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Workshop - Stuff by Members
Written by Alex   
Wednesday, 29 September 2021 11:40

 

 

  

 

chapter 3

Reprogramming developmental pathways

 

When we are stuck in protection mode, our behavior is somewhat limited. We can fight, we can run away and try our best to avoid everything that stresses us out; we can try to disguise ourselves as 'normal and boring' so as not to attract trouble or be noticed; or we can hide away and attempt to survive in isolation. Everything is about defense, until such time as the system feel safe enough to return to normal healthy functioning.

 

Anxiety-driven aggressive reactions may be overt or covert. Overt violence is thumping people; covert violence is anonymous harm. Overt hiding is self-isolation, covert hiding is camouflage; you wear a 'social mask' to disguise the real you. In protection mode, all behaviors are ultimately about defense. You can probably think of people you know who spend some time in these kinds of behaviors, or maybe you have experienced doing some of them yourself, but the important thing to remember is that these states are designed for emergencies, not for everyday use. Over time, all of these defensive behaviors are epigenetic triggers; that is, they cause changes in your genetic expression which are harmful to your health.

 

Some harmful genetic changes make us prone to disease, others cause dysfunction. Understanding how powerful such changes can be is important, so consider the impact of Thalidomide; a clear example of harmful epigenetic change.Thalidomide was a drug prescribed for nausea, which initiated an unforeseen disaster by causing the birth defect of shortened limbs and growth defects in infants whose pregnant mothers took it. This is an example of an environmental trigger causing a harmful change in genetic expression resulting in physical harm.

 

It is easy to see from this example when a harmful epigenetic change is causing a physical change, however it is not at all eas is the important point to grasp: most of our everyday behaviors, healthy or unhealthy, fun or boring, are epigenetic triggers. Of course, we want epigenetic change, but epigenetic changes are not all good; some changes are good, some are bad and some are downright ugly. To change the triggers we must change what the system is doing and experiencing (or literally, what it believes it is doing and experiencing).

 

In NH we seek beneficial change, which itself helps us to avoid any harmful changes. It also helps us to repair any damage caused by past harmful epigenetic changes, and many of us would also like to improve or augment our systems if we can.

 

Although it appears at first glance, then, that in neurohacking we must pursue four goals: promoting continuous development, avoiding obstacles to development, repairing damage, and system enhancement; simply taking up practices that will promote continuing development will fulfill all the other requirements by default. This is because in growth and repair mode, which we need to engage in order to continue development, repair and enhancement are automatic. That makes NH a great deal easier. You only gotta do one thing!

 

That's why it's so important to be able to shift operational modes. Once you are able to successfully engage open mode (and thus growth & repair mode) regularly, this will prevent your getting stuck in protection mode, initiate repairs, and recommence development. Shifting modes, as I said, is like swimming; it is something we can only become adept at through time spent 'messing about in the water'. We need experience of doing it in order to become adept at doing it.

 

 

Biological imperatives - what our parents should have told us, but didn't know

 


 

Specific input from our surroundings and our own behavior is needed throughout life to provide the signals which biology requires in order to continue healthy mental development. If biology doesn't get them it will first of all make us feel bad; we start to feel fatigued, bored, tired, depressed, apathetic, irritable, pressured, annoyed and anxious. If things do not improve long term, our immune system will start to go down, our hormones and neurotransmitters will drift out of balance, and we will begin to get noticeably ill. We may develop a physical illness or a psychological one or both, but this is what biology does unless it gets its needs met. 

 

Our main task in 'reprogramming' ourselves, then, regardless of whether we desire to repair damage, fix problems or augment mental abilities, is to reestablish the provision of those biological imperatives that enable further development; because doing so can achieve all those goals (and it is the ONLY thing that will enable permanent changes). We must, in short, start giving biology what it needs, pronto.  

That means providing the signals to cells which indicate to the system that conditions are now right for development to go ahead. Your practice at regularly initiating open mode is one such imperative, and your practice at paying attention in the here and now is another. These are good examples of behaviors that can trigger epigenetic beneficial change. 

 

Getting into open mode gives you the correct state of mind to absorb good input. Next you need to select your input.

 

Let us be clear that the requirement here is simply the provision of signals, and most of the time this can be achieved in a variety of ways. Knowing what biology needs and when enables us to choose which methods to use in order to provide it, because to your brain, all input ultimately comes down to binary code.  

You may think if all we need to do is send biology signals, NH must be very, very easy! However, it's a matter of sending the right signals at the right times, and finding out what those signals are for you personally on an ongoing basis as you develop is the purpose of a lot of self assessment.

 



 

If a frequency of 700 THz falls upon a cell in your eyeball, you will imagine green. That means you will 'see' green; your mind will interpret the input frequency as an experience of 'greenness'.

 

If the system registers a lot of greenness, coincident with healthy smells, leafy textures and sounds of relaxed laughter, signals going to your cells will initiate beneficial physiological and psychological changes throughout the system. This is how simply epigenetic change can occur. You're just staring at trees, smelling fresh air and hearing laughter, messing about with leaves. This sort of NH practice is not hard work; it's play. In the brain behind the eyes all the work is going on; neurochemistry, physiology, genetic expression, memory access, emotional mood and even anatomy are all changing; becoming more optimal for health and development.  

Different frequencies of light and sound, different smells and textures, trigger the release of different chemicals inside your brain. Some promote wakefulness. Others promote sleepiness. Some do hardly anything at all, others cause eye damage or allergic responses. Some promote growth and healing, others retard growth and healing. Our task is to provide the most beneficial input we can from all this variety. Happily it's not at all difficult to conclude what these are. Forming the habit of regularly accessing them may be more challenging. 

A tenet of NH is that while biology is very particular in its basic responses to input, it is not so particular with regard to the details of input source; green light from LEDs works just as well as green light reflecting off leaves or green paint on a wall. The system doesn't care where the data came from; only its properties matter. Frequency matters. Amplitude matters. Density matters. Molecular weight matters. In terms of these physical input properties, biology is very fussy. 

The thing about natural environments is, they provide input for all senses at once and you can interact with them. To recreate a dynamic visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, etc., environment with proper weather and everything is a hell of a job in VR, and only worth the trouble if you're stuck in isolation somewhere. Ordinarily, NH practice can be a walk in the park. Literally. All the tech you need is your own senses.

 

Why is biology so inflexible about input signal basics?

There is a short way and a long way to answer this question so I chose both. 

1 The short version: Cell receptors (input devices for cells) have evolved to be fairly specialist, which is why it's so hard to design effective drugs or tech for many conditions – sometimes no substance can be found which will fit a specific receptor or can block a specific signaling pathway. Sometimes it takes years to find one. This puts inherent limits on possible 'good input' choices in tech or chemistry, because all input relies on binary sensory signaling via cell receptors, interpreted as 'perception' via pattern recognition by the imaging software we call imagination. 

2 The long version: The development of our mind's operating system took a loooooooong time. And for all that time, every experience of every organism in every generation of every hominid species provided beta testing, upgrades, and assessments of efficacy and accuracy. Algorithms were born and died, the system software evolved. 

The diagram here shows us for how long biology has been developing its algorithms for successful human life on earth. Note how long ago hominids began hunting and gathering![108]



 

Although we may optimally enjoy over a century of fun on this planet, human beings don't live for very long, cosmically speaking; so it's difficult to grasp such enormous quantities of time from a human perspective in any meaningful way. However, all we need consider here is this: all of the successful biological instructions for survival and thriving, adapting and changing in response to incalculable experience of errors and successes, were laid down throughout this entire time. Everybody, every day, every night, for millennia, ran this software.

 

Signals from the environment came in, responses were activated in organisms and success was achieved, over all that time. That's a heck of a lot of self-programming evolution.

 

So, look at what humans have been doing for all that time. The green section tracks the continuing behaviors of hunting and gathering, the yellow bar measures the duration of subsistence farming and gardening. The tiny red bar indicates the entire history of technology and modern agriculture methods since the first working steam engine and the earliest towns and cities (rather than villages).

 

Now perhaps you are more able to appreciate biology's unconscious perspective on what humans are 'likely to do' and what they are 'likely to need'. Human tribes and small communities have been around for 5,000,000 years, and for 4,999,4000 of those years, what we were doing was fairly straightforward. We were acquiring our own food (hunting, gathering and in the last 10,000 years, gardening/subsistence farming), building our own homes, having sex, raising and nurturing our young, playing, creating knowledge; eg., fire control, toolmaking, herbal medicine, art, music, bushcraft; exploring, learning, dancing, taking drugs and having parties.  

That was it. These archetypal behaviors (behaviors almost always performed by all humans) were what biology understood for all that time as 'human behaviors'.

 

...Reality check here: this wasn't some 'golden age' for humanity or utopia of 'noble savages', however. We were also getting eaten by predators, attacked by invading nutters, plagued by evolving diseases and destroyed by natural disasters. To survive, we had to be smart, because anybody who wasn't really smart died. We had to learn skills for survival like medicine, toolmaking, gardening, communication and defensive archaeology.  

Biology carried on developing all of the programming specific to humans during this entire time, using assessment of those same archetypal behaviors and conditions as indicators of good strategies for our wellbeing because they WORKED. They worked so well that our species survived an ice age, plagues, predators, famines, droughts and multiple natural disasters, with the aid of (by today's standards) bugger all technology. 

And this is why biology is so unshakably convinced that specific types of input 'must' indicate specific current circumstances for good or ill: because they always have. Always. It's done the experiments forever, in every single individual who ever lived. That's a hell of a cohort and more data in results than any of us could ever read. Every mind alive right now is using hard-core, evidence-based programming with code scripted from the dawn of time. 

 

Cell receptors have evolved with this in mind; they develop because of our need to respond to and interact with events in the external environment. The vulnerability of the system is that it relies on receiving specific properties in input to develop intelligence in each new individual. If sensory cells in any individual never encounter the specific gene-switching environmental signals they are designed to receive, that system will never respond with the required developmental genetic changes.  

Since most of us are born with just as much potential for full development as our stone age ancestors, we can start to understand what's happening to make us miss these signals; what we are doing now that changes our gene expression and obstructs development. We are cutting ourselves off from a major source of nurture – nature. We are deprived of biological imperatives firstly because most of us don't know what they are, and secondly because even when we do know, we are too busy to find the time to be exposed to them often enough for them to work. 

 

It's not just environments that can effect our gene expression; behavior works too. And there again we generally don't even know, when we first begin NH, that our own behavior can be such a major source of harmful or helpful genetic changes. Nobody told us that the ways in which we behave every day will over time can either cause us mental damage or improve our performance.  

Contrary to popular belief, though, unusual or irregular behaviors don't make changes. Pigging out on junk food on your birthday, going to the gym or binge drinking once a month isn't going to permanently change the expression of anybody's genome, because behavioral triggers rely on regular repetition until the behavior becomes habitual (ie, can be processed unconsciously and automatically, although still under your control). Effectively, successful NH practice makes a habit out of inducing beneficial change, and teaches us how to pay more attention to any incidental input that can improve us. 

 

The brain loves forming habits, because habits save processing power. Once a behavior has been repeated enough to become habitual, the memory of that behavior is stored both in long term memory and in our equivalent of RAM, primed and ready for use without recourse to (or any need for) conscious processing unless anything unexpected happens. This gives us access to it much faster than having to recall from scratch how to do something every time we want to do it (which would mean learning to ride a bike every time you want to ride it, as you do when first practicing). Habits save so much processing time and energy that the system likes to make a habit of all regular behaviors as soon as it is able.  

It relies, however, entirely on our individual, intelligent choices with regard to what behaviors it will make habits of. If we make uninformed, harmful choices, unintended harmful changes can result. But more often we don't engage conscious choice at all, having been schooled in the habit of copying others which means letting others direct us, effectively choose for us, or tell us what to do. This means bad habits can – and often do - occur completely by accident in just the same way good habits can, because making anything automatic simply requires the changes in genetic expression triggered by repetitive behaviors. 

 

It is harmful to us if behaviors designed to be under our conscious control (such as decision-making and judgment) become accidentally automatic. Simply copying everybody else or blindly doing what you think they expect of you or just trusting your society to make the healthiest choices available for you effectively turns a thinking, conscious system into an automaton; like a robot which performs 'required behaviors' (whether useful or harmful) without conscious awareness or conscious thought.  

This is another thing that being stuck in protection mode long term can do; it removes conscious intelligence from the system, which then runs on automatic and can only make automatic (and usually defensive or reactive) responses. But loss of control over input choices can also happen because of conditioning, which is something most of us will need to address and remove.

 

Animal magic

To understand more clearly how conditioning works through epigenetics (and how to remove it) I'll take the example of animal domestication; something we are all familiar with. Many of us live with domesticated animals as pets, some of us work with domesticated animals and most of us eat (different) domesticated animals for food. 

Just as humans were unknowingly messing with plant genes by practicing selective breeding long before we even knew such things as genes existed, so we were messing with animal epigenetics long before we knew anything about genome controllers. The domestication of animals and, in particular, that of various mammalian species, was an integral part of the development of human technology.[1] Throughout our history, animals have been our weight-bearers, load-shifters, vermin killers, lunch, transport and invasion alarms. But even though domesticated life forms are all around us, most of us don't even know what domestication is, or what it does, from an epigenetic pov.


Involving more than 20 mammalian species, and a few bird and fish species, animal domestication commenced in different places on different continents at different times but took place primarily during the past 11–10,000 years, coincident with the rise of agriculture.[2] 

It's easy to see, for early humans, the advantages of the domestication of animals. It's astonishing when your dinner will just stand there like a dumbass and allow you to kill it. It save lots of time and energy and prevents dangerous encounters with less-benign wild dinners (the ones that fight back or make you run your ass off chasing them). It's wonderful when some big, strong creature will carry you and your food back home in return for a bunch of dried grass. And it's pretty cool when your guard dog protects your kids from some creepy predator. So at first glance domestication seems like a fabulous idea where everybody wins, and only now, when we know a lot more, do we realize the downside (like overcrowding, harmful genetic changes, disease, deformity, loss of habitat, waste disposal, antibiotic resistance, pollution, exploitation, loss of nutrients, etc.,) which problems we now battle against with science. 

 

...But I digress. How does one domesticate a wild animal? The recipe is fairly simple, as there are lots of techniques that can help, but basically you need to separate it from its matrix (natural source of genetic triggers) and present a false matrix (artificial source of different genetic triggers). This gets the animals intelligence stuck in a matrix of your own designing.

 

The false matrix must be designed to take away the animal's independence and make it dependent on you. Then you can get it to do what you want, rather than what it wants, without it complaining or trying to bite you. What you end up with, intelligence wise, is a sort of mixture of conditioned 'robot' responses and real animal; an 'artificial animal intelligence' if you like.  

To create a domestic animal, the animal's original developmental program must be broken, literally as well as metaphorically. The degree of 'breakage' achieved depends on the degree of difference between the real matrix and the artificial matrix. If one loving animal mother is replaced by another loving animal mother, and the environment and input remain the same, hardly any genetic changes will occur at all. If the animal's family is replaced with humans and the environment and input are also changed, more genetic change occurs, and if all three matrix factors are simply taken away, the growth of the animal's intelligence largely stops, depression or paranoia set in (and in many cases a baby animal will die). 

 

A key technique in domestication is the restriction of movement, because there is little or no intelligence development in a static environment; so cages, collars, leads, borders and boundaries are all useful, but again, overuse can result in illness or death. An artificial diet will likely make the animal nutrient deprived but will reduce hormonal output and affect mood control. Removing the sex glands is also commonplace.  

Docility is the desired outcome – something that will do your bidding without causing you harm; but biology causes physical and mental illness when its needs are not met, the severity of which correlates with the degree of interference. So domestication is not a random affair; a careful balance must be achieved in order to obtain a docile animal that doesn't get sick, die, over-reproduce or go mad. The false matrix must be similar enough to the real one, but not so similar as to cause wild traits (like instincts, or independent thought or behavior) to appear. You don't want a domestic dog that howls all night if it can't go out hunting, or one that absent-mindedly and in all innocence eats the neighbors' pets when it fancies a snack.

 

Animals can even domesticate themselves

 



It isn't so difficult to domesticate animals, though, once you know how to create a false matrix. If you build them a warm, predator-free space and give them regular fresh food and water, some mammals will, through habit, accidentally domesticate themselves.  

If you build it, they will come. And when they come, they will epigenetically change.[3]

Domestication syndrome 

Before knowledge of epigenetics, the biology underlying domestication and the effect of domestication on animal brains and bodies presented a major puzzle to biologists. The search for an explanation of what was going on began with Charles Darwin, who was writing decades before there was an experimental science of genetics, or even any kind of theoretical framework for understanding biological inheritance (he was, in fact, in the process of constructing one), yet he noticed that domesticated breeds, regardless of species, tended to share a common set of mutational changes and he had no idea why this should be so. Nowadays, we know that a selection of clear genetic differences is found in comparison between domesticated breeds and their wild counterparts because domestication causes multiple epigenetic changes.[4] Like anything else, the answer seems easy when you know it already. 

Researchers have since used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study exactly how domestication epigenetically affects brains and bodies. The results show that domestication has a profound effect on brain morphology, as well as on each animal's physical and mental development.[5] 

Domesticated creatures actually have some rather startling epigenetic and phenotypic differences from the wild type 'norm'; which comprise a condition known as 'domestication syndrome'.

 

  

epigenetic changes caused by domestication

A selection of harmful genetic changes is documented across domesticated species when compared with their wild counterparts. That is, domesticated breeds of all the different mammalian species share a distinctive set of harmful physical, mental and behavioral changes, in connection with measurable gene expression changes not seen in their wild progenitors. The molecular events associated with domestication therefore reveal common themes, with significant numbers of genes related to brain function and behavior, as well as anatomy and physiology, being changed universally across domesticates. The same genes are affected across different species. 

