks 1 & 2 and Self Assessment

Updated: Jul 2009

 

In this tutorial we’re going to learn about self assessment, particularly Functional Analysis (FA) and how this can be used together with input control to set up your personal NH plan.

We’re also going to explore the first golden rule in depth, learn a bit more about the brain and the first two networks, and take our first look at brain hormones and chemicals.


 

Rabbit

 

Follow the Right Habit

 

In Tutorial 1 we looked the main factors and abilities required for a healthy brain and powerful intelligence. These factors are:

  • Your physical senses and the brain’s physical condition
  • Your attention & orientation
  • Your imagination & association skills
  • Your perception
  • Your memory
  • Your emotional stability
  • Your creativity and ability to use tools
  • Your intellect / IQ
  • Your prediction, planning and strategy skills

 

These are the mental factors that we test for in assessments.

Together, the functions these factors enable provide humans with a full healthy intelligence and a flexible, creative mind, and the type of assessment we use for those functions is called Functional Analysis (FA). FA remained until the advent of fMRI one of the best ways (and is still the least expensive way) to assess brain health. We’ll be doing a full functional analysis after this tutorial; but first there is a need to understand the basic idea.

 

Q: If I don’t have any disorders or personality problems or anything, -doesn’t that mean I’ve already got a perfectly healthy brain and don't need to do a functional analysis? If I don't have any problems, why bother doing this?

A: Very few people would consider themselves 100% fit physically, so why should we assume we are so mentally? Whatever your brain starts out like, a functional analysis will still show up your greatest strengths and weaknesses, and moving from your current level of brain function towards optimal brain function then becomes as simple as ‘getting into shape’.

 

Also remember, some problems may not show symptoms for a long time [although they might]. It’s certainly not going to do you any harm to improve your brain; good maintenance and prevention of degradation is far better than cure! Even if you do start out with a really healthy brain, you can still improve. If we are already fit but working on improving the body, we generally still assess its weak points [too fat, too thin, not muscular enough,] and then find out how to change those things. You have a fairly good idea of what state your body is in, because you can see as well as feel it. But most people still view their brain as a ‘closed box’; they have no idea what might be going on inside, they just know when they’re feeling good and when they’re not!

FA allows us to understand what’s going on inside the brain by looking at our behavior and personality on the outside. We have been able to test for brain functions for much longer than we have known about the nature of neural nets, because functions can be assessed rather easily from habits of thought and behavior–and we now know that types of thought and behavior have corresponding patterns of network use.

How do we know this? It is partly by performing FA's in sync with fMRI that researchers have been able to determine which particular networks in the brain control these functions that correlate with high intelligence. We have also gotten a much clearer idea of how a healthy mind should be functioning overall, and what activities and which networks are necessary for that to take place. Essentially, fMRI together with functional analysis has brought brains out of the ‘black box’ closet and into the light.

This enables us to see which direction our habits are taking us and prevent any degradation we otherwise wouldn't be aware of. It also helps us 'shortcut' to the most advantageous exercises for us personally to bring our 'weakest points' up to the quality of the rest. All functions can be tested like this. Functional Analysis is still done in clinical medicine following accidents or illness that might affect a person's brain function. It is important to test for every function. It is no use a person who's had a bump on the head being considered “better” because they have an undamaged IQ, for example, if they feel too emotionally traumatized to leave the building, or cannot remember where they live or recognize their partner! We need all the functions, for a fully working intelligence.

In neurohacking, FA on its own is used by healthy people in order to assess which are their strongest networks and which ones could do with a little improvement, and that is how we use it in these tutorials.

One of the golden rules for NH success is “Know yourself”. If you want to achieve this, you need to know how well your brain is performing right now. In the next tutorial you can do a full analysis of the state of your brains’ networks for yourself, so that you’ll know where you’re starting out from, and what to work on first. This should enable you to ‘know yourself’ adequately for beginning effective neurohacking. Remember, everything we do moves us in one direction or the other –towards healthy growth and development or towards decay and deterioration. Your analysis is a map to guide you in the right direction, and it can only do that if it’s an accurate one. That’s why we’re having a practice, so we can show you how to achieve that.

