4.4 Stars: Review of "The Neurophysics of Human Behavior: Explorations at the Interface of Brain, Mind, Behavior, and Information" by *Mark E. Furman, Furman Research Associates, Boca Raton, Florida, USA; Fred P. Gallo, Hickory Medical & Professional Center, Pennsylvania, USA*
I was very excited to get a copy and read The Neurophysics of Human Behavior. This is a scientific text published under the auspices of CRC press. It therefore comes in a bit expensive (I found it used, in good condition, for around $100.00 on Amazon) as well as leaving out non scientific musings (which I appreciated). The book, overall, is a gem. It is a great synthesis of modern psychological thought and energy therapies. Don't be alarmed by the use of the term "energy therapies". We are not talking about reading auras and other non scientific musings. No, this book is a scientific work with neurophysiological (brain neurochemistry) underpinnings. Whatever your background, this book is a must read for those interested in the modern interventional practitioner. I read it steadily while on vacation and found the reading *relatively* light and easy.
The book is broken up into three main Sections. Section I introduces the author's integrative approach to psychology called, "Standard Theory of Pattern-Entropy Dynamics" and offers a brief history and update on the interventive therapy that is the author's specialty called Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Section II introduces the author's NLP solution called "Neuroprint" to offer an innovative as well as a unique interventive tool to help one understand and modify brain states and their accompanying psychological manifestations (pathological and/or emotional disorders) which allows the NLP practitioner to be able to create an interventive plan leading to better psychological health and personal fulfillment. I agree with the authors that Neuroprint could offer a sort of "good" for the human mind, but as it is presented in the book, NLP is probably too technical for general use. Section III continues by offering the reader chapters on "tools for intervention: modeling, influencing and changing cognitive neurodynamics." There is also a "Glossary of Neurophysics, Nonlinear Science, and Dynamical Systems Terminology" (Section III, Part 5) to help the reader with some of the terms used throughout the book. Finally, there is an interesting Epilogue in Section III that appears as a short snippet from the ancient Greek dialog know as *Theaetetus* by Plato. At the end of the dialogue, Plato has Socrates suggesting to Theaetetus that Memory is likened to a block of wax, "which in this or that individual may be larger or smaller, and composed of wax that is comparatively pure or muddy, and harder in some, softer in others, and sometimes of just the right consistency". I include this to peak the readers interest in the book, as, like the book itself, Socrates draws some similar conclusions about "madness" that parallel our modern dilemma of neurological disorders. Is it disheartening to learn how little we've progressed over nearly 2.5 millennia? I leave that to the potential buyer to ponder. This book is one more attempt in man's history (and I think it is a grand one) to understand and then bring an end to our individual existential angst.
The attraction I had to this book, initially, was that I thought it would delve into the quantum physics of the brain. It doesn't do that explicitly. What it does cover is the fascinating subject of integrative psychology with an emphasis on NLP. The authors developed "Neuroprint", are NLP practitioners and, thus, understand the practice of intervention using this model as they are co-developers. The actual practice of Neuroprint would require a more technical understanding of the approach that I feel cannot be gleamed from reading the book alone. But, the authors do a fairly decent job of bringing this somewhat complex approach to intervention to light such that, upon a second perusing in order to write this review (I read the book in April 2010), much of their point can be understood, if not utilized in any substantial way.
Neuroprint should be considered a tool that asks the reader to consider the human mind as a series of brain states. The physics analogy they use in Neuroprint is a phase path of a state vector iterated using what the author's term "anchors" (information and pattern) and "attractors" (ordered brain cell assemblies, "states", of high stability surrounded by instability or random activity). The reader is asked to picture a ball rolling along an initially flat landscape. This might be the state of your brain when calm or relaxed and in a more neutral state. The ball is to be considered the "state vector" or your brain state (neurophysiologically) in spacetime. A "Deep [Stable] Attractor", say, "exhaustion" would be a change in the landscape, that in the analogy, is a deep well that the ball would be "attracted" to, that is, the ball will roll into it and come to rest at the bottom if it is a stable state. For a mentally stable person, this type of stable attractor would be your brain state after a hard day's labor with normal modes of interaction with others. For someone with a psychological disorder who is more mentally unstable, this stable attractor might arise from a series of brain states starting from that person getting annoyed with something, then frustrated, stressed, and angered leading to a state of being bored and, finally, exhausted. For the healthy person, no intervention is needed. For the unhealthy person, an intervention is needed.
The Neuroprint intervention for the unhealthy person would consist of, literally, the practitioner drawing a diagram of these brain states with each attractor ("Frustrated", "Stressed", "Angered", "Bored", "Exhausted") written out with differing diameter circle around each, the diameter indicating how strong (larger circle, stronger feeling) the associated brain state really felt like to the "patient". The point of the diagram is to give the practitioner the ability to intervene for the patient given the diagram of the phase space of the state vector, i.e., the changes in the patient's brain states. The practitioner wants to intervene somewhere in the phase path of the state vector so as to perturb the state vector out of any one attractor to lead the subject to a more healthy brain state (positive attractors). Ultimately, we want the negative attractors (anger, frustration, depression, etc.) to be shallow and unstable and the positive attractors (happiness, curiosity, contentment, trust, etc.) to be deep and stable. The authors don't go into great practical detail as to how to go about bringing these attractors into deep and stable brain states nor give any case studies with human subjects. This is mentioned as informational to the potential buyer who may have wanted clinical examples. I found that this lack doesn't detract from the main body of this work. However, Chapter's 18 "Neurophysics and the Principles of Anchoring" and 19 "Neurophysics, Self-Organization, and Anchoring" give the reader a final synopsis on how Neuroprint techniques and the principle of anchoring "can be used to eliminate trauma, improve memory and learning, maintain health, facilitate change, influence and persuade, transfer models of human excellence, and more." (Note: I oversimplified this somewhat complex and inherently dynamic interventive tool for brevities sake as there are many more terms, e.g., the "trajectory" of the state vector, the "velocity" of the state vector moving inside and between each attractor, the "frequency" the state vector lands in any particular attractor, etc., all of which must be diagrammed and equated by the practitioner. Yes, the authors even present simple formulas and many excellent examples so that the practitioner can come up with an interventional plan.)
