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Neurohacking - Tutorials
Escrito por NHA   
Sábado 17 de Septiembre de 2011 17:30
Índice de Artículos
Neurohacking Tutorial 6 - Association, Perception and Learning
The Learning Cycle & Perception
What Happens if Things Go Wrong
COMP & Natural Learning
NHA Guide to Methods & Technology
The Most Important Bits to Remember
Hacks & Exercices
Notes, References & Answers
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Carl Rogers on Natural Learning


Carl Rogers saw himself as a facilitator of interaction; one who could create a matrix; a nurturing environment for engagement. Obviously we can nurture intelligence by answering questions and revealing truths as information, and this is good input, but more important is the attitude of the facilitator. Rogers pointed out that there were 'ways of being' with others that foster exploration and encounter - and these interactions are more significant than the information involved.

Most people underestimate the contribution of nurture to intelligence and learning. There is a certainly a role for information transmission, not ‘from’ teachers but ‘through’ nurturers, and Rogers’ emphasis on facilitation and non-directiveness is intimately linked with the practical effect of using the core conditions (empathy, genuineness and unconditional respect) in communication.

You will have noticed from the newbies section of this site that we use Roger's Core Conditions when interacting in the forum. The best way to learn anything is to play with it, so if you haven't posted in the forums yet, now could be a good time  :  )

The article "Interaction & core conditions" in the basics section of the library will give you all the basics about core conditions, and we'll explore them in greater depth later on.

Rogers distinguished two types of learning: cognitive only (meaningless) and experiential (significant). The former corresponds to academic work such as learning vocabulary or multiplication tables parrot-fashion without any context and the latter refers to applied knowledge such as learning about vocabulary in order to write a story or math in order to work something out. The key to the distinction is that experiential learning addresses the needs and desires of the learner.

Rogers lists these qualities of experiential learning: personal involvement, self-initiated, evaluated by learner, and pervasive effects on learner. We cannot teach another person directly; we can only facilitate their learning. He also noted that the structure and organization of the mind appears to become more rigid under threat; and to relax its boundaries when completely free from threat.

According to Rogers, learning is best facilitated when: (1) the student initiates the learning process and has control over its nature and direction, (2) the subject matter is primarily based upon direct practical, social, personal or research needs, questions or problems, and (3) self-evaluation is the principal method of assessing progress or success. [4]

Emergence, entelechy and easy learning always proceed from the concrete to the abstract, from the known to the unknown and back again; bottom-up. The thing that prompts the process –your own intent from the bottom up or someone else's anxious intentions from the top down- will shape the eventual outcome of your learning as well as the difficulty or ease of the process. Your intent is what is working for you in any learning situation. If your intent is to learn something, then what comes out will be the ability to do it. You don’t need to be aware of what’s going on unconsciously; all you have to do is follow your intent.

In order to work with biology, we have to understand how learning works and recognise the cycle of learning in ourselves. The intent of this tutorial is to uncover that biological system in your brain and to verify and realign its function. We introduced you to the stress/relax response in the last tutorial, so now we’re going to have a look at just what goes on when that takes place.





Association exercise

Visit a graphics site such as google images and choose one image to represent each of these terms:






Try to choose amusimg or memorable pictures, and put them in your NH diary.

As you read through the sections about learning below, see if you can associate each of your pictures with a stage of the natural learning process. We've included our own chosen pictures in the text.



(An easy model for remembering the cycle of stress/relaxation in learning)


You’ll remember how learning is all about stretching then relaxing the mind. The learning cycle is a pattern that enables us to move into an unknown, unpredictable area [stress], interact with it, and understand, assimilate or digest it into our known, predictable body of knowledge [relaxation].

Each successful learning cycle increases the scope of the known; the relaxed state. Each adaptation we make in learning also increases our ability to explore more unknown things that will present us with more stress and unpredictability, because we have a broader base of knowledge to stand on from which to make further adaptations.

