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Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?

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Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
11/27/17 2:04 PM
[font=".SF UI Text"][font=".SFUIText"]In this podcast interview with Judson Brewer, it sounds like he just roasted Daniel Ingram. In the episode he talks about his brain imaging studies and how they could tell how awakened people are, and he specifically says that someone who very openly claims to be an arahant was not nearly as awakened as a lot of other people who said they were still a ways off. I know he doesn’t mention Daniel by name, but seeing as though everyone in that kind of public contemplative community knows who everyone is, it seemed pretty clear to me that he was talking about Daniel. I mean, maybe there’s someone else out there who is known for claiming to be an arahant, I was thinking maybe Kenneth Folk, but I don’t know if he participated in that study and I know that Daniel Ingram did. I’m not of one opinion or the other, I just thought it was interesting that Judson Brewer came out so blatantly to say that. He was clearly talking about a public figure who claims to be an arahant and there aren’t too many of those who participated in the study that it could be.

Here is a link to the episode:
http://deconstructingyourself.com/podcast/dy-009-craving-mind-guest-judson-brewer

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
11/27/17 5:59 PM as a reply to jimi.
He called out someone, yes, but I was not that someone. I know who the person is, but defifitely not my place to mention their name, what with dharma politics what it is.

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
11/27/17 11:07 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Actually, about that podcast...

When I listened to it, probably every three minutes I actively cringed.

Addressing the specific topic here, not only is it pretty unethical to nearly out research subjects, like a pretty big no no as they go, as the possible people referenced are so few, the manner in which it was done wasn't fair or even representative of basic truth.

As he stated, it is not an enlightenment-o-meter, definitely not an arahant-o-meter, then he basically went on to state it was.

To give some credit to the poor individual who got called out, I know them, and they can concentrate. Much more than that, they can concentrate very well. Further, it would have been very easy to let the call out go, let people figure out who the person in question was, and let it all slide, except that this would also be unfair and promote sloppy science and somehow just seems wrong to me. So here goes more urine in this very small pool we all swim in, and I wish that the debate had been kept more private and not been made this public thing it now is, as that is pretty tacky, but likely will at least make for some good entertainment, which is what Jud apparently wants more than quiet, thoughtful discourse on the subject. So, here goes...

There is the question of what the PCC actually measures, which caused some of the most frequent cringing on my part, that and his notion that any effort in meditation is a bad thing, which is well, how does one put it nicely?

Actually, on my to do list has been to take the podcast in question and point by point rhetorically rip it a new orifice, but, given that the topic has been raised here, I will do a summary of some of my most pressing thoughts on the topic.

The poor semi-outed person in question didn't realize that the measurement of the PCC in the fMRI works by comparison. So, if one is powered up for concentration, as they were apparently, when the baseline scan is done, there will be no great difference between it and the scans during practice, as the bloodflow will be the same, at least depending on what one is concentrated on.

I spent 3.5 hours in that fMRI scanner, doing many runs by their protocols and some runs where I got to play, and I also spent a goodly number of hours wired to Jud's EEG both before and after he got his algorithm working for comparison.

I don't come to the same conclusions as Jud about what the PCC does and is.

Here's my take on the PCC: it is a switch that regulates the degree to which the ordinary physical senses excluding our internally created realities (like visualizations, etc.) are a part of our field of experience, so it seems to me. It is clearly one of many switches, as it would take quite a number to come up with the variants of what is and isn't a part of any moment's experience. In Jud's scans, presuming he isn't running a scan where the colors are flipped in that part of the protocol, blue means that the PCC is deactivated and red means that is activated. Decativating the PCC paradoxically means that one is noticing the ordinary sense doors, so blue means noticing the ordinary sense doors, and red means that one is somewhat detuned from them and thus internal experience, often associated with the Default Mode Network, predominates, which, if one's mind is not well-trained, might mean a somewhat dysphoric and vague internal experience not particularly tuned into one's physical, visual and auditory world.

