Google Personal Growth Series: Mindsight: The New Science of


Uploaded by GoogleTechTalks on 23.04.2009

Transcript:
>> Good afternoon, my friends. My name is Meng. I'm the--my day job is being the Head
of the School of Personal Growth in Google University. And one of the things--one of
the main things we do is to take advantage of the knowledge we gain from the cutting
edge of brain sciences and use the knowledge to invent curriculum, to help Googlers upgrade
and transform themselves, that's what we do. And we hope that one day when we figure out
how to make this work for Googlers, we can share this knowledge with the rest of the
world so that everybody can benefit from personal growth in the workplace. And towards this
we, are very delighted today to have a man who deeply shares our goals and aspirations,
Dr. Daniel Siegel. And he's just like us except a lot smarter than me. Dan is a clinical professor
at the UCLA School of Medicine. He's the co-director of the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research
Center and the co-investigator at the UCLA Center for Culture, Brain and Development.
He's also the director of the Mindsight Institute and the author of the book, "Mindsight: The
New Science of Personal Transformation." In additional to all that, he is also the author
of the book, "The Mindful Brain" and the other book, "The Developing Mind" and "Parenting
From the Inside Out." And ladies and gentlemen, let's welcome Dr. Daniel Siegel.
>> SIEGEL: Thank you. Thank you, Meng. I--I really appreciate the introduction and being
invited to come speak with you today about what the mind is and how we can create a healthy
mind. It's really a fascinating idea to think about what we know just intuitively but yet
we may not able to define so easily what is our human mind. So, you may be surprised to
find, in fact, the fields that study the mind like, let's say, the field of mental health
or even a field like education where you help develop the mind, the individuals in those
fields, the educators in those fields actually often don't have a definition of the mind.
And as a psychiatrist and trained as a researcher in developmental psychology and working in
the field of attachment, looking at how kids' minds develop, what really struck me as amazing,
in my own field, psychiatry, was that I was never given even one lecture that defined
what the mind is. Also in the field of mental health, we had an orientation that lasted
a long, long time which was that health is the absence of symptoms. And so you didn't
really have a working definition of the mind and you didn't have a definition of what a
healthy mind would be, it just meant you didn't meet criteria for disorders, so you must be
healthy. Now this is kind of strange, so when I started lecturing after the first book I
wrote called "The Developing Mind" came out which tried to make a definition of the mind
that I'll share with you in a moment. What really struck me as amazing and actually now
I've had the opportunity to ask in person over 80,000 mental health practitioners all
around the planet, from every discipline of mental health you can imagine, psychiatry,
psychology, social work, occupational therapy, psychiatric nursing, every field, the numbers
are about the same. And how many people in the field of mental health do you think had
even one lecture defining what the mind is? Turns out to be about 2-5%. So 95% of individuals
in the field of mental health have never been given a definition of the mind. Now, when
I started working in the interdisciplinary world of bringing different sciences together
years ago, the beginning of the decade of the brain, beginning of the 1990s, I brought
about 40 scientists together and they also didn't have a working definition of the mind
and yet our task was to say what's the connection between the mind and the brain, which is what
we're going to talk about today. And so I offered them this definition and all of them
agreed on this definition which is an amazing thing if you know how academics works. Usually
you don't find convergence of an opinion but here people agreed with it. And here's what
the definition I offered them was and I'll give you an expanded one in just a moment,
the simplest definition of the mind that these scientists agreed upon goes like this; that
the mind is a process that regulates the flow of energy and information. Now the human mind
happens in a couple of ways. It happens in a body of course, [INDISTINCT] so it's embodied.
It happens through our extended nervous system that's distributed throughout the whole body
and I'm going to use the word "brain" just to refer to that because extended nervous
system distributed throughout the whole body is hard to keep on repeating, but when I say
the word "brain" that's what I mean. But what's happening now between me and you?
[pause] >> SIEGEL: What's--what goes on right now?
Or let's say in Google, when you allow people to have a transfer of energy and information
among them, among each other? That's what you can call sharing energy and information.
So in many ways, the mind is not just embodied, it's also relational, okay? So, we can say
then the mind can be defined, it's a working definition, as an embodied and relational
process that regulates the flow of energy and information. Now you may say, "Well that
sounds really natural," you may not agree, you may agree but it's actually a working
definition. And what's really striking is when you sit down with scientists who study
the mind, let's say like psychologists or brain scientists who are interested in the
mind, even philosophers who study the mind which is what I've had the opportunity to
do. Here's the striking thing, almost none of them will define the mind. And they'll
say things like "the mind is indefinable" or "the human mind shouldn't be defined" or
"will be limited if we define it because we don't know everything about it". So what I
say in response that is, "I totally get those concerns but if we don't define a word, how
can we actually use the word with each other? Why would we have a word?" And some people
say, "Well it's just a place holder for something we really don't understand." And that's okay
and then you're still in the dark, you're still doing what we've done in mental health
for all of these years. When you define the mind as a process that regulates the flow
of energy and information, it changes what you can do for defining healthy mind. It also
changes in a very practical way the approach you can take to strengthen the mind. Let me
give you an example. If you buy into it just for now, the notion that the mind is a regulatory
process, what does it take to regulate? If you say just on the simplest level, "I want
to take a person coming to me as a friend," or "Coming to me professionally," if you're
a therapist, "And I want to strengthen their mind." At a minimum, what do you need to do?
What does it take to regulate something? Anyone here an engineer? Okay, you need to measure
it. You need to have some way to measure or monitor the thing that you're regulating.
