NEUROGENESIS: WISDOM; Memories: Resentment

The old thinking about the brain was that neurons were given at birth, and then progressively died. A researcher named Altman found otherwise in 1962: he showed that adult human brains created new neurons. Few believed him, even fewer found that interesting. However, by 1995, incontrovertible evidence of new neurons was found in at least two regions of the brain.

And if one blocked neurogenesis, one blocked learning.

The first memory organ of taxicab drivers learning a lot of streets, the hippocampus, got visibly enlarged.

A rat hippocampus creates at least 10,000 new neurons a day. Yes, a vulgar rat.

New Neurons In White: Forge, Forget, Forgive

New Neurons In White: Forge, Forget, Forgive

Yet, the mind is not just about adding neurons. For those keen to remember their past, fresh neurons are the worst things. Newly formed neurons in the hippocampus — an area of the brain involved in switching from short term memory to the longer sort — dislodge previously learned data, a May 2014 Science article shows.

That’s counter-intuitive at first. Naively, one would expect new neurons to mean a better brain, thus better memory. On second examination, though, if neurons are the brains, new neurons mean new brain, not the old brain, with its old memories.

Many studies have shown that boosting neural proliferation before learning enhances memory in mice.

More neurons increase the capacity to learn new memories. However, memory is based on circuits, synapses, and maybe pre-existing “grandmother neurons” (whatever that exactly means: it could be a tight group of cells). If one adds new elements, it makes sense that they have nothing to do with pre-existing neuronal geometries.

Quite the opposite: creating new neurons could clear old memories… Therapeutically.

In the 2014, Science study, newborn and adult mice were trained to fear an environment that brought electric shocks. The mice learned the task quickly. Infant mice remembered the horror for only one day, adult mice retained the fear for weeks.

This difference correlates with neurogenesis. Memory persistence in newborn mice was enhanced genetically and by chemically suppressing neurogenesis after learning. In adult mice, four to six weeks of regular exercise — an activity known to promote neurogenesis — reduced the previous fear.

Massive neurogenesis in young animals explains why youngsters do not remember their early life. And, as luck has it, an animal model exists.

Guinea pigs and Chilean rodents called Degus have longer gestation periods than mice, and thus reduced brain growth after birth. Baby Degus and guinea pigs do not have infantile amnesia. Yet, heavy exercise and drugs promoting neurogenesis brings it on.

Just as neurogenesis tends to deny the past, it denies visiting again the feelings one had then. That’s resentment. French for feeling again: re-sentiment (with a second “s” added to make a snake sound).

Nietzsche used the word “ressentiment”, because German has not word for “resentment”.

That semantic gap is, per se, reason enough to suspect that Germans walloped in it: if one avoids a notion like the plague, it is an indication that one indulges in it. Luther is full of resentment against the Jews, and Hitler against the French, and then, the Jews.

For the philosopher Kierkegaard, ressentiment occurs in a “reflective, passionless age“, stifling creativity and passion in passionate individuals. Individuals who do not conform to the masses are made into scapegoats and objects of spite by the masses, to maintain the status quo ante and to imbue the masses with their sense of superiority.

According to Nietzsche, the more a person is strong-willed, and dynamic, the less place and time they have for contemplating what’s done to them. The reaction of a strong-willed person (a “wild beast“), when it happens, is short: it is not a prolonged filling, and take-over of their entire intellect by an obsession.

It’s impressive to realize how the most recent neurological findings (above) relate to those philosophers’ insights.

The super intelligent person is always in full neurogenesis, in her haste to model the world with more faithfulness. That makes her unable to hold a grudge: she has better thing to think about.

This opens a new way out of the eternal wheel of conflict, and various vicious circles: react as wild beast to attack, but then smother what led to it under the new mindset of neurogenesis.

Instead of rejecting the world as painful, and hoping for a better one as Christians, Muslims and Buddhists do, think the world again, and the old problematic will fade away.

The same may apply to entire societies, nations, or religions, or civilization. If any of these favor ressentiment, it will have to spurn neurogenesis, or its societal equivalent. Just as individuals will.

