Joseph Ledoux is a neuroscientist whose research is primarily focused on survival circuits, including their impacts on emotions such as fear and anxiety. His latest book "The Deep History of Ourselves: The Four-Billion-Year Story of How We Got Conscious Brains" is now available.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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this conversation. It was excellent and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Please give it up for Joseph Ledoux Logan experience trying my day Joe Rogan Podcast my name all day. Thank you. Thank you for being here really appreciate it. Now, it's pleasure to be here is fascinating. Subject: I've been really looking forward to talking to you 'cause the conscious mind and how we our conscious mind how we have our conscious mind. I mean that is one of the more unique things about being a person. It is oh well, it's only a four billion year story. Is we have some time so? Shall I tell you how I got into it where how I ended up thinking about that problem, so been working on how the brain detects
response to danger for most of my scientific career little bit before that I'd actually studied consciousness, and these people have their brain split apart to control epilepsy calls brain patients, so I got interested in consciousness and also go in how behaviors that might be produced non consciously effect what we know about ourselves. So we see ourselves doing something, and then we kind of consciously build that into our narrative of what we are, but a lot of what we do. We do know unconsciously and when we interpret it that kind of solidifies the fact that you have a non conscious system, that's controlling your behavior when in fact you you didn't do it, but that system did so. You got to make sense of it and generate an explanation and narrative so that that was where I got started and I tried to figure out well what would be some kind of kinds of non conscious systems and said: well, maybe emotion, systems, air, producing behaviors, that we don't fully understand,
started studying that and ended up figuring out how this part of the brain called the amygdala receives information about the environment and then controls orchestrates. All the responses, fight flight kinds of responses to help you protect yourself and the you noticed after many years of doing that, I started asking well: how far back does this ability to detect and respond to danger go? We know that bugs and flies can do that. An and research had been done, showing the bugs and flies have certain molecules in their brain that are important in these kinds of protective defensive behaviors and including the ability to learn about them, store those memories. So it's easier to work on those little tiny invertebrates than it is to do studies in a complex brain, even like a rat brain which is pretty complex um. So, given that what these people have discovered about
vertebrates, I and others who were studying mammals decided to see if the same molecules might be involved in my one million learning and in fact it waas. So now that raises the question, you got the same molecules during the same thing.
I molecules same genes doing the same thing in ancient invertebrates and then at and animals like us. So you ask where back in time is the ancestor that made that possible? I mean if we got the same genes either kinda happened spontaneously separately or there's a common ancestor, and indeed there's a common ancestor, and that goes back to the first organism. First, animal that had a bilateral Bobby, which means that left right front in the back and the top and a bottom. So it has kind of three dimensional sites before that there were animals like jellyfish that were radial good, but no front and back they just have a top and a bottom,
and before that they're sponges, which have no front back top bottom, they just kind of random the organized. So that's kind of the that's the story of animals sponges to jelly fish to these bilateral animals, so the ancestor, the bilateral animal that we're talking about, gave rise to those two lines, one that became all these invertebrates like flies and bugs, and snails and octopus, and all those things and another. Two animals like us, vertebrates on the fish, reptiles, mammals, birds and so forth. So those are two separate lines that inherited these genes that make the memory and defensive behavior possible. So how far back it it stop there and no, it doesn't because you can find those jeans on through jellyfish and then keep going into single cell organisms. These,
like protozoa things that give you intestinal their intestinal parasites. So they can give you upset stomach and things like amoeba, maybe a that you might have heard of and in a biology class in high school or something one. These have no nervous system, and yet they detect and respond to danger. They learn about their environment. They do all these sorts of things and where did they come from? Well, if you go all the way back to where they came from even in simpler kind of organism, still single cell, of course, like bacterial cells. Now these guys go back to the beginning of life. The first cell that ever lived some three dot seven billion years ago they gave rise to the entire history of life, was a bacterial like cell that started. Dividing now. What's interesting that sell that started, dividing is the mother of everybody,
material cell that ever lived so that cell, it's more like it's real! You know that cell is still alive because it's they reproduce by cell division. So that's still cell just keeps reproducing and part of that first cell ever is still with us today in all the bacterial cells that are that are around it's kind of a mind, blowing thing it's incredibly mom. Do we have any idea why the first cell decided to divide well, this could taste the first cell that decided to do it. This is the first cell t real cell is the first cell that was able to to sustain life long enough to give off offspring sustain and sustain sustain. So they probably lots of experiments before kind of cell or kind of group of cells had the right stuff to be able to do that, so they those others, never made it because they didn't have quite enough of what it took to be a cell. That could do that.
So the first cell, I mean it's kind of a hypothetical cell, let's call LUCA the last universal common ancestor of life, and that's that's about three seven three point eight billion years ago, but he could and a bunch of cells in know a collection of cells cell types that that one of which then populated all of life. The weird thing about life is not just that it's diff friend it varies so much, but that it's it's ever increasing in its complexity. Well, if you go back to the single cell and then you all the way to today to a person right like what a weird sort of transformation information, you know it's dangerous to talk about as if we're moving towards some kind of goal
in the line is there is there is we are the goal. But why not say on that? I don't think with no we're not we're. Definitely not. I I've. I've been more and more thinking that artificial life is the goal well. Well, I mean there's no goal of light. Of course, there's survival, this the only goal of every organism and that's that, but that first cell was able to do this to generate a set of biological properties that could still sustain itself long enough to reproduce. That's all you have to do b. You have to live long enough to reproduce and to do that, you have to have energy resource. Is you have to incorporate nutrients? You gotta balance your fluids of the wise. You know you have to keep your eye on straight or the sale will go too big and explode or get too small and collapse. You've got a thermal regulate cause. All of these things depend on the right kind of internal temperature and you have to reproduce those
the survival requirements of a cell but they're also the survival requirements of a human. So the same is that a bacterial cell has to do to live through the day and create a species is exactly what we do every day to reproduce ourselves. We have to eat, drink, defend against danger, uh incorporate nutrients and balance fluids and ions that way, defend reproduce, and so that was the mind blowing thing I I wrote the whole three slash. Four of the book is a scientifically. Instead, I didn't know any of this stuff. I had to just learn it. It is a lot of fun, but it took a time. Imagine imagine when you think about the original, LUCA and then human beings. Do you ever try to extrapolate you ever try to like keep the the process rolling in your mind and see. Where is this going to go yeah so the end of the book? I am not so rosy picture.
Well, you have it. So, let's talk about the book, so, okay, I you know say: okay well, are we had these two kinds of significant experiences in our lives that occupy the human mind? One is the kind that we can call an awareness of facts. You know this thing is here and the other is what we might call a self awareness where it's it's me that is aware that that is a bottle. So that's a that's a higher level,
and that is what appears to be unique to the human mind, the ability to represent himself as a subject, in other words, to have these subjective experiences that have a personal past. It's not just the pass, but your past, you lived it and a personal present and a potential future that you can imagine different scenarios of you existing in in the future. So that requires a man. That's called auto, no ready consciousness, the ability to self know about where you are in time, and it depends. This is an idea that was proposed by a guy named Wendell Tall, Ving, a very distinguished cycle
just to now, but TED. His idea was that Jun, the unique aspect of of the human mind is mental time, travel the ability to protect ourselves in the past present and future, and without that kind of consciousness we're limited to kind of factual information. Something is there, you know that. Might I might be able to say food is there are three? Is there or a sexual partner? Is there, but not necessarily that I I want that food I want. You know you might have a kind of biological urge towards it now from the outside. It looks like everything we do is intentional and willful, so I think I'm controlling my behavior, you think you're controlling yours. I see you do something that I might have done in a similar situation. I think you intentionally control that we see a dog doing something that would be similar to what we do. We think
we know why the dogs doing that, because it had some intention, but the fact is, if we start taking these things apart in the brain, we see that systems that control very simple behaviors are not the ones that doing all this high level. Conscious thought. Take the example of the area work on for all these years, which is a threat detection um. Now that this part of the brain called the amygdala is key to the detection in response to a threat in a kind of basic sense. Um, you know, threat comes up. You freeze, if there's a snake, for example,. Now it's all because of that it's been a soon that the reason you freeze is because you're afraid and therefore that the amygdala is also making the fear because they make the lack. The experience is the fear and that's why you produce the response.
