Self Help

Super Brain - Rudolph E. Tanzi

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Matheus Puppe

· 47 min read

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Here is a summary of the key points from the chapter:

  • We are in a golden age of brain research, with new breakthroughs emerging quickly, but not necessarily a golden age for the individual’s brain.

  • Each person is typically said to only use 10% of their brain, but in reality the brain operates at full capacity. The difference is how the brain is used - as a baseline brain or super brain.

  • As a super brain, one acts as leader, inventor, teacher, and user of their own brain.

  • As leader, the orders you give your brain each day stimulate it in new ways rather than relying on habit.

  • As inventor, you create new pathways and connections in your brain by taking on new challenges and skills.

  • As teacher, you train your brain to learn through applying new things you want to achieve.

  • As user, you keep your brain in optimal working order through lifestyle choices.

  • By taking on these roles, one develops a fully aware, creative relationship with their brain to reach its maximum potential, rather than relying on baseline functioning. The brain evolves and changes based on how it is used.

Based on the passages, here are the key points I identify with:

  • I see my relationship with my brain as an opportunity for continuous growth and development, guided by my intentions and goals.

  • I strive to maintain an adaptive and balanced relationship where my mind leads and guides my brain in a feedback loop, rather than letting external or internal stresses control my thoughts and behaviors.

  • I view self-reflection as important for pushing myself into new areas of learning and skill development over time.

  • My mind works to coordinate diverse areas of my brain simultaneously, rather than focusing on a single aspect.

  • I believe that consciousness arises from the mind interacting with the brain, not solely from brain activity itself, and that only consciousness can truly understand consciousness.

  • Overall my approach seeks to evolve the relationship between my mind and brain over the long term, through patience, hope and diligence, rather than becoming set in existing patterns or abilities.

So in summary, I most identify with the view of a dynamic, balanced and evolvable relationship between mind and brain described in the “Super Brain Credo”, rather than a static baseline approach. My goal is continuous growth and development guided by intention and reflection.

  • The passage discusses feedback loops in the human body and brain. Everything from cells communicating with each other, to the thermostat regulating temperature, to the brain signaling the heart to speed up or slow down during different emotional states.

  • These feedback loops can be intentionally controlled through things like biofeedback machines or meditation techniques. For example, someone can learn to lower their blood pressure or change their heart rate just by focusing their intentions. Tibetan monks can warm their entire bodies on freezing nights through focused meditation.

  • When a feedback loop is maintaining normal body functions, it is involuntary, but when you intentionally control it, you are using your brain rather than letting it use you.

  • Recovery from conditions like strokes depends a lot on feedback loops. Previously, patients would sit passively, but now intensive rehabilitation actively has patients use affected limbs over and over, developing new feedback loops in the brain and allowing much better recoveries.

  • The passage argues that the human brain is far more capable than traditionally believed, and its limitations are imposed by our own expectations, not physical constraints. Things like memory and other abilities can be greatly enhanced through training and pushing past perceived limits.

  • Carlsen’s extraordinary memory abilities are seen as pushing the limits of normal human memory. However, Carlsen himself says using his memory feels natural and doesn’t strain his brain.

  • The passage argues the brain has hidden powers that are unlocked through new beliefs, and that testing the brain’s limits can reveal what it is truly capable of. Success in life depends on one’s brain, as all experience comes through the brain.

  • It aims to make Super Brain practical by providing solutions to common life challenges. Each chapter will end with solutions sections.

  • Five common myths about the brain are described that limit our understanding of its abilities. These include ideas that the injured brain cannot heal, the brain’s hardwiring cannot change, aging decreases ability irreversibly, brain cells aren’t replaced, and primitive reactions always override higher thought.

  • The brain is shown to have remarkable abilities to regenerate, rewire itself through neuroplasticity, keep neural circuits youthful, produce new brain cells, and allow higher thought to dominate. Understanding this expands what the brain is capable of.

  • Myloid proteins accumulate excessively in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, damaging neurons.

  • The passage describes Rudy working alongside colleague Rachel Neve while listening to jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. Jarrett’s improvisational style inspired Rudy’s view of how the brain continuously responds creatively based on life experiences.

  • A 1986 paper by Geddes et al gave Rudy hope by showing the brain’s ability to regenerate tissue through neuroplasticity. It found the hippocampus can sprout new neural connections to compensate for connections lost to Alzheimer’s.

  • The brain has the ability to reshape its circuits through thought, memory and experience. Studies on brain damage provide evidence the brain forms redundant connections and the mind can direct a reduced brain. Neuroplasticity allows the brain to rewire and heal itself.

  • The study placed banana-flavored pellets in food wells of different shapes - some wide and shallow, others narrow and deep. Monkeys had difficulty retrieving food from narrow deep wells at first.

  • Over time, the monkeys became extremely skillful and could retrieve food from any well size. Brain scans showed their somatosensory cortex, which controls finger movement, rewired itself by interacting with other regions to improve food-finding abilities.

  • This demonstrated neuroplasticity - the brain’s ability to change and rewire itself through learning. Everyday activities like taking a new commute route can rewire the brain and improve it, similar to how exercise builds muscle.

  • The brain is highly resilient. Even severe strokes allow neighboring brain cells to compensate over time through neuroplasticity. Memories are possible thanks to specialized neural circuits that take a lifetime to develop.

  • One example was an auto mechanic who suffered brain trauma but spontaneously recovered speech and movement years later, as brain imaging showed new neural pathways regenerating. This shows the brain can rewire itself to compensate for damaged areas.

  • The key point is that the brain is not “hardwired” - through neuroplasticity, we have the ability to develop our thoughts, feelings and actions in any direction we choose through learning and experience.

  • President Roosevelt died suddenly on April 12, 1945 while on vacation in Warm Springs, Georgia.

  • Memories are still not fully understood from a brain science perspective. Emotions can strongly influence memory formation but trauma can also be suppressed. More research is needed to understand what memories are and how the brain stores them.

  • The brain continues producing new neurons (neurogenesis) in areas involved with memory and learning even into old age. Physical exercise and mental stimulation can promote neurogenesis.

  • It is a myth that the brain loses millions of cells per day and that lost cells cannot be replaced. In reality, the number of neurons remains relatively stable into old age and neurogenesis continues to produce new neurons.

