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Heart

Study finds mere presence of mother soothes infants and changes genes in emotional centers of the brain

infant brain development
© Oleg Sidorenko
Wonderful influence of mother’s presence on infants’ brain development and experience of pain.
The mere presence of the mother helps sooth an infant as well as changing genes in the emotional centres of the brain.

The new study from the NYU Langone Medical Center examined which genes in rat pups were active when its mother was either present or absent.

The study found that when experiencing pain, hundreds of genes in the rat pups brains were modified by the mother's presence.

The pups were also soothed by the mother's presence.

This is the first time that scientists have shown how the infant brain reacts to the presence or absence of its mother when in distress.

Comment: Any mother knows that an infant needs her presence to feel emotionally safe and nurtured. We don't necessarily need scientific studies to tell us this, but what is disturbing is that in our emotionally crumbling society, scientific researchers are still trying to find substitutes for parental nurturing.

People

Personality traits determine the strength of the immune system

Researchers have found new evidence that explains how some aspects of our personality may affect our health and wellbeing, supporting long-observed associations between aspects of human character, physical health and longevity.

A team of health psychologists at The University of Nottingham and the University of California in Los Angeles carried out a study to examine the relationship between certain personality traits and the expression of genes that can affect our health by controlling the activity of our immune systems.

The study did not find any results to support a common theory that tendencies toward negative emotions such as depression or anxiety can lead to poor health (disease-prone personality). What was related to differences in immune cell gene expression were a person's degree of extraversion and conscientiousness.

The study used highly sensitive microarray technology to examine relationships between the five major human personality traits and two groups of genes active in human white blood cells (leukocytes): one involving inflammation, and another involving antiviral responses and antibodies.

Comment: It seems that Nature is all about balance, and those, who lead less "shielded" lives still have greater immune protection. If so, we wonder if conscious work on the self and intentional gradual change of personality traits would lead to modified immune system as well.

Magnify

Reality and imagination flow in opposite directions in the brain

© Nick Berard
Professor Barry Van Veen wearing an electrode net that measures brain activity.
Neural circuits that activate when we daydream run in the opposite direction to how we process reality, a new study finds.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Liege in Belgium have tracked the electrical activity in the brains of people either watching a video or imagining watching a video (Dentico et al., 2014). The findings could lead to new ways of understanding what happens in our brains when we sleep and dream. The scientists also hope the results will reveal insights into how short-term memory works.

Professor Barry Van Veen, who led the study, said:
"A really important problem in brain research is understanding how different parts of the brain are functionally connected. What areas are interacting? What is the direction of communication?

We know that the brain does not function as a set of independent areas, but as a network of specialized areas that collaborate."
The study used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure the electrical activity in different regions of the brain while people were watching the video or imagining it.

Comment: From In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching - a 1949 book by Russian philosopher P. D. Ouspensky which recounts his meeting and subsequent association with G.I. Gurdjieff:
"He cannot stop the flow of his thoughts, he cannot control his imagination, his emotions, his attention. He lives in a subjective world of 'I love,' 'I do not love,' 'I like,' 'I do not like,' 'I want,' 'I do not want,' that is, of what he thinks he likes, of what he thinks he does not like, of what he thinks he wants, of what he thinks he does not want. He does not see the real world. The real world is hidden from him by the wall of imagination. He lives in sleep. He is asleep. What is called 'clear consciousness' is sleep and a far more dangerous sleep than sleep at night in bed." - G.I. Gurdjieff
"Let us take some event in the life of humanity. For instance, war. There is a war going on at the present moment. What does it signify? It signifies that several millions of sleeping people are trying to destroy several millions of other sleeping people. They would not do this, of course, if they were to wake up. Everything that takes place is owing to this sleep." - G.I. Gurdjieff


Family

Punishing kids for lying just doesn't work

Children more likely to tell the truth either to please an adult or because they believe it is the right thing to do.

If you want your child to tell the truth, it's best not to threaten to punish them if they lie. That's what researchers discovered through a simple experiment involving 372 children between the ages of 4 and 8.

How the experiment was done

The researchers, led by Prof. Victoria Talwar of McGill's Dept. of Educational and Counselling Psychology, left each child alone in a room for 1 minute with a toy behind them on a table, having told the child not to peek during their absence.

While they were out of the room, a hidden video camera filmed what went on.

Comment: A very good observation, but as always, the devil is in the details. In the course of educating our kids we must take into account concepts like Authoritarian personality and Authoritarian follower and make sure that we won't help Psychopaths in Power to continue perpetuate the reality we currently live in.