But for the longest time and throughout most of my career, I've said the amygdala does not consciously experience fear and yet my work is been used to kind of cell and defend. This idea of the amygdala is the brains, fear center and I think that's completely wrong. Why do you think it's been misinterpret? It's a long, complicated story, but you know it's a partly it's my fault, because I was not as vigilant as I should have been when I was describing it see. What I did was I I would talk about the amygdala as a non conscious state of fear, non conscious, implicit fear, and I would I would say that, while the NEO Cortex, it is where we consciously experience for you and those are separate, but that was too complicated. The the of the journalists kind of ignored it, and
it was just it just became the middle. Is the brain's fear center? Even the scientists ignored it, because you know we were studying and you know I kind of gave up after one said: okay, we'll talk about it in terms of fear um, because you know that there was a lot of money to be directed towards research if you're studying fear and how you could treat that. But I think it's you know it's been kind of ah wrong path, because it's led Thio the development medications that don't really work. So all the big companies are getting out of the of the Anti anxiety business anti for your business, because people still feel fearful or anxious when they take them, you mean like Xanax, please only companies are getting out of the Xanax business bins. Those addicts I mean they're, not either that or the re purposing them for other purposes, but so what happens? Is you
the way these things these things the basic drugs were discovered in the 60s almost accidentally. In some cases you know not rather than by some hot. So the only thing that's been discovered since then is more versions of the same thing, with slightly fewer side effects, there's been no new discovery of a new kind of drug, that's going to help people, and why is that? Well, the drugs are discovered. Is that take a rather mouse put it in a challenging situation, give it some different medical nations and the ones that make the animal less timid in the situations doomed to make the animal less fearful. That's why it's less timid! So when you give it to a person, they should be less fearful, but what find say a person with social anxiety might find it easier to go to the party and less timid, but still anxious, while they're there, and the reason is that we now know is that damage to the amygdala in a
person doesn't necessarily also eliminate the feeling of fear gets rid of the body responses, but not the filem. So it was a misunderstanding of what behavior can tell us. We street behavior, as if it's an ambassador of the mind, but behavior, is really a tool of survival that goes back to those first cells that ever lived, who had to defend against danger. Bacterial cells move in there in the water and then they come across, like you know, a gradient of some chemical, that's a toxin soon as they detect that they bounce away and go in a different direction if they a guy, if they find a gradient of something that is a nutrient they keep going in and absorb it. So they have the ability to detect what's useful and harmful in their lives. These are not there for psychology, there simply there to keep the organism alive and many of the behaviors that persists through
not the whole history of life or like that they're there, because each of the cell, then cells in the body has to you know, do all these things to stay alive, and so they are isn't as a whole has to do it as well different against danger, incorporate nutrients balance, fluids, dumber, regulate reproduce. So these are survival tools, not mind tools. Now we can use our mind in conjunction with these things and because we can, we conflate everytime were freezing in the front of a snake till the fact that the fear is what's causing it, but the fear is a separate process. It's the awareness that that stuff is happening to you. The awareness of that stuff is happening to you. So that said, no self, no fear all this may t shirt in that's my merch on the the now. How do things like xanax work? What what's the mechanical process?
Okay, so the that's a part of the class of drugs called of benzodiazepine and they will. They bind to receptors in the brain. Brain has receptors for all kinds of chemicals, and many of these things are things that exist in nature and what the dump want that they bind to is a receptor called the Gabba receptor, which is the major inhibitory transmitter in the brain. So when you have a benzodiazepine binding to a gaba receptor, what it's going to do is increase inhibition. So the you know the kind of simple reason why those things can help is they kind of inhibit, so they toned down the brain a bit and so things that would know trigger a trigger? No response. No longer it's. So it's like increasing the threshold for something to bother. You sense
and a lot of people don't enjoy that with alcohol and you're not supposed well. The alcohol also attacks as of seven. So it's like it. You get double with that fact right. Is that why they tell people, don't have Xanax yeah, because you can you know if you, if you take a lot as an eccentric, a lot of booze you can day or you could just say crazy things not totally be aware. Do you remember that story about a woman? She was, I believe, she's a publicist and she got on a plane, just find Africa and she said I'm going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS just kidding, I'm white lol. She thought she was being funny and you laughed and she landed in Africa. That's a bit of a surprise. You know the story no, but there are other stories on this. This was one of the original stories of someone ruining their entire life with just putting you know, one little tweak right online. She thought she was being for like she. She would say
a bunch of snarky things like that, a bunch of funny trying to be funny, but she was on Xanax and drinking there and woke up totally oblivious in her life had been destroyed. She was fired. You know she was a social pariah and I'm pretty sure that was xanax and alcohol that she was blaming it on yeah well at least a powerful drugs and so back to how they work and they work. So a drug like that. All of the drugs that that we take go to the entire body. You know they don't they're, not able to dis in a find their way to one little spot and bring to do the trick that assist. You know talk about magic bullet ugh, both drugs. It might be able to be targeted for specific circuits, but that's
fantasy at this point. So if you reduce inhibition in the entire brain, yes, you might reduce anxiety, but you're also going to change a lot of other things so you're going to, for example, forethought and ability to rein in things like the the woman was saying more difficult because they're tacking, the prefrontal cortex, where you have some inhibitory control over behavior they're, going to alter your ability to grieve and store memories and to be to attend to things and um. You know to the extent that these drugs have ah positive effect on some people. It's been said that part of the reason is that it's kind of a general blunting of emotion. It's now an anti anxiety drug is just kind of a dulling of everything and you get anxiety, anti anxiety as a part of that.
But if we want understand how to do better, we have to you know, figure out: what does the circuit that's really making us anxious is and not just what's making us. You know, but not toning down everything. It's kind of like you go to restaurant, the music's too loud. So my sis, please turn it down, so they turned it down a little bit. The music is the same, the same song, but it's not as annoying. You know, because you've turned the volume down and I think that's a lot of what these medications can do is turn the volume down a bit or turn it up not depending on what you do correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there some sort of a slingshot effect like after you take these things in your anxieties, ramped up afterwards it could be a rebound. You know the fact that can also be kind of ah ah lot of people next day feel depressed, no because it just does office out of your system in just kind of the. If you take it's kind of like
king sleeping pills, things like ambient are of the same general category of drug, and so does it pains to get this hang over the next day. Okay, so it's stuff is you are your response to the medication is not that if you alleviate some anxiety, then the anxiety wants to come back even stronger. No, the men saw it I've off. I proposed in my in my previous book that whichever anxiety set point that you know that, let's say you were you worried about something and all of a sudden that gets resolved. I just makes room so the next thing going on. So you know each kind of fill that for because our brain is we've developed, a brain. It has a certain kind of set point for every think it's doing, and that just makes room for you to feel that fill that up. If you're an anxious purse, you probably will always be somewhat anxious, so there's no magic bullet. That's going to take that out, but you have to do is attack
the process from knowledge of how it all works, and that requires that we have a more suv indicated understanding that then as possible from simply observing behavior, because behavior does not tell you necessarily what's on the mind, behavior tells you how the the the brain has responded, but you know just go back to the the fear thread. Example. When that say, I bring you into the laboratory and show you a picture of something like a a blue square. My colleague Liz felt too used to be to add to my use now at Harvard did experiments like this and every time the blue square would come on the person get a mild shock to their finger, and so then she would present the blues.
Where subliminally that means you have really quickly with the you know, something that follows at the Qana Mass that and that prevents the information from getting into the conscious mind, and so the person said I didn't see anything. But if you put the person in in an imaging machine, F, M r, I and image what's happening that stimulus that threat, the blue Square gets to the amygdala turns it on. The heart begins to race. Palms are sweating um, but the person has no fear. The person doesn't know it's there and doesn't experience here. The metal is not about fear. It's about detecting and responding to danger in order to be afraid that has to reach your conscious mind so that you can experience it as a state of the art in already consciousness that we're talking about a self and love
consciousness. That's hard for people to separate yeah well, but there's a physical response, but your minds on aware of it. But when you understand that, that's why you becomes understand. That's why the medications are not working there targeted to work on these underlying systems in rats or mice, but that's not where we experiencing our anxiety. But these these medications are very profitable. People enjoy millions of prescriptions, get written, they just gonna to phase those out, will probably you know, they're, probably all going off patent and because the company can find anything new they're not going to keep pursuing it, because it's not going to be a prophet anymore, but
people still want them to me. It seems like that's a really popular medication, yes, v like it and they'll go to in other, become the generics and people be able to get them for less money and just do with whatever they want yeah off label. Whatever I mean it's, you know it's. I I do think that, for example, the drugs that are of sellable to help people, because it's important to reduce the behavioral timidity and the physeal logical arousal. That goes with that, because if you don't treat that, then the conscious mind will be reactivated by those responses. If you only treat the conscious mind, then the physio logical stuff will bring the conscious stuff back. Everything will bring back
everything else unless you treat the whole system, and you have to do that. You have to understand the system and we've just misunderstood it. I think for so long I have a friend who he takes it every day, take Xanax every day and he says he needs it. He says without it he's just a man. Yes, well, you know whatever gets you through the day. I guess. In its I mean I'm not a therapist, I'm not like right advocating that I know I understand, but from your perspective, from an understanding of the human mind and all the systems that are at work, it seems like that's really not the to do it. Yeah I mean it's now. I'm sure that that's, maybe that's his crutches way to get through the day and um he's come to believe that he needs that much like an alcoholic believes they need to drink it yeah, but I'm not calling him and well calm. Hey does like to drink to yeah huh,
but he's a great guy. What these these systems that are in place and the all of the various things that have gotten us to two thousand and nineteen as a human species. You study, anxiety in he study, fear and all these different things is. Are we experiencing high levels of it because there's not as much real fifth equal danger? Is our ancestors experienced and it's almost like we're looking for it, not necessarily there like we're program to be able to deal with it. That's a good point. I hadn't thought of it. That way, so I think that's a good way to think about. It mean Lhasa for Guard said that anxiety is the price we pay for the human ability to choose.
