Could the Government Shut-Down Lead to Brain Damage?


Image Credit: Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958, encaustic on canvas, Whitney Museum of American Art

Better Brains Dispatch from Dr. G and Sarah Kornfeld…10.04.2013

Is it possible that with all of the stress of politics, status power plays, late hours, poor sleep, free-floating anxiety, blaming others for their own actions, and finally, having no quiet time at all, that our government is damaging its and our collective brain and nervous system?

We at The George Greenstein Institute (GGI) have some tips we’d like to give to our US government officials to see if we can help slow down long-term memory loss, curb anxiety, stave off heart disease and reboot national trust circuits for effective governance.  There may be no better time than now: Our government seems wanting of some brain knowledge on how to get “unstuck” or it might have a neural shutdown of its own.

 Here is a no-brainer approach to getting “unstuck” – so easy, it might speed up the process of resolution and getting our country back to work:

1.     Stop, reappraise and admit you need to take a nice slow breath. Maybe you’ve read Congressman Tim Ryan’s little primer A Mindful Nation. Or perhaps you caught theHuffington Review post review of highly successful CEO’s and leaders (Bill Ford of Ford Motors, former president Bill Clinton and even Rupert Murdoch) who have learned to stop, breathe and cool their jets! Yes Meditation is good business, good for health and good for governance. Still not convinced? Of course you need evidence-based medicine, which our own National Institute of Health is only too glad to supply once its website gets turned back on.

2.     Take a walk! Leave the building and walk briskly for twenty minutes a day, one hundred and fifty minutes a week. That’s right, each member of the Congress and our President needs to get out and get their hearts pumping blood to their brains. As our scientific and medical communities push out robust neurobiological research, we can now say with utter confidence, your daily jaunt will increase the needed levels of hormones to reduce toxic stress, improve synaptic bonding for memory consolidation and open the cognitive floodgates to problem–solving.  Yet with all of the Filibustering, posturing and finger pointing, we bet you are starting to forget why you even made the decision to shut down. 

3.     Put down the Scotch on the Rocks and give your staff members a hug. No, really. Put the drink down and get a better rush. Do this “hug thing” five times a day till you solve the problem in your own party before entering into the trust circle with President Obama and other members of Congress. To boost your confidence, consider research conducted by Dr. Paul Zak, esteemed neuroeconomist who has studied the science of trust, bonding and hugs for over a decade.  Zak, an expert on the writings of Adam Smith, shows us that oxytocin, the “moral molecule,” runs freely in trust building, hug-generating nations that govern economic systems throughout the world.  No surprise, the USA is not included on the trust list and so our elected leaders should probably follow Zak’s advice: hug more.

That’s right, Breath, Walk, Hug. It’s that simple, that critical, ladies and gentlemen of the House and Senate. Yes, we want, and need you to take control of your central nervous systems, because, quite frankly, it takes a healthy mind, brain and body to recover from this shut down shock to your system… and ours.  *******

Rituals of Outside: Freeing ourselves from Self-Enslavement


Image Credit: Sam Apple

Dispatch for Spacious Minds from Dr. G.

[The following blog is not written to promote religious precepts but rather to highlight the secularization of Jewish and Buddhist ritual of “mindfulness” for the health and freedom to BE. — ed.]

It doesn’t take an ear to the ground to hear the rumble of marching armies filled with mindfulness and wisdom teachers rising up to share a practice that has touched the depths of their hearts and changed their lives for the better.  Why the uprising?  Why now? 

Some blame the daunting economic stress of our time, pushing people to their brink and forcing contemplative teachers out of their caves and living rooms and into the light of social transmission. Others say we are at the dawning of the Mahayana era - a time of the “Great Vehicle” when a simple method of checking into your “inside mind” is being shared not just by monks and rabbis but by ordinary folk and civic leaders across USA city, state and Federal lines. 

The most noted mindfulness advocate found on the “Hill” is Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan. The book A MINDFUL NATION is a slim, bold account by Ryan, a rising political leader whose own life has been transformed by taking up the contemplative “insight” practice transmitted from school rooms to board rooms to military training grounds.  Ryan, along with readers and followers of Bodies in Space, Twitter and Facebook is well aware that neuroscientists have logged in umpteen hours to discover the discreet features of mindfulness and related contemplative practices, like Zen and T.M., that impact both children and adults.  A growing number of studies bear up distinctions between focused attention and non judgemental awareness, the biomarkers of correlated stress reduction or growth in neurological real estate.  How refreshing for a civil servant to bring the art and science to  the Hill!