And we're saying the thing is energy and information flow. So at a very minimum, you need have
a way to monitor and measure, maybe not quantitatively but to assess, to monitor, to observe that
what you're going to influence which is the second thing in regulation. If you're driving
a car and you're watching, if someone has tied your hands behind your back and tied
your feet together, you can't influence the thing that you're trying to regulate. So monitoring
and modifying are the two essential components of regulation. So once we define the mind,
especially in this way, you get a new insight into how to actually create a stronger mind.
You'd be amazed, but a lot of people live their lives just having thoughts and feelings,
beliefs and attitudes, having hopes and dreams and memories and perceptions, all the stuff
that we can use to describe the mind, those aren't definitions, they're descriptions of
mental activity, but they haven't developed the capacity to actually observe those mental
activities as the flow of energy and information, as the mind itself. So that process of being
able to see mental activity with more clarity and then modify it with more efficacy is something
that you can name with the word mindsight. This ability to actually see your mind not
just have one. Now, it may sound kind of, almost simplistic, but when you look at different
areas of research what you find is that when mindsight is present, various ways of understanding
mental health are also present. There's something about being able to see and influence your
internal world that creates more health. I'll give you an example. Let's say someone had
a huge feeling of anger going on inside of them and they had no way of monitoring that,
would the anger go away? No. They'd still have anger, right? The anger would still be
changing their physiology but they wouldn't have the capacity to have what's called discernment.
To take a step away from mental activity and notice I have anger. The anger would sweep
them up and if you're an 8-year old on a playground of a school and someone takes your ball, you
may slug that kid, right? So we've done studies at UCLA using mindfulness techniques, one
way of teaching a way to monitor and modify internal states. And even in preschool kids,
using certain very basic mindfulness techniques, we've been able to show that you can decrease
bullying, you can increase empathy, you can increase the capacity for kids to pause before
they act. We've even done a pilot study at UCLA where if you teach mindfulness techniques
which I'll tell you about in a moment, you actually can take people with attention deficit
problems where they can't regulate energy and information flow and you can actually,
as adults and older teenagers, you can change the way their executive functions of their
brain function just by teaching them mental training. So what I'd like to do is dive deeply
with you into this notion of once we have a definition of the mind, can we define a
healthy mind? And then look at a way of thinking about this and think, "Well, how does this
work in our personal lives? How does this work in a life where you're involved in energy
and information transfer around the globe? How does it work in the interface between
a human being and a computer?" These are all relevant areas where understanding how you
see the mind and defining the mind may be of benefit. So the first thing we'll say is
that in common neuroscience, there's a statement that you may have read about which is, "The
mind is just the activity of the brain." How many of you have heard that? So if you read
any of the really well regarded neuroscientist writers who either write their research papers
or write for the general public, this is basically what it said. And I'm going to suggest to
you that that view is only part of the story. That instead--we can think of a triangle where
there are three points on this triangle. One point is the brain, the extended nervous system
distributed throughout the whole body, which can be thought of as a mechanism by which
energy and information flow. Then there's the point of relationships which is where
there's a sharing of energy and information flow. And then there's the point of the mind
which is the process that regulates this flow. And these three points on the triangle have
arrows going in all directions. So unlike what you might read if you read the common
neuroscience books where the arrow is one direction, these arrows in all directions
and it's not even as simple as just there's the mind and the brain. You can't understand
human experience, I'll have you consider, without thinking about relationships. Certainly
in my own background as an attachment researcher and a psychiatrist, we see this all the time,
that relationships shape the firing in the brain and when neurons fire, they actually
change their synaptic connections with each other. And so the way we learn, the way we
grow, the way we develop is by experiences in addition to genes, shaping the synaptic
connections in the nervous system. We know that relationships shape those connections.
So it'd be way too simplistic to say as some scientists do, that genes explain all of how
someone develops. I mean, I don't know why those scientists say it because it's actually
proven not to be true. Eric Kandel won a Nobel Prize in 2000 showing in fact that the way
experience works is it changes the synaptic connections in the brain by harnessing the
power of genes for sure, but by experience directly. So what we have here then is the
notion these arrows are going at all directions. Now relationships can evolve all sorts of
sharing of energy and information. You may have had relationships with your teachers
in school which just talk about ideas and concepts and facts and externally based things.
Or you may have had relationships which are more involving which you feel really understood
by your teacher. You really feel your internal world is seen by them. And those two kinds
of relationships, on a broad spectrum, are profoundly different and they activate different
parts of the nervous system which we're going to talk about now. So, let's dive deeply into
the brain, the extended nervous system, so you can get a feeling for where we're at now
in terms of neuroscience informing us about the mind and what a healthy mind might be.
And I'll start this by first giving you an overview of brain anatomy and then we're going
to look at a particular clinical case to understand how the mind is influenced by the structure
of the brain. So Meng has been really nice enough to hand out a model of the brain that's
underneath each of your seats. So if you reach down below your seat and pull your hand out,
you pull your hand out that's attached to your wrist, that's--Meng arranged that, too,
if you take your hand out and put your finger in the middle, this is a very handy model
of the brain. You--you don't have to ever remember to bring it to work. So, if you put
your thumb in the middle and then curl your fingers over the top, these individuals face
will be in front of the finger nails, the metaphoric brain we have here, the top of
it will be the top of the fingers that's where the top of the skull would be, the back of
your hand will be where the back of your skull is over here. So, taking the brain apart piece
by piece, if you raise your fingers up, lift your thumb up, let's start the anatomy lesson
here. The spinal cord brings in data from all over the body and it first enters the
skull part of the skull based brain in an area called the brainstem and this is an area
that helps regulate your basic physiology, like heart rate and respiration, but it also
has the nuclei, the collection of the basic cell of the nervous system, the neuron, that
are responsible for the fight-flight-freeze response, okay? And that area of the brainstem
works closely with the next area, the--this is called the triangular model or three part
model, you put your thumb over, you'd have two thumbs, it'd be the idea--but most of
us just have one. This thumb represents the part that evolved when we became mammals,
hundreds of millions of years ago, it's called the limbic area, it's involved in five processes
and it works closely with the brainstem. Those five processes include appraising the significance
of events that happened. So, if you're on a computer program for example and you feel
not really compelled, your limbic area is probably not saying, "That's important, pay
attention." So appraisal is number one, number two is motivational states, it works very
closely with the brainstem in motivating--motivating us to do certain things, to behave in certain
ways, okay? Number three is it distinguishes between different kinds of memory systems.
