the inputs to our mental system aren’t always closely related to the real merit of a person/thing/


(via sleeprunning)


Is The Cycle Of Boom And Bust Is Built Into Our DNA?


The Cycle Of Boom And Bust Is Built Into Our DNA?

Boom and bust is not unique to capitalist economies, to industrialized societies,  it’s a cycle common to all of life, from the most primitive level to the most complex. 

Over three billion years ago, bacteria had a cycle of boom and bust built into their DNA. 

Bacteria are astonishingly social:

  • Isolate one bacterium away from its colony, put it in a petri dish, and if there’s food, it will divide
  • 2 times a day and multiply, surrounding itself with 144 daughters every 24 hours
  • Those daughters, in turn, will divide 72 times a day and surround themselves–and their lonely foremother, with progeny
  • If the bacterial colony could find all the food and housing it needs, that one lonely mother in theory could have 5.2×10^151 kids, grand-kids, and great-grandkids in a week.

That’s ten with one hundred and fifty one zeros, more than all the atoms in over a million universes.

A colony of bacteria is one of the biggest and most complex societies this planet has ever seen. A single bacterial colony the size of your palm is so thin that you can’t see it with your naked eye. Yet it contains seven trillion individuals -more than all the human beings this planet has ever seen. All working in concert, pooling their talents and their data and communicating with a chemical vocabulary.

Bacterial metropolises are discovery machines. That’s why they are breakthrough generators.

That’s why, writes Howard Bloom in The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism:

  • They were the first life forms to experience boom and bust
  • The first to take advantage of the cycle of exploration and digestion, the cycle of expand then consolidate
  • That’s why they were the first to have the pendulum of repurposing built into their biology.

The first bacteria, says Bloom:

  • “were following the mandate of nature—helping each other reinvent themselves
  • Helping each other advance the enterprise of secular genesis, the enterprise of secular creation, the task of the evolutionary search engine and research and development team
  • Helping each other advance the family of cells and DNA.”

Population boom and bust appear in protozoans, mollusks,8 amphibians, reptiles, insects, fish and mammals, adds Bloom. “Red grouse in England go through a four-to-eight year cycle of boom and crash. Parasites called Trichostrongylus tenuis that feed on the red grouse go through crashes and booms as their meal-supply increases in numbers, then declines.

“Other animals that endure booms and crashes include Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands, reindeer on islands in the Bering Sea, lemmings in the arctic, and hives of honeybees.  The snowshoe rabbit and its predator, the lynx, go through a ten-year boom and bust cycleThe vole, a mouse-like rodent, of Finland tunnels through a three-year cycleThe lemming of the Arctic goes through a four-year cycle of boom and crash…

On the human level as with the microbiological world, the cycle of boom and bust is an:

  • Evolutionary search strategy that uses us to explore the new
  • Then to focus on the flaws in our latest innovationsBuild fail-safe systems to prevent future outbreaks of the problems those innovations produce—whether those new innovations are credit default swaps, bundled mortgage securities, or super-banks that span the globe and make high-risk investments with their depositors’ money. 

Inherited Dopamine System Deficits and Hyperbolic Discounting


We are building hypotheses around this idea.  The evidence is strong. R&C

“Hyperbolic Discounting May Be Reduced To Electrical Coupling In Dopaminergic Neural Circuits.”

“Disordered dopamine neurotransmission is implicated in mediating impulsiveness across a range of behaviors and disorders including addiction, compulsive gambling, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and dopamine dysregulation syndrome.

(Our understanding is that this is largely due to inherited dopamine receptor deficits – ed)

Whereas existing theories of dopamine function highlight mechanisms based on aberrant reward learning or behavioral disinhibition, they do not offer an adequate account of the pathological hypersensitivity to temporal delay that forms a crucial behavioral phenotype seen in these disorders.

(A critical change in views of the dopamine system is that it triggers seeking/searching behavior mainly and the “reward” is secondary and largely related to potentiating the neurons or learning – ed)

Here we provide evidence that a role for dopamine in controlling the relationship between the timing of future rewards and their subjective value can bridge this explanatory gap. Using an intertemporal choice task, we demonstrate that:

  • Pharmacologically enhancing dopamine activity increases impulsivity
  • By enhancing the diminutive influence of increasing delay on reward value (temporal discounting) and its corresponding neural representation in the striatum
  • This leads to a state of excessive discounting of temporally distant, relative to sooner, rewards.