Image Credit: Congressman Tim Ryan, CBS news

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Outside is Bad: Unthinking The CROOD perspective


Image Credit: The CROODS, art direction by Paul Duncan and Dominique Louise

Dispatch on BETTER BRAINS by Adria Williams, mommy blogger for

There’s so much talk about kids getting outside today. The “experts” have answered my question over and over.  But I took no true look at the issue until The Croods and Katarina!

Have you seen “The CROODS”? A must see family movie for this spring! Reflecting back on Father Crood’s insistence “Outside is BAD!,”  I am  reminded that outside takes time away from my all-too-busy life. And frankly, my family had become like “The CROODS”.

And Katarina?  Well that’s the name my daughter has named for her self. She prefers this name to her birth name, and for this story we’ll settle with Katarina!


When I was a kid you had to drag me in the house. The streetlights were our queue that time outside was over and it was time to sync back into life INSIDE, a space filled with parents! I can still here the voices,

"Did you do your chores?"

"Did you clean your room?"

"Did you feed the fish?" (I never got that dog!)

Did you, Did you, Did you and then with dinner time, the litany of commands followed:

"Wash your hands"

"Chew with your mouth closed."

The list went on. But at least in my house, “Did you have fun outside?” was never the question despite the fact I ALWAYS had fun outside! Based on the flowing rivers of stories I had to share, it was clear I had fun going outside.  Not going outside was a punishment and torture!         

So back to Little Miss Katarina.   “I don’t want to go outside, it’s boring. I’m going to miss my FAVORITE show!” This proceeded by crying and an all out temper tantrum, unlike I’d never seen before! What was making her behave this way? And what could I do about it?

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Outside?  The scientist who save sea turtles reveals a BlueMind truth:

Our dear compadre and BEATLES fan, Dr Wallace J Nichols share his BlueMind views on the connection between emotional and biodiversity.

To learn about the upcoming BLUE MIND 3 conference on Block Island, click here.

Digital Frescoes and Social Change

Dispatch for Bodies in Space Explore by Sarah Kornfeld.

[Editor’s Note:  The following piece was written in 2010 — a personal reflection by the noted arts and tech blogger Sarah Kornfeld, a child of the theater for whom drama and big space is home.

I asked Kornfeld if I could repost her piece just in time for our celebration of “outside.”  Surely at a time when arts and technology are manipulated to delight us on screens large and small, the transformation of wall space should seems de rigeur to us living in the digital age.  But Kornfeld invites us to consider what going “outside” can mean when we’re facing a wall transformed by the algorithmic play of light.]


I have always had a fascination with walls, and believe that walls can change the world.

Here, I was about four. This was one of my dad’s theaters.  I think it was backstage. But, I didn’t care: it was a wall that held a story, and that was what I loved – that was the family business – telling stories to strangers.

I have not fallen out of love with walls. In particular, I love walls in public spaces where people project images, blast music, make dances or create a social commotion.

And, even though I work with digital technology, I still love a wall that stands outside of computers — but, I seriously love things made in computers that get projected out to ravish, and cling, and create a new way of looking at a wall. Either way, I love walls. I think this started with the theater.

Or, perhaps it started with my first mentor: Elise Bernhardt.

In the early 1980′s, Elise founded Dancing in The Streets. She had the chutzpah to put dances on the Brooklyn Bridge. Then, convinced Grand Central Station to let dancers take over the entire joint. Stephen Koplowitz had dancers in the windows, and Savion Glover tapped in the lower terminals. Merce Cunningham’s dancers dominated the huge central area of Grand Central and people were forced to walk around them to get to their trains. Her desire to do work in public spaces – besides the fact it is fun – is grounded in the belief that community is created by engaging in public art. It was also her aim to shine a light on areas in need of revitalization, and public art could act as that focal point. She had a great deal of vision, and did formative work: Grand Central engaged in a huge effort to bring the building back to it’s original, glorious form to some degree because of the hot light on the space the dances provided.

But, all this big activity, big social change through big public work is based in practical, hard, hard work.