Number four is it also works closely with the brainstem and the body to generate what
are called emotions or affective states or sometimes called valence states of mind, emotions.
And the fifth thing that the limbic area does, that people often don't realize, but if you
raise rats or mice or if you raise amphibians and--and--like frogs or newts or you raise
lizards--you know, when we developed a limbic area as mammals, we also developed another
really important function and that's the function called attachment relationships. So the limbic
area is important for us having relationships with other people that are--that are not only
close and meaningful but when we're in a state of distress, we go to that attachment figure
to help soothe us. So here you see from 200 million years ago, we, as mammals have needed
each other to survive. We've needed each other to help regulate our energy and information
flow. We are as a class of animal--mammals extremely social, okay? So that's the limbic
area, the fifth function of limbic area. Now since these are all below the cortex, they're
called sub-cortical. When we also developed our mammalian ancestors long ago developed
the cortex, the neo mammalian cortex, the newer part of the brain, it's the outer part
of the brain. It's actually really thin it's only six layers thick and it has lots of folds,
these convolutions that make it look thicker on a--on a scan, and it has two huge areas,
easy to remember, back and front. The back has several lobes, like the occipital lobe,
parietal lobe, we don't need to worry about that, but the--the back in general is for
processing the external world. When you see me moving my hands around like this, right?
We know it's the back of your brain that's being activated. When you hear the sound of
my voice coming from outside of you, we know it's the side of your brain, the temporal
area. Even when you feel with your fingers, like this, you're activating still the back
part of the brain because you're exploring the outer world, okay? So that's the posterior
part of the brain. Once you get from your second to the last knuckles forward to the
fingernails, that's the frontal area of the brain which grew when we became primates.
And this area has energy and information flowing in that in the first part is about your motor
action, what you're going to do with your body in response to your experiences and the
next strip just before that is called the pre-motor strip, it's where you plan your
actions, where you image what you're going to do. As you keep on moving forward in the
brain, which is called anteriorly, as you keep up going forward, and I don't know if
there is a computer analogue to this, but in the brain there, the way it works is, the
more forward you move, the more complex the representations. Representation is a cluster
of neural net firing patterns that stands for something obviously other than the neural
net firing pattern. So, in the back of the brain, you might have a representation let's
say of my hand here and moving here and moving here, so you're representing the visual image
of my hand. But in the front of the brain, you can have a representation of something
like freedom, or justice, or mental health, or awakening. The back of the brain doesn't
know what to do with those kinds of things. You know, they're really far from solid stuff
but the more forward you move, the more abstract the representation gets. Once you get to the
prefrontal area, you are so forward and you're now becoming part of the brain that is uniquely
human. We have a prefrontal cortex that is so big; our ape cousins probably think we
are really ugly. Because our foreheads have pushed out, because of our prefrontal region,
and we don't look like our ape relatives but it's this prefrontal cortex that you could
call, "The Cortex Humanitas." It is capable of doing an amazing set that is processing
energy and information in a way that creates representations of information that as far
as we can tell most other animals can't do. For example, telling stories, sitting together
and having a meeting like this, obviously inventing stuff where you can project things
all over the planet, you know? And look at little dots flying up and see where the globes
is, and you know, where Google is, you know, being used by people in different languages.
I mean, you know, I--as far as we know, you know, rats don't do that and even apes don't
do that, other animals are great but we do some pretty wild things, you know? And we
believe that's because our prefrontal cortex is so distant from the physical world because
its anterior in the cortex, it can make new combinations that we call creativity that
are the thrust of this capacity. But the prefrontal cortex, while it's creative in this way, it
also anchors us in some very interesting ways in relationships. And let me give you an example.
The first thing to say is like any part of the brain, there are many parts, so here we're
talking about the prefrontal area which is your--represented from your last knuckles
to your fingernails, the side part, the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex, just the side area, is
very important for--when you put something in the front of your mind, so if you have
a computer program for example, and you want someone to remember something and then you
change screens and they're going on to something else, you want to know how is this, what's
called the chalkboard of the mind, holding on to that piece of data. And it used to be
said that we can hold on to seven plus or minus two items. People actually don't believe
that anymore, not because we're changing but because it's a re-interpretation of research,
that in daily life, it's probably more like three, two or three items. So just in terms
of what you present on the screen before that screen moves, just something to think about
of what this dorso-lateral is really able to hold in the chalkboard of the mind. But
for our purposes, we're going to look now at the middle pre-fontal area, and for those
of you who like to know names, I'll tell that you--what I'm including in middle prefrontal
cortex, if you look up the research, you'll know what the anatomical names are. This includes
an area called the anterior singulet, the orbital frontum, the dorsal and medial aspects
of the medial prefrontal, I'm sorry, the dorsal and the ventral aspects of the medial prefrontal,
and the ventral-lateral prefrontal cortex which includes an area called the insula.