That these genetic traits are a product of domestication itself rather than a condition that developed independently and subsequently in each line is shown by their rapid appearance during the experimental domestication of a wide variety of animals.[6] They range from simple, visually obvious changes such as loss of hair color or patchy pigment loss, smaller head size, ear changes, smaller jaws and teeth and a more juvenile appearance; through complex, hidden changes like altered growth and reproductive properties,[7] hormonal changes,[8] earlier onset of sexual maturity and overall reduction of sexual dimorphism,[9] to changes affecting the brain, such as alterations in amounts of several neurotransmitters, an enlarged telencephalon and a reduced relative brain size;[10] and changes in behavior such as their activity levels and explorative tendencies being lowered.[11] 

The reason for changes 'across the board' of species like this is that all these systems are dependent on the same genetic changes underlying mammalian life in general. Consequently we can expect these changes in any mammal we domesticate (with the notable curious exception of cats, who show none of the hallmarks of domestication and no corresponding genetic alterations despite hanging out with us for thousands of years, leading biologists to agree with cat owners who claim their 'pets' are never really tame. As any rural farmer will tell you, every batch of new kittens is born wild).[109] 

Charles Darwin first ascribed domestication-related changes to the “conditions of living” provided for animals during domestication by humans, but because nobody knew about DNA or epigenetics back then, Darwin could not work out why or how some of the domestication traits had become heritable. Now we are aware that the lifestyles adopted by (or enforced on) domesticated animals in response to artificial matrix conditions and input sends epigenetic signals altering gene expression in all these animals, and some of the changes in gene expression will be inherited.

 

 

Because many genes are 'multipurpose' or affect the behavior of other genes, selection for docile behavior alone can accidentally result in the multiple correlated morphological changes known as domestication syndrome.[12]

 

problems caused by domestication syndrome – the 'cost of domestication'

When we aim for 'docility' in breeding animals for domestication, we obviously do not aim for intelligence. Indeed, anyone who spends time with animals will tell you the smartest ones will be the biggest pain in the ass. They want to explore and play, they escape all the time, they break out, get into your cupboards and eat everything, attack your furniture, and run when you try to catch them. No-no. People want docile, obedient, friendly but fairly dumb animals that will mostly keep still and do what they're told; they are the easiest to handle and train.  

Something with a smart brain wants to wriggle out of your coercive grasp, run off and pursue al the natural behaviors required for its own development, and you certainly don't want sort of thing going on in a pet stores or an abattoir. Also, on the whole, we really don't feel comfortable killing highly intelligent creatures for food. You don't want a dinner that can empathise and communicate with you. And you don't want a pet that gets shot for meeting its own needs attacking livestock or drags carcasses into your living room. So we don't select for intelligence; we select for obedience, docility, usefulness (to us) and appearance (size, shape, weight, color etc.) because in the pet market, cute is good. We also want them to remain dumb enough to be oblivious to the danger we pose, most especially if we intend to eat them. 

 

We thus employ simple methods of domestication which include confinement (ie, not allowed to roam free outdoors or hang out with others); restraints on motion (such as cages, collars, leads, straps, reins, enclosures); restraints on breeding; altered environmental signals (processed diets, crowding); scheduled behaviors intended to become habitual; and various forms of reward/punishment conditioning to speed things along a bit. These methods reliably render animals dependent, biddable and compliant. But there is a cost; that set of linked behavioral and anatomical changes seen in animals that humans have tamed as well as in creatures that have domesticated themselves.  

Because of these changes, domesticated mammals share a predisposition towards mental and physical health problems not seen in their wild progenitors.[13] A build-up of deleterious alleles has been described as part of the ‘cost of domestication’. This means we now understand that the epigenetic changes induced by the process of domestication are harmful to animals' health. 

For example, a high proportion of genes that have been identified in humans as risk factors in neurological diseases affecting social interactions such as autism and schizophrenia are affected, in animals, by domestication syndrome.[14] Developmental delays and craniofacial anomalies associated with a loss of genetic material have also been observed. Brain size in our species appears to have been shrinking since the beginning of the Holocene (around 11,650 years ago).[110] The shortening of the facial skeleton greatly influences the ratio of certain brain regions, primarily the olfactory bulb and the frontal lobe. These changes may have profound implications for olfactory and problem-solving abilities.[15] 

Elevated aerobic metabolism, which may lead to the retention of ‘juvenile’ neuronal characteristics may predispose cells (including brain cells) to be more sensitive to oxidative stress and thus neurodegenerative diseases.[16] 

Other relevant aspects of domestication syndrome include tooth anomalies (tooth agenesis or deformities in 60% of cases); changes in ear morphology with external ear cartilages absent, reduced, or malformed, along with conductive hearing loss caused by reductions or absence of middle ear bones;[17] poor eyesight; foot problems; hair loss; breathing difficulties; joint deformities (often noted in dog breeds); heart disease, mental retardation, convulsions and epilepsy.[18] Mutations of a gene associated with autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and epilepsy cause some of the same structural and behavioral abnormalities that characterize those neurodevelopmental disorders in humans.[19]

 


The usual conclusion here is, well, bummer for domesticated animals, but in our defense we didn't have a clue that these issues would arise. Humans didn't know they were using epigenetic techniques in order to control animals for our convenience; they just used techniques discovered through trial and error. We are just now starting to respond, with some areas phasing out dog breeds with notable breathing difficulties and looking at revising animal husbandry conditions for better health (ours and theirs). 

Epigenetic change occurs regardless of where input signals come from or whether they are applied deliberately on purpose or unknowingly by accident. This is why animal-domestication examples are so useful when learning about the changes that epigenetics can cause. However, we are (presumably) all humans reading this, so what's the real relevance of all this to us here? 

Buckle your seat belt, Dorothy.

 

Weird research

From previous chapters we know that we all have individual differences that can affect our response to epigenetic triggers such as drugs, infections or stressors; we all have different genomes; and on top of that we all have different epigenetic influences.

However, we also know why we should expect the basics of 'humanity' to be fairly universal across our species. Since humans everywhere share the same basic biology and the same planet, we would expect humans from all over the world to share the same basic aspects of cognition, motivation, and behavior; and until recently most scientists believed that if you got a bunch of people -ANY bunch of people in good health, around the same age, from anywhere in the world, and subjected them to a selection of behavioral, physical and perceptional tests, they would all give fairly close results on such measures and so could be used as a reliable indicator for 'humans in general'.

 

The fact that they don't has come as both a real surprise and a real bummer for science research, but it cannot be denied. There have been growing doubts for many years about the usual practice of using students as subjects for experimental data, then extrapolating the results without proof to apply to the general population, and it has now become apparent that most experimental science is, sadly, not telling us anything about 'most humans'.  

This discovery was shared a few years ago in a research paper that has since been popularized all over the place.[20] The researchers highlighted the 'WEIRD' problem in research, which is that almost all of the scientific research done is carried out on, and done for, a minority group of the worlds population who live in a 'WEIRD' environment. ('WEIRD' stands for 'Western Educated Industrial Rich Democratic', and it's likely that most of the people reading this fall into that category, as indeed do I.) 

This state of affairs in research would be fine if people from WEIRD environments were exactly like all other humans, but due to the epigenetic effects of our environment and lifestyle on our development, this is far from the case. In fact, international studies have revealed the existence of two distinctly different types of humans; there's everybody else, and then there's western industrialist urban dwellers – that's us; the 'WEIRD' people; a rather small percentage of world population. Most research is, therefore, teaching us very little about human beings and an awful lot about WEIRD people. That's like studying the behavior of toy poodles and assuming you now understand the behavior of wolves. 

There is a comprehensive list of the differences between us and 'others' (everybody else on the planet), with all their details is available from the references,[21] but the fact is that WEIRD people are not at all representative of the human species. Further exploration has told us that domesticated lab rats (our favorite laboratory test animal) are not at all the same as wild rats either, in both behavior and drug responses. Most of our research, then, tells us very little about either most rats or most humans. Why are we so different?

 

domestication syndrome in homo sapiens

The question has obviously come up: does self-domestication also happen to us; that is, do 'WEIRD' humans show evidence of domestication syndrome? This idea is currently (2021) producing some interesting and enlightening research,[22] as there are indeed statistically significant overlaps between harmful epigenetic changes in 'modern' western-type humans and a variety of domesticated species.[23] 

 

A big clue here is that the pattern of epigenetic changes in industrial urbanites is not unique to us alone; we don't share it with the rest of humanity but we do share it with domesticated animals. That is, lab rats, pet dogs, and animals in farms or zoos show a lot of the same changes we do, but 'free range' humans (and wild rats) don't change in the same ways.  

This is a real noodle-baker, but it looks like western industrial urban humans have managed to domesticate themselves. Recent tests between westerners and domesticated mammals for shared epigenetic changes show that the same changes – and the problems that result – are shared between humans, dogs and cattle.[24] 

The process of domestication is a conditioning hack; which uses isolation, incarceration, indoctrination, the promise of rewards (for compliance) and punishments (for not complying) and aims at inducing permanent dependence. As discussed above, to domesticate an animal you need to separate it from its matrix (source of appropriate genetic triggers) and present a false matrix (different source of different genetic triggers). This is basically the same process that is referred to as 'conditioning' (or 'brainwashing' for older readers,) in humans. 

 

Quite when and why we started using domestication techniques on ourselves is beyond the scope of this work to speculate upon, but we effectively began to domesticate ourselves in exactly the same way some animals do.  

The gist of it is this: Humans living in the conditions that we commonly experience (school, work, money, cities, consumerism) become genetically and behaviorally unusual in many ways compared with other people everywhere and compared with our own ancestors. They become domesticated. Certain drugs can also increase our vulnerability to conditioning; among them Ritalin, Adderall, Sulpiride, Alcohol and Acetaminophen.[25] 

Rewilding, then, becomes our goal; to reverse the damage within ourselves, and also to reverse the damage in our global environmental problems.

 

 

Further study has identified more domestication-related changes during recent human evolution. Compared with samples from our hunter-gather ancestors, our brow ridges shrank and our faces shortened.[110] Cranial volume also diminished, particularly after the invention of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. All of these changes tend to make male faces look more like female ones, and all are linked to changes in hormone levels, brain development and mental performance.   

Unnatural Selection in societies for higher levels of dependence, docility and obedience lead to all the unwanted effects of domestication syndrome. [26] We are literally self-domesticating. Our societies automatically domesticate us, and domestication always results in Domestication Syndrome; specific harmful genetic changes, and the associated health problems that we see in all domesticated animals. 

Domestication syndrome (DS) is now a strong causative contender to account for key aspects of modern human anxiety and many disorders of neurology and cognition. As noted earlier, several genes that are associated specifically with DS have been implicated in humans as risk factors for specific neurological diseases affecting social interactions (autism and schizophrenia).[27] In fact, a high proportion of genes that have been identified as risk factors for mental disorders are switched on in domestication syndrome.[28]

 

Domestication and institutionalization

DS causes an astonishing array of changes. And the majority of changes documented is not merely a result of what conditions we are living in, but also induced by what we are doing (or in the case of childhood development, what is being done to us).  

It is clear that most western industrial humans are unusually dependent on their social structures to survive. There already are several recent studies using a socio-ecological perspective that provide important clues as to what factors might cause such diversity in mind and behavior,[29] which have revealed some very specific connections between society's institutions and our cognitive skills.[30] Our cognitive development from birth (or before) is driven by constant exposure to the false matrices of modern institutions – schooling and work in particular – rather than the matrices our mental development requires.[31] We have replaced our matrices with institutions and our intelligence development with the conditioning of institutionalization.

 

 

Our institutions are sometimes concrete (like schools, hospitals, workplaces, churches, prisons, etc) and sometimes abstract (like schooling, marriage, employment, retirement, religions, nations, etc). Our artificial constructs replace and obstruct the natural events and circumstances of real life whose signals lead to healthy development. 

 

Understanding how domestication syndrome affects us requires a basic understanding of epigenetics, which you now have. Currently, the DS 'soft option' (ie, the belief that we domesticated ourselves through selective breeding 'in order to get along or communicate better') is in vogue. Nobody wants to consider the possibility that a lot more recently we began automatically getting (and continue to get) domesticated via the directed pathway; through behaviors employed by the institutions of our societies, either by accident or by design (the DS 'hard option'). Nobody in research wants to go anywhere near this idea at all. A tame animal is 'broken' in a very real sense, in ways that have proven very useful to society. When we moved on from using animals to using slaves, domestication was a helpful idea. Deliberate domestication of humans would, of course, be harmful eugenics, and we fight world wars to avois that. But we all sit back and do it to ourselves and our children accidentally without a thought – or any awareness – of what we are doing. And much more importantly, of what we are missing.

 

What we are doing: 

profound epigenetic changes in brain form and function

A significant reduction in cranial height and width and by inference in brain size is a universal feature of mammalian domestication.[32] The larger the size of the brain to begin with and the greater its degree of folding, the more complex is the intelligence of the mammal and the greater the degree of brain-size reduction occurring under domestication (in brief, the more complex the mammal, the more profound the mental differences after domestication).

 

Physiological changes

The most affected portion of the brain in domestic mammals is the medial system (adepts: networks 3 and 6; newbies: brain areas processing memory, emotion and executive functions), which in domestic dogs, pigs, and sheep shows a 40% reduction in size compared with their wild counterparts. This portion of the brain also regulates endocrine functions that influence behaviors such as defense, awareness of danger, and responses to environmentally induced stress, all attributes which are dramatically affected by domestication.[33]

 

Behavioral changes

Pedomorphosis (prolongations in juvenile or even infantile behavior into later life), increased docility/obedience (ability to be directed or trained) and tameness (lack of wariness of danger) all result from domestication, whether self-imposed accidentally or externally imposed on purpose. 

Overall, the tendency is towards less mature and more dependent behaviors, possibly imposed by constraints of the physiological changes but all dependent on genetic ones.

 

Where to go from here



 

Studying how domestication occurs, interesting though it may be, does not address two vital issues: (1) most of us don't have a clue we're doing this to ourselves, and (2) the notable traits of domestication syndrome include the blocking of full brain development. However, we don't have to swot up on all the science in order to take advantage of research discoveries and reverse the problem, so those who wish to know more details must follow up the references.[34] 

 

Likewise, listing epigenetic changes may be academically informative, but it gives little indication of the results of such changes in terms of our own life quality and personal experience.  

Humans, unlike many other animals, are able to verbalize their subjective experience in terms that we can consciously understand. Having done clinical work for many years, I've observed how the parallels between domestication, conditioning, nature deprivation and institutionalization are generically apparent in the symptoms and feelings people experience. 

Most of us are probably familiar with many of the following descriptions made by people seeking help: Alice speaks of experiencing a lack of communication or lack of ability to communicate in a meaningful way, feelings of alienation, a lack of stimulation, and poor self esteem. Bob finds it hard to develop relationships with family and friends, and describes losing touch with friends and becoming distant from them. Carl describes feelings of being overwhelmed, having a low stress threshold, fearing change yet depressed by the routine and boredom of a tedious, menial daily existence. Donna says her motivation to do things is absent, with poor social life and life skills such as self advocacy. For Eve, anxiety and protection mode have become a 'normal' way of life. 

People blame their genetics, their parents, their home life, school, other people, society, bad luck, destiny and even god as being responsible for their own anxiety, lack of self esteem, bad relationships or lack of success in life, and remain clueless about how to take responsibility and direct themselves. 

 

After hearing this sort of thing from many contemporary individuals, overall you get the impression that a lot of people don’t really enjoy life. Many seem like they struggle from day to day and find it hard to appreciate the good points in their lives, feeling caught in the grind of a constant and unchanging routine. Some feel they are ignored or neglected, deprived of independence but afraid of self-responsibility.  

In all cases, though, regardless of other symptoms, natural, healthy sleeping patterns are absent and self-care is inadequate, often because of fatigue, lack of awareness or feelings of lethargy. 

Because people talk to each other (and to bar stewards) much more than they talk to doctors or biopsychologists, you have probably heard others describe such feelings, or may have felt them yourself. If someone presents these symptoms to a psychiatrist they would probably be categorized as 'at risk' for mental illness such as depression and referred to a counselor or given some antidepressants. (Fifty years ago they would have been told 'You are stuck in a rut. Pull yourself together, take up a new hobby and get more exercise.') Neither solution attacks the problem, though; focus is still on suppressing the symptoms. 

Considering the connections between domestication syndrome-affected genes and neural disorders, I opt for addressing such problems by using NH methods to reverse the changes domestication causes, in order to allow mind to continue developing naturally. Input control can achieve a lot of this, as I'll discuss further on in this chapter.

 

Nature deprivation

Most people would agree that we are living in the midst of crises; both personally healthwise and as a species environmentally. At the heart of environmental issues is the overconsumption of resources, which is fueled by population growth and societies' economics of dependence, which necessitates the conversion of nature into property and products. 

Biology and culture (art, science, tech) are not at odds; they complement each other; but you can't bang biological needs and societies' rules together and expect intelligence, success and joy to emerge, because all that will emerge is internal conflict. We are all strangers in a society that we never made, and our societies have become our surrogate false matrices. 