Bullseye

Signs and symptoms that you are working for a psychopath

© iStock
Every boss has his or her moments when grumpiness or a negative attitude takes hold, causing them to lash out. Our superiors are human, after all, and they are entitled to bad days just like anyone else.

But have you ever worked for someone who seemed to constantly run hot and cold: charming and funny one second, then vicious and manipulative the next? If a power-wielding bully dominates your workplace, you could very likely be working for a psychopath.

You probably spend a great majority of your life at the office, and if just one psychopath inhabits your workplace, it can mean a very confusing and uncomfortable situation. People that work for psychopaths are subject to more bullying and stress, and the organizations that employ them are riddled with conflict, high turnover, reduced productivity, and absenteeism.

If psychopaths are so toxic, why do companies hire them in the first place?

Comment: Psychopaths leave a trail of destruction behind them, and trying to work in an environment where you are victimized by one of these predators can literally ruin your health and well-being. One of the most difficult things for people to understand is that these types are crafty and well-versed in being charming to hide their pathology. Normal people often cannot imagine that there are people who are intentionally malevolent, and will often rationalize their behaviors, until they are sucked dry from their efforts to normalize what is happening to them. This is why the best form of protection is to educate yourself about the nature of these inter-species predators, as the odds are that you or someone you know will encounter one at some point.

Beware the Workplace Psychopath

Here a psycho, there a psycho...

Workplace Psychopaths Leave a Trail of Destruction

Phoenix

The intelligence of self observation and self-awareness

Why is observing yourself so important to the exercise of your intelligence? Because much of what gets in the way of thinking effectively and powerfully is not a lack of ability or brainpower, but the interference of ones own reactive mind. Let's look at some examples.

John opens up a book about moral philosophy, and he is excited to read it. But what has him excited is not exactly the prospect of discovering new ideas. What he's really looking forward to is the confirmation of his own beliefs, and the discovery of new arguments to defend them and push them onto others.

This is common, of course. Many of us buy books that are based on ideas we already agree with after all, don't we? Capitalists buy books about the virtues of free markets, creationists buy books about the flaws in evolutionary theory, and environmentalists buy books about the damage we're causing to the planet. By itself, this tendency is not harmful, and certainly not surprising. It limits our thinking, though, when we do not recognize it in ourselves and therefore don't make allowance for the bias it creates.

This isn't just about books, of course. In fact, we "buy" ideas all the time from the intellectual environment around us. We "pay" for these ideas by investing our time and thought and ego into them. But we don't see how often we are only interested in those that fit our existing way of thinking. And because of that lack of awareness resulting from a lack of self observation, we pass over facts and ideas that may lead to a better understanding.

Comment: See Stranger to Ourselves for more information:
"Know thyself," a precept as old as Socrates, is still good advice. But is introspection the best path to self-knowledge? What are we trying to discover, anyway? In an eye-opening tour of the unconscious, as contemporary psychological science has redefined it, Timothy D. Wilson introduces us to a hidden mental world of judgments, feelings, and motives that introspection may never show us.

This is not your psychoanalyst's unconscious. The adaptive unconscious that empirical psychology has revealed, and that Wilson describes, is much more than a repository of primitive drives and conflict-ridden memories. It is a set of pervasive, sophisticated mental processes that size up our worlds, set goals, and initiate action, all while we are consciously thinking about something else.

If we don't know ourselves - our potentials, feelings, or motives - it is most often, Wilson tells us, because we have developed a plausible story about ourselves that is out of touch with our adaptive unconscious. Citing evidence that too much introspection can actually do damage, Wilson makes the case for better ways of discovering our unconscious selves. If you want to know who you are or what you feel or what you're like, Wilson advises, pay attention to what you actually do and what other people think about you. Showing us an unconscious more powerful than Freud's, and even more pervasive in our daily life, Strangers to Ourselves marks a revolution in how we know ourselves.


Magic Wand

Out of the mouths of babes: Extensive research indicates that reincarnation is real

The universe is full of mysteries that challenge our current knowledge. In "Beyond Science" Epoch Times collects stories about these strange phenomena to stimulate the imagination and open up previously undreamed of possibilities. Are they true? You decide.
Multiple researchers have thoroughly investigated cases of children who report past-life memories. In many cases, the details given by a child have been verified to correspond (sometimes with startling accuracy) to a deceased person. In other cases, the details have been more difficult to verify.

