Friday, July 3, 2015

DO COMA PATIENTS DREAM?

Science is trying to figure out how the conscious and subconscious mind works. Several studies have tried to use EEG monitors to pinpoint brain activity in normal resting individuals, sleeping individuals and people in a coma. The results have been inconclusive. Brain activity is hard to measure on a quantitative level.

People in comas are, to the best of our knowledge (at least in most cases) incapable of entering REM sleep, and very likely are not going to have any kind of dream or nightmare. This is because the brain system required to have a dream are in fact the same systems required while you're awake - to the point that your visual cortex will light up in an FMRI during a dream - it does not light up during a coma. Now, in contrast, there are some patients who aren't in a coma but rather an immobile state (imagine the computer's on, but the monitor's disconnected) - these patients have brain activity and can even, for instance, picture a tennis game if it's described to them. This state would likely allow for dreams, and if so, nightmares. However, if they did, they would likely dream just like we do.

It is also incorrect to assume that we only end nightmares by waking up. The sudden shock of awakening makes us remember the dream more clearly. Most dreams are finite because the neurological triggers for them are transient. We dream, research indicates, to solve problems. To walk through the aspects of our day that were unresolved or had left incomplete traces that needed to be handled. Nightmares similarly give us a chance to practice at our fears - however, our brain is unlikely to keep giving us practice after a certain amount of time.


In our non-waking state, there are two factors at work: dreams to solve problems and nightmares to practice facing our fears.

That seems to be a mission statement for LOST.

Take Hurley for example. He had a fear of rejection, including from his father and later with women. He also had an active imagination to try to solve his problems such as money, work and body imagine. In the complexity of Hurley's semi-conscious sleep state, he could have had both problem solving dreams and fear nightmares overlapping to create his island adventure.

Because what happens when Hurley "awakens" from his island time? He is in the sideways world with a lovely woman, Libby, and his friends.  This could still be part of his dream-nightmare resolution. For Hurley learns through his island time to be responsible, to not blame curses or bad luck for his issues with his parents, work or love life, and that by just being himself he can attain his goals of a romantic life and lasting friendships.

If that is the message of LOST, it is a good one.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

CLOSURE

Some things end.  Some things end when you least expect them to end; friendships and relationships.

How they end may be as important as why they ended.

When one person breaks off a friendship or relationship cold turkey, this may lead the other person bewildered, confused, and in shock. If that person does not know what he or she did wrong, the pain of loss is intensified by the lack of closure.

Closure is the act or process of closing something in the a sense of resolution or conclusion at the end of an artistic work or  a feeling that an emotional or traumatic experience has been resolved.

The LOST experience mirrors real life in many ways. For die hard fans, the characters in the show were their weekly friends. They bonded with their stories, hopes and dreams. They were so involved in their lives that they took to the internet to debate, defend and marvel in their characters attributes and stories. So many people were going to take it hard when LOST ended just as any bond of friendship or affection ends in real life.

At least in the series, the producers were given the opportunity to wrap up what they considered the important loose ends to give the main characters a send off to the heavens.  More fans than not accepted the finale as being the resolution they wanted for their characters, their friends and themselves. The journey was not a waste of time. It was just a sad reminder that the six years together was over. Only memories remain.

In real life, some people do not get the opportunity to say goodbye in a relationship. Suddenly, a person is taken away by an accident or sudden death. Sometimes friendships fade away from neglect or fear that they may become too serious for one person. Sometimes relationships end in a heated way that leaves the parties bitter and hurt. Sometimes the pain lingers because one person in a relationship does not have the opportunity to say "I'm sorry," or even "goodbye." The lack of closure takes a greater toll than the known or unknown reason for the break-up.

Even fans who hated LOST's ending can still feel that the series and their relationship to the show ended with real closure. They know how things ended. They know the characters got together as part of their bonds of friendship. Certain characters found their true loves. It may have been overly sweet and cliche ending, but none the less, an ending.

