See Also: Book Notes, (me), Notes on Consciousness, LeDoux: Deep History of Conscious Brains, Pennartz: Representational Power, Seth: Being You, Dehaene: Consciousness and the Brain, Haidt: Happiness Hypothesis, Barrett: 7.5 Brain Lessons, Barrett: How Emotions Are Made, Sterling: Allostatis, Human: Makes Us Unique, Consciousness: Confessions, Blank Slate, Neuroscience of Human Relationships, Thinking, Fast and Slow

Awakened Brain, Lisa Miller PhD

The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for an Inspired Life – August 17, 2021

The Awakened Brain leads with "awakened awareness" and "acheiving awarenes". A major theme is that spiritual practice wars off depression and is good for mental health. Plenty of hard science to back it up. See below. Quest Orientation is a new term. Lots of brain region talk, DTI and also Large-Scale Brain Networks with the assertion that the VAN (Ventral Attenion Network) is the seat of awakened awareness. Quest DTI VAN Salience

"When we engage our awakened awareness, we make use of different parts of our brain, and we literally see more, integrating information from multiple sources of perception. Instead of see-ing ourselves as independent makers of our path, we perceive ourselves as seekers of our path. We look across a vast landscape and ask, What is life?"

"we all have two modes of awareness available to us at all times: achieving awareness and awakened awareness. It's up to us which one we engage. Achieving awareness is the perception that our purpose is to organize and control our lives. When we live through our achieving awareness, our foundational concern is How can I get and keep what I want? This mode of awareness is useful—and often necessary. It gives us the focused attention and commit-ment necessary to attain goals and enables us to direct our atten-tion and energy into a particular task—to study for an exam, complete a project, get someplace on time, practice a skill. It allows us the focused drive and undistracted execution we need to implement and achieve our goals. It's a highly necessary and helpful form of perception. But when overused, or exclusively used, achieving awareness overrides and changes the structure of our brains, carving path-ways of depression, anxiety, stress, and craving."

"...connection to awakened awareness. The ventral attention network is where we see that the world is alive and talking to us; the frontotemporal network is where we feel the warm, loving embrace of others and of life itself; and the parietal lobe is where we know that we matter, belong, and are never alone. Staring at the dispersions of color across the scans, it occurred to me that I was witnessing not only a representation of how we can feel better and safer in the world, the "small self" perspective dissolving into a more expansive and complete worldview. I was also watching the mysterious process by which poems, sympho-nies, and innovations are born—with presence to reality, open-ness to new perceptions and information, and the capacity to transform perceptions into ideas, insights, meaning, and action."

Spirituality and Mental Health

p.141 "Given the earlier epidemiological findings on the protective benefits of spirituality, we anticipated that young adults with a strong personal spirituality would be less likely to have experienced depression. But two striking findings emerged. First, those who had strong personal spirituality at age twenty-six were two and a half times more likely to have been depressed in the past. In other words, spiritual formation doesn't seem to be an alternative to depression so much as a way of being that emerges alongside or through struggle. Second, those who had strong spirituality by age twenty-six were 75 percent protected against a recurrence of major depression for the next ten years. And for those who were highly spiritual and hadgone through major depression in the past, the protec-tive benefit of spirituality against a recurrence of depression was even higher: a striking 90 percent. These were people at high fa-milial risk for depression, who'd grown up in households shrouded in a rain cloud of depression. When they experienced painful losses, disappointments, or unwanted experiences in their late adolescence and early adulthood, they seemed condi-tioned for a spiritual response. It was as though their sensitivity to and familiarity with mental suffering enhanced their capacity to marshal a deeper spiritual response to life challenges. High-risk people who built a spiritual muscle to respond to suffering were protected against the downward spiral the next time sorrow or disappointment came around, because they had cultivated a spiritual response. I realized that my initial understanding of the epidemiological data that spirituality is a protective factor against mental suffering—was a bit broad. The new finding suggested that spir-itual awareness doesn't buffer against ever facing suffering so much as suffering pulls spiritual awareness forward..."