The learning cycle works with our biology to develop our mental skills in the right order. If we ignore the way the brain works, we can still have intent, but it’s very hard to manifest it beyond wishful thinking.

The stress/relax cycle breaks down into four stages that we have a simple formula for remembering; “COMP”.

COMP stands for “Concentration, Observation, Modeling, Practice & variation.” This next section explains what the brain is doing during these stages.



Our intent right now is to understand this information. In order to do so, we have to pay attention. The ability to concentrate allows us to pay attention to information so that it gets rated as 'important' by the brain and so stays in our memory long enough to be useful.

Concentrating involves a state of maintaining attention over time, and avoiding distraction. Poor

concentration means that the information does not get taken in, and memories then have no chance of getting into long term storage. It’s very often the case that memory loss, or apparently ‘poor memory’ is simply a failure to pay enough attention in the first place! That is obvious really, but you must not underestimate its importance. It is easy to sharpen your memory when you realise this first fact: paying attention in a particular way is crucial to memory processing.

Motivation and mental arousal are key factors affecting attention. We must be interested in what we are trying to learn, driven by natural intent, and not find it distasteful in any way. And we must avoid distractions.

Old theories of motivation hold that satisfaction reduces subsequent motivational drive. But more recent experiments and later MRI images indicate otherwise. When we desire something and get it, the subsequent feeling of satisfaction reinforces and increases the strength of that desire when it returns. Conversely, chronically unsatisfied desires may diminish the intensity of motivation.

Addiction therefore becomes a useful factor in learning. (Remember how we told you most things could be used beneficially?) In addiction, getting leads to more desire to get. One example is alcohol: Most people can live without it before they discover it, and getting pleasure from it does increase the desire for more. We are born addicted to learning, but society ‘cures’ that quite early on by making sure that it is neither interesting nor pleasant.

When it is, we come back for more. In one experiment, participants were asked to work a crossword puzzle or play a hand-held video game, and in another, participants were asked to take 15-minute naps on four out of eight days. In a third experiment, participants were asked to read the top news stories on a popular Web site for two weeks. The follow-ups to these experiments showed that people choosing to engage in an activity led them to desire to perform the activity more over time.

Many things can distract you when you are trying to learn, including your body. You may be too hot or too cold right now, hungry, tired, needing the bathroom, a cigarette or a cup of coffee. Your thoughts can distract you too –you may be wondering whether your friend is going to be okay or why some person said something strange about you last week or whether you will pass your exams this summer or what somebody else thinks of you. All of these things distract you and slow down learning, and if you’re distracted while you’re reading this you’re not even going to get the first point.

The first point is that we have to operate fully in the here and now with our attention focused on what we are doing; not on whatever might happen in the future, might be going on somewhere else, or has happened in the past. Only then can we have true concentration without distractions, and that’s the first thing we need to grasp the basics.


What’s biology doing, when we get this right?


Remember, the mind associates everything with animal behaviors, and as far as the unconscious mind is concerned, it begins new things by gathering together all it knows and then stepping out from the already-known into the unknown. It sums up the basics, decides the benefits outweigh any harmful factors, and gathers information.



 –Concentration on our subject in an attentive manner fires the brain’s “stress” response (see last tutorial) sending dopamine and other chemicals like noradrenaline around our brain to increase our attention and interest in what we are doing. Desire increases.

This is one of the areas where distraction by anxiety can be particularly troublesome because anxiety in itself is a distraction that makes it very, very hard for us to learn anything new. We can’t explore the unknown effectively, because unconsciously we’re too afraid to try anything different, too afraid to make a mistake, too worried what other people might think if they are watching and too worried about things that might or did happen to pay any real attention to what is going on in the present.

To get an idea of how all-pervasive anxiety can be, imagine trying to concentrate on something new in school one morning after a bully has told you they are going to beat you up at lunchtime. –How can you think of anything else but the coming threat? You cannot concentrate on anything except for the thing causing the anxiety, and the more that you imagine it, the worse it gets. It is obvious in this example just how powerful anxiety can be, but that is because this is a physical example. Far less obvious is unconscious anxiety, which is how many little things can stress us out over time or we can feel anxious without really knowing a logical cause. This is why it's important to reduce your anxiety hormone levels by whatever methods you can, even if you don’t feel consciously anxious.