Many TV shows are canceled between seasons, with a cliffhangers or characters in limbo. This is the worst type of fan purgatory - - - not knowing what was going to happen. Unless the show is rescued by a Netflix, Amazon or other secondary outlet, there will always be a "what if?" haunting question in the viewer's mind. That question is also pondered in real life. It is not a good feeling. But sociologists tell us that even the harshest questions about other people will fade over time.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

BRAIN WAVES

Despite all the physical poking and question &  answer probing, we really don't know how the human brain functions. We think it is like a hard drive, but we cannot download its information. We can test stimulation to see where electro-neurons fire in a brain CAT scan, but don't know how information is stored in a biochemical, electromagnetic or other way. It may be the most important and confusing organ in our bodies; it plays a central role in both our intellectual and emotional states. In fact, the overlap between intellectual and emotional is razor thin.

WIRED published a recent article on how science is trying to probe further into mental illness.

A brain surgeon begins an anterior cingulotomy by drilling a small hole into a patient’s skull. The surgeon then inserts a tiny blade, cutting a path through brain tissue, then inserts a probe past sensitive nerves and bundles of blood vessels until it reaches a specific cluster of neural connections, a kind of switchboard linking emotional triggers to cognitive tasks. With the probe in place, the surgeon fires up a laser, burning away tissue until the beam has hollowed out about half a teaspoon of grey matter. 

This is modern psychosurgery: ablating parts of the brain to treat mental illnesses. 

Instead of a big scalpel, it is a narrow focus beam of light that cuts away gray matter. This is the new lobotomy, which was once in favor in the 1930s to treat aggressive, demented, or otherwise affected people.

Removing parts of a person’s brain is always a dicey proposition. But for people who are mentally ill, when pills and psychiatry offer no solace, the laser-tipped probe can be a welcome relief. Physicians perform these procedures as a last resort only on people who’ve failed to respond to at least three types of medications, and for whom months on a counselor’s couch have had no effect. 

In the 1990s that physicians  brought them back to treat a mental illness: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Without any visible biomarkers, obsessive-compulsive disorder is difficult to treat with drugs. But neuroscientists have narrowed down the faulty wiring involved in the disorder to fewer than a half dozen places in the brain—some of which psychosurgery can target. Probably the best target is a region called the anterior cingulate cortex. Put your finger on your temple, then move it about an inch back. If you were to triangulate a point between your fingertip, the top of your head, and the center of your forehead, you’d land roughly on the right spot.

This may seem strange, but drilling a hole and inserting a fiber optic tube to fire a laser into your brain sounds science fiction like Ghost in the Shell. But since medical science is not at the Star Trek stage of being able to diagnose at the molecular level, physicians are still fishing with hand grenades.

One can easily see the road being built in this field of study. And the pit falls. If one can insert an optic thread into the brain to destroy, alter or control a person's mental state, why can't at some point pull out the brain's information to be placed in another vessel (like a computer core). That's very Max Headroom. And considering the whole field of cryogenics is to keep people alive forever, keeping their brain, consciousness or information stored on a hard drive seems to fall in a solid second place.

We don't know how a patient reacts when parts of his brain are being probed by psychosurgery. Does he hallucinate? Does he dream? Does he travel to a dangerous tropical island to fight smoke monsters (the subconscious representation of a laser burning brain cells to ash)? Science gives a plausible sci-fi foundation for many LOST mental illness premise theories.



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

RELATIONSHIPS

There is a fine line between the strong bonds of friendship to the depth of romantic relationships.

Love is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection; a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone. It also means a great interest and pleasure in something like "his love for football" or  "we share a love of music."

Because the two definitions overlap, it may cause problems between two individuals on what each perceives as their status together.


The word "love" comes from Old English "lufu," of Germanic origin; from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit "lubhyati" meaning desires and Latin "libet" for  ‘it is pleasing,’ libidodesire.’ 


We attempt all the time to please our friends. It is a means to maintain and strengthen one's friendship. We do so by sharing time together, events, memories and ideas. A good friend wants to reach out to support another friend in a time of need. 

When things get criss-crossed is when one so loves being around a friend of the opposite sex that deeper feelings begin to well up inside.  It may stun or frighten the other friend to find out that affection for each other has turned into attraction.

Affection is an emotional state of a gentle feeling of fondness or liking that can have physical expressions of these feelings such as greetings or hugs. It's roots come from Middle English and Old French from Latin "affectio" from "afficere" to mean to influence.

