#1344 - Joseph Ledoux

Sep 4, 2019

Joseph Ledoux is a neuroscientist whose research is primarily focused on survival circuits, including their impacts on emotions such as fear and anxiety. His latest book "The Deep History of Ourselves: The Four-Billion-Year Story of How We Got Conscious Brains" is now available.

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and right now listeners this podcast can get a special offer that includes a four-week trial plus free postage and a digital scale without any long-term commitment hooray just go to stamps.com click on the microphone at the top of the homepage and type in j r e my guest today is Joseph Ledoux he is a neuroscientist who has a new book out called the Deep history of ourselves the four billion years story on how we got conscious brains I fucking love this conversation it was excellent and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did please give it up for Joseph the do

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check it out The Joe Rogan Experience Train by day Joe Rogan podcast by night all day

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Yo Joe thank you thank you for being here really appreciate it though it's a pleasure to be here is a fascinating subject I'm really looking forward to talking to you because the conscious mind and how we how we evolved our conscious mind how we have our conscious mind I mean that is one of the more unique things about being a person it is how did it happen oh well it's only a four billion years story is we have some time so shall I tell you how I got shortened to it and we're how I ended up thinking about that problem so I've been working on how the brain detects in response to danger for most of my scientific career little bit before that I'd actually studied Consciousness in these people who have their brain split apart to control epilepsy call split brain patients so I got interested in Consciousness and also in how behaviors that might be produced non-consciously affect what we know about ourselves so we see ourselves doing something and then we kind of conscious

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build that into our Narrative of what we are but a lot of what we do we do non-consciously and when we interpret it that kind of solidifies the fact that you have a non conscious system that's controlling your behavior when in fact you didn't do it but that system bit so you have to make sense of it and generate an explanation and narrative so that that was where I got started and I tried to figure out well what would be some kinds of non-conscious systems and said well maybe emotion systems are producing behaviors that we don't fully understand and I started studying that and ended up figuring out how this part of the brain called the amygdala receives information about the environment and then controls orchestrates all the responses fight like cons of responses to help you protect yourself and the you know after many years of doing that I started asking well how far back does this ability to detect and respond to Danger go we know that bugs and flies can

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that and research had been done showing that bugs and flies have certain molecules in their brain that are important in these kinds of protective defensive behaviors and including the ability to learn about them and store those as memories so it's easier to work on those little tiny invertebrates than it is to do studies in a complex brain even like a rat brain which is pretty complex so given that what these people are discovered about invertebrates

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I and others who were studying mammals decided to see if the same molecules might be involved in mammalian learning and in fact it was so now that raises the question you got the same molecules during the same thing the same molecules same genes doing the same thing in ancient invertebrates and and animals like us so you ask we're back in time is the ancestor that made that possible you know if we've got the same genes either it kind of happens spontaneously separately or this a common ancestor and indeed there's a common ancestor and that goes back to the first organism first animal that had a bilateral Bobby which means that left right front and the back and a top and a bottom so it has kind of three dimensional sides before that there were animals like jellyfish that were radial

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but no front and back they just have a top and a bottom and before that they're sponges which have no front back top bottom they just kind of randomly organized so that's kind of the that's the story of animals sponges to jellyfish to these bilateral animals so the ancestor the bilateral animal that we're talking about gave rise to those two lines one the became all these in vertebrates like flies and bugs and snails and octopus and all those things and another two animals like us vertebrates on the fish reptiles mammals birds and so forth so those are two separate lines that inherited these genes that make the memory and defensive Behavior possible so so well how far back did it does it stop there and no it doesn't because you can find those genes on through jellyfish and then keep going into single cell organisms now these are like

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things that give you intestinal their intestinal parasites or like you know give you upset stomach and things like amoeba paramecia that you might have heard of and you know biology class in high school or something these have no nervous system and yet they detect and respond to Danger they learn about their environment they do all these sorts of things and where did they come from well if you go all the way back to where they came from even simpler kind of organism still single cell of course like bacterial cells now these guys go back to the beginning of Life the first cell that ever lived some 3.7 billion years ago the gave rise to the entire history of life was a bacterial like cell that started dividing now what's interesting that cell that started dividing is the mother of every bacterial cell that ever lived

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so that's L is it's more like it's real that cell is still alive because it's they reproduce by cell division so that's still sell just keep reproducing and part of that first cell ever is still with us today and all the bacterial cells that are around it's kind of a mind-blowing thing is it's incredibly my mom do we have any idea why the first cell decided to divide well this I shouldn't say it's the first cell in the decided what this it's the first cell here you'll sell it's the first cell that was able to to sustain life long enough to give offspring that could sustain and sustained sustained so there were probably lots of experiments before a kind of cell or kind of group of cells have the right stuff to be able to do that so they those others never made it because they didn't have quite enough of what it took to be a cell that could do that so the first cell mean it's kind of a hypothetical sell it

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Luca the last Universal common ancestor of Life whoa yeah and that's that's about 3.7 3.8 billion years ago but it could have been a bunch of cells you know a collection of cells cell types that one of which then you know populated all of life the weird thing about life is not just that it's different and it varies so much but that it's it's ever increasing in its complexity well if you go back to the single cell and then you come all the way to today to a person right like what a weird sort of transformation and you know it's dangerous to talk about as if we're moving towards some kind of goal you know right is that we are the goal but we're not saying I don't think we know we're not we're definitely not I've been more and more thinking that artificial life is the goal mmm well I mean there's no goal of Life cause there's survive

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all this the only goal of every organism and that's that's what that first cell was able to do is to generate a set of biological properties that could sustain itself long enough to reproduce that's all you have to do you have to live long enough to reproduce and to do that you have to have energy resources so you have to incorporate nutrients you've got to balance your fluids otherwise you have to keep your eye on straight or your the cell will get too big and explode or get too small and collapse you've got a thermo regulate because all of these things depend on the right kind of internal temperature and you have to reproduce those are the the survival requirements of a cell but they're also the survival requirements of a human so the same things that a bacterial cell has to do to live through the day and create a species is exactly what we do everyday to reproduce ourselves we have to eat drink defend against danger incorporate nutrients and

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balance loads and ions that way defend you know reproduce and so that was the mind-blowing thing I see I wrote the whole 3/4 of the book is a scientific journal so I didn't know any of this stuff I had to just learn it and as a lot of fun but it took a long time I would imagine when you think about the original Luca and then human beings do you ever try to extrapolate you have ever tried to like keep the the process rolling in your mind and see where is this going to go oh yeah so the end of the book I paint a not so Rosy picture of how she's doing well yeah but so let's talk about the end of the book so okay I you know say well okay well are we have these two kinds of significant experiences in our lives that that occupy the human mind one is the kind that we can call an

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facts you know this thing is here and the other is what we might call a self awareness where it's me that is aware that that is a bottle so that's a that's a higher level and that is what appears to be unique to the human mind the ability to represent the self as a subject in other words to have these subjective experiences that have a personal past it's not just the past but your past you lived it and a personal present and a potential future that you can imagine different scenarios of you existing in in the future so that requires a man that's called Auto noetic Consciousness the ability to self know about where you are in time and it depends the this is an idea that was proposed by a guy named indle tulving a very distinguished psychologist who's a retired

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right now but his idea was that the unique aspect of the human mind is mental time travel the ability to project ourselves in the past present and future and without that kind of Consciousness were limited to kind of factual information something is there you know that might I might be able to say oh food is there or drink is there or sexual partner is there but not necessarily that I want that food I want you know you might have a kind of biological urge towards it now from the outside it looks like everything we do is intentional and willful so I think I'm controlling my behavior you think you're controlling yours I see you do something that I might have done in a similar situation I think you intentionally control that we see a dog doing something that would be similar to what we do we think we know why the dog is doing that because

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it had some intention but the fact is if we start taking these things apart in the brain we see that the systems that control very simple behaviors or not the ones that are doing all this high level conscious thought take the example of the area of work on for all these years which is threat detection now the part of the brain called the amygdala is key to the detection and response to threat in a kind of basic sense you know threat comes up you freeze if there's a snake for example now it's all because of that it's been assumed that the reason you freeze is because you're afraid and therefore that the amygdala is also making the fear because the amygdala experiences the fear and that's why you produce the response but I've for the longest time in throughout most of my career I've said the amygdala does not consciously experience fear and yet my work