  • It is a myth that primitive reactions like fear, anger, jealousy and aggression completely override the higher brain. While instincts are built into the brain’s structure, the brain is multidimensional and which experiences dominate is a matter of choice, not complete genetic determinism. We have the ability to override primitive urges through things like reason, logic, restraint and choosing not to identify with certain emotions.

  • More research is still needed to fully understand memories, neurogenesis and the relationship between higher and lower brain functions. But the evidence challenges the ideas that lost brain cells cannot be replaced or that we are totally ruled by primitive instincts without any free will or choice. Physical exercise and mental stimulation may help promote brain health.

  • The passage discusses phobias and how they develop as “stuck” or fixed reactions in the brain where the fear response is automatically triggered.

  • It provides the example of arachnophobia, where seeing a spider triggers a physiological fear response like increased heart rate that the phobic has no control over.

  • This reaction occurs because the lower, instinctual parts of the brain hijack the higher thinking parts. As a result, phobics perceive threats as more dangerous and intense than they rationally are.

  • Phobias can be treated by therapies that reassert control over the fear response through awareness and imagination exercises. For example, having arachnophobes visualize and control images of spiders to reduce their power to induce fear.

  • Over time this can progress to being near real spiders to demonstrate one has more choices than just fleeing in fear. The goal is to restore the higher brain’s ability to override primitive instinctual fears.

  • While certain fears like heights or snakes are instinctual, humans uniquely suffer from psychological fears not directly tied to physical threats, like failure or death. Addressing how the mind relates to the brain is important for overcoming fears and improving well-being.

The passage discusses the brain’s remarkable ability to constantly compare new information with past memories and experiences, enabling learning and adaptation. It enables us to develop preferences, seek variety, and transition to new phases of life. No supercomputer can match the human brain’s feats.

The brain remains capable as more demands are placed on it. Each synaptic connection is like a microscopic phone line, with the potential for quadrillion connections. People with hyperthymesia have total recall memory and can remember every detail of their lives. While helpful for memory tests, it makes revisiting unpleasant past experiences painfully vivid.

The passage presents Albert Einstein as a hero of adaptability. His success came from letting go of assumptions, remaining flexible, and avoiding habits and conditioning that keep people stuck. He reinvented physics by questioning established views and surrendering to intuitive insights.

To emulate Einstein’s adaptability, one must stop repeating what never worked, seek new solutions rather than struggle with problems, walk away from stresses, reject righteous anger, rebuild frayed bonds, take on more burden, and prioritize relationships over being right. Adaptability is key to success in facing life’s unknowns.

Here is a summary of the key points in the passage:

  • Newborns are used as an example of psychological integration and adaptability. Their brains are constantly developing and integrating new experiences.

  • Integration is the process of combining different bits of sensory data (sights, sounds, feelings, thoughts) into a coherent picture of reality. Babies are perfect at this type of feedback integration.

  • As adults, we tend to lose this ability to integrate freely due to biases, judgments, denial, repression and selective memory. This can lead to an “illusion of reality” where we are out of touch with objective reality.

  • Three strengths of integration exemplified by babies are communication, balance, and seeing the big picture. Three common obstacles for adults are isolation, conflict, and repression.

  • Fully integrated adults communicate openly, express what they feel, and absorb signals from others. They avoid isolation, conflicts and repressing feelings/desires.

  • To regain natural health and well-being, adults are advised to regain the psychological integration that comes naturally to newborns through an open and communicative approach to experiences.

  • Depression is a mood disorder that affects the whole body and rhythms like sleep and appetite. It causes disconnection from social interactions and lack of interest or ability to clearly communicate feelings.

  • Brain scans show certain areas like the anterior cingulate cortex, amygdala, and hypothalamus are over or under active in depression, forming a “depression circuit.”

  • Depression is triggered by external or internal stressors, but once the brain changes once due to depression, it takes smaller triggers to re-enter depression until eventually almost no trigger is needed and the person feels like a prisoner to runaway emotions.

  • To be clinically depressed, moods do not swing back to normal but remain sad, helpless and hopeless, making everyday activities feel overwhelming without relief or hope. Around 80% of suicides are due to bouts of major depression.

  • Applying the principle of using your brain instead of letting it use you can help address depression and return normal brain functioning and mood balance. Non-drug solutions target the depression circuit patterns in the brain.

  • Depression is often difficult to pinpoint the exact causes or onset. It may be genetic if it runs in the family, or people may vaguely recall feeling consistently sad or hopeless.

  • Both genes and environment contribute to depression and other mental illnesses. Genes can predispose one to mood disorders, but generally require environmental triggers to elicit onset.

  • A core symptom of depression is overwhelming fatigue, which then worsens the depressed mood.

  • Depression develops through a “fixed behavior” process involving an initial outside cause, an unhealthy response, and the formation of depression as a habit over time.

  • Repeated, unpredictable, and uncontrollable stressors over long periods are most likely to cause depression. Things like abusive relationships meet all three criteria.

  • Undoing depression involves addressing the initial outside causes, changing one’s depressed response patterns, and breaking the habit of depression. Avoiding repeated and unpredictable stressors can help prevent depression.

  • Depressed people tend to be passive and unable to see solutions to problems, so they lean towards inaction instead of making decisions. This allows issues to persist longer than needed.

  • If prone to depression, it’s important to deal with everyday problems like conflicts, behavior issues, or chores promptly before negative depressed thoughts set in. Early action leaves room for productive problem-solving.

  • Depression trains the brain to automatically react with feelings of helplessness, sadness, and hopelessness. Alternative positive beliefs and reactions can counter this.

  • Examples given of common negative depressed beliefs and alternative beliefs that promote a problem-solving mindset.

  • Depression creates the illusion that one’s power is gone, but finding moments of optimism and happiness shows the “real self” still exists underneath.

  • Breaking free of depression requires both inner work like meditation to change thoughts/feelings, and outer work like healthier behaviors, relationships, self-care, and focus on growth rather than distractions.

  • Short-term fixes like drugs may relieve symptoms but don’t address the habitual depressed thinking that needs to be untrained through a combination of mind and lifestyle changes over time.

  • Antidepressants are only mildly effective for mild to moderate depression and become more effective as depression worsens. However, they do not cure mood disorders and lose effectiveness over time.

