Neurotrophins and Change

In addition to their classic effects on neuronal cell survival, neurotrophins can also regulate axonal and dendritic growth and guidance, synaptic structure and connections, neuro-transmitter release, long-term potentiation (LTP) and synaptic plasticity. Zen training can transform a person. Transformation involves major changes. In the field of neurobiology, we have seen how plasticity refers to the way our nervous system changes. What changes during Zen practice What happens when we keep...

General Comments on Neuroimaging

Without timed, detailed accounts of meditators' internal experiences, readers are in no position to interpret with assurance the meaning of neuroimaging reports. In this millennium, the scientific community has every reason to insist on rigorous selection of subjects, prior training in the laboratory, and an equally rigorous program of refined, accurate psychological accounting. One hopes that future comprehensive studies of (Zen and other) meditators will be conducted with standards of...

The Hernandez Connection A Darkened Sky and Moonglow

Zen Words. Zen Calligraphy. Printed in Kyoto, Japan, 1991, 68. This translation suggests that the original poem is attributable to Han Shan, a practicing Buddhist layman of the seventh or eighth century. He described his heart-mind (shin) as resembling the moon in autumn, as it was reflecting from the clear pure water of a pool. But he questioned what else could be said, because there was nothing to compare it with. See S. Hamill and J. Seaton. The Poetry of Zen....

The Pineal and Melatonin

Reiter and J. Robinson. Melatonin. New York, Bantam, 1995, p. 173. 2. G. Tooley, S. Armstrong, T. Norman, et al. Acute increases in night-time plasma melatonin levels following a period of meditation. Biological Psychology 2000 53 69-78. Midnight was chosen because melatonin levels normally begin to peak between midnight and 4 a.m. The four pooled samples during the control period varied over a thirteen-fold range from 28 to 363 pg mL. Comparably pooled samples varied in...

The Nitrous Oxide Connection

The atmosphere of the highest of all possible heavens must be composed of this gas. High praise for another gas. Two centuries ago, nitrous oxide already had a reputation for prominent psychoactive effects. The British romantic poet Robert Southey certainly enjoyed getting high on nitrous oxide. His contemporary, Samuel Coleridge, while also under the influence of N2O, felt ''more unmingled pleasure than I had ever before experienced.''2 No less an observer than William James had also...

What Is It The Temporal Lobe Pathway

The primary auditory cortex (BA 41) and the auditory association cortex (BA 42) are represented in the transverse temporal gyrus. 2. R. Saxe. A region of right posterior superior temporal sulcus responds to observed intentional actions. Neuropsychologia 2004 42 1435-1446. 3. Receptors in the membranous labyrinth of the inner ear transmit these messages on up for further processing at higher levels. 4. B. Kirchhoff, A. Wagner, A. Maril, et al. Prefrontal-temporal circuitry for episodic encoding...

Parietal Lobe Contributions to Attention

One finding is relevant to the ways we sustain attention during meditation we involve the posterior part of the intraparietal sulcus on the left when we try to maintain an ongoing state of continuous attention5 (see chapter 41). What if you already know a lot about what the object is that you are searching for, but do not know precisely where it is located in the environment Now certain parts of your parietal lobe play a major role in orienting spatial attention.6 Some fMRI data emphasize the...

The Remarkable Properties of Nitric Oxide

Sight and insight on the physiological role of nitric oxide in the visual system. Trends in Neurosciences 1999 22 110-115. In this and the following citations, the NO' being referred to is assumed to arise in normal nerve cells, not from altered glia or other cells. 2. J. Cudeiro, C. Rivadulla, R. Rodriguez, et al. Further observations on the role of nitric oxide in the feline lateral geniculate nucleus. European Journal of Neuroscience 1996 8 144152. 3. Y....

Zen Poetry

Stryk and Ikemoto took a different tack.6 First, they identified certain Japanese poets as Zen poets. Next, they went on to specify 88 ''Zen poems.'' Not surprisingly, 14 of these 88 poems (16 ) also mention the moon and its light, again in conventional ways. We have not learned anything so far, except that Japanese writers include figurative ''moodlight'' devices reasonably often in their poetry. And living in Kyoto helps one appreciate that this literary usage can resonate at different levels...