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is been used to kind of sell and defend this idea of the amygdala is the brains fear Center I think that's completely wrong why do you think it's been misinterpreted

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it's a long complicated story but it's you know it's partly it's my fault because I was not as Vigilant as I should have been when I was describing it see what I did was that I would talk about the amygdala as a non conscious state of fear non-conscious implicit fear and I would say that while the neocortex is where we consciously experience fear and those are separate but that was too complicated you know the journalist kind of ignored it and it was just it just became the amygdalas the brains fear Center even the scientists ignored it because you know we were studying and you know I kind of gave up after on said okay we talked about it in terms of fear because you know that there was a lot of money to be directed towards research if you're studying fear and how you could treat that but I think it's you know it's been kind of a wrong

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because it's led to the development of medications that don't really work so all the big companies are getting out of the anti-anxiety business anti fear business because people still feel fearful or anxious when they take them you mean like Xanax things along the yeah companies getting out of his Antics business benzos and I said yeah I mean they're not either that of the repurposing them for other purposes you know but so what happens is you the way these things you know these things the basic drugs were discovered in the 60s almost Accidentally In some cases you know not rather than by some hypothesis so the only thing that's been discovered since then is more versions of the same thing with you know slightly fewer side effects but there's been no new discovery of a new kind of drug that's going to help people and why is that well the way the drugs are discovered is that take a rat or Mouse put it in a challenging situation

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give it some different medications in the ones that make the animal less timid in those situations is assumed to make the animal less fearful that's why is less timid so when you give it to a person they should be less fearful but what you find is say a person's social anxiety might find it easier to go to the party and they're less timid but still anxious while they're there and the reason is that we now know is that damage to the amygdala in a person doesn't necessarily also eliminate the feeling of fear gets rid of the body responses but not the feel so it was a misunderstanding of what Behavior can tell us we treat Behavior as if it's an ambassador of the mind but behavior is really a tool of survival it goes back to those first cells that ever lived who had to defend against danger bacterial cells move in there in the water and then they come across like you know a gradient of some chemical that's a toxin soon as they detect that they bounced away and go in

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different direction if a guy if they find a gradient of something that is nutrient they keep going and absorb it so they have the ability to detect what's useful and harmful in their lives these are not these are not there for psychology they're simply there to keep the organism alive and many of the behaviors that persist throughout the whole history of Life are like that they're there because each of the cell and the cells in the body has to you know do all these things to stay alive and so the organism as a whole has to do it as well defend against danger incorporate nutrients balance fluids thermoregulate reproduced so these are survival tools not mind tools now we can use our mind in conjunction with these things and because we can we conflate every time we're freezing in the front of the snake to the fact that the fear is what's causing it but the fear is a separate process it's the awareness that that stuff is

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opening to you

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the awareness of that stuff is happening to you so that's a no self no fear oh that's my tissue okay well that's my merch on the the book now how do things like Xanax work what what's the mechanical process okay so the that's a part of the class of drugs called a benzodiazepine and they will

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they bind to receptors in the brain the brain has receptors for all kinds of chemicals and many of these things are things that exist in nature and what they want they bind to is a receptor called the Gaba receptor which is the major inhibitory transmitter in the brain so when you have a benzodiazepine binding to a Gaba receptor what it's going to do is increase inhibition so the you know the kind of simple reason why those things can help is they kind of inhibit so the tone down the brain a bit and so things that would normally trigger a response no longer trigger so it's like increasing the threshold for something to bother you innocence in a lot of people enjoy that with alcohol and not supposed to well alcohol also attacks those are seven so it's like a you get double the effect is that why they tell people don't have Xanax yeah because you can you know if you take a lot of sin x and drink a lot

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choose you can OD or you could just say crazy things not totally be aware do you remember that story about a woman she was I believe she's a publicist and she got on a plane she's flying to Africa and she said I'm going to Africa hope I don't get AIDS just kidding I'm white elal she thought she was just being funny and you laughed and she landed in Africa that must have been a surprise do you know the story no but there are the stories this was one of the original stories of someone ruining their entire life with just putting you know one little tweak on line she thought she was being funny like she she would say a bunch of snarky things like that a bunch of funny trying to be fun right but she was on Xanax and drinking their and woke up completely oblivious and her life had been destroyed she was fired you know she was a social Pariah and I'm pretty sure that

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Xanax and alcohol that she was blaming it on yeah well you know these are powerful drugs and so you know back to how they work and they work so a drunk like that

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all of the drugs that we take go to the entire body they don't they're not able to just you know find their way to one little spot in the brain and do their trick this is talk about magic bullet for bullet drugs that might be able to be targeted for specific circuits and but that's fantasy at this point so if you reduce inhibition in the entire brain yes you might reduce you know anxiety but you're also going to change a lot of other things so you're going to make for example for thought and ability to rein in things like the stuff that woman was saying more difficult because they're attacking the prefrontal cortex where you have some inhibitory control over Behavior they're going to alter your ability to retrieve and store memories and to be able to attend to things and you know to the extent that they

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drugs have a positive effect on some people it's been said that part of the reason is that it's kind of a general blunting of emotion it's not an anti-anxiety drug is just kind of a dulling of everything and you get bangs ID anti-anxiety as a part of that but if we want to understand how to do better we have to you know figure out what the the brain circuit that's really making us anxious is and not just what's making us you know not toning down everything it's kind of like you know you go to a restaurant the music's too loud somebody says please turn it down so they turn it down a little bit the music stays the same it's the same song but it's not as annoying because you've turned the volume down and I think that's what a lot of what these medications can do is turn the volume down a bit or turn it up you know depending on what you do correct me if I'm wrong but isn't there some sort of a slingshot effect like after you take these things in your

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why is ramped up afterwards well it can be a rebound the fact that it can also be kind of a lot of people next day feel depressed no because it just the stuff is out of your system and just kind of you know if you take it's kind of like taking sleeping pills things like Ambien are of the same general category of drug benzodiazepines and so you get this hangover the next day okay so it's just a physiological response to the medication yes not that if you alleviate some anxiety Then the anxiety wants to come back even stronger know that mean so I you know I've also proposed and my previous book that we each have an anxiety set point that you know that let's say you're worried about something and all of a sudden that gets resolved I just makes room for the next thing to do so you know we just kind of fill that void because our brain is you know we've developed a brain that has a certain kind of set point for everything it's doing

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and that just makes room for you know to fill that fill that up if you're an anxious person you probably will always be somewhat anxious there's no magic bullet that's going to take that out what you have to do is attack the process from knowledge of how it all works and that requires that we have a more sophisticated understanding that when then as possible from Simply observing Behavior because Behavior does not tell you necessarily what's on the Mind Behavior tells you how the brain has responded but you know just to go back to the fear thread example when let's say I bring you into the laboratory show you a picture of something like a blue square my colleague list Phelps who used to be at NYU is now at Harvard did experiments like this and every time the blue square would come on the person would get a mild shock to their

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and so then she would present the blue square subliminally that means you really quickly with the something that follows it the kind of mass that and that prevents the information from getting into the conscious mind and so the persons that I didn't see anything but if you put the person in an Imaging machine fmri and image what's happening that stimulus that threat the blue square gets to the amygdala turns it on the heart begins to race Palms are sweating but the person has no fear

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hmm the person doesn't know it's there and doesn't experience fear the amygdala is not about fear it's about detecting and responding to danger in order to be afraid that has to reach your conscious mind so that you can experience it

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as a state of this Auda noetic Consciousness that were talking about

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self-involved Consciousness that's hard for people to separate yeah well believe that there's a physical response but that your minds on aware of it right but when you understand that that's why it becomes understand that's why the medications are not working they're targeted to work on these underlying systems in rats or mice but that's not where we are experiencing our anxiety but these medications are very profitable right people enjoy millions of prescriptions get written just going to phase out then we'll probably you know I they're probably all going off patent and because the company can't find anything new they're not going to keep pursuing it because it's not going to be a prophet anymore

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but don't people still want them I mean it seems like that's a really popular medication yes I'll be like they'll go to you know become generics and people be able to get them for less money and they'll just do with whatever they want yeah off-label whatever yeah I mean it's you know it's I do think that for example the drugs that are available to help people because it's important to reduce the behavioral timidity and the physiological arousal that goes with that because if you don't treat that then the conscious mind will be reactivated