  • The passage presents an alternative approach focusing on outside causes, one’s depressed response, and habitual depression patterns. This gives people power to reverse the underlying conditions.

  • Depression is entangled with all aspects of one’s life, so changing lifestyle on many levels is needed to reshape it consciously. Sometimes small changes like a new job or ending a toxic relationship can help. Other times depression feels like an all-encompassing fog.

  • The passage goes on to discuss how the mind can gain control over reality making by understanding the connection between mind, brain and perception. It presents several “rules” about how perception is shaped by awareness and the ability to transform one’s world through subtle awareness and connection to creative forces in the universe.

  • The article discusses how despite weighing only 8 grams, a hummingbird has the same basic physiology as the much larger 350 pound ostrich. Their nervous systems allow them to push physical boundaries through flight, diving, and high-speed maneuvers.

  • It argues that a bird’s brain has created the reality of flight through instinctual awareness and control of the body. Meanwhile, the human brain has free will and can make huge leaps in reality through higher-level thought.

  • The brain does not literally “create” thoughts or experiences, it provides the structure to experience them, like a radio receives music. Stimulating parts of the brain can trigger physical movements or memories, but the experience itself is had by the mind, not the brain.

  • Creativity goes beyond passive information processing to turn experiences into entirely new perceptions. It challenges conventions through abstract styles like Picasso’s distorted faces. Transforming familiar experiences into something novel requires self-awareness of one’s own perceptions and reactions.

  • Humans exist in states of unconsciousness, awareness, and self-awareness. Self-awareness allows taking control through understanding one’s own emotions and behavior patterns. While awareness exists in animals, self-awareness is thought to be uniquely human for its ability to view oneself from an internal perspective.

Here is a summary of the key points without relating them to states of consciousness:

  • The brain naturally produces thoughts and feelings, while awareness and self-awareness allow us to observe and examine these mental states from a detached perspective.

  • Different levels of awareness exist, from being unconsciously driven by emotions, to being aware of one’s emotions, to deeper self-awareness that involves questioning one’s thoughts, feelings and their implications.

  • The ego serves an important role in integrating experiences and providing a sense of identity, but can become too defensive and restrict one’s awareness through rationalizations.

  • A narrowed awareness due to an overactive ego constricts brain activity and prevents openness to new experiences that help the brain develop and grow.

  • Developing self-awareness involves transcending fixed perceptions and expanding one’s perspective through questioning beliefs and biases. This supports a fluid, balanced state of consciousness.

  • Being overweight is a complex problem caused by both conscious choices and unconscious habits formed in the brain. Dieting is often ineffective due to a combination of biological, psychological and social factors.

  • Reason alone is not effective at stopping overeating behaviors, as decisions are conscious but habits are not. The unconscious parts of the brain have learned to demand certain foods even when the conscious mind does not want them.

  • Successful dieting often leads to weight regain due to biological changes like increased hunger hormone levels and a lowered metabolic rate. Maintaining weight loss long-term requires constant calorie monitoring.

  • Restoring balance in the brain’s circuitry is key to overcoming self-defeating patterns. This involves strengthening areas for rational decision-making while weakening impulsive behaviors. Making positive lifestyle choices helps restore mental balance.

  • Willpower alone through sheer determination is not effective and can lead to further issues. Lasting change comes from going with the body’s natural tendencies towards homeostasis rather than resisting cravings through force of will.

  • Super brain aims to gain control over unconscious brain processes through mindful awareness and choices that support a state of balance, allowing the brain and body’s natural regulation mechanisms to function optimally. This holistic approach is more effective for weight issues than willpower or diet alone.

  • The brain is adaptable and will compensate for health/body issues to maintain normal functioning. However, this imbalance perpetuates further imbalance.

  • Weight issues are in the brain, as the brain lies at the source of all bodily functions. Changing how one relates to their brain is key to overcoming imbalance.

  • Focusing on restoring balance through dealing with stress, emotions, sleep etc. can help reach a turning point. Letting the brain take care of physical rebalance.

  • Habits, like eating, can only be changed in the moment of urges/cravings. Identifying feelings (hungry or pacifying feelings) and learning better coping skills can help overcome urges.

  • Building new neural networks takes making new choices to form new brain patterns and give the brain freedom from old conditioning/grooves. Meditation can help provide mental rest.

  • The goal is using the brain instead of letting it use you. With clarity and purpose, healthy choices will become natural. The brain can become an ally instead of an adversary through continued evolution.

  • Personal growth and choices guide one’s own brain evolution beyond biological evolution. Learning reshapes the brain. Conscious evolution through choices can lead to a “super brain”.

  • Timothy could learn the fundamentals of a new language in a month and acquire a decent accent in languages like Hindi or German, showing the brain’s ability to quickly learn skills when trained optimally.

  • Face blindness, or prosopagnosia, is when people cannot recognize faces due to damage to the fusiform gyrus in the brain. Some also naturally have very strong face recognition abilities called “super recognition.”

  • While face blindness is linked to brain damage, the underlying cause of super recognition is still unknown. Recognizing faces instantly seems instinctive for humans but loses ability if an image is upside down.

  • The brain processes visual information through several steps but recognition occurs near the end, and it’s still unknown precisely how recognition works. Turning images upside down disables recognition even for familiar faces.

  • Both nature (genetics) and nurture (environment) influence predispositions and abilities. Extreme talents may have genetic components but can also develop through extensive practice and nurturing environments. Savant skills seem to emerge from brain damage in some cases.

  • Savants are people with extraordinary abilities or talents in specific areas, despite disabilities in other areas. Examples given are musical savants who can play complex pieces after hearing them once, and calendar savants who can instantly calculate what day of the week any date falls on.

  • There are also language savants. One boy taught himself foreign languages from books without instruction, including Chinese and Finnish, two of the hardest languages. He did this while unable to care for himself otherwise.

  • The brain is uniquely able to evolve through learning. A five-year-old learning to read is evolving their brain by creating new pathways. Adults also evolve their brains through new learning and skills.

  • The scientific view tends to conflate the brain and mind, seeing them as interchangeable. But the brain is physical, while the mind has will, intention and free will. Seeing all behavior as stemming from the brain overlooks the role of the non-physical mind.

  • The brain can be viewed as having four phases - instinctive, emotional, intellectual, and intuitive. These map onto the triune brain model of the reptilian brain, limbic system, and neocortex.

