Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gamma Frequency Oscillations Connected To Perceptual Binding/Consciousness

The study of human consciousness and perception has traditionally been ignored amongst the hard sciences due to its subjective and therefore assumed un-measurable nature. Studying the subjective aspects of the human condition has traditionally been left to the softer sciences of psychology and sociology and even considered to be more in the realm of philosophy and religion. However, recent applications of quantum physics, chaos theory, neurosciences, and even plasma, fluid, and solid state dynamics have opened the door to studying the subjective aspects of the mind and what have been termed the “neural correlates of consciousness”. Proposals for a theory of consciousness have ranged from quantum approaches applied to microtubules (Orch-OR Theory; Penrose and Hammeroff) and ion channels (Bernroider) to electromagnetic theories (Vitiello, Frohlich) and even the application of chaos theory to algorithms produced in the brain (Vandervert). Most proposals have subsequently been disproven by empirical data showing that the thermal temperatures present in the brain could not harbor the quantum effects suggested coupled with their inability to explain how the human mind combines a wide-range of stimuli into coherent experiences (the binding problem). Just as well, “mind as computer” theories are harshly debated in the scientific community with little scientific evidence correlating said theories with the exquisite nature of neural functioning. However, recent studies in gamma frequency oscillations and their corresponding neural correlations seem to be filling in the blanks that have traditionally made studying consciousness and perception so difficult. This blog will discuss the findings of these studies, the bio-physical correlates and the effects of gamma oscillations on coherency and perception within the brain.

In the last two decades advances in neuroscience and the use of electroencephalography (EEG), and magnetoencephalographic (MEG) techniques have solidified the observation that brain regions communicate by synchronizing the firing of neurons. The rhythmic input that is produced in the extracellular field potential results in brain oscillations represented by delta (0–4 Hz), theta (4–8 Hz), alpha (8–12 Hz), beta (12–30, Hz) and gamma (30–200 Hz) frequencies respectively. Previously thought to be a bi-product of waking, sleeping, and dreaming states, research in the past two decades has uncovered the possibility of these frequencies (especially those in the gamma range) representing a more causal roles in normal cognitive processes including memory, attention, perceptual binding and the experience of consciousness. Experimental data shows that gamma oscillations become highly correlated during different perceptual tasks amongst long-range neural networks which may lead to the creation of a unified field of perception.

Initial experimentation by Singer and Grey (1989) analyzing the visual cortex of cats presented with moving bars of varying orientations produced results showing that gamma oscillations work to synchronize inter-columnar input in the cortex when the bars were perceived. During a cycle of gamma frequency oscillations the neurons in different parts of the cortex fired “in phase” (i.e at the same time) leading to the proposition that gamma oscillations helped to “bind” different aspects of the scenery and convey a unified representation (Williams 2010). Further studies have found that the firing of cells in the visual cortex and elsewhere can become highly correlated over distances of many millimeters during perceptual tasks (Robinson 2007). Most studies of cortical network dynamics have focused on “random wiring” or “neighborhood couplings” however, recent studies point to more complex state of activity by utilizing local and long-range “patchy connections” (horizontal connections). Patchy projections seem to provide an exceptionally efficient way of wiring, as the resulting networks use significantly reduced wiring costs. Furthermore,” the eigenvalue spectra, as well as the structure of common in and output of the networks suggest that different spatial connectivity patterns support distinct types of activity propagation” (Voges 2009). In particular, the existence of strong two-point correlations in inter-columnar processing was closely associated with the oscillatory behavior in the gamma range. Two-point correlations of firing rates or local field potentials often show peak near-zero-time lag, even amongst easily detectable axonal conduction delays between the cells of interest. Correlations between cells are found to be highest when subjects are called upon to use similar preference features (line orientation, ocular dominance, etc.) and lessened as the disparity of presented stimuli increased (Robinson 2007). In cases where multiple stimuli were presented simultaneously, neural-cells partitioned off in “highly correlated groups each of which corresponded to one stimulus with little correlation between groups” (Robinson 2007). In comparison, the arousal of the same cells when presented with only one stimulus resulted in activity amongst all cells. Although changes in gamma activity were found to be statistically insignificant when a stimulus was perceived and not perceived, the level of correlation of gamma activity increased dramatically between cells depending upon the type of stimulus perceived (i.e multiple or singular). Mean-field theory, normally applied to fluid, static, and plasma physics presents working formulae which show how mm-scale patchy connections can support the properties of gamma oscillations with the proper frequencies needed for spatial structure even when motivated by uncorrelated points. These occur via resonances associated with the periodic modulation of the network connections rather than being due to single-cell properties.

