Science of the Spirit


Baby Love May Be Hard-Wired in Human Brain

Crying Baby
© AjFile | Shutterstock
Your brain is telling you to scoop this cute baby up!

An infant's doting eyes and chubby cheeks can send many people into a heartwarming swoon. Turns out, rather than the heart, that lure of tots may stem from specific brain circuits, new research suggests.

The results, detailed in the journal NeuroImage, suggest such brain-activity patterns may represent some deep biological impulse driving adults' interactions with kids.

They also build on past research suggesting an evolutionary link between the cuteness factor of babies and caregiving by adults. And while some past studies have involved parents, this one found a link with those who had no children.

"These adults have no children of their own. Yet images of a baby's face triggered what we think might be a deeply embedded response to reach out and care for that child," senior author Marc H. Bornstein, head of the Child and Family Research Section of the Eunice Kennedy ShriverNational Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in a statement.

Meditation Strengthens the Brain

© University of California - Los Angeles
Cortical Surface Shown is the lateral view of the right cortical surface. The red circle indicates where the maximum effect occurred. Top: Larger gyrification in 50 long-term meditators compared to 50 well-matched controls. Bottom: Positive correlations between gyrification and the number of meditation years within the 50 meditators.
Earlier evidence out of UCLA suggested that meditating for years thickens the brain (in a good way) and strengthens the connections between brain cells. Now a further report by UCLA researchers suggests yet another benefit.

Eileen Luders, an assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, and colleagues, have found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification ("folding" of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate. Further, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, possibly providing further proof of the brain's neuroplasticity, or ability to adapt to environmental changes.

Comment: Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program is the modern revival of an ancient breathing and meditation program which is being acclaimed around the world as THE TOOL that helps to relax from the stresses of everyday life, gently work your way through past emotional and psychological trauma, release repressed emotions and mental blockages as well as rejuvenate and Detoxify your body and mind.


The Honking Experiment: Can You Predict Your Driving Behaviour?

© D. Sharon Pruitt
If the car in front pauses when the lights turn green, do you honk and does it depend on the price of the car?

Last week I asked you the following question:
Say you're in your car, sitting at a red light behind another car. The lights turn green but the car in front doesn't move. Twelve seconds go by. Do you think you'd be more likely to honk if the car was an old Ford or if it was a brand new Porsche?
Over the weekend 1,313 people took part and the results were clear-cut. Here's what you said: 781 people thought they'd be more likely to honk at the high-status car and 532 said it would be the low-status car.

VS Ramachandran on the mysteries of your mind

Here is this three-pound mass of jelly you can hold in the palm of your hand, and it can contemplate the vastness of interstellar space. It can contemplate the meaning of infinity and it can contemplate itself contemplating on the meaning of infinity." -- Vilayanur Ramachandran on the human brain

Vilayanur Ramachandran tells us what brain damage can reveal about the connection between celebral tissue and the mind, using three startling delusions as examples.

Neurologist V.S. Ramachandran looks deep into the brain's most basic mechanisms. By working with those who have very specific mental disabilities caused by brain injury or stroke, he can map functions of the mind to physical structures of the brain.


Yoga And The Brain: A Possible Explanation For Yoga's Stress-Busting Effects

The health benefits of yoga are far-reaching, with studies demonstrating its effects on easing chronic back pain, aiding sleep and relieving menopausal symptoms, as well as its intriguing role in helping the mind, by bettering mood and taming stress.

A new look at the research, published in the journal Medical Hypotheses, sheds light on just how yoga might have such benefits for the brain.

"Western and Eastern medicine complement one another. Yoga is known to improve stress-related nervous system imbalances," study researcher Dr. Chris Streeter, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at BUSM and Boston Medical Center, said in a statement. "
This paper provides a theory, based on neurophysiology and neuroanatomy, to understand how yoga helps patients feel better by relieving symptoms in many common disorders."

Comment: Proper breathing techniques are the foundation of all yoga practices. Practicing proper breathing techniques on a regular basis can instantaneously 'better mood and tame stress' as the author has shared. For more information about easy to use breathing techniques that can help reduce stress visit the Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program website.


Infants Understand More Of What's Said Than You Think

Mother and Child
© redOrbit

New research suggests that babies as young as 6 months old understand more than their own names, "mommy", and "daddy". By simply being exposed to basic, everyday language, infants are able to pick up and understand much more than previously thought.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the findings of this new study conducted by Elika Bergeson, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and her co-author, Professor Daniel Swingly, also with the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Since infants are unable to tell us what they know or recognize, scientists look for patterns in what the child is looking at and where the child's attention is focused.