  • The instinctive brain evolved first for basic survival functions like hunger, thirst and sexuality. It causes behaviors like fear and desire that the mind has learned to regulate. Anxiety partly stems from an overactive instinctive brain.

  • The passage discusses the conflict between impulse/desire and reason in the human brain. It draws on Freud’s concept of the “id” - the primitive, instinctive drives for sex and aggression.

  • Shakespeare’s sonnet “That sonnet could serve as a lesson in brain anatomy, since it maps out the conflict between impulse and reason.” It vividly describes the savage and destructive nature of uncontrolled lust/desire.

  • After indulging in lust, Shakespeare looks back with remorse, comparing himself to an animal trapped by bait. He acknowledges our nature drives us to madness in overindulging our desires.

  • The instinctive brain traps us between wanting something too much, which generates fear of not getting it, and actually getting it/possessing it, which results in regret.

  • We turn to scientists and poets to help understand and validate the internal conflicts created by the struggle between our primitive instinctive drives and higher reasoning faculties. Freud and Shakespeare both offer insightful perspectives on this aspect of human nature and the brain.

  • A woman was experiencing high anxiety about her future after getting divorced. She worried constantly about how her ex-husband would destroy her reputation, affect her work, etc.

  • However, the facts did not support her worries. Her children and coworkers still loved and supported her. Her ex-husband provided a fair settlement without causing problems.

  • The real issue was that she became anxious anytime she thought about the future. Her confidante pointed this pattern out to her, noting that her past worries never came true.

  • Eventually, with persistence from her confidante, she was able to recognize that she was self-inducing fear and learnt to stop the cycle of worry when it started.

  • The story highlights how repetitive worrying can become a habit that feels like it provides control over fear. But one needs to override the worries with the awareness that the fear is self-created and not based in reality. Having a supportive person point this out can help break the cycle.

  • Repressed or avoided feelings and experiences do not actually go away, but persist in the psyche and can manifest as anxiety or other issues. What is resisted persists.

  • Speaking one’s painful secrets and sharing them with a compassionate confidant has therapeutic value in itself and can help reduce guilt and anxiety.

  • Taking small steps toward openness, honesty and self-forgiveness is important for healing from repression. Actions like journaling, support groups or therapy can help with this process.

  • Fear has the power to freeze or paralyze one through exaggerated perceptions of danger. But realizing intellectually that the actual threat is smaller than feared can help overcome this paralysis.

  • Exposure to feared stimuli in a controlled way, like with treatment of phobias, can help defuse exaggerated fear responses over time by showing the threat is not as dangerous as believed.

  • Cultivating detachment from fear and facing fears incrementally allows gaining control over fear rather than being controlled by it. The goal is to dismantle the power and stickiness of anxiety.

  • The emotional brain produces fear and desire as instincts rooted in evolution for survival. Emotions help mediate between instincts and intellect.

  • Emotions evolved to add layers of awareness beyond base instincts like fight-or-flight responses. They allow us to name and build worlds around feelings like love, envy, jealousy and pride.

  • Memory stored in the limbic system helps cement emotions through impressions (sanskaras) left by past experiences. These impressions strongly influence future reactions and are difficult to remove.

  • Observing one’s emotions without fully engaging or justifying them helps create detachment and reduces their momentum/intensity. Both excessive emotion and complete repression can lead to issues like loss of perspective, unconscious behavior, or increased illness.

  • Evolution made a major leap with the cerebral cortex, which sits atop the lower brains and gives rise to questions about the meaning of life through higher-level thinking. The lower emotional/instinctual brains remain and make their primitive demands. Finding balance is key.

  • The thalamus and hypothalamus, as well as the amygdala and hippocampus, control short-term memory.

  • The amygdala determines which memories are stored based on the emotional response an experience elicits.

  • The hippocampus is responsible for short-term memories and sends them to the cerebral cortex for long-term storage. It is particularly affected in Alzheimer’s disease.

  • The limbic system is closely connected to the olfactory lobe, which processes smell. This is why certain scents can trigger strong memories.

  • The amygdala and hippocampus are part of the limbic system, which controls short-term memory and emotional responses. The amygdala assigns emotional importance to experiences, influencing whether they are stored as memories. The hippocampus handles short-term memory storage and transfer to long-term cortical storage. Damage to the hippocampus is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Strong smells can evoke powerful memories due to connections between the limbic system and olfactory lobe.

The passage discusses the evolution of the human brain from emotions to intellect and further to intuition. It describes how intellect allows humans to rationalize their desires and counterbalance emotions through rational thought. However, it also notes that some people try to live purely through intellect by denying their emotional side.

The passage then introduces the concept of intuition as the next phase of brain evolution. It states that intuition arises when intellect and emotions are balanced. Intuition allows deeper insights and creative solutions to emerge from within. The passage encourages accessing intuition by clearing the mind of worries, distractions and repetitive thinking that limit perspective. It suggests cultivation practices like meditation, solitude and focusing intention to create conditions for intuition to surface.

In summary, the key points are: 1) Brain evolved from emotions to intellect to balance emotions 2) Some over-rely on intellect alone 3) Intuition is the next phase arising from balanced intellect and emotions 4) Intuition can provide deeper insights when intellect is cleared through practices like meditation.

  • The passage references a man whose trading turned erratic, he became depressed, and ultimately committed suicide in 1940 by shooting himself in the bathroom of his private club. It is unknown what happened to his millions.

  • It discusses how the human mind has an endless craving for knowledge and lives on parallel tracks of experience and questioning experiences.

  • The cerebral cortex is responsible for thinking, decision making, judgment, cogitation, and comparisons. It wonders how neurons learned to think and think about thinking.

  • It provides an example of instinctive, emotional, and intellectual thought processes using hunger and banana cream pie. The intellectual thought allows endless choices of thinking.

  • Animal intelligence exists but humans have long believed intellect is exclusively human due to brain structure. However, many animal behaviors show intelligence and planning.

  • The higher brain marks self-awareness and conscious thought using “I” as part of thinking. Instinct and emotions exist in the subconscious while intellectual thought is conscious.

  • Examples are given of complex animal behaviors like bird caching of nuts and migration patterns that seem to achieve what intellect cannot yet understand and imply instinct is not always simple or primitive.

