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Old 05-07-09, 10:19 AM
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"Private Life of the Brain"

http://www.newscientist.com/article/...html?full=true

I just read this old article in New Scientist, the most interesting portions of which are unfortunately not available online.

I apologize if its already been discussed, a search didn't turn up anything.

I've always been interested in how the brain functions, but have a fairly weak grasp of the mechanics of it, and am hoping someone more knowledgeable can discuss the implications of this.

In essence, the article notes that the brain uses the same amount of energy when a person is resting as it does when a person is engaged in a challenging intellectual task, like doing complicated arithmetic.

Apparently, this is because there is a portion of the brain which has been discovered and is referred to as an "organ within an organ" which is activated whenever the brain is at rest, and deactivates when a person focuses on something challenging.

There are a number of suggestions as to its function, including sorting and storing memories, but for me the most interesting idea is that it is involved in generating stream-of-consciousness thoughts, or daydreams. In support of this idea is the fact that a woman with damage to the medial prefrontal cortex, one of the main locations of this "organ within an organ" described "inhabiting an empty mind" and not experiencing the normal "wandering, stream-of-consciousness thoughts that most of us take for granted"

The article notes that problems with this system are associated with a number of disorders, including ADHD.

I'm sorry if this isn't clear. I'd like to quote some excerpts, but since its not available free online I think there might be copyright issues.

After reading the article, my first thought was that if daydreaming and random thoughts are generated and controlled by a system in the brain that deactivates when someone focuses on a task, what happens in the brains of people with ADHD, who continue to daydream and have random thoughts while they try to focus.

If this system generates daydreams, and it shuts off when we focus, how do those of us with ADHD continue to daydream? Is it possible that this system remains active for us all the time, or that whatever system controls its activation and deactivation doesn't work properly, and it turns off and on irregularly? Could temporarily disabling these parts of the brain "cure" ADHD, by rendering us unable to daydream? What about its energy consumption? The article suggests that this system uses the same amount of energy as the systems that activate when we focus, so if they were both activated in people with ADHD, does that mean our brains would consume double the energy of NT people's brains when we try and focus?

I'd be really interested to hear if anyone has any thoughts on this, particularly if you have a decent grasp of how the brain works and could elaborate on this.
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Old 05-08-09, 07:44 PM
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

Hi APSJ,

I have given this subject of daydreaming, busy-headedness and interruptions much thought over the last couple of years. Particularly because it has been a frequently debated topic between my girlfriend, who has with a busy, much-interrupted, anxious ADD mind, and me with my quiet, hyper-focussed, in-the-moment ADD mind.

I think that conscious awareness of our “thoughts” is but a mere glimpse at the myriad of “thinking activities” in our minds at any time. There are a multitude of tasks that the brain handles in parallel each second, without any concious (management) intervention. Without conscious thought we balance as we walk; we store events, emotions and facts into our memory; we catch balls; we enhance and analyse light arriving on our retinas and we hold sophisticated conversations without preparing our sentences or thinking about the rules of grammar.

In fact our sub-conscious processes/thinking is often far more sophisticated, perhaps pondering the stock market crash, the best school for our children or whether we like the new series of Lost. So really pretty much all of our thinking is sub-conscious, it seems the conscious is no more than a selective view of elements of our highly parallel sub-conscious thinking. Some speculate that the idea of conscious will is an illusion and that when we “decide” to get up, this is not a conscious decision but the sub-conscious sends an impulse to leave our chair at the same time it notifies the conscious of the decision. The conscious just likes to think its in charge, its really more an observer than a manager of what is happening.

In ADD, we have “impaired” executive functions, our concious appears less in charge than for neuro-typicals. ADHD symptoms include a poorer time-sense, weaker adherence to rules, less control of our focus (particularly on less stimulating boring activities) and impaired emotional regulation. Thomas Brown, author of several best selling ADD books, likens the ADD mind to an orchestra without a conductor. I think Mr Brown completely misses the point. Our conscious was never in charge, there never was a conductor, not even for “well-adjusted” Neuro-Typicals.

With all these parallel processes taking place requiring actions be taken and decisions made every second, there does need to be some way of controlling everything. Without a system, we might not catch the ball, our eyes might decide to follow its trajectory whilst our hands stubbornly remain in our pockets. The mind's decision making does not need a conductor with some clever score (how would evolution possibly design such a thing?), the mind just needs a simple automatic system to ensure the most critical actions are taken and the most important decisions are made. Rather than a dictatorship run by Mr Brown's conductor, the mind is a democracy, with the sub-conscious voting on every decision made, not with ballots but with electrical stimulation levels.

The brain is effectively an analogue computer: it responds not to binary on/off commands but to the greatest levels of electric current/stimulation. All parts of the brain send electrical stimulation requests for particular tasks, activities and decisions. The greatest stimulation wins, simple as that. Dopamine affects these electrical currents, as it influences how well charges are carried between neurons. In ADD dopamine is differently regulated than for Neuro-typicals, with sometimes more and sometimes less dopamine in different parts of the brain, hence in ADD there are different levels of electrical stimulation, in particular it with executive functions. With ADD minds less influenced by frontal lobe stimulation, decisions concerning organisation, planning, motivation, procrastination, future vs in-the-moment desires, conformity and social constraints are impacted.

