Philosophy is Just More Magical Thinking, Like Voodoo

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The core (false) promise of all magical beliefs is everyday language-based “Mind over matter.”  and “Action at a difference.”  Praying, to some god, is just subjective reports of individual experience.  So is voodoo, belief in the tooth fairy, belief in free will, philosophy, etc.

Well, philosophy is just more of the same.  It presumes that words and everyday language matter to human behavior and explain the world.  Well, it doesn’t and never really has.  But, it is a very popular marketing/sales promise – look at religion!  VERY profitable.   Economists make the same false promise.

Brain “Plasticity” Is Mainly a Pop Platitude

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My reading of the bench science is that the emphasis on brain “plasticity” is mainly an ideological reaction to the increasing evidence for genetic/developmental determinism from birth of most brain functions.  So naturally, an active denialism has become popular.

“Plasticity is just learning at the neural level, and learning is not an alternative to innate motives and learning mechanisms. Plasticity became an all-purpose fudge factor in the 1990s Continue reading

Is Western/Affluent Diet Mainly Long-Term Poisonous?

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“Western-Style” Diet Lowers the Odds of Ideal Aging

Western Style Diet May Lead to Greater Risk of Premature Death

A newly published study suggests that a “Western-style” diet reduces a person’s likelihood of achieving older ages in good health, finding that avoidance of the “Western-type foods” might actually improve the possibility of achieving older ages free of chronic diseases and remaining highly functional. Continue reading

The Aging Brain

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As predicted, white matter integrity was associated with probabilistic reward learning. [White matter is the structural infrastructure of the brain, not the processing part].

Specifically:

  • increased white matter integrity in thalamocortical and corticostriatal paths was associated with better reward learning performance
  • diminished integrity in these paths mediated the association between age and poor performance
  • consistent with specificity, individual differences in other cognitive variables and the integrity of other paths could not account for these associations.

Although current analyses focused on the role of structural integrity in mediating age differences, relationships between white matter integrity and reward learning hold when controlling for age. Thus, the findings reveal a more general relationship between individual differences in thalamocorticostriatal integrity and probabilistic reward learning.

These findings build upon and extend existing documented associations between age differences in white matter and a wide range of cognitive variables including processing speed, task-switching, top-down attention, and implicit sequence learning.  The study additionally demonstrates a specific mediated effect of thalamocorticostriatal white matter tract integrity on age differences in probabilistic reward learning.  Since we did not observe age differences in tract integrity along the subcortical thalamostriatal pathways, behavioral and age effects were limited to tracts connected to the pre- frontal cortex.

White matter integrity is thought to facilitate information transfer through neurons. Since thalamocorticostriatal pathways play important roles in reward learning and decision making, the structural integrity of these pathways may facilitate functional throughput.  Although DTI cannot presently provide information about the direction or chemical specificity of neural projections, convergent inferences may be possible by incorporating existing knowledge about the anatomy and neurochemistry of these pathways.  Thalamocortical and corticostriatal projections through the medial prefrontal cortex typically use the neurotransmitter glutamate.  Projections from the prefrontal cortex to the striatum are thought to provide reentrant input that can flexibly guide motivated behavior toward specific goal objects.

Thus, it is possible that reduced structural input through the medial prefrontal cortex to the ventral striatum might impede the formation of new reward associations even while leaving general motivation processes relatively intact.

Basis for Supernatural/Magical Beliefs

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  • Most of us report that we believe in supernatural powers such as clairvoyance and telepathy and in the existence of ghosts.
  • The widespread reports of paranormal experiences very likely derive from many of the same mechanisms that help us make decisions in daily life.
  • Research suggests that a highly active right-brain hemisphere may cause someone to be particularly susceptible to improbable beliefs.