  • In humans, intellectual thought blends drives, emotions and experiences, allowingchoice in responding versus reacting and understanding others in a social context.

  • Teaching allows instant transfer of experiences into knowledge and language accelerated brain evolution and symbolic thought, which has enormous ramifications.

  • The brain’s intellectual capacities have evolved most recently and help rationalize emotions and desires, but intellect must be balanced and grounded in emotions/instincts to avoid overly calculated or unrealistic thinking.

  • Intuition is an equally important brain function that gives us a built-in sense of morality, values, and right vs. wrong from an early age through empathy and intuitive behaviors.

  • The cerebral cortex has key functional areas for senses, movement, and higher cognitive functions. It consists of lobes for processing different functions like vision, hearing, spatial processing, motor control, and social behaviors.

  • Specific brain regions are associated with different functions, but they all work interconnectedly in balance and harmony. Too much emphasis on intellect alone can dismiss intuition, but intuition has been scientifically verified to exist through things like empathy and feeling when being watched.

  • Empathy, located in the cingulate cortex, allows for understanding others’ feelings and is crucial for social cooperation and moral reasoning through mirror neurons that simulate others’ experiences neurologically. Both intellect and intuition are important, interconnected capacities of the human brain.

Neurochemicals like oxytocin, opioids, and prolactin regulate social attachment and empathy in humans. Oxytocin in particular has been shown to reduce stress responses, increase trust, and make people more sensitive to facial expressions. It plays an important role in maternal behaviors and the feelings of being “in love.” However, love is a complex behavior influenced by many brain regions, so it cannot be reduced to a single hormone. While neurochemicals influence emotions, humans still maintain free will over how they love and who they are attracted to.

The brain produces emotions intuitively based on subtle cues and triggers, rather than directly controlling decisions. Intuition allows for quick decision-making and judgments based on patterns and instincts. Highly successful people tend to rely on intuition to put themselves in the right place at the right time. Intuition arises from both hemispheres of the brain working together based on past experiences. A balanced approach considers both rational and intuitive thinking to make well-reasoned decisions.

  • The passage discusses how the brain works holistically when experiencing pleasure or forming opinions/preferences. It engages in complex cognitive and emotional processes like memory formation, associations between pleasure and its source, comparing new experiences to old ones, and releasing feelings of pleasure throughout the body.

  • It notes how thinking “I like X” triggers many processes in the brain beyond simply registering a preference. The brain aims to expand its “holistic mode” of taking in all experiences, rather than narrowing likes and dislikes.

  • An experiment is discussed where citizens from liberal and conservative towns disagreed more after hearing opposing political views, rather than opening their minds. Some argue this shows us-vs-them thinking is hardwired, but the authors dispute this, saying the mind can overcome such patterns.

  • The passage advocates for evolving consciousness through conscious choices that promote compassion, understanding opposing views, reducing materialism, and performing selfless acts. This helps fulfill the universe’s purpose of fostering experiences through a more holistic brain.

  • It discusses how personal power comes from traits developed in the brain like self-confidence, decision-making skills, trusting intuition, optimism, influence, and overcoming obstacles. Finding one’s power involves reinforcing successes rather than focusing on negatives.

Here are the key points from the summary:

  • Personal power comes from within, not from external factors like money, status, possessions. Many wealthy people still feel powerless.

  • There are 5 steps to developing true personal power: 1) Stop giving away your power, 2) Examine why victimization seems good, 3) Develop a mature self-identity, 4) Align with personal growth and evolution, 5) Trust a higher power beyond everyday reality.

  • Each step depends on recognizing your innate wisdom and support from evolutionary forces in the universe. Feelings of powerlessness come from disconnecting from these inner and outer sources of power.

  • The first step is to stop unconsciously giving away power by always pleasing others, following the crowd, putting others first, letting others take charge, holding grudges, etc.

  • The second step is examining why victimization seems “good” when it often serves no real purpose and keeps one vulnerable to further harm.

  • The third step is developing a “core self” through long-term personal vision and goal-setting, working through difficulties for self-worth, having respect for self and others, understanding emotions, etc.

  • The fourth step is aligning with the process of personal growth and evolution by facing the unknown, desiring positive change, and helping others through that change.

  • Overall it’s about reconnecting to inner wisdom and strength, and aligning with larger evolutionary forces, rather than feeling isolated and powerless.

Here is a summary of the key passages:

  • Happiness is difficult to achieve as people are often bad at predicting what will truly make them happy. Things like money, marriage and children do not necessarily lead to long-lasting happiness.

  • Temporary feelings of happiness are common but permanent happiness is elusive. Pursuing external rewards, pleasures and accomplishments does not reliably lead to happiness.

  • Lasting happiness comes from internal factors like caring for others, pursuing meaningful goals and work, having resilience and warmth social bonds, being open-minded and living in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or fearing the future.

  • The story of Brendon Grimshaw shows how creating your own paradise and personal reality through hard work and living alone on his tropical island led to lasting happiness and fulfillment for him. Pursuing happiness through one’s own meaningful projects and reality, rather than external factors, seems to be key.

  • The passage discusses Bruce Grimshaw, an 86-year-old man who is the sole caretaker of Moyenne Island in the Seychelles.

  • He has turned down offers of $50 million for the island, which he wants to keep as a nature preserve after his death.

  • The island has 120 bird species and two thousand new birds that have come to the protected sanctuary.

  • Grimshaw works to keep the island pristine despite interest from visitors who want to exploit its natural resources like wood or beaches.

  • The passage presents Grimshaw as a model of contentment due to living according to principles like dedicating himself to work he loves, setting long-term goals, and being self-sufficient without needing constant approval.

  • While he lives in solitude, his lifestyle integrates needs like connecting with nature, having purposeful work, and fulfilling his life’s purpose, leading to a sense of completeness.

  • The rest of the passage discusses theories of brain integration and the importance of balance between inner and outer activities for well-being.

  • Social networking allows for a sense of connection and belonging on a global scale as news and thoughts are shared instantly. However, it neglects development of in-person social and neural pathways.

  • In repressive societies, social media give people freedom from traditional controls through technology like the iPad.

  • Physical activity is declining as people spend more time indoors on computers and electronics. This sedentary lifestyle increases risks for diseases and obesity. Only a small percentage meet physical activity guidelines.

  • Exercise directly stimulates the brain and cells through feedback loops. Even minimal physical activity like walking provides significant benefits over total inactivity.