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by those responses if you only treat the conscious mind then the physiological stuff will bring the conscious stuff back yeah everything will bring back their everything else unless you treat the whole system and you have to do that you have to understand the system and we've just misunderstood it I think for so long

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I have a friend who he takes it every day takes Xanax every day yeah and he says he needs it and says without it he's just a mess well you know Whatever Gets You Through the day I guess you know it's I'm not a therapist I'm not like right advocating that I know I understand but from your perspective from an understanding of the human mind and all the systems that are at work it seems like that's really not the way to do it yeah I mean it's you know I'm sure that that's you know in a sense maybe that's his crutches way to get through the day and he's come to believe that he needs that much like an alcoholic leaves they need a drink yeah yeah but I'm not calling him and you know well I'll call him he does like to drink too yeah but he's a great guy what these these systems that are in place and the all the various things that have gotten us to 2019 as a human species

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when you study anxiety and you study fear and all these different things is are we experiencing high levels of it because there's not as much real physical danger as our ancestors experienced and it's almost like we're looking for it when it's not necessarily their like we're programmed to be able to deal with it that's a good point I hadn't thought of it that way but I think that's a good way to think about it I mean you know the philosopher Kierkegaard said that anxiety is the price we pay for the human ability to choose and this is where our Auto noetic Consciousness comes in our ability to think of ourselves as having a past in the future to be able to plan and choose in the future you know he said it started with Adam making the First Choice as a human in the Garden of Eden and that was Where it All Began so in our ability you know you can rephrase that statement by saying our

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to choose is what allows us to be anxious because that is what anxiety is a worry about what we have we are going to make the right decision how can we deal with this thing that's coming up it's a worry about the future and the ability to think about the possibilities like what could go wrong what could go right am I doing the right thing and then to contemplate all those various choices right anxiety yeah so like you know you're walking through the woods as a snake you might freeze but almost instantly that fear that is generated by you freezing and seeing the snake morphs into anxiety you know will the Snake Bite Me hmm if it bites me will I get to a doctor will he have the anecdote if I die what will happen to my family you know just that's were that's anxiety so these are there are kind of separate fears about danger that's

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some anxieties about one that hasn't happened yet almost always as soon as you're afraid that makes you anxious about what's going to happen and then there's General existential angst the the just the life itself existence is that just what is this what yeah and all of that is due to our prefrontal cortex our ability to conceptualize to imagine things that have never been imagined before to create art to build the create architecture build buildings imagine going to the Moon designing a an instrument to do that and actually pulling it off and make sure it can get back all of that is something that our special kind of Consciousness enables but it has a dark side which is it also allows us to be incredibly selfish and self-centered and narcissistic

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dick and to support tribes and groups and you know unless we I mean I think that the world survives best when it's either completely isolated all the cultures are isolated or if we could also some have be together in a more unified way because of the direction we're going now where each country is isolating itself but it's still so entangled with all the others is recipe doesn't for disaster

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is this because we evolved essentially without long-term travel I mean we kind of evolved to stay in whatever area of the resources were in when we were hunters and gatherers and then somewhere along the line somebody figured out boats and how to get on a horse and the next thing you know you're visiting people I think it's more about you know we have a special kind of inquisitiveness that we can because we can mentally model the next step and plan what are the options try to anticipate the the problems that are going to come up and take those steps and and that's a pretty special thing but it also allows us to plan in the kind of devious way where you know me or my group is going to benefit and if mind benefits I don't want the other one to benefit because we got to keep everything separate mmm so it's

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you know Consciousness are kind of consciousnesses are our greatest achievement but also probably our worst aspect whoo but it's hmm But it's what makes us human is imagining humans with no consciousness is impossible no to there's no way to go in that direction that's so is is the key to this thing as the human race is it managing our consciousness of perhaps maybe work like yours giving us the tools to understand what are the mechanisms involved that maybe that can help us sort of navigate our biological

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traps and maybe I mean I think it's you know certainly we don't I think the I have no idea what your position on climate changes but personally I think that things are happening and something needs to be done let's clearly things are happening and that you know there was a red a couple of editorials probably in the New York Times or something couple months ago one was about how yes the you know things are changing and we have a right to worry but you know we shouldn't worry about the Earth as the famous quote is guy has a tough bitch so the Earth Will Survive but the configuration of life on it

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is unlikely to continue to be the same under those conditions the more the Everything Changes the conditions of life change and the first things to go this is what happened to the dinosaurs a large energy demanding organisms because as the conditions change the climate that we've lived in we've succeeded because we were able to benefit from that kind of climate but as the climate begins to change our kind is not going to be able to succeed as well because those conditions are you know the waters are rising the deserts are expanding all these things are happening and it's just not going to be yeah species don't last that long right few million years and they go so our time maybe we've only been around for what three hundred four hundred thousand years and something well depends on what we call wheat but

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enter dolls were around quite a bit longer than that yeah they're not here anymore so we don't have a I mean

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I think that we can use our minds to try and

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you know help us get through this but that's only going to work if we can do that collectively that's the scary part we have to work together collectively as a world because these are not local issues these are Global issues yeah right that is who has that is luck getting you know especially getting other countries like China to comply yeah yeah you say that small successes I mean like auto companies deciding well we need to you know rain in the emissions and there's probably a profit motive underline that at some point sure and people are conscious there's green dollars yeah right like you want to like when when you think about technological achievements and you think about the conscious mind and the ability to create in the creative process do you envision the possibility of some sort of a technological solution to a lot of the problems that we're facing

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I think it has to be a social solution social how so

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we have to

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we have to figure out how to balance this worldwide you can't just we can do whatever we want in this country if we could do what we wanted but you know if if even if we were the best country in the world for the environment that wouldn't solve the problem you know it's a worldwide problem you know Amazon forest that's affecting a lot of people you know

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it's just not a it's not a simple thing that one country can solve right but if one country takes steps and imposes some sort of a technological solution that pulls carbon from the atmosphere that does enhance some sort of a cooling process to bring homeostasis to bring some sort of a like generally agreed upon state of the environment if that's technologically possible mean that's going to come out of the creative mind right well you know I don't want to go too far off into my not area of expertise like climate and so happens I just think there's I think I would put in the kind of the social perspective and what I've been trying to contribute but I don't want to I don't think I can really don't dress the details of all that right but even like socially if we did address it socially we're still going to have to deal with the actual physical limitations of the just the environment that we live in and what we've done this how to somehow or another

► 00:42:47

mitigate it yeah I agree yeah so but yeah so I think you know creators coming along and trying to find Technical Solutions that's great when you analyze the human mind and knowing what you know about the thought processes and the way people think and where when you see people in denial of climate change and when you see people that are so enamored with the concept of capitalism and big business that they don't really think that it's a big deal or they want to deny that it's a big deal so that they can continue short-term profits but what does that like those mechanisms like while watching that take place in the monkey mind yeah what do you what do you thinking when you see that happen with humans yeah I don't think it's simple it's not simply

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denial of climate change for climate reasons I think there's a lot of social

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you know within certain groups there's social stigma for being pro-environment yes and so it's Tribal tribal it's it's people yeah people cling together and it's a kind of form of self-protection that by identifying a set of issues that we all can agree upon because they're kind of dictated top down in a sense that our our thing and that thing is somebody else's thing mmm

► 00:44:20

yeah that's a weird aspect of being a human being right these tribal identity things where if you are in this group you must be pro-choice if you're in this group you must be pro-life you must be anti-war you must be pro-second Amendment no is very little deviation and that's left right that's everything that the belief systems rigid belief systems you know part of this part of being and when you look at politics and you know that these belief systems or when do you find it odd that we have these like sort of Polar Opposites or at least left right choices is red blue choices that we've limited ourselves to these very distinct tribes right that's yeah I think that's unfortunate but that's where we are

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is there a way out of that political scientists after the tank battle knowing we're going down a weird Road what do you think is the source of creativity like somewhere along the line I mean and we've seen it right I mean there's some speculation and scientists have sort of generally agreed that some monkeys are in the Stone Age that some primates are in what would be considered Stone Age are starting to use tools they're starting to use sticks and is a famous photograph that I love of an orangutan where we going to get a full copy of that we should get that orangutan with a spear we make a note of that there's a crazy orangutan image of an orangutan holding on to a branch and then spearfishing it's amazing and apparently he had seen humans do it so that's where he learned the behavior I am attention yes but still that is a primate using a weapon right to try to Spearfish look at this photo

