Reply To: Inhibitory neurons at play between L+R prefrontal cortex

  • Don Salmon

    April 27, 2023 at 9:41 pm

    Hi Whit:

    I read the article and if I’m understanding it correctly, it underscores a point I’ve been making since I read TMAHE over 10 years ago.

    While it’s helpful to have these theoretical discussions in which we talk as if there’s some precise delineation between left and right hemispheres, my understanding is that in practice, we have absolutely no idea in any moment what is going on in terms of relative activity in each hemisphere.

    I think it’s much much more powerful to learn to discern the differences in attention that are occurring moment to moment.

    This is particularly interesting to me because cognitive flexibility was the main theme of my doctoral dissertation.

    In the mid 1990s, I did clinical work, teaching people with chronic pain how to use mindfulness to reduce pain. My subjective assessment of how people did was that almost 2/3 weren’t actually being mindful at all; they were just using mindfulness techniques to develop muscle relaxation.

    Which, of course, is great, but I know that if they understood mindfulness it would be more powerful. So the hypothesis I developed was, the sign that people were actually being mindful was the their mindset shifted, which reflected a significant level of cognitive flexibility. My general estimate was about 33% of people actually had sufficient cognitive flexibility to use mindfulness to reduce pain.

    My specific hypothesis for the research was that pain reduction would be directly proportional to the level of cognitive flexibility (ie more flexibility, more pain reduction).

    I (and my advisors!) were quite impressed to see that in fact, in the experiment, about 30% of research subjects demonstrated sufficient cognitive flexibility to make a significant reduction in pain, and in fact, flexibility was indeed proportional to the level of cognitive flexibility.

    Now, you don’t need any brain scans to see this. Les Fehmi, a physiological psychologist, taught people to modify their attention, and over 50 years used this with great success to reduce depression, anxiety, chronic pain, relationship problems, and to train competitive athletes (including those at the Olympic level) to improve their skills.

    In real life, attention is INCREDIBLY complex, and in any moment, you’re using a very very multi-layered level of different kinds of attention, some of which you can correlate with the hemispheres, but for the most part, you’re using not just the whole brain at each moment, but the entire nervous system, and in reality, the consciousness associated with all the trillions of cells in the body (and dare I say, the consciousness outside the body as well>))