Jun 12, 2019 in Book Report

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The book, Consciousness at the Crossroads: Conversion with Dalai Lama on Brain Science and Buddhism addresses vital questions that have caused differences between Western science and religion over many years. These meetings play a key role in highlighting significant impressions and views taken by Buddhism and Western science in the presentation of different matters. The discussions between Dalai Lama and the group of eminent psychiatrists and neurologists are based on various issues including the nature of the mind and whether it is a side effect of the physical processes of the brain and consciousness as well as its origin. Additionally, it brings out the emphasis of Buddhism on the empirical observation of mental processes and provides an in-depth analysis into the nature of these processes. Notably, this paper would focus on the explication of two interesting issues presented in the book. One of the issues that would be discussed in the paper is the adaptive nature of the brain. The other interesting point that the paper would discuss is the measurement of sleep and dream cycles among individuals. It is worth noting that relevant discussions have been brought forward interestingly by both the medical experts and Dalai Lama; therefore, making them relevant points of discussion.

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This paper explicates the adaptive nature of the brain and the measurement of sleep and dream cycles among individuals as presented in Consciousness at the Crossroads: Conversion with Dalai Lama on Brain Science and Buddhism

The Adaptive/Flexible Nature of the Brain

Robert Livingstone points out that the brain is extremely adaptive in the performance of its functions among individuals. This implies that the brain has the capacity to organize and actuate itself concerning its body. Also, the adaptive nature of the brain is represented in line with its ability to project and test images and pictures outside the world. It is also asserted that the brain has its own timetable that organizes different events hence enabling individuals to plan effectively in the world. The brain guides individuals in making personal and group decisions hence ensuring that they have a high sense of organization in their lives. It is vital to note that the brain plays an enormous role in determining internal processes among individuals consequently ensuring they can live and survive in any particular environment.

Concerning the topic of the adaptability of the brain, the evolution of the brain is also discussed to bring out a clear understanding of the brain and how it operates to achieve various processes among individuals. Selective forces that are deemed to have acted over a long period played a vital role in enhancing the evolution process of the brain. The effect of the selection forces in the evolution of the brain was the three-fold expansion in the brain of the hominid. This meant an improvement in the process of thinking and making decisions among individuals. There was also an improved sense of understanding and organization among all people in different parts of the globe.

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Additionally, the book explains the view that the brain of mature human beings is extremely dynamic hence enabling them live and work in different environments. It is also highly dynamic during the embryonic, fetal, and childhood of individuals because it facilitates remarkable adaptation to the present environment and existing culture. In respect to this dynamism, the book presents an interesting view that the evolutionary and lifespan changes taking place within the brain are structurally dynamic in terms of microscopic, gross, and ultra-structural levels of neuro-anatomy. The brain develops effectively as individuals talk, think, behave, and remember different events in their lives. The growth of the brain is crucial as it enables individuals to make sensible decisions that guide their entire lives. Another important point that can be noted from this assertion is that the brain keeps on changing in its outline as individuals change from one environment to another. This is only to help people adapt to the respective environments that they move to.

Another interesting point about the adaptive nature of the brain is dynamic in a different sense including the interactive sense, the personal sense, and the subjective sense. A relevant example of the different Tibetans coming up with different perceptions after viewing a waterfall and an adjacent mountain was used in the explanation of the senses in which the dynamism of the brain occurs. The varying perceptions given by individuals reiterate the point that individuals would always have varying visual perceptions as they operate within the society. The brains of individuals cannot operate similarly and come up with similar conclusions, because of the varying personal sense of brain dynamism. Therefore, the brain is also relevant in determining the perceptions upheld by individuals all over the globe.

The process of continuous learning in society also plays a key role in facilitating the evolution of the brain among individuals. Notably, individuals begin learning from their early stages in their lives and all this plays an instrumental role in laying the foundation for effective reasoning among individuals. Qualitative reasoning emanates from the continuous changes that take place within the brain as they accommodate more knowledge. High knowledge is vital for ensuring significant levels of reasonability and making organized decisions that boost the quality of living among individuals. The brain is capable of adjusting to different conditions that come along its way.