This is where I bought a new Eddie consciousness comes in our ability to to think of ourselves as having a past and future to be able to to to planned and choose in the future yeah. He said it started with a I making. The first choice is a human in the garden of Eden, and that was where it all began so and our ability you can rephrase that statement by saying our ability to choose is what allows us to be anxious, because that is what tanks, ideas or worry about what we have. We are going to make the right decision. How can we deal with this thing? That's coming up. It's a worry about the future. He had the ability to think about the possibilities right like what could go wrong way to go right. Am I doing the right thing and then to contemplate all those various choices right, anxiety, yeah? So, like you know, you
you're walking through the woods, is a snake you might freeze, but almost instantly that fear that is generated by you freezing and seeing the snake morphs into anxiety. You know, will the snake bite me if it bites me? Will I get to a doctor? We have the anecdote if I die what'll happen in my family. You know this. That's where that sings on it. So these there's the kind of separate fears about us, a danger. That's present anxieties about one. It hasn't happened yet, almost always as soon as you're afraid. That makes you anxious about what's going to happen, and then, where is general existential angst, the just the life itself existence? Is that just what is this yeah? And all of that is due to our prefrontal cortex ability to conceptualize too
imagine things that have never been imagined before to create art to build, create architect, build buildings. Imagine going to the moon designing an instrument to do that now, pulling it off and make sure it can get back. All of that is something that our special kind of consciousness enables, but it has a dark side, which is. It also allows us to be incredibly selfish self, centered and narcissistic and to support tribes and groups, and you know. Unless we I mean, I think that the world survives best when it's completely isolated, all the cultures are isolated or if we could also somehow be together in a more unified way because of the direction we're going now where each country is
isolating itself, but is still so entangled with all the others is a recipe for disaster. Is this because we evolved Ascentia without long term travel? I mean we kind of evolved to stay in whatever area the resources were in when were hunters and gatherers, and then somewhere along the line somebody figured out boats and how to get on a horse, and the next thing you know you're visiting people I think more about. We have a special kind of inquisitiveness. We can, because we can mentally model the next step and plan. What are the options? You know try to anticipate the the problems that are going to come up and take the steps and that's a pretty special thing, but it also allows us to plan in the kind of devious way where
me or my group is going to benefit and if mine benefits, I don't want the other one to benefit 'cause. We got to keep everything separate. So it's you know, consciousness are kind of consciousness is our greatest event, but also probably our worst aspect, but it's, but it's what makes us human it is imagining humans with no consciousness is not impossible. Number two: the there's no way to go in that direction so is, is the key to this thing as the human race. Is it managing our consciousness of perhaps maybe work like yours, giving us the two is to understand. What are the mechanisms involved that maybe that can help us sort of navigate our biological traps? And maybe I mean I think it's certainly we don't. I think the I have no idea
your position on climate changes, but personally I think that things are happening and something needs to be done. That's clearly, things are happening and that weather was read a couple of editorials, probably in the New York Times or something a couple of months ago. One was about how yes, things are changing and we have a right to worry. But you know we shouldn't worry about the earth as quotas, guy as a tough bitch, so earth will survive, but the configuration of life on it is unlikely to continue to be the same under those conditions, the more that everything changes, the conditions of life change and the first things to go. So this is what happened to the dinosaurs, a large energy demanding organisms, because, as the
ditions change and the climate that we've lived in we've seated, because we were able to benefit from that kind of climate, but as the it begins to change, our kind is not going to be able to succeed as well, because those conditions are the waters are rising. The desert expanding all these things are happening and it's just not going to be yeah species. Don't last that long, a million years and they go so time. Maybe we've only been around for what three hundred and four one thousand years and something well, it depends. What would you call weed? But dolls were around quite a bit longer than that yeah they're, not here anymore,. We don't have, I mean
that we can use our minds to try and you know help us get through this, but that's only going to work. If we can do that collectively. That's the scary part. We have to work together collectively as a world, because these are not local issues. These are global issues. Yeah, that is who has that good luck? You know, especially getting other countries like China to comply yeah. You see that small successes I mean like auto company he's deciding well we to rain and emissions, and that there's probably a profit motive underline that at some point sure and people are conscious- is green dollars. Yet right right, like you, wanna put it like that when, when you think about technological achievements- and you think about the the conscious mind and the ability to create the creative process, do you
envision the possibility of some sort of a technological solution to a lot of the problems that we're facing. I think it has to be a social solution, social. How so we have to. We have to figure out how to balance this worldwide. You can't we can do everyone in this country if we could do what we want, but you know if, if, if even we were the best country in the world for the environment that wouldn't solve the problem, you know it's. It's a worldwide problem, Amazon Forest, that's affecting a lot of people, it's just not a it's, not a simple thing that one country can solve right. But if one country takes steps an and imposes some sort of a technological solution that pulls carbon from the atmosphere, that does enhance some sort of
cooling process to bring homeostasis just to bring some sort of a like. They agreed apon state of the environment. If that's technologically possible, that's going to come out of the creative mind right. Well, I don't want to go to four off into my not area, expertise like climate and sometimes I just think, there's, I think of it from the out of the social perspective and but even if it rains contributed, but I don't want to. I don't think I can really get us the details of all that, but even like socially, if we did address it, actually we're still going to have to deal with the actual physical limitations of the just environment we live in and what we've done this is, how does somehow or another mitigated yeah? I agree yeah. So, yes of I creators coming along and trying to find technical solutions, that's great when you
to analyze the human mind and knowing what you know about the thought processes in the way people think and when you see people in denial of climate change and when you see people that are so enamored with the concept, capitalism and big business that they don't really think that it's a big deal or they will to deny that it's a big deal, so they can continue short term profits. What is that, like those mechanisms like what is watching that take place in monkey mind? What do you? What do you think you? When you see that happen with humans? I don't think it's simple. It's not simply a. Denial of climate change for climate reasons, I think, there's a lot of social within groups, there's social stigma for being pro environment. Yes, and so it's tribal tribal.