The researchers used a method called "language-guided-looking" or "Looking-while-listening" to study the infants' reactions to two sets of pictures. Working together with the parents, the researchers studied 33 six to nine month old children. The children were shown the two sets of pictures, then a parent would name the items in the picture using sentences like "Look at the banana." The researchers were interested in where the infants attention was focused as the parents spoke to them. Researchers were surprised to find that the majority of the children tested recognized most of the 20 items tested, many of them food or body parts. Researchers then compared these results to tests conducted with 50 babies from 10 to 20 months old.
Magic Wand

Hormones and Ovulation: Women are best at spotting snakes after ovulating, because hormones intensify 'fear reflex'

Women who have just finished ovulating are better at detecting snakes than at any other point during their menstrual cycle.

The bizarre study conducted by scientists in Japan revealed that they were quickest at picking out serpents after ovulating.

The participants reactions were tested at three separate points during their period cycle.

© Unknown
Spotted: Women are quickest at locating snakes after a menstrual cycle
Nobuo Masataka from Kyoto University tested the reflexes of 60 healthy women by measuring how quickly they could spot snakes a series of images that included flowers.
Magic Wand

Anger Management: Using your 'wrong' hand to stir your tea helps train your self-control

People who find themselves on the verge of yelling at queue-jumpers or crafty colleagues could be helped by a simple - if slightly odd - exercise.

Right handers should get into the habit of using a computer mouse, stirring a cup of coffee or opening a door with their left hand - and left-handers should do the opposite.

'Training' yourself to use the 'wrong' hand seems to act as practice for other kinds of self control, such as being polite.

Just two weeks of the exercises reduce the tendency to act on impulse.

© Unknown
Two weeks of using your 'wrong' hand to stir your tea helps you control your anger: 'Training' yourself to use the 'wrong' hand seems to act as practice for other kinds of self control, such as being polite
Dr Thomas Denson, of the University of New South Wales, said practising self control is no different from getting better at golf or playing the piano.

In studies he showed people who try to use their non-dominant hand for two weeks keep a lid on their aggression better. So if they are right handed, they are told to use their left hand 'for pretty much anything that is safe to do,' he said.

Comment: Read the forum's thread Thinking, Fast And Slow to learn more about developing self-control, and how exercises that require greater awareness assist with engaging System 2 (conscious and deliberate thinking) in contrast to operating with System 1 (adaptive unconscious which produces fast and impulsive thinking.)


Creativity Explained

The image of the 'creative type' is a myth. Jonah Lehrer on why anyone can innovate - and why a hot shower, a cold beer or a trip to your colleague's desk might be the key to your next big idea.

Creativity can seem like magic. We look at people like Steve Jobs and Bob Dylan, and we conclude that they must possess supernatural powers denied to mere mortals like us, gifts that allow them to imagine what has never existed before. They're "creative types." We're not.

But creativity is not magic, and there's no such thing as a creative type. Creativity is not a trait that we inherit in our genes or a blessing bestowed by the angels. It's a skill. Anyone can learn to be creative and to get better at it. New research is shedding light on what allows people to develop world-changing products and to solve the toughest problems. A surprisingly concrete set of lessons has emerged about what creativity is and how to spark it in ourselves and our work.
Eye 1

Socially-Conservative Value Judgments linked to Anti-Social Personality Traits

liberal conservative
A new study by Marcus Arvan, PhD, appearing in the peer-reviewed research journal, Neuroethics, confirms and extends upon the results of an earlier study linking socially conservative views to three anti-social personality traits: Machiavellianism (deception), narcissism (overinflated sense of self-worth) and psychopathy (absence of guilt or remorse).

Arvan's two studies together suggest that socially conservative views are between 5 to 30 times more likely to be related to anti-social traits than socially liberal views.

Arvan's earlier study ("Bad News for Conservatives? Moral Judgments and the Dark Triad Personality Traits: A Correlational Study," published in Neuroethics) found these three anti-social traits to be related to conservative views on the death penalty, gay marriage, free markets, the right to go to war against UN resolutions and detention of suspected terrorists without trial. The study found no significant relationships for liberal judgments. Because Arvan utilized very stringent statistical tests, the statistical probability that his results were incorrect is less than 1 in 100,000.