This is the issue: we are biologically designed to rely on nature for a lot of our nurture. By 'nurture' I mean input factors resulting in beneficial growth and development of our mental faculties. Without immersion in nature (the real world) we become deficient in these faculties or we lack them altogether, resulting in a lot of illness, distress and confusion. We have also lost the sense of ecological interconnection that was inherently part of many pre-industrialized societies and is still practiced by First Nation peoples. While ecological destruction runs apace in many areas of the world, an increasing number of Westerners, including scientists, are noting the sustainable lifestyles among indigenous communities who traditionally care for the well-being of their landscapes. The data show that land areas controlled by First Nation peoples around the world (about 20 percent) hold about 80 percent of the biodiversity. Recent research suggests that indigenous ways of living on the Earth should be integrated in our interactions moving forward.[35] 

Our urbanized lifestyle, including fewer natural spaces, more car-focused logistics, screen time, changes in the perception of risk, less leisure time, and increased time pressures from work or school combine to decrease or even eliminate contact with (and thus input from) nature for both adults and children. Evidence from numerous fields of study supports these ideas and also suggests that human well-being and global chronic health issues (e.g., stress, depression and mental health in general) can all improve through ongoing interaction with nature. Ultimately, research constantly leads to new insights, but the facts thus far imply this may well be the case.[36] 

Summary of this section

My contention here is that people experiencing anxiety (and its attendant problems) are not in any way 'mentally ill'; they are simply making a natural response to being in unnatural circumstances; they are suffering the epigenetic effects of domestication/ conditioning/ institutionalization, nature deprivation and the resulting fundamental lack of personal control in their lives.

Because we are all individuals, epigenetic changes affect us all in different ways, and at different ages different 'warning' symptoms may appear. Only you can know exactly how you feel, because only you are having that personal experience. Whatever the warning signs are, however, we must heed them in order to solve the actual problem. After all, there would be little point in knowing all this stuff if such changes were irreversible – but they're not. The changes imposed by domestication syndrome can all be reversed using input control, which I'll discuss in the techniques section below.

 

It is not even difficult to reverse deleterious genetic changes, and this should be no surprise to those who know how animals can also un-domesticate themselves and take up life in the wild again (or continue to hang around in cities, feral cats and urban foxes being the most popular examples). It takes just two to three weeks of full immersion for animals returning to the wild to experience beneficial gene changes and recommence mental development.   

 

Obviously few of us currently have time for (or the skills to survive) actual full immersion in nature right now, but all mammalian systems use the same core programs, and the secret of 'getting out of the domestication rut' lies in input control based on natural resources. Input control enables us to reverse domestication effects and lead civilized, technological, 'modern' lives without compromising our mental or physical health. The aim is to enjoy 'the best of both worlds', that is, to enjoy the benefits of culture without the hazards of domestication. To understand how this is achieved, and 'get' how input control works in various ways, we need to examine some more programs.
 

 

PROGRAMS

Reprogramming developmental pathways is really a matter of reestablishing them, because developmental programs failing to run is the crux of our problems. Fortunately all those programs are still there; they just need the correct input triggers to execute; that is, we need to establish conditions that enable development.
 

Drives and instincts 

The difference between a drive and an instinct:  

Drives tell us what to do (eat, sleep, drink, have sex, etc.), instincts tell us how to do it.

 

Drives are drivers for automatic motivational applications; things such as hunger, thirst, tiredness, libido etc.; are core programs that motivate us to execute the appropriate instinctual algorithms, as behavioral routines for maintaining our survival, helping us to thrive, and helping us cope with emergencies.   

Instincts are patterns of procedural behavior we don't have to learn, such as nest building, annual migration, giving birth or having sex. It is likely that instincts – automatic behaviors which seem ingrained - became hard wired through epigenetic mechanisms and ancestral learning, because all living creatures have instincts.[37]

 

Drives and instincts are not the same thing as intuition. Intuition is the conscious awareness (usually through feelings and impressions) of unconscious knowledge.

 

Both drives and instincts are hard wired and designed to coordinate with neurotransmitter and hormone release in order to synchronize our behavior with our needs, so if anything messes up drives and instincts, emotional and mental problems occur.  

In a mature, resilient intelligence, drives and instincts may be self-controlled to some extent, but such a mind also knows that interfering with drives and instincts on a long-term or permanent basis always results in disaster. For example, at some point in our lives we have probably gone without sleep or food for various lengths of time for various reasons, but we are well aware that if we keep that behavior up, the resulting health problems are both inevitable and serious. 

Unfortunately, drives and instincts are interfered with by domestication, which is why we need to reverse any deleterious changes via techniques such as input control.

 

Biological intent

Intent emerges from our inherent survival need to adapt and improve both ourselves and our environment for optimal benefit. All mammals experience intent. It is behind our creative and innovative behaviors and prompts our motivation to actually do things (as opposed to just thinking about things or watching and listening to things.) 

Intent is not the same thing as intention.

 

Intent is an unconscious urge prompting motivation. Intention is a conscious decision or plan to do something. Intent is usually about what we do, intention is usually about why we do it. Intent comes from the bottom up; it is hard wired and simple, intention is imposed from the top down and is often complicated, sometimes very complicated.  

For example, in water, humans have an intent to swim, but you may also have an intention to win the swimming prize in order to please your parents and/or because swimming lessons was a better choice than tennis because the tennis coach is creepy around the girl who sits next to you in math class and she's your friend, and/or you want to lose weight...etc, etc... 

To keep it simple, intent is about the system getting or doing what it needs, intention is usually about us achieving something we consciously want. 

Intent features strongly in assessment; the intent is for the system to find out truthfully 'how am I doing?' in terms of survival and thriving.

   

A curling hedgehog: The drive here is survival, the intuition is an impression or feeling that danger is present; the biological intent is defense; the instinct is curling behavior.
 

Situational assessment programs: 'Impoverished or enriched?'

To analyze how it is doing, the system runs situational assessment programs all the time. Please note the phrase, 'all the time' because it means literally ALL the time, which is why techniques like input control can be implemented anytime anyplace anywhere. 

 

The coding construct 'IF-THEN' is used in many programming languages. It's also used in biological systems, in order to better adapt the organism to its contexts, and vice versa at basic levels. IF there are more benefits than dangers -THEN you move towards.  

Evaluation of what is going on is always conditional/contextual and consequently, computing what to do next relies on interpreting events and surroundings in terms that 'IF-THEN' processes can be coded to respond to. Imagination has to accurately assess what is probably going on constantly and send the messages for the correct physiological responses. This is more complex than is apparent because it's a 'moving target' thing; the system is calculating constantly changing probabilities rather than fixed absolutes, and critical mass parameters rather than 'true/false' or 'either/or' statements, but the resulting procedure remains the same: 

IF input (from conditions+context+emotional weighting) = x THEN do y 

where 'x' is critical mass, and 'y' is often going to mean simple stuff like: 'release chemical A at locations e,f,g', which leads to a chain reaction of events and triggers changes throughout domains from the mechanical sensorimotor and microscopic chemical to the emotional and macroscopic behavioral. This is something brains do all the time in multiple areas of calculation, but here we are specifically interested in situational assessment programs because they reveal both what goes wrong and why input control works. 

In biology's terms, 'impoverished' means a situation that has either very few starting resources or has lost most of its resources. 'Enriched' means a complex situation with multiple resources and possibilities for beneficial interactions. 

 

Below are examples of the two main domains subjected to the system's 'impoverished or enriched?' calculations; environments and behaviors.

 

Environments

Based on sensory input and feedback, your unconscious mind imagines/computes what your environment (and so life situation) must be like from the input clues it gets. It has a very neat process for assessing an environment and it is this: The environment which contains the greatest potential for human interaction is the most enriched environment. The fewer opportunities for interaction, the more impoverished the environment is rated.  

Potential for interaction is assessed through input samples, but 'input samples' are not conscious events like, 'walking through the park', or 'being in a disco'. Input signals are binary; resulting in calculations such as: <@c002 /30.5s@700Thz/=1> which means something like: at a coordinate in system section 2, a critical mass of neurons fired indicating that an eyeball registered a frequency interpreted as 'green' for over 30 seconds and that's a positive for enriched environment signaling.[38] 

'Potential for human interaction' includes the potential for benefits such as learning, adaptation, play, creativity, nourishment, resources, companionship, survival, variety, exploration, aesthetic enjoyment, fun, etc., all count as 'positive signals'. Against this it sets potential dangers detected in the given environments ('negative signals'), and also taken into account are the types of emotional responses coincident with these conditions. The system calculates the resulting potential for interaction in each context – searching for those with with the highest number and duration of positive signals and fewest danger signals. 

Stimulating environments are better for mental health and cognition because they boost the growth and function of neurons and their connections, the glia cells that support and feed neurons, and blood vessels within the brain. Environmental enrichment leads to changes in the 3D organization of chromosomes in neurons and glia cells, increasing the local 'openness' and 'loopiness' of the chromosomes, especially around DNA stretches called enhancers and insulators, which then fine-tune more 'downstream' genes. This results in the activation or deactivation of beneficial or harmful genes within the genome. The genes which in humans are important for cognitive mental health are especially affected.[39] 

And that's basically it. The unconscious mind is scanning for signals from your surroundings, and what it rates as an 'enriched' environment is defined as 'an environment where there are lots of beneficial signals coming in and hardly any danger ones'. 

IF there are more dangerous environmental signals coming in than good ones, or if signals are sparse altogether, THEN the unconscious assumes you are in an 'impoverished' environment and that means caution until you can move away. Protection mode is more likely to engage, which makes interaction and development very difficult to pursue. 

 

Remember the Goldilocks zone? In an impoverished environment there are two types of dangers; there is the danger of 'not enough' – in other words lack of input, which retards (slows down) development, and there is also the possible danger of 'too much' - wrong input, leading to system overload, strain and potential harm, including actual physical danger.

 

The system's solution to a 'lack of input' result is to release chemicals that make us feel bored (in the first instance) so that we will be motivated to go do something that provides more input. Prolonged boredom leads to anxiety, so if the issue is ongoing lack of input we get a double whammy of feeling bored AND worried.  

The system's solution to a 'wrong input' issue is to make us feel uncomfortable or distressed, so that we'll move to a safer environment. This is how it navigates us back to the Goldilocks zone or green zone – where input is 'just right' and the system gets an 'enriched environment' calculation from current input. 

What it cannot do is navigate us anywhere or develop anything if we ignore its warning signals.

 

Behaviors

Where we are, as long as it is 'most often in natural surroundings', doesn't matter half so much as what we are doing. Our unconscious minds perform behavioral assessments and include them in deciding whether our situations are impoverished or enriched.   

For example, motion is an all-important thing for maintaining sufficient blood and oxygen to the system, and sitting down all day just doesn't provide enough motion input data, so an 'impoverished' behavioral rating comes in when we sit in the same place for too long and this raises anxiety. Something so simple as getting up every hour or so for a short break can make a world of difference to input quality. 

For example, research reveals that among sedentary office workers, employees who smoke tend to take less time off work sick that those who don't; a counter-intuitive result until you know about input control. Smokers had to stand up and walk outside at regular intervals throughout the day, during which they had a mental break, chatted to each other, got exercise, increased blood and oxygen flow, synthesized more vitamin D and took in some natural input from the garden. By sending smokers outside, we are making them healthier and more cheerful than those who stay sitting indoors all day.[40] 

Like the input for environmental assessment, behavioral assessment doesn't look at conscious-awareness stuff like whether you are 'shopping' or 'working' or 'playing ball'; it assesses basic stuff like how much time you walked over uneven ground, how many times you bent down and stood up again; what weight you were carrying and for how long from where to where, how often you left home and came back again, what types of manipulations your hands did with objects, and what emotional experiences were coincident with these movements. That's all. 

 

Basically IF, from input basics like these, the system computes our surroundings are impoverished for any length of time sufficient to cause dangerous genetic changes, THEN it sends warning signals like distress or boredom (Let's call them 'red signals'). IF the system concludes that our surroundings are enriched then it rewards us with pleasant feelings, and beneficial genetic changes occur (these are 'green signals').  

The system doesn't know or care whether you were making fishing nets or knitting or soldering wires or playing a computer game; it just logs the basics; what patterns of movements you made. Those movements have, after all, told it 'what you're probably doing' since humans first began. It also knows that lack of movement, too much repetition or not enough variety in motion are all dangerous to the system, and that's all it needs to know. It's looking for the green zone; where behavior, according to input and feedback, is 'just right' for ongoing development. 

 

These are unconscious programs. The system does not assess 'impoverished' or 'enriched' consciously, so it does not understand or even notice things such as what job we do, how much money we make, what shops we prefer or how many cars we have, all it has is binary sensory input, which is about things like how much motion and what types of movements we indulged in, how much green pigment we saw today, what quantity of vitamin D did we synthesize, what's that smell, what was the ambient temperature for how many seconds, how much did this vary, what were neurotransmitter levels, and so on up to the conclusion of 'impoverished or enriched?  

If the system detects beneficial input most of the time on a binary level, regardless of the input source, it assumes an enriched environment, drops out of protection mode, and beneficial changes occur. That's how input control works. It's fucking machine code.

 

 

 

  ...What sort of input do your eyes / ears/ nose/ hands etc., get most of the time?

 

Lifestyle assessment programs: 'Free or restricted'

'Most of the time' is the crucial phrase here. If you spend more hours of your waking time at work/school and traveling than you spend at home with your family, your unconscious mind 'believes' that you live at work because you are behaving as though you lived at work. If your workplace surroundings are dull, unchanging and bland, most of the time your sensory input is likely rated 'impoverished' and your health suffers accordingly. 

 

'Lifestyle' often gets blamed for many of our ills, but lifestyle is usually presented as being all about diets, financial status, exercise and social interaction. People speak of having a 'sedentary lifestyle' or a 'sporty lifestyle' or an 'active lifestyle', a 'routine' or 'spontaneous' lifestyle, a 'busy' or a 'laid-back' lifestyle, a 'prudent' or 'risk-taking' lifestyle. In real life (that is, to biology) there are only two lifestyle possibilities for the system; impoverished or enriched, which it assesses in the same way as environments and behaviors from basic input. Situational assessment programs compute whether a creature has an overall enriched lifestyle or an overall impoverished one.

 

An 'enriched' lifestyle doesn't have anything to do with financial status. A much more important issue (for the system) is the question of personal circumstantial control, because whether or not a creature is self-directing is a big factor in calculating its adaptation potential for surviving an ever-greater variety of situations and thriving in an ever-greater variety of circumstances, which is what really matters to biology.  

Having free, unimpeded choice; having 'circumstantial control', changes what we may do and always increases our options. The system assesses our circumstantial control (freedom of choice) in the same 'probabilistic' way it assesses impoverished or enriched environments and behaviors from input signals, and in lifestyle terms an individual either has overall freedom (in which case it controls its own choices most of the time) or it has overall restrictions (in which case choices are made for it most of the time). The system thus computes whether we have an overall 'free or restricted' lifestyle. 

By computing which lifestyle (free or restricted) is currently most likely, biology can assess which modes are appropriate for the system to best interact with current conditions, because thriving is all about successful adaptation to ever-changing circumstances. Darwin's 'fittest' means 'those which fit in best with their environment and circumstances'; in other words those who can most adeptly adapt to changing conditions (because conditions are naturally constantly changing). 

 

The calculation – free or restricted – the equivalent of impoverished or enriched in the lifestyle domain – is one that biology computes all the time (from basic sensory input) about our lifestyle. It is constantly looking for indicators of freedom or restrictions - benefits or dangers - in order to adjust operational modes appropriately.

 

If it computes that most of our input and behavior is enriched, and that we have freedom of control, then growth & repair mode is permanently engaged. The system's first priority is to repair any damage, after which healthy mental development continues, because if we are getting enriched input, and we have freedom of choice, the unconscious assumes all is well and it is safe to proceed with development.  

If it computes that most of our input and behavior is impoverished, and that we have restricted lifestyles, it will tend to engage protection mode and put more processing power into searching for somewhere safer that provides better input. Processing power uses energy just as surely in biological systems as it does in machines, and trying to maintain immature systems in conditions that constantly provoke anxiety takes enormous quantities of energy. That's why fatigue or burnout often accompanies long term anxiety. One of the first things you notice about being anxiety-free is the amount of 'extra' energy you have.

 



In terms of circumstantial control, the overall computation for 'impoverished or enriched' is made from the assessment of 'free or restricted', and in epigenetic terms that equates to free or domesticated.

 

I am using the term 'free' as opposed to 'wild' here in relation to non-domesticated (or un-domesticated) humans, because to most westerners, the term 'wild humans' conjures up stereotypical media images of 'filthy, slavering, cannibal savages', and we are not they. But whether we like it or not, biology designed all organisms including ourselves to live free. That simply means we have the natural potential to be free-range people; self-governing and in control of ourselves and our lives; our behaviors in mutually beneficial symbiosis with our surroundings and circumstances. That means our environment benefits us, and we benefit our environment.

 

Like all other mammals, we are biologically designed to find a territory or series of territories in which we get on with our lives and (being inquisitive, intelligent primates) indulge our penchant for hanging out together playing with stuff, changing stuff and making new stuff.

 

'Free' in this context means having the freedom to do as we please within the limits of our culture and nature (knowledge and experience), for we are naturally cooperative, inquisitive and powerfully imaginative creatures, which makes us explorers, inventors, solvers of problems, creators and makers, and we love novelty – because biology knows that we learn a lot more and develop a lot more with regular new input. We also like getting together in groups to do things for mutual benefit, like catching our dinner, building a spaceship, or playing Beethoven's fifth.  

Humans, like other animals, need sufficient space to thrive. We don't thrive when we're crowded together, especially when there are a lot of strangers around. Crowding invites disease and impoverishment. Interaction with others is good for our development, but so are times of solitude. We tend to use closed mode (carrying out specific plans decided beforehand) more often in group events and open mode more often in solitude, so a lifestyle with regular access to both small groups and times of solitude are important to stay in 'the green zone'. 

 

Natural behaviors enable the epigenetic changes that accompany intelligence development, and this is true for all animal species; their everyday lifestyle automatically provides a sufficient variety of beneficial signals for their ongoing development. Humans are highly adaptable, so our specific natural environmental context is not so crucially tied to our development; as long as we have a suitable matrix it doesn't matter whether we are in the arctic or in a forest or on the savannah.