It's it's people, you know people pulling together and it's a kind of form of self protection that, by identifying a set of issues that we all can agree upon, because they're kind of dictated top down in a sense that are our thing. That thing is somebody else's thing. Elses thing, that's a weird aspect of being human being right, these tribal identity, things where, if you in this group, you must be pro choice. If you're in this group, you must be pro life, you must be anti war. You must be pro. Second amendment is very little deviation and that's left right. That's every that the leaf systems, rigid belief systems. You know part of this part of being when you look at politics, and you know that these police systems are for. When do you? Do you find it odd that we have these like sort of polar
opposites of at least left right choices, red blue choices that we limited ourselves to these very distinct tribes? That's yeah! I think that's unfortunate, but that's is there a way out political scientist? After take that one hundred and one we going down a weird road, what do you think is the source of creativity somewhere along the line I mean and we've seen it right. I mean there's some speculation and scientists of sort of generally agreed that some monkeys are in the stone age that some primates in what would be considered stone age they're, starting to use tools they're starting to use Dixon is a famous photograph that I love of voter Ranga Tang we're going to get a photo copy that we should get that a Ranga Tang with a spear. We make a note of that. There's a craze, a Ranga, Tang image of an orangutan holding
into a branch and then spearfishing, it's amazing, and apparently he had seen in humans. Do it, and so that's where he learned behavior imitation, yes, but still that is a primate using a weapon right to try to spear fish. Look at this photo is an incredible nice. I mean that is incredible. That's like really thoughtful and skillful and the way he's hanging I mean my goodness. Look at that. I love love. That picture. That picture is amazing. Now this creativity that allows you to get food when you couldn't get food allows you to escape from environmental conditions, allows you to escape from predators. All these things are rewarded by the continuing of your genetics, things that come into play. One of the
specialties that came along, I think, is a byproduct of having language and by language I don't mean words, but what language did, but what was required for language to come out of the brain, which is the development of a cognitive sort of architecture in our brain that allowed all kinds of um mental jumping around so, for example, for most animals to learn. You know who did trust and who not to trust in what some, what who's, what in a given situation, who's gonna, do what to whom by just looking around, I have to go through trial and error. Learning it see the experience all of that a lot, but the human mind can simulate, create a mental model and instantaneously make those kinds of predictions on the basis of very limited information. This is
based on something well with it. The route, the relation to languages that syntax gives you those kinds of options, because you can, you know you have past present future states that can be real lated to you and to others, and so forth and personal pronouns are very important in terms of me. I mine you yours that those when those come in and the child is the first point when I think self awareness can fully be tested and shown, and some people say well, they have it, but they just couldn't express it. Others say know that the arrival of the pronoun personal pronouns are very important in the child's development of a sense of self, but anyway, so language changes. The brain changes the cognitive architecture of the brain
and allows for something just threw out a technical term, hierarchical, relational reasoning, just the ability to think across kind of conceptual categories laterally and for soundly so that information you can just jump around and that's kind of what creativity is the ability to just jump around in middle space and come up with something by a unique combination of those things. Do you do you think that there is variation in terms of the types of languages like chinese versus spanish verses, that they allow you to interface with the world in a different way, because the language is structured very differently? I think that's absolutely right, but I don't know if enough about other languages to say exactly how I think it was Malcolm glad. Nothing was the outlier, so they discussed this, like the limitations of certain images in terms of pilots
was at Gladwell think it was when they were they're discussing how Korean airlines, because they have sort of hierarchy of you, know the way you're supposed to treat the upper levels of management up and that they had to force the pilots to all speak English so that they didn't have this hierarchy like that is presumed hierarchy of being able to address situations that plane crashed because coal, pile it's were in their place, were put in their place and they weren't allowed to address pilots and that once they had switched over to English the language like there's so many different versions of dealing with your boss or someone who is an upper level person that there's so many different ways that you were supposed to address them and had eliminate all that by you in English, and it made me think like just using different
styles of language. The way human beings communicate here is very different than the way people indicates a you know in some african countries that we have these days print styles of interpreting world around us and those turn have a profound effect on the way we sort of interface with the world, and I think that's definitely right. So it's interesting to think about. Emotion and language, so it's often he said that an emotion, like fear is universal across the World ACT. What's universal is danger and the way fear is interpreted by different cultures is obviously different. I mean different. The agents have a different kind of dimond fear. Every culture has their own perspective on fear. So, if it's fear is the you know, the the kind of cultural assembly. That you have in your brain in response to danger, so every
culture has to have a language of fear, but not because fear is universal with, because danger is universal and what they interpret as danger is different and fear for one person something could could create fear, whereas for another person the exact same situation would not, depending upon their personal experiences and maybe their genetic makeup. Well I mean you know, genes contribute. So we part of our brain is under some kind of genetic influence, so every, for example, middle will be genetically kind of slightly more wrapped up in one person than another, so a little more sensitive to danger, and so that person might be responding more to danger in part because of means, but also maybe because of experiences that they've had. And
so then the conscious mind is seeing those responses and starting to conclude, I'm an anxious, fearful person and that all of that information gets collected in, what's called a fear schema, which is a body of knowledge of everything. You know about danger and including the way you really. You react to danger and you're. Just you know who you are in terms of danger, and so whenever you encounter danger, that schema is what's called pattern completed. So presence of threat in the world is enough to go into your brain and activate those memories about danger that give you in a non conscious representative, in activation of the sphere schema. That is what then LT's up into consciousness. That your experience of fear is what has been activated in your first scheme. Knowing what you know and then watching
whatever anxieties or fears may play out in your own mind, is that for lack of a better term a mind for you, I know. Well, we studied this. So much then you're huge. Yes, I assume you have the same things I am violating side is that we all do and cheers so it helps to some extent. So I used one thousand nine hundred and ninety six. I published a book called the emotional brain years later. I started finding out from therapist that the lot of pain patients were reading the book with their therapist and they were saying, but it was really helping them understand why different things were happening, that the migdal was causing them to react in certain situations, but their fear was there conscious understanding of those reactions in those not the same thing and that separation help them
navigate their own situation and in a situation of danger separating out? Okay, that's my is responding this way. My mind is responding this way, and these are two separate things need to work on in control. Have you studied various ways of people mitigate anxiety and fear like meditation and yoga all these different things, a sort of change people state I mean I haven't I'd, I haven't studied it myself, but I have research it a bit. I try to do meditation myself because I think it's the probably the most checked and effective way in the moment sitting in the room outside waiting for it just had my mountain sunglasses on just trying to chill out meditated little bit, get ready for you. Do you do that your basis? It's hard to maintain it because life gets busy and it seems like the hardest time to do. It is when you need it most right, yeah. I think it's one of those things like hygiene, where you sort of
I have to say. Well, it's hard to take a shower there. You have to show don't stink, you have to brush your teeth, that you get cavities, you have to meditate you'll, go crazy, yep! That's perfect! That that's the way it should be done. I think that is so when you examine those kind of tools like tools that people have sort of imagined or create to sort of in some way alleviate anxiety or enhance perspective. Do you do spend much time dwelling on the creation of those things and what's going on there? Well, this is like a human had to figure out how to meditate her breasts and had to figure out these modalities he's different ways to sort of interface with so but let's. Take that from take that too nature of most
just to fear and anxiety today hold this hold off the meditation part slightly so have psychopharmacology some major line of attack and also what's called cognitive behavioral therapy, which is. Arose as a form first call behavioral therapy, because it came out of the behaviorist movement, which said: there's no consciousness, that the human is a stimulus response organism that is based on the history of reinforcement with certain kinds of situations. So behavior therapy was about using pavlovian our operant conditioning to change how the brain would respond to threats and how people would act in those situation. It wasn't about the mind at all is all about behavior and then
cognition was added to that, so that became cognitive, behavioral therapy. But again the cognitive change was used as a way of changing behavior, because so much emphasis has been placed on behavior in our culture, including in the drug therapy world. It's all based on changing measurable things like behavior and physiology, and that I think that that's why all of these things in some sense have not worked out as well as we would like. You know. The best in the best medications in the best cbt trials, will give you like seventy five percent record of helping the in a group. That's pretty great those yeah, we twenty five but five, but you also have to extract out the placebo effect and in many of these drug studies, for example, depressive anti depression, drugs, the placebo global effect is only
the drug effects only slightly better than the placebo effect. But when you have a cargo behavioral therapy, there's mean you're actually going for the placebo effect right, you're trying to nothing wrong with placebo effect. In that sense, though, you are trying to sort of you're trying to use some sort of strategy with your mind in therapy, whether it's meditation meditation. What are you doing? You need to enact change and if that changes and acted, there's not pill involved, so it is kind of like the same mechanism. That's involved in a pussy. Thank you. Your mind is creating this new change. Yes, and if it's so, but the question is a person that. Goes through the motions but doesn't get the therapy right, how much they changed by simply by kind of going through it just so many variations with humans. I'd like to find out like are, they lazy?
Are there self destructive, and why is that? The case may be all of the above. All these, whenever you have, I think seventy five percent is amazing. You need consider if you have a group of people. What are the odds if you have group of one hundred people, what are the odds of twenty five am are going to be lazy, pretty good right there pretty. I would bet I'll ton of money that twenty five percent of those people don't do. What they're supposed to do all the time right so you're right, but I think the the issue is from a scientific point of view. We need to know exactly what really works, what's different from placebo right, so the we can see what to build proper medication for medication for cognitive therapy as well. But the therapy thing is so strange to me because put
okay, maybe we're using the wrong word with placebo, because placebo is a word for a medication that has a psychosomatic effect right. Well, it's the control group that does not get the treatment right and that you get that it's not really doing anything physiologically, but your body is interpreting it as medicine and saying all right changes come in and then the change comes at, and that is a nothing. But when you thinking about cognitive, behavioral therapy, you're thinking about using techniques and strategies to change the way, you think and behave the so the have the pussy bow effect doesn't really apply there or you have to have a control group right in this study. You have to have randomized control in order to make it so when cognitive behavioral therapy and you have randomized control, and yet you have a control group d, just giving shitty therapy like freaked. We need to get a therapist on here to give you the answer that I don't know. If they have you gone to therapy yourself, I have did you do that to examine this?
