Hey regular Monday.

Hey regular Monday.

Famed amnesia case,  K.C. died last week. Having lost both hippocampuses after a motorcycle accident, he was somehow able to hold on to some memories, though “devoid of all context and emotion”… and his identity.  

That’s actually a common theme in the neuroscience of accidents. It’s easy to see the victims of brain damage as reduced or diminished, and they are in some ways. But much of what they feel from moment to moment is exactly what you or I feel, and there’s almost nothing short of death that can make you forget who you are. Amid all the fascinating injuries in neuroscience history, you’ll come across a lot of tales of woe and heartbreak. But there’s an amazing amount of resiliency in the brain, too. [via]

Famed amnesia case,  K.C. died last week. Having lost both hippocampuses after a motorcycle accident, he was somehow able to hold on to some memories, though “devoid of all context and emotion”… and his identity.  

That’s actually a common theme in the neuroscience of accidents. It’s easy to see the victims of brain damage as reduced or diminished, and they are in some ways. But much of what they feel from moment to moment is exactly what you or I feel, and there’s almost nothing short of death that can make you forget who you are. Amid all the fascinating injuries in neuroscience history, you’ll come across a lot of tales of woe and heartbreak. But there’s an amazing amount of resiliency in the brain, too. [via]

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Our Number One in the lab had a baby this weekend, and this is the only lullaby I know. You’re welcome lil baby.

wired:

In this special WIRED edition of Science Friction, Rusty Ward breaks down the real science behind brainwashing.

Reminds me of a couple of points an x-KGB counterintelligence officer made clear to me, which differ slightly… and then expand on what Rusty says here. 

1) Relationship. The brainwashing experiment he did on me was considered “great success” when I agreed with him on simple matters, or did a very simple favor. He said that was already getting me on his side, groundwork for a relationship, changing the way I thought about communicating with the “enemy”, which to the KGB equaled a form of mind control. Brainwashing to him was more of a subtly motivated friendship, than the in your face, stereotypical threats/thought breaking/torture tactics the CIA uses. He couldn’t stress enough that when you have to get physical with the informant, you are weak, you are not a professional. Beating the mind > beating the body. 

The thing is, I considered my agreeability on simple matters a form of manipulation as well, in order to see where the line of questioning was going, what was he really after and what could I get away with, in order to estimate my behavior & his response moving forward. He strongly disagreed, which made me think this possibly hints at a cultural difference in what it meant to change someone’s way of thinking vs their behavior. In the end, if I answered the way he wanted, he called it a win. 

2) Nurturing.  Paying large sums does wonders to keep an assest coming back was also key, and he repeatedly remarked how cheap the US is with assets and that’s why our intel is balls. Constant monitoring and contact tells the assest they are free to an extent, but they are indeed on someone else’s leash, dependent on them for the small degree of freedom they will have until they are no longer of use.

3) Punishment. This isn’t to suggest that baby steps and playing house is what he’s saying works. The threat of torture or death, was always looming, as an understood consequence of the power dynamic  It felt like the mood could shift drastically and in a very bad way, if you didn’t do what they wanted. Food, sleep and drug manipulation was of course used, but again - the more you had to manipulate the mind with tools, the quality of the intel decreased. This aslo diminished your reputation and made you look incompetent. Making someone think they are doing something freely, is where it’s at, always. That was his teaching moment to me.

4) Repetition. Focusing on direct methods is the norm, but if you are doing your job, repeating efforts in indirect methods of control can lessen the work load tremendously.  With only a little more effort on the upstart reconnaissance-wise, the same thing they are threatening the asset with, they could do to their significant others to a harsher degree. Keeping tabs on family, loved ones, and mistresses was going to happen. Suddenly, it seems you really have no choice but to get along. Sustaining yourself to protect others. 

The cultural differences between brainwashing and psychological coercion may be different enough that depending on the desired outcome, the investment and long term quality of the methods used will be indicative of the short term return. Something the US has trouble demonstrating an understanding of on several levels.

Guess who loves their job today?

Guess who loves their job today?

Just picked out a crime (harassment), years on the X, rate on the Y, color of dismissals in green, looked up what caused the spike in the mid 90s (new harassment law) and they ya go. Crime reporting soared - but what’s that mean in terms of convictions?
We have 9.8 million crime records from NYC, and 3.1 from Houston…pick some crimes, set your parameters, see what you can find and let me know. You can do it here. 
We are processing 5.3 million data points from Miami, and the entire states of New Mexico and Alabama are up next.

