Brain evolution

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In his book “Commung with the Gods” Charles Laughlin tells about brain evolution, with a special emphasis on dreaming. Being an anthropologist trained in neuroscience he shares some interesting facts about how we evolved into our current brain-mind.

Charles Laughlin Communing with the Gods

The evolution of the animal kingdom began with the origin of single cell creatures who very likely also experienced their environment in some rudimentary way” Charles Laughlin writes in Communing with the Gods. “Movement is adaptation to the environment. It implies that the moving animal has a depiction of the environment and its changes”. 

Reading this, I remembered a Ted Talk I saw years ago from Daniel Wolpert who made a strong argument for movement being the only reason for the existence of a brain. And it is true, movement does improve our chances of survival and procreation. But Charles Laughlin tells us more about brain evolution, its structures and how they affect dreaming.

Early on in evolution there was a thing called down time. Time for an animal to channel its energy in dealing with inside information. The Caenorhabditis elegans, a roundworm, is one of vertebrates who has downtime.

As the evolution of multi cell animals arose, it was necessary to develop control and coordinate somatic activities. Specialized cells that grouped together in the form of a neural tube with multiple sensory organs. So neurons evolved and began to specialize. Neurons can be divided into:

  1. Efferent systems: they carry information from the brain to the organs.
  2. Afferent systems: they carry information from the organs to the brain
  3. Interneurons: connect to each other to form local systems.
    The higher on the evolutionary scale, the higher the proportion of interneurons becomes. Interneurons are involved in making schema’s, inner movies; because they intervene between sensory input and behavioral output. These inner movies are what we use in dreaming, daydreaming, creativity and problem solving. This ability makes us able to predict the future with a certain degree of accuracy.
    Interneurons are sufficient to produce alternative states of awareness.

Sleeping and dreaming have an advantage, dreaming animals have a better chance of survival. Dreaming is a form of reality testing. The internal models are set into practice in dreams, and information about reality is assimilated.

This kind of testing and future planning involves the frontal lobe.  At a later stage in evolution the ability to conceptualize became part of the symbolic process. Conceptualization has to do with language. We have to not only comprehend our own ideas, we also need to talk about them with others. We do that most easily by using concepts. When we talk about the Big Bang, almost everybody knows we talk about the origin of the universe.

Language is an essential part of this process. Language processing requires many areas of the cortex. This ability probably occurred during the time of Homo habilis, 2.5 million years ago.

According to Charles Laughlin, early humans were dream sharers. Dream sharing would have given humans food for thought. The effort of searching for meaning is universal among animals with brains like the Homo sapiens.  It enabled them to address existential questions that arise as a consequence of dream sharing. Dreaming became part of mental reality.

Communing with the Gods is a very interesting, very anthropological book. The definitions of concepts are numerous, and the theory the author proposes to incorporate biological, evolutionary and neurologic information is very interesting.

If you are interested in the brain, in dreaming, in evolution, you must definitly get a copy of this book.

Monkey see, monkey do


People often learn things without understanding the process. A reasearch with monkeys give us insight into how we decide when the outcome is uncertain. We, as the monkeys use a rational process to increase the chances of success.

Neuroscientist Michael Shadlen researched the way humans and animals use a strategy to make sense of uncertain information. The monkeys in his lab saw two dots on a computer screen, but touching one of them would give them a reward. Shadlen manipulated stimuli to release uncertainty: when a symbol appeared, for example Pac-Man, the dot that would give the rewards was probably the left one, while a pentagon favored the right dot.
The monkeys had electrodes in their brain and Shadlen monitored the neurological buildup, and found out that the decision for a dot on the right or left side was made when activity in favor of the right or left side exceeded a threshold. This experiment tells us that our brain is more rational then we think!

Little known ways to look at dream content

We always knew that dream work was essential for keeping an emotional and rational balance. Mindfunda will tell you about little known ways to look at dream content
. Dreams can warn us, help us when we are feeling down, correct us when we are being too stubborn. And now at last, science found evidence that the way people describe their dreams is an indicator of the psychological help they are best suited for. Looking at the patterns of words that are used and analysing  them to help decide which therapy will be sufficient for a patient.


Example of a word graph

In a recent study by Alex Berezow of RealClearScience, 60 patients described a dream. Some of these patients had psychological disorders, others didn’t. The words they used were put into graphs. After analyzing them the graphs of patients suffering from bipolar disorder and of schizophrenics looked different.

