Science of the Spirit

Magic Wand

Inner speech speaks volumes about the brain

A new study shows that a predictive brain signal could explain why we 'hear' inner speech in our heads even in the absence of actual sound

Whether you're reading the paper or thinking through your schedule for the day, chances are that you're hearing yourself speak even if you're not saying words out loud. This internal speech - the monologue you "hear" inside your head - is a ubiquitous but largely unexamined phenomenon. A new study looks at a possible brain mechanism that could explain how we hear this inner voice in the absence of actual sound.

In two experiments, researcher Mark Scott of the University of British Columbia found evidence that a brain signal called corollary discharge - a signal that helps us distinguish the sensory experiences we produce ourselves from those produced by external stimuli - plays an important role in our experiences of internal speech.

The findings from the two experiments are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Corollary discharge is a kind of predictive signal generated by the brain that helps to explain, for example, why other people can tickle us but we can't tickle ourselves. The signal predicts our own movements and effectively cancels out the tickle sensation.

And the same mechanism plays a role in how our auditory system processes speech. When we speak, an internal copy of the sound of our voice is generated in parallel with the external sound we hear.


Study on the psychology of causality finds inference can take precedence over perception

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When our understanding of cause-and-effect is contradicted by what we actually see, sometimes our understanding overrules our perception.

Research published online in Psychological Science on June 26 found people's causal expectations influenced their perception of the ordering of events in time.

"It appears that when people hold strong convictions about the relationships between objects or events, then inference takes precedence over perception," Christos Bechlivanidis of the University College London, the lead author of the study, told PsyPost.

The study of 229 participants, co-authored by David A. Lagnado, found the temporal content of perception is strongly biased by our understanding of causality. Bechlivanidis and Lagnado discovered people perceptually reorganized events in time so that the presumed cause preceded the effect - even after witnessing the effect precede the cause.

"We usually assume that we see the objective temporal order in which events take place especially when we directly witness those events," Bechlivanidis explained.

"However, apart from the information that is delivered through our senses, there is another way to constrain the possible orderings of events, by relying on the way events are related with each other. Since causes happen before their effects, certain orderings must be impossible or at least highly improbable. Surely, the glass must have collided with the floor before shattering to pieces. You must have flicked the switch before the room was illuminated."

People 2

Spouse's attitude affecting your job?

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School of Business professor Julie Wayne's research could help more organizations reduce turnover by paying attention to how the work affects the employee's family.
For better or worse, your spouse's opinion about your job matters more than you might realize, according to a new study headed by Julie Holliday Wayne, associate professor in the School of Business.

When employers provide family friendly policies and a supportive work environment, it not only makes the employee feel better about the company, but the spouse also feels better. And having the spouse support for the organization can mean more employee satisfaction and less turnover.

"The big takeaway here is that the spouse's attitudes toward the employee's firm matter," says Wayne. "Our findings show that when the spouse isn't happy with or loyal to the organization, it causes the employee to be unhappy or less loyal."

These findings appear in July issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology and are generating national attention in Forbes and other news outlets.

It's a critical time for this research. A recent Gallup survey found that 70 percent of American employees feel disengaged and unhappy at work and that perks like free food weren't enough to overcome these feelings.

It is well known that when workers view their employer as family supportive, they report less work-to-family conflict, less intent to leave, less burnout, and greater commitment and job satisfaction. Until this study, however, little research had been done on the role of spouses and partners in that equation.

Wayne and her colleagues surveyed 408 couples in which one of the partners worked at a large engineering consulting firm in the United States. The couples were asked questions to assess their perceptions of whether the firm supported a family-friendly environment with not only benefits, but supervisor support for family activities. They were also asked about work/family conflicts, the degree to which work enriched family life, and how committed the non-employee spouse or partner felt to the firm.


Raising adopted children, how parents cooperate matters more than gay or straight

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This is Rachel H. Farr.
A study suggests that whether parents are gay, lesbian or straight, how well they work together as a couple is linked to fewer behavior problems in their adopted children and is more important than their sexual orientation.

A new study by psychology researchers suggests that whether parents are gay, lesbian or straight, how well they work together as a couple and support each other in parenting is linked to fewer behavior problems among their adopted children and is more important than their sexual orientation.

Rachel H. Farr at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Charlotte J. Patterson at the University of Virginia report their findings from this first empirical examination of differences and similarities in co-parenting among lesbian, gay and heterosexual adoptive couples and associations with child behavior in the July/August issue of Child Development.

Farr, who led the study, says, "While actual divisions of childcare tasks such as feeding, dressing and taking time to play with kids were unrelated to children's adjustment, it was the parents who were most satisfied with their arrangements with each other who had children with fewer behavior problems, such as acting out or showing aggressive behavior."

"It appears that while children are not affected by how parents divide childcare tasks, it definitely does matter how harmonious the parents' relationships are with each other," she adds. She and Patterson also observed differences in division of labor in lesbian and gay couples compared to heterosexual parents.


Parental divorce in childhood is linked to raised inflammation in adulthood

People who experience parental divorce during childhood have higher levels of an inflammatory marker in the blood which is known to predict future health, according to new research from UCL.

The study, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, found that children who experienced the breakdown in their parent's relationship before the age of 16, regardless of whether their parents were married or not, had 16% higher levels of C-reactive protein at age 44. C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation measured in blood samples. Long-term raised C-reactive protein is a known risk factor for diseases such as coronary heart disease and type II diabetes.

This study is based on data from 7,462 people in the 1958 National Child Development Study, an on-going longitudinal study which has followed a large group of people since their birth in 1958.