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Thus, the brain operates similarly to an engine in the vehicle. It drives the entire body in ensuring effective decisions that are made to boost the mode of operation of all environments. This also explains why individuals can adjust to different diets and new laws as their brains can be programmed in line with these systems. The entire topic about the brain is extremely interesting because it facilitates the in-depth understanding of human beings and matters that determine the mode of operation among individuals. The brain is also able to be understood and respected as an engine in the sense that its failure would automatically lead to the failure of the entire body system.

The Measurement of Sleep and Dream Cycles among Individuals

The measurement of sleep and dream cycles is another interesting topic discussed in the book. This topic begins with the view that sleep can be objectively measured among individuals using relevant aspects including muscle activity, brain activity, and the activity of the eyes. It is noted that effective measurements of these activities would be crucial in distinguishing the state of sleeping, waking up, and sleeping amidst dreams. Additionally, the utilization of photography at different times and effective observational strategies would be vital in facilitating the distinction between sleeping, sleeping with dreams, and then waking up of individuals. It is interesting to measure sleep among individuals to understand how individuals behave at different times.

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In line with this topic, it was observed that individuals who sleep soundly have the habit of engaging in regular body movements during their sleep. It is significant to note that they do not make less than 14 movements each night as they keep shifting from the left side to the right side and vice versa throughout their period of sleep. Again, the number of shifts from left to rights and vice versa would increase as sleep becomes less sound among these individuals. It is interesting to note that the sleep-lapse video would form an effective measure on the levels of sleep and dream cycle among individuals, because of the frequency with which it operates.

The measurements of the eye, the dead brain, and the muscles can help in the identification of the three vital stages including sleeping, sleeping with dreams, and waking up. Interestingly, regular cycles are alternating between dreaming and non-dreaming sleep. This means that individuals would always have some hours distributed toward dreaming and some other times dedicated to non-dreaming sleep. Thus, people have an effective distribution of their hours throughout the night and they can have sound sleep. Individuals are also likely to spend most of their sleep dreaming about different events, which they may have experienced or thought about in their brains.

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Notably, the discussion about the measurement of sleep and dream cycles is also interesting as it points toward the change of sleep involving dreaming with changes in the age of individuals. The level of sleep would decline as individuals become older; there is a reduction in the level of sleep that entails dreaming. The dreaming cycle is shorter among babies and would increase with the increase in the size of the brain among individuals. This means that dreaming cycles become constant as individuals become adults. In the discussions involving Dalai Lama and the imminent medical personalities, it was noted that the term rapid eye movement could be used to refer to the dreaming stage of sleep. This is common because the eyes of individuals move more dramatically as they dream.

This topic is interesting since it also enhances the understanding of the activities that take place when individuals are in dreaming sleep. For instance, it is indicated that the activity of the muscles is always blocked, indicating the view that only eye muscles are always operative during this time. More so, the brain is always activated during the dreaming phase of sleep. This phase is always observable at the early stages of development of the human fetus, because of the efficient organization and differentiation of the brain to create significant alterations in the sleeping activity among individuals. Therefore, the measurement of sleep and overall dreaming cycles among individuals is interesting as it helps in the understanding of the behavior depicted by individuals during their sleeping time. Furthermore, the understanding of sleeping and dreaming would facilitate the understanding of the alternative cycles of sleep among people and the duration for each phase of sleep.

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In conclusion, Dalai Lama and the eminent psychiatrists and neurologists engage in vital discussions touching on different matters that help in the understanding of human nature. For instance, they discuss two vital topics including the flexibility of the brain and the measurement of dreaming cycles among individuals. Concerning the flexibility of the brain, they think that the brain is extremely adaptable to different conditions that enable individuals to live properly within society. The brain is like an engine and helps in the making of decisions in an organized manner that determines the activities pursued by individuals. The measurement of sleep and dream cycles is another interesting topic discussed by the psychiatrists and Lama. They point out that individuals have both dreaming and non-dreaming sleep that occurs in cycles. This means that individuals would have some of their time for normal sleep and the other time for dreaming sleep where their eyes move dramatically. Therefore, the topics discussed above are extremely interesting, because of how they boost the understandability of the nature of human beings in different states.

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