Suchness and the Noumenon An Allocentric Perspective

I hold suchness to be the basis of all religious experience. If suchness were ''the basis of all religious experience,'' then why doesn't everyone know what ''suchness'' means The problem, as Suzuki noted, is that it must be experienced. Suchness ''defies a clear-cut definition.'' It gets lost when you present it as an idea. ''Strictly speaking any philosophy built on it will be a castle on the sand.'' So suchness begins beyond reach of our ordinary discursive intellect. It is a profound...

Meditative Attention Accessing Deeper Avenues of Seeing and Hearing

Classics of Buddhism and Zen, vol. 3. Boston, Shambhala, 2001,457. 2. A. Braverman. Mud and Water A Collection of Talks by the Zen Master Bassui. San Francisco, North Point Press, 1989,46. 3. Thich Nhat Hanh. Dharma Talk. Presented September 1997, Santa Barbara, CA. 4. J. Loori. The Eight Gates of Zen. A Program of Zen Training. Boston, Shambhala, 2002,106. 5. Braverman, Mud and Water, xv and xx. Braverman's commentaries make it clear that while Bassui may have been familiar with...

Quickenings

Side effects'' occur during the early months and years of meditation. They include emotional swings from vacant feelings to bliss, unusual body sensations, misperceptions (illusions), and hallucinations. These epiphenomena intrigue beginners. In formal Zen training, however, such quickenings (called makyo) are viewed as by-products of no spiritual significance. They are regarded as merely signs that one is moving along the path. This book views quickenings as expressions of a variety of surges...

Western Perspectives on Mystical Experiences

You must understand that a perspective on life that is derived from an inner experience is different from one that is arrived at intellectually. Taste as much of this as you can. Swallow what you need and spit out the rest. Taizan Maezumi-Roshi (1931-1995) (To his disciples, with regard to importing Japanese Zen teachings into the West.)2 Alexander Hardy surveyed three thousand contemporary Western religious experiences.3 Their major phenomena (reported by 15 or more of his subjects) included a...

Prajna Insight Wisdom

The only medicine for suffering, crime, and all the other woes of mankind is wisdom. Early at our very first meeting, Kobori-Roshi introduced me to the term prajna. It refers to an extraordinary flash of insight-wisdom. Prajna reaches depths far beyond one's ordinary generic levels of insight and minor epiphanies. Its shift of consciousness unveils existential issues. Prajna has also been likened to a lightning strike,'' a thunderbolt. My taste of kensho suggests that what evolves is not one...

The Well Concealed Hypothalamus

Here in this well-concealed spot, almost to be covered with a thumbnail, lies the very mainspring of primitive existence vegetative, emotional, reproductive on which, with more or less success, man has come to superimpose a cortex of inhibitions. The hypothalamus is well concealed deep down at the base of the brain. Harvey Cushing, a pioneering neurosurgeon, was careful to avoid damaging the hypothalamus when he operated on the pituitary gland just beneath. The slightest slip here, and his...

Buddhist Literary Metaphors and Similes in Haiku Moodlight

Kobori-Roshi once said to me ''Zen is closest to poetry.'' Shelley (1792-1822) had expressed similar sentiments (in ''A Defense of Poetry,'' the year before he died). ''Poetry,'' said Shelley, ''lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world.'' Let us turn first to poetry. Two old poetry collections can help us lift the veil by illustrating the main issues. Henderson collected 378 haiku, representing major Japanese poets from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries.5 Of these, 44 (12 ) refer...

Nitric Oxide and Migraine

An intriguing link now exists between nitric oxide and migraine.19 Sublingual nitroglycerin is an NO' donor. It serves to trigger a subsequent genuine migraine episode in susceptible migraineurs. This evoked migraine headache can be correlated with a significant rise in the plasma levels of a particular peptide. This pep-tide is involved in the calcium systems which can be related, in turn, back to the gene for calcitonin. PET scans monitored 24 persons subject to migraine while their headaches...