Now, everyone's going, "Oh no, too much Greek." So, don't worry about all that. That's why
I made up this term called middle, right? So we have the side, we have the middle. It's
very easy to remember for your dorsal-lateral and to remember that. So, the middle prefrontal
cortex is unbelievably important. And if you're thinking about mental health, as I hope you'll
see in a moment, the list I'm about to give you is an unbelievable list that helps describe,
not define, but I think describe what you may consider to be a mentally healthy life.
So let's look at this list. And here's the clinical case I told you I would tell you
about. Obviously, the details are changed to protect confidentially, but this is the
essence of the case. A child stopped talking at school. I'm a child's psychiatrist, so
she's brought to me for treatment. She refuses to talk in school. And one day, as we're playing
games, just stuff in silence, she finds a video recorder, this was before DVDs existed,
a video recorder and she gets very excited. So she brings in a video the next session
and on the video is this beautiful depiction that her father was taking, it was her father's
birthday, of her mother and herself playing together and dancing around and really hugging
each other and looking each other in the eye, in something that's called attuned communication
where two people, two individuals become a "we". Absolutely exquisite. But what I came
to realize when--she then said, "That's the way my mother used to be." For the first time
she spoke in the office was that something had happened to this mom and when the mom
came in and I'd heard the story but I didn't understand the impact of it, the mom had had
a car accident a year earlier. And--unfortunately, she was not wearing a seatbelt and she--there
were no airbags, it was an old car, and the steering wheel hit her in the forehead, right
in the area where this middle prefrontal area is. And she had severe damage, was in a coma
for a while, had brain surgery, had plastic surgery, she actually looked pretty good but
she behaved totally differently than the woman in the video who was tuned--attuned, who was
present, who seemed flexible. Now this mom had severe problems in the way she could relate
to her children, this girl had other siblings as well, "She seemed like a different human
being," the husband said. So I took the brain scans from the neurosurgeon with me, under
my arm, and I went to the medical school library and I looked up everything I could find in
the basic research on what these areas that the prefrontal cortex did. And as I was gathering
all that data, I had a session with the mom and the dad alone without the kids there,
and I asked the mom, "What was life like since the accident?" And she says, matter of factly,
"Well, I guess if I had to put a word to it, I guess I would say I've lost my soul." And
this was exactly what the kids were having such a hard time articulating. There was something
in the essence, whatever you believe about the word "soul," if you just think of the
idea of the essence of our personality, of who we are, this core place of ourselves,
there was something about this essence that was gone. And yet she could walk, she could
talk, she could write, she could think. So, when I brought back the information from the
scans, which I'm going to describe to you now, and explained it to the family, we could
start to make sense of why things had changed so much. Here are nine functions that now
we know from research are based on, that is they need a healthy middle prefrontal area
to functional well. And you just think about in your own life what role these nine functions
play, in yourself, in your relationships with others and people you know. And here are the
nine functions. The first is this area of the brain actually sits on top of the brainstem
as you can see from where it is, and it helps regulate it. So, regulating the body, the
heart, the lungs, is actually what this part contributes to, body regulation. Number two
is, you know, when you look at another person in the face and you feel like you're connected
to them and you're attuned to them, that attuned communication depends on this middle prefrontal
area. And when it's damaged, people don't do that. And you can try it right now if you
want to. Look at each other and see what it's like when you just look at someone you feel
connected versus when one--one of you looks away. Give it a try. You'll see what that's
like. Look at your neighbor, try looking and then just--look even--even just look away
and see--see the difference in the feeling. Each of you try on the left side, do the looking
away first, and then on this side, now try switching it over. How did it feel differently
when someone was actually--looked like they felt like they were tuning in to you versus
not? Did you notice the difference? Yeah, well, not in their head. There's a huge difference
and the prefrontal region can create it and knows the difference. Number three is to be
able to balance your emotions so that this internal valence states we call emotions,
rise enough so life has meaning but not rise too much so life becomes chaotic and not be
too depleted so life becomes rigid. That optimal flow, which we'll talk about in just a moment,
that optimal flow is what this area helps create. The fourth function is the capacity
to extinguish fear. If you've been traumatized or it's a difficult thing and you're frightened
of it, this area actually grows what are called GABA fibers, gamma aminobutyric acids is a
inhibitory peptide that helps dampen down firing in the lower limbic area. The amygdala
is responsible for generating activations that are--what help us feel fear. So this
middle prefrontal area helps calm that down. That's number four. Number five is the ability
to pause before you act, what I call response flexibility to instead of just active, you
know, respond your impulse, to pause, have a space in your mind where you consider the
various options available to you. For a kid on a playground, this is absolutely all the
difference between being adaptive and flexible with emotional intelligence and social intelligence
or lacking those things. That ability to pause before you act is everything and if you could
just teach kids that you'll be making a huge difference in public schools, that's number
five. Number six is something called insight which scientifically means something called
autonoetic consciousness which is self knowing awareness. And in the brain, what we think
that does is the representations of the past that are connected with the representations
of the present and anticipated future. So you have this thing called mental time travel.