Just picked out a crime (harassment), years on the X, rate on the Y, color of dismissals in green, looked up what caused the spike in the mid 90s (new harassment law) and they ya go. Crime reporting soared - but what’s that mean in terms of convictions?

We have 9.8 million crime records from NYC, and 3.1 from Houston…pick some crimes, set your parameters, see what you can find and let me know. You can do it here. 

We are processing 5.3 million data points from Miami, and the entire states of New Mexico and Alabama are up next.

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I want a new mistake.

"Don’t let the government use your disgust or fear to gain a conviction" is a terribly clever thing for a defense attorney to say, and here’s why.
I’ve covered a couple cases just like this, similar in nature with the same legal defense. In 2011, the first case where I highlighted the fantasy vs conspiracy argument, was the Florida man™  known as the puppeteer, (you’d be hard pressed to have a more fitting and creepier moniker, yeah?).  I later took down the affidavit detailing his conversations with co-conspirators, because it was so graphic & gross, and from someone who never blinks twice, it was disturbing, you guys. 
The argument, as horrible as it sounds, is that the in-depth planning, recipe swapping on forums, equipment purchases, the knock-out drug research, the building of a torture rooms or outfitting crib-sized metal boxes with cameras and mics, is all made just to enhance the fantasy of kidnapping, raping, torturing and eating a woman or child, but you can’t convict someone of a crime based purely on their thoughts. So, the prosecutor’s job is to convince the jury that the psychological fantasy has crossed the line and meets the legal requirements to convict on conspiracy charges. That’s the background. 
The part that interests me related to the quote above, is a couple of studies that highlight neurobiology, consciousness, emotions and decision-making.

Common to many mammalians, the limbic system is a set of anatomical structures involved in emotions… this system includes the prefrontal cortex—where emotions access consciousness—as well as the hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus. The hypothalamus and its extension, the pituitary gland, causes the visceral manifestations associated with these emotions. [via]

Those are the players behind the scenes, we hear something, it hits us in the hoo-hah (located in the limbic system) and a bunch of circuits volley with each other, drum up emotions, which process along, chum up with our reasoning, and serve up some kind of determination. Which we feel pretty confident about, right? But 

Legal decisions often require logical reasoning about the mental states of people who perform gruesome behaviors. [this study used] functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine how brain regions implicated in logical reasoning are modulated by emotion and social cognition during legal decision-making. (…) Neuroimaging results indicate that brain regions active during logical reasoning respond less to crimes weak in disgust and biological descriptions of personality, demonstrating the impact of emotion and social cognition on logical reasoning mechanisms necessary for legal decision-making. [via]

Of course the defense lawyer’s quote was just a common plea to the jury, but I’m not sure she knew how right she was to try it, and I think if she looses her case, it’s because the state emphasized the grotesqueness (rightly so) and the defense failed to dehumanize her client with biological reasoning. 

"Don’t let the government use your disgust or fear to gain a conviction" is a terribly clever thing for a defense attorney to say, and here’s why.

I’ve covered a couple cases just like this, similar in nature with the same legal defense. In 2011, the first case where I highlighted the fantasy vs conspiracy argument, was the Florida man™  known as the puppeteer, (you’d be hard pressed to have a more fitting and creepier moniker, yeah?).  I later took down the affidavit detailing his conversations with co-conspirators, because it was so graphic & gross, and from someone who never blinks twice, it was disturbing, you guys. 

The argument, as horrible as it sounds, is that the in-depth planning, recipe swapping on forums, equipment purchases, the knock-out drug research, the building of a torture rooms or outfitting crib-sized metal boxes with cameras and mics, is all made just to enhance the fantasy of kidnapping, raping, torturing and eating a woman or child, but you can’t convict someone of a crime based purely on their thoughts. So, the prosecutor’s job is to convince the jury that the psychological fantasy has crossed the line and meets the legal requirements to convict on conspiracy charges. That’s the background. 

The part that interests me related to the quote above, is a couple of studies that highlight neurobiology, consciousness, emotions and decision-making.

