Between stimulus and response there is a

space. In that space is our power to choose
our response. In our response lies our growth
and our freedom.
-- Victor Frankl

Fundamental Insights
1) Reality is a story, told to us by our brains.

Our brains are artists, not mirrors
Our experiences do not reflect reality itself, but
rather a construction, or representation of
1) This construction process involves a lot of
guesswork – filling in the gaps
2) This subjective representation occurs within
the brain.
•  3) Our brains are housed within (and are
highly affected by) our bodies.
•  So, reality is a “mind-body” process of creative

We only have access to a limited subset of Reality •  We have limited: •  sensitivity of our sensory mechanisms •  attentional capacity .


Implications? We don t live in the real world. . we can therefore improve our own experience greatly. told to us by our brains. There are systematic ways in which we make errors in this construction process. but in a constructed world. This construction process involves interpreting patterns of sensory information based on preexisting patterns stored in the brain & body.Fundamental Insight #1 Reality is a story.

sub-representationally.•  More subtly. Thus. how our own machinery works… and one surprising and immediate discovery – it’s not ‘rational’! What we are. understanding this Insight takes you right to the point of understanding how we construct reality at an essential level. . this situates our understanding of “mind” at an interface – the connections-between •  Much of our “processing of information” occurs implicitly. is embodied awareness.

Fundamental Insight #2 Attention! .

implicit ( unconscious ) signals.g. stereotypes: -  And we rely on subtler.We take shortcuts: -  We rely upon heuristics or rules of thumb.. . when engaging in reasoning and decision making -  e.

g. often so subtly that we are unaware of these biases. Because perception --> behaviour. relying so heavily upon our beliefs makes us biased. race & job applicants. gender & classical music .Biases Of course. our biases can actually create their own reality! self-fulfilling prophecies e. gender/race & essay quality.. and we can therefore be led astray by our own beliefdriven expectations.

we do not see reality as it is Empowerment – our perceptions of Reality are constructed.What we can learn from our biases Humility – we have many biases. and we have quite a bit of control over that process .

g... how well we perform on tasks. and many other things. ATTENTION is what largely determines the reality we experience.The Primacy of Attention Because of our limited info processing capabilities. ATTENTION is critically important. ATTENTION determines how we are affected by the circumstances of our lives (e. cell phones & driving.g. e. studying & distractions . emotions & attention). brain surgery.

ATTENTION is something that we can learn to control to an extraordinary degree. What is the secret to happiness? .The Primacy of Attention And most importantly.

Ø e..g. listening to music .Ø Attention affects Quality of experience. wine/food tasting.

Fundamental Insight #3 EVERYTHING is the same .

----------------------------------------------------------Social Environmental . etc..g. autonomic nervous system.Consciousness: A multi-level process Neurochemical: Neurotransmitters Neuroanatomical: Major brain structures and their organization Physiological: Major contributions of physiological systems. e. hormones.

Neurons: Consciousness as an Emergent Property .

Information Transmission Information Integration Information Collection .

Neurotransmitters Bind to Receptors Across the Synapse .

Xanax) help GABA bind more effectively to post-synaptic receptors •  Acetylcholine (ACh): PNS vs. seizures. plasticity. etc.. •  Dopamine: reward (+ motor functions. •  Norepinephrine: arousal/alertness •  Serotonin: mood.. impulse control.. motivation.g. anxiety. :) . Alzheimer s. Anti-anxiety meds (benzodiazepines (Valium..Key Neurotransmitters •  Glutamate: excitatory: cognitive. implicated in basically everything.) •  and. memory).. planning & many higher-level interactions with cognitive functions. higher cognition (learning. seizures. etc. CNS: muscle/motor vs.. emotion. then there s a huge variety of other peptides.. motivation •  GABA: inhibitory. e..