I found that I could hold the PCC on and off at will easily once I got a sense of what it was doing, and that was borne out on fMRI and EEG studies. Don't believe me? I give Jud Brewer my permission to discuss my scans, in case he would do that and you were interested.

However, there were some runs where I got to play with the PCC and fine tune my understanding of what it did that really made its function a lot clearer. For example, I had a run where I thought all sorts of neurotic thoughts, and yet, as I was pretty deep into it, and as my default these days is to have thoughts generally incorporated into the main field of experience right along with the rest of the senses, the scan went blue, meaning PCC deactivated, which Jud generally associates with something positive, "good meditation", "enlightenment", etc., and yet the thoughts were very much of the quality of a cartoon-like version of the Default Mode Network.

I found that I had to detune the room and my body and the like to make the scanner read red, meaning PCC activated, and just concentrate on the thoughts exclusively to a large degree, also no problem once I figured out what made it go red. After that, blue or red, easy to just go with one and hold it or flip it to the other on command, all dependent on what I did with my mind.

Said another way:
Thoughts as clear experiences in this space with sights, sounds and body: PCC deactivated/blue.
Thoughts as just those thought-experiences with body, sights and sound detuned: PCC activated/red.
Thoughts squashed down to basically nothing and body also largely detuned: PCC activated/red.
Thoughts squashed down to basically nothing and body/sights/sounds predominating in experience: PCC deactivated/blue.

Except here's the kicker, the fMRI and EEG both measure things in relative terms, meaning related to one's baseline scans. The poor outed person in question didn't get the implications of that, and kept the concentration power on during the baseline scans rather than just relax and let their mind drift, as, well, you might say they had something to prove, which is human and understandable, except that they didn't realize that by doing that they totally made it so that there would be no difference between their baseline scans and their concentrated scans, as they were at similar levels of powers, meaning that the machine would show the results in question, meaning nothing.

Thus, the assumptions that one could take these flawed baseline scans related to the ability to relatively activate or deactivate the PCC and then extrapolate that to some degree of non-dual awareness or awakening is, well, academically really sloppy, and hack work (I am attempting to be polite) from a guy who has often done work a lot better than that and who I count among my friends.

To even say that something that measures the PCC as being activated or deactivated as some ultimate artiber of good concentration is also highly questionable, or that it has anything necessarily to do with how much effort one put into those scans (with Jud presuming that low effort is always going to be good) is also highly questionable.

I bring to the bench the case of another person who was in the scanner who had one of their more profound spiritual experiences while actually getting a run recorded. It involved powerful spiritual visions with profound meaning for the person, yet the PCC was activated, and the machine read red, which Jud would say is bad, unenlightened, effortful, unawakened, or something else pejorative, apparently. Except that this makes no sense. Powerful visions basically by default involve what most people would consider very strong concentration. All that the PCC being activated shows, at least based on my experience in those scanners, is that the ordinary sensate world of sights, sounds, body, etc. was detuned, which, as most people who have experienced powerful visions with the body largely gone have noted, involves some really high degree of skill in concentration.

I posit that formless realms by default would require the PCC to be activated, as this would be required to it seemed to me to get the body and sights and the like detuned. I posit that strong visualization practice that involved the body and ordinary sights and sounds to vanish would similarly cause his scanners to go red, yet still be strong concentration, just concentration on something other than the body, sights or sounds, etc. I think this should be formally tested by those who have those concentration chops and phenomenology skills.

I also assert, as did the Buddha, that there is not a perfect correlation between various degrees of awakening and various depths of concentration skills. This, actually, is a fundamental premise of Buddhism, yet one that Jud apparently doesn't believe. Furthermore, I think it would be good to rescan the outed individual in question now that they understand their error, as I will bet that the outcome at least in terms of PCC activation and deactivation on command would be very different, as I know a lot about the practice of the person in question.