 

On Your Side in Doing Your FA is (a very good habit to learn) - An Objective Attitude

The ability to see clearly which brain networks are not very good yet is the very thing that will help you to improve faster. Here is your first chance to deliberately practice a healthy habit –clear, objective self-assessment. To develop and keep an objective attitude, do your assessments in a calm, light-hearted way and be as clear as you can in your answers to the questions. A good approach to FA is to pretend you’re a scientist trying to get the most accurate results with no prejudice or personal interest. If you like the computer analogy, think of yourself as the observer-programmer looking at the brain; the hardware your mind needs to run on, and giving it a thorough diagnostic in preparation for an upgrade.

If you want to get physically fit and shapely, your weight and size must be accurately measured when beginning so you know what to improve and can check your rate of progress, and it’s just the same with brain fitness. So be as accurate about selecting the right descriptions of behavior as you possibly can. Under-rating yourself a little is safer than over-rating yourself. We’ll show you a self assessment that was done by another student (below), because it’s a good example of how to be straightforward, keep it simple and achieve a clear result.

 

Working Against You in Doing Your FA is Public Enemy Number 1 – Anxiety

Many people find it hard to do an accurate assessment of their own behavior at first because they are in the habit of ‘presenting’ themselves as they would ideally like to be, as they would like others to think of them, or sometimes as whatever they imagine is “average” or “normal”. Instead of a real assessment, it becomes a guessing game about what you think 'judges' think are the 'best answers'.

This is a bad habit often caused by schooling or work in which we unconsciously expect judgment, with ‘rewards’ for being ‘good’ and punishments for being ‘bad’ at things. If some of their abilities seem particularly low, some people will even feel ashamed or guilty or somehow ‘to blame’ for not looking after themselves. This is an anxiety based habit and it will slow you down and hold you back. Don’t rob yourself of an accurate assessment because anxiety said so! In any assessment, the only 'correct' answers are true ones.

Also remember, nobody is 'to blame' if our potential hasn't been developed due to lack of knowing how. Nobody knew how to develop a brain optimally until very recently, so it shouldn't be any surprise that most of us haven't! That's exactly why we're here, as some of the first people doing this! The really exciting news is about something we don't know -we don't yet know the limits to human intelligence.

 

Brain, Mind and Behavior 

Another common fear is that if you assess yourself accurately you’ll find out things about yourself you don’t like. This is nonsense, because we are looking here at brain ('hardware'), not mind ('software'). You can tell the difference because the brain and body sometimes pursue behaviors that the mind didn't really want or isn't even aware of, and the mind sometimes wants to pursue behaviors the brain and body cannot. This also happens with computers

Behavior is not always prompted by intelligence, and some behavior damages intelligence, so you should get used to the idea that YOU are NOT your behavior. If you have any doubt of this, consider that a dead frog can still jump if you stick electrodes up its bum. That's not behavior prompted by the frog's intelligence!

What you are really assessing in FA is what networks you use the most effectively (because you can use these to improve the others), and what kind of things may be getting in your way and how to stop them doing so. You are giving yourself the information you need in order to upgrade and remove obstacles, because every good hacker has a useful bag of tricks.

We don’t want to see any of your assessments or functional analyses, by the way (they are for you; we have our own!) Our objective is to enable you to use these tools yourself; not to use them for you. 

First, do this ‘quickie’:

 

 Ratty

DO IT NOW - Self Assessment Practice

 

Given a list of the factors that make up your intelligence, which areas do you think are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? Give it a try; in your Captain's Log, mark your abilities in the factors given below,fon a scale of one to ten (where 10/10 is best) by your own judgement right now. Beside each grade, write some notes about why you’ve given yourself the scores you have. (To help you, below the list is an example of another student’s first assessment. You might want to read the example first if you are not sure what to do).

