Rest is not Rusting

James H. Austin in Zen-Brain Reflections gives pause to ponder.

We consolidate memories mostly when we are either at rest or asleep, because these are quieter times when we are not processing any new external events. What evidence suggests that such consolidation does occur at rest? Electrodes implanted widely throughout cortex have monitored monkeys’ brain functions for many hours. The firing patterns are distinctive. They confirm that those same nerve cells which had perviously fired together cooperatively during tasks, later reenacted their responsivities. When? During the next rest period. Yet at this time, no such task was being overtly performed. Without moving, the resting monkeys appeared to be “replaying” their previous task activity spontaneously.

Hardwired for rehearsal. Austin goes on to ask “Are such replaying data relevant to a period of open, relaxed meditation, an interval of quiet that seems reasonably close to an actual state of rest?” I think there should be a distinction between rest and relaxation. The racing mind can exist in a body at rest. A relaxed body is less likely, if at all, to be connected to a racing mind. Note, I am here introducing the notion of the speed of the rehearsal or replay in order to raise the spectre of mania. It may be a good thing that social animals find their rest periods interrupted.

And so for day 403

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