A theory of protoconsciousness

REM sleep and dreaming: towards a theory of protoconsciousness
Nature Reviews| Neuroscience volume 10 | November 2009 | 803
J. Allan Hobson

Dreaming has fascinated and mystified humankind for ages: the bizarre and evanescent qualities of dreams have invited boundless speculation about their origin, meaning and purpose. For most of the twentieth century, scientific dream theories were mainly psychological. Since the discovery of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the neural underpinnings of dreaming have become increasingly well understood, and it is now possible to complement the details of these brain mechanisms with a theory of consciousness that is derived from the study of dreaming. The theory advanced here emphasizes data that suggest that REM sleep may constitute a protoconscious state, providing a virtual reality model of the world that is of functional use to the development and maintenance of waking consciousness.

True or False?

How to Tell If a Particular Memory Is True or False
Daniel M. Bernstein and Elizabeth F. Loftus
Association for Psychological Science Volume 4—Number 4

How can you tell if a particular memory belonging to you or someone else is true or false? Cognitive scientists use a variety of techniques to measure groups of memories, whereas police, lawyers, and other researchers use procedures to determine whether an individual can be believed or not. We discuss evidence from behavioral and neuroimaging studies and research on lying that have attempted to distinguish true from false memories.

We remember events, people, and places all the time, but how accurate are those memories? More specifically, how can we identify true memories from false ones? A majority of studies trying to answer this question have tended to focus on one of several possible methods of analysis, concentrating on either groups of memories being reported (e.g., studying word lists and then remembering related words that were not included in the original lists) or the person who is reporting the memories (for example, using a battery of self-report questionnaires and behavioral assessments to predict who may be susceptible to forming false memories). In a new report, Daniel M. Bernstein and Elizabeth F. Loftus suggest that a combined approach — focusing on groups of memories, on the person who is remembering, and on the individual memory — along with taking advantage of a variety of research tools available (such as imaging devices, mathematical models, analysis techniques, and statistical methods) may be the best way to determine if a memory is truth or fiction.

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Transform Your Mind, Change Your Brain

In this talk, Richard J. Davidson explores recent scientific research on the neuroscience of positive human qualities and how they can be cultivated through contemplative practice. Distinctions among different forms of contemplative practices are introduced and shown to have different neural and behavioral consequences, as well as important consequences for physical health in both long-term and novice practitioners. New research also shows that meditation-based interventions delivered online can produce behavioral and neural changes. Collectively, this body of research indicates that we can cultivate adaptive neural changes and strengthen positive human qualities through systematic mental practice.