New frontiers in regaining independence after stroke or trauma: Lessons from the Vedas and Upanishads

What are the Vedas and Upanishads?

The Vedas are the fundamental literature of unknown antiquity which forms the foundation of the various philosophies and religious tendencies that arose in India. Some may say that it forms merely the foundation of Hinduism, but its affect is seen in all religious and sectarian orders arising in the subcontinent and beyond.

The Upanishads are the principal spiritual texts germinated in India prior to the advent of the Buddha, and about 700 years before Christ. They are a culmination of the scientific verification of principles of nature and beyond nature by writers unknown, several of who were women as interpreted from first person accounts. These texts number over 200, the principal of which are 13. While being an intelligible body of verified and verifiable spiritual insights, it is mixed with a mass of myths and legends and cosmological speculations relating to the nature and origin of the Universe. While the former has universal validity and has a claim on human intelligence of all ages, the latter forswears all such claim.

One of the fascinating features of the Upanishads is a love of truth and its fearless quest. It explores the subtle movement of a human being from a “belief” and “opinion” based mental framework to a “understanding” and “truth” based one. Thomas Huxley refers to this as the difference between saying “I believe such and such” to “I believe such and such to be true” (quoted by J. Arthur Thomson in his Introduction to Science, pp 22).

Any reader of the above cannot escape being struck by the rational bent and speculative daring of the sages of ancient India. It led them to question experience, the environing world, fearlessly question their gods and the tenets of their traditional faiths as a norm in their quest for clarity and spiritual progress. As with all scientific hypothesis, any tenet or belief was considered to be true only if it stood the test of direct experience and had a methodology that could be independently verifiable by men and women. Hypotheses were advanced and rejected on the touchstone of experience and reason, and not at the dictate of a creed or person.

The Discovery of the Non-duality of the inner and external environs

When they sought for the truth of the external universe, they found it baffling – inquiry only deepened the mystery. The Nasadiya-sukta section of the Rigveda records that the mind discovered early, as modern science and in particular quantum physics is discovering today, that the mystery of the external world will only deepen and not diminish, in spite of advancing knowledge, if the mystery of the inner world of man is not tackled. For a complete understanding of reality, there is need to have verifiable data from both the fields of experience, the outer and inner. Modern science has only now become aware of the influence of the datum of the observer on the knowledge of the observed data.

Restoring how we Learned as Babies

Just as cell biology is increasingly taken up by the study of cells in their undifferentiated state and its tremendous possibilities in impacting human health, freedom from disease and disability has to also look directly and incisively at the human brain-muscle construct closer to its undifferentiated, bio-potential state; beyond tissue, organ or external manifestations such as obvious physical movement and interactions with exoskeletons, computer screens and mobile phones.

Swami Vivekananda, one of more recent Masters in the Vedas and Upanishads and its method of scientific enquiry, is quoted in a compilation of his works (Living at the Source, Shambala Publications), “Thought is a subtle force that acts on the nervous system”. It is manifested in its most fundamental form in terms of electrical amplitude and frequency distributions we see in the brain, muscle, heart, in the breathing and in the endocrine responses. These can be personally verified by all humans based on experience combined with some basic training.

Vivekananda goes on to say that, in keeping with the natural laws of motion, every force must necessarily have an equal and opposite reaction which acts back directly on the subject entity from where the force originates, namely Thought.

Since force essentially disrupts a steady state or uniform motion in the form of deceleration or acceleration, it is a double edged sword which needs to be used judiciously and in tune with changes rather than from a perspective of dogma or habit. Hence a careful examination of thought processes may also define why people respond differently and uniquely at a nervous system level….and hence, why they move and interact with the external world differently and accept the outcome in the external world differently.

The most direct method of quantifying this force is in binary terms – served well by signals such as electroencephalography (brain EEG signals) – and the reaction force related to movement may also be recorded in a similar way for analysis using signals such as electromyography (Muscle EMG signals) and heart rate. The external environment may be similarly represented by recording directly some physically experienced parameters at the same instant as the Thought such as temperature, humidity, and in today’s world, noise (as in constant, loud sounds which is now known to de-tune the brain). Another part of the external manifestations is the actual physical movement itself represented by orientation in space as measured with reference to the earth’s magnetic field using a gyroscope and the three dimensions of X,Y,Z.

This sets the fundamental sensory network to determine how the inner world of a human influences the outer and how changes in the external environment may influence internal reactions of humans. It opens up a window to the dynamics of this constant play of force and reaction in the following simple combinations:

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This, in its first and most basic form, is the foundation of the Synphne Learning Cycle, a methodology adapted from ancient wisdom and coupled with a cutting age software and sensory architecture. Sensitive to milliseconds and microvolts to sense force and reactions, it allows a patient to “self-verify” his or her condition in real-time at any instant t=1 and hence, “self-correct”.

Not only does it help such a person move towards independence in the external world, but automatically triggers an independence in the internal world which, it can be argued, is a greater contributor to quality of life for the person, family and society.

A Solution born out of Synthesis of Old Wisdom and Modern Science

The SynPhNe Method and Platform brings together the wisdom from several thousand years ago in its understanding of nature with the fundamental physical laws of science discovered in the 19th century and implements this synthesis through 21st century technology and the work of modern day scientists in measurement and verification.

It is distinct in its approach to the alleviation of chronic disease and disability as well as comprehensive; in this way, it is fundamentally empowering for patient, care-giver and therapist.

It disrupts the current paradigm of remote health monitoring in the IoT space and moves the industry towards a more sustainable and impactful paradigm of real-time “self-monitoring” and hence, the possibility of “self -correction” and “self-cure”, well aligned with the emerging knowledge of neuroplasticity driven learning at all ages.

Between 2010-2016, through 4 rounds of feasibility and clinical trials, this method has been shown to positively impact disabled stroke and cerebral palsy patients from ages of 7-80 years within 4-6 weeks, after the medical community had considered them “plateaued” and worthy only of “maintenance”.

Sources:
1. The Charm and Power of The Upanishads, Swami Ranganathananda, Advaita Ashram Publications
2. Living at the Source, Swami Vivekananda, Shambala Publications
3. A Physio-Neuro Approach to Accelerated Recovery of Stroke Patients, Dr. Subhasis Banerji, PhD thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

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