  • Your physical senses and the brain's physical condition
  • Your attention & orientation
  • Your imagination & association skills
  • Your perception
  • Your memory
  • Your emotional stability
  • Your creativity and ability to use tools
  • Your intellect / IQ
  • Your prediction, planning and strategy skills 

 

Example

Your physical senses and physical condition 7/10 -My eyesight is crap, but all my other physical senses are in pretty good nick. I’m a pretty healthy person because I eat a good diet. I probably don’t get enough sleep.

Your attention and orientation 6/10 -I do get distracted when I’m trying to concentrate if noisy or interesting things are going on, so only 6 out of ten here.

Your imagination & association skills 8/10 -I have a vivid imagination, in fact its one of the things that distracts me sometimes. I love listening to stories because I can imagine the scenes really well, like a movie.

Your perception 8/10 -I’m not really sure what ‘perception’ means yet but I think it means how much do you notice. I think I’m more observant than most people so I’ve given myself an 8.

Your memory 5/10 -I can remember facts but I have a real problem with faces, and recognising landmarks in navigation, etc. My memory of how to do things or operate machines also fades over time if it’s not some thing I’m doing all the time. So I would like to improve my memory.

Your emotional stability 3/10 -I’m a very moody person and I find it hard to get into things when I’m not in the mood, it can even make me feel depressed. I don’t really have depression but I get pretty down sometimes. My worst mood problem is I get too impatient with people; I interrupt in conversations a lot and I’m rude to people, or I ignore them, which isn’t good for relationships, y’know? I think this is my weakest point because I often smoke and drink when in company in order to try to chill out a bit and not get so impatient.

Your creativity and ability to use tools 7/10 -I can use tools like computers okay but I do have trouble with manual media in art, for example, I probably couldn’t paint with a brush. I don’t really know how good I’d be with stuff like bushcraft or DIY or sculpture or mechanics because I’ve never done them. My creativity is pretty good though; I have lots of ideas and I design software.

Your intellect / IQ 9/10 -This is probably my strong point, I have a high IQ and I find it easy to think logically. I can get a bit too pedantic at times, when I start taking myself too seriously I might even get arrogant.

Your prediction, planning and strategy skills 5/10 -I’m great at making plans but can’t seem to keep to them; something always happens to change things that I hadn’t prepared for. My plans never seem to work out for my own life despite the fact I’m smart. I’m crap with deadlines and always end up trying to do everything at the last minute. I’m not a very organised person and I don’t always think of the most expedient ways to do things.

 

This is the kind of thing that NH students put on their first assessment, and it’s fine. The student in this example managed a pretty good insight into their own strengths and weaknesses, even though they didn’t know that much about the functions themselves yet. Having an overall practical, light-hearted look at yourself through this sort of calm, private introspection is a good first step towards ‘knowing yourself’.

Keep a copy of your own first assesment in your Captain's log and compare it to the adjusted versions you make later.

 

Q – In the student’s example above, which was their strongest network? 

A – They gave themselves the highest mark for intellect, and if you look back at the list at the top of this tutorial, you’ll find that’s mainly handled by network 5. They also gave themselves high marks for perception and imagination, so networks 1, 2 and 3 are also pretty active (although they did note that they weren’t yet sure what ‘perception’ actually means). As we learn more, we will review our scores to get them more accurate.

 

 

Brain

Starship Brain

 

Let’s consider a useful mnemonic aid -analogy for the overall brain and the networks themselves:

Think of your brain, for a moment, as a starship.

It’s lifetime mission: to thrive, explore the unknown, communicate, do experiments, discover, learn, interact, make friends, play with stuff, and have adventures.

It’s prime directive: to enable intelligence.

The cells of your brain form the ‘crew’ working in various 'sections' (networks) of the ship at their various 'stations' (processes) such as sensor arrays, life support, maintenance, engineering, navigation, security, communication, research, leisure, command & control, etc. All these various stations are packed into the six sections that working together run the whole brain ‘starship’ for you optimally.

'Optimally' only happens of course if all the departments have enough crew, are getting the resources and input they need, and are doing the right tasks with it!

YOU are the captain of your own ship. Having a good Captain is vital. Ships with poor maintenance and poor commanders do poorly and eventually fall apart, Captains who run a well-maintained ship and are competent do well.