Closely related (and hence confusing) is attraction.  Attraction is the action or power of evoking interest, pleasure, or liking for someone or something. It is a quality or feature of something or someone that evokes interest, liking, or desire. It also comes from Middle English from Latin "attractio," from the verb "attrahere" (to attract).

Attraction is the action to cause (someone) to have a sexual or romantic interest in someone; "it was her beauty that attracted him."

The tightrope is very narrow. Friends have affection (love) to be around each other because of mutual interests, experiences and support. That is the internal emotion state. Attraction is the action of taking affection to another level (to "be in love" with another person). 

It is because these two emotional states are so close together but represent two vastly different concepts that gets people into trouble. You can only try to make someone fall in love with you. Some people try too hard. Some people don't try hard enough. Some people get caught up in a moment. Some people make mistakes confusing affection with attraction, to the point of destroying a good friendship.

Many people may find attraction the first and only means of finding true love. It may be shallow, but in a subconscious, guarded way it makes sense because we one wants to test the waters you first go to the shallow end and not dive into the more dangerous the deep end. But there is no rule against doing it the other way - - - since most couples want their lover to be their best friend.

There is little to no logic in this situation. This is an emotional gambit that can end three ways: working out, breaking up or maintaining the status quo of friendship. The sad fact is that many great friendships have been lost by the mere fact that affection turns to non-mutual attraction.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

CONSPIRACIES OF HELL

LOST has always been a fertile field of conspiracy theorists.

Theories run the gamut from how the show was structured, created, and written with and without trying to decode clues, red herrings and story tangents.

It was one of the things that made LOST interesting and engaging to fans.

But LOST was not alone in creating or reading way, way, way too much into even the tamest of shows.

For example, the simple, iconic comedy series Gilligan's Island. What could be so "hidden in plain sight" about a show about shipwrecked castaways?

Some theorists believe that the setting of Gilligan's Island is not an island, but rather Hell, and that its sinful inhabitants all perished in the crash of the S.S. Minnow. According to this theory, each character on Gilligan’s Island represents one of the Seven Deadly Sins. 

The millionaire Mr. Howell represents Greed, while his work-averse wife represents Sloth. Sexy movie star Ginger stands in for Lust, while innocent farm girl Mary Ann envies Ginger’s beauty and lifestyle. The smart Professor is prideful because he can't admit that he is unable to fix the ship or get them off the island. Skipper, meanwhile, symbolizes two deadly sins: Gluttony and Wrath, because he’s always taking something out on poor Gilligan. Not that you should feel bad for the titular dimwit; these fans believe that Gilligan represents Satan. He's constantly screwing up the group's plans for rescue, and what's more, he's always wearing red. 

That is quite a theory based upon general traits of the characters.

If you add in the mythology that departed souls travel to the underworld by ferry (boat), and that this shipwreck symbolizes the travel through a purgatory, it is easy to see the premise begin to unfold in the mind of a theorist. In fact, this mirrors the early LOST purgatory theories because it was presumed that no one could have survived a high altitude mid-plane break up over the Pacific Ocean.

And with the unassuming Gilligan cast as Satan is quite the plot twist. On LOST, there were numerous characters who could have been Satan: Jacob, the master mind behind the island; MIB who is a dark mass of shape shifting like the serpent in the Garden of Eden; and even Christian who wound up manipulating people's free will. One could create the ultimate premise by saying that Earth itself is Hell - - - we all are born in a purgatory with our "lives" are redemptive steps from a past we know nothing about.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

MAN'S BEST FRIEND

How canines became man's best friend is one of evolution's great mysteries. Dogs are essentially domesticated wild animals. But at some point, mankind and dogs connected at a family level.

There had to be a mutual benefit. For a small family unit of hunter-gatherers, a dog with its keen senses, could help with safety and security of the camp against other wild animals or attacks from other clans. A dog could also be useful in the hunt to gather food. A dog could also be a comforting companion in the camp when the men were aware foraging for food or shelter materials. Dogs could also give the children a sense of love and play that we often see in nature specials with various canine pups.

From a dog's perspective, becoming part of a human family had its benefits as well. Humans were the top predator and dogs have an innate sense of hierarchy structure. Canines also have the instinct to bond with other members of their pack in a family structure of mutual support and protection. Those values are similar to those in the human family unit. That is why dogs and humans get along so well.