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is that incredible nice I mean that is incredible that's like really thoughtful and skillful and the way he's hanging I mean my goodness look at that I've loved that picture that picture is amazing now this the creativity that allows you to get food when you couldn't get food allows you to escape from environmental conditions allows you to escape from predators all these things are rewarded by the continuing of your genetics so but there are other things that come into play one of the Specialties that the came along I think is a byproduct of having language and by language I don't mean words but what language did but what was required for language to come out of the brain which is the development of a cognitive sort of architecture in our brain that allowed all kinds of mental jumping around

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so for example for most animals to learn you know who to trust and who not to trust and what someone who's what in a given situation who's going to do what to whom by just looking around they have to go through trial and error learning it see the experience all of that a lot but the human mind can simulate create a mental model and instantaneously make those kinds of predictions on the basis of very limited information and this is based on something well we the relation to language is that syntax gives you those kinds of options because you can you know you have past present future states that can be related to you and to others and so forth and personal pronouns are very important terms of me I mine you yours that though the point when those come in and a child

► 00:48:06

is the first point when I think self-awareness can fully be tested and shown some people say well they have it but they just couldn't express it others say know that the arrival of the pronoun personal pronouns are very important in the child's development of sense of self but anyway so language changes the brain changes the cognitive architecture of the brain and allows for something just to throw out a technical term hierarchical relational reasoning which is the ability to think across kind of conceptual categories laterally and horizontally so that information you can just jump around and that's kind of what creativity is the ability to just jump around and mental space and come up with something by a unique combination of those things

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do you think that there's variation in terms of the the types of languages like Chinese versus Spanish versus that they allow you to interface with the world in a different way because the language is structured very differently I think that's absolutely right but I don't know if enough about other languages to say exactly how I think it was Malcolm Gladwell if it was the outlier so they discuss this like the limitations of certain languages in terms of Pilots was that glad well I think it was where they were they were they were discussing how Korean Airlines because they have sort of hierarchy of you know the way you're supposed to treat the upper levels of management up and then that they had to force these Pilots to all speak English so that they didn't have this hierarchy like that this presumed hierarchy of being able to address situations that plane had crashed because co-pilots were

► 00:49:59

in their place they were put in their place and they weren't allowed to address pilots and that once they had switched over to English that the language like there's so many different versions of dealing with your boss or someone who's an upper-level person that there's so many different ways that you were supposed to address them and that they had a limited all that by using English there and it made me think like just using different styles of language the way human beings communicate here as very different than the way people communicate say you know some African countries right that we have these different styles of interpreting the world around us and those in turn have a profound effect on the way we sort of interface with the world and I think that's definitely right so I'd say yeah it's interesting to think about

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emotion and language so it's often said that an emotion like fear is universal across the world but I don't think that's actually correct what's Universal is danger mmm and the way fear is interpreted by different cultures is obviously different I mean different the Asians have a different kind of perspective on fear every culture has their own perspective on fear so it's fear is the you know the the kind of cultural assembly that you have in your brain in response to Danger so every culture has to have a language of fear but not because fear is universal because danger is universal hmm and what they interpret as danger is different right and fear for one person something could could create fear whereas for another person the exact same situation would not depending upon

► 00:51:48

personal experiences and maybe even their genetic makeup well I mean yeah I'm genes contribute so we every part of our brain is under some kind of genetic influence so every for example the amygdala will be genetically kind of slightly more roughed up in one person than another so little more sensitive to danger and so that person might be responding more to danger in part because of genes but also maybe because of experiences that they've had and so then the conscious mind is seeing those responses and starting to conclude oh I'm an anxious fearful person and that all of that information gets collected and what's called a fear schema which is a body of knowledge of everything you know about danger and including the way you react you react to danger and you're just you know who you are in terms of danger and so whenever you encounter danger that schema is what's called pattern completed so

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presence of a threat in the world is enough to go into your brain and activate those memories about danger that give you a non-conscious represent a you know an activation of the sphere schema that is what then bubbles up into Consciousness that's your experience of fear is what has been activated in your fear schema knowing what you know and then watching whatever anxieties or fears may play out in your own mind is that for lack of a better term a mindfuck for you I know I mean well I mean sorry this so much then you're a human yes I assume you have the same anxiety I have a lot of anxiety and we all do and truthfully it helps to some extent so I use 1996 I published a book called The Emotional brain and four years later I started finding out from therapist that the lot of patience

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reading the book with their therapist and they were saying that it was really helping them understand why you know how different things are happening that the amygdala was causing them to react in certain situations but their fear was their conscious understanding of those reactions and those are not the same thing and that separation help them you know navigate their own situation and in a situation of danger separating out okay that's my body is responding this way my mind is responding this way and these are two separate things I need to work on in control have you studied various ways that people mitigate anxiety and fear like meditation and yoga and all these different things that sort of change people states that I mean I haven't I haven't studied it myself but I have researched it a bit I've tried I tried to do meditation myself because I think it's the probably the most direct and effective

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way in the moment to sitting in the room outside waiting for her just had my hat and sunglasses on just trying to chill out meditate a little bit get ready for you mmm do you do that on a regular basis yeah it's hard to maintain it because life gets busy and it seems like it the hardest time to do it is when you need it most yeah I think it's one of those things like hygiene where you sort of have to say well it's hard to take a shower then you have to take shower don't stink you have to brush your teeth you get cavities you have to meditate you'll go crazy yeah it's perfect I that's the way it should be done I think that is what so when you examine those kind of tools like tools that people have sort of imagined or created to sort of in some way alleviate anxiety or enhanced perspective do you do spend much time dwelling on the creation of those things and what's going on there but I mean by the creation well the like a human had to figure out how to meditate her a person had to figure out these modalities he's different ways

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is to sort of interface with

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so let's take that from take that too

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the nature of most approaches to fear and anxiety today hold this hold off the meditation Port slightly okay so we have you know psychopharmacology some major line of attack and also what's called cognitive behavioral therapy which is a rose as a form first call behavioral therapy because it came out of the behaviorist movement which said there's no consciousness you know that that the human is a stimulus response organism that is based on the history of reinforcement with certain kinds of situations so behavior therapy was about using pavlovian or operant conditioning to change how the brain would respond to threats and how people would act in those situations it wasn't about the mind at all

► 00:56:59

was all about behavior and then cognition was added to that so that became cognitive behavioral therapy but again the the cognitive change was used as a way of changing Behavior because so much emphasis has been placed on behavior in our culture including in the drug therapy world it's all based on changing measurable things like behavior and Physiology and that I think that that's why all of these things in some sense have not worked out as well as we would like you know the best in the best medications in the best CBT trials will give you like 75 percent

► 00:57:39

record of help in the in a group that's pretty great though isn't it I'm still got 25 does that but yep they also have to extract out the placebo effect mmm and in many of these drug studies for example depressive anti-depression drugs the Placido glow effect is you know only the drug affects only slightly better than the placebo effect but when you have cognitive behavioral therapy there's mean you're actually going for the placebo effect right I mean you're trying to nothing wrong with placebo effect in that sense though you are trying to sort of you're trying to use some sort of a strategy with your mind and therapy whether it's meditation what are you doing you're trying to enact change and if that changes enacted there's not a pill involved so it is kind of like the same mechanism that's involved in a placebo effect your mind is creating this this right new change yes and it's so but the question is a person that

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go through the motions but doesn't get the therapy right how much are they changed but simply by kind of going through it yeah I just so many variations with humans I'd like to find out like are they lazy are they self-destructive like and why is that the case like well maybe all of the above all the above yeah but whenever you have I think 75% amazing yeah can you consider if you have a group of people what are the odds if you have a group of a hundred people what are the odds of 25 of them are going to be lazy pretty good right pretty I mean I would bet a ton of money that 25% of those people don't do what they're supposed to do all the time right so you know you're right but I think the issue is from the scientific point of view we need to know exactly what really works

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what's different from Placebo right so that we can see what to build a proper medication for medication for cognitive therapy as well but the therapy thing is so strange to be because put okay maybe we're using the wrong word with Placebo because Placebo is a word for a medication that has a psychosomatic effect right well it's the control group that doesn't get the treatment that you get that is not really doing anything physiologically but your body is interpreting it as medicine and saying alright change is coming and then the change comes and that is a real thing but when you're thinking about cognitive behavioral therapy you're thinking about using techniques and strategies to change the way you think and behave though so the concept of the placebo effect doesn't really apply there we have to have a control group right in the study you have to have randomized control in order to make it so when you have cognitive behavioral therapy and you have randomized control and you have a control group did you skim shitty therapy