Hence a vicious circle: the more resentment, the less imagination, and intelligence, and thus the more madness in crowds as in individuals.

Let’s notice, moreover, that denial and bad faith (a la Sartre, De Beauvoir) are very close to resentment.

So what would the moral conclusion of the preceding be? Generating new ideas, just as generating new neurons, is how to break out from the past’s vicious circles. Higher intelligence is also a better morality.

Patrice Ayme’

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57 Responses to “NEUROGENESIS: WISDOM; Memories: Resentment”

  1. red Says:

    did you ever get a feeling you cant “change” someone’s mind, even after presenting rigorous logical arguments, clear proof, analysis;

    Its extremely hard. Forget others, even changing one’s habits is very hard. (even silly habits like pet-peeves)

    humans are constantly under the influence of their becoming (with almost uncontrollable intertia/force). Every single thought, feeling, analysis is heavily influenced by that force (bias, attitude). The faculty of logic is used by human mind to perpetuate its bias. It is the nature of the mind (illusion), often unaware.

    addiction (of all kinds) is good example.

    what you propose is nice and all, if capable humans masterfully pursue it. But from a practical standpoint, fuggedaboutit as they say :).

    The only practical and sustainable thing that will work is “indoctrination” in the guise of god or higher power/good (the phenomenon of religion applied scientifically to a society over a period of 10s/100s of years, generations.). You want to uplevel the baseline of human mind everywhere.

    Trying to see it as some kind of “skill” is not sustainable (and often self-deceiving).

    • gmax Says:

      Red, please read Patrice carefully. There are substances enhancing neurogenesis. And EXERCISE, PHYSICAL EXERCISE, is enough for massive neurogenesis.

      If exercise works on rats, it should work on Buddhists too.

      So what Patrice proposes is not pie in the sky, inapplicable stuff. You can start today! 😉

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Red: What I propose is a new way to handle human affairs. Plus, as GMax said, and as the experiences that have been conducted, sometimes for years, neurogenesis can be fostered. So it’s all eminently, not to say imminently, practical.
      PA

    • red Says:

      @gmax/PA , I agree exercise will help in neurogenesis, just like keeping the mind active (brain exercises) will also help. This is mainstream (google search) knowledge.

      It is similar to how exercise helps other organs of physical body.

      My earlier comment (may be off topic) was in regards to neurogeneiss of thoughts, ideas, attitude, thinking. Physical Exercising can only do so much for that.

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        As I said to Partha, meditating WHILE exercising gives out of this world results…

        • red Says:

          YES, it does give out of this world results; I run 5d/wk, and I notice my thinking/contemplation is “heightened” during cardio. I believe this is no different than the “high” you get when taking some drugs(mushroom, weed etc).

          physical exercise also helps keep my rest of the day sharp. But this is just keeping the engine (physical body) fit, thus helps thinking straight. Nothing more.

          meditation/awareness is the main key. And you need some way to be in it 24/7, not just during (or little while after) exercise . And “calm and collected” is the way for it. You can sustain this through out the day, and even during sleep/dream states (according to advanced meditators). “calm” not as in “looking at navel”. calm as in “focused, in control, zen-like”. This involves moral conditioning too (as its hard to be calm if you have any shred of fear. And the way to loose fear, is through ideal morals (aka dharma, natural law)).

          There are higher meditative states(permanent, sustained), humans can get into.

          temporary highs are just that.

          • Patrice Ayme Says:

            Red: To be answered mostly in a separate comment. Meditative states are numerous. They are even necessary to some physical activities. It can be called concentration in some cases. Deep diving in apnea is an example. There is a case when meditation is life saving. Miss the meditation, miss the resuscitation.
            PA

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        There are no off-topic comments. Great ideas come from great brain reorganization, thus, off-topic! ;_)

      • gmax Says:

        @ red: exercise is so powerful for neurogenesis, it is used in labs in place of drugs.