 

Situational assessment programs are very straightforward and rely on binary input 'cues' to make computations. The output of situational assessment modulates the input for emotional homeostasis, via hormone and neurotransmitter adjustment, and this is why we start feeling good when we begin doing things biology needs us to do and going where it needs us to be.

 

Whether or not our activities make rational conscious sense in context of the real world is also important to the system. Behaviors that satisfy unconscious needs AND that we are able to justify consciously as being 'good for me, good for other humans, good for the planet' provide a far better foundation for mental health than behaviors which we can't justify in these ways, or behaviors which we consciously know are harmful in any of these ways.  

You can't get the same feelgood hormones from everyday tasks the unconscious doesn't understand, because it's too busy trying to figure out why you are not doing what you are designed to do. Whenever things don't make sense it doesn't know what to do, so it sends the anxiety signal to tell us to change things. If we ignore the anxiety signals and carry on pretending everything is fine, the unconscious gets more and more confused, which puts us in a catch-22 because confusion raises anxiety and we are stuck in a loop of 'does not compute'.

 

anxiety and situational assessment

In terms of situational assessment programs, anxiety unfortunately changes the way we interpret (and even perceive) everything and renders a less-accurate or more distorted picture of reality. Colors and sounds become duller, [41] events that seemed formerly full of meaning now seem empty and shallow.  

Anxiety also affects our conscious judgment. For example, if you ask people to interpret the emotions of the faces below:

 

  

...If the viewer is feeling secure and optimistic, they are likely to say the faces on the left are (top) uncertain and (bottom) alarmed, the top right face is happy and the bottom right face is sad.  

If the viewer is feeling anxious and insecure, they are more likely to interpret all the faces except the top right as angry and the top right face as 'neutral'. 

Remember how system primary modes are selected and engaged as responses to perceived input, memory and expectations? Well, so are situational assessments. Anxiety affects the character and accuracy of our perception, and the type of response the environmental or behavioral stimulus thus evokes becomes biased towards 'negative' interpretations. Since overall positive perceptions initiate a growth/repair mode response, while overall negative perceptions initiate a protection mode response, faulty situational assessments are often caused by anxiety.[42] 

When our system believes that it is stuck in an impoverished situation, gene expression changes accordingly and biology responds by making us feel bad. This is the warning. What we are getting, that we refer to as 'symptoms' or 'problems' are in fact system warning signals due to unhealthy changes in gene expression. In Starship Enterprise terms, the 'damage report' and 'danger alert' signs keep lighting up on the console, but we treat this as a problem and put all our efforts into turning those warning lights off or hiding them, instead of addressing the damage that is being reported and the dangers all around. 

Anxiety is a warning signal that all is not well mentally, in the same way that physical discomfort and pain is a warning signal that all is not well physically. You are being warned that you're putting too much strain on the system and problems will occur if you don't change things. 

Anxiety is how the unconscious can warn the conscious mind that all is not well, but it relies on the conscious mind being intelligent enough to pay attention to it and and respond. Things 'not being right' emerges as discomfort and distress and develops into the mental equivalent of pain; psychological pain is experienced as emotional pain. 

We are supposed to respond to psychological pain in the same way we (sensibly!) respond to physical pain - if something feels uncomfortable or it hurts, you stop doing it, or you move away from wherever it is going on. This sounds very simple and sensible, but if our society treats anxiety and psychological distress as 'normal', it can be very difficult to understand what to do. If we ignore psychological distress, or just treat the symptoms, we are already on the road to decline, but even if we realize that we have problems or poor performance but are too anxious or exhausted to try anything new, it can be very difficult to change habits. 

Adding to this dilemma, if we are given false information (such as, 'You are unhappy because you don't know Jesus', or, 'You are angry because you need a job', or, 'You are anxious because you might lose your partner', or - the worst one - 'You are anxious because that's just human nature'); you'll waste a lot of time and energy treating the symptoms but not achieving any permanent beneficial change. 

So get a clear understanding of this: Anxiety is NOT supposed to be normal; it exists to make us consciously aware that something is wrong with where we are and/or what we are doing; in order that we do something about it. Only when you get to the point where you start paying attention to what biology needs and providing it will your life and your state of mind begin to improve; slowly at first, but with increasing vigor.

 

why the system can't compute wtf WEIRD people are doing

The issue of domestication is the mismatch between the expected and the given in terms of platform, power and input. The system expects and assumes that conditions will constantly change, but also that we have the autonomy and intelligence to move to a new environment and change our activities according to free will if we find ourselves in adverse conditions. 

 

The unconscious believes we are capable of changing our environments to more beneficial ones via creativity and intellect. It is, to the unconscious mind, very simple: if you don't feel good where you are, you get up and go somewhere else or you remove the annoying factors if that's easier/safer.  

Migration and adaptation have been around for as long as life has, and the unconscious knows very well that our species is capable of both. As far as biology's concerned, if resources are short and the environment becomes impoverished, you just move. You go away. When this or that area runs short of food or water, you go eat and drink in another area. In a couple of seasons the first area will have recovered, and so your lifestyle can effectively go round in a sustainable repetitive cycle. 

Depending on where we start out, and what the environment has to offer, we may decide it makes more sense to travel about a bit, in search of food or better weather, or that it may be more sensible to stay put, build shelters against the weather, and grow/hunt food around that area. For a very long time we've been doing both freely, and this sort of thing is what biology expects. It doesn't understand societal rules about land ownership or restrictive litigation. As far as bioloogy's concerned, if you don't like what you're doing, you stop doing it. If you don't like what others are doing, or there are too many unknown strangers around, you leave or you avoid them. You just go away.

 

 

What the system cannot compute is that in our type of societies, there is no away. There are now so many of us that 'empty places' to wander into set up home and live our lives are very few and far between and are generally in areas that are unsafe. The planet can only support a limited number of people living the naturally intended 'free range', enriched lifestyle, and it's about a quarter of the population levels we are now approaching. In nature, species overcrowding results in disease and a sudden large reduction in numbers, which keeps the system feasible, but it is not designed to cope with unlimited growth or the resulting unlimited pile of toxic waste products overcrowded lifestyles create. 

The unconscious believes, in short, that we are a great deal more intelligent and capable and free than most of us actually are, and that there is an endless supply of planet for us all to move around in with no such things as ownership laws, and that mass starvation is the simple solution to overpopulation issues in those who fail to adapt (because death from biology's pov is usually a result of failure to adapt). It believes all this stuff it has learned from millions of years' experience in adapting life forms, and it is programmed to continue believing this because, as far as it's concerned, it's 'always' been true. That's why things 'don't compute'; we're consciously doing stuff the unconscious is trying to warn us not to do, and we're apparently ignoring all warning signals. 

Enriched environments and conditions, as far as biology and the unconscious mind are concerned, are natural. They have been natural for four million years. They are the contexts which automatically provide all our biological needs because we have co-evolved with planet earth and the natural, dynamic, living landscape. Whatever we think about our current industrial 'western' lifestyle, regardless of whether we personally think it is great or awful or better or worse than other ways to live, we must never fall into the trap of believing that it is 'natural'. It isn't; and this is the source of a lot our problems, because biology is programmed to need natural input in order to do a whole lot of things necessary to keep our minds alive, well, sane and happy.[43] 

Until it gets the input it needs, we're going to feel anxious and problems will constantly arise; because as far as our own biology is concerned, the places we are choosing to go and a lot of the things we are doing simply don't make sense. No matter what we do we are never going to feel great, or even reasonably happy or satisfied with our lives, for as long as the body and brain are pumping out anxiety chemicals in response to our biological 'deprivation'. We have to convince biology that far from being deprived, we are in a sane, safe place abundant with natural resources with the potential to learn, explore, have fun and develop. And the way to do that is by providing input that hacks it into believing this is so. 

 

This is not, incidentally, a matter of finding drugs to numb the system into believing everything is okay, however. While this may postpone problems (until the drug runs out) dependence also postpones development. (See 'common problems' below). We need methods that enable development, because that removes the causes of the problems.

 

We hack situational assessment programs by responding to error messages and warning signals (like anxiety) with input control.


 

Housekeeping programs

 

 

 
Another way in which our neural computing system resembles machine software is that it runs 'housekeeping programs' whenever the system is not busy. (Whether you've noticed it or not, your computer does this too.)

 

Housekeeping programs do all the stuff there is no time to do when the system is busy being used for everyday activities such as moving about, processing input and calculating stuff.  

The biological system knows that it has time to do this maintenance work whenever we 'go on standby', which can occur during daydreaming, open mode or meditation but mainly occurs in sleep.[44] 

Housekeeping programs running regularly are vital for the health of the brain, and failure to run them is the cause of symptoms associated with insomnia, jet lag, chronic fatigue or sleep deprivation. Lack of natural sleep plus an inability to regularly access open mode exacerbates the problem, as the brain is not getting anything like enough time and energy to take care of itself, let alone do any upgrades.[45] 

Among other tasks, housekeeping programs are responsible for: 

consolidating long-term memory (defragmenting) – – turning short term memories into long term memories; a process essential for learning.[46] 

updating association networks and memory databases – reconsolidation of knowledge incorporating new information.[47] 

(system maintenance): 

Maintaining metabolic homeostasis in your brain. Failure to run this program is associated with mitochondrial stress and without sufficient sleep, neuron degeneration sets in, which can lead to dementia.[48] 

Maintaining biological homeostasis. Your body contains an array of circadian clocks that regulate everything from metabolism to psychological functioning. Many of your genes are under circadian control, turning functions on and off in cyclical waves. The master controller in your brain synchronizes your bodily functions to match the planet's own light and dark cycle, and when you upset your circadian rhythms by not getting enough sleep the results cascade through your system; raising blood pressure, dysregulating hunger hormones and blood sugar, increasing the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk, chronic stress and much more.[49] 

 

protein recycling & removal of toxic waste from your brain through the glymphatic system

This program ramps up its activity during deep sleep, thereby allowing your brain to clear out toxins, including harmful proteins linked to brain disorders such as Alzheimer's. By pumping cerebral spinal fluid through your brain's tissues, the glymphatic system flushes the waste from your brain, back into your body's circulatory system. From there, the waste enters your liver, where it can be eliminated. If you use drugs or alcohol before sleep, you will need more sleep, as many such substances slow down the performance of housekeeping programs.[50] 

damage repair - including repair of damage to DNA.[51] 

Due to the importance of housekeeping programs, a sleepless night can trigger up to a 30% rise in anxiety levels. Conversely, sufficient deep sleep helps reduce anxiety. After a night of no sleep, brain scans show a shutdown of the medial prefrontal cortex, which normally helps keep our anxiety in check, while the brain's deeper emotional centers are overactive. Housekeeping programs restore the brain's prefrontal mechanism that regulates our emotions, lowering emotional and physiological reactivity and preventing the escalation of chronic stress. 

The decimation of sleep throughout most industrialized societies and the marked escalation in mental disorders in these same societies is not coincidental.[52]

 

Summary of this section

Domestication messes with hard wired drives and instincts and this needs to be repaired by reversing deleterious genetic changes via input control. 

Situational assessment programs depend entirely on raw input data because numbers don't lie. X amount of chemical A in your bloodstream means no genetic changes happen, Y amount means they do. Light at frequency X can affect genetic change, light at frequency Y cannot. 

Housekeeping programs are vital to mental health and development, so input control prioritizes making sure they have time to run. This is another reason it's so important to be able to get into open mode on a regular basis.

 

So, here is the final call to disembark: if you still haven't made any attempt to get into open mode at will, please leave the book; it will not help you. Final call: All who would rather be dropped at the space station, please disembark.

 


If you have, however, regularly tried to access open mode and so far failed, stay with it. What we need in order to re-implement biology's program, step by step, is determination, perseverance, patience and an open mind. These are abilities a lot of people don't have and some are too scared to want to cultivate, so well done you. Persistence will pay off!

 

If you've tried to access open mode and succeeded, well done you. Success in NH comes via persisting with evidence-based techniques and doing things in the right order.

 

Or, as Douglas Adams would have put it, it's about staying cool and knowing where your towel is.


  

Evidence based techniques  

 

beneficial mental change

Any method for affecting 'mental change' which does not cause actual epigenetic changes to occur at the relevant phase is never going to succeed, and a lot of time is wasted trying to treat symptoms of problems rather than addressing the causes. The good news is, whatever phase of development you are choosing methods for, you will always find behavioral and environmental options.  

The reason is obvious if you think about it – biology has had to achieve successful human mind development for a very long time without any methods being available for gene-transcription other than behavioral and environmental ones. 

 

Certainly, drugs have been around for a very long time, but not for anything like as long as animal behavior and environments! And by comparison technological methods have only been around for the blink of an evolutionary eye. Modern methods work because they hack the system into believing that behavioral or environmental signals have come from the environment or behavior. This is achieved bottom-up, by means of direct input. Depending on the existing wiring of the individual, such methods will work for some and not for others. But genuine behavioral and environmental signals are still available, and will continue to work reliably for as long as they (and we) exist. They are also much more likely to work for most of us even though we are all different, because we are all human and we are all trying to develop human software embedded in biological hardware designed to receive specific coded signals. That's why I have chosen to highlight behavioral and environmental techniques in this book.  

Behavioral and environmental techniques also have several other advantages; they are usually free, very simple and straightforward, easy to do, available at any time and possible to use alone, they do not have creepy side effects when used by healthy persons and you don't need any 'courses' or frameworks or qualifications or gurus or equipment or teachers in order to use them. You just need access to the natural world, the ability to do natural things, and an understanding of what is needed. And that's up to you.

 

Most common NH problems 3 – Symptom Postponement

We should also be aware of the issue of drug- or other method-induced 'postponement', because drugs can fool biology into believing nothing is wrong when in fact it is; good examples being chronic painkiller or alcohol use. Treating pain (including emotional pain) in this way does not eradicate the cause of the pain, which is still causing ongoing damage. Likewise, getting so smashed out of your mind that you can't detect any problems is not a feasible long term solution. Such measures are fine for emergencies but do nothing to improve matters overall. They are just another way of jamming the error-detection subroutine or turning off those warning lights. As noted above, those who get as far as trying to change their lives usually only treat the symptoms – the anxiety – rather than exploring and changing the source of the problem, which is the lack of biological imperatives.

Solution: Upstream diagnostics

To avoid this sort of thing, we employ the method of 'upstream diagnostics'.

 

  

Many drugs and therapies aim at anxiety reduction or pacification as the goal, rather than a part of the process of reestablishing development, as I treat it here. So I'd like to introduce upstream diagnostics for those who haven't heard of it. The best way of demonstrating the concept is with a version of its familiar story: 

A group of fictional friends is on a hiking holiday, visiting a fictional village. They intend, after a long, dusty walk getting there, to go for a cool swim in the river. However, locals warn them;

You need to get these special vaccinations first, because there are turds in the river and if you don't get the vaccinations you'll get sick.”

Others say, “No, no, it's ok, we have a totally free, really great healthcare system that can sort you out in no time if you get sick off the turds.” 

But the visitors put their rucksacks back on and head off.

Where are you going?” the villagers ask.

We're going upstream”, they say, “to see who's crapping in the river.”

'Going upstream' for a diagnosis means you look for the causes of symptoms and address them, just as you would do with an engine warning light; rather than only treating symptoms. If you look upstream you find the cause of many symptoms is anxiety and the cause of the anxiety is either biology not getting what it needs, and/or biology getting something harmful. In other words the system either gets not enough good input, or too much of the wrong input, or both. The details of individual symptoms all relate back to the same basic cause; anxiety, and that can be traced back to lack of input or wrong input pushing us out of the green zone. 

By going upstream as soon as things go wrong, we can shift the focus of self-care from treating our symptoms to solving the problem and preventing ourselves from getting symptoms in the first place. This means we can determine which conditions or circumstances have led (or could lead) to our becoming anxious or losing any ability, and we address these in order to prevent such problems arising and to reverse their symptoms. 

Needing to take lots of drugs all the time in order to feel ok is a symptom of some problem. So you start by looking at why you perform better on drugs or devices that reduce anxiety (anxiolytics) – and the obvious answer is that without them, in some situations you get too stressed out; too anxious to function at your best. This will give you some insight on which types of circumstances and situations raise anxiety for you personally (we all have different stressors) but it will all come down in the end to identifying where and when the lack of input or wrong input is occurring. Regardless of what the details of our problems are, input choices are the primary causes, because wrong input = wrong signals, false data; and no input = no signals, no data. Biological imperatives for developmental processing are missing either way. 

The conditions that most affect our mental and physical health are the physical, cultural and social environments in which we live and work, as well as our personal behaviors and the behaviors of those around us. These are the things we really need to pay attention to changing, when learning how to 'think upstream'. Here's some practice:
 

Who killed Alice?

When you begin upstream diagnostics on any problems or issues you might have, you will start to discover that most problems in biology appear to have multiple causes. Here's an example: 

A death certificate says Alice died of TB. Which of the following things, all of which were facts, caused Alice's death?: 

The TB bacteria infected Alice. 

Alice had a weak immune system because her folks raised her in over-disinfected surroundings. 

Alice wasn't breastfed, so even though her mom is immune to TB, Alice wasn't. 

Alice wasn't vaccinated. 

Alice hung out with Bob, who also had TB. 

Alice lived in a poorly-maintained old building with damp, rotting plaster, where TB bacteria thrive. 

Alice's local clinic didn't recognize the symptoms early enough for successful treatment. 

Alice couldn't afford private treatment. 

Alice lived in overcrowded conditions with poor hygiene. 

Alice didn't know enough to recognize the symptoms and treat herself. 

Alice ate poor quality food and was vitamin deficient. 