p.160 "During the spiritual narratives, four clear patterns emerged. First came a deactivation, a powering down of the default mode network, the "rumination box," the region that often stimulates incessant self-rumination during depression and draws us away from present moment perception. Seeing the lights go out along the default mode network was like a visual representa-tion of the small, controlling, self-obsessed little self backing off, bowing out. Then there were clear patterns of activation in the ventral at-tention network. Our brains have two attentional networks—dorsal and ventral—that interact in a dynamic way. The dorsal attention network is our top-down attention; it filters incoming sensory and perceptual information, and while this is helpful in keeping us focused on the task or goal at hand, it also filters out unintentional information. When this inhibitory filter is re-leased, our ventral attention network, our bottom-up attention, takes over. We found that spiritual experiences engage the ven-tral attention network, making us available to information out-side of our immediate conscious awareness or control, allowing us to receive unanticipated but personally meaningful percep-tions. The ventral attention network is where we receive the sudden breakthroughs common among the spiritual narratives—those flashes of clarity and insight. We also saw the frontotemporal network come online during spiritual experiences. This network is implicated in processing representations of others and relational bondedness, such as when we were held by our mother or when we embrace a ro-mantic partner. This finding strongly suggests that a feeling of relational intimacy accompanies spiritual states. We also discov-ered subcortical engagement, implicated in processing positiv and rewarding emotions such as love and bliss, distinct from the positive emotions of a relaxing experience. Finally, we saw increased activation in the posterior cingulate cortex and reduced activation in the inferior parietal lobe, where we navigate perceived distinctions between self and others. The parietal is linked to two key cognitive functions: perceiving and representing the self and others in time and space; and attribut-ing agency, with left parietal activity signaling an attribution of agency outside oneself. The fMRI findings showed that in a spiritual state, the parietal shifts from unrelenting strong use to a pulsing or moderating use. The engagement of the parietal is what causes the brain to perceive separation. In a spiritual expe-rience, hard, fixed boundaries soften. As feelings of separateness diminish, we embrace sensations of transcendence and union. This pattern suggests that when we have a spiritual experience, our identification with our physical self becomes more relaxed and our perception of boundaries between ourselves and others becomes more diffuse. We enter into a less bounded and more expanded sense of self. We perceive we are part of a oneness. Overall, our study revealed that spiritual experiences are vis-ible in the brain in three significant ways:"
- an involuntary reorientation of attention
- a sense of love or embrace consistent with intimate attachment or bonding
- a sense of self that is both distinct and part of the greater oneness

Quest Orientation

p.172 " quest, the brain is coherent and connected, its regions and networks in harmony. Essentially, the questing brain inte-grates our achieving and awakened awareness. And when we integrate our two modes of awareness, we liter-ally see more. Anna Antinori and her team at the University of Melbourne showed how openness to experience, the "big five" personality type most neurologically similar to quest, changes what we see in the world."

p.170 "Quest orientation is characterized by a tendency to journey in life: to search for answers to meaningful personal decisions and big ex-istential questions; to perceive doubt as positive; and to be open to change, or more accurately, open to perceiving with fresh eyes, and then using new experience to fuel change. In quest, we open ourselves to the messages from life, take seriously this discovery, and then actively use learning to shape our decisions and actions—our personal operating manual. When we measured DTI water diffusion in the brains of twenty-four young adults, we found that a key quest attribute—openness to exploring one's religious and spiritual views—correlates with high white matter integrity in multiple tracts of the brain, including those connecting brain regions in the two hemispheres. In other words, the subjects who reported that they lived in a state of quest—with spiritual lives that included an openness to perceiving surprising answers and changing their views—had better-connected brains than those who were less open to change." "

Some papers referenced:
Neuroanatomical correlates of religiosity and spirituality: a study in adults at high and low familial risk for depression
Religiosity and depression: ten-year follow-up of depressed mothers and offspring
Religiosity and substance use and abuse among adolescents in the National Comorbidity Survey

2023-10-31 YON <>