Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience-OCEAN

The below is OCEAN Newsletter Volume 1, Issue 1, Article 5 (Aug. 1, 2019) published by Russell J. Hatton & Daniel A. Wilson from the gulag in Moose Lake Minnesota.

 

We hope to soon launch our new renewal curriculum, The OCEAN 3 Degrees Renewal Course which uses the proven science of neuroplasticity and the timeless power of God’s Word to change the way we think. Practicing neuroplasticity to make real life changes takes motivation, discipline and dedication. However, living a healthy, offense free life, is priceless. Neuroscience has helped us make real and permanent changes to the brain. This change is called Neuroplasticity.

There are many different mechanisms of neuroplasticity, ranging from the growth of new connections to the creation of new neurons. When neuroplasticity is applied, it is believed that the change is fundamentally no different than other forms of achievement that induce changes in the brain. In other words, consistent prompting to think and behave differently, for any reason, will cause the brain to adapt. In addition, if the skills of neuroplasticity are applied long enough, the adaptation of new thinking and behavioral patterns will become second nature.

Neuroplasticity is achieved with the process of targeted, external stimulation, over a continuous period of time, resulting in substantial changes to the physical brain. Each area of the brain is responsible for a different kind of learning. Therefore, the impact of a shortcoming in each area of the brain is also different. Precision and consistency are essential to acquire progress. In the most recent studies conducted, once brain function has been augmented, that gain is permanent and normal use offers its own stimulation. Accordingly, the changed brain stays changed. Using the skills of neuroplasticity after 10,000 hours of consistent practice, an offender will see significant results. After 20,000 hours, a physical change happens in the brain, making it nearly impossible to undue the positive habits created.

10,000 and 20,000 hours may sound like a lot of time. However, practicing neuroplasticity is a lifestyle practiced throughout the day. Assuming we are awake 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, we can make significant changes to our thinking, in less than 90 weeks. Furthermore, in less than 180 weeks, those changes become permanent.

We have heard that researchers have said that sex offender treatment lasting longer than 18 months can be potentially iatrogenic. However, the OCEAN 3 Degrees Renewal Course is not sex offender treatment. The OCEAN 3 Degrees Renewal Course focuses on positives rather than negatives. Conversely, traditional sex offender treatment tends to use talk therapy, focusing on the past sexual history of the Client and on sexual deviance in general. However, in this course, we will spend very little time doing this, because we know that whatever our problem is, the solution will not change. Like the Apostle Paul, we look to the future and keep our eyes on Christ, not on the past, ” … one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (ESV Philippians 3:13, 14)

We are not discouraged by the duration of the cognitive and behavioral process for change. The level of difficulty, or the amount of time it takes to make changes, is not as important as the quality of the techniques employed. Most of us will not even notice the work we are putting in, after we have built our foundation. Each day we begin with the simple process of waking in the morning and starting the day off on the right foot. Over time, we will recognize that we are effortlessly developing ourselves into agents of change.

Many believe that we cannot teach an old dog new tricks. However, research on neuroplasticity shows that we remain amendable to some degree of change throughout our lifespan. Therefore, It’s vital that we maintain an initiative to keep the mind active into old-age to prevent cognitive deterioration. No matter your age, you can benefit from this course.

So How Does Neuroscience And God’s Word Relate?

The OCEAN 3 Degrees Renewal Course is a rigorous mental discipline and its effects on the brain will last a lifetime. We believe that we can be released from the bondage of selfish thought patterns. We will do this by implementing the same kind of persistence described in God’s Word and used in neuroscience.

Largely overlooked by the scientific and psychological communities, the Bible is man’s most sufficient and effective resource for changing the brain. At its center, Jesus Christ demands our obedience to a way of life that puts service to God and neighbor at its pinnacle. In fact, Jesus told us that this was the greatest commandment, ” … You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-39 ESV)

Therefore, if we truly follow Jesus, we could never offend against someone again. For this simple reason, Jesus Christ and His teachings are at the center of the OCEAN 3 Degrees Renewal Course.

The OCEAN 3 Degrees Renewal Course uses the proven science of neuroplasticity, and the timeless wisdom of God’s Word, to create new behavioral attitudes in the participant. We do this by focusing on the heart of God’s Word – Jesus Christ. By focusing on Christ, with the tenacity required by the Bible we will beef up the insula, a part of the brain that is directly associated with high states of empathy. We will also address fears that tend to override the brains ability to produce Oxytocin, which is essential for compassion. This empathy and compassion will make it less likely for us to reoffend.