Varieties ofOneness and Unity Provisional Categories II and III

The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me. The next three categories may come as a surprise. (Zen is full of surprises, and of paradoxes too.) Here is the problem previous pages have all emphasized a Path that points in the direction of selflessness. This lack of self, or no self, is described by a particular technical term, anatta. However, traditions from both East and West do mention other kinds of Oneness that occur in advanced states beyond the absorptions. Though...

Vasopressin

Vasopressin differs from oxytocin only in two amino acid residues. It, too, is made in the hypothalamus, released elsewhere into the brain, and is also released by the pituitary gland into the bloodstream. Consider once again the brains of monogamous prairie voles. Dense coats of vasopressin receptors cover the ventral pallidum and medial amygdala. Moreover, male prairie voles have many more vasopressin fibers in their ventral pallidum than do the females.13 When male prairie voles receive a...

Cultural Metaphors Similes and Visual Symbols

To review a metaphor implies that two categories are more directly identical than they really are in fact. We invent moon metaphors because we need them. Metaphors are our fundamental mode of communication. Indeed, ''All language is highly metaphorical,'' and most of our ''abstract terms are borrowed from physical objects or actions.''2 We also need moon similes and moon symbols. A simile implies that two things or ideas are only similar, using the words like or as. A symbol is a sign (often...

The Attentive Art of Meditation

I like the silent church before the service begins, better than the preaching. All human evil comes from this man's being unable to sit still in a room. Emerson and Pascal express the general idea. But if you relied on standard dictionary definitions, you'd believe that to meditate always means you are thinking and engaging in active contemplation. Not so in Zen Buddhist meditation. Dainin Katagiri-Roshi (1928-1990) put it succinctly, ''In Zen, you let your frontal lobes rest.''1 One basic...

How does Zen meditation affect the brain physiologically

Meditation creates a series of complex psychophysiological changes. To begin with a loose generalization, one might say that Zen meditation does involve a kind of not thinking, clearly. And it then proceeds to carry this clear awareness into everyday living. At the entry level are the simpler forms of meditation. They adopt a passive attitude and help to generate a ''relaxation response,'' a term Herbert Benson introduced to summarize the early steps in a long...

Significance of the Late Moonlight Phase within the Whole Profile of Kensho

The time when the moon appears is not necessarily night. Why did colors drop out during kensho's late moonlight phase Is this a brief, temporary form of color blindness Yes. But it is a rare kind of color blindness.'' Not the one we are most familiar with. That kind affects cone receptors in the retina. It is chronic, congenital. Rarely, however, a patient suddenly loses the conscious appreciation of colors after a localized brain infarct. This neurological disorder is called cerebral...

Unusual Symptoms in Patients Who Have Temporal Lobe Seizures

During states of insight-wisdom, two general categories of phenomena might seem referable to the temporal lobes phenomena of addition (+), and phenomena of subtraction ( ) Z 605-615 . On rare occasions, certain neurological patients, during their focal temporal lobe seizures, can have additional positive symptoms of pleasure Z 349, 405-407 . Some of these pleasurable symptoms during seizures are reminiscent of other feelings that may also occur in association with certain authentic religious...

Affirming One Reality A Commentary on the Sandokai

Suzuki, When you use the word reality, are you referring to the relative reality of the physical world or to the absolute reality of the transcendental world Forms do not look empty. They have shapes. So why does the Heart Sutra insist that form is emptiness, that form and emptiness are the same Z 698-699 . To begin to resolve this paradox, it may help first to reexamine the question. To do so, let us begin now with the living reality of this world of form right in...

A PET Study of Multiple Personality Disorder

The imaging data reviewed in this chapter thus far has been based on normal subjects, not on psychiatric patients. At first, it might seem that patients who have a multiple personality disorder would present a unique opportunity. If this is an accurate diagnosis, it could imply that one single patient has access to two different autobiographical selves at different times.12 This condition has recently been renamed dissociative identity disorder. It usually develops in a context of severe...