Alice didn't dare take time off sick because she might lose her job. 

Alice was exhausted looking after her disabled mom and working as well. 

If Alice didn't work, their landlord would evict them. 

Alice smoked cigarettes because it stopped her feeling depressed. 

Alice lived in a badly polluted area, breathing in traffic fumes a lot of the time. 

Alice was anxious and stressed out most of the time. 

Alice had taken no control over her life.

 

...So who or what really killed Alice? If any one or more of these risk factors had been removed, Alice might still be alive. 

The art of upstream diagnosis is to do a 'why chain analysis' - you keep asking 'why?' about all these factors until you come to the sources of all of them. WHY Alice died comes down to wrong input and lack of good input, often both at the same time, and practicing this sort of analysis enables us to assess which of our own environmental and behavioral input factors are causing either lack of input or wrong input. 

You can thus discover the sources of your own problems yourself by practicing upstream diagnostics. This is real self-help: you are doing it yourself. You can find out what is causing all your issues using this method, and once you know, you will have only one or two problems to solve instead of loads, because once you start addressing the causes of problems with input control, the symptoms (ie., all the other problems) disappear. And remember, solutions are attainable (or I wouldn't be wasting time writing this; I'd be too busy still looking for them).

 

key technique 3: input control – becoming epigenetically proactive

 


 

What our lifestyle input does to our genetic expression

We (and all life on earth) are designed to live dynamic lifestyles doing dynamic things in a dynamic environment. 'Dynamic' simply means constantly changing. Domestication shoves us into static lifestyles in a static environment. So we gotta reverse that trend in order to reinitiate development. 

We can literally be epigenetically proactive and adapt our lifestyle and relationships in both the short and the long term to benefit, influence, and constructively interact with the ever-developing neuronal architecture of our brains.[53] To do so we have to know the difference between biology's needs and society's demands. 

Intelligence, like biological life, simply emerges and develops whenever circumstances permit. The correct input to any biological system will result in the emergence of greater system complexity and learning, either in that system or because of it. The machine-code maneuvers of epigenetics have evolved to dynamically adjust each species to better suit its environment by responding unconsciously to environmental changes as a species. The climate gets colder = the animal grows thicker hair, etc. But there's an extra with intelligence emergence, because intelligence is an environment-hacker, capable of turning around and affecting its own conditions, and therefore development, for good or ill. 

With epigenetics your environment and behavior can change you unconsciously, but add intelligence and you can also consciously change your environment and behavior. Intelligence enables individual organisms to adjust their environment consciously to better suit their own survival. The climate gets colder = we invent clothing, etc. If both processes (system needs and conditional change) are feeding back to each other with good, clear signals, we have the perfect balance to develop a highly intelligent, very adaptable organism. 

There is thus potential for producing optimal intelligence via brain and mind development in our genome, but its actualization depends (like all other potentials) upon the genome getting the signals that indicate it is necessary. Currently, most people’s genomes receive the signals that it isn’t. It doesn't require much intelligence to do the things the vast majority of us do – get up, go to work, come home, eat, watch TV, go to bed. Most of us at work or home don't face dynamic, mind-challenging scenarios; we do stuff we are already easily able to do. Consequent failure to activate all the required gene transcription factors for optimal intelligence results in sub-optimal intelligence; lack of brain/mind development and even mental dysfunction if the genome stops producing proteins because the system believes they are 'not needed'. 

Our environment sends the input signals and requests specifics from the multitude of changes possible in the genome, and the system makes the proteins & transmitters for 'what seems necessary' based on that input. Gene transcription for optimal intelligence fails partly because of our not doing the correct things to send the right signals, and partly because of our doing the wrong things that send wrong signals (but occupy signal-receptors). If we want to develop high-functioning intelligence, we must be aware that there are things in our environment (by environment I mean whatever we are surrounded by, thinking about and doing) that ought not to be there, but more importantly there are things missing from our environment that ought to be there. 

The secret of successful NH is twofold: (1)find out what the unconscious needs and (2)convince it that it's getting it. Since what the unconscious needs is what biology needs, we can hack the genome for exactly the same reason that it is susceptible to going wrong - because it depends entirely on input signals from the environment & behavior (or that it believes came from those sources). In the brain, neurotransmission is tuned according to whatever the system believes your needs are, and this is really where input can be both our greatest asset in developing intelligence or our greatest bane, because the genome cannot respond to intellect. It’s no good (as most teenagers discover) thinking you should be thinner, or smarter, or less spotty; no matter how much you convince yourself of this, or pretend that you are, it won’t make it true and it won't make any changes happen. You can’t make human nature (our biology) respond unless you nurture human nature, and give the system the signals it needs to make those changes in real life.

 


Gene transcription holds all the keys to every aspect of physiological and psychological change you can think of. Gene transcription doesn’t just affect muscle size or cardiovascular capacity or eye color; it affects everything, including the size and density of your neural networks, neurotransmitter balance and efficiency, physical form and size, memory, perception, personality, mood, and learning.

 

Without the correct repetition of “this is needed” signal codes to the genome, you won’t get any changes, but these codes can be forged and that’s what neurohacking it is all about.

 

Your intelligence is dependent on ongoing beneficial gene transcription for as long as it is dependent upon biology.

Transcription happens at the front end of the genome’s protein-production line, but in fact a cascade of events precede transcription and influence gene regulation. Gene transcription factors and activating/deactivating proteins and enzymes are part of that complex cascade, and consequently gene expression can be controlled at many different levels; by foods we eat, behaviors we perform, things we surround ourselves with, and even just by stopping doing some things that were sending the wrong signals.

 

At the back end of the protein-production line are molecular complexes that, once triggered, continue to operate in dynamic equilibrium –that is, they need no additional energy to perform their activities. This means (a)neurohacking doesn't make you tired and (b)beneficial changes to genome expression can quickly become permanent or semi permanent. Dynamic equilibrium is one of the hallmarks of biological complex networks, from our pre-frontal lobe executive behavioral levels all the way down to the unconscious machinations of biochemistry. Don't let the complexity put you off; much like software, you don't have to understand the code in order to use it. All the stuff you need is already installed, it just needs 'run' signals from input. You have a great user interface, through which complex systems can be affected easily by simple behaviors. In other words, as most computer users know, applications will still work even though you don't know all the details of how they work. You just need to know what keys to press when, and what keys not to press. 

All of our input, absolutely all of it affects gene regulation because transcription factors rely on feedback via the nature/nurture user interface; the flow of signals between an organism and its environment, and those all-important 'critical mass' events of signaling 'this is needed'. Simple changes in our behavior and surroundings cause changes in our bodies & brains that are monitored by the nervous system, and any sufficient change (critical mass of signals) from our perceived environment causes a change in the behavior of gene transcription factors. Once a change has taken place, it will establish a new dynamic equilibrium and maintain itself unless another critical mass of signals overwrites it. 

Input control is a highly effective key technique because it can result in very rapid development if employed in all domains (sensorimotor, emotional, intellectual, etc.) However, employing it successfully in your favor relies on your having the ability to (a)get into open mode and (b)pay attention; allowing nature TO nurture; allowing the system sufficient time experiencing input to develop and improve itself. That's why I'm approaching this stuff in a particular order; you need the basic skills of mode-shifting and attention-directing before any of the rest will work. 

 

Input control can be implemented in series or parallel; a bit at a time or in batches, so it's a good strategy for either step-by-step or leaps in progress. Most people begin by making small serial changes in single domains one at a time ('soft takeoff'), but it suits others better to make a whole lot of changes all at once across different domains in order to get into a 'fresh start' attitude (hard takeoff'). That sort of thing is up to you, and which works best is often revealed by experience.

 

The keys to success in input control are the implementation of natural environment access and the practicing of natural behaviors.  

There are some immediate input control changes you can make that will benefit you regardless of current level of development; they are 'universals' and provide a great foundation for all future improvements. Here are some simple examples of everyday environmental and behavioral input that achieves fast beneficial changes:

 

environments

Spending time alone outdoors in natural surroundings (without tech or media), especially in open mode, reduces anxiety and increases attention, concentration, creativity, resilience, inspiration, self-awareness and memory skills.[56]   

This simple environmental enrichment can even correct errors in brain development.[107] 

Outdoors environments in bright light are places that the unconscious mind automatically associates with safety and thriving; so one of the most important changes we can make is to increase our outdoor presence. Biology expects us to spend most of our time outdoors, and if we spend most of our time indoors the unconscious mind starts assuming that it is not safe outdoors. IF it is not safe outdoors THEN we must be in a dangerous place; an impoverished environment. After a while, it starts wondering why we are staying in such a dangerous place for so long, and anxiety will result unless input is extremely varied. Being outside is something the unconscious values so highly because that's how it concludes we are spending a good amount of time in an enriched environment.  

With practice, you'll find out how much regular exposure you personally need to maintain a feeling of 'just right'. Let your emotional stability guide you – if there is no noticeable improvement, you need to do more. As long as it keeps improving, you can slowly reduce the amount of practice during each session (but keep sessions regular). 

'Regular' does not mean repetitive; it means you do something relatively often; it does not mean you do it at the same time each day. In fact, it's better to vary the time because then you experience the full spectrum of outdoors conditions and your input is optimal.

 

There are lots of little ways to clock up 'outdoors time', for example how many things could you do outdoors that you currently do indoors? Eating snacks and having tea breaks is one obvious first possibility.    

Some people experience some initial discomfort if they're a newbie to outdoors environments; if this is you it will take your biology a while (about two weeks, with everyday practice) to recalibrate and adapt to natural temperature changes and weather effects.

 

Behaviors

You know what the natural environment is, so what are 'natural behaviors'? You could start by going somewhere nice outdoors and doing some peaceful daydreaming in open mode. This in itself may be a challenge for some at first, as when we are alone the undirected anxious mind tends to wander into thinking about problems or worrying. This is normal, and you simply shrug it off and start again whenever it happens. The unconscious will, with gentle persistence, come to realize that worrying is not appropriate during these times.  

To help prevent anxiety distracting your attention, begin paying closer attention to your surroundings and using your senses rather than your intellect to explore them. Notice what sort of things are actually in this natural environment; rocks or trees or rivers or mountains or coastlines; animals and insects and birds and plants and stuff, and take steps to learn about what they do by experience; simply by watching and listening to animals, touching and smelling plants. This is not a time to take biology field notes. If you find it hard to relax without employing intellect in situations, use it in context. For examples, think about which resources come from the natural world, which insects are beneficial, which plants have the nicest smell, or maybe useful medical or nutritional properties. See if you recognize which items are harmful to us in some way; for example, do you know enough to identify any poisonous plants, are there unpleasant background sounds, are there stinging plants or insects, is there pollution or stagnant water? Is there anywhere MORE beneficial you could go? Which areas feel most comfortable and relaxing? Checking out different spaces and consciously 'rating' them for good input will help you relax and slip into open mode.

 

If you can, though, just observe stuff. Engage all your senses when in the natural world. Listen. Touch. Smell. Take some fruit with you and eat it. (Don't go picking stuff and eating it unless you already have sufficient knowledge of plants to be safe.) Turn all the way around and select your favorite view. And...

 

  

Don't forget to look up - we rarely do so indoors.  

Laughing and smiling behaviors also signal the system that all is well. So does dancing or exercising, and music (the type of music that calms you down will be unique to you). When you perform these behaviors, neurotransmitters are released in the brain that reduce anxiety and promote feelings of wellbeing. Smiling and laughter provide adequate levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has epigenetic effects, and boosts memory consolidation. If you can do these things outdoors, the benefits increase substantially.[57] 

 

We absorb beneficial chemicals when interacting with natural objects. Some of them improve our immunity, some of them optimize our neurotransmitter levels. Regularly touching living things with your bare hands or feet changes neurotransmitter levels in the brain in ways that that reduce anxiety, promote development, improve immunity and increase self esteem and confidence.[58]  

Viewing, touching and smelling flowers makes the brain automatically release chemicals that help reduce depression and boost learning abilities.[59] 

Caring, nurturing behaviors improve awareness, attention and empathy. It doesn't matter whom or what you're caring for; yourself, plants, animals, your space, tools; it's the archetypal behavior itself that matters.[60] 

If all this sounds too simple to be true, bear in mind that it's not enough to just have natural input around you; you need to interact with it using as many senses and skills as possible. To experience beneficial changes you also need regular input of this kind; at least once a day. You need regularity to maintain these new habits, and that is not so simple, as you will find. 

If you already have skills such as self-discipline, the ability to switch processing modes, good attention and imagination skills, you're very fortunate as you'll find it easier than most to actually get up and DO these things; to proactively figure out the ways to make yourself laugh, calm yourself down, inspire yourself with chosen input, and so on. But don't worry if you don't have these skills; they are the very things you are developing by making these environmental and behavioral changes. 

If you are for any reason truly unable to make such changes, you can still go for 'second best' input such as pictures or videos of natural scenes, inspiring music, indoor plants, comedy movies, nature documentaries or whatever is available to you. You will still get some beneficial effects; not all input has to be 'the best'. Development may be slower, but it will still recommence. The reason such input is 'second best' for biology is that we are relying on someone else's skills to meet our needs, rather than meeting our own needs. 

You will find that you probably have to reschedule to accommodate some of these changes and that's good for three reasons: first you are improving your ability to adapt and change and respond to your own needs, second you are taking away time available for pursuing bad habits and wrong input, as you will most likely stop doing some unhealthy activities that you previously wasted time doing; and third you are developing (or enhancing) all the mental skills mentioned above.

 

Keeping good habits

A selection of methods have been discovered via research that assist us to keep good habits going. First, plan for what you will do if things go wrong and you find you are failing to keep up regular practice. Proactive rather than reactive strategies of self-control work best, so instead of wasting time feeling guilty, spend the time doing one thing you have been neglecting; one exercise, one good new habit, one beneficial change for you or your space. 

Second, remind yourself of the goal and purpose behind the new habits – your health improvement and maintenance; your cognitive skills, your protection against mental disorders and disease. If you see your progress as a journey of self discovery or an adventure or a step-by-step growth process, think about those metaphors and why they inspire you. 

If practice is going well, don't get too confident and start thinking you can 'miss a session'. 

Working with others and sharing your experiences with different techniques can be a great help with tenacity of practice. 

Avoid temptation to indulge in bad input by planning what you will do if it strikes. Designing an automatic response in case of temptation can be very effective in avoiding it. 

Practicing any concrete method of physical control (such as balance exercises) will improve your ability to maintain control in more abstract, psychological domains. 

Making these changes in the short term is fairly easy, once you get the hang of walking outdoors with no technology available to you. Making a habit of the new behaviors is where your personal skill and determination comes in. Regular repetition is the crucial key to initiating measurable, noticeable changes in mental ability and emotional stability. Without the input it needs to do its job, biology can't keep you mentally healthy. So you need tenacity, self discipline and determination in order to maintain regular practice and not conveniently 'forget'. 

If you get outdoors regularly, without really doing very much, you've already been practicing high quality input behaviors, but next (or if you want a harder takeoff, then at the same time), you need to add interactive behaviors requiring closed mode. That means you go somewhere nice outdoors – a garden or park will do for starters although wilderness or forest is best; and (input quality 1) you do natural behaviors or (input quality 2) you do projects that model natural behaviors. Natural archetypal behaviors like walking, exploring or gathering will trigger signals which tell biology you are in an enriched environment and gene-transcription can go ahead.

 

The unconscious expects you to do stuff outdoors for most of your waking time most days during clement weather. Input signals that tell the system you are outdoors send feedback to other systems, telling everything that 'all is well' and development can proceed as normal. Consequently, just going outside immediately increases vitamin D production, fat metabolism and oxygen intake as soon as the brain recognizes where you are.  

Gardening is proving so useful in addressing mental health problems that many places are starting 'gardening therapy', but you don't need garden therapy in order to do gardening. You don't even need to go outside, although the benefits are much greater if you do. Benefits of gardening include regular exposure to fresh air, sunlight (vitamin D), access to fresh organic food, exposure to microbiology with protective hormetic effects, physical activity, friedship and cameraderie, stress relief and general sense of well-being, an improved sense of life purpose and satisfaction, free serotonin, improved immunity, increased knowledge of and ongoing learning about the natural world. 

Physically handling fresh food is an archetypal behavior that tells the unconscious all is well, and hormones that make us feel happy and comfortable are released. Biologically, genetically, we are the same species that we were a hundred thousand years ago, when hunting and gathering were the only game in town. When we're confronted with modern ultra-processed foods, we don't get anything like the same sensory experience.[61] Even outdoor odors provide powerful input.[63] 

Physical contact with life engaging all senses; interaction with living plants, trees, animals, other people, fresh food, sand, soil, natural water, grass, rock, etc., in environments with input for all senses is the best sort of input we can get.

messing about with things

 

 
Biology needs a critical mass of object-manipulation in play and in return you get a lot of goodies; including better dexterity, hand-eye coordination, fast reflex speed, stronger memory categorization and recall, better association skills, improved intuitive knowledge of physics and (that all-important ingredient) improved attention. Manipulation means holding objects in your bare hands and messing about with them.  

If you already have good dexterity and manual skills that's great, but don't be limited by not having them – messing about with things can include simply taking things apart or putting things together, building things, gardening, jigsaws, pottery, DIY, sewing, model-building, and a lot of other hobbies, crafts and pastimes that don't need a lot of skill. Some of the items should be natural materials, but the more, different types of things you manipulate manually, the faster this network develops. It sounds very simple, because it is, but without this sort of input biology will stall and limit development. 