Indeed, how else could we obtain the “mind of Christ,” than to focus on Christ? For instance, if we follow a certain celebrity or athlete – if we do everything he or she does, if we go where they go and do what they do, we will think like they think. Similarly, if we follow Christ, we will be like Him and our brains will reflect this change. In fact, God created us for this very purpose and what scientists have recently discovered about neuroplasticity, the Bible has been telling us all along. (1 Corinthians 2: 16)

But I Thought we were saved by Faith Alone
The Bible teaches that we are to turn away from what is “bad,” and tum towards what is “good,” according to how the Bible defines these terms. Easier said than done, right? However, before we get into how God makes this possible for us, we find it necessary to defend the lost doctrine of repentance.

Repentance is a conscious choice that we make, and it was the point of Jesus’ message from the beginning (Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:15; Luke 5:32), to the end (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47), of His ministry. However, due to the famous Lutheran doctrine, “we are saved by faith alone” (inspired by Romans 1: 17 which actually says ” … the righteous shall live by faith” [ESV]), we must convince OCEAN participants of the necessary work required to change. Unfortunately, Martin Luther’s radical teaching has created passive cheerleaders for Christ. However, scripture is clear about the importance of repentance and turning away from sin, and other compulsive actions.

Martin Luther was not a big fan of the book of James because it clearly conflicted with his theology. In his book, The Plain Truth about the Protestant Reformation, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith reveals that Luther had not resolved his conflict with the book of James when he drafted his reformative ideas:

In the debates, Luther, as he always did, confused justification and salvation. He maintained that faith alone – without any works – suffices for salvation. When confronted with conflicting statements from the Epistle of James, he called into question the authenticity of the epistle. (Roderick Meredith 46)
Sadly, it’s often the misunderstanding that a Christian doesn’t have to live any certain way – which causes many unbelievers to tum away in disgust. Thus, we can see that the following adage has merit:
The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips & walk out the door & deny Him by their lifestyle, That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. (author unknown)

However, anyone who accepts the current canon of scripture, including the book of James, will heed to its teaching. James 2:14-24 has given us the full explanation of true faith:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can his faith save him?

If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe – and they shudder.

Foolish man! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son on the alter? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected. So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (HCSB)

We are to work to follow Christ, and this work will change our brains. When we do work towards salvation, the work is considered an act of God, ” … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12, 13 ESV).

Our brains are actually intelligently designed – by our loving Creator – to actively challenge the temptations of this world. Jude 4 tells us that grace is not to be used as a license to sin, ” … certain men … have come in by stealth … turning the grace of our God into promiscuity (license to sin) and denying our only Master and LORD, Jesus Christ.” (HCSB)

Many scriptures are misquoted when a “Christian” is held accountable for his sinful lifestyle. For example, some will say, “well, we’ … all fall short of the glory of God … ,”‘ taking from Romans 3:23 (ESV). Of course the scripture is true, in its proper context. However, this abuse of Scripture can be corrected if we read to the end of chapter 3, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3:31 ESV)

Even the Christian often forgets that there is one God (monotheism). Conversely, He is not “in” everything, making Him an empty, inanimate god. That’s animism. Also, He’s not “everything,” making all actions and intentions permissible, as long as we are part of that whole. That’s pantheism. Instead, He’s living within His people, working through us, when we are in Christ. 1 John 3:5, 6 further defends the doctrine of repentance and tells us what it means to be, “in Christ”, “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning … ” (ESV).

Identified Neurotransmitters

Amygdala

A kind of “alarm bell” that responds particularly to emotionally charged or negative stimuli. The olfactory, hippocampus and amygdala are the foundation for developing and nurturing empathy through moral behavior.

Insula

Senses the internal state of your body, including gut feelings; helps you be empathic; located on the inside of the temporal loves on each side of your head.

Oxytocin

Promotes nurturing behaviors and bonding in couples; associated with blissful closeness and love; women have more oxytocin then men. This part of the brain is also attributed to compassion, which comes with a spontaneous desire to relieve suffering.

Power of Prayer

Prayer is similar to meditation in that it involves focusing your mind intentionally. We agree with Christian author and speaker Jay Payleitner, who said:

Every day of your life has 1,440 minutes, and God deserves a few of them and, you deserve the experience of spending a few quiet minutes every morning with your Creator. So, if you haven’t already done so, establish the habit of spending time with God every day of the week. It’s a habit that will change your day and revolutionize your life. When you give the LORD your undivided attention, everything changes, including you.

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