Science of the Spirit
Map


Hearts

Kindness holds the power to heal

© ouryearinspain.com
We've all heard the old adage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but what about a smile?

An extensive scientific literature review sponsored by Dignity Health and conducted by the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University reveals a growing body of scientific evidence that indicates kindness holds the power to heal. We now know that this often overlooked, virtually cost-free remedy has a statistically significant impact on our physical health. For example, the positive effect of kindness is even greater than that of taking aspirin to reduce the risk of a heart attack or the influence of smoking on male mortality. And it doesn't even require a trip to the pharmacy.

Comment: Also read about the importance of kindness when dealing with addiction issues: Killing addiction with kindness

Bulb

Is it possible to rewire your brain to change bad habits, thoughts & feelings?

© sgipt.org
tree of psychotherapay
Advances in psychology offer hope.

Nearly 90 years since F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his classic The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrman's film version gave renewed currency to the novel's famous final line:
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
What's afforded this passage such staying power is not only its haunting poetry, but the worldview it expresses - however hard we may try to reinvent ourselves, we're doomed to remain captives of our pasts. Another celebrated author, William Faulkner, put it this way:
"The past is never dead. It's not even past."
Eugene O'Neill penned these words:
"There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now."
Throughout its history, many in the field of psychotherapy have been similarly pessimistic about people's ability to liberate themselves from the past. It can even be argued that most modern cognitive-behavioral approaches are based on the assumption that, at best, therapists can only incrementally create new emotional and behavioral habits that work around - but don't actually transform - the deep-seated emotional programming that causes clients' most visceral distress. This way of thinking, however, doesn't reflect our current understanding of how memory functions, nor do the therapeutic approaches that aim simply to manage or circumvent entrenched emotions, beliefs, and behaviors rooted in painful past experiences.
Info

Study shows mental and physical pain actually use distinct neural circuits

brain images pain pathways
New research may rewrite how we believe pain is processed by the brain.

For the last decade, neuroscientists have believed that the brain processes physical and social pain in a similar manner.

Now, a new study from the University of Colorado shows that the two kinds of pain actually use distinct neural circuits.

Investigators are enthusiastic about the new finding as the discovery may lead to specific treatment protocols for each pathway. Researchers may also gain a better understanding of how the two kinds of pain interact.
2 + 2 = 4

The science of suffering

Kids are inheriting their parents' trauma. Can science stop it?

Lowell, Massachusetts, a former mill town of the red-brick-and-waterfall variety 25 miles north of Boston, has proportionally more Cambodians and Cambodian-Americans than nearly any other city in the country: as many as 30,000, out of a population of slightly more than 100,000. These are largely refugees and the families of refugees from the Khmer Rouge, the Maoist extremists who, from 1975 to 1979, destroyed Cambodia's economy; shot, tortured, or starved to death nearly two million of its people; and forced millions more into a slave network of unimaginably harsh labor camps. Lowell's Cambodian neighborhood is lined with dilapidated rowhouses and stores that sell liquor behind bullet-proof glass, although the town's leaders are trying to rebrand it as a tourist destination: "Little Cambodia."

Comment: For more information on how trauma effects the body, see these links:
When the Body Says No: How Emotions Can Cause or Prevent Deadly Disease
Dr. Gabor Maté: "When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection"

Arrow Down

By design: Children found to be more vulnerable to advertising when watching programs with action or violence

A study by a University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism researcher has found that children who watch television shows with action or violence are more susceptible to messages in the advertisements shown during the programs.

Eunji Cho, a graduate student in UW-Madison's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, says the excitement of a violent show causes children to be focused and attentive, an effect that carries over to commercial breaks.

To perform this study, Cho returned to her native South Korea and observed four different kindergarten classes. Each class was randomly assigned to watch either "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" or "A Dog of Flanders," a calm Japanese program. The kids were then shown an ad for chocolate at commercial breaks.

Afterward, the children were asked to choose which candy bar they wanted - the one advertised in the commercials or a generic brand. Cho found that students who watched the violent show overwhelmingly favored the advertised product, while those who watched the calm show were indifferent about which candy bar they chose.

Comment: Now we understand the reasons violent programs have not been scaled back for children, even though studies have shown that such programs and video games increase aggressiveness and hinder the development of empathy in children. The simple reason is that such programming is profitable, and sociopaths running corporations have no concern with the developmental consequences on young minds.

ISU psychologists publish three new studies on violent video game effects on youths

Bulb

Training can lead to synesthetic experiences: Does learning the 'color of' specific letters boost IQ?

© brunobarillari
A new study has shown for the first time that people can be trained to "see" letters of the alphabet as colours in a way that simulates how those with synaesthesia experience their world.
A new study has shown for the first time that people can be trained to "see" letters of the alphabet as colors in a way that simulates how those with synesthesia experience their world.

The University of Sussex research, published today (18 November 2014) in Scientific Reports, also found that the training might potentially boost IQ.

Synesthesia is a fascinating though little-understood neurological condition in which some people (estimated at around 1 in 23) experience an overlap in their senses. They "see" letters as specific colors, or can "taste" words, or associate sounds with different colors.

A critical debate concerns whether the condition is embedded in our genes, or whether it emerges because of particular environmental influences, such as colored-letter toys in infancy.

While the two possibilities are not mutually exclusive, psychologists at the University's Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science devised a nine-week training program to see if adults without synesthesia can develop the key hallmarks of the condition.
Magnify

Finding 'lost' languages in the brain: Far-reaching implications for unconscious role of infant experiences

© McGill University
Finding lost languages in the brain.
An infant's mother tongue creates neural patterns that the unconscious brain retains years later even if the child totally stops using the language, as can happen in cases of international adoption, according to a new joint study. The study offers the first neural evidence that traces of the "lost" language remain in the brain.