Prompted by the increase of dopamine, this is the state of mind where desire replaces interest and we seek what we want to find or achieve with natural motivation. The mind has been gathering information but now it goes hunting (and the states of mind induced by serotonin and dopamine are associated with the animal behaviors of gathering and hunting.) This is stretching the mind -moving it out of its comfortable 'known' areas into something a bit new.

As desire increases, our perception improves and we notice more details and we start to take closer notice of what is going on. This is where we start to (still partly unconsciously) look for connections, between the new thing that we are exploring and experiences that we have had before. We compare for example what we are reading now to stuff that we know already and to our own ideas, we make associations, and slowly we start to see where these new ideas fit into our scheme of “how things work” and why and how the new thing is relevant.

From time to time during this phase our brain moves bits of information around in memory, to help us to associate more effectively. When this happens, the natural thing for us to do is to stare, often apparently blankly at the wall and this is sometimes known as ‘daydreaming’ [daydreaming is not the same as ‘fantasising’ about winning the lottery, or going out with your favorite celebrity, for example –this is wishful thinking; not daydreaming. Nor does it count if you’re staring blankly at the wall because you’re too stoned.]

Daydreaming [and consequently staring] is a vitally important part of learning which, if allowed to proceed without interruption, will speed up the learning process a lot. We should not interrupt people who are doing it, because we are interfering with their learning speed if we do. Our brainwave patterns change when we are staring; we are unconsciously accessing relevant information to “fill in the details” of what we know about the new information. To sustain your attention consistently enough to process information into long term memory [that is, to encode it], you need to keep a good balance between observation [taking in input] and assimilating it so regular breaks, especially if spent staring, are beneficial.

You cannot easily initiate ‘staring’ on purpose –the brain knows when it needs to be done naturally, and you should work with that. If you find yourself losing concentration, getting confused or bored, stop and take a break, or do something totally different. The subject will return to your conscious awareness when the unconscious networks of the brain have ‘caught up’.

What’s biology doing?



As you learn more of the details, your brain creates an increasingly complex net of associations, integrating the new information with what you know already. When you’re staring, your brain is doing on the spot “Defragmenting”, moving important bits of what you have learned into your long term memory and connecting the pathways for access to it. And at that point we begin:



In modeling we are not merely an observer; we begin to interact with the subject of our inquiry (the observer becomes a participator, because of the nature of learning). This is the part of learning that requires skill in accurate imagination, because in order to learn anything well we jump forwards in time in our imagination. This is what biology is designed to do. You have to imagine what it would be like to be the master, as if your intent had already come to pass, and you have to behave as though it has happened or is happening.

Modeling is called modeling because during this phase we copy a model. It may be a mental model of how it feels to be adept at the new task, or it may be a physical example of someone who is already adept at a skill we require to learn; either on a screen or in real life. In youth it is often our parents and friends that we learn skills from this way. Some people choose a spiritual model when following a spiritual path, but a model is not a coach so much as an example of how to do it right, whatever it is. If you are learning a creative skill, make sure your role model genuinely has the ability to manifest their intent through their medium, and stick to them like glue.

It’s not essential to have a physical model for all learning, but it can be a big asset if you do.

The talent for high fidelity copying is among the greatest of human assets. Because of it, humans are uniquely adapted to both receive and pass on information and skills. This natural way of learning is at the root of all human culture.

What’s biology doing? –Firing up special kinds of brain cell called “mirror neurons”, that help us to ‘reflect’ upon the new ideas and start to use our imagination. If the skill being learned is a sport, for example, we would start to imagine ourselves performing it. If we are reading an emotional story, we would begin to empathise with the characters and “get into it” as we imagine how they might have felt. If we are learning scientific information, we may imagine how the new information applies to areas of our lives and the lives of others.

