Reply To: The Salience Network

  • Don Salmon

    June 7, 2023 at 2:27 pm

    I’m not sure what “cognitively penetrable” means, but from the context, I’m guessing you mean, is it possible to intentionally shift from effortful, tense, detached, analytic, narrow attention to effortless, relaxed, immersed, intuitive, global attention.

    yes. There’s over 50 years of research verifying it:

    1. Dr. Les Fehmi, a physiological psychologist. He spent 50 years teaching people to shift from what he referred to as narrow, detached attention to wide, immersed attention. There’s a very rough correlation with the hemispheres, and the various modes you refer to. Theoretically that may be interesting, but since the whole brain is active all the time in real life, outside the lab, for the practical purposes you’re referring to, the actual experience of shifting attention is far more important than what’s going on in the brain (which we only know through experience, indirectly or directly, anyway. This is true for all of the results of science, however much – through narrow, abstracted attention – we constantly forget about it)

    2. Dr. John Yates, a neuroscientist and longtime Buddhist teacher, uses the terms ‘selective attention” and “peripheral awareness” to describe these varying forms of attention. He had students with 20 or 30 years of experience meditating who had not been successful in shifting to states of unity consciousness succeed in a matter of months by training them in shifting attention.

    There are many other examples (Loch Kelly has been a subject in numerous labs, teaching similar shifts of attention)

    As far as the idea of depression and the right hemisphere, it’s not that cut and dried. Similarly, perhaps you missed my comment that the association of the default mode with any particular state of mind is incorrect. Scientists say the default mode may be associated with negative, tense dysphoric thinking and it may be associated with positive creative mind wandering. It’s not one-to-one, neither are moods one to one corresponding with particular hemisphere.

    It’s a shame that Iain so often goes back and forth from describing his “hemisphere hypothesis” as metaphorical vs literal. Since we know ALL the functions of the right hemisphere can, in the case of brain damage, be taken over COMPLETELY by the left hemisphere, and vice versa, the idea of relying on particular brain regions as definitive just doesn’t work.

    Further more, parapsychological research shows cognition is perfectly possible without use of the brain at all, so it really helps us a LOT, I think, to take all info about the brain as metaphoric.