  • The link between the mind and heart disease was slow to be recognized. Cholesterol was blamed despite complex physiological factors. Stress and type A/B personalities were later considered but still no model for the brain’s role.

  • Discovery of messenger molecules in the 1970s provided evidence the brain communicates with all cells through chemicals. This established the link between psychological factors and risks of heart disease. It is now accepted the mind contributes to risk.

  • Several psychosocial factors are associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease, including depression, anxiety, type A personality, hostility, social isolation, chronic stress, and acute stress.

  • The mind and body are deeply connected. Mental and emotional states can impact physical health and disease risk.

  • Strengthening the mind-body connection through practices like meditation may help promote self-healing and overall well-being.

  • The placebo effect demonstrates how beliefs and expectations can positively impact health outcomes, even from an inert substance. However, receiving a placebo usually involves deception.

  • It is possible to be one’s own placebo without deception by fostering trust in the healing process, dealing with doubts and fears, keeping an open communication between mind and body, and allowing the natural healing system to do its work.

  • Self-healing requires establishing a long-term healthy lifestyle that supports the mind-body connection through stress management, exercise, diet, meditation, and developing awareness of bodily sensations. Rapid or panicked approaches are usually not effective.

  • Aging is a slow and complex process that occurs differently in each person, making it difficult to predict where and how the aging process will lead to failure of critical systems.

  • At the cellular level, aging results from changes in complex chemical reactions that are invisible and unpredictable. Though DNA contains the code of life, an unknown “controller” regulates thousands of reactions per second within each cell.

  • To delay aging, one must focus on whole-body wellness over a lifetime. Simply paying attention to subtle body signals can increase sensitivity and trust in the self-healing process.

  • The brain is deeply involved in aging as it sends messages to all cells. Positive behaviors like meditation, healthy diet and exercise can create beneficial feedback loops, increasing enzymes like telomerase that may slow cellular aging and contribute to greater well-being and stress resilience.

  • While aging remains mysterious, maximizing positive brain-body messaging over time offers promise for anti-aging by maintaining cellular function and integrity as long as possible.

  • The mind-body connection is real, and lifestyle choices can impact aging and health. Prevention is an important part of anti-aging.

  • Recommended lifestyle strategies for reducing aging risks include a balanced diet, exercise, avoiding smoking/excess alcohol, good sleep habits, and stress management. Compliance is difficult when bad habits are ingrained.

  • Creating the right “matrix” or environment can help make positive choices easier. This includes social support from friends and family, having purpose and relaxation in life, and addressing emotions like anger.

  • Passivity and inertia tend to increase with age and can be damaging if they lead to isolation. Maintaining interests, activities and relationships over the long term is important for longevity and well-being in older age. Changing lifestyle and thought patterns may be needed to avoid becoming stuck in passive, nostalgic thinking as the years progress.

The passage discusses how linking with the idea of cellular immortality can help people feel fulfilled as they age. It notes that cells have maintained mechanisms from primitive life forms, including the ability to divide indefinitely. While complex organisms face threats that single-celled organisms do not, evolution has created defenses and ways to cope. The passage argues we are each caught between the forces of evolution, which extends life, and entropy, which causes decay. However, entropy is not destiny, and we can choose to favor evolutionary forces every day by taking care of our cells. Our true link to immortality is through evolution, which drives creation. The choices we make can influence where the universe heads next. Living according to cellular wisdom principles like cooperation, balance, self-healing and dynamic change can help us maximize longevity.

  • Cells need to cooperate and share resources in order to survive as part of larger tissues and organs. Individual cells that try to go it alone cannot thrive.

  • Similarly, humans benefit from social connections and sharing resources with others. Social isolation is unhealthy and can even spread negative behaviors like obesity.

  • Cells have a natural ability to heal from damage, though the process of healing is complex. For humans, healing from emotional or psychological wounds requires looking inward and actively working to overcome pain and achieve wholeness.

  • Cells operate with complete trust that they will receive constant nourishment to survive. They don’t store reserves and devote all their energy to living functions. For optimal health and passion for life, humans need to nourish themselves physically, mentally and through pursuing goals and relationships. Balanced nourishment leads to greater well-being than risky or rebellious lifestyles.

  • The passages discuss the idea of trust and how people transition from trusting external sources like parents to trusting internally and relying on themselves. It talks about how gaining self-trust and internal support is a rewarding path.

  • Cells are always dynamic and adapting in response to their changing environment. Stuckness or inflexibility can be harmful. People tend to resist change but learning to embrace it keeps one feeling vital.

  • Cells maintain a balance between their inner and outer worlds, metabolizing experiences. People can develop defenses that separate their inner feelings from outer events, like denial, repression, inhibition. Staying resilient requires facing issues and not holding on to past hurts.

  • Cells immediately act to remove toxins or counteract them. The immune system differentiates harmful from harmless. By contrast, people tolerate many toxins in their lives that cells would see as dangerous.

In summary, the passages discuss principles of trust, change, balance of inner/outer worlds, and toxicity from the perspective of how cells operate versus common human behaviors and tendencies. Maintaining flexibility, openness, and defending against toxins analogous to how cells function.

Here is a summary of the key points from the given text:

  • When mainstream medicine ignored campaigns for more natural diets and against food additives, it did a disservice to public health. Additives in meat, dairy and the average American diet may be linked to health issues but have not been adequately studied.

  • A high-fat, sugar-laden diet carries risks. While no studies conclusively prove organic or supplement-focused diets extend lifespan, caution and favoring the least toxic options makes sense.

  • Toxins in our environment and lifestyle, like stress, abuse and unhealthy relationships can impact health, but people often put up with them due to inertia or rationalization.

  • Cells manage mortality in a way humans can envy - they focus on living while accepting death through programmed apoptosis. Renewal is a constant theme in nature.

  • Coming to terms with death is a personal process that generally passes through stages like denial, bargaining and acceptance. While beliefs differ, most dying patients accept it by the end.

  • Achieving inner wisdom and understanding one’s true self can support calmness around mortality, since traditions hold the true self cannot die. Maturity gained from life experience outweighs some declines from aging.

  • Enlightenment involves an inner journey to find God or achieve liberation from suffering. However, examples of truly enlightened individuals are rare, leading some to doubt if enlightenment is really achievable.