Also, at the end of day of playing while wired to his EEG version of his PCC-o-meter, Jud was kind enough to let me record a full meditation session where I rose up through the vipassana jhanas and got some Fruitions. I actually have all the raw data from this as well as the PCC readout picture of the whole run that I am waiting to have the time and some collaborator to analyze, but one thing about it was very interesting, and that was the third vipassana jhana phase, during which the PCC was activated, not deactivated, meaning the scanner was reading more towards the red or baseline at least than the blue. Except, during that run, I was on my A-game, as least for off-retreat. I don't mean to brag, but my A-game is pretty good, and yet what I thought of as my best practice didn't involve the PCC being decativated.

It did give me some insight into the PCC and the default mode network, however, as I think that the third jhana involves some combination of switches generally that involves beinging the default mode network to the surface and to allow it to be awakened in concsiousness somehow. This is simply a theory, one that could possibly be tested in practice. However, after watching that run's readout I began to believe that the PCC is helpful for learning to concentrate on something physical, like the breath, like sights, like sounds, like the body, but not as useful for navigating the Dark Night stages, as those involve bringing awakening to stuff that is deeply internal, which is what those stages do. Except this doesn't fit with Jud's nice business model, which involves one simple product that would work at all stages and for all styles of concentration, which I don't think it would. I think it trains for control of one of many switches, and it is clearly a useful switch, but there are a lot more switches, I believe, as there would have to be to create the varieties of experiences we get in meditation, including powerful, concentrated meditation, and to imagine that any styles of meditation that involved an activated PCC, meaning a detuned sight-sound-body, are bad or not useful is really missing something.

I have this notion that, were I deep into, say, a candle-flame kasina retreat and able to get powerfully bright internal visualizations with a high degree of stability that the PCC would be bright red on Jud's machine, at least if I had gotten them with my body/sights/sounds detuned. However, I believe that those same visualizations, brought into this world, such as drawing symbols of luminous neon fire in the air with the room as part of the experience, the PCC would be deactivated/blue, as this physical world was incorporated into the experience, and so the PCC would be irrelevant to the degree of strength of the primary focus of meditation in this case. This, again, is a testable hypothesis, one that I hope Jud will let me play with after I basically publically blast him and his sloppy conclusions here and his semi-outing of my co-adventurer on this strange and amazing path.

Oh, and Jud's notion that effort in meditation is always bad: polite words fail me. I could make his machines go blue with or without strong effort.

So, take neuroscience research and researchers with a grain of salt, and be careful of how one goes about public claims regarding proof of the lack thereof of awakening, as this is a slippery business.

Jud, if you are reading, sorry about this. Perhaps you are just looking for some pushback and drama, in the style of Elizabeth Taylor, for whom it was more important to be talked about than what people happened to be saying specifically. Hopefully this pushback will lead to more care about things that should be kept confidential and with a bit more reconsideration of what your data might just be implying. Admittedly, this is just my opinion based on my scans and some oral reports to me by some other friends who were playing on those same machines, so not hard science either. While I like a good public scrap as much as the next guy, still, there are considerations of decorum in this small pool we all swim in that perhaps we should consider a bit more carefully.

May this help us all do better in these regards,

Daniel, MD MSPH FAAEM FACEP

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
11/28/17 7:33 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
So, take neuroscience research and researchers with a grain of salt, and be careful of how one goes about public claims regarding proof of the lack thereof of awakening, as this is a slippery business.


Thank you, Daniel.

There is much confusion and assumption about what fMRI is and does, mostly skewed to the positive (it's all powerful and provides THE ANSWER). LIkewise the practictioners and users of fMRI studies. Better to see the sausage being made and air these issues out.

So once again, thanks.

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
11/28/17 11:53 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:


Also, at the end of day of playing while wired to his EEG version of his PCC-o-meter, Jud was kind enough to let me record a full meditation session where I rose up through the vipassana jhanas and got some Fruitions. I actually have all the raw data from this as well as the PCC readout picture of the whole run that I am waiting to have the time and some collaborator to analyze, but one thing about it was very interesting, and that was the third vipassana jhana phase, during which the PCC was activated, not deactivated, meaning the scanner was reading more towards the red or baseline at least than the blue. Except, during that run, I was on my A-game, as least for off-retreat. I don't mean to brag, but my A-game is pretty good, and yet what I thought of as my best practice didn't involve the PCC being decativated.