Building on the initial experiments of Singer and Grey, experiments by Bartos et al (2007) found that cortical and thalamic regions display accelerated sub-threshold gamma oscillations of neuronal membranes. Synchronization of these rhythmic movements were shown to be facilitated by intra-laminar neurons which fire rhythmic spike bursts in the gamma frequency range and exhibited wide-spread cortical projections. Experiments focusing on the hippocampus of mice in the temporal lobe showed that gamma oscillations arise from the precise interplay of the action potential firing of excitatory glutamatergic pyramidal neurons and inhibitory GABAergic inter-neurons. Consequently, alternating pairs of current sinks and sources occur in the tissue, which require enhanced Na+/K+- ATPase activity to restore ionic gradients and to maintain excitability. ATPases enzymes are responsible for catalyzing the decomposition of adenosine trihosphate (ATP) in the andesonine diphosphate (ADP) and a free phosphate ion. Dephosphorylation reactions are responsible for the release of energy which is used to drive other chemical reactions. The local ATP consumption in neurons is rapidly counterbalanced by mitochondria via oxidative phosphorylation, mainly in response to changes in substrates and intracellular Ca2 +. The process requires sufficient glucose and O2 supply as well as proper activities of mitochondrial enzymes.

Results obtained by experimentation of gamma wave frequency oscillations and perception emphasize that neural synchrony does not require temporally synchronous inputs, but can be instead draw from a variety of seemingly non-related stimuli. Activated patchy connections in turn help to compose seemingly unrelated events and perceived objects into a coherent perception. It is also apparent that the fundamental cause for gamma oscillation synchrony is governed by the network eigenmode rather than single cell properties (although mean cellular characteristics determine wave properties) and correspond to biological functions in the brain such as ion gradients and enzyme catalyzation. Further exploration of these topics may lead to greater discoveries in brain functioning, neuro-degenerative diseases, and how the neural correlates of consciousness may function. They also show that consciousness and perception both have the ability to be studied empirically and that resulting data is significant in understanding the functioning of the brain, deepening bio-physical concepts, and understanding how humans process information.

Nosce te Ipsum,

Soror FSO

Monday, April 18, 2011

Your Soul For A Trinket?

Someone from another Order contacted a student of mine a few days ago and offered to "make him an Adept", "give him students" and a few other unmentionable trinkets to join their Order.

Yes, I suppose I could be upset that there is someone out there trying to "member steal", but honestly I believe that a person should be allowed to choose whatever Order they'd like to be apart of. In fact, when my Order split from the EOGD we told our students just must make your own decision and we will not get in the way of what you choose.

What did upset me however was the offer to bribe a student to join their Order by "making them an Adept". Call me "out of line" but since when does becoming an Adept come with a bribe? If C.R. hadn't most likely been lifted into the heavens he could very well be rolling over in his Vault right now!

All of my students know that when they come to me I will offer complete honesty. So what did I say? Well I asked him these questions...

Do you want to be in their Order because that it your decision to make. (no need to tell me this answer)

How important is it to you to become and Adept?

Do you want to become an Adept in Spirit and because of the growth it brings, or do you want to become and Adept for the sole purpose of having the title of Adept and some idea of authority and power over students?

(My student answered that he wants to become an Adept in the truest sense, and that he in fact did not want to be a part of the other Order)

Being an Adept is a sacred calling. It is a way of living. You cannot be bribed into true Adepthood, just as you cannot be bribed into enlightenment. It happens through hard work, perseverance and commitment. It comes with integrity, honesty, loyalty and devotion to the Divine. Just because you are given the title of an Adept does not make you one. "But most Adepts haven't made it to 'Adepthood' you might say, and they have the tile V.H. ____yes this is true. But those who have been made Adepts through the proper requirements have also gone through a significant amount of alchemy. Becoming initiated as an Adept means that you are ready for a life-long commitment, that you are committed to enduring the trials of the ego, and that you are ready to think not of yourself, but of others and the betterment of the world.