 

These types of simple sensorimotor behavior have a strong effect on our mental wellbeing. Human 'archetypal' behaviors are the behaviors that all humans have carried out for all of our developmental evolution (such as gathering, searching, making, mending, and what for want of a better term is 'bringing stuff home') because these behaviors have always led to success, we can use them for beneficial signaling. Archetypal behaviors send signals which tell biology – and the unconscious mind – that all is well and we are thriving in an enriched environment. Simply going out on foot with a bag, walking some distance, collecting something and putting it in the bag and bringing it home will change neurotransmitter levels and make us more cheerful and optimistic, but it doesn't work when we go out in a car and do the same thing, or do our shopping online, because biology doesn't receive the required signals from environment and behavior.  

It doesn't matter what you put in a 'gathering bag' to bring home (pine cones, interesting rocks, seashells, marvel comics, bits of wood, food) although it must be stuff that you like the look of, and if it is recognizable fresh food you get extra bonus points for increased serotonin, happy feelings, better self esteem and more confidence. If whatever you carry back requires some physical effort (but not strain), extra points again. If you do something creative with the stuff you gathered, different kinds of extra points, which will result in inspiration as well as satisfaction. The unconscious is generating strong feelings of self-worth and pleasure and comfort and safety because 'everything makes sense' whenever we perform archetypal behaviors. And it won't be very long at all before biology takes advantage of 'these good times' to repair any damage and recommence further development. These simple, regular behaviors are all it takes to start us off on the path to improved mental function. 

Here are some suggestions for input: 

(input quality 1)

Foraging/collecting: Pick blackberries, greens, edible leaves and nuts (only if you really know what you're doing). Collect interesting pebbles, shells, bits of wood or pine cones (never remove live animals or plants) and make something out of them at home or in situ.  

Fishing or hunting (if possible). 

Exercising: walking, yoga, martial arts, tree-or rock-climbing, juggling, rowing, skiing, swimming, kayaking. 

Observing: Bird watching, butterfly-spotting, species identification, biodiversity check (you randomly choose half a square meter and record how many different species are in it), mapping, orientation. 

Creative behaviors: carving, painting, building, dancing, singing, photography/film, gardening, bushcraft, knitting, sewing, cooking, making stuff, playing with animals or children. 

Cooperative behaviors (with others): Games, treasure hunts, plays, parties, gatherings, role-playing, picnics, sex, camping, walking, music. 

(input quality 2)

Any of the above behaviors in less natural surroundings (for example VR, or a room full of plants with a 'sounds of nature' soundtrack). 

Outdoor sports played for fun (ie, not under pressure or for money). 

(input quality 3)

Natural environment is the first key to successful input control, and natural behaviors incorporating archetypal patterns of motion is the second key. If you really do have to sit still indoors (for example due to incarceration, illness or injury) you can still benefit from natural pictures or videos and house plants as well as doing natural behaviors like using your hands to make things. Exercising dexterity and viewing natural scenes signals the unconscious mind that you are still engaged in natural behavior and that's still sending beneficial signals. 

 

It may surprise you that you can incorporate tech and media into natural input, but remember; the unconscious mind doesn't understand the details; it's just looking for types of physical movement and frequencies of color and light and sound that it recognizes as beneficial. You may be consciously trying to film wildlife or doing a biodiversity check; the unconscious just knows everything is ok because you're 'kinda hunting and gathering'. 

 

And this is great. Because it is always what the unconscious believes you are doing that matters; not the details of what you actually do. Good input is recognized according to points of similarity to previous (our species' ancestral) good input. If you are outdoors and you are moving in ways that interact with nature, and your mind is focused on what you are doing here and now, success is inevitable, and the better quality of input you get, the faster it will occur.

 

 

 

Only doing NH at weekends is pointless. Epigenetic change relies on achieving a 'critical mass' of good input. Regularity of practice (small amounts every day) is far more effective than 'binge-practicing' (large amounts at weekends only).  

Thirty minutes per day is much more effective in signaling the genome than 7 hours on Sundays. 

There are many areas in which you can implement input control, but they fall into main domains which serve the phases of our natural development in the right order, because input control is an intrinsic part of volitional control of the system in general (which features in the next chapter). I have detailed just two of the potential domains for control so far; environment and behavior, because they are the areas where fastest measurable changes can be made. For the rest of this chapter, I'm focusing on the big personal essentials within these two categories, as these are great practice before moving on to the details of more complex control. This should help you decide what changes you will choose to make and when, and also to decide what is already beneficial about your lifestyle and should therefore remain the same:

Hardware self care/system maintenance 

Your body and brain is your hardware; your physical self; your platform; your protective life support unit and sensory array (user interface). Whether you think your body is fantastic, mediocre, or liable to frighten small children, you are currently stuck with it. The body is not just a 'spacesuit' for the brain; it is part of the brains sensory array; and our senses are the interface conduit between concrete reality and abstract thought. Everything coming into the system is binary representations of concrete, material phenomena. Once inside the brain, data is of necessity abstract and 'representative' (in various coded formats which I'll explain in another chapter) of concrete events. 

The nature of biological design being 'systems within systems', the body and brain and all their systems work together as a nested complex, sharing a single energy source. If the system overall needs to use too much energy to keep the hardware (brain and body) healthy, less energy is available for software (mind) development or repair, so it's useful to keep the body and brain in good working order. 

 

So, then, how can you improve and protect your hardware? There are four main areas of self care that strongly affect hardware; sleep, food, toxin exposure and exercise; all four of which people tend to shy away from changing because looking at all these details sounds like a load of complicated hassle, most especially if there's nothing physically wrong with you.

 

However, it isn't really hassle, because it turns out to be quite interesting learning about yourself and becoming more aware of your input, and the sort of changes you make with input control are gradual, easy, and hardly noticed once you get into them on a regular basis. You can apply input control in one, single area at a time, and there's no need to change anything else about your lifestyle until the new behavior in that area becomes habitual (eg, you automatically employ the new choice instead of the old one.) There are constant benefits right from the start too; some changes will immediately save you time, others will immediately save you resources, some will make you feel more comfortable, and all will improve the way you look, feel and behave as well as your mental abilities. Every single change is protective against decline and dementia too, so there's really no excuse not to try them out.  

With that in mind, and remembering how progress in NH relies on actually DOING things, consider what you can do right now, today, to implement beneficial change in the following areas:

 

sleep 

The system needs regular downtime, and taking care of the system means you start prioritizing natural sleep. Nothing can overemphasize the importance of natural sleep to your mental health and cognitive performance. The fact is, most of us don't take sleep anything like seriously enough, which is a pity because biology thinks it matters bigtime.[64] 

Considering the fact that sleep plays a key role in everything from gene expression and hormone regulation to brain detoxification and intellectual cognition, it becomes clear that damage will occur fairly quickly if we are sleep deprived. Sadly, around a third of the population in a typical western society IS sleep deprived.[65]

 

If you are still not convinced how much that matters, here are just a few 'symptoms' caused or exacerbated by sleep deprivation: 

Impaired memory and reduced ability to learn new things. A 40% deficit with respect to your ability to make new memories.[66] 

Slowed reaction time, increasing your risk of accidents.[67] 

Increased risk of neurological problems, ranging from depression to dementia and Alzheimer's disease.[68] 

Increased risk of Type 2 diabetes,[69] high blood pressure, heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.[70] 

Decreased immune function.[71] 

Impaired sexual function.[72] 

Increased risk of dying from any cause.[73]

 

Natural sleep (going to sleep when you are tired) and natural awakening (which occurs automatically when a critical mass of housekeeping programs have achieved their aims) is vital for intelligence. Most of us don't have a clue how incredibly important the processing carried out during natural sleep is to our brain and consequently our mental health. Our society doesn't prioritize sleep but we should; because without it we're not going to thrive in either physical or mental health domains. 

This is, in fact, an area where a lot of NH students get stuck because they are not able to raise the motivation to make simple changes that ensure sufficient natural sleep. This is a shame, because it's really not that difficult. Biology is after all somewhat flexible about where or when we sleep; what really matters is HOW we sleep. Students fail simply because they don't take it seriously. 

Optimally, we should be able to go to sleep whenever we feel tired, and be automatically awakened by the system whenever it has completed its 'downtime' tasks. If you can organize your life in order to do this you are providing excellent conditions for ongoing development and many former symptoms (like headaches, fatigue, high anxiety, confusion, memory problems, burnout symptoms) may disappear within days. 

Most people find the optimal input choice of totally natural sleep too challenging in their daily routine at first but that's okay – there are still good-quality second choices. If your current lifestyle is too tight for time for you to allow yourself sleep freedom, you need to set up a rhythm so that at least you get sufficient sleep for housekeeping programs to run, and then consider how to incorporate natural sleep into your routine over time. Once we set up a rhythm of regular behavior, the system will get used to what is 'usual sleep time', and, as long as we maintain roughly the same amount of physical activity each day, it will then obligingly adapt for us to start feeling sleepy at about the same time each day. When you work with the system like this, biology always 'meets you halfway'. 

 

Since we can choose the time we prefer to awaken, in order to set up a healthy sleep routine we just count backwards from that time for seven hours, and that's the time we will need to go to bed (e.g.: if you want to wake up at six am you go to bed at eleven pm). It will take a few days for the system to adjust, but routine practice will quickly make it become habitual.

 

We start with seven hours because it's a useful reference test – if you have an alarm set for seven hours and you wake up before the alarm goes off, you're not sleep-deprived. If you don't awaken before the alarm goes off, you currently need more than seven hours. Then you try seven and a half, and so on.  

If your system currently needs repair, you may need up to ten hours! But once repairs are completed, you will wake up naturally earlier and earlier, and end up needing seven hours or so. The point is, regardless of 'one size fits all' theoretical sleep-duration recommendations, there aren't any reliable 'how much sleep do we need' estimates for each individual, because we are all different and our needs change all the time. It's a dynamic system. So you DO the experiment: this is the way you find out from experience what you personally really need right now, and can thus organize yourself to go to bed at the optimal time for you. 

Remember that your need for sleep will constantly change depending on a lot of things; what you are doing, how much and what sort of input you are getting, how fast you are currently developing, how much repair is needed, what you ate, what physical exercise you get, how long you spend in open mode and so on; so if you consistently wake up long before the alarm-time, you can go to bed half an hour later, and adjust in the opposite direction. 

Once you have adjusted your sleep to fit in better with your life, consider how you could change your life to fit in better with a fully natural sleep pattern. 

 

First moves for newbies:

 

Change your alarm clock to one that's less alarming. Start your 'how much sleep do I need' experiment during a holiday or free time. Don't get hooked on sleeping tablets, they are very bad for memory, hormonal balance and executive functions. If you can't sleep there is a reason 'upstream'; what is it? Go to bed earlier even if you don't sleep right away. Try meditation or other means to get into open mode at bedtime – some housekeeping programs can run in open mode even when sleep is elusive. Don't drink/ eat/ snort/ smoke stimulants right before sleep time. If you wake up with aches and pains or with muscles feeling stiff, try a futon or other sleep furniture such as garden loungers, beanbags, hammocks. Try a darker room, a cooler or warmer temperature. From experience, what's most comfortable for you personally?

Input control for fully natural sleep 

Humans across the planet currently sleep in two different patterns, both of which can provide sufficient time for maintenance, growth and repair. We can adapt to either pattern according to necessity, although there is some evidence that polyphasic sleep is most beneficial. 

Type 1: Unimodal or monophasic sleep is the pattern most modern westerners (we WEIRD people) are accustomed to, in which we go to sleep just once in 24 hours and sleep for 6 or more hours. 

Type 2: Segmented or polyphasic sleep, also known as divided sleep, bimodal sleep pattern, or interrupted sleep, is the sleep pattern most Others (ie, non-westerners) are accustomed to, especially in the winter. This is a sleep pattern where two or more periods of sleep are punctuated by a period of wakefulness. The period of wakefulness is often only semi-conscious; a time of quiet and relaxation. There is evidence from sleep research that this period of nighttime wakefulness, combined with a midday nap, results in greater daytime alertness than a monophasic sleep-wake cycle. The brain exhibits high levels of the pituitary hormone prolactin during the period of nighttime wakefulness, which may contribute to the feeling of peace that many people associate with it. It is in many ways similar to the hypnogogic states which (should) occur just before falling asleep and upon waking, respectively. 

Up until as recently as 200 years ago, everybody on the planet conformed to polyphasic sleep patterns. The two periods of night sleep were called 'first sleep' and 'second sleep' (or 'morning sleep'). The western assumption that monophasic sleep with no awakenings is the normal and 'correct' way for human adults to sleep leads many people to approach their doctors with complaints of insomnia or other assumed sleep disorders. Their concerns might best be addressed by assurance that their sleep conforms to historically and biologically natural human sleep patterns.[74] 

 

Human circadian rhythms regulate the human sleep-wake cycle of wakefulness during the day and during sleep at night. Due to the modern use of electric lighting, most modern humans do not practice segmented sleep, which is a concern for some scientists.[75]

 

 

How we sleep influences factors ranging from sleep-related genes to the brains electrical output during various sleep phases, to the reliability of memory, mood, and resilience to stressors.  

For anxious, workaholic or impatient individuals, sleep can seem like a time-wasting annoyance without clear purpose. But the most important thing about sleep is its provision of signals that bio-imperatives are being met and housekeeping programs are succeeding in their aims. If they are not, we are going to feel unconsciously anxious. 

While a full night of slumber stabilizes emotions, a sleepless night can trigger up to a 30% rise in anxiety levels.[76] After a night of no sleep, brain scans show a shutdown of the medial prefrontal cortex, which normally helps keep any anxiety in check, while the brain's deeper emotional centers are overactive. Studies strongly suggest that insufficient sleep amplifies levels of anxiety and, conversely, that deep sleep helps reduce such chronic stress. Deep sleep restores the brain's prefrontal mechanism that regulates our emotions, lowering emotional and physiological reactivity and preventing the escalation of anxiety. 

The decimation of sleep throughout most industrialized societies and the coincident escalation in anxiety disorders in these same societies is not just correlative, but causally related via epigenetic triggers. 

Thing is, if we don't have the basic freedom to eat when we're hungry and sleep when we're tired and get up and wander about whenever we need to, the unconscious assumes we are deprived; thus we are much more likely to get stuck in protection mode and have difficulty maintaining brain health. So, are you taking sleep seriously enough? Don't blame the system for poor performance if you're not providing what it needs!
 

Food

To culture or grow intelligence, all three requirements for a matrix must be present. Your nutrition provides for all three; the foods you eat contribute raw materials for building new brain connections and pathways in your 'platform'; raw materials for energy production; and good input for sensory signaling along those pathways. 

 

It is pointless to regularly practice NH without supporting nutrition, because no matter how often you keep sending 'this is needed' signal directives to the genome for beneficial changes, if the raw materials for making those changes are not available, nothing can change. What you are putting into yourself, in terms of nutrition and toxins, can make a huge difference to what genetic changes you are causing and how mentally healthy you are.

 

The only relevant question here is: are you mainly eating food that your system can recognize and use for beneficial change? A simple way to address this is to consider how much of what you eat is food that the unconscious mind recognizes as food and so computes 'enriched'?  

Your conscious mind might recognize all sorts of things as 'edible' including champagne, popcorn, fries, chips, burgers and ice cream, but the unconscious does not. It thinks 'food' is the fresh stuff that you hunt, grow, or gather, as it's programmed to recognize and process only that chemical content. Conscious knowledge of the origin of our food even makes it taste better![77] 

Since our priority in NH is mental health, here are the facts on diet and brains: In ordinary western populations eating processed food, neurobiological changes associated with aging can be seen at a fairly young age; quite early on there is breakdown of communication between brain regions ('network stability'), in the late forties. Their brains start to lose the ability to metabolize glucose efficiently, causing neurons to slowly starve, and brain networks to destabilize. Effects of brain aging emerge averagely at age 47, with most rapid degeneration occurring at age 60. 

 

Brain aging, and especially dementia, are associated with "hypometabolism," in which neurons gradually lose their ability to effectively use glucose as fuel.

 

 

 

However, this process may be prevented or reversed based on dietary changes that involve minimizing the consumption of processed food and increasing veg and fruit (a Mediterranean or 'low GI' or plant-based diet). Our closest genetic relatives in the ape world have adopted this, and we cannot deny that gorillas grow fairly big and strong without meat-eating at all. 

 

On a processed food diet, functional communication between brain regions destabilizes with age, typically in the late forties, and that destabilization correlates with poorer cognition and accelerates with insulin resistance. Targeted experiments showed this biomarker for brain aging to be reliably modulated with consumption of different food sources: processed foods decrease, and plant-based diets increase, the stability of brain networks.  

This benefit has previously been shown for the heart, but the current set of experiments provides the first evidence for equivalent effects in the brain.[78] 

Because of our species' ancestral training, the epigenetic signals that your input is enriched (in terms of diet) come only from fresh, unprocessed foods. I'm not suggesting going on any diets or eating anything that you find unpleasant, but in order to let the genome know that you are not in a time of famine, you need to present the system (via your senses) with some recognizable fresh food each day. That means fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, anything that you can eat raw, and freshly cooked unprocessed fish or meat. Dairy products are a bit 'iffy' for some people depending on their genome, and processed dairy usually results in homogenized products which love to clog arteries. Anything processed (like sausages, burgers, cookies, bread, most cooking oils, cakes, fries, chips, fizzy drinks, etc.,) is right out. The unconscious can't recognize it and either no signals will be sent, or the wrong signals will be sent and you'll find yourself piling on the pounds and accumulating excess cholesterol. Woops; arterial apocalypse. 

'Fresh' means food that was picked, caught or killed less than three days ago, so any product that takes longer than this to reach you (for example, because it comes from the other side of the world) is not fresh. Frozen food is not fresh either. So, many people starting input control realize suddenly that they have no direct access to fresh food on a daily basis at all without transport or a lot of walking, and this may be a cause for both concern and future planning. However, if you consider how much healthy exercise you can get walking out and carrying food home, and how much greenspace you can pass through on t he way, it may actually be a benefit. Everything depends on your individual circumstances. 