In modeling behavior animals produce oxytocin, the 'befriend & bond' hormone. This state of mind appears to enable us to more easily adapt ourselves to mimic aspects of our context to better fit in with its requirements, and is related to both symbiosis and camouflage.



We are able to learn from imitation; not just skills but states of mind. Imitation –copying both the method and the outcome of a task- is not the same as emulation. Emulation focuses on the results of a task and then tries to achieve it by figuring it out. At first, this would seem a more optimal way to go about things, so why does biology favor imitation?


Because humans have massive cultural complexity, young ones need to be able to learn quickly how to do many, many things, modifying techniques later on if need be during practice & variation. Imitation is quicker than explanation because it provides an already-working solution to the problem, with time for explanation along the way. We are evolved to seek examples from the already-adept, and copy them. Genuine teaching is the art of being adept at demonstrating a skill whilst explaining it until the observers have “got it”. What we are ‘learning’ during explanations is how to think in the same way as the teacher; not the facts themselves. Only by thinking like the teacher can we easily remember those facts, because our mind is redesigned to accommodate them by our biology copying theirs. We must learn to perceive as they perceive; copy their perception, then we will know the subject as well as they.

Demonstration and directed examples would have been necessary for our distant ancestors to learn from each other long before speech emerged, using mime and hands-on demonstration to show how tools were made or techniques used. And this is still one of the basics of our learning today.


P&V –Practice & variation

You behave as though you had “got it” and practice the behavior, your brain watches where you go wrong, and does it again more accurately. You have to do what a child would do –you have to play. The moment you get the hang of behaving exactly as you would if your intent had become reality, it starts to become actual reality.

A good example is how we learn to walk. We don’t wait until we feel confident enough about walking to give it a try, we just behave as though we can do it and set off –and fall over. But all we have to do in order to correct that error is acknowledge it, forget it, get right up again and practice –letting our brain do all the complicated computation to correct our mistakes as we just get on with it. Our brain figures out what it takes to fire the right neurons to make our body move in a coordinated, balanced way simply by using feedback –which is why that feedback needs to be given.

The most important thing about learning to walk though is, again, not being distracted. If, every time we fell over, we focused our attention on the object that had tripped us, we’d never learn to walk. Being distracted by errors is a classic bad habit that most people have learned [again because of schooling] and it can be particularly distracting if you were brought up to believe that error is bad.

Error is merely a less accurate variation, and by getting feedback on the degree of variation the brain can tighten up its coordination skills both physically and mentally to improve performance. Without feedback from error we cannot learn to do anything well. A famous musician said, “If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not really trying”. Thomas Edison, after more than 2000 attempts, invented a working light bulb. He said, “I learned 2000 ways how not to make a light bulb, and that taught me how to make a light bulb”. Mistakes are, because of the necessity for feedback, the only way we can learn to do things optimally. If you allow your brain to do so, it will learn from your mistakes just as effectively as it did when you were learning to walk.

Every time you engage in an act of creative play, your brain releases chemicals on the assumption that what you are doing is real. The unconscious brain doesn’t know that you are learning to drive –it only knows that you are driving –you are behaving like a person who can drive, in that you are getting into a car and pressing pedals and turning the wheel and things. The brain itself has no concern where its input is coming from; it just does its job and gets on with making the required chemical changes in response to your actual behavior and awareness; not the theory behind driving skills. In effect, you are playing at driving, in a safe space where someone experienced has dual controls. And that’s how you teach your brain to drive.

What’s biology doing? –

Procedural practice is associated with the animal behaviors of construction, synchronization and synthesis, and in these behaviors animals produce acetylcholine, the 'create and cooperate' hormone. This state of mind appears to enable us to focus on close details, bring order out of chaos and more easily adapt our context to better fit in with our own requirements, and is also related to animal home building, aesthetics and communication.

