Mindful Startups

Exploring mindful approaches to the entrepreneurial journey, including neuroscience, psychology, and contemplative practice.
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Where we are is where we need to be.
Charlotte Joko Beck

"Though past research has shown that mindfulness enhances performance on cognitive tasks, this study is the first to show that mindfulness boosts performance in a fast-paced, ever-changing work environment."

Read the full article at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/can_mindfulness_enhance_job_performance .

Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.
Margaret J. Wheatley

Recovering from suffering is not like recovering from a disease. Many people don’t come out healed; they come out different. They crash through the logic of individual utility and behave paradoxically. Instead of recoiling from the sorts of loving commitments that almost always involve suffering, they throw themselves more deeply into them. Even while experiencing the worst and most lacerating consequences, some people double down on vulnerability. They hurl themselves deeper and gratefully into their art, loved ones and commitments.

The suffering involved in their tasks becomes a fearful gift and very different than that equal and other gift, happiness, conventionally defined.

David Brooks, in a fantastic piece titled “What Suffering Does." While the wisdom borne of suffering is far deeper than mere career issues, I do happen to think that the strong correlation between an initial failure, and eventual startup success, is also tied to a similar wisdom borne of suffering.  That wisdom is rarely found without first experiencing the suffering.

Read the full article here.

(via trevorloy)

Zen is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake.
We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past. Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past, and there is no reality apart from the here and now.
Peter Matthiessen
The music is not in the notes, but the silence in between.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
I think a lot of our team commitment is a silent understanding that each one of us has poured our life into what we’re doing.
Claire Carver-Dias, Olympic medalist
Every time I tell a lie, I know that I am no longer present. I feel a tightening in my chest and sweat on my palms — just a small amount because I only tell little lies. But lies they are. They place me in a false future, increase my level of stress and prevent me from being as creative as I can be when I’m fully present. Stress saps our energy and causes nasty consequences for our bodies. We know that lying creates stress; polygraph tests measuring blood pressure, perspiration, pulse and skin conductivity can pinpoint a lie with tremendous accuracy.
Rebekah Campbell, CEO / founder of Posse (@rebekahposse) from her recent NY Times piece titled, “The Surprisingly Large Cost of Telling Small Lies”. 

trevorloy:

A few years ago, a sociologist told me about a study of happiness in southern California. The top reported source of unhappiness was that people felt too busy and overwhelmed by all of their daily commitments, and that they did not get enough daily time alone for themselves. The second-highest…

I think a lot of our team commitment is a silent understanding that each one of us has poured our life into what we’re doing.
Claire Carver-Dias

neurosciencestuff:

Computers See Through Faked Expressions of Pain Better Than People

A joint study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Toronto has found that a computer system spots real or faked expressions of pain more accurately than people can.

The work, titled “Automatic Decoding of Deceptive Pain Expressions,” is published in the latest issue of Current Biology.

“The computer system managed to detect distinctive dynamic features of facial expressions that people missed,” said Marian Bartlett, research professor at UC San Diego’s Institute for Neural Computation and lead author of the study. “Human observers just aren’t very good at telling real from faked expressions of pain.”

Senior author Kang Lee, professor at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto, said “humans can simulate facial expressions and fake emotions well enough to deceive most observers. The computer’s pattern-recognition abilities prove better at telling whether pain is real or faked.”

The research team found that humans could not discriminate real from faked expressions of pain better than random chance – and, even after training, only improved accuracy to a modest 55 percent. The computer system attains an 85 percent accuracy.

“In highly social species such as humans,” said Lee, “faces have evolved to convey rich information, including expressions of emotion and pain. And, because of the way our brains are built, people can simulate emotions they’re not actually experiencing – so successfully that they fool other people. The computer is much better at spotting the subtle differences between involuntary and voluntary facial movements.”

“By revealing the dynamics of facial action through machine vision systems,” said Bartlett, “our approach has the potential to elucidate ‘behavioral fingerprints’ of the neural-control systems involved in emotional signaling.”

The single most predictive feature of falsified expressions, the study shows, is the mouth, and how and when it opens. Fakers’ mouths open with less variation and too regularly.

“Further investigations,” said the researchers, “will explore whether over-regularity is a general feature of fake expressions.”

In addition to detecting pain malingering, the computer-vision system might be used to detect other real-world deceptive actions in the realms of homeland security, psychopathology, job screening, medicine, and law, said Bartlett.

“As with causes of pain, these scenarios also generate strong emotions, along with attempts to minimize, mask, and fake such emotions, which may involve ‘dual control’ of the face,” she said. “In addition, our computer-vision system can be applied to detect states in which the human face may provide important clues as to health, physiology, emotion, or thought, such as drivers’ expressions of sleepiness, students’ expressions of attention and comprehension of lectures, or responses to treatment of affective disorders.”