Here’s what I learned from Elise, and it’s good advice if you want to take over a public space and put art in it, or have a really big dinner party:

- Pick the most exciting space you can find and decide, with total conviction, that it’s right.

- Envision the most exciting things possible in it.

- Admit that you can’t envision the most exciting things in it alone - find the most talented people to come up with more ideas.

- Ask people for money (or, fill in here, “Ask for pot luck”).

- Ask LOTS of people for money.  And, then ask again. And, tell that the idea of dancers in windows, and people flying from walls, and digital images taking over buildings is GOOD for everyone. That people in public spaces looking at things together is what the history of culture is all about. That this work revitalizes community and puts attention on needed public space (which she proved from Redhook to Grand Central). And, then look them straight in they eye and say, “Plus, it’ll be gorgeous”.

- Then, make sure there is good food.

That’s pretty much it. Oh, and fall deeply in love with the knowledge that the walls of a public space can seem totally changed when people  remember having seen art in it: also, neighborhood, building and communities can redefine their own space when art has shed a new vision onto/into it.

A few years ago, I told Elise I missed big spaces with big things happening in them. She told me to call Zaccho Dance Theatre, and Joanna Haigood, and become their friend (That’s Elise in a nutshell really, just call for gods sake, it’ll be gorgeous!) ( Zaccho is based in San Francisco and takes a blank space and flies off of it. Literally.

The picture above is of Zaccho doing a full digital projection on HUGE abandoned silos. The piece included Zaccho and the people that lived in a neighborhood where the closing of a plant had closed down the local economy.  All the participants tried to imagine a time when there were fields – and not machines. Amazing way to look at history. Though, let’s put this into perspective -  see those little dots on the silos? Those are dancers on harnesses who are flying/dancing within, up and down and around those silos.  Well, this work meets my need for a Sistine chapel that moves. A small request…but why not.

And, why not??

Now that digital technology can do so much as a projected medium, why not have Sistine chapel environments up the ying yang? Obscura Digital here in San Francisco does this But, let’s be clear – OD is not an arts organization, not even a production company – they are a culture unto themselves who make really humongous projection based immersive events for huge companies. Oh, and sometimes a band. And, yes, huge domes for people to experience the sea. But, generally, they make products to mess with your head. They messed with the head of Carnegie Hall:

The images wrapped the building. They moved. They were playing along with the music – talking and changing shapes. And, that was only a small example of what could be done with this level of digital imagery to a wall.

There are artists, and technologists who are specifically focused on how to use digital technology as a form of paint (or movement/spacial changer/”head-messer-upper”) itself. And, these are the people who I am watching carefully – because art has often shifted into high gear – into a voice for a new era – when it is seen as a huge image, in a huge place (or in a small place with hug impact) but, always in a public place.

Last year there was a lovely homage to walls when 77 Million Paintings was projected live on the Sydney Opera House.

Brian Eno made these images and they run on an algorithm that makes it impossible for the same collection of images to ever been seen in your lifetime – each picture is seen once, and then regenerates (or gestates) for a very long time.

And, that is interesting – and wistful.

But, to me, the fact that he had those images shift and change, and exploded on those massive sails on a public meeting place, and that those images created a new memory precisely because they reframed (changed) that space (quite publicly) is quite touching – and wonderfully demanding.

What is the demand? That “we are here”, and that art and people together in a public space is a part of history. This demand to look at art in very large public space is a part of redefining our space in time. It is a catalyst for asking ourselves why we are here – how we are here – and seeding the ideas for change, should that result from engagement with something so huge, so much larger than yourself that you see your world differently.

Like I said, I’m just a sucker for blank spaces on walls.

And, I love to find them filled with something, someone, someplace we can remember: together.


Bangladesh You Broke Me


Image Credit:

Bodies in Space Explores Dispatch by Farhana Huq, guest blogger
[Editor’s Note:  In celebration of our April 2013 brain health theme “outside” our colleague, the inimitable surf and life coach Farhana Huq shares her recent deep think on the impact of sharing the art of surfing with young girls throughout the AsiaPacific region.  The impact, here, is both on the girls and their neurosomatic discovery of surfing oceans and cultural norms and on the blogger who reveals a singular truth about the intrinsic joy that comes from introducing the art of surfing to girls living throughout the AsiaPacific region.  
April’s Artist of the Month then is in the plural — a dedication to all of the young brown girl surfers who dare to go “outside,” step into ocean and onto the board to face the power, the beauty and the experience self-discovery intrinsic to the art of surfing.