If one enters into Adepthood because he/she has been bribed into it, what energy do you think that will bring to his/her development? Does it represent the ideals spoken of above? Not only is bribing someone with a title of Adept a grave offense to what it stands for, but it is a grave offense to the student and to the Divine. Being an Adept is a state of mind, a commitment to development. How can you offer a role which represents the utmost in spiritual devotion to the Divine in a way that wreaks of such dishonor?

How can you guide the innocents onto a path of selfishness, conceit, and an addiction to power, when they have entered onto a path seeking enlightenment, fulfillment, and a true relationship with the Divine? The very thought of it is an anti-thesis to the calling of an Adept.

On top of that you have to think about the quality of people who are joining your Order if they are open to"incentives". Do you think they will be loyal to you and stay for the long haul? These will be people who will require that you give them things in return for their service, and as soon they are not getting the grade material that they want, the position that they want, or the power that they want they will leave (unless you can find some other way to manipulate them) Let's say you actually convince someone to join your Order this way and they actually believe that they will reach enlightenment faster by "all of a sudden" becoming an Adept. What will happen when they see that the Current is lacking, and find themselves amongst individuals who are selfish and power seeking? Their stay will be short-lived because you cannot offer them the Truth that you are seeking. So in the end you will have a group of people that will be like a house of cards...ready to fall at the slightest bit of trouble.

Nosce te Ipsum,

Soror FSO

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spiritual Parenting Part 1

My little one has just turned four. wondrous little Aries, so full of joy and curiosity. I can't help but think about how much he has changed me over the years, and then, on the other hand what my role is in helping him to grow up an enlightened soul. Unfortunately, most people don't think about these things, most parents it seems, are more concerned with having a child who behaves and ends up being financially successful in life. Even more unfortunate they will base a child's esteem and worthiness on these two factors. Now, I am not here to judge, these are things which are deeply ingrained in our society, but the spiritual parent has an obligation to go beyond these factors and to help their child to develop and deeper sense of awareness of themselves, of other people, and of the world.

To give help a child to attain the skills which will lead to the perfection of their souls later on in life (when they are old enough to make their own decisions about their soul's path), is the greatest gift a parent can bestow. So, what are these "gifts", what actions can a parent can take to help their child to attain these higher states of awareness later on? Well, first let me state that it is up to each parent to contemplate their own lives, the lessons they have learned, and the experiences that they have had which have helped them to grow to a greater understanding of who they are, and then to translate this into how they raise their child. But of course I would love to share with you those things which I have learned and have experienced that I feel gives children a great start in these areas...and will not only ultimately help to lead to more developed souls but consequently also then help to feed these other areas of success and good behavior which are so important in our society. This knowledge comes from my training in psychology, the time when I was a nanny, the times when I was a yoga and martial arts instructor for children, and of course from my own experience as a mother. I am not saying these are the end all be all of tips, but they are what I have found works well. I hope you enjoy, and of course I always appreciate your comments. (I will be writing this blog in a few parts for time's sake).

1.Self-esteem: Self-esteem is very important to a child, not because it makes a child feel good or bad, but because it helps a child to define who they are and what their place is in the world. Humans do not finish fully developing their "frontal lobe" until their late teens/early twenties. The frontal lobe governs the function of understanding others thoughts and feelings and the world around them. These are skills that as a mystical parent we want to instill in our children...the ability to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and others. As a child, the frontal lobe is fairly undeveloped still so children look towards positive reinforcement to help then to understand if what they are doing is good and bad, if they are cared for, how they fit into the world, and how their behavior affects others. By teaching your child proper habits, not only will your child begin to develop these concepts much faster than most, but practicing them will actually help their little brains grow!

Self-esteem boils down to one concept... respect. Respect is not something that is often considered when it comes to children. Traditionally, people are of the opinion that adults are to be respected while children are to keep their place and 'Do as they are told'. But, I will tell you from what I have witnessed as a teacher and parent that a child, although they may not be able to verbalize or understand the concept, do understand respect on some level. They know that parents are to be respected, and in turn look for clues that they are respected as well. This is natural, because we are their examples, so in order to feel as if they are apart of the world, they look to how you are treated, and how you act, and attempt to see if this is reflected in their world. To a child, knowing that he or she has mutual respect from a parent affects how they view themself, their performance in school, and their willingness to do what is asked of them. In fact, many people think that success in activities (school, sports, social-life etc.) leads to a good self-esteem, but in fact knowing that regardless of how one performs that they will still be loved and respected leads to good self-esteem, and thus gives one the confidence to continue to keep trying and learning until they have mastered those activities.