Engaging in creative play on a regular basis creates a concentration of chemicals that trigger changes in your genome –a change in the expression of your genetic code. Different genes are turned on that produce new proteins for new brain growth; new connections between cells. Remember that the brain doesn’t grow larger outwards as you become more adept –it grows in density –in the number of connections between brain cells. As it builds these connections, you “get it”. You begin to truly understand whatever you are learning and it starts to become ‘known’ to you, and eventually automatic.




Practice literally changes your mind –you become more adept and these changes in intelligence will remain, as long as you use the skills that they bring. By varying the circumstances of practice we come to understand what we are learning ever more fully.


Whenever we reach this point in the learning cycle, your brain releases serotonin. This initiates the relaxation response. Other chemicals are triggered including the brains own natural opioids, and it feels very very nice.

The neural pathways through which we learn about the world tap into the same pleasure network in the brain as are activated by drugs like heroin. It’s nature’s way of saying, “well done you!” Opioids are released at the “I get it!” part of comprehension and until we have achieved that, we’ll remain enthusiastic about learning the same thing. It is this part of the system that gives us the intent to seek new information.


Going through the learning cycle in the right order increases the high. How? The further information travels through the processing networks, the more receptors there are for these chemicals; that is to say, they occur in increasing numbers as you move through the networks. Because of this, information that triggers the most associations and conveys the most meaning to a person causes the greatest relaxation response.


Does the effect wear off? Yes. As skills become automatic they use different parts of the networks with not so many receptors. Repetition [P&V] encourages this shift, freeing up the pathways for new learning.







The Importance of Association


One of the brains best 'cheats' for associating concepts very fast is using analogy between concrete objects/events and abstract constructs/procedures to categorize. In the world of abstraction, every concrete thing has an analogical form, and everything links back to animal behaviors. The mind only needs one concept for 'gathering' or 'hunting'; it doesn't care of we're hunting for dinner or hunting for information or a girlfriend or the solution to a math problem; it needs the same skills -careful observation to discover the good stuff, and caution to avoid harmful, misleading or irrelevant stuff. Everything is broken down to these basics.


It also associates physical sensorimotor movements with abstract concepts and this is where it is wide open to beneficial hacking.


Let's say we would like a skill such as the ability to focus really well and achieve high accuracy in problem-detection (maybe you're fixing bugs in a computer program, or trying to do complicated math, for example). Despite the fact that what you need are abstract skills, if you go practise some sensorimotor activity that employs them as concrete skills (for example, target shooting, archery or sniping), you'll find thet -Hey Presto!- your analogous mental skills sharpen up in exactly the same way!


This happens because the brain uses the same networks for both abstract and concrete skills, and if you build up a network with any skill, the associated mental skills will improve at the same time -they can't do anything else!


This is why juggling improves your multitasking skills, high wire walking improves your emotional balance AND your ability to balance accounts, and organizing your online files increases your ability to mentally categorize and organize your life. The same animal behaviors and the same brain networks and the same neurotransmitters are involved.


Every skill needs the full cycle of learning if you are to become proficient, but each skill will relate to one or two animal behaviors and if you know what they are you can design your own hacks and exercises -all you have to do is build up the networkl associated with the relevant behavior, and that will improve all the mental abilities that use the same network.


Music builds up N4 because the N4-related animal behaviors behaviors are synchronization, cooperation, aesthetics and building constructs. Intelligence doesn't care if its building a nest, playing in an orchestra or writing a symphony, the same network and the same basic behavior applies -you are putting things together to make a complex whole that displays emergent properties that are more than the sum of its parts- and that's why building a computer will improve musical composing skills AND vice versa.


This should open up a whole new world of hacking for you and from hereon in you can consider yourself in 'intermediate' level NH. The faster you understand these basic habits of the brain, the faster you will progress and the more adept you will become at really using your own intelligence with the dynamic power of interaction. Here you are interacting with the brain itself to enable it to adapt to better understand more diverse contexts; you are evolving the brain.


