Friday, January 06, 2012

Does this cab make my hippocampus look big?

Lots rattling by today.

1. First, from Deric Bownds Mindblog:

Structural changes in adult brains caused by acquiring knowledge
Excerpt: "We conclude that specific, enduring, structural brain changes in adult humans can be induced by biologically relevant behaviors engaging higher cognitive functions such as spatial memory, with significance for the “nature versus nurture” debate."

OK, so using cognition for spatial memorization will physically bulk up the hippocampus in London taxi drivers. Cool. 

2. Next, from Body in Mind blog:

First impressions do count! Especially if you’re stressed.
          File under, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."
Kind of important if you're a human primate social groomer, with control only over the context you set for patients. This requires attention to details such as the sensory input your patient's brain will encounter, including noise levels, light, smell, cleanliness  color, temperature, and attention from you. 
It stands to reason that as their brain takes in a new setting, it will be "externally" cognizing. If their bringing you a pain problem to treat (most of them do), they are likely to have found themselves at odds with their own internal cognizing capacity in one way or another. 

3. Which leads me to (open access):

Echoes of the Brain within the Posterior Cingulate Cortex
ABSTRACT: There is considerable uncertainty about the function of the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). The PCC is a major node within the default mode network (DMN) and has high metabolic activity and dense structural connectivity to widespread brain regions, which suggests it has a role as a cortical hub. The region appears to be involved in internally directed thought, for example, memory recollection. However, recent nonhuman primate work provides evidence for a more active role in the control of cognition, through signaling an environmental change and the need to alter behavior. For an organism to flexibly react to a changing environment, information processed in functionally distinct brain networks needs to be integrated by such a cortical hub. If the PCC is involved in this process, its brain activity should show a complex and dynamic pattern that partially reflects activity in other brain networks. Using fMRI in humans and a multivariate analysis, we demonstrate that the PCC shows this type of complex functional architecture, where echoes of multiple other brain networks are seen in separable yet overlapping subregions. For example, a predominantly ventral region shows strong functional connectivity to the rest of the DMN, whereas two subregions within the dorsal PCC show high connectivity to frontoparietal networks involved in cognitive control. PCC subregions showed distinct patterns of activity modulation during the performance of an attentionally demanding task, suggesting that parts of the dorsal PCC interact with frontoparietal networks to regulate the balance between internally and externally directed cognition.

If what we are about as human primate social groomers, trying to help patients learn to move better, or watching to see if they can move better as a result of our therapeutic interaction with them based on our physical contact with them, or both, it would likely help us to know a bit about how our patient's brain processes internal and external cognition. One already by default is an external distractor for their brain to process. One's goal is to teach them how to focus on themselves, go inside and focus on their own movement, interoception, proprioception, etc., and at the same time use the information you've given them, the ideas you've presented them, about pain, about how the brain descendingly modulates it. For that to happen successfully, as their groomer you have to become unintrusive and invisible so their brains don't have to worry about you anymore.

I am now going to go away, ingest, then digest this delicious-looking paper in a leisurely manner. I'll write any thoughts about it I may have.

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