Dopamine also affects the “conscious view” of our minds. Some people with ADD have higher stimulation coming to the conscious from these sub-conscious processes and are constantly wrestling with these unbidden thoughts arriving in their minds. They struggle when trying to meditate and find it hard to “empty their minds of thoughts”. It is hard for their conscious to ignore the cacophony of stimulated brain subsystem communications. For other people with ADD, it is just the opposite, their quiet minds (perhaps with less stimulation from the medial pre-frontal cortex?) seldom hear from these sub-conscious processes, thoughts about the future do not pop in, memories from the past do not interrupt them, ideas do not keep arriving. But this thinking and processing is still going in the sub-conscious, people with quiet minds are no less clever and have considered ideas and issues as deeply. Quiet mind people often hear their own views and opinions firstly when then talk aloud, sometimes being quite surprised by what they have to say! This effect is also the essence of intuition, the sub-conscious thinking may have been prolonged, profound and complex but it arrives fully formed in the conscious - “where did that idea come from?”. Many ADDers feel they are deeply intuitive and this is probably due to the the fact their conscious has no prior warning of the sub-conscious thinking.

So bringing this back to brain activity and daydreaming, if conscious thought and processing is merely the tip of the iceberg in what is going on in the brain, it is not surprising that the brain remains as active when it stops doing maths. Multiple tasks, thoughts, ideas and dreams are active in our brains at all times, it just depends on what your conscious notices or focusses on. Certainly for some with ADD, parts of our brains are more active and some less so, unfortunately to date medical science has concentrated only on the less active parts. But just because we have fewer votes from the time-sense and rules governance voters in our government does not mean that our decisions are necessarily inferior they are often more based on today, on interest and on what is right, not rules that we have been told are right. It may be that in our democracy we foind the frontal lobes just a little to self-important and decided to pay less attention to their votes altogether.
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Old 05-09-09, 01:53 AM
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheMoment View Post
Some speculate that the idea of conscious will is an illusion and that when we “decide” to get up, this is not a conscious decision but the sub-conscious sends an impulse to leave our chair at the same time it notifies the conscious of the decision. The conscious just likes to think its in charge, its really more an observer than a manager of what is happening.
I recall reading that there have been brain imaging studies done which show that when a person makes a decision, parts of the brain controlling the action activate before the person consciously makes the decision.

The idea that the mind is just an epiphenomenon of brain processes is intuitively appealing to me, and actually rather comforting, because I've spent much of my life consciously planning courses of action that I fail to carry out despite never changing my mind about my intent to do so.

On the other hand, with medication, I can often follow through on these things, and there are techniques I've found that help me to control my behavior. For example, I am never able to start a project until I have just barely enough time to get it done, but I can sometimes convince myself that a portion of it is really due earlier, allowing me to do that portion shortly before my artificial deadline. Of course, this doesn't conflict with Epiphenomenalism because all of these things could have been products of unconscious processes which I only think I manipulated.

Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheMoment View Post
In ADD, we have “impaired” executive functions, our concious appears less in charge than for neuro-typicals. ADHD symptoms include a poorer time-sense, weaker adherence to rules, less control of our focus (particularly on less stimulating boring activities) and impaired emotional regulation. Thomas Brown, author of several best selling ADD books, likens the ADD mind to an orchestra without a conductor. I think Mr Brown completely misses the point. Our conscious was never in charge, there never was a conductor, not even for “well-adjusted” Neuro-Typicals.
This is an interesting point. There are certainly things that everyone, including NT people, may consciously want to do, but be unable to, despite being physically and mentally capable of them. I'm struggling to think of examples, but the only one that comes to mind is becoming paralyzed by fear in an emergency.

I sort of like the orchestra analogy, but find it somewhat inexact. I would say the ADHD mind is like an orchestra of the blind, oblivious to the conductor's gesticulations, or perhaps, given the fact that I'm quite functional when left to my own devices, a classical conductor trying to direct a jazz improv session. Or, of course, if the mind is just an epiphenomenon, a conductor trying to direct a tape recording.

Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheMoment View Post
The mind's decision making does not need a conductor with some clever score (how would evolution possibly design such a thing?), the mind just needs a simple automatic system to ensure the most critical actions are taken and the most important decisions are made. Rather than a dictatorship run by Mr Brown's conductor, the mind is a democracy, with the sub-conscious voting on every decision made, not with ballots but with electrical stimulation levels.
The evolutionary origin of the mind is another fascinating topic. Are you familiar with Douglas Hofstadter's books? I haven't read them(they've been on my list of non-fiction books to read for a couple of years now; I actually will read them eventually since the subject interests me), so I may be mischaracterizing his views, but I think, in essence, that he views the mind as a type of feedback loop. The evolutionary advantage of increasing capacities for perceiving, identifying, and analyzing things one encounters is self-evident. At some point, these automatic functions reach a point where they turn on themselves, and thus self-awareness, and consciousness, is born. On this view, "we" really are just a byproduct of a capacity which evolved under influences unrelated to it, and over which we have no control.

Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheMoment View Post
Dopamine also affects the “conscious view” of our minds. Some people with ADD have higher stimulation coming to the conscious from these sub-conscious processes and are constantly wrestling with these unbidden thoughts arriving in their minds. They struggle when trying to meditate and find it hard to “empty their minds of thoughts”. It is hard for their conscious to ignore the cacophony of stimulated brain subsystem communications. For other people with ADD, it is just the opposite, their quiet minds (perhaps with less stimulation from the medial pre-frontal cortex?) seldom hear from these sub-conscious processes, thoughts about the future do not pop in, memories from the past do not interrupt them, ideas do not keep arriving. But this thinking and processing is still going in the sub-conscious, people with quiet minds are no less clever and have considered ideas and issues as deeply. Quiet mind people often hear their own views and opinions firstly when then talk aloud, sometimes being quite surprised by what they have to say! This effect is also the essence of intuition, the sub-conscious thinking may have been prolonged, profound and complex but it arrives fully formed in the conscious - “where did that idea come from?”. Many ADDers feel they are deeply intuitive and this is probably due to the the fact their conscious has no prior warning of the sub-conscious thinking.
Interesting. I wonder how this fits into activities that seem to initiate with the conscious mind? For example, when reading a book, we see the words and understand them consciously, but an unconscious mechanism applies rules of grammar and syntax to let us grasp the full meaning. For people like me, with ADHD that causes constant interuptions with these types of activities, I wonder if the thoughts that come into my head would still exist, unconsciously, if I didn't have ADHD. Is this what you're suggesting? For example, when reading a book, I often find some specific point or idea really interesting, and my mind starts to examine it, preventing me from continuing to absorb material as I read. Would someone who had no trouble just reading straight through potentially have the same examination of interesting topics going on unconsciously, to emerge later as fully formed ideas? It seems like all my good ideas come while I'm trying to focus on something else. I can't relate at all to the cliche of someone thinking of something brilliant in the shower or while going for a run.

Regarding those with ADHD feeling intuitive, I've often wondered about my capacity to judge how much time a project will take. Consciously, I'm hopeless, and ADHD is known to interfere with time perception. On the other hand, when I try and work on a project, with few exceptions, I cannot, until suddenly, shortly before its due, I become intensely focused on it, and focus completeley and continuously on it until it is done. And I always(so far) get it done on time. Sometimes(often actually) with literally seconds to spare. In these cases, if my procrastination had persisted for another hour, I would have failed these projects. Consciously, I look at the time and have no idea how it relates to the tasks involved in a project. I usually figure I'll need a week. When I find I haven't started it the night before its due, I'll think I have to start immediatelly if I'm going to finish on time, but I don't. I start late at night. Somehow, it seems like some mechanism in my brain calculates exactly how long a project will take, with remarkable accuracy, and triggers my ability to focus at the exact last second, but doesn't give my conscious mind access to this calculation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheMoment View Post
So bringing this back to brain activity and daydreaming, if conscious thought and processing is merely the tip of the iceberg in what is going on in the brain, it is not surprising that the brain remains as active when it stops doing maths. Multiple tasks, thoughts, ideas and dreams are active in our brains at all times, it just depends on what your conscious notices or focusses on.
That certainly makes sense, but it is interesting to me that there are such distinct systems in the brain that are active when we are focused on something and when we are not. I feel like there are some potentially deeper implications of this that are eluding me at the moment, aside from the possibility that for people with ADHD, the systems don't switch on and off reliably.

Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheMoment View Post
But just because we have fewer votes from the time-sense and rules governance voters in our government does not mean that our decisions are necessarily inferior they are often more based on today, on interest and on what is right, not rules that we have been told are right. It may be that in our democracy we foind the frontal lobes just a little to self-important and decided to pay less attention to their votes altogether.
I love this idea of the brain as a democracy. I often feel like I'm engaged in an internal struggle with my unconscious, and that it has very different goals and values from the conscious "me". I know Freudian terminology is obsolete, but it feels as if my conscious mind is dominated by my super-ego, as I frequently set high standards for myself and rigid plans to follow, while my actions are controlled by my Id, which naturally disregards these plans in favor of immediately enjoyable activities. At some point, my Ego, having access to the internal time keeping mechanism I mentioned above, steps in to prevent a failure that would result in serious and imminent unpleasant consequences.

Who's to say which is better? I certainly think it was a poor choice, for example, to leave a paper to the last second, as I just did, with my graduation depending on its timely submission, but then again, I got it done in the absolute minimum amount of time possible. If I had done it earlier, I would have reread it, looked for conflicting information, probably fiddled with the wording and organization, formatting the citations properly(honestly, what could be more useless? you got the author, you the title, you got the journal, you got the date, so there's no way you're not going to know the source i'm referring to, why do i have to put the title in italics, the journal name in small caps, etc.?) It could have taken up a lot of time that apparently I felt was better spent looking up random things on wikipedia, checking my e-mail, posting on this forum, and actually starting to write an essay on a totally unrelated, but more interesting topic.