Our Brains Own Opioids

Thou hast the keys of Paradise, oh just, subtle, and mighty opium Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859), Confessions of an English Opium Eater Opiates have relieved suffering for ages when given by mouth or by injection. Yet researchers found that the brain made opiate-like substances only a few decades Can increase the signal-to-noise ratio in the hippocampusc Are released, together with ACTH, into the brain Have the most selective affinities of all endogenous opioids Have a variety of inhibitory,...

Other Ancient Fingers Pointing toward the Moon

The Roaring Stream. A New Zen Reader. Hopewell, NJ, Ecco Press, 1996, 22-32. (From ''Song of Realizing the Way.'') 2. D. T. Suzuki, Quoted in A. Watts. The Spirit of Zen. A Way of Life, Work, and Art in the Far East. Boston, Charles Tuttle, 1992, 80. 3. T. Cleary. Zen Essence. The Science of Freedom. Boston, Shambhala, 1989, 17 (Fenyang Shau-chao). Sino-Japanese uses the same ideogram for form and color. Material things that have form usually have color as well. 4....

Conditioning Learning and Unlearning

He who has broken the five fetters lust, hate, delusion, pride, false views is one who has crossed to the other shore. There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Kobori-Roshi emphasized how much prior conditioning we all had undergone. Yes, at birth, we were essentially unconditioned. Then, as life began to lure us, wound us, condition us, we learned not only to lust and hate but to take false pride in false views. We became deluded in many ways, and attached to our...

How Do Certain Drugs Alter Consciousness

The study of conscious states, problems and progress. In Alternate States of Consciousness, ed. N. Zinberg. New York, Free Press, 1977, 1-36. The problems continue, amid the progress. 2. R. de la Torre, M. Farre, P. Roset, et al. Human pharmacology of MDMA Pharmacoki-netics, metabolism, and disposition. Therapeutic Drug Monitoring 2004 26 137-144. How the MDMA rave subculture might affect both the incidence of STD (sexually transmitted disease), and of fetal abnormalities remains to...

Where Is ItA Prelude to My Action The Parietal Lobe

Heike, et al. Tool-use learning selectively induces expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, its receptor trkB, and neurotrophin 3 in the intraparietal multisensory cortex of monkeys. Cognitive Brain Research 2002 14 3-9. Note that attention also enters into this learning task. Attention mechanisms are also represented in nearby parietal lobe regions. 2. M. Stark, H. Coslett, and E. Saffran. Impairment of an egocentric map of locations Implications for...

Comment on Some Lateralizing Aspects of Frontal Temporal Lobe Interactions

Long axons, well insulated with myelin sheaths, speed impulses back and forth between the frontal lobe and all other lobes. Frontotemporal functions are doubly serviced. The uncinate fasciculus enters the front of the temporal lobe, and the major arcuate fasciculus curves around to enter it from the back. Several preliminary studies suggest that certain of our higher-level modules of selfhood may be distributed asymmetrically. As children, we learn to recognize an image of our very own face...

An Ancient Way of Giving up the Self Bowing and Adapting to Circumstances

One part of the long spiritual path involves engaging adversity, learning how to endure suffering, and emerging from the experience feeling both instructed and relieved Z 355-358 . Many Zen teachers become adept at structuring various situations that enable you to experience adversity and embrace its anguish firsthand. To swallow one's pride, bow humbly, adapt to unfair circumstances, and do so without reservation is an ancient, time-honored way to trim back the roots of the egocentric self....

The Orbitofrontal Cortex

This lowest region is believed to participate actively in that larger orchestration which assigns to incoming messages their particular positive or negative ''grade'' on the emotional motivational survival scale of values. What correlates with a reduction in orbitofrontal functions in normal subjects Highly trained monks have been monitored by fMRI while they were in a meditative state described as ''open presence.'' Once they enter this state, outside events no longer distract them, nor do...