YOU are conscious, some sections of your crew are not. To communicate your orders and make changes, you need to know how to communicate with those little aliens in the rear sections who can only feel or hear or think in pictures and code, as well as those more humanoid staff up front who can think in words.

Your job is to get all the sections fully functional and working together without conflict or confusion, and then to improve their performance together even more. Objectively speaking, this is really not fair on you.

I mean, here you are, left in charge inside this incredible, intricate, marvelous machine and nobody ever told you how it works, what it can do or how to fly it. Nobody even taught you the basics of what fuel to put in it or how to maintain it and prevent it falling apart.

Imagine if some aliens just gave you a spaceship and left. …Right. Apart from obvious concerns like where do you put the fucker (and this is not a problem with the brain), you have had no training, seen no examples of what it can do and how to get it to do it, there is an instruction manual in the ship's own computer somewhere but you don’t know how to access the file and anyway its written in alien; there is a crew of nanomachines and thinking entities waiting for instructions, and if you don’t take command the ship will just take off and bump about in the wind with you on board making all sorts of potentially dangerous goofers. Basically a leaderless crew will fly you constantly into trouble if they get no guidance (or worse; big trouble under the direction of somebody else!) If you don't know how to fly your own ship, plenty of unscrupulous others can divert it for their own purposes!

This is very like many people's current experience of life.

 

Biology expects our elders and parents to show us how the starships work, give us examples of how to fly them well and succeed at missions.

Biology doesn’t expect whole generations and societies full of people who don’t know any of this. It doesn’t expect us to have to dodge bullets, because if we were ready, we wouldn’t have to. With optimal nurturing and input, we'd have been flying since before birth. Without it, our intelligence is limited by every bit that's missing.

But relax. At last, neuroscience has discovered and is translating the manual, and we think things are going to be just fine. What we are doing here in this program is going through the instruction manual with you, and showing you how to read it yourself.

Obviously, if you're going to be Captain Competent, you need a strategy. So first of all, when you come here to read this manual, you’ll give everyone on board some time out. You’ll start taking the pressure off them first with anxiety reduction and input control, give them some rest & relaxation. Whenever you read these tutorials, think of it as a short 'holiday' or shore leave for your crew.

Take the decision not to worry about anything or try to think through any problems during this time, and if you get distracted, gently remind yourself of to the here and now. Remove distractions such as mobile phones and turn off TVs and radios. Even a short time improving your brain by giving it a break can solve a lot more problems than the same time spent worrying about them; that's the simple logic of it.

During the tutorials, you will get to know the ship itself, the crew you are working with and what happens in each department. That’s why we study each network; it’s like taking a tour of each section of your ship. We'll visit the sections first that you need to understand most.

 

Networks 1 & 2 

In this tutorial we’re looking at sections (networks) 1 and 2. (If you want more technical details about brain anatomy before going on, read: ‘Anatomy, physiology and brain networks: the basics’, in the Basics section of the library. This is a simple version.)

 

cerebellum_and_hypothalamus

Where are they? In the bottom back part of your ship –the brain stem and what is called the ‘old’ mammalian brain. They are marked here in red and orange, and contain two (labeled) particularly interesting bits -the cerebellum and the hypothalamus.

What do they do? Networks 1 & 2 share some tasks, for example sensory processing and locomotion.

Network 1 is responsible for processing information from your short-range senses (touch, heat, pressure, taste, texture), processing data about material (physical) things, and storing long term sensorimotor (‘muscle’) memories. It plays a main part in attention, self-care, and perception.

Network 2 is responsible for processing information from long-range senses such as sight and sound, motion, neurokinetics (awareness of where your body is), balance, locomotion, the basics of timing, coordination and rhythm, poise, most automatic body functions, spatial memory and behaviors. It plays a main part in alertness, observation, orientation, navigation and perception.