The next one is the capacity for empathy. Different from attunement and it is the ability
to tune in to someone else and to create maps of them in your mind. I wonder what that person
is feeling, I wonder what she was thinking, I wonder what memories might have come up
that made her behave that way, that's the example--those are examples of empathy. And
then number eight, if you thought that those seven weren't enough. Number eight is the
capacity for morality, for actually thinking about the importance of compassion, of using
your moral imagination to think about the larger social good and then enacting those
behaviors even when you're alone, it's a way of defining morality. People with damage in
this area, they don't become immoral, they become amoral. They just don't consider this
larger social good. Now those first eight for me, started echoing in my mind, as an
attachment researcher, independent of brain studies with what we had proven secure attachment,
healthy relationships between a parent and a child produce those first eight. We've proven
that, not knowing anything about the brain. So I was going, "Wow! That's really amazing."
The ninth one, no one ever looked for. This ninth factor of the middle prefrontal area
is intuition, being in touch with the wisdom of the body. The heart and the intestines
have actual neural net processors around them which allow energy and information to flow.
It's kind of like little computers in your gut and your cardiac system that then bring
the data up through this area of the spinal cord called Lamina I. It comes up like--in
any, you know, mammal, it comes up to our lower areas where they regulate the heart
and the intestines, but then it moves up to the area called the posterior insula in primates,
and then forward only in humans and if you're thinking about the interface between computers
and humans, this is a really important to think about. It allows, when it goes from
the posterior insula taking Lamina I data from the body including the viscera, the hollow
organs like the heart and lungs, it takes this data, moves it from the posterior insula
to the anterior insula. And what we believe happens when, that occurs only in humans,
is you create a representation of your representation of the body, it's called a re-representation.
It keeps you one step removed, it's called introception, perceiving you to your world
and that function amazingly enough, has been directly correlated, not only with anterior
insula activation naturally, but with the ability to have empathy, the ability to have
an empathy which is at the core of emotional and social intelligence. So we've now in these
years, bless you, we've now mapped out the actual circuitry that allows you to have these
nine functions. And if you look at your hand model, lift your fingers up and bring them
back down, what do you notice is unique about this area of the brain? Well, it touches everything,
exactly. It touches everything. This middle prefrontal area is connected to the cortex.
It's deeply connected to the limbic areas. It actually receives direct input from the
brainstem. It's also, through Lamina I; receive a direct Lamina I input from the body's whole
system, the muscles, the joints, the teeth, so you feel sensual touch, you feel the internal
state of the body through this Lamina I movement which goes directly to the middle prefrontal
areas, not to the back, to the front, which is just an amazing finding. And as we've pointed
out, you're getting the data from other people's nervous systems through attunement and empathy;
you're actually creating maps of other people's energy information flow in their nervous systems.
So the social, the somatic, the brainstem, the limbic, the cortical are all interconnected
as one. What is so striking about that phenomenon is when you look deeply at the mathematics
of that--what's that called by the way, when you link differentiated parts?
>> Integration? >> SEIGEL: Integration. This is probably--there's
a few regions that are massively integrated, but this is one of the top tier integrators
in the brain. It's not that the cells in this middle prefrontal cortex look any differently
or they are not really different in their structures, it's not like they're super specials
cells that have gone to special schools or something like that, it's their anatomical
location that bridges with one synapse connections. Obviously the whole brain is interconnected,
yes, that's true. But you're talking about speed of conduction with myelinated fibers
that are a hundred times faster than unmyelinated ones and with one synapse shopping, you have
basically connected the whole "shebang" together. So it's massively integrated. And for Mathematics,
those of you who are in Mathematics, what do you know about when a system can link differentiated
components? When it can become integrated? What do we know about it? This is now straight
from Math. Well, let's take a choir example just briefly, as an example. If you take a
choir of 10 singers, right? Ten singers and you have them--we have differentiation and
we have linkage. Let's do first where they're not differentiated, you block differentiation.
You have them just sing one note all at once. Ahhhh and goes on and on and on. Is there
any, besides the overtones, but in general, there's no variation. It's not flexible, it's
not adaptive. It's kind of dead and flat and rigid. That's one extreme. We have what we
call river of integration. One extreme is rigidity. In this case, you block integration
by impairing differentiation. Let's say you do the opposite. Let's say you take this 10
singers, have them close their ears and have them belt out a song, any song they want as
loud as they can when you raise your hands, what would you hear? Cacophony. You'd hear
chaos. And for those of you who are familiar with complexity theory, you know that when
a system is not maximizing complexity, it goes either to rigidity on one end or to chaos
on the other. What we're talking about is an interpretation of complexity theory that
says, as this choir example would be if we had the 10 singers up here and we said, sing
a song, very often, people will sing Amazing Grace. I can't sing so I'm not going to do
it for you, but if you had the choir, you can imagine them singing in what? How would
they do it? Harmony. Harmony is a great word for integrated flow. Why? You're allowing
the different singers to be differentiated in their voice and the octaves they attain--not
octaves, the--what's it called? I'm not a singer. What's it called?
>> Intervals. >> SEIGEL: The intervals. Thank you very much.
They're varying their intervals but they're linking with each other to sing Amazing Grace.