Sorry if this post is somewhat incoherent. In my defence, I submitted my last paper of my academic career an hour and a half ago, by e-mail 20 seconds before it was due, so my mind just went from completely focused to completely free, which for me usually means any thoughts I express will be unintelligible.
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Old 05-09-09, 08:45 AM
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheMoment View Post
Hi APSJ,

In ADD, we have “impaired” executive functions, our concious appears less in charge than for neuro-typicals. ADHD symptoms include a poorer time-sense, weaker adherence to rules, less control of our focus (particularly on less stimulating boring activities) and impaired emotional regulation. Thomas Brown, author of several best selling ADD books, likens the ADD mind to an orchestra without a conductor. I think Mr Brown completely misses the point. Our conscious was never in charge, there never was a conductor, not even for “well-adjusted” Neuro-Typicals.

With all these parallel processes taking place requiring actions be taken and decisions made every second, there does need to be some way of controlling everything. Without a system, we might not catch the ball, our eyes might decide to follow its trajectory whilst our hands stubbornly remain in our pockets. The mind's decision making does not need a conductor with some clever score (how would evolution possibly design such a thing?), the mind just needs a simple automatic system to ensure the most critical actions are taken and the most important decisions are made. Rather than a dictatorship run by Mr Brown's conductor, the mind is a democracy, with the sub-conscious voting on every decision made, not with ballots but with electrical stimulation levels.
You make some interesting points. I had never thought of Brown's conductor analogy as being anything more than a rough likeness for the purposes of discussion, though- as he supercedes this later in the book.
I am just rereading Brown's book now- and have been struck by his descriptions in chapter one of Larry the Hockey Player and Monica the video game fiend. What strikes me as interesting is the situations in which they can pay attention well. In both examples these supposedly "disabled" individuals ( to use Barkelys charming description)- do superbly well in the enriched - multitasking environment that they love. These are people who thrive on complexity and are destroyed my tedium. Funny thing is - I totally get that.
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Old 05-09-09, 11:09 AM
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

Thanks for bringing up this interesting topic!!

In fact a study was recently published that showed that people with ADHD had more problems switching off the brain´s default network. Just like you predicted, APSJ:-))
Extremely interesting, isn´t it??

1: Brain Res. 2009 Mar 10. [Epub ahead of print] Links
A lack of default network suppression is linked to increased distractibility in ADHD.

Fassbender C, Zhang H, Buzy WM, Cortes CR, Mizuiri D, Beckett L, Schweitzer JB.

This article explains the default network at length:

The Brain's Default Network
Anatomy, Function, and Relevance to Disease
Randy L. Buckner a , b , c , d , e , Jessica R. Andrews-Hanna a , b , c , and Daniel L. Schacter a
Volume 1124 Issue The Year in Cognitive Neuroscience 2008 , Pages 1 - 263 (March 2008)

Here are some study points I made while reading the article:
Default network

Medial prefrontal regions are associated with self-referential processing.

The default network is to be studied as a fundamental neurobiological system with physiological and cognitive properties that distinguish it from other systems.

The default system is a brain system much like the motor system or the visual system. Understanding the default network has clinical implications for brain disease.

The system has multiple interacting hubs and subsystems.

A consistent set of regions increases activity during passive tasks when individuals are left undirected to think to themselves.

Idea: There is a competition between cognitive resources for internal modes of cognition and focus on the external world.

Sensory-evoked responses were attentuated in individuals who showed the strongest spontaneous activity correlations.

Is the default network associated with a broadly tuned form of outward attention?

Tasks that elicit increased activity in the default network relative to other tasks:

Global versus focused attention

Balint´s syndrome-tunnel vision-patients do not notice objects outside the immediate focus of attention

Activate the default network:
Imagine the future
Theory of mind
Moral dilemmas
Think about the past

Cognitive experiences such as shame, guilt, pride-do they build upon the default network?

Self-relevant mental exploration-activate MPFC


Two functionally competing brain systems:

1.Mental operations detached from the external environment
2. Focused information extraction via sensory channels

ex.focused external visual attention

How is this competition regulated?
Fronto-parietal controle system?


Autism spectrum disorders

Mundy 2003: MPFC may be central to understand ASD
Lack of activity in the default network during passive tasks
Lack of self-referential processing
Is the system intact but under-utilized?

---------------------------------------------

I think it is a very interesting ide that there is actually a competition between the default network and outwardly tuned systems like the motor system or focused attention on a task. This means that a person who can not pay attention to a task is not neccessarily lazy,quite the opposite, but his/her cognitive resources are already so much at use in the default network that there is not enough to do more.

On a personal level this conceptual idea rings very true to me. It seems to me that what meds can do for me is "silence" my brain so that I am able to focus better on some practical task. It actually feels like dumbing down because I literally feel that my brain goes empty. Someone else on this forum explained this feeling very well, I think it was steven d, it feels like going from a busy city to a desert Pacific island. The other interesting thing that seems to be true, is that you actually spend less energy when focused at an external task. If I manage to do that, I feel so much more energetic after a couple of hours. On the contrary, if I just stay on the couch staring out in the air, thinking for a couple of hours (and I do that a lot!), I feel exhausted afterwards, it´s actually not refreshing at all. Still, I am very inclined to do it, I can´t resist it. I have to drag myself out of it, and force myself to get started doing something.