Laid Back Nurturing Promotes Laid Back Limbic System Receptors

I'm not frightened of the darkness outside, it's the darkness inside houses I don't like. Maternal care during infancy serves to ''program'' behavioral responses to stress in the offspring by altering the development of the neural systems that mediate fearful-ness. Children's personalities are shaped by what happens in their early home environment. Researchers at McGill University asked How does the infant brain respond when the circumstances are either stressful or more nurturing In careful...

The Amygdala as a Gateway to Our Fears

Teach me to live, that I may dread The grave as little as my bed. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom. The name amygdala Latin, almond comes from its shape. Each amygdala is buried near the inside tip of the temporal lobe. As research on the amygdala has exploded during the past decade, so has its relevance to Zen. Even the amygdala's anatomical boundaries seem to have expanded. This more sizable extended amygdala might seem in keeping with our greater interest in understanding its...

The Lateral Septal Nucleus

The lateral septal nucleus receives its excitatory glutamate input from the CA3 nerve cells of the hippocampus. Serotonin influences its responsiveness to this hippocampal input, and lateral septal activities can be reduced in states of de-pression.13 The lateral septum then projects to the medial dorsal nucleus of the thalamus. The path from there can lead messages on to the orbitofrontal cortex Z 183, 236, 656 figure 6 . This circuit provides one way for items that have first registered in...

The Wide Variety of Cingulate Gyrus Functions

Why the anterior cingulate cortex is active in such a wide variety of cognitive and emotional tasks has become an important issue in recent research. Each cingulate gyrus lies next to the midline, just above the corpus callosum. It then extends down beyond it at both ends like the curves on a long, horizontal letter C see figure 4, chapter 23 . A glance at the numbered areas in figure 7 see chapter 40 suggests why some cingulate functions are diverse. Some five to seven different...

Responses of the Nucleus Accumbens in Human Subjects

It has been said that the nucleus accumbens behaves as though it doesn't like to be disappointed.'' Indeed, more fMRI signals develop in your ventral striatum if your rewarding drink of fruit juice doesn't arrive on time.8 This suggests that the accumbens is one part of a responsive system that signals when predictable rewards are late. Signals increase in the ventral striatum while subjects are anticipating the arrival of unpleasant electrical stimuli delivered to the skin, irrespective of...

Effects of Drugs

The public is learning that drugs and food can each be abused. As a general rule, any substance that is abused will release more dopamine into the nucleus accumbens and enhance its functional activity. Drugs of abuse have other effects on laboratory mice. They enhance both the rewarding effects of morphine and increase the mice's preference for a sugar solution.6 On the other hand, many antipsychotic drugs act by reducing the functional activity of DA. When this occurs, certain local GABA nerve...

Desire Advances during Retreats Vipassana Romance

During Zen training, both our urgent desires and our sufferings are grist for the mill of introspection. One form of acute romantic feeling can develop and has been given a name. The phenomenon is instructive, because when it arises in the course of a meditative retreat, its urgency can serve as the useful focus for self-analysis. If you can become sufficiently objective to do so, that is. I am referring here to a kind of short-term, powerful, affective...

PET Scans of Opioid Mu Receptors When Subjects Respond to Pain and to Aversive Pictures

The next studies illustrate the point made earlier pain messages do more than activate several parts of the brain. They also lead to the delayed, secondary release of the brain's own opioids and other messengers which then help relieve pain. Meditators already know from experience how their muscles can hurt. Pain researchers have devised other unpleasant ways to induce, and monitor, major degrees of muscle discomfort. One of these ways is to inject a concen trated salt solution into the large...

Dopamine Systems

For his research on dopamine, Arvid Carlsson was a co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 2000. His studies showed that dopamine DA plays a prominent role in energizing the functions of the basal ganglia, and that these DA functions are enhanced by giving its precursor, L-dopa. Dopamine cell bodies reside in the midbrain, both in the substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental area Z 197-201 . Dopamine from their terminals energizes both the dorsal and the ventral striatum,...