(via emergentfutures)

neurosciencestuff:

Childhood’s end: ADHD, autism and schizophrenia tied to stronger inhibitory interactions in adolescent prefrontal cortex

Key cognitive functions such as working memory (which combines temporary storage and manipulation of information) and executive function (a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action) are associated with the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Unlike other brain regions, the prefrontal cortex does not mature until early adulthood, with the most pronounced changes being seen between its peripubertal (onset of puberty) and postpubertal developmental states. Moreover, this maturation period is correlated with cognitive maturation – but the physical neuronal changes during this transition have remained for the most part unknown. Recently, however, scientists at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC recorded and compared prefrontal cortical activity peripubertal and adult monkeys.

The researchers found that compared with adults, peripubertal monkeys showed lower connectivity due to stronger inhibitory interactions, suggesting that intrinsic (or resting state) inhibitory connections – that is, inhibitory neural connections that are active in the absence of any particular task – decline with maturation. The scientists then concluded that prefrontal intrinsic connectivity changes are a possible substrate for cognitive maturation.

Prof. Christos Constantinidis discusses the paper that he, Dr. Xin Zhou and their co-authors published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. When comparing the functional connectivity between pairs of neurons in neuronal activity recorded from the prefrontal cortex of peripubertal and adult monkeys and evaluating the developmental stage of peripubertal rhesus monkeys with a series of morphometric, hormonal, and radiographic measures, Constantinidis tells Medical Xpress that a major challenge was to obtain neural activity from the brain of monkeys around the time of puberty. “We needed to make ourselves experts in the developmental trajectories of monkeys and conduct experiments just at the right time relative to the onset of puberty,” he explains.

Read more

neurosciencestuff:

Research reveals first glimpse of a brain circuit that helps experience to shape perception

Odors have a way of connecting us with moments buried deep in our past. Maybe it is a whiff of your grandmother’s perfume that transports you back decades. With that single breath, you are suddenly in her living room, listening as the adults banter about politics. The experiences that we accumulate throughout life build expectations that are associated with different scents. These expectations are known to influence how the brain uses and stores sensory information. But researchers have long wondered how the process works in reverse: how do our memories shape the way sensory information is collected?

In work published today in Nature Neuroscience, scientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) demonstrate for the first time a way to observe this process in awake animals. The team, led by Assistant Professor Stephen Shea, was able to measure the activity of a group of inhibitory neurons that links the odor-sensing area of the brain with brain areas responsible for thought and cognition. This connection provides feedback so that memories and experiences can alter the way smells are interpreted. 

The inhibitory neurons that forget the link are known as granule cells. They are found in the core of the olfactory bulb, the area of the mouse brain responsible for receiving odor information from the nose. Granule cells in the olfactory bulb receive inputs from areas deep within the brain involved in memory formation and cognition. Despite their importance, it has been almost impossible to collect information about how granule cells function. They are extremely small and, in the past, scientists have only been able to measure their activity in anesthetized animals. But the animal must be awake and conscious in order to for experiences to alter sensory interpretation. Shea worked with lead authors on the study, Brittany Cazakoff, graduate student in CSHL’s Watson School of Biological Sciences, and Billy Lau, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow. They engineered a system to observe granule cells for the first time in awake animals. 

Granule cells relay the information they receive from neurons involved in memory and cognition back to the olfactory bulb. There, the granule cells inhibit the neurons that receive sensory inputs. In this way, “the granule cells provide a way for the brain to ‘talk’ to the sensory information as it comes in,” explains Shea. “You can think of these cells as conduits which allow experiences to shape incoming data.”

Why might an animal want to inhibit or block out specific parts of a stimulus, like an odor? Every scent is made up of hundreds of different chemicals, and “granule cells might help animals to emphasize the important components of complex mixtures,” says Shea. For example, an animal might have learned through experience to associate a particular scent, such as a predator’s urine, with danger. But each encounter with the smell is likely to be different. Maybe it is mixed with the smell of pine on one occasion and seawater on another. Granule cells provide the brain with an opportunity to filter away the less important odors and to focus sensory neurons only on the salient part of the stimulus. 

Now that it is possible to measure the activity of granule cells in awake animals, Shea and his team are eager to look at how sensory information changes when the expectations and memories associated with an odor change. “The interplay between a stimulus and our expectations is truly the merger of ourselves with the world. It exciting to see just how the brain mediates that interaction,” says Shea.

The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.
Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
Chuang Tzu