So my next question to you all, is: Does anyone know of a reliable way to turn the default system off?? Experiences??

I have some ideas that it might have to do with the level of locus coeruleus and noradrenaline network activation in the brain.

Too low levels of activation will cause inattention and drowsiness. Narcolepsy is the extreme example. However, (and this is fascinating!), too high levels will also cause inattention in the sense that it will cause a broadly directed scanning attention that cannot dwell on details, but is very good at getting the full picture. It sounds to me like this is a situation in which the default network will be triggered, trying to make sense of all the different pieces of information and binding it all together. If this is true, it might explain why low doses of drugs like Ritalin and Strattera work in predominantly inattentives, not by increasing noradrenaline, but by turning down locus coeruleus activity, and hence decreasing noradrenergic activation to a more optimal level for focused attention.
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Old 05-09-09, 04:16 PM
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

Olavia,

Thanks! I'll definitely have to check out those articles before my university database access is cut off.

Regarding deactivating the default network..I read another unrelated article recently which discussed an experiment whereby a region of the brain was deactivated temporarily and "harmlessly" using some kind of magnetic thing...I wonder if this is a potential future treatment for ADHD?
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Old 05-09-09, 08:10 PM
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

Very interesting discussion. I've only been diagnosed 18 months, have read a fair bit but my knowledge of neuro-science is pretty limited (though I will now have a read of Douglas Hofstadter and look up Epiphenomenalism!), but I love logically-sound big-pictures and find much of the conventional explanations for ADD just don't make sense to me. Interesting about the "default network", I think Olavia you are saying (in IT terms that I am familiar with) that we don't have enough CPU cycles to both internally contemplate and be actively engaged with the outside World? So when we stop looking out we can look in? However I am always externally focussed and do not believe this means I contemplate less or spend less time in my default network? With me the meds helped little and they did not silence my already quiet brain, they made me less bored doing housework etc and need input/stimulation less. My thinking comes when I am reading, watching, writing not when I stare into space. I still struggle with understanding how ADD affects our conscious/subconscious minds:
  • If the frontal lobes are the centre of thinking and location of "I" then why are people with ADD often such deep thinkers? Don't we have sub-optimal lobes? Shouldn't we have less sense of self?
  • Why do some people with ADD have no time-sense whatsoever and some have pretty good time sense. By this I means: knowing what time it is, knowing how long things have taken or will take, planning the future, setting goals, having mind pictures of the future etc. I am hopeless at all this except I am very good at logically predicting future outcomes such as the current economic crisis, societal changes, successful bands or upcoming technologies. Is this a compensatory ability because I can't imagine myself in the future?Is it that there are say 100 different executive time functions which are differently affected for each person?
  • Why do some people with ADD daydream and some don't. I don't/can't daydream, instead I read, talk, watch TV. I seldom sit on my own thinking, never contemplate the future, never fantasise and get quickly bored without input.
  • ADDers brains develop with age perhaps less in some areas due to less connectivity, but then what parts develop instead? Brains are so plastic I cannot see that our brains don't develop in other areas and other ways instead. ADD is not a retardation, its just lower connectivity with certain regions isn't it?
  • Why do some ADDers have busy minds and some quiet minds? Is there an advantage to either? My mind has no interruptions, no thoughts about tomorrow, few memories, just "what should I do now"? I have no problem with focus when interested,so hyper-focus frequently without meds. Problem is sustaining interest not sustaining focus.
  • What is Inattentive ADD? Seems very poorly defined. Some think it means slow, some think under-motivated? I'm under-activated but fast when in action? Is the hyper vs inattentive due to a difference in nor-epinephrine levels?
  • While ADD is about under-stimulation, how come some people with ADD claim not to get bored? Is focus/boredom just different ways of looking at the same issue?
  • Why do people with ADD excel at big-picture thinking? Is this because they hate detail? I know I think very differently from others. I always question, never accept without review, fit every new piece of information into an integrated whole. I forget stand-alone facts, but remember integrated concepts. Is big-picture thinking something that the rule-centric frontal lobes inhibit? Is it because of spending more time in theta waves, is it from a more dominant right brain?
  • Same for creativity, is this due to freedom from inhibitory executive functions which reduce independent thought? Seems to me that most comics are ADD, is this because of big-picture thinking and creativity too?
Just idle thoughts but it bugs me that the researchers spend so little time with their ADD subjects, in understanding our different brain functioning rather than in more redundant statistical studies on ADD problems. After all, without ADD I think we would be deprived of a significant proportion of authors, comics, actors, inventors, new businesses, explorers, artists and designers. But then I forgot, then they can't be ADD if they function OK, even if they do have ADD genes!
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Old 05-09-09, 08:51 PM
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