Some Gamma EEG and Heart Rate Changes during Meditation

The Zen Way to the Martial Arts. New York, Arkana Penguin , 1982, 3. 2. A. Lutz, L. Greischor, N. Rawlings, et al. Long-term meditators self-induce high amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2004 101 16369-16373. Muscle artifact can be a thorny problem. The methods used in this article to measure and reduce muscle artifact may interest other researchers who wish to study gamma activities. 4. R. Davidson and...

Previc 3d Space

When we started this research, more than three decades ago, no more than five papers were published in a year. Now, hundreds of important and exciting papers are published annually. Usually, we think that space is something empty. And, if we neglect something, it means we pay no attention to it. Who would want to pay attention to anything that was empty A lot of researchers would, and are doing so. They are intrigued by patients who neglect space.'' Why Because their patients' deficits...

Messenger Molecules Some New Data

Yin and yang in the harmonious brain, excitatory and inhibitory synaptic signals coexist in a purposeful balance. This chapter highlights new research on our brain's neuromessenger systems. The shorthand word systems refers here to the sequence of mechanisms which bring a messenger in touch with its specific receptors. It was the Monday after Easter, 1920. In the middle of the night, Otto Loewi had awakened with the design for his experiment. In his laboratory he would soon prove that when the...

Implications for Meditation and for Kensho

Kensho and satori are brief, transforming moments. Fresh ongoing perceptions are registered accurately, and they often remain indelible. In contrast, old maladaptive memory associations drop out instantly. So do all prior personal constructs and concepts of the self. This psychophysiological pattern is very distinctive. It does not suggest that one's hippocampal CA1 cells per se are malfunctioning. Nor does it imply that one's usual stream of messages must have stopped on their way to CA1 cells...

The Male Animal Libido and ExLibido

There it is, in us always, though it may be asleep. The male animal. The mate____All the male animals fight for the female, from the land crab to the bird of paradise. They don't just sit and talk. They act. James Thurber 1894-1961 and Elliot Nugent 1900-1980 , The Male Animal1 Virtue consists, not in abstaining from vice, but in not desiring it. There it is that insatiable lusting to act. The instinctual drive to caress, to couple, to overcome any competition. Libido is not a male preserve....

Two PET Scan Studies of a Mu Opioid Agonist Drug

Remifentinal is a synthetic opioid agonist that activates mu opioid receptors. It was given in clinically active dosages during two important pharmacological studies. The results of the first study suggest that both our higher-order endogenous opioid systems and our cognitive networks each participate not only in the way opioids relieve pain but also in the processes through which a placebo relieves pain.13 In this first controlled study, nine subjects received...

The Varieties of Presence

The particular presence associated with authentic teachers is an ongoing quality. Their followers recognize it readily and distinguish it from lesser forms of mere charisma see chapter 22 . The 1979 Hardy survey of religious experiences was based on subjects who grew up in our contemporary Western culture. 20 of them reported having experienced a different variety of presence. These were brief episodes that included a sense of presence described as though something nonhuman in nature were...

The Septal Region and the Nucleus Accumbens

The nucleus accumbens, a forebrain structure critical for reward and motivation, has a key role in reinforcing properties of drugs of abuse. Front and center in the limbic system are the septal nuclei. They lie just above and in front of the anterior commissure and third ventricle. Byzantine connections link the several septal nuclei with the rest of the brain. This makes their functions difficult to sort out Z 169-172, 234, 236, 608, 620, 821 . Because the nucleus accumbens is an active part...

EEG and Heart Rate Changes in Zen Meditation

When one goes into Zen meditation, one passes, as a usual process, through a psychic field, from the surface down to the depth, as if one were plummeting into a lake in a diving bell. Worldly ideas or irrelevant thoughts pass through the mind even in time of meditation. In this case I simply wait and allow these things to go through my mind until they naturally disappear in an instant. I do not dwell upon these experiences that pass through my mind. In Hirai's series, Zen monks who had trained...