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Futurists Are Hot!

Dispatch by Sarah Kornfeld: Sights of Art and Technology, Media and Life.  Repost from April 14, 2010.

[Editor’s Note:  Without a personal historian whispering in our ears, we often fail to see the repeated patterns and connections in our own thinking about “kernal ideas” — you know the deep germinating kind that show up like a good character actor ready with her lines for rehearsal of a new play.

Yet for writer / blogger and inventor Sarah Kornfeld, futurism, Ben Franklin and invention persist as kernal memes that feed her co-founding (with yours truly) the site and system Inventio!Brains!]

In the author’s own words….

So, I always thought that this guy was a Futurist. Ben Franklin seemed to scope out the future needs of the nation, while also being a deep historian of the past. He wasn’t very hot – but need he be?  No, he was a guy who could look backwards and forwards and generally, we could agree, implement long-term thinking to a nation.

Now, my buddy Jake Dunagan, a futurist, has expressed to me that he thinks we should throw out the constitution because the long term thinking of the past does not meet the needs of today. Scrap it, he says, start over. I gasped with the thought of the anarchy of that idea and then he just smiled in a wily way, and said, “Yeah, that would really shake things up.”  Wasn’t that the perspective of Franklin back then? Shake it up? Think for the future, and then, change the present?

Long term thinking.

This is what futurists do – they think long. And, I didn’t know anything about them. But, in 2006 I was introduced to Stuart Candy ( who was a fellow at the Long Now. And, later he introduced me to Jerry Paffendorf.  And, then I was introduced to Jake Dunagan ( ) And, now, we are developing a project for the Academy of Sciences, and I sometimes need to try to boss Jake and Stuart about – ok, I try to push gently. But, I don’t recommend this for the faint of heart (it’s my job, and after 15 years of practice I have the stomach for it) because futurists are, by the by, Bad Asses, and don’t like being told what to do: they are hard-wired to question…well, everything. But, more about bad assed-ness later.

In 2006 when I returned from PopTech! ( I wanted to know if there were futurists under the age of 59.  I am not being snarky here – I have respect for the agents of change that are many Futurists – yet there was something about the idea of long-term thinking that interested me as it related to a younger generation.  I noticed that the futurists I met were very much in the moment – quiet, listening, asking questions about how things have worked in the past – and then imagining multiple worlds for the future. I wanted to know if young people were embodying this wisdom.

So, I have met the young ones, most under the age 35 years old. And, they are as rowdy, opinionated, fierce, and silly as the Founding Futurists must have been – it’s like hanging out with a punk circus filled with PhD’s and a van ready to leave for Burning Man.

Oh, and did I mention they are simply beautiful. Now, I will take a good deal of crap for talking about their beauty – but I think this is key – they are lively, contemporary and they are perfectly comfortable with being in the public eye, and spreading their vision as a rock band tours the planet.

But, let me define what beauty is to me: that rare combination of comfort in one’s body, and the expression of that comfort/energy/passion through feelings/words.

Please see my point below:

Jane McGonigal

Jerry Paffendorf

Stuart Candy

Jake Dunagan

These are only a few of the faces of futurists – these are just the folks I know or am near living in the Bay Area. And, they tell me that there are women around the world who are moving thought around (Jane McGonigal is most known for her insights into world-changing through gaming), and people working within the neighborhoods quietly making change (Jerry is now living in Detroit and leading a movement to convert abandoned homes and warehouses into places for film/design and futures work

This generation of futurists I know are like highly connected community organizers with a drive to change the way people see. They want people to see the consequences of actions as a way to push for social change. It’s an inverted form of civil disobedience – it’s civic dissonance.  These brave souls want to turn your head inside out to force you into a place to resist present terrible decisions for the earth – those that are creating negative, globally destructive, future consequences.

Long term thinking = long term change = long term global beauty (beauty: health, joy, freedom of thought, embodied living and connectedness)

Concepts of beauty have changed throughout time. And, we are a culture obsessed with the physical beauty of our bodies. Though, perhaps beauty is now more critical – for me beauty is the integration of the mind with intention: and I am watching these younger people, (who defy the cliché of a tweeting/snarky/ADD Gen Y – whatever that is) these Futurists, they think in paragraphs and in 3D: and, they have every intention to change the world.