Thus our findings reveal a novel mechanism by which dopamine influences human decision-making that can account for behavioral aberrations associated with a hyperfunctioning dopamine system

Additional Study:

Lesions of the orbital prefrontal cortex (OPFC) can cause pathologically impulsive behaviour in humans. Inter-temporal choice behaviour (choice between reinforcers differing in size and delay) has been proposed as a model of impulsive choice in animals. We recently found that destruction of the OPFC disrupted inter-temporal choice in rats. It is not known whether the dopaminergic projection to the OPFC contributes to the regulation of inter-temporal choice.

Dopaminergic afferents to the OPFC contribute to the regulation of inter-temporal choice behaviour due to their role in determining organisms sensitivity both to reinforcer size and to delay of reinforcement

TED Video: “The Game Layer On Top Of The World” Good introductory video to this


TED Video: “The Game Layer On Top Of The World” Good introductory video to this fast growing area.  We are exploring the use of online “gaming” to help investors and retirees.  Stay tuned.

How the Brain May Coordinates $$ Motives


Brain Network Links $$ Cognition and Focus/Motivation

Findings suggest:

  • A specific brain area helps people use the prospect of success to better prepare their thoughts and actions
  • Thus increasing odds that a reward will be won
  • The study, identified a brain region about two inches above the left eyebrow that sprang into action whenever study participants were shown a dollar sign, a predetermined cue that a correct answer on the task at hand would result in a financial reward.

Whether it’s sports, poker or the high-stakes world of business, there are those who always find a way to win when there’s money on the table.

Simply flashing a dollar-sign cue:

  • Sparked immediate activation in a brain region that coordinates the interaction of cognitive control and motivational functions
  • Effectively putting these areas on alert that there was money to be won in the challenge ahead

… psychology researchers…are unraveling the workings of a novel brain network that may explain how these “money players” manage to keep their heads in the game.

Using what researchers believe are short bursts of dopamine — the brain’s chemical reward system:

  • The brain region then began coordinating interactions between the brain’s cognitive control and motivation networks
  • Apparently priming the brain for a looming “show me the money” situation.

“The surprising thing we see is that motivation acts in a preparatory manner.   This region gears up when the money cue is on.”

Obtaining the reward was most likely when subjects used the advance task information most effectively.

The finding provides insight into the way people pursue goals and how motivation drives goal-oriented behavior.  It also could provide clues to what might be happening with different populations of people with cognitive deficiencies in pursuing goals.

Savine and Braver sought to determine the way that motivation and cognitive control are represented in the brain. They found two brain networks:

  • One involved in reward processing
  • One involved in the ability to flexibly shift mental goals (often referred to as “cognitive control”) — that were coactive on monetary reward trials.

A key question that still needs to be answered is exactly how these two brain networks interact with each other.

Because the brain reward network appears to center on the brain chemical dopamine, the researchers speculate that the interactions between motivation and cognitive control depend upon “phasic bursts of dopamine.”

They wanted to see how the brain works when motivation impacts task-switching, how it heightens the importance of a one-rewarding goal while inhibiting the importance of non-rewarding goals.

“We wanted to see what motivates us to pursue one goal in the world above all others.”

You might think that these mechanisms would have been addressed a long time ago in psychology and neuroscience, but it’s not been until the advent of fMRI about 15-20 years ago that we’ve had the tools to address this question in humans, and any progress in this area has been very, very recent.”

(Technical brain parts – ed)

Researchers detected a network of eight different brain regions that responded to the multitasking challengeAnd two that responded to both the challenge and the motivational cue (a dollar sign, the monetary reward cue for a swift, correct answer).  In particular:

  • The left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), located in the brain approximately two inches above the left eyebrow, is a key area that both predicts a win, or successful outcome
  • And prepares the motivational cognitive control network to win again
  • Simply flashing the dollar-sign cue sparked immediate activation in the DLPFC region and it began interacting with other cognitive control and motivational functions in the brain, effectively putting these areas on alert that there was money to be won in the challenge ahead
  • “In this region (left DLPFC), you can actually see the unique neural signature of the brain activity related to the reward outcome
  • It predicts a reward outcome and it’s preparatory, in an integrative sort of way
  • The left DLPFC is the only region we found that seems to be primarily engaged when subjects get the motivational cue beforehand
  • It’s the region integrates that information with the task information and leads to the best task performanceThe researchers actually observed increased levels of oxygenated hemoglobin in the brain blood flow in these regions.