3rd Jhana = Endorphin Release = Aktivation of KOR = Dissociation = Effects like Salvia divinorum.

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
11/29/17 6:03 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel, thank you for the thoughtful reply. I have a background in neuroscience and have been following meditation research closely for a long time and I really appreciate your take on the role of the PCC based on your experimentation. I listened to the podcast and have read Judson's research and while I found it very interesting my intuition was telling me it was a simplistic model of the impact of long-term meditation. I was surprised by the lack of nuance in the podcast but I also appreciated the candor--it's so often the case that scientists are reluctant to share to opinions and personal experiences, and for some good reasons perhaps. Maybe this was an example of the slippery slope of sharing a lot of information/conjecture in a public format. Because it was a podcast, a rather informal, conversational one at that, I think some slack should be given. At the same time I'm really glad you shared your skepticism. I don't know how many people here are interested in the geeky side of meditation research but I suspect there are a few and your perpective adds an alternative view to the meditation research landscape. There are a lot of theories out there, but the number of studies are still super limited so bringing in some healthy informed skepticism is helpful. 

I'll also mention that I'll have to reflect for a bit on your description of what you believe the function of the PCC to be to fully understand your conception of it as it was not totally clear the first time I read through your post. Perhaps it is because it is so significantly different than Judson's idea of what it's doing, at least that's how it seems to me. It's too bad there aren't more fMRI's just lying around so we could all play around like you did. Hopefully you had a chance to share your thoughts with Judson while you were there. It's useful to have some alternative perspectives when formulating new theories.  
Anyway, just wanted to share my response. If there are other geeky neuro folks out there I look forward to any discussion that arises from this. 
I'm also looking forward to the videos in the works. 
Cheers,
Steve

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
11/30/17 4:45 AM as a reply to jimi.
Judson says that PCC activation correlates with anxiety, yearning, overtrying, getting in your own way, "contraction", whereas PCC deactivation correlates with relaxation, "flow", letting it be, "expansion"...

Daniel's experience is that Judson's measure of PCC activation is simply an indication of how tuned out you are from your sense doors.

Now, it seems plausible to me that anxiety, yearning, etc could maybe make one more prone to tuning out the senses, which would then activate the PCC and be measured by Judson's devices, showing a *correlation* between Judson's measurements and these unpleasant experiences.

So it could be simply a case of confusing correlation with causation. Though learning not to confuse correlation with causation is Science 101, so it would be weird if Judson is not alerted to that possibility.

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
11/30/17 6:23 AM as a reply to jimi.
I smell a quackery here. emoticon Take a group of patients suffering from schizophrenia with completely disorganized thought and a control group of healthy people. Until today there is no reliable diagnostic biomarker (including brain imaging) that can distinguish between these two groups. If I remember well the typical spatial resolution of MRI used in medicine is about 1mm^3. Now imagine how small the individual neuron is and all the multitudes of chemical reactions that take place simultaneously and all the infinitely complex electrochemical processes in the brain.


Perhaps the brain autopsy could reveal something more substantial. ;)   

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
11/30/17 8:10 AM as a reply to Alesh Vyhnal.
If I remember well the typical spatial resolution of MRI used in medicine is about 1mm^3. Now imagine how small the individual neuron is and all the multitudes of chemical reactions that take place simultaneously and all the infinitely complex electrochemical processes in the brain.


Yes - that discussion was had once, in person, at the last Buddhist Geeks conference in Boulder. Shinzen Young made this same point while on stage with David Vago. The resolution of fMRI is quite large compared to the brain structures it purports to measure, and the results one gets may or may not actually measure what one intends, or believes. one is measuring.

BTW - Daniel made the same points at that time that he has made here in this conversation. He was in the audience.

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
12/1/17 9:42 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno nicely summarized my view of why the PCC is asdociated with certain mind states.

While in the scanner I played around with those mindstates and found that the tuning of attention during those mind states and thought qualities determined what the fMRI and EEG read, not the presence or absence of the various states themselves.