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Red seems indeed to be missing that point, as he seems to persist to call physical exercise a “momentary high”???

          • red Says:

            physical exercise is very important. And i am sure its inner workings (not just on brain/nuerogenesis) is even more amazing. Its a pity we cant sustain it 24/7, you get tired. There is research that shows too much (or extreme) is bad too.

            • Patrice Ayme Says:

              Right. The neurogenesis is CONSECUTIVE to exercise. DURING are altered states of consciousness. Marathon runners get as much down time as couch potatoes, recent studies show.

            • red Says:

              in reality, people’s character(habits) doesn’t change with exercise. In that context, the exercise (and its resultant neurogeneis) is negligible. Its like growing memory power or thinking ability or stamina. They are good to strengthen, but the “driver” hasn’t changed. whats the point. Eating good food keeps a (all) human healthy too. Its not enough.

  2. gmax Says:

    Socrates and Plato thought we were born knowing everything. The picture science offers is vastly different and richer in humanitarisn possibilities.

    Thanks for the heads up!

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Yes, the Socrates-Plato mindset was disastrous. If you know it all, what’s the point of learning? But that’s what those two worthies believe (I think Aristotle said something deeply hilarious about that madness).

  3. Paul Handover Says:

    What an interesting essay and added to by the preceding comments. There’s no question in my mind that our survival will depend on very good minds and equally good decisions.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks Paul… Someone told me the essay was “superb”. It may sound pathetic, but, the author being just an Hominid, compliments are extremely appreciated… 🙂

  4. pshakkottai Says:

    Meditation is supposed to help in controlling passions and think straight. Is it a form of mental exercise? Perhaps it is. I do not what it does to neurogenesis.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      dear Partha: From what I tried to say in the article, meditation would work better after exercise (there is plenty of evidence for this on rats). I do a lot of meditation, in particular DURING exercise: the conclusions are different.

      There was a whole philosophical school around this in Greece, the Peripatecians, students of Aristotle who followed their master as he walked around the Peripatus.

      What I do not believe in, is meditation watching one’s belly, and doing nothing else. However, meditation is a real thing (it lowers heart rate, etc.) Yet, it’s extremely easy to engage after exercise.

    • gmax Says:

      Yes relating neurogenesis to meditation is yet to be done

  5. Florent Boyer-Ayme Says:

    Florent Boyer-Aymé Counter intuitive indeed. The theory for the child amnesia is the unmatured hippocampus, but maybe it is also due a neurogenesis phenomenon. Another thing, if the reason you forget during neurogenesis is the disruption of previous network, so the constant reorganisation of the network in the child brain may be another cause.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Forgetting old memories and creating new ones is primarily caused by neurogenesis. At least that is what was claimed to have been found in this experimental set-up. What you are suggesting is that neurogenesis could be re-organizing the networks, and thus be the INDIRECT cause of the amnesia? Indeed. Maybe more subtle experiments need to be conducted? As part of the Human Brain Project?? !

  6. Florent Boyer-Aymé Says:

    That was a really good article, I was totally unaware of those experiments.

  7. Paul Handover Says:

    Having re-read the essay and others’ comments, causes me to speak a little about my own short-term memory failings. I’m 70 later this year and in the last, oh I don’t know ( can’t remember 😉 ), 2 or 3 years, my ‘event’ memory has declined dreadfully. But it’s not uniform. Even after 2 years, I still struggle to find certain shops in nearby Grants Pass but do recall clearly when our bridge washed out after we moved into the house in October, 2012.

    There is no discernible pattern, and other men of my general age frequently suffer the same way.

    If there were mental exercises that helped stem this problem, I would love to know more; assuming I could remember the details!

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      On (short term) memory loss, I don’t know what to say. Some people seem more fragile (say from bad apo-lipo protein allele).

      One thing one can do, I believe, is no tobacco, no sleeping pill (except melatonin), no alcohol (except perhaps a glass of red wine), and some aerobic exercise nearly everyday (get that heart maxed out!), and one max exercise around once a week/10 days (something that cramps one up). By max exercise, in my case, is mountain running (nothing else compares). If no mountain around (you have them in Oregon), cross country running does just as well.