I know mainly went into it with, for them temptation that part to try and calm with my you know,. Restlessness has writing in all this study that you had to do to write these books? Has that in once too me that you have much more of an understanding about what's at play than the average person does. It I I again this it's kind of like the patient who's reading the motion of rain. With this there's therapist, I think. By writing those books. I learned a lot and it helps me see things and doesn't necessarily help me lead my life any better, but it I I think I understand it better, but no self, no fear yeah. Well, no, no fear means that you have to do. You have to have this oughta know Reddick consciousness ability in order to be afraid,
and that is a special human quality, the ability to put yourself in the moment in your past and in your future. If it's not you that's going to be harmed by that snake, then you don't have to worry about what it's going to do to you. If you are part of it, then you worry and it becomes. You know it's an emotion when, when you're involved, so I think emotions. This is a crazy idea. That's in the book that emotions didn't arise through natural selection, the idea that they were byproducts of other capacities that came along first, you had some kind of crude language that, in this hierarchical relational reason to jump across language, gave you categories to conceptualize things. Harker re sing allows you to jump across those categories. An those key
kinds of things allow you to conceptualize yourself as an entity with an so you had to have a self that could do that kind of reasoning and um uh across those conceptual categories, and that is what enabled on emotion the ability to put yourself into a significance. It situation. So now that it's here now that we have once in motion are there then become selected, but they weren't selected by, for example, the amygdala having evolved to be the fear center and inherited that from animals. You animals probably have some kinds of experiences, but scientifically it's very hard to know what they have. We known like dogs, have 'em oceans right. Don Watson says that Oscar happy. Well, yes, but you see their behavior Brian, but I'm not saying they aren't, but scientifically can't measure that right. But if you
have a dog and you come home and he's so excited to see you and he's running round circles, that seems very emotional are akin. But I don't said: let's talk about the brain for a SEC, okay, so the port, the brain circuits in the brain that are in Volved in this kind of auto Noah, Dick emotion that I'm talking about the self involved in motion that so human such a human quality, the the part of the brain that I think is important, and this is still hot pop. This is not a fact is something called the frontal polls very, very front part of the prefrontal cortex. That region is unique to the human brain, no other. Not even another ape has that now. Other parts of the prefrontal cortex are present in other primates, all
of the primates, but not in any other mammal. So if we can figure out in the human brain, what that frontal pole does and what that other part that all primary tab do, then that gives us an anchor for speculating about what other primates, what kinds of experience other primates have given what those parts of the brain enabling us. And that would allow us to then extract other mammals. Don't have that we have because they don't have those parts of the brain. So it's a kind of you know use of the trying to tell us some things about what might exist in other animals, but there's no way to ask a dog. What's, on your mind, could measure the brain with an F mri or something along those lines we get a reading of it's not the answer I mean, and now it's Scarlett right, so a human it like. I can yeah.
If you ask me, is there a pin here on the time I say? Yes, I can respond verbally or I can point to it, but uh when I'm responding verbally. I can only do that for something I'm conscious of. I can't respond to something an unconscious of by naming it. Follow the Mmm other animals can only respond nonverbally, so they don't have that other kind of response. That is only reflecting a conscious state. So I'm not saying they don't have anything but scientific, it's very hard to know what they have and the fact that we can study. We know and, for example, fear that the fear itself proud it doesn't depend on the amygdala, but the behavior that we see does makes us have to be
cautious about observing behaviors, look like they're based on fear, love and all these other emotions. When we can't really know because we can't measure that yeah I mean it's a tough problem again, I'm not saying it's not there. It's just like right. I guess scientifically. You know you have to have to be strangely evidence. Yes, yeah you have to now now measuring it in humans is there's this concept of people, I'm an emotional person. You know, I'm emotional, like I get emotional like people, love to say those those kind of things. Is it possible to measure varying degrees of emotional response in terms of like how it's affecting person physiologically? Whether or not these emotional responses are food, nickel or whether you've gone down a well grooved psychological path that you've been sort of
spitting in your whole life, so that you have these sort of triggers this happen and then up I'm going to start crying. This happen up, I'm going to get angry and people so to fall into those paths without self election. Without this sub ability to be objective and introspective and go, why am I reacting this way like? Maybe you should stop being so emotional, Joe right? Anybody ever said that to you uh, that's not well what, but what does what you know? What I mean like this, the varying degrees of Ramoche inal response and whether or not those are beneficial or whether not they detract from your experience, it's or inhibit your your bill need to be productive. So you know it really nailed a lot of interesting stuff in there, and you know it's a very kind, deep analysis of what's going on. So the
problem is that our language is so bad that all these terms that we have, we borrow from what's called folk wisdom or folk psychology in that they've come through the ages and. This is true in every aspect of science that you have folk terms of folk physics becomes real physics and then the folk stuff goes away for biology becomes real biology in the end the folks are goes away, but in psychology the folk stuff never goes away because we always experience the folk aspect of it when we have a conscious experience. It's that's what our conscious minds is our folk psychology of ourselves and of others and of other animals, but the um um, underneath that is the part that we
get rid of the folk psychology, because we can understand how behaviors control, how physiological responses to control and ain't, because you know we've had fear- is causing it. You know, but but when you're afraid you're almost always running from the bear and feeling fear. But- and so you assume that, when you're running from the bear fear is a because you to run, but fear is not. The answer. Fear is your awareness that all that shit is happening to you, but also the the ability to contemplate consequences right yeah. This is in a given. You name a has. That's all you all. One interpretation after another running forward, but no self, no fear, that's no possible either right. Well, if that I mean you need to self to be afraid, yeah, so I mean that's your
be consciously afraid, but you can read the danger without the self and that's what that's k? U find your freezing. Are you walking in our city and you jump back in the bus goes flying by so you've reacted to danger, but only after it's do you feel fear. When you cognitively become aware, that's happened well in that sort of a situation, but situation like we were walking down a dark alley and you see some guy who seems to be following you now you're you're, in a situation where you're in a potential the dangerous situation so now you're anxious about, what's going to happen, you're not starting three, starting with things. I didn't worry about. What's going to happen, nothing there's nothing! There! That's made you what, if he ramps it up. Hey Joe yeah, what's come over here man I like to borrow some money from you. You got shit, there's that fear now you've got a specific
threat right. So you now you're interfere in that that's gonna Marfan to another anxiety about what the hell is. This guy can do to me right so, but all of that is yeah. The than dark alleyway is going to go into your brain and trigger your muscle, tension, your heart to race and so forth, and the dark out he's going to go to your cortex and you're going be interpreting the fact that you're in a dark alley in your heart is racing in terms of being anxious and fearful, and all of that, but they're happening separately. It's not one bundle, it's leading separate things in the brain, and once we understand that it becomes, I think, a much easier problem. How to approach problems of fear and anxiety. You've gotta separately treat the bring the physiology from the conscious thoughts and in between those two. You also got to change the cognitions that underlie the conscious experience, but also the cognitions can trigger behavior. So you know
one of the things we've we proposed to. I propose this in my last book. Anxious was a kind of test program for exploring this, where be kind of a three part three step program. First, you would you'd have to do it with something simple, like a spider phobic, what spider, phobic snake phobia? Okay, so you do exposure therapy subliminally that majored you're present the picture of a snake or the spider. So fast the conscious mind doesn't know it's there. So, like those old, hungry, eat, popcorn thing exactly movies and that's a very common sneak in psychology, so they would show you a film and there'd be one or two frames of a spider. If you are just a picture, you are but could be a film yeah, okay and uh, but we have to go very fast in the film, so they would with the picture you just presented really quickly and because you know
only if you show a spider phobic try to do exposure therapy to do it because they don't want to deal with spiders, but they they they conscious. Mind doesn't know it's happening to going through subliminally, so the middle as being tamed by the exposure. Now they can look at the picture without the body reacting they're not jumping there, not the heart isn't racing because the middle has been turned off. So all those body responsive have calmed down. So now the person could kind of go some undergo cognitive change, about looking at spy and so forth, and and finally, once you've done those two steps, the brains, ready for talk therapy and meditation and other kinds of mindfulness approaches, because all of the the impediments to all that have been put aside by these first two steps. So is anybody ever like officially