APSJ,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. Some areas where we all, NTs and ADD, lack a conductor include:
  • Addiction. I want to stop drinking, eating, smoking but I don't
  • Behaviour. I want to get fit and run but I don't
  • Consistency. Yesterday I wanted to climb everest, today I don't
  • Denial. I know my child has ADHD or I can't sing but I deny it
  • Enthusiasm. I love cooking, I like cooking, can't be bothered to cook
Your reading point is interesting. When I was a child I was a voracious reader, even at age 10 usually reading 10-20 fiction books at once. I often found myself reading the same page over again, as I had gone off on a train of thought while still reading but seemed unable to reacall what I had just read. This seldom happens to me now. So do I think less, do I focus better, does that thinking take place in the background - I don't know. But complex thoughts do occur to me complete and coherent without conscious time spent on them, without any doubt.

Finally like you it seems I leave everything till the last moment. I think this has a lot to do with the extra stimulation we get from adrenaline/epinephrine. On the last exam that I sat a couple of years ago, I not only failed to revise but I never even once read any of the course materials untill after 8pm the night before the exam. It was for an Open University Psychology degree, all done remotely from text books. I passed with 56% amazingly but brought my average down on my essays so badly that I gave up the course. But this also re-inforced my late behaviour as pretty much always doing something at the last moment works for me. I don't always do my best (though sometimes the buzz means I do pretty well) but I do get the job done. So I know I usually get away with it too.
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Old 05-10-09, 05:10 AM
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

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Originally Posted by InTheMoment View Post
Just idle thoughts but it bugs me that the researchers spend so little time with their ADD subjects, in understanding our different brain functioning rather than in more redundant statistical studies on ADD problems. After all, without ADD I think we would be deprived of a significant proportion of authors, comics, actors, inventors, new businesses, explorers, artists and designers. But then I forgot, then they can't be ADD if they function OK, even if they do have ADD genes!
They are Jeckll and Hyde genes. On a good day creativity, on a bad day disorder. Personal strengths such as strong self esteem from a settled childhood, and good work habits learned an attached realtionship with parents or teachers who themselves model these qualities are what protect one from the disorder.
Well that is what I am coming to think anyhow.
As a disordered Dad who is pulling into much better shape- I see the improvement in my children daily- even though they are using less stimulants -of their own choice. That is why my thoughts are taking this turn.
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Old 05-11-09, 11:14 AM
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

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Originally Posted by olavia View Post
Thanks for bringing up this interesting topic!!

In fact a study was recently published that showed that people with ADHD had more problems switching off the brain´s default network. Just like you predicted, APSJ:-))
Extremely interesting, isn´t it??

1: Brain Res. 2009 Mar 10. [Epub ahead of print] Links
A lack of default network suppression is linked to increased distractibility in ADHD.

Fassbender C, Zhang H, Buzy WM, Cortes CR, Mizuiri D, Beckett L, Schweitzer JB.
I downloaded this article, but sadly my lack of science background has interfered with my understanding of it. I'm going to take another stab at it though. It took me several pages to realize that "intra-individual variability" of reaction time, means variability in an individual person's reaction time, not variability within the experimental group...(do i have it right this time?)


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Originally Posted by olavia View Post
Idea: There is a competition between cognitive resources for internal modes of cognition and focus on the external world.

Two functionally competing brain systems:

1.Mental operations detached from the external environment
2. Focused information extraction via sensory channels

ex.focused external visual attention

I think it is a very interesting ide that there is actually a competition between the default network and outwardly tuned systems like the motor system or focused attention on a task. This means that a person who can not pay attention to a task is not neccessarily lazy,quite the opposite, but his/her cognitive resources are already so much at use in the default network that there is not enough to do more.

On a personal level this conceptual idea rings very true to me. It seems to me that what meds can do for me is "silence" my brain so that I am able to focus better on some practical task. It actually feels like dumbing down because I literally feel that my brain goes empty. Someone else on this forum explained this feeling very well, I think it was steven d, it feels like going from a busy city to a desert Pacific island. The other interesting thing that seems to be true, is that you actually spend less energy when focused at an external task. If I manage to do that, I feel so much more energetic after a couple of hours. On the contrary, if I just stay on the couch staring out in the air, thinking for a couple of hours (and I do that a lot!), I feel exhausted afterwards, it´s actually not refreshing at all. Still, I am very inclined to do it, I can´t resist it. I have to drag myself out of it, and force myself to get started doing something.
This fits with my experience as well. I often set aside periods of time to work on things, and sit down to do them, only to realize hours later that I've been doing totally unrelated things, or that I've been following some minor tangential point thats not relevant to my assigned task, or even sitting thinking about how hard it is to start working. The time I spend doing these things feels just as demanding as the time I actually spend working. I'm often frustrated by the fact that if asked how long I spent writing a paper, a truthful answer may be "four hours" but in truth, I devoted days on end to exhausting procrastination. Medication helps with these things, by letting me focus on a task more fully, but I still have difficulty controlling what task I get focused on.

So the idea that my procrastination and actual work time both demand equal resources, just to different parts of the brain, and that a competition between the two is involved in ADHD, seems like confirmation of my subjective experience.

Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheMoment View Post
  • If the frontal lobes are the centre of thinking and location of "I" then why are people with ADD often such deep thinkers? Don't we have sub-optimal lobes? Shouldn't we have less sense of self?
  • Why do some people with ADD have no time-sense whatsoever and some have pretty good time sense. By this I means: knowing what time it is, knowing how long things have taken or will take, planning the future, setting goals, having mind pictures of the future etc. I am hopeless at all this except I am very good at logically predicting future outcomes such as the current economic crisis, societal changes, successful bands or upcoming technologies. Is this a compensatory ability because I can't imagine myself in the future?Is it that there are say 100 different executive time functions which are differently affected for each person?
  • Why do people with ADD excel at big-picture thinking? Is this because they hate detail? I know I think very differently from others. I always question, never accept without review, fit every new piece of information into an integrated whole. I forget stand-alone facts, but remember integrated concepts. Is big-picture thinking something that the rule-centric frontal lobes inhibit? Is it because of spending more time in theta waves, is it from a more dominant right brain?
  • Same for creativity, is this due to freedom from inhibitory executive functions which reduce independent thought? Seems to me that most comics are ADD, is this because of big-picture thinking and creativity too?
I wonder if part of the answer to some of these questions is that although intuitively a greater "sense of self" or "I", seems like it would be related to deep, big picture, thinking, it really isn't.

I feel like I'm a fairly deep thinker, and look at things from a broader perspective. This is can be both a help and a hindrance.
I often see connections and relations that other people miss, but trying to explain these sometimes very attenuated connections and their implications to others is complicated and time consuming(I may have developed my view over a period of hours), and I can rarely make it understood in the context of a fast paced verbal exchange. So, I keep quiet, or try and make myself understood, but seem like I'm rambling.
On the other hand, I sometimes miss obvious, simple, and immediate connections of immediate relevance.

In social situations, I'm completely inept, and I miss obvious cues constantly. On the other hand, if someone comes to me and tells me about a complex issue they're dealing with in a relationship, I often have insights which they find really helpful. Bizarrely, I've had friends who regularly sought my advice on their relationships, despite the fact that to all appearances I would be the very last person one would ask about such things. I think this fits with the idea that in this context a "sense of self" isn't so much a deep philosophical understanding of our place in the universe, as a sense of what we are doing, whats going on around us that is relevant to our actions, how we appear to others at the moment, how we moving, and especially, our responsibilities and goals in the context of time, and our current level of progress. When someone comes to me with a social problem, its a matter of objectively analyzing the problem using the information provided. In dealing with my own relationships, I have to glean the information from people myself, and understand my place in the social fabric of the environment I am in at the time.

We don't lack a sense of self, its just that our sense of self tends to wander the universe instead of attending to its immediate surroundings and circumstances.

For example,(and here I know I'm grossly generalizing) if sitting with a group of NTs having a conversation about a given topic, I will hear what people say, take the literal meaning, start thinking about the relative merits and flaws of the assertions, etc. and respond based on that. Meanwhile, everyone else is hearing whats being said in the context of their knowledge about the person who is speaking's life, their relationship with that person, the relationships between that person and others at the table, social cues included in what the person is saying, how that person, and others at the table, would be likely to recieve different sorts of responses, and to a far lesser extent, an analysis of the assertion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheMoment View Post
Just idle thoughts but it bugs me that the researchers spend so little time with their ADD subjects, in understanding our different brain functioning rather than in more redundant statistical studies on ADD problems. After all, without ADD I think we would be deprived of a significant proportion of authors, comics, actors, inventors, new businesses, explorers, artists and designers. But then I forgot, then they can't be ADD if they function OK, even if they do have ADD genes!
I think this is a problem with the medical approach to neurological difference generally. Spending too much time looking at objective measures of reaction time, attentiveness, etc. can result in researchers missing the forest for the trees. Reading this forum, I've been amazed at how many traits I've thought were personal quirks that seem common in people with ADHD. This condition is a lot more complex than the current definition would have one believe. I wonder if any research has been done, for example, on the topic of hyperfocus"

I would love to see a study of what goes on in people with ADHD when they hyperfocus on a topic of their choosing, just set them loose on a computer with internet access, tell them to spend an hour looking at what they will, then test their absorbtion of knowledge on that topic, reading speed etc., and compare it to the results when they are given an assigned task.


Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheMoment View Post
Finally like you it seems I leave everything till the last moment. I think this has a lot to do with the extra stimulation we get from adrenaline/epinephrine. On the last exam that I sat a couple of years ago, I not only failed to revise but I never even once read any of the course materials untill after 8pm the night before the exam. It was for an Open University Psychology degree, all done remotely from text books. I passed with 56% amazingly but brought my average down on my essays so badly that I gave up the course. But this also re-inforced my late behaviour as pretty much always doing something at the last moment works for me. I don't always do my best (though sometimes the buzz means I do pretty well) but I do get the job done. So I know I usually get away with it too.
I've wondered about this for myself as well. I've never actually failed as a result of my procrastination, just underperformed. I wonder if I had failed just one course early in college if it would have broken the cycle, and allowed me to feel that adrenalin rush more intensely and earlier than I do now. Although I feel like getting better grades is important to me, at some level, the unpleasantness of going over a paper I've already written and thought about, and thus probably lost interest in, to make sure the grammar is correct, I cited relevant authorities, it flows properly etc. must outweigh the potentially higher performance.
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Old 05-11-09, 05:17 PM
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

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Originally Posted by InTheMoment View Post
  • If the frontal lobes are the centre of thinking and location of "I" then why are people with ADD often such deep thinkers? Don't we have sub-optimal lobes? Shouldn't we have less sense of self?
Another way to look at this is that many traditions suggest we are held back by our illusory sense of self.
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Old 05-11-09, 06:37 PM
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

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Originally Posted by Barliman View Post
Another way to look at this is that many traditions suggest we are held back by our illusory sense of self.
That's a very good point. Looking at this issue from the perspective of a tradition that views "the self" as an illusion, and the belief in it as an obstacle to overcome, we(those with ADHD) may be a step ahead of the game.

This perspective is intuitively appealing to me, as I think it fits quite well with the experiences I described in my last post regarding interacting with NT individuals.

The way I described it, I am at a disadvantage in these encounters because I am thinking and talking about the issues from a sort of detached perspective, and often fail to consider, before expressing an opinion, the possible impact of it on those present, given what I know about them. For example, I might say that logically, the view a person just expressed entails another view, without considering that the other view would be offensive to the person given what I know about them.(its hard to think of a hypothetical that wouldn't be too controversial to include).

On the other hand, maybe this has some advantages in thinking clearly about large issues. I rarely get bogged down in trying to think of ways to reconcile irreconcilable views because both are comforting, or because I believe one, and someone I have a lot of respect for believes the other, or any other reason that has no relevance to their truth.

Maybe thinking about everything in a personal social/emotional context can interfere with clear reasoning? I recall reading an article a few years ago about a politician who had done things which conflicted with the interests and beliefs of the politician's most ardent supporters. The author of the article interviewed some of these supporters, and pointed this out to them, and their response was "that's impossible,[the politician] wouldn't do that to us." I was fascinated that they viewed this factual matter as an emotional and personal issue. It couldn't be true, because that would mean that this politician they had so admired had mislead them, which would be very painful. I wonder if this type of response would be less common in people with a less developed sense of self?
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Old 05-12-09, 07:19 PM
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

I feel that social debate is a area where I have changed a lot over my lifetime. I do still tend to focus on the logic of an argument and engage with that but believe that over the years my social sense has developed to such as extent that I am a very acute observer of other people and their emotional perspectives too. But still find the logic more interesting!

APSJ: (don't know how to do referenced quote - sorry!)
Quote:
Maybe thinking about everything in a personal social/emotional context can interfere with clear reasoning? I recall reading an article a few years ago about a politician who had done things which conflicted with the interests and beliefs of the politician's most ardent supporters. The author of the article interviewed some of these supporters, and pointed this out to them, and their response was "that's impossible,[the politician] wouldn't do that to us." I was fascinated that they viewed this factual matter as an emotional and personal issue. It couldn't be true, because that would mean that this politician they had so admired had mislead them, which would be very painful. I wonder if this type of response would be less common in people with a less developed sense of self?
I see "denial" as often a significant difference between NTs and ADDs. I have always been pretty brutally honest with myself, when I was addicted I always knew I was, when I make mistakes I always accept them, I always confront fears and never avoid the truth. Many ADDers I have met seem to have the same trait and NTs seems to do denial big time. Not enouigh of a sample size to be sure though! Perhaps denial is more "required" if you cannot detach from yourself?
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Old 05-15-09, 02:17 PM
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

This thread is just SO interesting. I´d like to comment on all the difficult questions raised, but the task seems to dauting at the moment. Here are my two cents for now:

Daydreaming? You are actually solving complex problems!

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/05/14/daydreaming/

It says that BOTH the default network and the executive networks are active during daydreaming.
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Re: "Private Life of the Brain"

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Originally Posted by olavia View Post
This thread is just SO interesting. I´d like to comment on all the difficult questions raised, but the task seems to dauting at the moment. Here are my two cents for now:

Daydreaming? You are actually solving complex problems!

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/05/14/daydreaming/

It says that BOTH the default network and the executive networks are active during daydreaming.

From the article:
Quote:
"When you daydream, you may not be achieving your immediate goal - say reading a book or paying attention in class - but your mind may be taking that time to address more important questions in your life, such as advancing your career or personal relationships."
That fits very well with the sense that people with ADHD are deep thinkers, but I find this sentence incredibly ironic as applied to people with ADHD.....for example, the night before I had a paper due for a class, while I was trying to work on it, I found my mind exploring the reasons for my procrastination, and began this thread. So, my mind was dealing with the important question of how I could overcome procrastination, a necessary hurdle to advance my career, but it was doing this as a form of procrastination, potentially stopping me from advancing to the point where I could begin my career.
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