Stimulation of this pathway reinforces behavior.therefore.kind of ironic. isn t it? .. ensuring that what you just did you will do again. and the rewarding effects of. learning is strongly affected by reward....The Dopamine System Drugs of abuse commandeer the brain s natural reward circuitry. adaptive reasons. cocaine are mediated through the same mechanisms which have evolved for highly functional. like learning and motivation. for e.g. Ø Nestler & Malenka (2004): Ø .

g.Neuroanatomy overview Ø Your brain in your hand…. sub-cortical regions. etc. pre-frontal cortex Ø know specific systems that we talk about or that are covered in the text in detail (e. cerebellum. Ø evolutionary direction of function & morphology (back to front. inside to outside) Ø hindbrain..) 7 . 4 lobes. visual perception system. dopamine/reward system.

the corpus callosum .The Split Brain The two hemispheres of the brain are actually two mini-brains connected by a bundle of fibers. debate raged as to whether cutting the corpus callosum would help people with epilepsy .from the late 1900s until the 1960s.

Split-Brain Experiments .


Antonio Damasio .there is a functional dissociation between parts of the PFC: “dorsal” = cognitive functions “ventral” = affective functions .Thinking & Feeling & the PFC Ø  Ø  Ø  Ø  Ø  Ø  . vivid imagery .persuasion: Rona vs statistics.This reflects a functional relationship between thinking & feeling. Our feelings influence even our presumed “rational” thinking processes: .

danger. emotional and subtle physiological reactions may be a key part of ‘rational’ cognitive processing! .This creates a non-conscious bias that facilitates cognitive processing.Therefore..g. skepticism) . in a certain direction (e.Somatic Marker Hypothesis Ø  Ø  Ø  Sensory input à PFC (ventro-medial part) à autonomic arousal .

(1997) Decks A & B n  n  n  Decks C & D OFC is important for emotional responding Are emotional responses necessary for appropriate decision making? Gambling task that simulates real-life decision making C&D A&B C&D A&B .Bechara et al.

n  n  n  Results? Control subjects (i..e. no brain damage) n  Chose advantageously even before they realized which strategy was best n  Developed anticipatory SCR even before they figured out the strategy VMPFC Patient Results: n  Chose disadvantageously even when they knew correct strategy!! n  Never developed anticipatory SCR (even when they did realize the choices were risky) .

without emotions.Bechara et al.. (1997) n  n  Study suggested that non-conscious biases guide behaviour before conscious knowledge Without such biases. cognitions have little “weight” or “meaning”) .e. “knowledge” is not sufficient to guide behaviour!! (i.

Step 1: Reality Step 2: Sensory receptors Step 3: Transduction Step 4: Thalamus Step 5: Primary sensory cortex: initial processing of information occurs .

from initial coarse processing of relatively basic features. to more complex processing ØHubel & Wiesel (1963) examined the firing rate of single cells in the primary visual cortex Ømany were specialized to respond to particular features: “primitives” .Hierarchical Processing ØProcessing of visual information occurs in a series of steps.


.g. the “what” & “where” pathways .Step 1: Reality Step 2: Sensory receptors Step 3: Transduction Step 4: Thalamus Step 5: Primary sensory cortex Step 6: Further processing in many other brain areas. linked to higher level cognitive & perceptual tasks: e.

. thing ..WHERE? Ø dorsal pathway à superior ventral lobes à parietal lobes.. is right in front of me!” . processes spatial location “The ....

specializes in object recognition “It’s.a giant rabbit?” ..WHAT? Øventral pathway à inferior temporal

. and tell our motor cortex to communicate the appropriate actions to muscles in the body. motivation.. etc. planning..) then decide what do.Step 7: Deciding & Acting Many other brain areas (involving memory.. self-control.

.Cats! Ø Cortical cells had become specialized for the input from only one eye. and responded to only the kind of stimuli which that eye had been exposed to.

. experience teaches our brains how to perceive reality. giving us knowledge about what the world looks like.What we learn from cats • In a gradual. • We then use this knowledge to guide how we construct perceptions. bidirectional process of brain-environment adaptation.

What knowledge does the brain use to guide perception? Ø 1) chronic habits of the mind à highly accessible pieces of information Ø2) whatever is currently (or very recently) on your mind à the particular knowledge structures that are “activated” and can guide information processing .