The Cerebellum plays an important role in much of N2’s processing. Our ability to learn sensorimotor tasks such as walking, swimming, dancing, mating, hunting and self defense relies on this area. It also provides the basics of timing and pitch to help us understand language and music. The cerebellum contains sensory ‘maps’; as it receives data on the position of various body parts in space it can anticipate the future position of a body part during the course of a movement, in a "feed forward" manner. The cerebellum implements the proper timing and modulates the force given to every motor command.

 

The hypothalamus, a tiny little cluster of pea-like things that dangles down from the bottom of the brain, is responsible for the ‘brain/body link’. Seen closer up, it’s quite stunningly pretty, but because it’s so very small [it weighs just one three-hundredth of the total brain mass] it’s hard to do it justice here. We’ve colorized some bits in the pic below so that you can see its complexity more easily:

 

 

This tiny little thing is responsible for the brain/body link that gives the feedback to and from your memory and perception about what your body is doing and what you want it to do. It signals your body to distribute the hormones that you need to match your body state and behavior to your mind state; to keep your heart beating at the correct rate, adjusts your breathing, temperature and alertness levels.

The Hypothalamus doesn’t strictly speaking ‘belong’ to' any particular network; it's an interface. It's a chemical factory and delivery system, in close connection with all three rear networks and the pituitary gland, functions as an interface between brain and body and helps maintain energy homeostasis [using hormones to regulate our heart rate, temperature etc] as well as releasing the relevant brain chemicals to make our body state and moods appropriate for our activities.

One of the most important functions of the hypothalamus is to link the brain and nervous system to the endocrine (hormone) system via the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus regulates body temperature, hunger, thirst, fatigue, and circadian cycles, gastric reflexes, birthing behavior, blood pressure, feeding, and immune responses. The hypothalamus is responsive to all sorts of input: Light (daylength and photoperiod for regulating circadian and seasonal rhythms); olfactory stimuli, including pheromones; steroids; transmitted information from the heart, stomach, and reproductive tract; blood chemistry; anxiety; invading microorganisms (responds by increasing body temperature, resetting the body's thermostat upward.)

 

Security Department & Counter-Terrorist Unit 

Your 'starship' has good protection and various security measures against pollution or invasion and you should know about them.

The front line of protection is your intelligence. Strategy, forward planning and preparedness, as well as attention and awareness. If you are unaware of dangers it is hardly possible to avoid them! All networks have ‘security crew’ whose job is to watch out for any input that may signify a problem. The brain is capable of several camouflage, stealth and evasive action techniques that you will learn more about as we go along. These protect you from dangerous input should you detect any.

The next line of defense is mechanical and material: ‘hull integrity’. Your skin and skeletal system protect you from injury and infection. You have an emergency supply of antiseptic in your saliva, filter hairs in your nose and ears, an emergency cortisol reducer and foreign body ejectors (tears, sneezing & coughing), and anti-fungal agents (in your urine). When you’re born, you also have automatic hard wired reflexes that prevent you inhaling water, allow you to grasp firmly, and successfully dock onto a nutritious nipple of the mothership that starts downloading all its own immunities and antivirus protection to the new little system that’s going online. What more does a little starship need? Not a lot.

And your third line of defense lies with this protection and the immune cells in your bloodstream. Your spleen and your appendix are part of this system; your spleen helps to manufacture new antibodies and your appendix runs a kind of ‘customs & border control’ that sorts everything coming through into ‘compatible with my system’ and ‘not compatible with my system’. (If you don’t have an appendix you need to be especially careful about food hygiene, because dangerous microorganisms in food may not be detected so easily or responded to so rapidly.)

On the fourth line there are various internal firewalls that filter out toxins and protect you from harmful substances; the lungs filter particles out of the air, the liver filters toxins from the blood and turns them into less harmful chemicals, the kidneys filter out waste, and so on.

So stuff has to breach four lines of defense to get as far as the master firewall; the blood brain barrier. The hypothalamus is bounded in part by specialized brain regions that lack an effective blood-brain barrier; and this makes it a prime target for hacking (the blood-brain barrier is like a firewall to keep viruses and dangerous stuff out, but we can sometimes hack it to get good stuff in). The important point here is not learning anatomy though, it is understanding that you can increase the efficiency of all these defense lines through input control. We include techniques to do this in the hacks & exercises at the end.