Acceptance predicts satisfaction in later life

Accepting what cannot be changed is key to happiness in old age after loss of independence.

When older adults lose control as they move into residential care, they adapt and accept what cannot be changed in order to stay happy. According to a new study, by Jaclyn Broadbent, Shikkiah de Quadros-Wander and Jane McGillivray from Deakin University in Australia, when it comes to satisfaction in later life the ability to accept what cannot be changed is as important as the feeling of being able to exert control. Their work is published online in Springer's Journal of Happiness Studies.

Ageing with satisfaction has been linked to maintaining a sense of control into the later years. Perceived control consists of two components. Primary control relates to the capacity to make changes to the environment to suit your desire or needs - this applies to older adults living independently in the community. Secondary control describes making cognitive changes within yourself to adapt to the environment - for example when older adults move into residential care. In effect, secondary control buffers losses in primary control by helping us to accept what cannot be changed.

Magic Wand

Orchestrated Objective Reduction model: An intriguing consciousness theory, but skeptics want evidence

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The idea that consciousness arises from quantum mechanical phenomena in the brain is intriguing, yet lacks evidence, scientists say.

Physicist Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff of the University of Arizona propose that the brain acts as a quantum computer - a computational machine that makes use of quantum mechanical phenomena (like the ability of particles to be in two places at once) to perform complex calculations. In the brain, fibers inside neurons could form the basic units of quantum computation, Penrose and Hameroff explained at the Global Future 2045 International Congress, a futuristic conference held here June 15-16.

The idea is appealing, because neuroscience, so far, has no satisfactory explanation for consciousness - the state of being self-aware and having sensory experiences and thoughts. But many scientists are skeptical, citing a lack of experimental evidence for the idea.

The Orch OR model

Penrose and Hameroff developed their ideas independently, but collaborated in the early 1990s to develop what they call the Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch OR) model.


Brain stimulation at any age may slow cognitive decline, study finds

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The rate of decline in those who participated in infrequent mental activity was 48 percent faster than those participating in average activity levels.

In a study published on July 3 in an American Academy of Neurology online issue of the medical journal Neurology, new research suggests reading, writing and other brain stimulating activities could preserve memory, regardless of age.

The study was comprised of 294 people and tested memory and thinking every year for about 6 years before their death. Deaths occurred at an average age of 89 years old. During the study, participants were given a questionnaire that asked whether or not they read books, wrote or participated in other brain stimulating activities as a child, adolescent, middle-aged person and at their current age.

Upon death, participants' brains were examined through autopsy for any physical signs of dementia, such as lesions, brain plaques and tangles.


What is nostalgia good for? Quite a bit, research shows

Science of Nostalgia:
It was first thought to be a “neurological disease of essentially demonic cause,” but it turns out that nostalgia is good for your brain. And there’s science to prove it

Not long after moving to the University of Southampton, Constantine Sedikides had lunch with a colleague in the psychology department and described some unusual symptoms he'd been feeling. A few times a week, he was suddenly hit with nostalgia for his previous home at the University of North Carolina: memories of old friends, Tar Heel basketball games, fried okra, the sweet smells of autumn in Chapel Hill.

His colleague, a clinical psychologist, made an immediate diagnosis. He must be depressed. Why else live in the past? Nostalgia had been considered a disorder ever since the term was coined by a 17th-century Swiss physician who attributed soldiers' mental and physical maladies to their longing to return home - nostos in Greek, and the accompanying pain, algos.

But Dr. Sedikides didn't want to return to any home - not to Chapel Hill, not to his native Greece - and he insisted to his lunch companion that he wasn't in pain.

"I told him I did live my life forward, but sometimes I couldn't help thinking about the past, and it was rewarding," he says. "Nostalgia made me feel that my life had roots and continuity. It made me feel good about myself and my relationships. It provided a texture to my life and gave me strength to move forward."

The colleague remained skeptical, but ultimately Dr. Sedikides prevailed. That lunch in 1999 inspired him to pioneer a field that today includes dozens of researchers around the world using tools developed at his social-psychology laboratory, including a questionnaire called the Southampton Nostalgia Scale. After a decade of study, nostalgia isn't what it used to be - it's looking a lot better.


Singing as part of a choir has the same calming health benefits as yoga, study finds

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Choristers from the Salisbury Cathedral Choir practice ahead of Christmas Eve service on December 23, 2009. A British study has found that singing has the same calming health benefits as yoga.
After years of singing in the shower and warbling my way through karaoke duets, 18 months ago I finally joined a choir. Every Thursday evening, I head to a church hall in Marylebone, central London, where, along with 30 others - mostly women, the occasional bloke - I spend 90 minutes belting out Motown, gospel and pop classics, from Abba to Bon Jovi. I'm more of a keen amateur than a wannabe soloist, but even the odd off-key note or wrong lyric can't detract from how good singing makes me feel. I leave every session uplifted, buoyed by a flurry of endorphins flooding through my body.

So it comes as no surprise that scientists have shown that not only does singing in a choir make you feel good, it's got health benefits, too. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, found that choristers' heartbeats synchronize when they sing together, bringing about a calming effect that is as beneficial to our health as yoga.

Comment: Beside singing, there is another proven technique that can assist with reducing stress, calming and focusing the mind, creating better links between body and mind and thus improving quality of life, including increasing sense of connection with others in the community. It will help to have improved overall health, a stronger immune system, better impulse control, reduced inflammation, etc. It will also help to heal emotional wounds; anything that may hinder or prevent from leading a healthy and fulfilling life.

To learn more about Vagus Nerve Stimulation, through breathing exercises, and naturally producing the stress reducing and mood enhancing hormone Oxytocin in the brain, visit the Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program here.