Schizophrenics tend to use few words to describe their dreams and people with bipolar disorder use more words and repeat themselves. The word graphs for undiagnosed people different from the two groups of patients, the Schizophrenics as well as the bipolar patients.
So before making hypothesis about the patient, a therapist would be working more efficient by discussing dreams with patients and analyzing the dreams inclusing their use of words. Read more by clicking here.

The Human Genome project: how we are all connected

Once upon a time I had a dream that ended with a clear voice telling me that “Everything is connected
Now that is a very good attitude to life by, I know. And because of the human genome project we have proof that we all descend from one being 3.5 biljon years ago. The genome, 4 letters : A, C, T and G, the initials of 4 chemicals. Three of them compose amino acids, the building blocks of many living things. This thread of genetic similarity connects us and the roughly 10 million other species in the modern world to the entire history of life, back to a single common ancestor more than 3.5 billion years ago

In April 2003 the Human Genome Project was declared complete. It started in 1990. Victor McElheny wrote a compelling book about it, easy to read even if you do not have a very scientific background. This book tells you about the people behind this project: David Botstein and his method constructing genetic linkage maps that enabled the sequencing phaseof the Human Genome project, about Francis Collins, leader of the project and a very spiritual man and writer of the bestseller “The language of God: A scientist Presents Evidence for belief“.
It tells about Craig Venter, the first person ever to sequence the human genome, but was too stubborn to maintain in the project. A method he proposed was rejected and he went to a private investor. Juicy stuff, this book, and very informative about this important scientific work. A must read if you want to know all about how science can make the world a healthier place.

Drawing the map of life Victor K. McElheny

the Science of sleep (film with trailer)

The science of sleep

Stéphane (Gael Garcia Bernal) is a lucid dreamer. His lucid dreams started when he was a kid. He confuses dreams with waking reality. When he moves back to an apartment in Paris, the one he grew up in he meets a lovely lady Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and falls in love with her. Being introvert and struck into his own dreamworld, the films deals with him trying to connect with Stéphanie and get her involved in his vision of the world.


Science of Sleep is avalable on Amazon

Film is the modern way of making mythology.

I like the way this film handles our rational view on the sleeping mind versus the waking mind. The hero in our mythology is this very cute, clumsy boy in love with this gorgeous girl. Being an introvert who has been in love and also a lucid dreamer I could easily connect with the theme of the film. The title “The science of sleep” is a contradictio in terminis. In our current society dreams are seen as random fire patterns of the neurons and only geniuses like Carl Jung can capture their nightly visions in a scientific analysis.

In my recent article: What does my dream mean? Four ways of looking at a dream I mentioned the ways people have -from the last century until this day- looked at dreams. It can be rational: dry and scientific: dreams are but waves of your nervous system you brain knits a little story with once you are awake (and remember your dream. It can by physical: dreams respond to the inner and outer changes of the body and the last is displayed in this film too: the romantic notion that dreams are messages. From a higher being or your own higher self. This ilm seems to embrace the last view but then harshly shows that the real world and the dream world are hardlycompatible.

Will this couple be able to sustain as a twosome in this waking, rational cold word? The strangeness of Stéphane and Stéphanie, gets highlighted in the strange changes of languages in the film (French/English/Spanish). The couple has equal names written in the male and female version: Stéphane means the crowned one Stéphanie means “she knows”. And even thogh they are so much alike and make a good couple, in that little difference lays the plot. See the trailer here. Do yourself a favor and watch this film. I would love to hear your impression of it.

Please like and share the article, and let me know what other films you would like to share.

Three steps to a good night sleep

3 Steps from good food to a good night sleep (which are actually four steps)

Our brain has this magical natural recipe for a good night sleep, you just have to add the right ingredients! In our food there are some important proteins. One of them is called Tryptophan, and I am going to tell you about it today. Tryptophan is like the Hypnos under the proteins, it acts like the god of sleep. How do we get this sleep god to work?


Here are 3 simple steps to get a good night sleep:

Step #1: from good food to Tryptophan:

The first thing you got to do for a good night sleep is start eating good healthy food, the food that actually flew, walked or swam when it was alive, and vegetables that kissed the ground of mother earth. That is how you get Tryptophan. From good food. Especially rich in Tryptophan are seeds, tuna fish, eggs and bananas.

Step #2: from Tryptophan to Serotonin

Tryptophan is only the first building block of Melatonin, the hormone that gets us to sleep and dream (The Morpheus under the proteins). You need to have enough vitamin B, vitamin C, Zinc, Magnesium and a good gut to build 5 http from Tryptophan. Why a good gut you ask? Well we are on our way to build Serotonin. Yes, the feel-good hormone Serotonin is constructed out of Tryptophan in your gut. So one of the things you need to do is restore your gut when you want have a good Serotonin level.

