[Bonus] Phuket Mind Observatory Plans / Neurofeedback Augmentation

30 May 2010

In this bonus episode we cover some very interesting cognitive science/brain science questions from Noah.
The first question asks if meditation researchers have been able to isolate the EEG correlates of meditative experiences such as staying on the object, excitation, laxity, etc.
The second question asks whether it is possible to “augment” Shamatha practice, perhaps speed up the earlier stages, for example, with the use of neurofeedback training.

Alan starts by talking about the short/medium term plans for the scientific investigations here in Phuket. If everything goes well, the plan to have around 20-40 people fully focusing on achieving Shamatha (while being scientifically studied with state of the art, non-intrusive equipment) could be a reality very soon. Alan talks about the ideal situation, where these people start achieving Shamatha (even having the actual achievement inside an MRI tube) and then very rigurous scientific studies could be published, in order to turn this attention training into real, mainstream, rock-solid scientific fact. This method of starting the attention revolution would be pretty much failsafe, and the modern scientific community would have no choice but to break their denial and understand and accept the results.

Alan then connects this answer to the second one, going into a discussion analyzing all of the consequences that could arise as a result of using artificial augmentation for Shamatha practice. The discussions covers technology, science, ethics, psychology, and more. The end of the podcast deals with the drug industry, including the fact that (according to some studies) all of the anti-depressant drugs are either not at all better or negligibly better than the placebo for people with mild to moderate depression, but what they do bring is a huge range of side effects including suicidal thoughts. Yet people still take them, and doctors won’t admit they are wrong.

A very thought provoking episode!

The photo shows Yongey Mingur Rinpoche undergoing EEG testing. Source: http://www.mingyur.org

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