 

Regardless of those, though, the more you can follow this single rule: 'eat loads more unprocessed food'; the more beneficial signals you are sending to your genome and the more raw materials for platform construction, repair, good input and energy you are providing.  

There are shitloads of so-called nootropic diets from low GI to Paleo to Intermittent fasting, but the key to successfully changing what your genes are doing is this simple: stuff your face with as much real, fresh food as possible. This way you are benefiting both your body and mind, not to mention your environment. When you are happily stuffed with fruit and vegetables and fresh protein, there's no room for junk and you've got enough extra energy not to want to sit around eating it. Living longer in good mental and physical health is just a bonus. 

With the exception of cooking, our stomach isn't used to processed food either, so eating it puts a lot of strain on the system and creates complications (your beneficial gut bacteria decline, your poo smells, your sweat smells, and digestive problems are common).[79] There's an immediate advantage if you can avoid processed food completely and bathe regularly, because you will never need deodorant, antiperspirant, or air freshener in the bathroom again. You'll also avoid a host of associated nasties including cancer, diabetes, hypertension, some types of dementia AND with minimal exercise you'll adjust to a normal weight without restricting the amount you eat, so there's no 'dieting', and no going down the gym unless you want to. 

Processed food (including dairy, cereals and even baby milk formula!) turns on genes which make more fat cells and instruct the system to store fat. The unconscious believes that you are so impoverished (short of real food) you are forced to live on 'emergency' foods like sugar and cereal products (these are 'emergency' foods because although they will keep you alive they are harming the system and consequently your health). So the system turns on the fat-storing genes to avoid starvation. You can eat bread, cake, burgers and cookies all day long but the unconscious thinks you're still starving. Give it some real food replete with good input data from fresh food appearance, taste, texture and scent and after a very short while eating this, your epigenetic profile will change, your gut bacteria will change, and the system will simply be directed to stop storing fat. No more fat-storing cells will be made, and the ones that are there will be dismantled as your food presents less fats to store. To speed things up, get regular exposure to sunshine outdoors, which recalibrates human fat metabolism to a healthier state. 

Brain cells have evolved complex biochemical circuits that follow the principles of control theory. 

 

The coupling of two interconnected biochemical circuits within a cell (call them A and B pathways) work like a thermostat to control the growth of cells – including the production of new fat cells or brain cells - in response to the availability of nutrients.  

When a cell has a steady availability of nutrients, pathway A makes sure the cell chugs along at an appropriate pace. But when a cell suddenly gets rich in a certain nutrient, pathway B activates and triggers a 25-fold increase in gene transcription before turning itself off and letting the far more precise pathway A take over again. You have two controls; one whose job it is to speed up the response when it is advantageous to do so, and the other to keep it exactly right the rest of the time. These two pathways act as hubs for genetic change because they are highly connected to each other, as well as hundreds of other proteins and pathways in the cell. As a result, when either of these hubs get broken the whole system goes down. For example, an underproductive pathway A can result in clinical depression. Overactive pathway A results in cell misfiring (in the brain, possible epilepsy), and constantly overactive A or B results in cancer.[80]
 

micro matters

If the Star Trek transporter were to beam you up and analze every single cell in the pattern buffer, the vast majority of all cell types would be 'independent' microorganisms. Huge amounts of bacteria, symbiotes, parasites, fungi and viruses are located in, on and around you. Your microbiome (your gut bacteria particularly) strongly affects your mental and physical health. 

There is plenty of evidence from research, for example, that processed foods degrade cognitive ability via harmful epigenetic effects on the microbiome. Mucking up the microbiomes 'green zone' is the upstream cause of a lot of physical and mental problems. There are definite links between oral microbiome problems and prion disease, and between gut microbiome imbalance and chronic depression.[81] 

Handling fresh food (with bare hands) gives your immune system batter input data for discrimination between 'you' and 'not you'; a vital function for protection against incoming toxins. Handling, washing, cutting and preparing food are all archetypal behaviors which signal 'enriched' to the system. Even hand-washing the dishes does this! 

 

Summary of this section:

Keep it simple: eat what the unconscious recognizes:

 

FOOD                                         NOT FOOD

 

  

Unprocessed food gives you many fast, measurable benefits, and processed food causes measurable harm. The handling and preparation of fresh food is a natural behavior, so you get extra good input. What's more, the more fresh food you can eat, the more you can get away with eating junk now and again without sustaining so much damage.

 

styling life

The most unhealthy lifestyle 'choices' that we tend to make habits of are those which we never personally choose. Either somebody else chooses for us as a kid and tells us where to go and what to do/eat/look at/listen to, or we blindly copy others (especially those whom we admire). Maybe our family does things this particular way, or our friends do things that way, or everybody in our society just does these things; maybe we even believe we HAVE to do all these 'ordinary' things that 'everybody does' (for example, hands up all those who believe school is compulsory – in many western societies, it isn't. And hands up all those who believe we can digest non-chelated, solid vitamin pills -we can't. That's saving you a load of money and wasted time already.).  

But when we are very young there are no personal judgments made, no decisions personally taken; we are generally led to understand that 'everybody does' this or that thing and that's just the way things are for everyone, so we never think about it; we never question whether the everyday ordinary 'normal' things that people in our societies are all expected to do might be harmful. 

 

We are in an apish society. 'Aping' means to imitate, and most people in our societies are engaged in an apish imitation of what they believe humans should normally 'behave like'. Unfortunately their source material for this is 'social' media and the opinions of their friends or family, and most people's friends and family (let alone the media) are not very smart.  

Regardless, if something is 'everyday' and 'ordinary', (like DDT, slavery or racism) and everyone else is doing it, we tend to endorse it without any examination, and that's a scary tendency of humans when anxiety is present, because we can end up with our lives full of normal, everyday, anxiety-driven harmful habits. Being 'a regular guy'; doing what everyone else is doing without question can result in things such as world wars, toxic pollution, global epidemics, climate change, Alzheimers, pets or children nobody really wants, disappointing relationships, premature aging and chronic diabetes. And of course, ongoing unconscious anxiety. 

 

Think about all the simple stuff you do every day which you have never questioned. For example, most of us clean our teeth. Why? What's in the toothpaste? What's in the water? What's on the brush? We put on clothes. Why? What are they made of? What are they washed in? What's that doing to our biology? Is it helping or harming us? We all use a sit-down lavatory. Is that the healthiest way?  

...Who gives a crap, right? Making sure it's all safe is the job of the FDA, MHRA and so on. We don't care. Some don't care because their capacity for caring is greatly reduced – they don't have enough energy to care about very much at all; others don't care because they never question their everyday behaviors, assuming unconsciously that since humans have been around for such a long time it makes sense (to the unconscious) that they've surely got most health and safety issues worked out by now. A lot of people suffer chronic illness and die because they believe this to be true, so it's an area where input control can have a strong beneficial effect, and also a good area to practice input control because if we initially muck up on the little things, it's not serious. 

What we learn when applying input control to little things like this is how good we are at applying input control, and practicing on the smaller issues makes us much more adept at changing bigger factors like sleep and diet, because this way we get experience of the system and how it feels to direct it. It's not about which toothpaste you choose, it's about using small details to develop the mental skills of attention, awareness and caring, for they are the basis of input control.

 

Attention, awareness and caring

Strong, reliable memory requires three things in order to form: Attention, awareness and caring (in the colloquial that means, being aware of your surroundings, noticing things that matter, and giving a crap). If you don't notice things; if you're not aware or you don't pay attention, you're not going to spot dangers and benefits, and if you don't care, you're not going to remember stuff because memory relies on emotional weighting – how much you care, and in what ways – in order to become long term. For something to be worth remembering, it has to matter to you. 

Input control exercises all these mental abilities automatically as you put it into practice. I've talked about attention and awareness in a previous chapter; now let's look at caring. 

 

Caring about yourself and understanding how you are affecting yourself and your own health via the everyday (indeed, every moment) choices you make is an important part of protecting and improving your mind, and ground zero for caring in general (emotional health). Start thinking about everything you do, get and use, and the places where you spend your time, and the things you are doing and assessing the benefits and dangers.

 

 

Chances are you've never considered popular products, services, behaviors or places as things capable of harming your mental health. Humans are, in general, in the habit of trusting that something is safe if it's considered 'normal' and if everyone seems to be doing it; which habit has caused many a downfall. Descents are often quicker than ascensions in most walks of life. Bearing this in mind, consider the following areas in terms of personal input control.

 

Self care

Self care is something that a surprising number of people fail to achieve because they don't understand what it means. It means caring about yourself enough to care FOR yourself, instead of doing the minimum required to 'look ok' to other people. That doesn't mean buying lots of products (indeed, if you truly care about your health, when you find out what's in a lot of 'care' products you'll probably want to throw them away). Self-care means assessment and control of what you're putting into and onto your body and into your mind, and how successfully you are meeting your own biological needs.  

Personal care isn't something humans talk about much unless there is a problem (such as head lice or excess sweating), and then they only talk to the doctor or pharmacist, because talking about your personal care is pretty boring to others and, we feel, it's a little embarrassing to discuss anyway. Unconsciously we know that we shouldn't smell bad and the awareness that we sometimes do makes us feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. We go to great lengths buying products galore in order to be (or at least to seem) 'clean and fresh'. 

In terms of mental and physical health, though, there is a Goldilocks zone for being clean. We can be too clean as well as not clean enough. The ideal, as always, is in-between, and by 'too much' I'm not talking about just the extremes such as obsessive-compulsive washing, etc., I'm talking about products that remove all the beneficial microorganisms from your skin, hair, teeth or clothing during ordinary washing; that kill all the 'good guys' – the microorganisms, oils and secretions that keep your skin healthy and resilient against infection. Being too clean wrecks our natural defenses (remember hormesis?) and compromises our natural immunity, as well as encouraging the build-up of antibiotic resistance in any bugs that do remain. Being fairly clean, then, is good, but too much or not enough causes problems. 

Teeth are a good example to look at; your oral microbiome is just as important as that in your guts, and people who clean their teeth only once or twice a day and don't floss or use mouthwash have healthier, more resilient teeth and more beneficial bacteria than those who brush after every meal and do floss or mouthwash twice a day![82] 

In terms of mental health, gum disease is very important to address because it is a risk factor for both Alzheimers and strokes, and a surprising percentage of the western population has chronic gum disease right now.[83] 

Next, check out the effects of fluoride. Fluoride serves no beneficial biological role in the human body at all, turns your teeth brown, and causes harm. Evidence shows fluoride is an endocrine disruptor that can affect your bones, brain, hormones, thyroid gland, pineal gland and blood sugar levels. Importantly, it’s a known neurotoxin, shown to lower IQ.[84] 

Fluoride won't prevent gum disease either; the only advantage of it is that by making teeth harder, fluoride does enable you to eat a lot more sugar without your teeth falling out, so decide for yourself what your priorities are and which toothpaste (and which water for rinsing) you want to use, using evidence-based information.
 

Products

Because poor diet and skin care habits create body odors, most westerners use a lot of products that further upset their biology. We're evolved to be largely self-cleaning (courtesy of those 'good' bacteria that (should) live all over our skin); we're not evolved to be covered with deodorants, antiperspirants, hairspray, body perfumes, fake tans, makeup and so on, and their use is so popular because basically, peoples' processed diet, lack of exercise and excess use of chemicals makes them smell and look unhealthy. Instead of responding to those warning signals we attempt to cover them up. Our lifestyle full of products has created a problem of body odor that we now attempt to solve with more products. Problem solved, you might say. However, all chemicals have effects on our biology and most of our 'personal products' are in fact harmful to our health. Some are extremely harmful, carcinogenic, asthma-inducing and neurotoxic. Check the contents of everything you use, and make your own decisions about what to keep and what could change for the better.[85]

 

Avoid aerosols, hair sprays, fly sprays and air-fresheners completely; some of them destroy nasal receptors and all of them get inhaled. Our lungs are not designed to deal with this ongoing cocktail of manufactured chemicals and asthma, allergic reactions and lung disease often results.


 clothes

The unconscious knows all about clothes, because we've been making them ever since we wandered into places where the climate wasn't so great to live naked in, or had nettles, gorse bushes or cacti in it, or since inclement weather wandered into our species in a seasonal fashion as we wandered out of Africa.

However, the unconscious experiences a lot more about our clothes, furniture and bedding than we become consciously aware of, including what skin problems they cause, how well they protect us, what they do with sweat and what toxic irritants they are washed in.  

Certain fabrics, for example, will make you stinkier than others, because Micrococcus bacteria prefer the open-air lattice of synthetic fibers over cotton and hang on in there right through most washing cycles.[86] That means the smell of stale sweat starts building up as soon as you put the 'clean' garment back on. The smell is not you – it is embedded bacteria in synthetivs. Put simply, plastic clothing stinks and it's very hard to wash it out. 

The chemicals which manufacturers add to deter bacterial growth can be harmful too.[87] Natural fibers may seem like an obvious choice, but cotton is currently considered the world’s dirtiest crop due to the industry’s heavy use of hazardous herbicides and insecticides.[88] If you can get sustainably-sourced cotton, silk, wool or similar, though, it makes sense to choose organic natural fibers for your clothes and bedding, IF you can find any that hasn't been treated with flame-retardants, etc. Also, consider sleeping naked [89] although remember if you do, you should wash bedding as often as you would wash sleepwear. 

It's of no use having bio-healthy clothes and household items if you clean them with chemical toxins, so check out the dangers of laundry, domestic, cooking and house-cleaning products, including your cookware, since both aluminium and teflon harbor unseen biological dangers.[90] Plastics and some metals leach out into food when it is heated. 

For your biological system, neutralizing toxins anywhere on or in the body uses energy and depletes resources from our development, and since skin is a major organ, choosing clothes and products that don't harm skin is a very good idea. Poor skin care also sends signals to biology that all is not well, that you are in a dangerous or impoverished environment, and the longer this goes on the more likely it is to cause unconscious anxiety. Chronic stress on the system always results in anxiety, regardless of the type of stress or whether the anxiety is unconscious or conscious.
 

Plastic issues

We're hearing a lot currently about plastics and pollution of the planet, the oceans and marine animals, but we don't hear anything like so much about plastics pollution of ourselves. Chances are that your bedding, clothes, food storage devices, soft furnishings and even kids' toys are a source of biological pollution and consequently stressors on the system.[91]

 

 

Almost everything in an average modern living space is made of plastic and covered with chemicals, including the carpets, curtains, flooring and furniture. So are our 'modern' clothes, bedding, shoes and personal effects. 

Consider the healthier choices that could have been implemented in a room like this.

 

biology and furniture

Aside from toxic chemical considerations, the design of much western furniture leads to chronic posture and circulation problems, both of which can reduce the amount of oxygen available to your brain.

 

We are biologically designed to be comfortable sitting (or squatting) on the ground, sitting on low seats or cushions (where the knees are kept higher than the buttocks), or crosslegged. We sleep most comfortably on low, reasonably flat, firm surfaces with a neck support or pillow. Much of our western-style furniture does not meet biology's system needs, and some of it is constantly contributing to postural and circulatory damage. In particular, the backrests of chairs and the height of seats can cause low back pain. Backrests are not generally the same shape as our backs; of our spine's natural curvature, which they most essentially should be. Also, many seats are too high and place pressure on our upper thighs, impeding circulation, instead of on the buttocks which are more amply padded against pressure.

 

 

In western style chairs, nothing supports the lower back but pressure is exerted on the backs of the thighs and the upper back, pushing the natural curve out of place. 

Most people's conscious considerations when buying furniture are: 'Does it look cool?' 'How easy is it to keep clean?' and 'How much does it cost?' Conversely the unconscious mind's most important questions are, 'How comfortable is it?' 'Is it the right size?' and, perhaps surprisingly to us, 'Was it created by someone I respect?' 

This last consideration is something we rarely encounter consciously in industrial societies; the only time we ask, “Where did it come from?” is if we suspect some product may have been stolen. The biological fact is, stuff matters more and makes us feel good when it was made by someone we care about or by ourselves, and we miss out on an interesting emotional experience when we use chain-store-bought, mass-manufactured goods. It's a difficult feeling to describe because you really have to experience it to recognize it, but it is a mixture of self-esteem, comfort and simple happiness, and the reason for it this: for most of our existence on planet earth, we humans have been building our own homes and making our own clothes, tools and furniture. If you were not very good at it, you went and helped out someone who was, and you learned from them – this is culture. These are Archetypal human behaviors and they reward us with interesting and pleasant emotions. Taking posession of an artefact (product) made by someone you respect or love gives you some of these emotions, and we feel an echo of it when we display a drawing given to us by our three year old, for all to see. 

Throughout most of our history we also used to be able to judge other peoples abilities through the quality of their homes, products and clothing; all very relevant information (to the unconscious) because creativity requires the skills of attention, observation, dexterity, control and imagination; all important things to know about a person. We also used to make stuff for others whom we liked and present it as gifts, so if you visited a house full of stuff made by talented others you knew that person had many appreciative allies. 

Items that you have made yourself or that have been made especially for you also contribute to your unconscious calculations for 'impoverished or enriched?' So this is another way you can increase volitional control of your own neurochemistry. Once you have the experience of making something nice for yourself or for others you won't want to stop, so this is a fun way to kickstart greater creativity.

Motion

 

It's becoming more and more obvious from research results that we are not designed to sit on our asses all day.[92]

 

However, exercising in a gym or on an exercise bike in your house is second-rate input. Performing natural behaviors every day is the optimal input for giving the system all the exercise it needs.  