  • Experiences of God, angels, etc. must involve brain activity - the brain is central to any spiritual experience. A truly enlightened state would correspond to dramatic changes in brain function.

  • Clues that enlightenment is real include common phrases like “waking up” and “seeing the light,” which point to a higher state of awareness where the brain is fully alert and engaged with reality.

  • In this state, illusions are dropped and one sees a divine essence in all things. The brain essentially rewires itself through a series of “Aha!” insights that overturn old, limited perceptions of self, world and God.

  • While enlightenment does not guarantee God’s existence, it provides a direct experience of presence or divinity working in the world. The real purpose is a shift to a more vibrant, interconnected perception of reality.

  • Enlightenment occurs in degrees through openness to new insights in all situations. It can include developing profound empathy and attunement even with animals, as some have shown with birds.

  • Deepak was recounting his meeting with a “bird lady” but it wasn’t yet an “aha” experience for him.

  • Rudy triggered the “aha” moment when Deepak asked if we can empathize or communicate with bananas since human and banana DNA is 65% the same.

  • Rudy explained that when we eat a banana, the sugar receptors in our tongue interact with the banana’s sugar at a chemical level, representing a form of “molecular” communication. When we digest a banana, its energy becomes our energy, representing an even more intimate link than communication.

  • Humans share over 90% of their DNA with bacteria in their bodies. Mitochondria, which provide our cells with energy, were originally bacterial cells integrated into our cells. So we are genetically woven into the web of life in a shared matrix of energy, genes and chemical information, with no part being truly separate or isolated.

  • This realization of interconnectedness represents an “aha” moment that many modern ecologists and ancient Indian sages arrived at independently - that the world is within us. Ecology weaves together all life-supporting activities whether in our cells or a banana’s.

The passage discusses how mindfulness becomes a natural way of life when practiced regularly. It defines mindfulness as bringing one’s awareness back to reality at will without force or superhuman effort. This ability allows one to shift out of anxious or unaware states easily by actively observing one’s feelings and sensations from a detached perspective.

Cultivating mindfulness through meditation gives the brain a chance to reset from stress and negative reactions. It prevents getting swept up in or identifying with one’s emotions. This leads to better stress handling, impulse control, choice-making and taking responsibility for one’s emotions rather than blaming others. Mindfulness allows living from a calmer, more centered place. Overall, the passage promotes mindfulness as a way to freely gain self-awareness and wisdom for improved well-being.

  • The passage discusses using mindfulness to gain clarity on spiritual questions like whether God exists. It notes there is a gap between hoping, believing, and knowing something is true.

  • Spiritual matters are often addressed through faith, but faith alone does not provide certitude. People tend to say they don’t believe or do believe in God, but their views are personal and questionable.

  • The spiritual path progresses from hope to belief to true understanding/knowing. This pattern applies to many life questions beyond just God.

  • Some key aspects of knowing something versus hoping or believing include finding answers independently, persisting through challenges, trusting one’s own process, paying attention to intuition/insight, and going beyond logic.

  • Applying mindfulness can help address bigger questions by breaking them into digestible components like examining one’s openness to new ideas or willingness to deeply explore uncomfortable topics like love and purpose. Focusing on a meaningful personal problem can be a way to practice this process.

  • The article proposes a 5-step process to move from hoping and believing in something to truly knowing it, using the example of finding answers about God or a spiritual dilemma.

  • Step 1 is to realize your life is meant to progress, rather than just hoping or believing out of fear.

  • Step 2 is to reflect on how fulfilling it is to truly know something rather than doubt. Don’t settle for less than knowledge.

  • Step 3 is to make lists of what you hope, believe, and know to be true about the dilemma to clarify your thinking.

  • Step 4 is to question why you know what you know, and consider personal experiences that point to greater spiritual truths.

  • Step 5 is to apply what you know to areas of doubt by taking “subtle actions” like meditating, being open-minded, focusing on gratitude, forgiveness, and service. This helps make the possibility of answers more real.

The overall message is that moving from hope to faith to knowledge involves actively engaging spiritually through meditation, service and subtle shifts in mindset rather than just passive belief or fear-based hoping. Clarifying thoughts and considering personal experiences can help uncover answers.

  • The passage discusses the human experience of consciousness and our perception of reality. While we perceive a vivid, multi-sensory world, there is no explanation for how this arises from neurons firing in the brain.

  • It questions whether we can truly say the physical world matches our mental representation of it, since our senses evolved to perceive the world in a particular way and differ across species.

  • Quantum physics also challenges classical notions of a solid, stable physical reality. At the quantum level, particles behave strangely as invisible waves rather than fixed objects, existing in multiple states until observed.

  • This raises philosophical questions about whether reality exists independently of conscious observation or if consciousness plays a role in shaping our perception and experience of it.

  • The “hard problem” of consciousness refers to explaining subjective experience and qualia arising from physical brain processes. Taking a primary role for consciousness could help solve this problem.

  • How we build a sense of self is complex, based on both positive and negative mental signals registered from our experiences over time. This process shaping identity and well-being merits deeper understanding.

  • The physical world is not objective or fixed, but depends on how one chooses to observe and interact with it. Physics has acknowledged the role of consciousness but does not fully understand it.

  • All aspects of reality like color, sound, etc. are experiences that arise in the brain/consciousness. Even science happens within consciousness.

  • At a fundamental quantum level, physical objects have no set attributes. Qualities like hardness, color, etc. are created by the brain based on sensory inputs.

  • The world each living being experiences is tailored by its specific nervous system as an interface. There is no single objective physical world.

  • Time and space only exist because the brain interfaces with the quantum realm. Without perception, the physical world has no properties.

  • Consciousness is the invisible creator that gives rise to the world of “potentialities and possibilities” at the quantum level. We need to understand consciousness better.

  • The physical world is not the same for all living things. Each species perceives reality suited to its interface (nervous system/senses). The brain provides a “user interface” to the objective world.

So in summary, it argues that the physical world depends on consciousness and is not objective, but rather an experience arising in the brain based on its interface with the quantum realm.

  • Paul Hoffman argues that consciousness creates the brain, not the other way around as most scientists believe. His theory, called “conscious realism,” says the world consists of conscious agents and their perceptions.