They may be different but at some core level they are the same.

In today's modern society, dogs continue to play an important role in people's lives. Dogs do provide a sense of security against strange noises in the middle of the night (especially if you are a single woman). Dogs do provide owners with unconditional loyalty and affection. Dogs also provide their owners with a sense of balance in their daily lives; a diversion against the normal grind. People need to impart themselves in a tangible way in order to feel good about themselves. Dog owners are kind, giving, generous and supportive of their pet's needs. A dog gives in return a non-judgmental, pure and unconditional love that feeds a personal's emotional state (heart and soul).

Dog owners tend to live healthier lives. According to WebMD, households who have pets have less frequency of allergies or breathing ailments.  Pet owners tend to have more opportunity for social engagements as they walk their dogs in parks. From a physical standpoint, pets require their owners to exercise more (through walks and household play).

Pet owners are far less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. The benefit is especially pronounced when people are strongly attached to their pets, according to several studies.

People in high stress positions or had high blood pressure who had pets had less stress and lower blood pressure than did people without pets. People in stress mode get a burst of harmful chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine can negatively affect the immune system. Some of these chemicals are linked to plaque buildup in arteries which is a precondition for heart disease.

Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine -- nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties. Therefore, dogs have a natural healing element with the relationship with their owners. Dogs allow owners to have a sense of balance, purpose and a better quality of life than those without pets.

Human beings are social animals. Men and women need relationships in order be complete and fulfilled in their lives. Dogs and pets are not a full substitute for a lasting pair bond, but dogs do elevate the happiness factor in a person's life.

In LOST, Vincent was Walt's dog but in reality he was everyone's dog. He was a wandering presence throughout the island who would attach himself to anyone who really needed an unspoken friend. He was there when Walt lost his mother. He was there when Shannon lost her brother. He was there to silently comfort Jack in the end when Jack closed his eyes in the bamboo field for the final time.

A dog is a valued member of a family. When we lose a pet, we lose a family member. There is sadness. There is grief. Perhaps that is another basic reason man brought dogs into their family was to teach their children the cycle of life and death since pets lived shorter lives than men and women. The takeaway is that pets enrich and fulfill people's lives in an uncompromising way. And when they are gone, they are never forgotten. Their inner strength, affection and friendship is what remains forever in a dog owner's heart.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

HAPPY PEOPLE

Are you happy? Do you know how to be happy?

After decades of studying and working with tens of thousands of patients, researchers at the Mayo Clinic say they’ve cracked the code to being happy, according to CBS New York.

The Mayo Clinic is one of the most prestigious health organizations in the world with as many as 8,000 ongoing studies exploring every imaginable condition — including unhappiness.

Who doesn’t want to get — and stay happy?

Psychiatrist John Tamerin says for many people the root of everything we’re chasing, a better job, more money or true love, is happiness.

But this endless pursuit often backfires.

“If you lead your life always waiting for a great thing to happen, you probably will be unhappy,” Tamerin said.

Now, after decades of research nd a dozen clinical trials, researchers at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, say they’ve actually cracked the code to being happy, and published it in a handbook.

The research team says the first and foremost way to be happy is to focus our attention.

“You can choose to live focusing on what is not right in your life,” Dr. Amit Sood said.

Experts say the human mind is instinctively restless, wandering from good thoughts to sad thoughts, scary thoughts and everything in between.

But if we learn to command our thoughts, shifting perspective away from the negative, and embrace the positive, we will be happier, experts say.

“Resiliency has everything to do with happiness,” Dr. Sood said.

The Mayo Clinic’s research also shows the degree of happiness people enjoy has to do with how resilient they are to life’s many curve balls. Happy people are very good at compartmentalizing and creating boundaries.

“So for example, if you’ve had a difficult day, when you get back home, for the first three minutes, forget about it, park it, and meet your family as if they’re long lost friends,” Dr. Sood added.

And perhaps one of the biggest hindrances to being happy is too much thinking about one’s self, research shows.

“Complainers are never going to be happy,” Ketchian said. “Happiness is a decision.”

So why did the Mayo Clinic decide to study happiness? Studies show happier people are healthier people.