Common to many mammalians, the limbic system is a set of anatomical structures involved in emotions… this system includes the prefrontal cortex—where emotions access consciousness—as well as the hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus. The hypothalamus and its extension, the pituitary gland, causes the visceral manifestations associated with these emotions. [via]

Those are the players behind the scenes, we hear something, it hits us in the hoo-hah (located in the limbic system) and a bunch of circuits volley with each other, drum up emotions, which process along, chum up with our reasoning, and serve up some kind of determination. Which we feel pretty confident about, right? But 

Legal decisions often require logical reasoning about the mental states of people who perform gruesome behaviors. [this study used] functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine how brain regions implicated in logical reasoning are modulated by emotion and social cognition during legal decision-making. (…) Neuroimaging results indicate that brain regions active during logical reasoning respond less to crimes weak in disgust and biological descriptions of personality, demonstrating the impact of emotion and social cognition on logical reasoning mechanisms necessary for legal decision-making. [via]

Of course the defense lawyer’s quote was just a common plea to the jury, but I’m not sure she knew how right she was to try it, and I think if she looses her case, it’s because the state emphasized the grotesqueness (rightly so) and the defense failed to dehumanize her client with biological reasoning. 

Bulldog and homemade tonic.

Bulldog and homemade tonic.

Mirrors

When you think you’ve died, you haven’t actually died. Death is a two-stage process, and where you wake up after your last breath is something of a Purgatory: you don’t feel dead, you don’t look dead, and in fact you are not dead. Yet.

Perhaps you thought the afterlife would be something like a soft white light, or a glistening ocean, or floating in music. But the afterlife more closely resembles the feeling of standing up too quickly: for a confused moment, you forget who you are, where you are, all the personal details of your life. And it only gets stranger from here.

 First, everything becomes dark in a blindingly bright way, and you feel a smooth stripping away of your inhibitions and a washing away of your power to do anything about it. You start to lose your ego, which is intricately related to the spiriting away of your pride. And then you lose your self-referential memories.

You’re loosing you, but you don’t seem to care.

There’s only a little bit of you remaining now, the core of you: naked consciousness, bare as a baby.

To understand the meaning of this afterlife, you must remember that everyone is multifaceted. And since you always lived inside your own head, you were much better at seeing the truth about others than you ever were at seeing yourself. So you navigated your life with the help of others who held up mirrors for you. People praised your good qualities and criticized your bad habits, and these perspectives—often surprising to you—helped you to guide your life. So poorly did you know yourself that you were always surprised at how you looked in photographs or how you sounded on voice mail.

In this way, much of your existence took place in the eyes, ears, and fingertips of others. And now that you’ve left the Earth, you are stored in scattered heads around the globe.

Here in this Purgatory, all the people with whom you’ve ever come in contact are gathered. The scattered bits of you are collected, pooled, and unified. The mirrors are held up in front of you. Without the benefit of filtration, you see yourself clearly for the first time.

And that is what finally kills you.

-Sum, by David Eagleman. My lab director is pretty good at fiction. 

engel-der-vernichtung:

Anita Lane, Die Haut, playing cowboys & robbers

Yes. Good.

Running list of this

psydoctor8:

psydoctor8:

Since I’ve been in Houston studying crime, the following have taken place at/round my place :

  • 7 car break ins
  • 2 obstructions of justice
  • 1 stolen gun
  • 1 burglary 
  • 1 shots fired
  • 1 aggravated robbery (weapon)
  • 1 robbery
  • 1 assault
  • 1 breaking & enter
  • 1 account of possession of stolen property
  • 1 noise complaint
  • 1 evading & resisting arrest

Let’s go ahead an add robbery and assault to the list, as of last night. 

And pop on another car break-in tonight, right in my face. 

Our legal system is built on a dualist view of the mind-body relationship that has served it well for centuries. Science has done little to disrupt that until now. But neuroscience is different. By directly addressing the mechanisms of the human mind, it has the potential to adjudicate on issues of capacity and intent. With a greater understanding of impairments to consciousness, we might be able to take greater control over our actions, bootstrapping ourselves up from the irrational, haphazard behaviour traditionally associated with automata. Far from eroding a sense of free will, neuroscience may allow us to inject more responsibility than ever before into our waking lives.
I can deadlift a Honda accord, but it only mildly makes up for the fact that I’m a runner now. We all know what that means. Next up: mom slacks and easy listening punk rock playlists. This has been a Jello Biafra approved post.

I can deadlift a Honda accord, but it only mildly makes up for the fact that I’m a runner now. We all know what that means. Next up: mom slacks and easy listening punk rock playlists. This has been a Jello Biafra approved post.