So it's an example of an integrated flow, just to give you the--we're not singers up
here, to give you the idea. This notion then says, and here's the proposal by the--a mental
health. When I started reading about complexity theory in trying to understand why the middle
prefrontal cortex might be so exquisitely important in creating the well being, not
just of this woman who unfortunately had been hurt in the car accident, unfortunately, so
severely damaged there wasn't much recovery possible. But her family was also hurt because
the integration, that is the linkage and differentiation in this family was impaired. Now luckily they
could go through the grieving process. Understanding the mechanisms of the brain that wouldn't
allow the mind of this mom to continue functioning as it did because the mind uses the brain
to create itself, and if the pathways aren't there, the mind can't do it. So the kids had
to learn how to grieve the loss of a mother who is no longer there, whose body was still
present. So they actually did well even though the mom couldn't recover much. They grew up
well. They understood what was going on. They could even begin to try to take care of the
mom in various ways, it's a long story, but they've done well. For our purposes, understanding
the power of this part of the brain, even through the pain of that family is to look
at the power of integration. So take to look at this list in your head or if you written
it down, of nine middle prefrontal functions. And how many of you think that that list of
nine has a number of components that feel to you, just in your intuition that this is
probably a reasonable description of mental well being. Let me see, okay. Well, if you
ask mental health practitioners, they jump all over this list and they'll say, "My God,
where did you get this list?" And I tell them, "You know from the clinical case," And they
go, "That's like a magnificent description for us of describing mental health." So here
is the move from a description to a definition. What I am going to propose to you and this
is in all of my different writings that Meng talked about, so it's--you can see the detailed
analysis and the references in science, this is just kind of the take home message and
a kind of an overview. The proposal I'm going to make to you is that a healthy mind emerges
from intergraded systems. Integration very clearly defined as the linkage of differentiated
parts, so that when you have a nervous system that's integrated you get these nine functions.
When you see relationships in a family that are integrated, you know, where people are
honored for their differences but linked, they want it, "How are you doing? How are
you doing?" "Okay." "You like vanilla ice cream. You like chocolate? Fine. But let's
go out for ice cream together." You know that's a healthy adaptive family. You get flexibility,
adaptability, even a sense of coherence. If you look at the mathematics of coherence,
it's a beautiful book by Thagard called, "Coherence in Thought and Action" which examines the
equations beneath coherence and these integrated systems get there where they embed the ongoing
variables that they're encountering into how they define the in and out group, and the
system then moves through time by changing the response to what their experience is.
Different from a cohesive equation which is rigid in how it's defining things and it just
doesn't change, you're either in or you're out, odd numbers out, even number in. Whatever
the system is, it doesn't adopt. So we're talking about relationships and a brain as
systems of energy information flow that when they're integrated, they can move in this
adaptive way. Now, in my own journey through all this stuff, what blew my mind was not
only being trained as a clinician and finding it, actually useful to name specific domains
of integration, like the left hemisphere and the right, having them become differentiated
and linked, like the body and the cortex having them linked, just as two examples, there's
all sort of domains of integration that can outline a whole approach to promoting a healthy
mind. But one very direct approach which has been around for--it turns out thousands of
years, was taught to me only very recently because I, by accident, used the word, "mindfulness"
in a book on parenting. And I said, with my co-author Mary Hertzel, that, "One of the
most important things we can do is be intentional and awake in our parenting." We used the word,
English word, mindfulness. It turned out, as you may know, that there's twenty five
hundred years of specific mental training to develop mindfulness traits which I wasn't
aware of. But since that time, I was fortunate enough to meet people who've been spending
their life in modern times studying scientifically the power of mental training to promote, it
turns out and this--this totally blew my mind, it turned out to promote all nine of the middle
prefrontal functions. And when I presented this to one of our nation's leaders John Cavett,
who's in on this, he was beautifully able to say that, "It wasn't just that this was
the outcome of mindfulness training to get these nine functions, it turned out it was
the way of being mindful to regulate your body, to balance your emotions, to be tuned
in to other people, to be flexible on your responses." All of these things, they have
insight, empathy, moral living, even intuition, 100% of them. So, in a book called, "The Mindful
Brain" what I wrote about was, integrative processes that link differentiated components
as your integrator, like a parent's tuning in to a child, promote the activation of these
integrated fibers in the brain and promote their growth. It turned out that--there were
studies that suggest the fact that when you do this thing called mindfulness training,
there's the kind that's been studied in depth, this mindfulness meditation, but there are
also other trainings that we think will do the same thing. We don't know, like yoga,
and tai chi, and chi gong, and centering prayer, those are all mindfulness practices, but for
now, the main, the bulk of research, scientific research has been done on mindfulness meditation,
but there's lots of ways of practicing mindfulness. For that research, these are the areas that
get activated and the neuroscience lesson is that neurons which fire together, wire
together. So, if you have a practice, let's say 10 minutes a day, where you are taking
time to focus, let's say on the breath, and when your mind wanders, return your attention
to the breath in a loving and kind way, and then your mind gets distracted, return your
attention, to have this practice where you're aware of your awareness and you're paying
attention to your intention, we believe that those are the two fundamental things in every
mindfulness practice. When you do that over and over again, in that 10-minute period,
you're creating what's called "a mindfully aware state", a state of mindful awareness.
And you may say, "Well, is that just the same as relaxation?" Well, the answer is no. It
turns out studies have been done and show that mindfulness training is not the same
as relaxation training. You may feel calm or you may not feel calm but it's a form of
mindful awareness which is very different from just relaxing, that's number one. You
say, "Well, I'm doing it 10 minutes a day, how's that going to help me? Good 10 minutes,
what about the rest of my day?" Here is the secret, when you intentionally practice, firing
off neurons, you stimulate neuronal activation and growth, you snag the brain, stimulate
your own activation growth. When you create those states, they will change the structure
of the brain and subsequent studies have actually shown that that's true. To make a mindfulness
trait, states become traits with practice, that's the whole idea. So what I'm suggesting
to you is that here's--we've defined a healthy mind coming from integrated relationships
and integrated nervous system. We've described its features, and now, here's the last few
minutes before we stop for questions, is how do you actually do this? Well, one thing is
you try to promote healthy relations with other people. You tune in to not just their
thoughts but their internal world, their non-verbal signals. You combine in every way you can
a way of attuning to people's internal worlds and respecting their ability to be distinct
from you, that's a relational one. In the brain, you can actually on your own, develop
and you can call it an integrative practice if you don't like the word, mindfulness, but
it's basically a way of focusing energy and information flow in a way that has you be
aware of your awareness, pay attention to your intention, and basically build the muscle
of the mind. We have every reason to believe what you're doing in doing that is strengthening
the integrative fibers of your brain, in particular, these middle prefrontal areas that I outlined
for you. Now, when you do that, we know from research, a couple of amazing things happen,
people will shift the baseline activity of their brain to what's called "an approach
state", so when you do happen in life to confront things that's difficult, instead of withdrawing
from it, you actually approach it. Even just after an eight week training where people
practice everyday, their brain changes. Your immune system function improves. People's
approach state shift which is called a "left shift", it improves in proportion to the amount
of an increased immune cells that are going to fight off disease. Blood pressure is improved.