It is important to include manual dexterity as well as strength in your daily tasks, but few of us get much opportunity to do so at work or school. However, making or working in a garden and doing DIY fulfills a lot of the motion and dexterity (and other input) requirements for healthy gene signaling. 

Even very light outdoor exercise can increase the connectivity between parts of the brain responsible for memory formation and storage, and the level of heightened connectivity predicts the degree of recall enhancement.[93] 

Many of the tasks we now pay other people or use technology to do are the very things that would give us adequate natural behavior experience and exercise; such as cleaning, laundering, acquiring food, fuel and water, making, building, food preparation and child care. We miss out on these natural behaviors and the movements associated with them, in terms of both health and emotional wellbeing. You don't have to do any of these things if you don't enjoy them, but you do have to make similar-enough movements to hack the unconscious into believing that you are.[94]

 

If biology has come to believe that you are in an impoverished environment, you will function habitually in primary protection mode. So the idea is to convince the unconscious that you are in fact living in an enriched environment, by providing the triggers that it needs in order to believe this.  

Exercise is a known stress buster, and you can pick and choose from many types of exercise to go beyond physical fitness to better mental health.[95] Low and high exercise intensities differentially influence brain function; low-intensity exercise triggers brain networks involved in cognition control and attention processing, leading to increased functional connectivity in networks associated with cognitive processing and attention; high-intensity exercise primarily activates networks involved in affective/emotion processing, leading to increased functional connectivity in networks related to affective, emotional processes.[96] 

Studies show that a cardio workout outdoors in nature is not only good for the heart, but also for the mind, decreasing stress. Yoga gets top marks for its mind-body balance, but only if you do the breathing part correctly, because it is the combination of deep breathing and stretching which enhances access to open mode and hence flexibility and relaxed mood. Yoga increases availability of a neurotransmitter that helps you achieve open mode.[97] 

Tai chi works like a combination of martial arts and meditation. The common thread of many of these methods is the 'open mode' breathing. 

With regard to manual dexterity, there are plenty of things you can do with your hands even when sitting still, to maintain or improve brain connections through dexterity. Make a list of tasks or hobbies which require dexterous hand movements, and try out the ones that most appeal to you. Try some that you've never tried before. A lot of us find out we enjoy making things only after starting to make them.

 

Input control in your space

One of the best places to practice input control is in your home space, because (hopefully)

 

you spend a lot if time there. Some of us even work from home, so it's important to surround ourselves with stuff that inspires us and makes us feel comfortable.  

Our biology is no more designed for living crammed together in city apartments than birds' biology is designed for living crammed together in cages, and in such conditions our health suffers accordingly.[98] We tend to assume that our modern homes are a lot healthier and more hygienic than jungle huts, but currently we are dead wrong. City homes are rife with industrial chemicals, cleaning agents and fungi that love warm, dark surfaces, while jungle huts have fresher air, more sunlight and healthier natural materials with which humans evolved.[99] 

Urbanization is associated with a worldwide increase in obesity, asthma, allergies, autism and other disorders as well as a massive loss of diversity in the human microbiome. Modern housing and workplaces literally wall us off from the natural environment and shut us in with industrial compounds, higher carbon dioxide levels and skin-loving fungi. The more we insulate our homes, the worse the pollution gets. 

If you currently live somewhere that reminds you of a rabbit hutch with sparse access to greenery and lots of smelly traffic around, seriously consider moving! Those who live in or have grown up in cities are at increased risk of mental illness, and this association has been shown to be particularly strong for schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders. It's particularly the co-occurence of social density, pollution and lack of natural input that is placing a strain on the mental health of city dwellers.[100] For those who truly can't escape yet, indoor gardening is your best bet for natural input.[101]

 

Since biology expects us to be outdoors most of the time, organizing your indoor space to reflect that input can be challenging, but it can also be a highly enjoyable experience and it brings fast rewards, because 'getting your space together' is itself an archetypal natural behavior and that means automatic beneficial input.

 

 

Indoor garden designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara.[102] For fulfilling natural input requirements, this is a masterpiece of design. If you don't own the property that you live in and can't do this sort of thing, entire walls can be converted to look like anything you please using plain sheets and paint or chalks. The 'matte painting' effect in movies can be replicated in your living room. You could have a completely different scene for every season. This can provide you with a moveable 'backdrop' of your choice, like this one below which covers what was a bland, boring wall at Homeworld UK South:

 

 

How you go about making your space provide more natural input is entirely up to you in terms of method. If moving furniture around for a room makeover, for example, some people prefer to measure everything first to see what will fit where, or make a computer model, others just drag stuff around until it 'looks right'. 

Any methodology requires creativity, and that's good input. But natural input is specific, and a main rule for all input is this:

 

The more senses a given input engages, the more powerful the input and the less practice duration required.  

A living plant with a pleasant scent, for example, whose leaves feel nice and parts of which are edible (such as a lemon tree or a mint plant) is top quality input for an indoor setting, because it can produce signals for many senses. A non-edible living plant with no scent is not so powerful, a fake plastic plant is second rate input, and a picture of a plant is third rate input, but still much better than none at all. 

Input control integrates our ability to change processing modes using both environmental and behavioral changes. Progress depends on mode-changing ability, attention, regularity of practice and input quality, so if the best quality input is not available, second-best may still be implemented, and so on. There is always something we can change for the better. 

For example, the very best quality input overall is directed motion (performing archetypal natural behaviors) in a natural environment. That means you need to go somewhere nice outdoors, and do stuff that's meaningful to your unconscious. If however it is very difficult for you to get outdoors, second-best quality input may be used – surround yourself with plants and recorded natural sounds and perform the same behaviors (I'll explain more about archetypal behaviors later). If even this is not possible, you can choose third level quality input such as VR, paintings of landscapes or natural scenic screen savers, and perform the same behaviors. 

The gist is that there are always choices about input quality and you should always go for the highest quality input available to you, because the higher the input quality, the less time you need to practice. 

For an example, (input quality 1) outdoors moving around beneath a bright sun, it takes your biological system just ten minutes to make epigenetic changes beneficial to your circulatory system and thus the amount of blood oxygen available to your brain. Alternatively (input quality 2) indoors moving around beneath a sunlight bulb or similar at 10,000 lumen, it takes the system 30 minutes to achieve the same result.[54] Sunlight also provides some benefits that lighting cannot: fat cells beneath the skin respond to frequencies of sunlight and undergo epigenetic changes promoting healthy metabolism and weight regulation.[55]

 

Variety also improves input; three different plants are better than three similar ones. Living plants remove toxins and provide extra oxygen. Moving them around should be a part of keeping your space together, plus caring for them will remind you that you are caring for yourself. Mirrors work well behind plants to give you the illusion of depth of field beyond the actual walls.

 

 

By whatever means, you incorporate as much natural scenery into your space bearing in mind that what you are doing here is 'putting on a show' for the unconscious.[103] When it likes what it sees, you will notice an increase in your levels of calm, self esteem and focus in everyday activities.

 

Remember to address all the senses you can including tactile and auditory. Biology expects you to hear fresh water on a regular basis, and flushing the loo doesn't quite cut it. It is possible to get indoor water features and audio recordings of water, rain and other natural sounds. 

Your home should provide comfort, safety and privacy. If you feel it doesn't, look upstream for why not. Remember to look for multiple possibilities; effects in biology usually have multiple causes. Don't forget to examine your own perception as a possible cause; fitting excess alarms and locks, etc., to your home will not cure depression or paranoia. 

Included in 'safety' is the issue of pollution, both inside our homes and around the local area. You should be able to access fresh air by opening a window, and if you can't you're living in an impoverished environment. Again, plants and greenery can help you clean up the air inside and out.[104] 

Nor should there be excess noise, if you want to maintain good mental health. Industrial noise is a major global pollutant. Harsh artificial sounds fall outside the conventional auditory system, they are usually between frequencies of 40 and 80 Hz, i.e. in the range of frequencies used by alarms and human screams. These sounds solicit brain areas related to salience, aversion and pain.[105]

 

Summary

 

short version: 

1 find some natural input

 

2 mess with it 

 

'You sit in the yard, and you find a stick. And you dig a little hole. And you have a little fun.'  

(George Carlin)


long version:

Biology computes 'impoverished environment' whenever it doesn't receive 'enriched' environmental signals and whenever it receives signals that indicate (to it) impoverishment.  

Much like you may explore a new area if you're considering moving home, and pay heed to things like graffiti, litter, crime stats, types of cars, residents' behaviors and neatness of gardens, the unconscious is surveying everywhere you go and everything you do to draw the same kind of conclusions – is this a good place to be? Is it safe here? What are the benefits and dangers?

 

It notes all unfriendly and friendly interactions around you even when you're not involved, all of the environments you spend time in even when you're not paying conscious attention. It calculates how many strangers you are surrounded by and how many regular known faces you see. It logs color, light and and sound frequencies, it notices textures and odors that don't register consciously.  

Many of the things it expects of us and believes to be good are polar opposites to what our societies expect of us and believe to be good. And the unconscious is the gatekeeper of all epigenetic change because nothing can get into conscious awareness without being represented in the unconscious first. 

We can't change what the unconscious is looking for, but we can change what it encounters, and if that input has enough points of similarity to the expected biological input, beneficial epigenetic changes will go ahead. Now that you know what it's looking for (the sights, sounds, tastes, odors and tactile signals of a natural environment, fresh foods, natural sleep, archetypal behaviors), you can contrive by various means to convince it that you're in an enriched environment and that you are well cared for. This convinces the system that protection mode is not needed, and opens the door to rapid intelligence development. 

Rather than limiting yourself to the ideas for input discussed here, think about what is needed and use your own imagination and ingenuity to provide appropriate input. Creativity is all part of our development, and using the imagination is crucial to its unfolding. However, always remember that success still relies on regular engagement of open mode and learning programs.

 

Time saver: no hype, and don't waste time pretending

Many well-meaning people start trying to improve things in their lifestyles by taking impulsive decisions to 'totally alter their life path', buy into some 'self help' course or mind-machine or diet/exercise program, talk enthusiastically about it to all their family and friends and expect everything to improve overnight. When it doesn't, instead of trying another technique, they pretend it's working wonders in order to avoid feeling embarrassed about what others will think of their making a dumb mistake and getting conned. Anxious people (that is, most of us) are always concerned that they will look stupid; that others will see them as gullible idiots.  

The same thing happens in relationships. When everything goes wrong we often pretend all is fine because we don't want to look stupid; we don't want others to know how wrong our assessments of and decisions about our partners have been. We prefer acquaintances and particularly strangers to see only our successes, and we have never been taught how to make a success out of mistakes. Worrying about this sort of thing wastes a lot of time and prevents progress, so here's how to avoid it: 

Don't rave to your friends about any techniques you're just beginning, or methods or technology you choose to try out (or new boyfriends or girlfriends). Don't hype stuff up. Be honest and mature; in terms of NH, tell others you have seen good research reports about whatever it is and that you're giving it a try to see whether there's anything in it for you. This is, in fact, the truth. You can even ask them if they have any experience of it. In terms of relationships, be honest: you're really enjoying the relationship so far and, like all of us, you'll see where life takes things. 

If NH techniques don't work for you, just say so. But don't claim the method doesn't work; correctly state that it doesn't appear to work for you. This reveals you as a thoughtful, rational, mentally stable person who is open-minded, approaches things in a sensible way and doesn't freak out if things go wrong, and that's a good reputation to have.

 

In reality, you don't need to change your natural life path; you need to realize that you stopped following it, and then get back to it. Begin techniques with an open mind; a curious mind, a playful attitude, and practice. By the time you can switch operational modes on purpose, you won't have any concerns about your life path; you know it's just fine. You got distracted away from the path of development, but now you are right back on it again, and there's fun to be had.

 

 

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
 

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
 

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
 

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars like skies at night.
 

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
 

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
 

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

[106]

 

Refs chapter 3 

1 Diamond, 1999; Larson et al., 2014; Francis, 2015 

2 see Larson et al., 2014, Fig. 1
3 Madeleine Geiger et al. A longitudinal study of phenotypic changes in early domestication of house mice, Royal Society Open Science (2018). DOI: 10.1098/rsos.172099] AND https://phys.org/news/2016-09-russian-geneticist-dog-domestication-foxes.html AND Madeleine Geiger et al. A longitudinal study of phenotypic changes in early domestication of house mice, Royal Society Open Science (2018). DOI: 10.1098/rsos.172099

4 Revisiting two hypotheses on the “domestication syndrome” in light of genomic data; A.S. Wilkins Vavilov Journal of Genetics and Breeding. 2017;21 (4):435442. DOI 10.18699/VJ17.262 AND https://phys.org/news/2016-09-russian-geneticist-dog-domestication-foxes.html AND Madeleine Geiger et al. A longitudinal study of phenotypic changes in early domestication of house mice, Royal Society Open Science (2018). DOI: 10.1098/rsos.172099 AND Bradley Laflamme et al, The pan-genome effector-triggered immunity landscape of a host-pathogen interaction, Science (2020). DOI: 10.1126/science.aax4079 AND Aspen T Reese et al, Effects of domestication on the gut microbiota parallel those of human industrialization, eLife (2021). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.60197

5 New study reveals how wild rabbits were genetically transformed into tame rabbits AND Irene Brusini el al., "Changes in brain architecture are consistent with altered fear processing in domestic rabbits," PNAS (2018).

 www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1801024115

6 http://www.bionet.nsc.ru/vogis/download/10_Wilkins.pdf 

7 Belteky et al., 2016

8 reductions in adrenal hormones, increased frequency of estrus cycles, altered thyroid hormone metabolism, reduction of androgen levels, rise in estrogen levels, smaller adrenal gland size and altered adrenal development increased reproduction (number of estruses, egg production, increased reproduction not tied to seasons.) and reduced reactivity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis

9 Schutz K, Kerje S, Carlborg O, Jacobsson L, Andersson L, Jensen P. QTL analysis of a red junglefowl x white Leghorn intercross reveals trade-off in resource allocation between behavior and production traits. Behav Genet. 2002;32(6):423–33. [PubMed] AND Wright D, Rubin CJ, Martinez Barrio A, et al. The genetic architecture of domestication in the chicken: effects of pleiotropy and linkage. Mol Ecol. 2010;19(23):5140–56. [PubMed] AND Boitani L, Ciucci P. Comparative social ecology of feral dogs and wolves. Ethol Ecol Evol. 1995;7(1):49–72. AND Wright D, Rubin C, Schutz K, et al. Onset of sexual maturity in female chickens is genetically linked to loci associated with fecundity and a sexual ornament. Reprod Domest Anim. 2012;47:31–6. PubMed]

10 Kruska D. The effect of domestication on brain size and composition in the mink (Mustela vison) J Zool. 1996;239(4):645–61 

11 Schutz KE, Jensen P. Effects of resource allocation on behavioural strategies: a comparison of red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) and two domesticated breeds of poultry. Ethology. 2001;107(8):753–65. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4603525/ AND The taming of the neural crest: a developmental perspective on the origins of morphological covariation in domesticated mammals; Marcelo R. Sánchez-Villagra, Madeleine Geiger, Richard A. Schneider; Published 1 June 2016.DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160107

12 Belyaev 1974 Trut 1999

13 Cruz, F., Vila, C. & Webster, M. T. The legacy of domestication: accumulation of deleterious mutations in the dog genome.Mol. biology evolution 25, 2331–2336 (2008). AND Bjornerfeldt, S., Webster, M. T. & Vila, C. Relaxation of selective constraint on dog mitochondrial dna following domestication. Genome Res.16, 990–994 (2006). AND Wang, Z.et al. Domestication relaxed selective constraints on the yak mitochondrial genome. Mol. biology evolution 28,1553–1556 (2011). AND Lu, J.et al.The accumulation of deleterious mutations in rice genomes: a hypothesis on the cost of domestication. Trends Genet.22, 126–131 (2006) AND Luca Penso-Dolfin et al, The evolutionary dynamics of microRNAs in domestic mammals, Scientific Reports (2018). 

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-34243-8

14 Benitez-Burraco et al., 2017 AND Persson et al., 2016

15 Kálmán Czeibert et al, Digital Endocasting in Comparative Canine Brain Morphology, Frontiers in Veterinary Science (2020). DOI: 10.3389/fvets.2020.565315 AND Sahoo, T.et al.Copy number variants of schizophrenia susceptibility loci are associated with a spectrum of speech and developmental delays and behavior problems.Genet. Medicine13, 868–880 (2011) 

16 Bufill, E., Agust ́ı, J. & Blesa, R. Human neoteny revisited: the case of synaptic plasticity.Am. J. Hum. Biol.23, 729–739(2011)

17 Dixon et al. 2006

18 Mowat et al. 2003

19 Geneticists identify molecular pathway for autism-related disorder

20 Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine and Ara Norenzayan; The Weirdest People in the World, http://hci.ucsd.edu/102b/readings/WeirdestPeople.pdf

21 tutorial 17 

http://www.neurohackers.com/index.php/en/menu-left-nh-library/menu-left-nh-tutorials/333-neurohacking-tutorial-17-biopsychology-and-belief

22 reviewed in Trut et al., 2009

23 https://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2017/04/09/125799.full.pdf ; Comparative genomic evidence for self-domestication in Homo sapiens AND Chathura J. Gunasekara et al, A genomic atlas of systemic interindividual epigenetic variation in humans, Genome Biology (2019).  DOI: 10.1186/s13059-019-1708-1

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28 Benitez-Burraco et al., 2017

29 see Oishi & Graham, in press, for a review

30 Price-Williams et al. 1969

31 Cole et al. 1971

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38 System code in real life is more complex, taking into account multiple factors like intensity, luminosity, duration etc., as well as coincidental firing in other regions, so this is a simplified example

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106 William Henry Davies

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110 Nature Communications (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-24290-7


 

 

 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 September 2021 17:33