While the security of the brain is very very good, the security of the mind is hopeless. We have incredibly gullible minds. We are designed to look for patterns and to copy and to fit in with expected behaviors, and we want to believe. We begin life, as we are meant to be, open-minded. Current society is not, as a healthy culture is meant to be, honestly informative. As we progress you will gain a much clearer idea of how to tell truth from falsehood, and protect your mind as efficiently as your biology protects your brain.

 

Rabbit

Don't Leave Space Dock Without a Tractor Beam

 

To summarize: Networks 1 & 2 are most involved in dealing with sensory input; they remember patterns of behavior, and they learn best by practising movements or by moving about.

The cerebellum controls a lot of hardware robotics (moving your body around).

The hypothalamus makes and delivers software applications (chemicals that make little subroutines run).

On your ‘starship’, sections 1 and 2 would include life support, repairs & maintenance systems, mechanics, robotics, sensor arrays & interpreters, safety & security, communications, one memory database each and logistics (maps of how to get around the ship, where resources are and what needs to be sent where when). These are all the systems that would have to be put in place first if you were building a real starship! The basics are built before the details when our brains are first growing too. And when we’re developing intelligence, we follow the same order. There is no point trying to get the crew to perform well if life support is sub-optimal or they don't have the resources they need.

As a general rule to help you remember, network 1 deals with physical, solid, material things, like trees, people, insects, our limbs, and network 2 deals with how those things move about in spatial ways –their motion and behavior in relation to each other. For example, network 1 notices the pile of horse poop, recognizes it and thinks 'yuk!', and network 2 diverts your steps and prevents you walking in it. Our brain processes so fast, and these interactions occur so close together, that they are effectively simultaneous.

Evolution has refined the brain to develop these networks first, because upon these foundations of attention and orientation everything depends. Without them we have no clear perception and sparse data to put into memory. Without them we couldn't learn anything. That’s why we work on networks 1 and 2 first of all.

 

“You left space dock without a tractor beam?!”

(Admiral James T Kirk in Star Trek 'Generations')

 

Neurohackers sometimes fail because they attempt to improve one aspect of intelligence, for example intellect, without first upgrading the stuff on which it depends, for example, memory.

One topic of increasing popular interest, for example, is "brain fitness," or how to maintain and further develop cognitive abilities. This is a bit like buying a new calculator program and expecting it to improve the memory capacity and processing speed of your computer! In fact, the program might even slow everything down. If you improve memory capacity and processing speed first, every function including intellect will improve.

It really is difficult to convince some captains that this is the fastest method to success, but it's true. In all cases we must work from the ‘bottom up’ and put in all the foundations first before ‘doing an upgrade’ if we want a fully-formed, high quality intelligence. Don't leave space dock without a tractor beam!

 

Q –Can you remember (without looking back) what kinds of long term memory are stored in networks 1 & 2?

A –Network 1 stores sensorimotor memory and network 2 stores spatial memory.

 

doitnowrat

DO IT NOW

 

Get your Captain's log and look at the golden rules.Since these tutorials were first written, we've learned a lot more about how these rules apply, originally we were unsure of the order they should be in, and then we realized that they match up with the networks rather nicely. So it's worth checking back to see if you've got them in the right order because tutorials get updated as we learn.

The first six rules associate with one particular network each (Rule 1 goes with Network 1, and so on). If you like, you can make notes about the networks next to their relevant rules, or you may like to start separate “network” pages. Note down very briefly what sort of things the first 2 networks do, what sort of memory they use, and what rules apply.

Think about why each rule might be especially relevant to each network. You may not see any clear reason yet, but it is good to consider this. If you look at what functions the networks perform, you may get some idea of how the rules relate to them.

 

Q – Can you guess why there are eight rules; not just six? What might the other two be for?

A –The remaining two rules apply holistically; they apply to you as a whole person and they concern all networks and all procedures; they are about the nature of perception. We'll talk about them more in a future tutorial.

 



Last Updated on Monday, 29 May 2017 12:58