All sorts of physiological improvements happen. There have been studies that show empathy
increases. I once did a 40 day--a week-long retreat with 48 brain scientists, we weren't
even focusing on empathy or compassion or anything like that, we're just focusing on
developing this capacity of being aware of awareness for a week and when we had our discussion
group, two of them, one was married, the other one was engaged said, "My partner tells me,
'What happened to you? You sound so connected to me and you sound so empathic, what are
you doing there?'" And what was amazing about it was we weren't practicing any empathy practices
which exist. You know, we were not trying to generate compassion; we were just focusing
the mind. Why would that be? Well, if you just think about what I said about the anterior
singulet and the anterior insula, we've been talking about the anterior insula, but it's
part of the middle prefrontal area, when these two go together, the anterior insula's activation
which is what you practice when you're aware of your breath, hour after hour, day after
day. You're going to strengthen what your anterior insula's doing. And all the studies
that have been done, a lot of them at UCLA with people that I work with, have shown the
higher degree of empathy, the higher degree of anterior insula activation. You see someone
without much anterior insula activation; they're not touch with their bodies, very low empathy.
That's just what the research shows. Why would be that the case? We're not talking about
mere neurons but there's a whole set of neurons that suggest that we soak in what we see in
other people to shape our own bodies response, and then the way we perceive that body's response
allows us to know not only how we feel, but how they feel. So in all these ways, having
an internal education where you're getting this self-connection directly helps your connections
with others. And this is where we have the opportunity as individuals to make the world
a more compassionate place, but in a setting where you're actually affecting energy and
information flow across the planet for our entire species, you guys are in an unbelievable
position to try to create a more compassionate world for all of us. So, thank you very much
for your kind attention. And we have time for questions. Thank you. Please.
>> [INDISTINCT] >> SIEGEL: Yes.
>> What kind of practice [INDISTINCT] >> SIEGEL: Yeah. No, not a two-year old but,
you know, we're doing four and five year olds in preschool and if you go to--Oh, I'm sorry.
Repeat the question. How do we do this with little kids? So, the first would be the resource.
If you go to innerkids.org, Susan Kaiser Greenland is the person we collaborate with; we do the
research part at the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA, and there they work--we are
working with four and five year olds and studying the outcome. And the outcome is amazing. The
kids are more tuned in to each other, the bullying has decreased, there's this sense
of more presence and flexibility. >> [INDISTINCT]
>> SIEGEL: Well, what--Susan is a genius at doing this and she has her book that's coming
all about this, but the way it happens is you teach kids to be aware of what they're
doing as they're doing it. So for example, they put a plush toy on their belly; the thing
is just say, "Rock your teddy bear to sleep." So they're constantly watching their belly
go up and down and up and down. You don't tell them, "You're meditating," you know,
a four-year old never meditates but they can do that. Kids who are old of course can do
yoga and things like that. They're--and we go all the way into middle school. You know,
and so there are creative ways of doing it. So, I would go to her website and you can
click right through. The other group I worked for is called the Garrison Institute. And
we have a 180-page summary of all the different programs we could find in North America that
are teaching mindfulness to kids. And there's another program called Mindfulschools.org
up in Oakland that have--I've been now doing research on their program. They've worked
with 4,900 elementary school kids and the bullying has decreased, the empathy has increased
and this is parallel to what happens at a program called cascl, C-A-S-C-L.org is where
you'd find that information, where their teacher reflective skills to build social, emotional
intelligence. Even there you see not only obviously improvements in social-emotional
intelligence which is fantastic, even academic performance improves. It's a win-win situation.
We just have to be mindful enough to do it. And, you know, I just spoke to 3,500 of the
nation's public schools superintendents about the concept of the fourth R. You know, you
have the reading, writing, arithmetic. You know, why not have the fourth R be reflection,
that if we can build up this, you know, anterior insula strength, that we can build up reflective
skills which basically no one is doing, we have an opportunity now to shift the compassion
in our culture in a very different way and to boot, we'll probably get better academic
performance, why not? Yes, please. >> You made a statement at one point where
you said the mind uses the brain or something like; I thought that was a very peculiar way
to speak. That perhaps you had spoken loosely. >> SIEGEL: No, very intentionally.
>> So... >> SIEGEL: What I said was--what I meant to
say and I think I did say it; the mind uses the brain to create itself.
>> How can you speak about the mind though being--in that way of speaking, the mind is
something different or separate or outside the brain where clearly in your definition,
the brain is the key part and in fact, no brain, no mind.
>> SIEGEL: Maybe. I mean, you guys are affecting minds all the time. I have a close friend
of mine who's dead. He died last year and you could say on some level, his mind is still
affecting me because the way it's influencing my energy and information flow. That's a huge
discussion. But let me address the area of peculiar way of speaking. I do that on purpose
because we hear so much from scientists that it's such a common way of believing and I
certainly was raised this way in medical school. They say the brain creates mental activities.