But even more important: recent research by Nils Paumann, Diego Walther, and colleagues show that serotonin plays a key role in controlling insulin secretion and that its absence leads to diabetes. So Tryptophan which the body turns into Serotonin regulates your blood sugar level and your cravings as well.

Step #3: from Serotonin to Melatonin

In the last step, under the influence of diminishing daylight and your night time rituals your serotonin level gets transformed into melatonin. So make sure you don’t get extra light at night by watching tv too late, or working on your iPad or iPod, create a ritual before you go into a good night sleep, go easy on the melatonin you can buy at your local drugstore cause it sets back your biological clock and that may not be the problem. In fact, most doctors would advice you to stop taking artificial melatonin.

Bonus-step (that makes #4): 

But let your final step please be to take up healthy food habits. So let’s first quit sugar! Sugar gives you a high. You feel happy when you eat a lot of sugar. Every time you are on a sugar high the receptor cells for insulin in your body get less sensitive to insulin.

Say what??? Well it is your body’s way to protect your brain. Your brain is your number one organ and too much insulin gives you low blood sugar levels. And if you have a low blood sugar level your brain does not have gas anymore, so the engine drops down. And your brain does not want that to happen!

One of the best ways to get a good night sleep started is with “The 21 Day Sugar Detox” program by best-selling author Dian Sanflippo.

Feel free to comment below, and be sure to share it with your friends

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What is Mindfunda about?

My name is Susanne van Doorn, I am a Dutch psychologist, blogger and author. I have been working with psychology, dreams and mythology ever since I finished my study in psychology at Tilburg University. I made this independant site to share insights, and recent scientific articles about the brain, dreams, and mythology for use in your personal life.

This posting is categorised as Dreamfunda:  
Everything you need to know about dreams. Practical How to’s, the latest scientific research, the most commonly used ways to attach meaning to dreams. This and more is given to you for your everyday use in this part of Mindfunda

Read more about Mindfunda here, or visit our Courses Page.

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Valentines day Mindfunda Thought: your brain is in love on Valentine’s Day

Valentines Day Mindfunda Thought:  You’re in love, that means your brain is in love.

What does love in the brain look like? Let’s explore:  Valentines day, your brain in love. On February 14th, Valentine’s day,  a lot of couples will celebrate their commitment, children will write a card full of compliments for their parents and you might just want to send a nice card to that one good single girlfriend just to let her know she is appreciated.
But what is that love-thing? Neurological? How does Valentines day look inside your brain?

During al the decades of research, love still remains a mystery. It is an ancient, complex intertwining of the neurological system, the hormones, and the mind. You do not fall in love with everyone you see. Most of the time, there is only one person that makes your heart beat faster.

In the brain in MRI scans there is an increased activity in the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) of the brain. The award system runs overtime, dopamine crushes your brain: you are addicted.

A psychologist called Arthur Aron, professor psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook has experimented with ways to fall in love. He wrote a book about it: Love and the expansion of Self. Here is how you do it:

  • find a complete stranger.
  • talk to that person for at least half an hour about intimate details of each others lives: what are your goals, what do you love most, what would constitute a perfect day for you, tell your life story and ask the other person to do the same .
  • the last four minutes, without talking, stare into each others’ eyes.
Love and the expansion of Self, Arthur Aron, Elaine Aron
Love and the expansion of Self, Arthur Aron, Elaine Aron

Well if that doesn’t woo your stranger, don’t worry. In recent years Dr. Helen Fisher did research about why we fall in love with certain people and not with others. According to her insights there are three motivators for love. The Sex drive, driven by testosterone. Romantic Attraction driven by dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin and Attraction driven by oxytocin and vasopressin. The activity in the nucleus accumbent suggests that love is highly addictive. We crave, we become obsessed, we become anxious when we fall in love.

But why do we fall in love with a certain person rather then with any person walking around, being single and available? Here is where the brilliance of Helen Fisher comes in. She discovered 4 types of people. 

  • Curious energetic types driven by dopamine. The people who like to travel and discover new things. Optimistic, unreflective, sensation seekers. Those people like people who are like them.
  • Cautious/norm compliant people driven by serotonin. These are the people who can organize, who are structured and rule driven. Those people like people who are like themselves.
  • Analytical/tough minded people driven by testosterone. Decisive, bold and direct, they like to get to the point. Those people like the Prosocial/empathic people.
  • Prosocial/Empathic people driven by estrogen and oxytocin. They see the big picture, linguistically skilled, trusting, seek harmony, diplomatic. These people are drown to the Analytical/tough minded people.
Why him? Why her? Helen Fisher Ph.D

Most of all just enjoy Valentines day. Treat yourself to something nice, a sunset, a good lunch, laughing with friends, a good book about the brain and most of all the company of the people you love.
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Looking for Valentine day gifts ideas? Here’s a Mindfunda guide!