  • When we perceive qualities like colors or sounds, we don’t have to understand the brain’s workings - we directly experience these qualities. Hoffman argues perception works like a user interface that creates our experience of reality.

  • Neither the “brain first” view nor Hoffman’s “consciousness first” view can fully prove their case yet. Hoffman’s view avoids having to explain ultimate reality.

  • For now, what matters is that the nervous system constructs a model of reality for us to operate in. Religion and science can coexist in studying this personal, representational reality.

  • Hoffman takes his view further, arguing we are actually source-level consciousness creating all experience, including the brain. As the source, we can regain control over our perceptions and reshape our personal reality through a change in consciousness.

  • This represents an ancient viewpoint from Eastern traditions. The challenge is turning this theoretical view into a practical method for personal development and shaping one’s experiences.

  • The passage argues that consciousness exists independent of and prior to the brain, not the other way around as materialism claims. It says we are thoughts that create machines (brains), not machines that learned to think.

  • Experimental evidence is presented to support this, like studies showing synchronized brainwaves between distant identical twins and how healers can produce measurable brain activity changes in remote individuals through intentionality alone.

  • Skeptics argue brain scans only show correlation, not causation, and neurons process information mechanically in the present moment with no ability to store or recall past experiences.

  • Consciousness has qualities like perceiving the whole and parts simultaneously that neurons cannot explain. The self and free will also cannot be located or explained by brain mechanisms alone.

  • A prominent neuroscientist/atheist is cited arguing these points, that consciousness cannot be reduced to or explained by brain activity based on fundamental issues like memory, perception, selfhood, and freedom of choice.

So in summary, the passage argues for a model of consciousness existing independently of and creating the brain/body, versus the materialist view that it is a mere byproduct or epiphenomenon of brain physiology. Experimental and philosophical evidence is presented to support this alternative perspective.

  • The passage discusses the concept of well-being, which it defines as an overall state of happiness and good health. It argues well-being depends on consistently processing experiences in a way that enhances one’s quality of life over the long term.

  • Two individuals with seemingly identical lives can have very different levels of well-being depending on how they internally metabolize and interpret their experiences on a daily basis. Small negative interpretations can slowly degrade well-being over time.

  • It suggests cultivating well-being by focusing on the subtle qualities (tattva), flavors (rasa), and moods (bhava) underlying each experience. These shape whether an experience nourishes or toxifies us more than outward factors alone.

  • Examples are given of how tastes and colors can represent broader life experiences beyond physical sensations. Increasing “purity” or sattva through refining one’s sensations can help feel one’s way to a more enhaced quality of life overall. The key is attending to subtle inner cues rather than just outward conditions.

In summary, the passage discusses how cultivating a state of well-being involves metabolizing all of life’s experiences in a consistently positive way by focusing on their underlying subtle qualities, flavors and moods rather than just outward conditions.

Here are the key points I gathered:

  • Rudy’s life work has focused on researching Alzheimer’s disease through the Alzheimer’s Genome Project. Their goal is to identify all the genes involved to better predict and prevent the disease.

  • With increasing lifespan, Alzheimer’s cases are projected to dramatically rise worldwide in coming decades unless effective preventive therapies are developed.

  • Genetic studies currently offer the best chance to eventually eradicate Alzheimer’s by identifying high-risk individuals early through genetic profiling. Then therapies could stop further disease progression before symptoms arise.

  • Lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, stress management and meditation can potentially impact one’s genetic risk for Alzheimer’s and other age-related diseases by influencing up to 500 genes.

  • The brain is best understood as dynamic neural networks, not just individual synapses. Looking at larger patterns provides greater insights into disorders.

  • Positive lifestyle changes that benefit other diseases like exercise are recommended to potentially prevent or delay Alzheimer’s onset based on animal studies showing its impact.

The key message is one of hope that by combining genetics research with optimizing modifiable lifestyle factors, Alzheimer’s may become preventable or manageable in the future.

  • Studies have found that exercise, particularly running on wheels at night for mice, reduces brain pathology associated with Alzheimer’s. Exercise promoted gene activity that lowered beta-amyloid levels in the brain.

  • Epidemiological studies confirmed moderate exercise (3 times per week for 1 hour) can lower Alzheimer’s risk. One clinical trial found 60 minutes of vigorous exercise twice a week slowed disease progression once it began.

  • Diet may also help prevent Alzheimer’s. A Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil and moderate amounts of red wine and dark chocolate is associated with lower risk. Caloric restriction increases longevity and reduces brain pathology in animal models.

  • Intellectual stimulation through reading provides prevention by stimulating new brain synapses. Higher education may be protective, and social engagement is associated with lower risk while loneliness increases risk.

  • Progress is being made through chemical, genetic, behavioral and lifestyle approaches, but a cure will require considering the interface between neuroscience and consciousness. The origins of consciousness must involve more than just brain physiology.

  • Using our brains well throughout life can help prevent the devastation of Alzheimer’s and allow for fulfilling aging. Our brains create our reality, so mastering the brain leads to mastery of oneself.

  • The argument that “the brain comes first” and that consciousness arises from chemical interactions in the brain is used by some to argue that God is not necessary. However, it has not been shown how exactly physical interactions alone can give rise to consciousness.

  • The book argues that it is more plausible that consciousness, the mind, created and shaped the brain over evolutionary time. Consciousness may operate like a field that pervades the universe, rather than being localized in individual brains.

  • Ancient wisdom from traditions like Vedanta spoke of consciousness as a non-dual field rather than something localized in individuals. Modern physicists have proposed theories akin to this as well.

  • If consciousness is seen as a fundamental field rather than something produced by the brain, it restores the idea of God as a fact of nature rather than just a matter of faith. God can be conceived of as this infinite, creative conscious mind.

  • Future science may eventually validate this view of consciousness as a fundamental non-local field rather than an emergent property of the brain. This has implications for how we understand reality, the mind-body problem, and our place in the universe.

Here is a summary of the information provided:

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). He has been studying the genetics of neurological diseases since the 1980s. Dr. Tanzi isolated the first Alzheimer’s disease gene and discovered several others. He now heads the Alzheimer’s Genome Project and is developing new therapies for Alzheimer’s. He serves on several scientific boards and committees related to Alzheimer’s research and impact. Dr. Tanzi has over 400 publications and co-authored the book “Decoding Darkness: The Search for the Genetic Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease”.

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