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I could eat right we need to get a therapist on here to give you the answer that I don't know the answer you going to therapy yourself I have you did you do that to examine this you know I I mainly went into it with for the meditation part hmm to try and calm some of my restlessness has writing and all this study that you had to do to write these books has that enhanced you committed that you have much more of an understanding about what's at play than the average person does well

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you know again it's kind of like the patient who's reading the emotional brain with the therapist I think by writing those books I learn a lot and it helps me see things and that doesn't necessarily help me lead my life any better but it I think I understand it better but no self no fear yeah well no self no fear means that you have to be you have to have this Auto noetic Consciousness ability in order to be afraid and that is a special human quality the ability to put yourself in the moment in your past and in your future if it's not you that's going to be harmed by that snake then you don't have to worry about what it's going to do to you so if you are part of it then you worry and it becomes you know it's an emotion when you're involved so I think emotions this is a crazy idea that's in the book that emotions didn't

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student natural selection really well that's the idea that they were byproducts of other capacities that came along first you had some kind of crude language that enabled this hierarchical and relational reason to jump across you know language gave you categories to like conceptualize things are ethical reasoning allowed you to jump across those categories and those kinds of things allow you to conceptualize yourself as an entity with an experience so you have to have a self that could do that kind of reasoning and across those conceptual categories and that is what enabled an emotion the ability to put yourself into a significant situation

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so now that it's here now that we have once emotions are there then they become selected but they weren't selected by for example the amygdala having evolved to be the fear Center and we inherited that from animals your animals probably have some kinds of experiences but it's scientifically it's very hard to know what they have well we know like dogs have emotions right dog while I was at the Docks get happy well you see you see their behavior right but I'm not saying they aren't but scientifically you can't measure that right but if you have a dog and you come home and he's so excited to see you and he's running around circles that seems very emotional Iraq in yeah but I don't said let's talk about the brain for a sec okay so the

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parts of the brain circuits in the brain that are involved in this kind of Auto noetic emotion that I'm talking about the self-involved emotion that so human such a human quality

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the part of the brain that I think is important and this is still hypothesis is not a fact is something called The frontal polls very very front part of the prefrontal cortex that region is unique to the human brain no other not even another ape has that now other parts of the prefrontal cortex are present in other primates all of the primates but not in any other mammal so if we can figure out in the human brain what that frontal pole does and what that other part that all primary tab do then that gives us an anchor for speculating about what other primates what kinds of experience other primates have given what those parts of the brain enabling us and that would allow us to then extract what other mammals

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don't have that we have because they don't have those parts of the brain so it's a kind of you know use of the brain to tell us some things about what might exist in other animals but there's no way to ask a dog what's on your mind right who can measure the brain with an fmri or something along those lines where you get a reading of but there's not an answer I mean you know it Scarlet right so a human like I can you know if you ask me is there a pin here on the tab I say yes I can respond verbally

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or I can point to it but when I'm responding verbally I can only do that for something I'm conscious of I can't respond

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to something unconscious of by naming it

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follow the hmm other animals can only respond non-verbally so they don't have that other kind of response that is only reflecting a conscious state so I'm not saying they don't have anything but scientifically is very hard to know what they have and the fact that we can study we know in for example fear that the fear itself probably doesn't depend on the amygdala but the all the behavior that we see does makes us have to be cautious about observing behaviors that look like they're based on fear love and all these other emotions when we can't really know because we can't measure that

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I mean it's a tough problem again I'm not saying it's not there it's just like right I get it scientifically you know you have to you have to be stretched the ovens yes yeah you have to now measuring it in humans is I mean there's this concept of people I'm an emotional person you know I'm emotional IQ I get emotional like people love to say those kind of things what is it possible to measure varying degrees of emotional response in terms of like how it's affecting a person physiologically whether or not these emotional responses are physiological or whether you've gone down a well grooved psychological path that you've been sort of participating in your whole life so that you have these sort of triggers this happens and then up I'm going to I'm going to start crying this happens up I'm going to get angry and people sort of fall into those paths without self-reflection without this ability

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be objective and introspective and go why am I reacting this way like what maybe you should stop being so emotional Joe right anybody ever said that to you but I guess I want to say well what does that mean like what you know what I mean like this the varying degrees of emotional response and whether or not those are beneficial or whether or not they just detract from your experience or inhibit your your ability to be productive so you know you really nailed a lot of interesting stuff in there and I you know it's very kind of deep analysis of what's going on so the problem is that our language is so bad that all these terms that we have

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we borrow from what's called folk wisdom or folk psychology the they've come through the ages and this is true in every aspect of science that you have folk terms folk physics becomes real physics and then the folk stuff goes away folk biology becomes real biology in the the folk stuff goes away but in Psychology the folk stuff never goes away because we always experience the folk aspect of it when we have a conscious experience that's what our conscious Minds is our folk psychology of ourselves and of others and of other animals but the

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underneath that is the part that we can get rid of the folk psychology of because we can understand how behavior is control how these physiological responses are control and 8 because you know we've had fears causing it you know but because when you're afraid you're almost always running from the bear and feeling fear but and and so you assume that when you're running from the bear fear is what causes you to run but fear is not the answer fear is your awareness that all that should is happening to you mmm but also the ability to contemplate the consequences right yeah there's Bears gonna get mean he's going to eat me that's all fits all you know one interpretation after another running forward but no self no fear that's no possible either right

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well if that mean you need the self to be afraid yeah so I mean that's your in to be consciously afraid but you can react to Danger without the self and that's what that's key you find yourself freezing or walking in New York City and you jump back in the bus goes flying by so you've reacted to danger but only afterwards do you feel fear when you cognitively become aware that that's happened well in that sort of a situation but in a situation like we were walking down a dark alley and then you see some guy was seems to be following you like oh boy so now you're you're in a situation where you're in a potentially dangerous situation so now you're anxious about what's going to happen so you got starting with your starting with anxiety worry about what's going to happen nothing there's nothing there that's made you but the one of you ramps it up Hey Joe yeah once you come over here man I like to borrow some money from you you know gosh it

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sphere is that fear now you've got a specific threat against tell you now you're into fear and then that's going to morph into another anxiety about what the hell is this guy gonna do to me right so but all of that the the dark alleyway is going to go into your brain and Trigger your muscle tension your heart to race and so forth and the dark alleys going to go to your cortex and you're going to be interpreting the fact that you're in a dark alley and your heart is racing in terms of being anxious and fearful and all of that but they're happening separately it's not one bundle it's like separate things in the brain and once we understand that it becomes I think a much easier problem how to approach problems if you're an anxiety you've got to separately treat the behavior and the physiology from the conscious thoughts and in between those two you also got to change the cognitions that underlie the the conscious experience but also the cognitions can trigger

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havior so you know one of the things we proposed a proposed this in my last book anxious was kind of test program for exploring this will be kind of a three-part three-step program first you would have to do it with something simple like a spider phobic what spider phobic or snake-phobic oh okay so you would do exposure therapy subliminally that means your limit only present the picture of a snake or the spider

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so fast the conscious mind doesn't know it's there so like those old hungry eat popcorn things that's happened movies okay and that's a very common technique in Psychology so they would show you a film and there'd be a one or two frames of a spider if you had a real or just a picture you know art but could be a film yeah okay and but have to go very fast in the film so they would so with a picture you just present it really quickly and because you know normally if you show a spider phobic try to do exposure therapy they don't want to do it because I don't want to deal with spiders but they they they're conscious mind doesn't know what's happening because it's going through subliminally so the amygdala is being tamed by the exposure

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and now they can look at the picture without you know the body reacting they're not jumping they're not the heart isn't racing because the amygdala has been turned off so all those body responsive have calm down so now the person could kind of go some undergo some cognitive change about looking at spiders and so forth and then finally once you've done those two steps the brains ready for talk therapy and meditation and other kinds of mindfulness approaches because all of the the impediments to all that have been put aside by the these first two steps so has anybody ever like officially cured someone have Arachnophobia or fidya feel video phobia or you know fear of snakes or spiders like those are those seem to be almost like deep-seated genetic fears while the we combine our ancestors yes had snake and but they vary which is what's weird that our ancestors certainly experienced venomous snakes