In a sense, what we are talking about is developing the notion that one should treat others as they themselves would like to be treated. Yes, you should look at the day to day situations you are involved in with your child and ask yourself how you should act and how you would want to be treated. For example, if you would like your child to develop the habit of good manners, then it is important to use good manners yourself, not only when speaking to others, but also when speaking to your child. If you want him to say "please" and "thank you" then, when asking your child to do something or get something, you should also say "please" and "thank you" to your child. The "do as I say, not as I do" mentality A.) does not show mutual respect for a person and B.) is not enough to help a child to develop a good habit. Instead he sees that it is fine to say these things in some instances, but not when is it appropriate and when is it not? Well for a child, who can't contemplate this, he doesn't instead you are gifted with erratic behavior. However, if both you and your child use good manners at home and outside of the home on a consistent basis then not only will that habit be ingrained in the child, but he feels as if he is apart of the world, and also experiences the positive effects of using good manners from his interaction with others. All of these help him/her to develop a greater sense of self and a greater sense of others. These two things are key to concepts of spirituality such as compassion and humility. Other areas which help with this concept are

1. Letting your child help you with household activities such as cooking and laundry. For example let him or her help you put laundry in the washer, or mix up the cake batter. Being able to help with the house-hold activities helps them to feel as if they are apart of the family unit, teaches responsibility, and gives greater personal confidence. 2. Giving your child "choices", this not only gives you the ability to set boundries but also gives them the ability to think for themselves. It's a perfect example of the balance that can be attained between these two concepts. For example, saying that "It's cold outside so no you cannot wear your spring sandles", but then giving them a choice of what warm outfit to wear, helps them to feel that they are still important and keeps the rules intact. Also saying things like "Would you like to put away your toys or go to time out?" rather than "Put your toys away or you will go to time out" gives them the opportunity to learn to start making proper decisions. Children are also much happier to be able to choose to put their toys away then to feel as if they are already being punished. 3. Fun! We are all busy, and tired at the end of the day, but just like you must take time to nurture your relationship with your signifigant other, you must take time to nurture your relationship with your child...and not just on the weekends. This may be as simple as reading together at night, or taking a half and hour for some" mommy and me", or "daddy and me" play time. Having some quality time each day that you dedicate to your child without the distraction of house-hold duties, shows your child that he or she is also teaches balance. Use this to help them learn the concept of responsibility. After dinner for example, have everyone in the house help with chores, and then spend some fun time together!

Remember, having a mutual respect between you and your child does not mean that you should let them walk all over you. It is important to remember that although you can show and teach your children respect, you are still the parent. Consistent boundaries are just as important to parenting. When rules are followed inconsistently children get confused, and this can lead to poor behavior and lower self-esteem. Boundaries not only teach children respect, but also help a child to feel safe in the world. So it is an important part of teaching respect to have boundaries and to keep them.

to be continued....;)

Nosce Te Ipsum,

Soror FSO

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Very Special Announcement!*DrumRoll*

I am very pleased to announce that we have completed the solidification of

The Order of the Golden Dawn: Collegium Spiritu Sancti

With The Affilitate Temples:

The Grand Temple of Ptah Chicago, IL
The Temple of Thoth-Hermes Denver, CO
The Temple of Het-Heret Seattle, WA

And The Sanctuaries of

Isis Los Angeles, CA
Maat San Fransisco, CA

We will be hosting our Summer Conclave August 1-6th at The Grand Temple of Ptah!

So far over 150 students have pre-registed and it looks as if it will the largest gathering in history! We would be blessed to see you there!

I would like to extend a special thanks to my brothers and sisters for putting in the hard-work to make this happen so quickly and efficiently. I am continuously inspired by your dedication, integrity, hard-work, loving-kindness, and connection with the Spirit. You have made my decision to stay apart of this wonderful tradition a blessing.

I would also like to thank the Golden Dawn community for your support. I have been humbled by the out-flowing of love you have all showed us during this transition.

We are pleased to finally have the opportunity to live, learn, and teach this tradition in the way that we have all dreamed of. To be apart of an Order that focuses on love, peace, truth, integrity, conscious living, and dedication to the spirit is a blessing. I am proud that we have seen this dream come into fruition and have already seen that it is the start of many beautiful things to come.

Nosce Te Ipsum,

VH Soror FSO

Order of the Golden Dawn:Collegium Spiritum Sancti