One of the main criticisms of NLP practice has been its lack of scientific evidence and credentials. In a Wiki article it is cited that a criticism of NLP is that it doesn't follow the scientific method as well as not working for more physiological disorders such as drug addiction. Another criticism comes against the "eye movement" therapy as a window on cognitive brain function. Contradictions arose when certain eye movements were stated by early practitioners to represent certain brain functions, but was later shown to indicate a completely opposite brain state (kinesthetic vs. visual, for instance). The authors attempt to rectify this last criticism with the latest neurophysiological findings. They do an admiral job and the statements help clear up many of the confusions and mis-statements made by early practitioners of NLP which lead to much of the discrediting of the practice. In fact, coming to the defense of their practice with this new information helped to gather much needed information on brain states, neurophysiologically, and spurred deeper insight into the brain's energy dynamics. Chapter 12 "Foundations of Neurocognitive Modeling: Eye Movement, A Window on the Brain" and Chapter 13 "Neocortical Dynamics of Persuasion and Influence" are must reads for anyone interested in an update on Eye Movement therapy and the necessary reading of neocortical dynamics by the NLP practitioner.
In my layman's opinion, I agree with the criticism that NLP therapy will fail with anyone who has strong physiological disorders (rather than strictly psychological). Anyone who is incapable of eventually taking over their own healing (forming of new neural pathways through daily, 24/7, effort) without the intervention from a therapist will ultimately fail. The intervention may be only that. Interventative. We need to get the patient to a preventative state of mind. If the disease is psychophysical with emphasis on the physiological, without a physiological prescription, the intervention stands a high chance of failure. Why? First, they may need, but fail to get, a medicinal prescription. And second, because it is my opinion, from personal practice, that even psychological disorders, requiring much less effort to overcome (heal with new neural pathways formed) even with continued years of self-sustaining effort, may only lead to minor progress (yet with a strong possibility of a major gestalt shift in perception if supplemented with certain meditative techniques and practices). If the patient is not well enough to take over (sustain preventative behaviors) and put in the necessary time (years in my experience) to rewire the brain, i.e., to allow new neural pathways to form that lead to healthy behaviors and expressions, true healing won't take place. The book doesn't explicitly mention adult neuroplasticity, but it is integral, in my opinion, to real change and healing.
Having said that, in the section entitled "How Anchors Work", pages 291-292 of Chapter 17, the authors touch on neuroplasticity implicitly when they ask, "How are anchors able to influence the human nervous system?" I'm including a long quote from this chapter as I want to peak your interest as I think neuroplasticity or "synaptic modification" to be of profound interest without which real healing will not remain a permanent state; and, this quote ties this essential ingredient in real healing with the book's key NLP elements mentioned earlier in the review, e.g., phase path, state vector, anchoring, deep and stable attractors, etc:
"Many practitioners in NLP training have heard the phrase, 'You cannot, not anchor.' This
is true. As a human brain samples its external environment via its five senses, a
representation of these external events is encoded by synaptic modification (Kuno, 1995).
Synaptic modification is a process by which the nervous system strengthens certain neural
pathways and weakens others, resulting in unique electrochemical and electromechanical
patterns of activation. That is, a pattern of electrochemical and electromechanical
activation encodes the simultaneous (parallel) activity of all five senses as if it were one
piece of information (due to the formation of connecting trajectories). At the same
time, the brain is propagating information from the internal environment, encoding the body's
entire physiological response to the outside event in the same activation pattern. Anything
that reactivates this unique pattern of activation (reliably replicates the pattern) also
activates the physiological response of the body that was encoded with that pattern
(Damasio, 1994). The resulting pattern of activation is an attractor. The more effective the
synapses become through modification, the deeper and more stable the attractor. Each sensory
system's encoding of this simultaneous event is connected by trajectories to form a basin of
attraction. Any of the connected attractors may be capable of causing the entire pattern to
be replicated, since each of them can act as the initial conditions necessary to specify the
phase path of the state vector. The resulting phenomenon is characteristic of a *morphogenetic
field*, capable of spontaneous self-organization. The most important property of this sort of
field is that it is capable of regulation. That is, any part of the field can activate the
"What is the relevance of this to the change agent? What is evident from the research of
psychoneuroimmunology is that every physiological response, including the expression of DNA
(resulting in IL-2 production), is encoded in that activation pattern. The more unique the
selection anchor, the more likely the phase path it causes the state vector to travel will
lead to the intended activation pattern-attractor state, state-bound behavior, mode-bound
behavior, or landscape."
The author's ability to cover these exciting ideas of being human in the modern world at the interface of brain, mind, behavior and information makes this book worth the price and worth a good bit of devoted attention.
Buy it today.