And, to me, this is gorgeous. This is beauty. This is Hot.

Artist of the Month: Paul Zika


Image Credit: Paul Zika, TERMES 5,  2011, acrylic on wood, 129 x 98 x 5cm

"In deep sleep man continues to be influenced by his environment but loses his world; he is a body occupying space." — Yi-Fu Tuan

Neuroscientists use the language of “pattern recognition” to reference how we sense the world as something more than a smudge on reality, more than a bundle of mere stuff.  Patterns, as ordinary and scientific  language goes, reference the connections of lines, shapes, and points in space.  It’s the “pattern that connects” reminds cybernetics pioneer Gregory Bateson.  And so with the emergence of pattern, of order, of rhythmic repetition that we come upon connections of points in space.

Artists and designers have long been avid observers and exponents of rich pattern recognizing moments moving between realism and abstraction with so much mannerist gusto as to force 19th and 20th century art historians to riff on the difference between decoration and ornamentation — the intellectual and political consequences of which now seem quaint and dowdy in the face of globalized pop culture.

Stepping aside culture wars, journeyman Paul Zika as been one of the more active pattern recognizers in the Australian art scene, exploring with eloquence and curiosity, ancient and contemporary patterns that reveal much in the way of memory and spatial pattern recognition.

In the artist’s own words…

In the mid eighties I introduced pattern and ornament into… relief constructions; on one hand, to stress the ‘flatness’ of the surface, but also to counter modernist notions of artifice. Rather than conforming to an idea that ornament was superficial embellishment, it became the subject and content. The viewer was left to contemplate the space within the pattern, sucked in and seduced by elaborate complexity.



Image Credit:  Paul Zika, ‘Terme 4’ 2011, acrylic on wood, 132 x 113 x 5cm



Image Credit:  Terme 6’ 2011, acrylic on wood, 113 x 175 x 5cm

Brain Bright! … What is the source of prosperity?


  • What is the moral molecule?
  • What is source of love and prosperity?
  • What does the neuroscience of oxytocin teach us about trust in human and animals?

Tune into the interview with Dr. Paul Zak, a.k.a. “Doctor Love”, neuroeconomics pioneer, CGU professor and author of The Moral Molecule.  

Find out why we should be hugging our children and rethinking altruism from the standpoint of hormones and neurotransmitters!

It’s Peek a Boo Time! FMRI Fly thru Baby Brains!


Image Credit: Wayne State University website

Better Brains dispatch by Dr. G

Wow Wow Wowee!  It’s Peek a Boo time and I don’t mean to reference Herr Freud.

No, in this case it takes neurotech, not psychoanalysis, to reveal early stages of an unborn babies brain!

A first ever FMRI film, produced by Moriah Thomason from Wayne State University, “flies-through” the brains of 25 fetuses in the third trimester.  The yet to be born tweens were 24-38 weeks old.

As quoted in New Scientist,

By comparing the scans at slightly different stages of development, Thomason was able to pinpoint when different parts of the brain wire up. “The connection strength increases with fetal age,” writes Thomason.’

Why does this matter?  Revealing the inner mysteries of the human brain — in all stages of development — is the Promethean quest of our decade.  Whether capturing fetus brains in real time or mapping the cellular connections by way re-engineering the human brain through painstaking cellular slicing — the proof is in the pudding!  It takes curiosity, moxie and our passionate funding for teams of art, sci and tech specialists to make the seemingly impossible, possible. 

And what is that possible?  Imagine in 5, 10, 15 years from now, from where you are sitting, you’re able to see a team of researchers and diagnosticians perform early detection of autism spectrum, schizophrenia, or attention allocation issues and upend neurological growth patterns — all of this realized because today we dared to support research in neuroscience, neurotech and data visualization.   Or before you know it, Sony or Cannon will make a take-home camera enabling us to fly into our baby’s brains and prevent a WWIII temper tantrum.

Remember science fiction leads to science.  It’s only a matter of time.

Until then, join us as we raise awareness of arts and brain science research and send a message to the White House: Let’s support arts, tech and neuroscience learning now!

To rally with us go here

To read more on the FMRI study click

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