Ever Present Awareness

Chapter 48 introduced this topic and chapter 56 will continue to discuss it. The ultimate development of this third category of ongoing conscious awareness would occur only in some extraordinary person who continues to experience this level of awareness, and to an extraordinary degree, throughout each 24-hour period. The Buddha serves as an exemplar, and more. He was said permanently to have maintained not only this same special quality but also to have gone beyond this to the unique level of...

Landmarks Brain in Overview

Medial Surface Cerebral Hemisphere

The average adult brain weighs about 1400 grams 3 pounds , or approximately 2 percent of the total body weight. The brain weighs about the same as the liver. But, information is what it's designed to digest and resynthesize, not meals. Keep referring to this chapter as the rest of the book unfolds. The simplified version of the brain in figure 3 shows major landmarks on the outer surface as viewed from the left side. At left, the prefrontal cortex occupies most of the convex portion of the...

Daio Kokushi On

Daio Kokushi 1235-1309 traveled to China for his early training. He returned to Kamakura and Kyoto, bringing back a pure strict, traditional Rinzai style of Zen. Daito Kokushi was his dharma heir, and became the first abbot of Daitokuji, founded in 1324. The following lines, suggestive of the important influence Taoism had on Zen, are adapted from D. T. Suzuki's translation in Manual of Zen Buddhism.1 A reality exists, even before heaven and earth It has no form, much less a name. Eyes fail to...

What is the most important thing to understand about Zen and the brain

I'd sum up briefly in the following way Zen training is an agency of character change. It's a program designed to point the whole personality in the direction of increasing selflessness and enhanced awareness. To this end, the Path of Zen implies a long-range program of systematic training. It proceeds within a restrained and culturally acceptable established meditative tradition. The whole setting encourages each aspirant to engage in a series of meditative retreats. There, one shares their...

The Extraordinary Scope of Migraine The Hildegard Syndrome

Migraine is a multisystem disorder of neuronal hyperexcitability. Daniels Pietrobon and Jorg Striessnig1 The awareness that migraine is an expression of the genetics, personality, and way of life of an individual is only very recently being proclaimed. Migraine is a common disorder, so common that everyone assumes doctors know all about it. I didn't. I had no lecture on migraine in medical school. I had to pick up my information about its brief quickenings later, at random, as I went along....

Neural Pathways to and from the Insula

The insula does more than help process smell, taste, touch, emotional and vestibular information. By following the course of various paths leading up to the insula we can understand how some of its functions are derived from messages relayed up by other small autonomic sensory fibers that ascend from different internal parts of our body.14 Several modest caveats apply to what most such small fiber pathways can accomplish 1 They conduct their messages relatively slowly. 2 The information they...

Serotonin Systems

The third group of biogenic amine nerve cells releases serotonin ST . Serotonin nerve cells are buried deep along the midline core of the brainstem. Here, they cluster into the several raphe nuclei Z 205, 208 figure 7, 198 . The human brain contains only some 235,000 ST nerve cells, but each terminal network also ramifies extensively.15 Most interest in these pages focuses on the dorsal raphe nucleus because its slender axons rise up to innervate various parts of the cerebrum. Recent research...

The Insula and the Sense of Smell

One fMRI study monitored subjects who were inhaling odorants that generated intense feelings of disgust. On a later occasion, they viewed video clips which showed other persons' faces evidencing disgust. The evidence suggested that our anterior insula is processing envisoning, mirroring both our own disgust and our recognizing another person's expression of disgust.5 Subjects in a different fMRI study were responding either to very disgusting odors animal feces or to merely unpleasant odors cat...

Is There Some Common Ground between Zen Experience and the Brain

The coming of Buddhism to the West may well prove to be the most important event in the twentieth century. Experience never errs. Only your judgment errs by promising itself results which your experiments didn't produce. Toynbee believed that religion exerted a major regenerative influence in human affairs. Da Vinci warned us not to expect too much from our experiments. Some of the common ground we now seek between religion and neuroscience begins when we set sail toward that experimental...