It's a one-way arrow. Let me you give an example of the study that was done to illustrate why
I'm, you know, weird enough or bold enough or whatever to say, "The mind uses the brain
to create itself." You take someone let's say--take 10 people, put them in a house,
blindfold them for a week. And the brain makes maps of the outside world using the back of
the brain, the occipital cortex. After one week, these people have had to figure out
the spatial arrangements around them, to go to the bathroom, to find food, to find their
bed, to go sleep, et cetera. After one week, when you put them in a scanner, the finger
tips have taken over the back of the brain. And you could say, "Well, sure that's the
brain just doing that." But one way of understanding that is this human being...
>> What do you mean when you said that, the finger tips?
>> SEIGEL: What I mean is you put them in a scanner and you have them touch things and
now the input from the fingers which is in a relatively small area, this metasensory
strip, massively activates what we used to call the visual cortex. And you can read about
this in a book called, "How the Brain Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge or another book called,
"Train the Mind, Change the Brain" by Sharon Begley or another book called, "The Body Has
a Mind of its Own" by Sandra and Matthew Blakeslee, these are the summaries of the science so
you know I'm not just making it up. So the idea here is that we used to think of the
brain as pretty fixed. Now we're learning, it's always changing and a thought can change
the brain. If you need to know the outside world but your eyes are no longer bringing
in the input, we used to think, "Oh well, you're really in trouble." Your need to have
energy and information flow about the outside world, drives the brain to create a map of
the outside world. Your mind is using the brain to create what it needs. It needs a
mental image of three dimensional space. That's just one example. There's example after example
after example in Doidge's book of how for example, imagery. You know, studies of imagery
with athletes, they can--if you can, you know, let's say you hurt your leg and you are a
basketball player, if you take two weeks and just practice shooting hoops, you're actually
going to do almost the same as someone who's been with their legs shooting them. This capacity
of the mind to get the brain and be activated and keep those circuits active is now been
proven. We didn't know these 10 years ago. So that's why I'd say, you know, "Hey, the
mind used the brain to create itself." Now I used this example of this unfortunate woman
who's hurt to show, of course, you need the brain circuits to let the mind ride those
circuit activations to create itself and if you don't have those circuits, so for example
I would do a lot of work with traumatized kids, we know the integrative circuits of
their brain unfortunately, are damaged from high stress hormone levels. So those kids
have a lot of time developing these middle prefrontal cortex, you just can't say, "Hey,
just do it, man." No, their circuits don't exist. So in a way, the mind is using, well,
using the brain to create itself and if the brain circuits aren't there, you're absolutely
right, no brain, no mind in that sense. But we need to be really flexible, it's a way
of sort of challenging your own mind to say, "Wow, okay it's a two-way arrow--two way arrows
for sure." >> But why pause at something outside of the
brain? >> SEIGEL: Oh, it's crucial. But you know,
as a therapist, if it was just about the brain, I was just giving pills to people, it would
be a travesty because--because in fact, people can use the mind to change the brain. We now
know that. But it's an important issue, this larger question, I'm actually going to three
think tanks this summer to look at just that question. So it'll be--you should come because
it will be a fun dialogue. Yes, was there one more? Oh it looks like we're done.
>> [INDISTINCT] >> SEIGEL: What's that?
>> One last question. >> SIEGEL: Oh, one last question. Yes.
>> The nine different traits that you explained... >> SIEGEL: Yes.
>> ...how have those impacted the severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia [INDISTINCT]?
>> SIEGEL: Yes. Great question. In--oh, I'm sorry. Thank you. How are these middle prefrontal
functions affected by a severe mental illness? The first broad thing just to say is, if you
look at our diagnostic and statistical manual of illness, what's amazing to see is every
disorder, the symptoms of that disorder are examples of rigidity, chaos or both. So this
is a very different way of approaching mental illness by looking at impairments to integration.
So in schizophrenia, you do see massive impairments to integration. In autism, you see massive
impairments to integration and in bipolar disorder, just to address the one you've brought
up; you see massive impairments to integration. In a book I am writing now that I'm just finishing
called "Mindsight", every chapter is an example of a challenging mental health issue. Bipolar
is actually the first clinical chapter, it's about someone's bipolar disorder. And certainly,
often people need medications, but what I use was a mindfulness technique to try to
grow the middle prefrontal fibers. There's work from, and it turned out to work in this
one particular person's case, Hillary Bloomberg is a researcher at Yale who's now shown that
the fibers from this middle prefrontal area, the ventral one, ventral lateral, are GABA
fibers that go down to the amygdala and she has shown now, that's the first time ever
to be shown that in people with bipolar disorder, they have much fewer inhibitory fibers going
from the middle prefrontal cortex to the limbic area, to the amygdala in particular. So it's
now our first, you know, empirical research to support that fact, this capacity to integrate,
to--to regulate, that's what comes from integration, balancing and coordinating, is impaired in
bipolar disorder and we need to have creative ways than of, with mental training or medications
because a lot of these medications actually promote neural plasticity, the ability of
the brain to change a response to experience, it's actually promoted by lithium for example,
or, you know, by certain medications like selective serotonin [INDISTINCT] inhibitors.
So it may be that that's one of the major ways those medications are working, by letting
the brain grow itself out of its problem, you know. But this is a new way of thinking
about it and we're getting support then to look into these details. So thank you very
much for your attention and I look forward to talking with you more. Thank you.