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and but there's something about some people have of almost a logical reaction to it that it's often been speculated that this is some sort of a genetic memory of someone perhaps in their ancestry line surviving a snake attack or losing someone to a snake it's more you know turns out that the it's more about the ability to rapidly learn about those kinds of dangers than to innately respond hmm so there seems to be it's called prepared learning so you have an evolutionarily based thing that's with you that everyone has some version of but varies from Individual to individual and then some people are prone to rapidly learn that either because of other experiences of because of their particular genetic makeup and so they tend to go down the road of acquiring these kinds of phobias now so it's

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the problem with treating that by just extinguishing it through exposure is that the extinction is always impermanent you know if you once you've been reduced nothing is wrong this is true in a red or person let's say the rat is been given a tone that's been paired with the shop and then it hears the tone 20 or 30 times stops responding but then if it goes back in the room or the chamber where the shock had occurred the tone will again bring it listed in the spider phobic returns to the place where he or she was bitten by a spider or place where spiders of supposed to be present it can come back so these are imperfect temporary solutions they're not enough and that's why I mean they're called These are called reinstatement and things like that because they pop back up so maybe medications can help

► 01:16:16

Tamp that down a bit so medications are useful in that sense of being able to control the behavior and Physiology but less so in terms of changing the mental state because you know how could you possibly design a medication that would know how to change the content of a mental state that seems like an impossible and that's what you want to do you don't want to change all mental States right you want to change the 1 content you know I'm afraid of spiders yeah

► 01:16:48

it's it's so fascinating though how people vary so widely in their their reaction to certain fears or just certain things that could induce fear whether it's dogs or you know whatever irrational thing that people have the source of that is really often speculated that there's like some sort of a genetic component to it do you buy into that so let's say let's say that you know in any kind of situation like that there are multiple systems in the brain they're going to be involved we're going to isolate the amygdala as you know hypothetical part of that system that is detecting and responding to the stimulus so we're going to go into the amygdala and focus on one little part of it called the lateral nucleus that doesn't matter but it's the part that gets the input from the outside world so that is the Gateway into

► 01:17:47

the amygdala so now let's talk about let's say it's got I don't know a hundred thousand cells and neurons and each of those neurons is going to have a bell curve

► 01:18:03

that's based on the genes that made that cell and whatever kinds of electrical signals it's had throughout the life of the organism so you can have a hundred thousand bell curves you know various degrees that when the stimulus comes in those cells that are activated their little bell curves are going to determine how much they respond to that and that's going to propagate to other cells that have their own bell curves in areas and so on down the line that what happens at the level of behavior is a very complicated kind of summation of all those bell curves of all those cells that happen to be activated so it's not like you know one thing is progress not like a brain areas program it's all about what's happened at those specific cells both through genetics and experience so we often kind of oversimplify things by thinking well there's a gene or

► 01:19:02

area that has inherited that thing when you think of human beings and you think of what we used to be when we were some sort of a lower hominid and now what we are now and you think of all these various components that are at play do you do you ever try to imagine what a human of a thousand years or 10,000 or hundred thousand years from now will be like oh they're going to be different you know that we're not every organism is in constant change you know the racial mixing interbreeding happens and so in the mutation random mutations we're living longer and so you know that's creating people having babies later that will change a lot of stuff so we're going to be a different thing and some point we may split out into a whole new kind of human the thing about people having babies older

► 01:20:02

I mean there's certainly physical limitations when people start having babies older but on the plus side you're dealing with someone that has a lot more life experience that's raising a child you know versus my mom had me when she was 20 21 you know what the fuck do you know when you're 21 you don't know much but if you're a woman who has a child when you're 40 well hey that's a rich life of a lot of experiences and maybe you can impart some of that wisdom to your child and look at things in a different way and maybe that in turn will raise a child it's more balanced yeah I'm talking out of my area here but I think that probably

► 01:20:44

you know the eggs sit around for a long time and I don't know what the effect of aging on the egg is hmm I just don't know well there's also a big factor with the male sperm whale sperm as they thinking that's one of the main contributors autism and older man when you supposedly I've heard of that you know older fathers are more likely to have male sons that are schizophrenic yeah that makes sense all the say that's a fact that I've heard that well it all makes sense that there be some glitches in The Matrix and we're not not supposed to live that long no are we not but what are your thoughts on people that are trying to live longer and trying to sort of squeeze out as much time as I can on this rock no it's like I see a lot of old people that just don't want to live anymore and I understand that you know your body starts falling apart mind is going what's the point at that point yeah I get that but what about the people that

► 01:21:44

keep it together yeah I guess if you keep it together you want to like you know okay let's just go as far as we can't go to the moon and to Mars well pharmacological solutions to it mean if we if there was some sort of a genetic component that they identified to aging and they gave the option to reverse the process would you participate

► 01:22:07

what do you like it do you like the finite nature of this existence I do I think so it's like I knew you were going to you know I think I don't I'm not I take certain medications but rather just live as most of my life is as possible without them so what medications do take blood pressure mainly blood pressure stuff yeah do you exercise not enough that's how I got the got a big effect on anxiety and a big effect on just yes a general alleviation of angst that's a good example of something I know I should do yeah is that a discipline issue I used to be kind of discipline but what happened I've been using it a lot to you know to do things like I really want to do like writing or making music and

► 01:23:07

so those are the things that kind of I know I should like do the exercise to so I can do more of that longer yeah you think you have a finite amount of discipline possibly each person has you know the find that has that sort of anxiety quotient that disciplined quotient that we kind of you probably can work that like a muscle and yeah I would imagine you can do yeah you could become something different but me and my friends have this thing that we did last year called sober October the entire month you know no alcohol no marijuana no drugs and crazy exercise like last year we had a competition to see like who could exercise the most we wore these heart rate monitors and we measured points like you get a certain amount of points at 80% of your max heart rate per minute what my point is one of the things that I got out of this and we all got out we all talked about it because we were exercising hours and hours a day an incredible alleviation of anxiety

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incredible like to point out I actually sighs regularly but I don't exercise at that level that that level that we were doing because we were in this competition was really a lot of cardio but my God that runner's high is real yeah I felt amazing I mean I felt like so good all the time the alleviation of angst was unlike anything the internal chatter yeah that sort of can fuck with your head that just didn't exist anymore well I think that's wonderful that you're saying that because you have so many followers and I think that's such fantastic information to convey to them it is and it's so available to all of us I mean anybody that can move their body can experience this and I don't recommend what we did because we were working out five hours six hours a day even one yeah I walk I live in New York so I walk a lot and that's great right you have to yes but I mean just that alone it's there's many people that don't walk you know you just sit here and then you move to that spot you sit there and you

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the car is sit there get on the train you sit there and there's very little use of the body and the body starts to atrophy by pumping that blood through the system and cleaning out the pipes and getting that air into the lungs and forcing yourself to move when it's over you feel better I'm breathing better and how I should feel it right I've I'm imagining it imagining this exercise what do you take what about nature do you take any time in nature at all do you go to Central Park well we have a house up in Sullivan County in the Catskills oh that's nice how often you get a chance to get out there we spend a lot of time there in the summer oh that's Grand do you feel better when you're up there yeah definitely interesting right it takes a couple of days to like get into the Rhythm yeah but then it's good but once you do do you ever think man what the fuck am I doing living in Manhattan all these buildings you know my wife and I my wife's a New Yorker so I'm by birth so weak there we need to go in and

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yeah I want to come back my friend Jeff has a place on Fire Island and beautiful place a beautiful and he lives in Manhattan as well but he says like as he's gotten older but um but yeah he says as he's gotten older he really don't doesn't think that he could live in Manhattan anymore if it wasn't for this ability to Escape right and go somewhere and just wake up in the morning look out see the ocean have a cup of coffee moving to Brooklyn was kind of like that getting out of Manhattan yeah yeah I know that if you don't live in New York that may not make a lot of sense to explain to people what differences so you know you Manhattan is just like this supercharged all the time and it's not a not a try thing it's you know you it's a true thing that you want you get out of Manhattan everything is just a notch down yeah and I've deaf step off the subway and you kind of feel a little bit more relaxed do you think that's because Brooklyn I mean it's just speculative but there's still a lot of people in Brooklyn