      Good food, of course…
      PA

    • red Says:

      if i may, try meditation. A simple meditation exercise is just to be aware of yourself in all activities you do (initially we find ourselves lost often, but if you keep at it, soon % of being with yourself greatly exceeds losing self. calm, control and clarity is developed.). A good barometer/progress is to see if the daily activities drive you, or you drive the daily activities.

      Of course physical exercises/fitness are absolute minimum. For old-age i would recommend yoga (fancy word for stretching and proper breathing)

      meditation while doing yoga with proper breathing (pranayama) gives out of this world results (this whole process is collectively called “yoga”).

      And you can “be in it” 24/7 (as yoga includes sitting, sleeping poses too; It just an art of proper physical + mental positioning through out the day).

      if eastern keywords are disturbing, ignore those. Just like everything else, the more you do something, the more you become that. This is particularly (exponentially) true for mind stuff.

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Red: Paul is obviously a very reflective person. I do not exactly know what would be the distinctive definition(s?) between reflective and meditative states. I do know, though, that some sports (solo climbing and apnea) require total neurological control.
        I do not mean this aggressively, please note. I will look at your link when I have time, I am in hectic circumstances in the next week.
        PA

        • red Says:

          reflection/contemplation/meditation all of these help in mind (habits, inertia, anything thats limiting/holds-back) transformation.

          Meditation is reflection on self. Reflection on daily activities takes time away from reflection on self. Increasing self awareness makes apparent all blind spots (wisdom).

          If you are a physically able, healthy human, almost all your problems (aka “suffering”) are mind related. Physical body (including physical brain) just needs basic (of course healthy) sustenance.

          • Paul Handover Says:

            Red, yes I concur entirely about the majority of ‘problems’ being mind related. I have on my bookshelf next to me Roy Masters’ book ‘How Your Mind Can Keep You Well – An Introduction to Stress Management.

            But if there’s one thing I would like to crack is starting and maintaining a programme of meditation. So many have recommended this approach and, rationally and emotionally, I know it will offer benefits. However, for some reason I can’t translate that ambition into actually starting.

            Would love to listen to your advice about how to get started. You don’t have a blog do you? If not, fancy writing a guest post for Learning from Dogs! 😉 Contact details on the home page.

            (Sorry Patrice – didn’t mean to hog the channel!)

            • Patrice Ayme Says:

              Hog all you want, Paul. Even when I disagree with you, I find you interesting. Meditation and memory are vast questions. I pointed out that too much memory could be bad, basically.
              The first thing to get good memory, is to stop stressing about it, and thinking about what we really care about, without getting drawn to, and drowned, in formalism…
              PA

            • red Says:

              paul, like any new habit, meditation takes time to cultivate. It is after all a life long endeavor of “understanding one’s self”. It is easier if we dont view it as some new task (or half-hour daily exercise in navel-gazing).

              To permanently establish this habit, first our mind needs to be convinced of the benefits. Like any hobby, we need to develop interest in the topic. And this means reading up on theory, on what is mediation, why do we need it, what happens if we pretend it doesn’t exist. There are different styles of meditation, and different end goals, different schools of thought. self-inquiry is my preferred approach, as its the only thing you can rely on (your own self). There is lot of literature on this. But all of this is just food for thought, nothing more. There is also vast Buddhist literature, you can ignore all the theology and just focus on basics. Theory becomes a burden , so all conceptual knowledge has to be discarded. So I dont advocate any philosophy or sect or schools of thought. Only believe in your realizations.

              And the end-goal of all this is full wisdom, reality as-is, liberation (end of suffering), control of one’s self, “the world is truly yours”, you are capable of handling anything, you can exercise “real free-will”, you are at ease being you, your knowledge will be flaw-less, you naturally empathize (as you will be aware what others are going through). This is not some mumbo-jumbo, you will realize and experience it your self.

              this is about wisdom (and practicality, common sense).

