What it means to have ‘alien hand syndrome’

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Photo: Artur Debat/Getty Images

The human body plays a crucial role in personal identity. And yet, evidence from brain injury patients, and the science of perceptual illusions, suggest that physical identity may be more fluid than we think.

A 2013 article appearing in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences reported the curious case of an 82-year-old woman who believed she no longer controlled her left arm. Instead, it now belonged to her brother.

Six weeks earlier, she had suffered a stroke that affected the left side of her face, arm, and speech. Contacting her doctors, she complained that “her ‘brother’s arm’ did not do what she wanted and that this was causing her significant distress,” say neurologists Hannah Shereef and Andrea Cavanna. …

This is the first email from the Explore the Limits Medium publication—and a challenging few weeks for so many of us—so I thought it would be great to start with a giveaway (please feel free to rate and share).

Below is a free kindle download of the new ebook “Survive and Thrive — Developing an athlete’s mindset for sport and business.”

This short guide combines the learnings from six years studying endurance athletes at the extremes of performance, and the latest research into mental fitness in sports, business, and education.

These are tough times — both physically and mentally. With the latter in mind, ‘Thrive and Survive’ provides a science-based toolkit for overcoming challenges and building a balanced mindset — optimized for mental toughness, resilience, motivation, focus, expertise, and happiness.



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Stay safe and enjoy!!

(Please remember to give the book a rating !!)

Best wishes

Jeremy Sutton

An effective Covid-19 suppression strategy, implemented early, could save 38.7 million lives

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Mika Baumeister — Unsplash

The world is in lockdown. Emergency services and key workers fight to make sure we have essential infrastructure in place and to keep us alive when we fall ill.

Sometimes forgotten­ — working away in labs and offices, unseen — science continues that same battle, but on a different front.

Scientific, evidence-based research can be a drawn-out process. It can take months, even years, to design protocols, find participants, and obtain both funding and ethical approval. Data collection must be completed with incredible attention to detail, long before researchers can turn numbers into findings and draw conclusions based on their specialist knowledge. …

Shutting down the body may be the best way to survive trauma

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Olga Guryanova — Unsplash

On May 20, 1999, Anna Bagenholm was skiing off-piste in the mountains outside Narvik in Norway. Heading down a steep mountainside — on a route she had taken many times before — she lost control, fell and landed on her back on a frozen river. As she struggled to get back up, a hole appeared beneath her, and she slipped into the ice-cold water. Desperate, and trapped beneath thick ice, she found a small pocket of air. But, the mental and physical cost of staying alive was ultimately too high. After 40 frantic minutes, Anna suffered cardiac arrest; without immediate attention, she would soon be dead. Her body temperature plummeted, causing her vital organs to shut down. …

Exploring and building in a virtual world develops memory and spatial awareness

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Photo: picture alliance/Getty Images

Standing between us and the castle was a red knight with a sword. He appeared angry — inasmuch as a heavily pixelated figure can show emotion — and was headed in our direction. I turned to my daughter and suggested we take a different, less confrontational path. She nodded, and we hurried along the far side of a large lake.

This was the first time my young daughter and I had entered the 3D virtual world of Minecraft. …

The ABCDE of managing life’s challenges

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“Resilience is our ability to bounce back from life’s challenges and unforeseen difficulties, providing mental protection from emotional and mental disorders,” says Professor Michael Rutter, often described as the father of child psychology.

A resilient person is less vulnerable to stressful events, has an internal drive, and can think with flexibility when confronted with new challenges. Perhaps, most importantly, they can focus on that which is within their control.

Research has shown exposure to stress and resilience training can increase your ability to deal with stress, reduce anxiety, promote growth, and inflate accomplishment.

We have all seen examples where two people handle the same situation very differently. …

The science behind ‘face blindness’

A man looks at his reflection in the mirror. He appears confused.
A man looks at his reflection in the mirror. He appears confused.
Photo: PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images

Much of human engagement relies upon the ability to recognize familiar faces. And yet this seemingly simple, widespread human capacity, which builds and strengthens social bonds, is not a given for everyone.

People with “face blindness”— known as prosopagnosia (from the Greek words for “face” and “without knowledge”) — find it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to recognize best friends, family members, and even themselves. A 2016 review in Eye and Brain noted that although it’s often linked to brain damage resulting from trauma, face blindness can also be passed down in families and found in children.

British actor Stephen Fry describes how despite being deep in conversation with a new colleague, an hour later, he is often unable to recognize who they are. Describing his condition in an interview with the BBC, Fry says it has made social events difficult for him, as he regularly fails to identify co-workers, high-profile celebrities, and even close friends. …

The eye-opening science behind ‘inattentional blindness’

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Photo: olasunkanmi ariyo/Getty Images

In an iconic study from 1999, Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris, researchers at Harvard University, used a gorilla costume as a prop to explore visual perception.

Subjects were asked to watch a video and count the number of times players passed a basketball between a small, continually moving group of students. Partway through the video, a person dressed in a gorilla suit slowly walked into the frame, beat their chest, and walked off.

When Simons first tried the test with Harvard University students, he held his breath, but despite the gorilla being visible for nine seconds, only half of them noticed the unlikely walk-on. “Missing the gorilla is jarring. …

What science tells us about expertise

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Psychologists, cognitive scientists, and AI researchers have for decades grappled with answering: what does it mean to be an expert, and how does someone become one?

To theorize about human ability, science must consider whether expertise is acquired as a result of nature or nurture. Are you born with the capacity to be one of the best, or can you achieve greatness with the right training?

This debate is as old as philosophy itself, with Plato favoring nature, and Aristotle leaning towards nurture.

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Tbel Abuseridze — Unsplash

However, as with all decisions that initially appear to be binary, the argument is usually considerably more nuanced. …

Research is unraveling the greatest mystery of the mind

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Josh Marshall — Unsplash

Scientists and philosophers have grappled with the question of consciousness for over two thousand years. But, despite more than 7 billion humans on the planet — experiencing and aware — until recently, scientists have been in the dark regarding the feeling of life itself. Consciousness “does not appear in the equations of physics, nor in chemistry’s periodic table, nor in the [..] molecular chatter of our genes. Somehow it emerges from the nervous system,” says Christof Koch, Neuroscientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle.

Consciousness appears to float above the physical brain (cognitive scientists refer to it as epiphenomena) like bubbles at the top of a glass of lemonade. Its presence suggests awareness, self-knowledge, and a set of beliefs and emotions about the self and the environment. But it is not “just the stuff in your head. It is the subjective experience of that stuff,” says Michael Graziano, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Princeton University. …


Jeremy Sutton, PhD

PhD in Human Endurance. Author “Survive and Thrive — developing an athlete’s mindset for sport and business”. Udemy educator. www.explorethelimits.com

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