Science of the Spirit


Meditation with art therapy can change your brain and lower anxiety

Cancer and stress go hand-in-hand, and high stress levels can lead to poorer health outcomes in cancer patients. The Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine combined creative art therapy with a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program for women with breast cancer and showed changes in brain activity associated with lower stress and anxiety after the eight-week program. Their new study appears in the December issue of the journal Stress and Health.

Daniel Monti, MD, director of the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine and lead author on the study, and colleagues have previously published on the success of Mindfulness-based Art Therapy (MBAT) at helping cancer patients lower stress levels and improve quality of life.

"Our goal was to observe possible mechanisms for the observed psychosocial effects of MBAT by evaluating the cerebral blood flow (CBF) changes associated with an MBAT intervention in comparison with a control of equal time and attention," says Monti. "This type of expressive art and meditation program has never before been studied for physiological impact and the correlation of that impact to improvements in stress and anxiety."

Eighteen patients were randomly assigned to the MBAT program or an education program control group. All had received the diagnosis of breast cancer between six months and three years prior to enrollment and were not in active treatment. The MBAT group consisted of the MBSR curriculum (awareness of breathing, awareness of emotion, mindful yoga, walking, eating and listening), paired with expressive art tasks to provide opportunities for self-expression, facilitate coping strategies, improve self-regulation, and provide a way for participants to express emotional information in a personally meaningful manner.

Comment: The following articles are additional examples of how Meditation Techniques Have Different Effects on the body, brain and emotions:

Meditation builds up the brain
Meditation Makes You More Creative
Making Meditation Accessible
Meditation and Its Benefits
Meditation Reduces the Emotional Impact of Pain
Meditation Better Than Morphine?
Meditation As a Form of Mental Exercise to Improve the Brain

To learn more about an easy to use meditation practice check out the Eiriu Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program here.

Book 2

The power of control writing: Post-divorce journaling may hinder healing for some

Following a divorce or separation, many people are encouraged by loved ones or health-care professionals to keep journals about their feelings. But for some, writing in-depth about those feelings immediately after a split may do more harm than good, according to new research.

In a study of 90 recently divorced or separated individuals, psychological scientist David Sbarra of the University of Arizona and colleagues found that writing about one's feelings can actually leave some people feeling more emotionally distraught months down the line, particularly those individuals who are prone to seeking a deeper meaning for their failed marriage.

The findings, forthcoming in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, came as a surprise to Sbarra, who initially set out to compare the effectiveness of two different styles of expressive writing on the emotional healing of recently separated or divorced individuals.

Comment: Timothy D. Wilson, in his book Redirect: The surprising new science of psychological change, writes the following:
...Instead of asking the person to relive the trauma, they let a few weeks go by... and then, they asked him/her to complete on four consecutive nights, a simple exercise in which s/he writes down a description of the event, his deepest thoughts and emotions about the experience and how it relates to the rest of his/her life.

That's it. No meetings, no group sessions, no stress management advice, just a series of writing exercises that the person does on their own for four nights in a row.

The important part of writing down the deepest thoughts and emotions about the experience is finding the MEANING in it.

It's not the objective world that influences us, but how we represent and interpret the world. When something happens to us, we try to make sense of it.

Trying to make sense of what happens in your life and the answer you come up with, will be a crucial determinant of what happens next in your life.
Read the following forum thread to learn more.

People 2

Men and women explore the visual world differently

Everyone knows that men and women tend to hold different views on certain things. However, new research by scientists from the University of Bristol and published in PLoS ONE indicates that this may literally be the case.

Researchers examined where men and women looked while viewing still images from films and pieces of art. They found that while women made fewer eye movements than men, those they did make were longer and to more varied locations.

These differences were largest when viewing images of people. With photos of heterosexual couples, both men and women preferred looking at the female figure rather than the male one. However, this preference was even stronger for women.

While men were only interested in the faces of the two figures, women's eyes were also drawn to the rest of the bodies - in particular that of the female figure.

Felix Mercer Moss, PhD student in the Department of Computer Science who led the study, said: "The study represents the most compelling evidence yet that, despite occupying the same world, the viewpoints of men and women can, at times, be very different.

"Our findings have important implications for both past and future eye movement research together with future technological applications."

Musicians' brains sync up during duet

© Activist Post
The brain waves of two musicians synchronize when they are performing duet, a new study found, suggesting that there's a neural blueprint for coordinating actions with others.

A team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin used electrodes to record the brain waves of 16 pairs of guitarists while they played a sequence from "Sonata in G Major" by Christian Gottlieb Scheidler. In each pair, the two musicians played different voices of the piece. One guitarist was responsible for beginning the song and setting the tempo while the other was instructed to follow.

In 60 trials each, the pairs of musicians showed coordinated brain oscillations - or matching rhythms of neural activity - in regions of the brain associated with social cognition and music production, the researchers said.

"When people coordinate their own actions, small networks between brain regions are formed," study researcher Johanna Sänger said in a statement. "But we also observed similar network properties between the brains of the individual players, especially when mutual coordination is very important; for example at the joint onset of a piece of music."