someone of arachnophobia or city or video field, video phobia phobia, you know fear of snakes. It's like those are seem to be almost like deep, seated genetic fears we made our ancestors yes had snake and but they vary, which is it's weird that I certainly experienced: venomous, snakes and but there's something about some people have almost illogical reaction to it that it's often been speculated that this is some sort of a genetic memory have someone, perhaps in their ancestry line, surviving the snake attack or losing someone to a snake. It's more you out that the it's more about the ability to rapidly learn about those kinds of dangers than to innately respond. So there seems to be it's called prepared learning, so you have an evolutionarily based thing. That's with you
that everyone has some version of, but you know it varies from individual to individual. Some people are prone to. Rapidly, learn that either because of other experiences a because of that particular genetic makeup, so they tend to go down the road of of acquiring these kinds of phobias now, so it's the problem with treating that by just extinguishing it through exposure is that the extinction is always impermanent in a few once you've been reduced. Nothing is wrong. This is true in a rat or person that say the rat is been given a tone. That's been paired with the shop and then it here the tone, twenty or thirty times stopped responding. But then, if goes back in the room,
the chamber where the shock it occurred, the tone will again bring it elicited in the spider. Phobic returns to the place where here she was bitten by a spider or place where spiders of supposed to be present. It can come back, so these are imperfect, temporary, so Lucien's they're, not enough- and that's why I mean they're called these- are called in a reinstatement and things like that because they pop back so maybe medications can help temp that down a bit so medications. Are you well in that sense of being able to control the behavior in the physiology, but less so in turn, changing the mental state, because you know how could you we design a medication that would know how to check means the content of a a mental state? That seems like an impossible and that
what you want to do you don't want to change all middle states right. You want to change the one content. You know, I'm afraid of spiders yeah up it's! It's so fascinating, though, how people vary so widely in there reaction to certain fears or to certain things that could induce fear whether it's dogs or you know whatever irrational thing that people have the source of that is really often speculated that there's like some sort of a genetic component to it. Do you buy into that? So let's say, let's say that that in any in a situation like that there are multiple systems in the brain there going involved, we're gonna to isolate the macd as in a hypothetical part of that system that is detecting and responding to the stimulus, so we're gonna go into the amygdala and focus on
a little part of it called the lateral nucleus that doesn't matter, but it's the part that gets the input from the outside world. That is the gateway into the amygdala. So now, let's talk about. Let's say it's got them know two thousand cells and neurons and and um. Each of those neurons is gonna, have a bell curve, that's based on, but jeans that made that cell and whatever kinds of electrical signals it's had throughout the life of the organism. So you have to hundred thousand bell curves. You know degrees that when the amulets comes in those cells that that are activated their little bell curve are going to determine how much they respond to that and that's gonna, the to other cells that have their own bell curves in areas and so on down the line that what happens
at the level of behavior is a very complicated of summation of all those bell, curves of all those cells that happened be activated. So it's not like you know. One thing is progress, not like a brain areas program. It's all about. What's happened at those Pacific sells both through genetics and experience that we often kind of over simplified things by thinking. Well, I said a gene or an area that has inherited that when you think of human beings and you think of what we used to be when we some sort of a lower hominid and now what we are now and you think of all these various components that are at play. Do you you ever try to imagine what a human of a thousand years or ten thousand a hundred thousand years from now will be like they're, going to be different. No we're not every organism is in constant change in the
racial mixing, interbreeding happens and to mutation, random mutation. We we're living longer, and so you know that's creating people having babies later that change a lot of stuff. So we can be a different thing at some point. We may split out into a whole new kind of human, the the thing about people having babies older, I mean there's, certainly, limitations when people having babies older, but on the plus side you're dealing with someone that has a lot more life experience. That's raising a child, you know versus uh. My mom had me me was she was twenty twenty one? You know what fuck do you know when you're twenty one, you don't know much, but if you're a woman who has a child when you're forty well, hey, that's a rich life of a lot of experiences, and maybe you can some of that wisdom to your child and look at things
a different way and maybe that in turn will raise a child. It's more balanced, yeah, I'm talking out of my area here, but I I think that know the eggs get around for a long time, and I don't know what the effect of aging on the egg is. I just don't know. Well, there's all a big factor with the mail. Spam mails firm has a thing and that's one of the main contributor I autism and older man is supposedly I've heard of that that you know older fathers are more likely to have male son that are schizophrenic. That makes sense at all to say that as a fact, but I've heard that well, it all makes sense there be some glitches in the matrix is yeah. I mean we're not in not supposed to live that. Are we not made what what do your thoughts on people that are trying to live longer and trying to sort of a squeeze out as much time as they can on this rock? I don't know it's like.
I see a lot of old people don't want to live anymore, and I understand that you know that your body starts falling apart. Mine is going what's the point at that point. Yeah I get that, but what about the people that can keep it together? Yeah, I guess, if you keep it together, you wanna, like you, know: okay, let's go as far as we can go to the moon and Mars will pharmacological solutions toe I mean if, if there were some sort of a genetic component that they identified the aging and they gave the option to reverse the process, would you participate? What like it? Do you like the finite nature of this existence? Uh? I do think such like a new you're gonna at it. I think a I don't. I'm not I'd, take certain medications, but rather just live with most of my life. Is it possible without them?
So what medications to you take what pressure, mainly blood pressure, stuff yeah. Do you exercise not enough? That's not yet got a big effect on anxiety and a big effect on just this general alleviation of angst. That's a good exam! Something I know I should do yeah is that a discipline issue uh used to be kind of discipline, but what happened? I've been using. It a lot thio you have to do things like. I really want to do like writing, are making me sick and so those the things that kind of I know I should do the exercise too, so I can do more of that longer yeah. Do you think you have a finite amount of discipline? Uh each person has the findings as that sort of anxiety, quotient that discipline quotient that we kinda. You probably can
work that, like a muscle yeah, I would imagine you can yeah. You could become something different. My friends of this thing that we did last year called Sober October, the entire month. No alcohol, no marijuana, no drugs and crazy exercise. Like last year, we had a competition to see like who could exercise the most. We wore these rate monitors and we we measured points like you, get a certain amount of points at a percent, your your heart rate per minute. What my point is one of the things that I got this and we all got that we all talked about it because we were exercising hours and hours a day, incredible alleviation of anxiety, incredible, I I exercise regularly, but I don't exercise at that level that level that we were doing because we were in this competition was really a a lot of cardio, but my god that runner's high real, I felt amazing- I mean I felt like so good all the time the alleviate
banks was, unlike anything, the internal chatter that sort of can with your head head. Just didn't exist anymore. Well, I think that's wonderful, that you're saying that, because you have so many followers and I think that's such fantastic information to convey to them, it is, and it's so available to all of us. I mean anybody that can move their body can experience us and I don't recommend what we did is we were working out hours six hours a day, even once you know I walk. I live in New York, so I walk a lot. That's great right! You have to yes, but I mean just that alone. Is it's there's many people that don't walk? No, you just sit here and then you move to that spot. You sit there and you get in the car and you sit there. You sit there and there's very little use of the body, and the body starts to atrophy by pumping blood through the system and cleaning out the pipes and getting that air into the lungs and forcing yourself to move. When it's,
you feel better, I'm breathing better, and I just feel it right. I'm imagining it! I'm imagining this exercise. What do you? What about nature? Do you do you any time in nature at all to go to central park? Well, we have a house up and sold one county in the Catskills. Well, that's nice! How often you get a chance to get out there. We spend a lot of time there in the summer other and feel better when you're up there yeah definitely interest thing right. It takes a couple of days to like get into the rhythm yeah, but then it's good, but once you do, do you ever think what the fuck am I doing living in Manhattan, always buildings? You know my right from that shit in my wife's in New York or so by birth so week there we need, we need to go in. You want to come. My friend Jeff has a place on fire, island and beautiful place beautiful and he lives in Manhattan as well be says like as the older your book. He says