              But If you are just looking for basic stress relieving meditation, this one looks good.

            • red Says:

              paul, If you are just looking for basic stress relieving meditation, this one looks good.

            • Patrice Ayme Says:

              Anger also works for relieving basic stress. Combat. Devouring the sheep, as wolves do. A few wolves, the other day, 160 sheep dead, just for fun, no more stress. So it is in the French Alps. OK, shepherds are depressed, then, but then, if the wolves tried to devour them too… Stress would vanish…
              😉

              Morality? Those who stress out about nothing are not in danger of being devoured enough…

            • red Says:

              PA morality is just a tool, like meditation. It just helps condition our consciousness. It would be a pity if we cant experience all the nature has to offer. Do you think sheep are not-intelligent and wolves some kind of genius. They evolved ok. Infact wolves are going extinct. Humans too survived(evolution) mostly by adopting non-wolf(non-violent) stuff. There is no right, wrong, good, evil, no morals, or non-morals. Everything is a tool. End goal is living life to the FULL ( and we need to know in full whats out there, meaning FULL WISDOM). After a kid is done messing around, he will settle to the mature stuff.

            • Patrice Ayme Says:

              Last I checked, wolves were coming back, thanks to higher ethics. Men kill(ed) wolves. In the Alps, wolves, bears, lynxes and various condor like birds were exterminated with poison.
              Wolves are coming back big time in the Alps, and do not just eat sheep, and even calves, but hate them too.
              Justice.
              Ecological justice.
              And yes, wolves are much brighter. They are so incredibly smart, men with guns find them very hard to kill.
              PA

            • red Says:

              well, not bright enough as tigers, which almost make wolves extinct if you put them together, it seems.

              anyway, my point was, there are traits in sheep we can use just like in wolves or even better. Hate is useful tool, but its extra baggage, thats not needed in todays human world. You will get far with love than hate in today’s (and future) human evolution. Again, we need to know when to use which tool, and when to discard them. There is such thing as karma (inertia) after all.

            • Patrice Ayme Says:

              Hmmm… The sites I saw just say that tigers can kill wolves, and even nearly disappear them. However, that does not make them brighter.

            • red Says:

              from the wiki link, tigers seem to slaughter the wolves just for fun (part of their own stress relieving i guess).

              “proven records of tigers killing wolves without consuming them”

              And they will be glad to show no mercy in making wolves go extinct (if both happen to be in same area).

              from intelligence (not brute force) point of view, wolves do seem bright. Though there are more brighter species we can pick from – fox, crows, penguin (?).

              Dogs are not bad either, they figured out being-non-violent with humans goes a long way in their evolution. Doesn’t matter if humans bred them, the fact that they were more willing than wolves is testimony to their soft-intelligence.

              and coming back to sheep and “being bright”, indeed 90% of current humans act like sheep of religion. particularly islam where they blindly submit no questions asked.

              If a superior human evolved to be like the sheep (in some aspects), who are we to question the sheepy traits.

              if mhmd comes alive now, and asks his sheep to do a cult-suicide i bet most of that sheep will willingly jump in.

              Any way, my point was, sheep’s traits did wonders to humans, ask any christin/muslm human. Some will attribute most of the human growth (islmic art, literature, even science, how ironic) is from that same sheepy influence (soft, blind faith, which let them not worry about anything else just focus – just like sheep…”not worrying”).

              if humans were not the masterful sheep that they were, and instead they were like wolves(and its traits) , we probably will have only 1% of current human population alive.

              I am not saying having only 1% population is bad 🙂 its the survival of the fittest right ?

          • Patrice Ayme Says:

            Vagal nerves short-circuit the mind. You know, deep pain. To get a feeling about it, plant a dagger deep, through a major bone. (I tried that once… unwittingly.) The mind can overrule the pain, and the collapse of the cardiovascular system, but it requires great motivation…

            To boast as a crow on a branch, I pretty much meditate like I breathe… But I navigate through extremely varied states of meditation, and that’s why I look at meditators I come across with a jaundiced eye. They seem to know just one trick… pretty much akin to the one you need for deep diving in apnea.