The potential for expanding our learning ability from concrete to abstract skills is hard wired into brain networks as a result of evolution, just as is the potential for language and emotion. However, and this is something you are going to have to get used to, none of these potentials will be realised unless the required input is given to cause the gene transcription that enables them to function. In simple terms, it’s more than “use it in the right way or lose it”, it is a matter of using sensorimotor abilities in the right way or abstract abilities will never develop in the first place.


One single example: in order for our sense of distance to develop, when we're small we need plenty of practice looking at distant objects. Most of us who were incarcerated in schools didn't get enough, and that's why we're a generation of spectacle-wearing adults (and tribal people still don't understand when we can't see a bird in a tree several miles away). But other associated skills are lost too, two other results of this lack of input are inaccuracy in vertical distance judgment and (especially if balance is poor too) the accompanying phobia about heights. In abstract terms, that leaves us with sparse networks for assessing the long term prospects of things and in practical terms it makes us poor at planning and less socially adept.

All initial lack of input leads to sparsity of networks available not just for concrete material abilities but also for mental skills because they use the very same networks, just like all the many different applications on your computer can use exactly the same wiring. The details are different, the basics remain the same.

The brain doesn't care what purpose skills are being used for; working out how to get across this river or working out the physics and math for how to get to Mars. It can use the same program to move the body about that it uses to analyse, move about and associate abstract concepts.


Maybe now you are beginning to see why the earliest nets are the most important! If we cannot learn to walk well and balance our bodies, the brain has no associated concept of 'balance' in any other sense either. We will fail to understand the meanings of 'emotional balance' or 'balancing benefit and risk' or 'balancing the books' (and in effect, making decisions). If you have difficulty making decisions, get out there and do some balancing exercises -learn Tai Chi. As your brain learns how to balance the body well, it also begins to understand the abstract associated concepts such as emotional balance or 'weighing' the pros and cons. Without an understanding of the root concept, all other associated concepts cannot be made.


We need this flexibility in our brains; the ability to relate everything to sensorimotor basics, because we don’t all learn the same language, use the same tools, do the same tasks or live in the same environment. But the important thing to realize is this: the networks need to be used in the intended way in order to develop fully. If no example of human language is given at all, our ability to speak will never emerge, and if no example of balance is ever learned, our ability to relate abstract skills to the balance concept will be as clumsy and as full of accidents as our attempts to walk.


! Snapback warning: 

If you are not used to it, being driven by intent can feel like being possessed by a genius. The genius is speaking and interacting using your body, but you have no conscious thoughts about what you're saying or doing.

Anxiety may try to convince you that this 'intruder' is turning "your personality" off and taking control. It takes another step of understanding to realize that we are that genius and what we are 'turning off' is the anxiety-based synthetic personality that we previously thought of as 'ourselves'  :  )  Intelligence is not coming from the outside taking over the mind; we are intelligence and we are reclaiming it.

In a literal sense it is autonomy (but we don't recognize than until we know it's US trying to take over ourselves!) The difficulty is compounded because the thing we start off thinking of as 'ourselves', in fact usually isn't.

This begins to explain the true nature of habits of thought and how difficult bad habits can be to address. After being practised for a while, any habit of thought or behavior becomes automatic; hence habits are much more easily changed by overwriting them with better habits rather than by trying to wipe them altogether.

The same is true of learning. Don't worry if you accidentally approach a new learning experience from the 'old' pov. Just ignore the error and start again approaching it from the perspective of play. Doing this will automatically replace the habit. So don't get all caught up in anxiety about why you made an error -remember that errors are both our feedback for fine tuning and a good sign that the brain is eager to learn. Using errors as useful data is another good habit you can cultivate if every time you make one you remind youself that the brain cannot learn without feedback.[5]

We’ll explore this more in depth later; what is important now is that you understand that everybody’s learning ability can be strongly affected by various things, including what networks they are using and for what purposes. If you can understand that, you have already won half the battle. Changing the habits of wrong use is one of the hardest parts of neurohacking, but one of the most rewarding.


Última actualización el Lunes 29 de Mayo de 2017 13:07