"The infant brain forms representations of language sounds, but we wanted to see whether the brain maintains these representations later in life even if the person is no longer exposed to the language," says Lara Pierce, a doctoral candidate at McGill University and first author on the paper. Her work is jointly supervised by Dr. Denise Klein at The Neuro and Dr. Fred Genesee in the Department of Psychology. The article, "Mapping the unconscious maintenance of a lost first language," is in the November 17 edition of scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The Neuro conducted and analyzed functional MRI scans of 48 girls between nine and 17 years old who were recruited from the Montreal area through the Department of Psychology. One group was born and raised unilingual in a French-speaking family. The second group had Chinese-speaking children adopted as infants who later became unilingual French speaking with no conscious recollection of Chinese. The third group were fluently bilingual in Chinese and French.
Family

Religious communities adapt better to harsh or unpredictable environments, study finds

© Credit: Michael Höefner, Wikimedia Commons
The belief in moral, high gods may be advantageous because it fosters cooperative behavior, especially in harsh environments.
Just as physical adaptations help populations prosper in inhospitable habitats, belief in moralizing, high gods might be similarly advantageous for human cultures in poorer environments. A new study from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) suggests that societies with less access to food and water are more likely to believe in these types of deities.

"When life is tough or when it's uncertain, people believe in big gods," says Russell Gray, a professor at the University of Auckland and a founding director of the Max Planck Institute for History and the Sciences in Jena, Germany. "Prosocial behavior maybe helps people do well in harsh or unpredictable environments."

Gray and his coauthors found a strong correlation between belief in high gods who enforce a moral code and other societal characteristics. Political complexity - namely a social hierarchy beyond the local community - and the practice of animal husbandry were both strongly associated with a belief in moralizing gods.

The emergence of religion has long been explained as a result of either culture or environmental factors but not both. The new findings imply that complex practices and characteristics thought to be exclusive to humans arise from a medley of ecological, historical, and cultural variables.

"When researchers discuss the forces that shaped human history, there is considerable disagreement as to whether our behavior is primarily determined by culture or by the environment," says primary author Carlos Botero, a researcher at the Initiative for Biological Complexity at North Carolina State University. "We wanted to throw away all preconceived notions regarding these processes and look at all the potential drivers together to see how different aspects of the human experience may have contributed to the behavioral patterns we see today."

Comment:

For more information on learning lessons from history, adaptation to societal collapse and the need for communities; listen to: SOTT Talk Radio with Dmitry Orlov
Born in St. Petersburg, Orlov moved to the U.S. at the age of 12. Visiting his homeland between the late 1980s and mid-1990s, he was an eyewitness to the collapse of the U.S.S.R.

Orlov has written extensively on the stages leading up to collapse, and how different groups of people adapt to 'the new normal'. Orlov argues that the U.S. is heading the same way, and that the U.S.S.R. had it easy compared to what's in store for the Atlantic Empire.

Orlov is the author of two books Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects, and The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors' Toolkit, and regularly publishes essays at his Club Orlov blog.


Magic Wand

A mother believes her 4-year-old son is a reincarnated marine

It's common for 4-year-old boys to pretend they are soldiers.

But one little boy in Virginia Beach, Virginia, claims he was actually once a Marine -- and his mother thinks he's telling the truth.


The bizarre -- and possibly exaggerated -- discovery came after Michele Lucas and her son, Andrew, connected with the producers of Ghost Inside My Child, a reality show on LMN about kids who are allegedly experiencing memories of past lives.

Although reincarnation is a part of many religions, there is no scientific evidence supporting it, according to Ben Radford, the deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

"Usually, people remember their past lives through hypnosis, but the interpretation of a past life is brought to them by someone else, such as a therapist who believes in reincarnation," Radford told The Huffington Post.

Michele Lucas admits she was perplexed when her son, Andrew, started talking about his tragic death.

Comment: Skeptics can try to debunk the reincarnation phenomena as much as they want, but the fact is there is plenty of evidence to suggest that reincarnation has a high probability. Listen to the following podcasts to learn more:
Reincarnation Part 1

In this podcast, we discuss the possible reality of reincarnation with Laura Knight-Jadczyk. In part one, Laura discusses evidence that she collected during her years as a hypontherapist. In part two, Laura shares a very personal experience that provided startling evidence to suggest that reincarnation is indeed a reality.

Running Time:27:54Date:2006-01-14
Streaming
Large Download- 9.2 MB
Small Download- 4 MB
Reincarnation Part 2

In this podcast, we discuss the possible reality of reincarnation with Laura Knight-Jadczyk. In part one, Laura discusses evidence that she collected during her years as a hypontherapist. In part two, Laura shares a very personal experience that provided startling evidence to suggest that reincarnation is indeed a reality.

Running Time:30:44Date:2006-01-14
Streaming
Large Download- 10.1 MB
Small Download- 4.4 MB


Heart - Black

The lifelong cost of burying our traumatic experiences

© Image: Stanley Greene/Noor/eyevine
Past trauma can mean not feeling fully alive in the present.
The trauma caused by childhood neglect, sexual or domestic abuse and war wreaks havoc in our bodies, says Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score

WHAT has killed more Americans since 2001 than the Afghanistan and Iraq wars? And which serious health issue is twice as likely to affect US women as breast cancer?

Comment: Also see:
Dr. Gabor Maté: "When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection"
When the Body Says No: How Emotions Can Cause or Prevent Deadly Disease
Why Emotional Memories Of Traumatic Life Events Are So Persistent

More on Bessel van der Kolk:
Psychomotor Therapy: A revolutionary approach to treating PTSD?

Top