Even in the most convincing cases, some will find a grain of doubt. Could the parents have influenced their suggestible children with a certain line of questioning? Could the children have overheard information and repeated it without their parents' knowledge? Could an overactive imagination or desire for attention have fueled the talk of a past life? Maybe probability can explain how the "memories" match up with real people or events, maybe they're just lucky guesses.

The Psychology

Psychologist Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson, professor emeritus at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, studied 30 children in Lebanon who had persistently spoken of past-life memories, comparing these children to a test group of 30 other children. Dr. Haraldsson wondered whether children who associate so strongly with being another person (their past-life incarnation) are psychologically similar to people with multiple personalities.

Comment: Indeed, 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 hypnotherapist. 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 hypnotherapist. 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


Sheeple

Bothersome intrusive thoughts won't go away? Get more sleep!

intrusive thoughts
© Shifteye
Going to bed too late and sleeping too little is associated with experiencing persistent negative thoughts, according to new research.

Even amongst 'evening types' who prefer to sleep later anyway, the study found they had had more repetitive anxious thoughts than those who kept regular hours.

The research, published in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research, asked 100 adults about their sleeping patterns and gave them tests of persistent negative thoughts (Nota & Coles, 2014).

The tests assessed how much people:
  • worried,
  • obsessed,
  • and ruminated.
The results found a link between persistent negative thoughts and going to bed late.

Comment: Alternatively, since the study is correlational, it can't tell us if the poor sleep patterns cause the negative thoughts in the first place. It could be that people who experience these intrusive thoughts (for some other reason) just happen to go to sleep later (perhaps as a result of the negative thoughts, or some common cause). But the clinical data suggests that regularizing sleep patterns can help. So if you're experiencing such thoughts, try it out. And if you're not, try it anyway! The benefits from good sleep are legion:

Magic Wand

Treating anxiety & depression with mindfulness

© Shutterstock
Mindfulness dates back to ancient Buddhism, and involves living in the moment and focusing on the present thoughts, emotions, and sensations.
According to a new study out of Lund University in Sweden, mindfulness can be just as effective as your typical therapist who practices cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which necessitates focusing on negative thoughts and having a discussion, as well as running experiments, on them.

The study, led by Professor Jan Sundquist, was held at 16 primary health care centers in southern Sweden. The researchers trained two mindfulness instructors at each health care center during a six-day training course. Participants of the study, who suffered from depression, anxiety, or severe stress, were gathered into groups of 10 for structured group mindfulness treatment. The patients also received a private training program, and were asked to record their exercises and thoughts in a journal. For eight weeks, all 215 of them went through mindfulness therapy, then answered questions about their depression and anxiety. The researchers found that self-reported symptoms of depression and anxiety had decreased during the treatment period.

Comment: Meditation is a tool that can regulate and reduce stress levels in addition to increasing calm and relaxation in the body, mind and spirit. Meditation also brings the practitioner into the present moment, allowing the opportunity for a greater sense of being. To learn more about the benefits of meditation visit the Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program.

Read more about Better living through mindfulness:

Bulb

Curiosity prepares the brain for better learning and long-term memory

© Lifehacker.com
Do we live in a holographic universe? How green is your coffee? And could drinking too much water actually kill you?

Before you click those links you might consider how your knowledge-hungry brain is preparing for the answers. A new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that when our curiosity is piqued, changes in the brain ready us to learn not only about the subject at hand, but incidental information, too.

Neuroscientist Charan Ranganath and his fellow researchers asked 19 participants to review more than 100 questions, rating each in terms of how curious they were about the answer. Next, each subject revisited 112 of the questions - half of which strongly intrigued them whereas the rest they found uninteresting - while the researchers scanned their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

During the scanning session participants would view a question then wait 14 seconds and view a photograph of a face totally unrelated to the trivia before seeing the answer. Afterward the researchers tested participants to see how well they could recall and retain both the trivia answers and the faces they had seen.

Ranganath and his colleagues discovered that greater interest in a question would predict not only better memory for the answer but also for the unrelated face that had preceded it. A follow-up test one day later found the same results - people could better remember a face if it had been preceded by an intriguing question. Somehow curiosity could prepare the brain for learning and long-term memory more broadly.

The findings are somewhat reminiscent of the work of U.C. Irvine neuroscientist James McGaugh, who has found that emotional arousal can bolster certain memories. But, as the researchers reveal in the October 2 Neuron, curiosity involves very different pathways.

Comment: Curiosity's Evil Twin Can Drive You Insane

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