as he's gotten older, he really don't doesn't think that he could live in man not anymore. If it wasn't for this ability to escape and go somewhere and just wake up in the morning, look out see the ocean. Have a cup of coffee moving. Brooklyn was kind of like that getting out of Manhattan, yeah yeah. I know that if you don't live in New York, that may not make a lot of sense to explain to people what difference up. You know you Manhattan is just like this super all the time and it's not a it's. Not a. Try thing it's, you know it's it's a true thing that you want to get out of Manhattan. Everything is just a a notch down yeah and I've step off the subway and you kinda feeling a little more relaxed. Do you think? That's just Brooklyn I mean just speculative but there's a lot of people in Brooklyn yeah, but there's no skyscrapers few,
the minute they're starting to be lots of tall buildings, but with like a tall building in Brooklyn, thirty dirty right residences. What's Manhattan like eighty, the like 80s and ninety news of giant buildings, look out the other day, I guess from the airplane, something in north and and it looks like it's way above the empire state Building yeah size. I don't know what that is, is have you thought about that existence like terms of like how unnatural it is and how recent it is. This a bill, the gym until old one million, how many people are in Manhattan? Oh, but you know, I have no idea, like I think, eight million or something in New York City, but and then of course, computers as well, so eight million plus all the people that come in from different places to work there and just stuffed into an incredibly small area and stacked on top of each other. That is good to be Compl,
Wheatley, new psychological state for the human animal right yeah that just I remember when I first got into psychology, I was reading something about something called a behavioral sink. It was about how rats living in impoverished environment under high a crowded conditions, their behavioral repertoire sort of like diminished a lot. I think that was sort of used to kind of challenge urban living to blame a lot of urban decay in the seventies on out. It was necessarily a good idea, but it was kind of a a way to explain some things that I think it wasn't really good, explain, yeah, it's true that that people do of under fairly crowded conditions, but explain everything in terms of very simple processes. Are you
are the studies that they did with a set cameras up on streets and they they set them distance apart? They measured footsteps, how fast people walked, and then they measured the way people talk, how many syllables and how many sentences they can get in a certain amount of time and through measuring footsteps and how fast people walked and the way they talked. They could accurately determine how big the city was. They live how many yeah they get accurate. We figure out whether or not they lived in a high population density, whether not they lived in a small town by the way they talked and the way they walk. It's just that there's a profound effect. I have a a call. I used to have a colleague in why you named John Barge is that jail now, and he to do these studies where he he was a social psychologist, he would have people come students come into the lab and. Take these letters- and they were like scrambled and he'd have to like they'd- have to
ramble them into sense. I guess it was words and you have to unscramble them and put them into a sentence, and if the scramble sentence was about being older and elder him, anything about being elderly in age would take the students longer to walk down the hallway to get to the elevator afterwards. Eyes is like activating this kind of scheme of of aging. That top down had some kind of effect on the way you walk. That, well, that makes sense you do see. What's really interesting to me is when you see the differences between people who are the same age, who behave and think very differently. I always wonder how much of that is biological? How much that a psychological? How much that is like well, this person just has a better better genetic makeup own, so they you know in their fifties. They still have tons of energy, whereas this person maybe have the make up and bad
lifestyle choices, and they look like what we considered. You know man when we were younger. Well, I mean we're all so complicated and there's so many factors that go into you. You know shaping how we end up at any point in our life. Where do you think selfishness came from to know that consciousness? So that's this ability to put yourself into an experience which, as I said earlier, is responsible for our greatest admits- is a species, but also is what will potentially do is send. It allows to not only envision. A world in which you know we can be less self, you know not selfish but help others, but so how to exclude others- and I think it's natural, a sikh animal instinct to stay alive. Obviously you with Richard Dawkins
the theory of the selfish gene animals, certain credibly, selfish and their struggle for existence, so that kind of automatic selfishness is there. But what the automatic mind allows us to do is to be intentionally willfully selfish. Allow us to choose to do these things for our own personal good, for example. I think that the the automatic human human mind is the only entity in the history of life. That's been ever to put organism about the conscious mind being a small part of the what's going on in the car text, to put all of the rest of the brain and all of the body at risk. For simple sake of a thrill thrill, climbing swimming and infested waters are taking drugs at dangerous levels. No
organism can commit. Suicide can commit suicide of intentionally planning to put an end to an entity that it knows, has a possible end. So our conscious minds are special in good ways and bad ways conscious mind that seeks thrills. What do you think is the root of that? I've always wondered like why why certain people are drawn to doing like tips on motorcycles or certain people drawn to climbing mountains with no ropes like what do you think that is. You I'm just guessing, I don't really know, but I think that we. Each have these physiological states that that we try to maintain your kind are homeostatic levels are, are different and some people
need a little more adrenaline or little little more. I hate to use adrenaline and the kind of cheap, cheap way of just say it's just more of a rusher kind of body activity, because all that also affects the brain and so consciously you strive. You may go looking for those kinds of things to get the rush um and it's similar in you know it's. Ah, it's sort of on the spectrum of addiction in a sense where you need that that physiological change that the drug induces. But you know we also have addictions in our lives that are rabbits and things that that we develop and do that aren't necessarily good for us, but that we kind of feel compelled to do.
Do you know Alex Honnold is yeah. I've had him on podcast a couple of times and every time I talked to my hands start getting sweaty e, some nervous for folks who don't know who we're talking about he's, probably the most this free solo climber in the world, and he climbed these seemingly impossible mountains with no ropes. There's video of him doing it with this drone footage of him, climbing these p aches and my hands just start pouring sweat watch it. But when I talk to him, what's really interesting is he's a calm, rational, intelligent man, who's very thoughtful and he's he's a very kind guy he's d doesn't seem like some. You know, I think, of when think of someone who likes to do flips off with a motorcycle or do radical, I think, of some crazy
wild thrill seeker, some some due to just needs to constantly or a woman who needs to be constantly freaked out he's not not that guy and when he describes it. What's really interesting is he goes. It's very mellow he's if there's any, if there's really a thrill, I've done some horribly wrong, like the the thrills are so scary because it means you're about to die so he's instead of getting the thrill he's getting that piece yeah, but he's getting a piece from putting himself extreme rescue and there's also the thing of other people praising you for your risk. Taking, which is I thing about humans and they they've shown through natural? Will this a natural selection aspect of it with females and mates females are attracted to men that do those crazy things and take crazy risks for some strange reason, whether it's some
of a remnant of our ancient past, like that thrills seeking a man has got not gonna, be uh, he's not going to shy away from combat, he will protect our children or something like that. Yeah I mean there's a lot of evolutionary psychology yeah. You know that a lot of that is speculative, yes, is the horse, but it's the thrill seeker is that's what it's one of the weirder things when everything's great and you have plenty of food and you live in cities and like okay, look, I'm not getting enough juice here, I'm gonna have to learn how to hand glide or something you know, and some people may do it for attention. Yes, yeah the things people do for attention. Creativity is that dad to me is one of the more interesting aspects of being human beings, our ability to create things desire to create things
in a way, that's also along long same lines right because you're getting rewarded for it. Well, probably. Yes, so I mean all these things are as a child is, is developing and growing up and passing through different kinds of situations in life. I think a lot of stuff happens kind of randomly. You know that the child may do something that someone views is creative and so, as you said, the child is rewarded, and so then that allows them to figure out what you know explore kind of how they did that and and maybe continue to do it, but other people made simply have minds that going that direction on their own, where, as we talked about earlier, the their thoughts are able to jump across conceptual categories and
Nick's sort of transcend those categories into new, completely new ideas and so forth, and I don't think we know how the brain does that at all. That's a very good question for the future, but it's not something we have a great deal of under any of I mean that there could be an air of research on it that I just don't know about its it's a big field, but I certainly don't know the answer to how creativity comes well. It's interesting to creativity has a reward system built in for the person who creates, even even without recognition from others, there's some fundamentally satisfying feeling of creating something. That's fun, yeah. Why? You think that is.