John Trudell on the disease of Civilization

Excerpt from the excellent documentary about John Trudell, American philosopher, poet, musician, actor and activist.

Comment: See also: The Greatest Epidemic Sickness Known to Humanity

Blue Planet

Earth benefits from a periodic cleansing - John Trudell on responsibility, disease and cataclysm

Excerpt from the excellent documentary about John Trudell, American philosopher, poet, musician, actor and activist.


Why people fall for bad boys and mean girls

Popular Girls
© Medical Daily
Recent research has found that people with so-called dark personality traits - narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism - are rated as more attractive than their more ethical, less selfish peers.

It seems that it's a cliché for a reason: "nice guys finish last". Recent research has found that people with so-called dark personality traits - narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism - are rated as more attractive than their more ethical, less selfish peers. That finding validates just about everyone's middle school experience. But why is that true?

A new study finds that those three traits, known as the "dark triad", are linked with an increased ability to successfully enhance a person's appearance. The study also suggests that people who possess the dark triad are more skilled at presenting and carrying themselves, which is why they are generally immediately liked.

Researchers Nicholas Holtzman and Michael Strube hailing from Washington University in St. Louis performed a study with 111 college students, 64 percent of whom were women. In order to test their level of attractiveness, each student was photographed shortly after their arrival at the research facility.

Afterwards, each person was asked to change into gray sweatpants. Women were asked to scrub make-up from their faces and anyone who had long hair was asked to tie it back in a ponytail. Researchers took a second picture of each participant in a natural state.
Arrow Up

Study shows, what you don't see could save your life

Fire Extinguisher
© ambrozinio / Shutterstock
Like millions of Americans, you may have taken a CPR course or learned techniques for dealing with other emergency situations at some time in your life. However, if a fire broke out or a medical emergency arose, would you remember the proper techniques? Would you know what to do in the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane or an earthquake? A new study from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLS) has shown that people often do not recall things they have seen or passed by hundreds of times.

The research team asked 54 people who work in the same building if they knew the location of the fire extinguisher nearest their office. Many of these people had worked in the same office for years, passing by the bright red extinguishers several times a day. Yet only 13 people out of 54 - less than a quarter - knew the location of the nearest extinguisher.

The same people were asked to locate the nearest extinguisher and everyone was able to do so within a few seconds. Most of the participants were surprised they had never noticed the extinguishers before. Researchers noted that there seemed to be no significant difference between male and female participants, or between younger and older adults.

The results of this study were published in the journal Attention, Perception & Psychophysics.

Practice makes the perfect liar

© andrea michele piacquadio |
People normally take longer to come up with a lie, but after practicing, liars and truth-tellers become indistinguishable, according to a new study.
The more you practice a lie, the better you get at it, say the results of a new study.

Published Nov. 12 in the journal Frontiers in Cognitive Science, the study found that, after 20 minutes of practicing their cover story, liars could respond just as quickly and easily to lies as to the truth. Moreover, they were no more likely to slip-up on falsehoods than on the truth.

"After a short time of training, people can be very efficient at lying," said Xioaqing Hu, a study co-author and psychology doctoral candidate at Northwestern University. "The difference between lying and being honest has been eliminated after the training."

Though people lie for myriad reasons, it's no easy task. Lying takes a lot of brainpower because it requires holding contradictory information in mind (the truth and the lie), while inhibiting the urge to tell the truth. Children are terrible liars and only improve as they mature. And several studies have found that people take longer to tell a lie than to tell the truth.

"Lying is a difficult, because honesty is the default communication mode," Hu told LiveScience.

But past studies mostly tested people's ability to offer a deception with no practice. In real life, criminals usually practice and perfect their alibis before facing a police interrogation.

What happens to the brain in a coma

© Wavebreakmedia
In comatose patients, high-traffic brain regions go dark while less active regions spring to life, a new study suggests
What is going on inside the heads of individuals in a coma has been steeped in mystery. Now, a new study finds coma patients have dramatically reorganized brain networks, a finding that could shed light on the mystery of consciousness.

Compared with healthy patients in the study, high-traffic hubs of brain activity are dark in coma patients while more quiet regions spring to life.

"Consciousness may depend on the anatomical location of these hubs in the human brain network," said study co-author Sophie Achard, a statistician at the French National Center for Scientific research in Grenoble.

The findings have several important implications, said Indiana University neuroscientist Olaf Sporns, who was not involved in the study.

"It gives us a handle on what may be different between healthy conscious people and people who have loss of consciousness," Sporns told LiveScience. "The traffic patterns have totally reorganized. And maybe it's the rerouting of the traffic patterns that underlies the loss of consciousness," or the mysterious ability to be self-aware that seems to set humans apart from other animals.

In the future, the research could also help doctors determine which coma patients are likely to recover based on activity in high-traffic brain regions, he said. The research could potentially even suggest ways to stimulate the brains of patients in a coma to improve their outcome, he added.

The study was published today (Nov. 26) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.