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yeah but there's no skyscrapers few them and they're starting to be lots of tall buildings yeah but once I got the tall building in Brooklyn like 30 30 right residences you know what's Manhattan like 80s these like 80s and 90s right there's some giant buildings I'd looked out the other day I guess from the airplane and there's something in North Manhattan that looks like it's way above the Empire State Building yeah sighs I don't know what that is have you thought about that existence like in terms of like how unnatural it is and how recent it is this ability to jam Untold millions of how many people are in Manhattan oh boy you know I have no idea like I think eight million or something and York City but probably and then of course computers as well so eight million plus all the people that come in from different places to work there and just stuffed into an incredibly small area and stacked on top of each other

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yeah that has got to be completely new psychological State for the human animal all right yeah that was just I remember when I first got into psychology I was reading something about something called a behavioral think it was about how rats living in an impoverished environment under highly crowded conditions their behavioral repertoire sort of like diminished a lot so I think that was you know sort of used to kind of challenge Urban living and to blame a lot of Urban Decay in the 70s on I don't think it was necessarily a good idea but it was kind of a way to explain some things that I think it wasn't really good at explaining yeah it's true that people do live under fairly crowded conditions but

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you can't explain everything in terms of very simple processes are you aware the studies that they did when they set cameras up on streets and they set them in distance apart and they measured footsteps how fast people walked and then they measured the way people talk how many syllables and how many sentences they can get in a certain amount of time and through measuring footsteps and how fast people walked and the way they talk they could accurately determine how big the city was they live how many people yeah they could accurately figure out whether or not they lived in a high population density whether or not they lived in a small town by the way they talked and the way they walk interesting that there's a profound effect I have a college I used to have a colleague at NYU named John board she's at Yale now and he used to do these studies where he would he was a social psychologist he would have people come and students come into the lab and

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take these letters and they were like scrambled and he'd have to like they'd have to unscramble them into sense I guess it was words and you have to unscramble them and put them into a sentence and if the unscramble sentence was about being older and Elder than anything about being elderly and age it would take the students longer to walk down the hallway to get to the elevator afterwards is this like activating this kind of schema of Aging that top-down had some kind of effect on the way you walk that well that makes sense and you do see what's really interesting to me is when you see the differences between people who are the same age who behave and think very differently and I always wonder how much of that is biological how much of that a psychological how much that is like well this person just has a better genetic makeup you know and so they've you know in their 50s they still have tons of energy

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she wears this person maybe has a shit makeup and bad lifestyle choices and they look like what we considered you know an old man when we were younger well I mean we're all so complicated and there's so many factors that go into yeah shaping how we end up at any point in our life where do you think selfishness came from autoerotic Consciousness so that's this ability to put yourself into an experience which as I said earlier is responsible for our greatest achievements is a species but also is what will potentially do a sin it allows us to not only envision

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a world in which you know we can be self less self you know not selfish but help others but also how to exclude others and it I think it's a natural basic animal instinct to stay alive obviously you know with Richard Dawkins said the theory of The Selfish Gene animals are incredibly selfish and you know their struggle for existence so that kind of automatic selfishness is there but what the auto noetic mind allows us to do is to be intentionally willfully selfish to allow us to choose to do these things for our own personal good for example I think that the automatic human human mind is the only entity in the history of life that's been ever to put

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organism that we talking about the conscious mind being a small part of the what's going on in the cortex to put all of the rest of the brain and all of the body at risk for the simple sake of the thrill mountain climbing swimming in shark-infested waters are taking drugs at dangerous levels no other organism can commit suicide in the sense of intentionally planning to put an in to an entity that it knows has the possible end so our conscious minds are special in good ways and bad ways

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the conscious mind that seeks Thrills what do you think is the root of that let I've always wondered like why certain people are drawn to doing like flips on motorcycles or certain people are drawn to climbing mountains with no ropes like what do you think that is

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you know I'm just guessing I don't really know but I think that we

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each have these kind of physiological states that that we try to maintain your some kind of our homeostatic levels are different and some people need a little more adrenaline or a little more hate to use adrenaline and the kind of cheap way of just saying it's just more of a rusher kind of body activity because all that also affects the brain and so consciously you strive you may go looking for those kinds of things to get the rush and it's

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you know it's it's sort of on the spectrum of addiction in a sense where you need that that physiological change that the drug induces but you know we also have addictions in our lives that are habits and things that that we develop and pursue that aren't necessarily good for us but that we kind of feel compelled to do you know Alex Honnold is right yeah I've had them on podcast a couple of times and every time I talk to my hands start getting sweaty so nervous for functional know we're talking about he's the probably the most famous free solo climber in the world and he climbs these seemingly impossible mountains with no ropes and there's video of him doing it like this Drone footage of him climbing these Peaks and my hands just stop pouring sweat but I still watch it but when I talked to him what's really interesting is he's a calm rational

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didn't man who's very thoughtful and he's he's a very kind guy he doesn't seem like some you know I think of when I think of someone who likes to do flips off with a motorcycle or do radical I think of some crazy wild thrill-seeker some some do to just needs to constantly or a woman who needs to be constantly freaked out he's not that guy and when he describes it was really interesting is he goes it's very mellow he's like if there's any if there's really a thrill I've done something horribly wrong like the real Thrills are so scary because it means you're about to die so he's instead of getting the thrill he's getting that piece yeah but he's getting a piece from putting himself in extreme risk and there's also the thing of other people praising you for your risk taking which is an odd thing about humans and they've shown through natural well there's an

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true selection aspect of it with females and mates that females are attracted to men that do those crazy things and take crazy risks for some strange reason whether it's some sort of a remnant of our ancient past like that thrill-seeking man is got not going to be he's not going to shy away from combat he will protect our children or something like that right yeah I'm is a lot of evolutionary psychology yeah you know that a lot of that is speculative yes of course

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but it's the thrill seeker is that's why it's one of the weirder things when everything's great and you have plenty of food and you live in cities and like okay look I'm not getting enough juice here I'm going to have to learn how to hand Glide or something you know and some people may do it for attention yes

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yeah the things people do for attention creativity is that debt to me is one of the more interesting aspects of Being Human Beings our ability to create things and our desire to create things in a way that's also along the same lines right because you're getting rewarded right for it

► 01:37:41

well probably yeah so I mean all these things are as a child is developing and growing up and passing through different kinds of situations in life I think a lot of stuff happens kind of randomly you know so that the child may do something that someone views as creative and so as you said the child is rewarded for means of then that allows them to figure out what we know explore kind of how they did that and maybe continue to do it but other people made simply have Minds that go in that direction on their own where the as we talked about earlier the their thoughts are able to jump across conceptual categories and sort of transcend those categories into new completely new ideas and so forth and you know I don't think we know how the brain does that at all

► 01:38:42

that's a very good question for the future but it's not something we have a great deal of understanding of now I mean there could be an air of research on it that I just don't know about it it's a big field but I certainly don't know the answer to how to creativity comes about well it's interesting to creativity has a reward system built in for the person who creates even even without recognition from others there's some fundamentally satisfying feeling of creating something that's fun yeah why do you think that is

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well novelty is rewarding not reinforcing its and certainly creativity is novelty it's like anything that is novel that you do has a kind of you know charge effect to it I would think yeah I mean it's people like you who study this stuff to me are so important because most of us are just banging into walls just trying to figure out why we do what we do and to have an ability to understand the scientific explanations for the various things that are at play it's so it's so critical because you can kind of like I'm not necessarily stop the process but at least be aware of it while it's going down is that part of what you want to do when you're riding well I want to thank you for crediting me for that but the you know a lot of what we've been talking about we've just been having a conversation my work

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very rather limited and all I don't work from creativity and all these things but you work on the way the mind works I work on yeah I mean I think about how the work the mind works but I work on how the brain detects in response to Danger so that allows me to go back to my early work on Consciousness and to bring it in and layer it on top of all that other stuff but yeah it's you know I get tremendous value out of sitting there writing and because when you start a book in my case I think this is probably true of many people you don't have no idea how you're going to get to the end you know you have a beginning and you just see where it goes so this idea of writing a proposal that lays out the whole thing to me doesn't work because you just don't know where it's going and the fun part is getting to the end