While novelty is rewarding, not reinforcing its ah and certainly creativity is novelty. It's like anything that is novel that you do has a kind of you know charge effect to it. I would think yeah I mean it's. People like you who study this stuff to me are so important, because most of us are just banging the walls trying to figure out why we do what we do and to have ability to understand the scientific explanations for the various things that are at play. It's it's so it's so critical because you can and I'm like, not necessarily stop the process, but at least be aware of it, while it's going down. Is that part of what you under to do when you're writing? Well, I thank you for your credit me for that, but the
you know a lot of what we've been talking about. We just and have a conversation. My work is very rather limited in a lot of work and creativity, and all these things are when you work on the way, the mind where I work on yeah. I mean I think, about how the work the mind works, but I work on how the brain detects in response to danger, so that allows me to go back to my early work on consciousness and to bring it in and layer it on top of all that other stuff. But yet so you know I I they get tremendous value out of sitting riding and because, when you start a book. In my case, I think this product, you have many people, you don't have no idea how you gonna get to the end. You know you have a beginning and you just see where it goes. So this idea of writing a proposal that lays out the whole thing to me doesn't work because you just don't know where it's going and the fun part is getting to the end. The brain
reacting to danger. Do you did you? Did you do any interviews with people who are soldiers or interview fighters or people that are involved in extreme activities? That. Yeah no, I haven't, I haven't done a lot of interviews, I mean I have talked to people like that. Ten. You know. Every individual cases are interesting because they give you stuff, but it's not data, so the data you have to go out and collect yeah. What do you got there for notes? No pile notes are Roger and I wanted to discuss um uh. I thought this brought this. I think we covered most of what I want to say. That is not a fear. Center behaviors, primarily a tool of the mind it's a tool of survival. I think we know why we do the things we do and others do them, but we don't really because we are
just mind- is not privy to all of the things that the body and brain doing now when you wanted to examine danger, and you want to examine the mind and how it reacts to danger and fear and threats what we trying to get out of this it out thinking. This was a way to study, emotion and, at the time I've been studying these these human patients with split brain surgery and not because you you in October that year, but the split researchers at Levi's and Apple up say it's a way to control epilepsy. The can't be controlled in any other way medications not working. So you have like young kids teenagers that have lived most of their life, this paralyzed by epilepsy, and not being able to lead a life that was one patient to. Basically, his parents would constantly having to hold him down on the mattress. He was season so often
so- and this is not. This is only done in in a very extreme set of conditions, and it's not done that much anymore. But when it's done it's the connections being the two sides of the brain er are separated, so information on one side doesn't cross over to the. How do they do that? They open up the skull skull? The two you got kind of two loaves of bread sitting next to each other and they're connected by threads, which are to ago between them- and you pull apart here and you can see where those Exxon's are when you open up from the the top a like a hot dog, bun, okay, and so you open it up at the top. And you can look down in the center and imagine that there was like a bunch of wires crossing between the two sides of the bun. So
those wires would then be surgically section. And so now you end up with. Two sides of the brain, separate and independent, so typically language is on the left side. So you can talk to that side. The right side doesn't have language, so you have to ask what what can do so if you present a stimulus that only the right hemisphere sees and you do that flashing- a a picture of an apple, the left side of space, because everything to the left of center goes to the right hemisphere and everything to the right of center goes to the left hemisphere. So you send a stimulus to the right hemisphere, and you say what did you see in the left hemisphere answers? Because that's where the languages he says I didn't say anything so a you said: reach into this bag and see. What's in there. The right hand goes in that's connected to the left. Hemisphere can't find it
left hand, goes and connected to the right hemisphere that which saw the apple it blows out the apple, so the right hemisphere has hasn't that the left hemisphere can't talk about what is life like for people once they've done that operation well, slowly, the left hemisphere. It comes to dominate again and Tthe. The you know know they come to live with it and how does it prevent seizures the the folklore of it? I don't know if this is actually true, but what is often said is that it the seizures from jumping back and forth and having you know, because the electoral activity jumping back and forth sort of gets into a kind of in the salute that can't stop, but cutting that isolates the seizures in the two hemispheres and makes each one more controllable by taking the medication Jesus. So
imagine being the first guy to try that out. Yeah really, I got an idea, let your brain like a hot dog bun, so um, but it what we were interested in in these patients that we were studying. This is my mentor Michael Gazzaniga, and I we're studying these at Dartmouth Medical School. We were at Stony Brook out on long island. We would drive up to Dartmouth to see these patients. How does the left hemisphere cope with the fact that the right hemispheres performed a behavior that the it the left hemisphere that you talked to didn't come end Mmm? So we would put information in the right hemisphere of the guy would stand up. Why'd you do that I needed to stretch are enough, scratches I had an itch, so I needed to scratch it, and so after time the
left hemisphere would generate a narrative that made its behavior makes sense. So that's why I got interest, did how non conscious systems would be generating behaviors that we had regenerate narratives to explain, because at the time that we were doing this, the idea of cognitive dissonance, it's very popular, and what that means is that when cognitively, when you do something behave early, that is incongruous with what you cognitively. No it's disturbing. It causes dissonance, and so you have to engage in some kind of dissonance reduction. So our hypothesis was these narratives that the left hemisphere is generating about right hemisphere. Behaviors was a way of of left him, his conscious mind kind of keeping it all together. The consciousness thinks that it's in charge
that you know the brain and body art it's you know its it's this, the the control center and everything else is there to to satisfy its whims, and so it generates these narratives to keep that sense of unity going, even though it's no longer unified so fascinating that the brain tries to seek some sort of an explanation for the actions that you provoked externally and that's why it into a motion because, well maybe emotion, systems produce these. Yes, I'm Jamie, I'm looking this up alien hands room came up. Do you know any about this? I don't I'm sorry, there's a long article explaining this thing called Alien hand Syndrome and also known as Dr Strangelove Syndrome picture. Doctors. Trade explanations are very strange about people's hands, doing something that they're not explain right. So it's kind of it's kind of the same. Do they generate an explanation when they do that? It just explains different scenarios. People had like a leg
in the wrong direction. Sh, but up your shirt with your left hand, right hand starts, but now that seems to be like some sort of a neurological problem, but is slick brand patients with the right after surgery when things are really like up so growing, it would be like in the pants down with one hand and pulling him up with the uh, oh wow, so there's one patient I saw in the hospital young kit the left hand reaches out to grab the nurse on the ass. Can I say that and the address right and the right hand is pulling it back home, like I say, there's like a physical struggle. It is like this and you know, and it all kind of like over time, that they don't come back together, but the they negotiate, something where it's not so dramatic. The woman who thinks her alien hand wants her to be a better person. Yeah see I'm thinking these are some sort of physiological, but it's a what a crazy solution to epilepsy. I know there's other solutions that,
but that that is a last ditch effort, yeah and so for severe severe cases and I'd add those he has not done enough to eventually sort of achieve some sort of normalization. Yeah, hey. You know that David lives, the kids have live so long in the state by the time they get their their brains. Change like that. That. I don't know really ultimately, what became of all these people because I moved on to other fields and but I think in general they live somewhat better life, but I doubt they ever live a completely full normal life. I mean how could you, after all, I'm really interested in the brain, creating these narratives to explain yeah. This is there's so many people that do things like that right, they'll, try to
explain their life away and give themselves excuses and give themselves reasons for behavior, and The things you see with the more rational people as it's never their fault. It's always someone else's fault, but that's four billion years story that how we generate how we got to these narratives. That's what it's all about! Listen man, Islam, Bing stuff! Please tell everybody your books where they can get him how they can find them. Are they available in audio as well right? So the new book is called the deep history of ourselves, the four billion year story of how we got conscious brains, and you get that on Amazon. You can get the audible on audible, dot, com, Barnes and uh. I think all of the major booksellers have the books
last book was anxious. It also has an audible version, always wanted to get like Christopher Walken. To do my, why? Don't you do it? Did you not do an odd indoors? They didn't ask for anything. I would want you to do it. It's your work. I get bummed out when someone else reads like one of the good things about like pinker and Gladwell. They read their own box like they've, never fitted to me you should you should demand that next it for my for my memoir I'll, definitely uh there you go have to thank you for being here. I really really appreciate it. Thanks. Thanks for all your work, did I just say one thing: yes, please! So sometimes I, when I release books, also released music to go with him, so anxious had a record with it, and deep history has songs of life that are on the deepest free dot com website. Oh that's cool! So you are in position. You were bringing that up right. You gotta couple of bands and apple bands love the main band. Is the Magda Lloyd's
make delights dot com? That's awesome! It's a rock band! We we created our own genre. Having mental about is about brain and mental disorders, are love songs, but most rock songs or love songs about mental disorders anyway, yes, yeah, there's acoustic do well, so we are, which is a lot easier to get around without drums and amps and stuff. It's too acoustic a taurus awesome. We play the acoustic versions of them, Dillard's! Alright! Well, thank you appreciate you. Thanks for the fun. Thank you. Everyone for tuning into the show, and thanks to our sponsors thank Q to stamps dot, com stamps dot com. Ladies and gentlemen, there gonna hook you up with a four week. Trial plus free pose a digital scale without any long term commitment when you go to stamps dot, com click on the in front of the top of the home page and type in JRE that stamps dot com and enter J Jre.
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Transcript generated on 2019-09-13.