That for most people those mind states are associated with specific attention patterns is likely the cause of the confusion, so I believe after my many hours of experimention.

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
12/1/17 11:57 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I am not sure I get what the point of the exercise is?  Are we trying to set up enlightenment tests so teacher's can become 'board certified" or create a device that will put people into altered states through direct neural stimulation/manipulation?

In my experience, people can enter any kind of mind state with any kind of world view if the conditions are right.  I think enlightenment is about seeing things for what they are - or arent- and not being able to hit this state or that.  It is true that they happen concurrently often, but often not.  No? 


I do want to invest in the device if you are making one, though!  

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
12/1/17 3:49 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
I think this is about the neuroscientists wanting to become the final arbiters of who is and who is not awake.

emoticon

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
12/1/17 6:40 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
It seems to me like a great tool for assesing some kind of concentration, but they're not saying anything about insight or realizations or wisdom, the stuff that awakening is made of.

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
12/3/17 3:19 AM as a reply to seth tapper.
seth tapper:
I am not sure I get what the point of the exercise is?  Are we trying to set up enlightenment tests so teacher's can become 'board certified" or create a device that will put people into altered states through direct neural stimulation/manipulation? 

A more realistic objective might be having neurofeedback that actually works. A machine with bells that go WEEEEEE when you are doing things right and HOOOONK when you are doing things wrong. In theory these exist, but from what I gather no-one really knows what these headsets measure actually.

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
12/4/17 11:09 AM as a reply to neko.
A more realistic objective might be having neurofeedback that actually works. A machine with bells that go WEEEEEE when you are doing things right and HOOOONK when you are doing things wrong.
This would be a tremendous achievement, and would radically increase the likelihood of mass enlightenment. I think this is the long-term goal of the research of Judson and colleagues, and that it is a noble one.

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
12/4/17 11:44 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
I expect that pretty soon some one will invent a Heroin plug in for your smart phone and Human civilization will come to and end.  The Dolphins will rejoice! 

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
12/4/17 12:32 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
When I was getting started on the path, I spent some time looking at the existing neurofeedback devices in case they were faster than just following meditation directions.  The one that sounded most promising was called TAGsync, and supposedly involves trying to make your brain waves synchronize across multiple areas of the brain.  It's pretty obscure since it sounds like it's just some random engineer's project rather than a slickly marketed corporate effort.  There's a long forum thread on it, as well as a subreddit for it.  A few people reported various path-style perceptual shifts from long-term use of it.  So anecdotally, maybe there's already some technological options for enlightenment if you'd rather look silly from putting a device on your head rather than look silly for meditating too much.

RE: Judson Brewer called out Daniel Ingram?
Answer
12/5/17 2:11 AM as a reply to JP.
Speaking of the PCC, check this out...

Let's presume a model in which deactivated PCC was good and equated with awakening. I don't like this model, but let's work with it just for the thought experiment.

Remember, all measurement of the PCC is relative to baseline in Jud's scans.

Let's assume that awakening is not something transient, but actually something related to one's baseline way of perceiving things.

Let's assume that the PCC can only be so activated and so deactivated, only have so much blood flow or so little blood flow on the fMRI or only have so strong or so weak and electrical signal on the EEG, so there is a range with limits on each end.

Thus, if you had a machine to measure the degree of activation or deactivation of the PCC, the range of possible deactivation would necessarily get lower as people got more awake at baseline by this model in which deactivation of the PCC was associated with awakening, as the difference between their baseline and the maximally deactivated state would decrease.

In fact, taken far enough, the most awake person in this model that I don't like would actually have no affect of meditation on the PCC, as it would already be maximally deactivated at baseline.

Thus, in this model I don't like, the person most likely to be awake in Jud's model is the one who he claims was the least likely be awake. Anyone else find this strikingly ironic?

Again, I know the person in question, and I know that their minimal scan results were a result of them being pumped concentration-wise rather than relaxed during their baseline scans, so there was no major difference between baseline scans and meditation scans, but still, the logic of the above thought experiment is straightforward.