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the brain reacting to Danger do you did you did you do any interviews with people who are soldiers or interview Fighters or people that are involved in extreme activities that and I haven't haven't done a lot of interviews I mean I have talked to people like that and you know every individual cases are interesting because they give you stuff but it's not data so the Rotator you have to go out and collect yeah what do you got there for notes got a pile of notes are just oh I don't know what it is cus I just thought just brought this

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I think we covered most of what I want to say yeah they make those not a fear Center behavior is not primarily a tool of the mind it's a tool of survival we think we know why we do the things we do and others do them but we don't really because we are conscious mind is not privy to all of the things that the body and brain are doing now when you wanted to examine danger and you want to examine the mind and how it reacts to danger and fear and threats what we trying to get out of this

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well I started out thinking this was a way to study emotion and at the time I'd been studying these these human patients with the split brain surgery and can you explain that because you also know that earlier but the split brain surgery is alleviation of epilepsy it's a way to control epilepsy that can't be controlled in any other way medications not working so you have like young kids teenagers that have lived most of their life this Paralyzed by epilepsy and not being able to lead a life there was one patient to basically his parents were constantly having to hold him down on a mattress he was seizing so often hmm so and this is not this is only done in a in a very extreme set of conditions and it's not done that much anymore but when it's done it's the connections between the two sides of the brain are separated so information one side

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some cross over to the other they do that they open up the skull pull the two you've got kind of two loaves of bread sitting next to each other and they're connected by threads which are axons that go between them and so you pull apart here and you can see where those axons arm you opened up from the top

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so imagine like a hot dog bun okay and so you open it up at the top and you can look down in the center and imagine that there was like a bunch of wires Crossing between the two sides of the bun so those wires would then be surgically sectioned and so now you end up with two sides of the brain separate and independent so typically languages on the left side so you can talk to that side the right side doesn't have language so you have to ask what what can it do so if you present a stimulus that only the right hemisphere sees and you do that by flashing a picture of an apple on the left side of space because everything to the left of center goes to the right Hemisphere and everything to the right of Center goes to the left hemisphere so you send a stimulus to the right Hemisphere and you say what did you see in the left hemisphere answers because that's where the

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languages he says I didn't say anything so okay you said reach into this bag and see what's in there the right hand goes in that's connected to the left hemisphere can't find it the left hand goes in connected to the right hemisphere that which saw the Apple it pulls out the Apple whoa so the right hemisphere has information that the left hemisphere can't talk about what is life like for people once they've done that operation while slowly it the left hemisphere of kind of comes to dominate again and the you know they they come to live with it and how does it prevent seizures while the

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the folklore of it I don't know if this is actually true but what is often said is that it prevents the seizures from jumping back and forth and having it because the electrical activity jumping back and forth sort of gets into the kind of in this Loop that can't stop but cutting that isolates the seizures in the two hemispheres and makes each one more controllable by taking the medication Jesus so imagine being the first got to try that out I really I got an idea what your brain like a hot dog bun so but it what we were interested in in these patients that we were studying like this is my mentor Michael gazzaniga and I were studying these at Dartmouth medical school we were at Stony Brook out on Long Island we would drive up to Dartmouth to see these patients with how does the left hemisphere cope

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the fact that the right hemisphere is performed behavior that the it the left hemisphere that you talked to didn't come and so we would put information in the right hemisphere other guy would stand up so why'd you do that I needed to stretch or you know if scratches hands and I had an itch so I needed to scratch it and so Time After Time the left hemisphere would generate a narrative that made Its Behavior makes sense oh wow so that's why I got interested in how non-conscious systems would be generating behaviors that we generate narratives to explain because at the time that we were doing this the idea of cognitive dissonance was very popular hmm and what that means is that when cognitively when you do something behaviourally that is incongruent with what you cognitively know it's disturbing it causes

► 01:47:28

Snippets and so you have to engage in some kind of dissonance reduction so our hypothesis was these narratives that the left hemisphere is generating about right hemisphere behaviors was a way of left hemispheres conscious mind kind of keeping it all together the Consciousness thinks that it's in charge that you know the brain and body are it's you know it's it's the the control center and everything else is there to satisfy its whims and so we generate these narratives to keep that sense of unity going even though it's no longer unified that is so fascinating that the brain tries to seek some sort of an explanation for the actions that you've provoked right externally and that's why I got into emotion because well maybe emotion systems produce these yes I'm doing what I'm looking this up alien hand syndrome came up do you know anything about this I don't I'm sorry okay it's okay there's a long article explaining this thing called alien hand syndrome

► 01:48:28

also known as dr. Strangelove syndrome picture Doctor Strange explanations are very strange about people's hands doing something that they're not explain right so it's kind of its kind of the same yeah yeah do they generate an explanation when they do that it just explains different scenarios people had like a leg walk in the wrong direction or button up your shirt with your left hand right hand starts unbuttoning that seems to be like some sort of a neurological problem let me slip right in patients with the right after surgery when things are really like fucked up squirrely it would be like pulling the pants down with one hand and pulling them up with the wow there's one patient I saw in the hospital young kid the left hand reaches out to grab the nurse on the ass can I say that yeah grab short and the right hand is pulling it back oh my God oh my God there's like a physical struggle yeah there's like this you know and it all kind of like over time they don't come back together but the something negotiate something where it's not so dramatic the woman who thinks

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for alien hand wants her to be a better person yeah see I'm thinking these are some sort of physiological yeah but it's what a crazy solution to epilepsy I know there's other solutions that but that is a last-ditch effort yeah and so for a severe severe cases and I do those people have done that often to eventually sort of achieve some sort of a normalization yeah you know the

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lives the kids have lived so long in the state by the time they get their brains change like that that

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I don't know really ultimately what became of all these people because I moved on to other fields and but I think in general they live a somewhat better life but I doubt they ever live a completely full normal life for me how could you after all that but I'm really interested in that the brain creating these narratives to explain yeah that because there's so many people that do things like that right they'll try to explain their life away and give themselves excuses and give themselves reasons for behavior and one of the things you see with the more rational people is it's never their fault so he's someone else's fault but that's the four billion years story that yeah how we generate how we got to these narratives that's what it's all about wow listen man this is amazing stuff please tell buddy everybody your books where they can get them how they can find them are they available and audio as well right yeah so the new book is called

► 01:51:10

all the Deep history of ourselves the four billion years story of how we got conscious brains and you can get that on Amazon you can get the other audible on audible.com you know Barnes and I think all of the major booksellers have the the books last book was anxious and also has an audible version always wanted to get like Christopher Walken to do much why don't you do it did you not not do it I didn't do it they didn't ask me anything I would want you to do it it's your work I get bummed out when someone else reads like one of the good things about like Pinker and Gladwell they read their own books like that they've never offered it to me you should have you should do next I'm next to me and it was for my for my Memoir I'll definitely go there you go have to well thank you for being here really really appreciate it and thanks thanks for all your work did I just say one thing yes please so sometimes I when I release books also released music to go with them so anxious had a record with it and deep history has some songs

► 01:52:10

of life that are on the Deep history.com website with oh that's cool so you're you are a musician you're bringing that up right yeah I got a couple of bands and a couple bands well the main band is the amygdala Lloyd's make Delights.com oh that's awesome yeah it's a rock band we created our own genre heavy mental about mind and brain and mental disorders are love songs but most rock songs are love songs about mental disorders anyway yes yeah you just be an acoustic Duo so we are which is a lot easier to get around without drums and amps and stuff it's two acoustic guitars awesome we play the acoustic versions of the amygdala Woods all right well thank you Joe I appreciate you thank you thank you

► 01:52:55

thank you everyone for tuning into the show and thank you to our sponsors thank you to stamps.com stamps.com ladies and gentlemen are going to hook you up with a four-week trial plus free postage and a digital scale without any long-term commitment when you go to stamps.com click on the microphone of the top of the homepage and type in JRE that stamps.com and enter j --r e thank you also to expressvpn the best fastest VPN I've ever tried cost less than seven bucks a month and it comes with a 30 day money back guarantee protect your online activity today and find out how you can get three months for free and expressvpn.com Rogan that's exp ress VPN.com Rogan for three months free with a one-year package visit expressvpn.com Rogan to learn more

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and last but not least we are brought to you by the mother fucking cash out thank you to the cash app it's an amazing company that doesn't just have one of the best finance apps the world has ever known but it also they just they do great