            • red Says:

              life happens in our mind. And the way to fully explore that space is through awareness (for which meditation is a tool).

              meditation is not a trick or some skill of navel gazing. Its not reflection on some philosophy, or any kind of concept(s).

              bottom-line is end of unhappiness, (one’s own) suffering. Everything else is just chatter.

            • Patrice Ayme Says:

              End of one’s unhappiness? I was unhappy all along? Answered in separate comment.

  8. Patrice Ayme Says:

    To Red: Buddhism suggests to end one’s unhappiness, you suggest? By assuming we were unhappy all along, Buddhism assumes something abominable about the human condition.

    Not the best way to superior neurogenesis, I reckon….

    • red Says:

      unhappiness in lack of full knowledge/wisdom.

      unhappiness NOT as in “sad for no reason, why cant I understand infinity in infinite outer fields like chemistry, biology, physics;”

      unhappiness as in “uncomfortable with the way things are, or unable to answer why they are the way they are, restlessly on a quest to find more, unsatisfied, unanswered questions in the nature”. One with full wisdom will no have problem answering any of these “in the context of mind”. And Mind is the space life happens. And it is a limited universe (self created from birth), not infinite, so exploring it does have an END, with result being FULL wisdom. No more quest.

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Quest is not wisdom? Quest is wisdom. Quest is also humility. Quest is sincerity. Quest is an offering of one’s question. Quest is empathy. I ask, therefore you are.

        • red Says:

          Some rich billionaires are happy with their version of reality too. What ever keeps us fully satisfied. “the world is self”. Terminology/concepts does not matter, its just chatter.

  9. Paul Handover Says:

    Red, thanks for that link to basic meditation practice. Will print that out and commit, starting Sept. 1st.

  10. Quietening one’s self down. | Learning from Dogs Says:

    […] Ayme’s blog.  It was a comment from ‘R.’ in response to my question on this PA post.  Here’s how the comments flowed (hope this isn’t too long-winded but I wanted to […]

  11. R Says:

    PA, science indeed is going to help human evolution, but not sure how much it can help “self”/soul (mind, habits, character). For example, they were no where near finding a pill for addiction, Even then, it may solve some substance addiction problems…but not sure about meta(mind, thinking)-addictions like character/habits.

    I recently came across this article where they were able to switch brain states from fearful to cheerful in mouse
    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28950532…but then I wonder if the original mouse’s self-integrity is maintained. I mean, its like getting into a road accident involving our head and we loose all memory (say, sad), and now its clean state-of-sorts. What about any new sad memories…do we need another accident (or pill).

    Another recent article i came across suggests humans are actually becoming dumber (not more mature) because of advancements (agriculture, science, anything that lets humans depend more on external stuff like tools, pills).
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-08-27/forget-%E2%80%9Cpeak-oil%E2%80%9D-and-%E2%80%9Cpeak-credit%E2%80%9D-%E2%80%A6-are-we-downslope-%E2%80%9Cpeak-intelligence%E2%80%9D

    Combine the above two articles, we have a future where science can potentially render human’s self-identity (integrity of personhood) in jeopardy, and make him more dumber.

    human’s already lost most of the physical prowess over the last 1000s of years, hopefully they dont loose their brains too in the next 1000s. Either way, we still need a mechanism(meditation, self-analysis) to comprehend the real reality that happens in mind/thinking/thought-space.

    I hope science can find us all a “wisdom pill” (intuition of reality). Until then, we can use our god given mind to explore its full depths.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      R: That humans are getting dumber is a complicated issue. It seems that brain capacity is 10% less than with Neanderthal (at least). The link you gave, otherwise excellent seems to forget that point. (The reaction time thing is not necessarily connected to intelligence, quite the opposite, BTW.)

      Science has interfered with the biosphere for the last million years at least.

      Science has been reflective forever (Socrates was wrong on that one).

      Science is common sense, it’s us.

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