 Looking for original Valentine Day gifts ideas for your loved one?

First you might want to know what the origin of Valentine’s Day (as it is often written) is. Well, at first it was all about poetry.

The oldest Valentine’s poem known today, was written in the 15th century by Charles, Duke of Orleans, who was being held prison in the Tower of London.


Je suis déjà d’amour tanné,
Ma très douce Valentinée,
Car pour moi fûtes trop tard née,
Et moi pour vous fus trop tôt né.
Dieu lui pardonne qui estrené
M’a de vous, pour toute l’année
Je suis déjà, etc.
Ma très douce, etc.
Bien m’étais suspeçonné,
Qu’aurais telle destinée,
Ainsi que passât ceste journée,
Combien qu’Amours l’eût ordonné.
Je suis déjà, etc.

—Charles d’Orléans, Rondeau VI.

The Duke spent most of his life in prison and nowadays is famous for his poetry. Valentines day originates in the middle ages when the tradition of courtly love flourished. It is said that Saint Valentine married couples, against the will of Emperor Claudius II, who thought that married men became weak. A number of myths go around attributing healing to Saint Valentine: in prison he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer Asterius. Before he was executed he sent her a letter signed: “your Valentine’.

Here you are, still staring at the screen and desperately looking for original Valentine’s day gift ideas. This is where some practical Mindfunda comes in!

If you, by any chance are a man or a lady saying: this is all too commercial then please buy your lover a gift or a bouquet of flowers on another day. Don’t let this be an excuse to ignore the woman or man who enlightens your heart every day and who accepts you as you are. Celebrate the love you experience in your heart and your life. If you do not have a lover, buy yourself something beautiful. I got a list of beautiful affordable presents below aimed to please you.

In Europe, in the last decade valentine’s day has become increasingly popular. And indeed, to give your loved one a gift once a year (it does not have to be Valentine’s day if you lover thinks it is too commercial just ask him to give you a gift on another day).

But what present? It should not bee too expensive, but not too cheap either.
For you guys, finding good Valentine’s day gift ideas could look more complicated than they are. Let us give you some Mindfunda thoughts:

  1. Give her a diary for her dreams, thoughts and poetry. This is a very beautiful one with a good luck stone on it. Seventy five pages for her to write on and your Valentine poem is on the first page of course.  If you need help writing poetry: here is a useful link to a page that helps you to come up with words.
  2. Give her a pendant necklace made from Lapis Lazuli. Lapis means stone, Lazuli means blue. L’azulaus is the arabic word means heavens and sky. This ancient stone enhances dreamwork and the old Egyptians thought could help the death find their way in the afterlife. It eliminates negative energy and helps open the third eye. A present with a mythological meaning!If you are in America, this would be a more affordable one, given the amount you have to pay nowadays for shipping (and we only have untill Friday to get those presents in) you might consider this one. This beautiful nekclace has Lapis is perfect for valentine’s day because it has the strongest influence when it is close to the heart. According to ancient believes it takes away fear, and procures wisdom and sincerity.
  3. She might be a book lover. Then give her a book, an ode to her beauty from without and within. She is your Goddess isn’t she? Give her Joseph Campbell’s Goddesses, Mysteries of the feminine divine. This excellent book tells about how the energy of the feminine divine originate in ancient times and is still relevant today.
    Joseph Campbell: Goddesses
    Joseph Campbell: Goddesses –

  4. Send her a personaly kissed Card! In the Netherlands there is a very sweet promotion from the dutch post office:

if your card has a red lip print on it and posted before five o’clock on Friday, your Valentine’s card will be delivered for free. Now that is an act of love!
So go on and buy her a red lipstick (so you can try to kiss it off). It has got to be a good one, that is as beautiful as it is lasting. This is one of my favorites. It does not last 24 hours, but it stays on your lips quite a long time.


We hope to have given you some inspiration and ideas for Valentine’s day gifts. But wait! What becomes of the broken hearted? Well you surf here and get yourself a really tasteful sexy outfit. Go out on the town and remember: sitting at home watching television is something you are going to do when you settle again!

Feel free to leave a comment or suggestion!

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