Science of the Spirit
Map


Clipboard

Use the power of check lists!

In the modern age, we know more than ever before, and the information has never been so readily available.

And yet individuals and organizations often fail to deliver on the promise of all this knowledge. In fact, we are often the victim, and the architect, of head-slapping displays of incompetence when it comes to delivering what's been promised, or forgetting routine things that have no business being overlooked.

Why is there so often this mismatch between potential and application?

As our knowledge about the world increases, so too does its complexity. And as complexity goes up, so do the opportunities for failure.

Medicine is a great example of where our increased knowledge has made things better, but also more complex, with more possibilities for snafus. Before the mid-20th century, medicine was pretty simple. There wasn't much specialization; when you went to the hospital, there was usually one doctor and a few general nurses overseeing your care.

Now when you go to the hospital, you can have several teams taking care of you. Nurses, nurse technicians, radiologists, dieticians, oncologists, cardiologists, and so on and so forth. All these people have the know-how to deliver top-notch healthcare, and yet studies show that failures are common, most often due to plain old ineptitude. For example, 30% of patients who suffer a stroke receive incomplete or inappropriate care from their doctors, as do 45% of patients with asthma, and 60% of patients with pneumonia.

It's not ignorance or ill-intent that causes these failures. Knowledge abounds among our healthcare practitioners. The problem is that because medicine is more sophisticated and specialized, applying that knowledge correctly across several teams is harder. There are multiple streams of information to remember and manage.
People 2

Could playing Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker' and other music improve kids' brains?

© Nataliya Hora/Fotolia
Cildren who play the violin or study piano could be learning more than just Mozart. A University of Vermont College of Medicine child psychiatry team has found that musical training might also help kids focus their attention, control their emotions and diminish their anxiety. Their research is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

James Hudziak, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families, and colleagues including Matthew Albaugh, Ph.D., and graduate student research assistant Eileen Crehan, call their study "the largest investigation of the association between playing a musical instrument and brain development."

Comment: See also: Music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents

Info

Stress may increase desire for reward but not pleasure, research finds

Study helps explain why stress often leads to binge eating, relapses in drug addiction or gambling.

Feeling stressed may prompt you to go to great lengths to satisfy an urge for a drink or sweets, but you're not likely to enjoy the indulgence any more than someone who is not stressed and has the same treat just for pleasure, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

"Most of us have experienced stress that increases our craving for rewarding experiences, such as eating a tasty bar of chocolate, and it can make us invest considerable effort in obtaining the object of our desire, such as running to a convenience store in the middle of the night," said lead author Eva Pool, MS, a doctoral student at the University of Geneva. "But while stress increases our desire to indulge in rewards, it does not necessarily increase the enjoyment we experience."

Stress prompted chocolate lovers in an experiment to exert three times as much effort to smell chocolate than unstressed chocolate lovers, but both groups reported about the same level of enjoyment when they got a whiff of the pleasing aroma, according to the study, published in APA's Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition.

Comment: If stress leads to binge eating or relapses in various addictions, then one way to prevent such incidents is to work on reducing the stress. And one of the most useful things one can do to off-set, ameliorate and even reverse the effects of anxiety and stress is to learn about and practice the techniques shared in Éiriú Eolas.



Chalkboard

Study shows that focusing the brain on exercising can trick muscles into getting stronger

New research suggests muscles respond to simple thoughts of exercise; simply imagining exercise can trick the muscles into delaying atrophy and even getting stronger. It's further proof that brain and body, which evolved together, are more intwined than separate.

To demonstrate the power of the brain, researchers at Ohio University wrapped a single wrist of two sets of study participants in a cast - immobilizing their muscles for four weeks. One set was instructed to sit still and intensely imagine exercising for 11 minutes, five days a week. More than just casually daydream about going to the gym, participants were instructed to devote all of their mental energy towards imagining flexing their arm muscles.

The other set of study participants weren't given any specific instructions. At the end of the four weeks, the mental-exercisers were two times stronger than the others.

Researchers also used magnetic imaging to isolate the area of the brain responsible for the specific arm muscles. Participants that imagine exercise not only had stronger arms but also a stronger brain; their mental exercises created stronger neuromuscular pathways

Comment: This begs the question, what else is the brain capable of changing in the body?

Cult

Sam Harris: Is Christian morality psychopathic?

If obeying orders of the Christian God is the only criteria for determining right and wrong, it's hard to argue otherwise.

People 2

Study finds shared pain and suffering can increase cooperation and loyalty in groups

© Rebekka Dunlap
Last year, Dimitris Xygalatas, the head of the experimental anthropology lab at the University of Connecticut, decided to conduct a curious experiment in Mauritius, during the annual Thaipusam festival, a celebration of the Hindu god Murugan. For the ten days prior to the festival, devotees abstain from meat and sex. As the festival begins, they can choose to show their devotion in the form of several communal rituals. One is fairly mild. It involves communal prayer and singing beside the temple devoted to Murugan, on the top of a mountain. The other, however - the Kavadi - is one of the more painful modern religious rituals still in practice. Participants must pierce multiple parts of their bodies with needles and skewers and attach hooks to their backs, with which they then drag a cart for more than four hours. After that, they climb the mountain where Murugan's temple is located.

Immediately after each ritual was complete, the worshippers were asked if they would be willing to spend a few minutes answering some questions in a room near the temple. Xygalatas had them rate their experience, their attitude toward others, and their religiosity. Then he asked them a simple question: They would be paid two hundred rupees for their participation (about two days' wages for an unskilled worker); did they want to anonymously donate any of those earnings to the temple? His goal was to figure out if the pain of the Kavadi led to increased affinity for the temple.

For centuries, societies have used pain as a way of creating deep bonds. There are religious rites, such as self-flagellation, solitary pilgrimages, and physical mutilation. There are the rites of passage into adulthood, like the Melanesian rite where boys "may be extensively burned, permanently scarred and mutilated, dehydrated, beaten, and have objects inserted in sensitive areas such as the nasal septum, the base of the spine, the tongue, and the penis." There are also the less intense initiation rituals of fraternity houses and military branches, of summer camps and medical residencies. Painful rites seem to be a way of engineering the kind of affinity that arises naturally among people who have suffered similar traumatic experiences.

Comment: There may be a point after all to the pain and suffering endured by the human race on a daily basis. Perhaps it exists to wake us up.

Gift 2

Study finds service dogs reduce symptoms of PTSD in veterans

service dog veteran
Service dogs can significantly reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression in veterans, according to the preliminary findings of a Kaiser Permanente study.

The dogs were also found to improve veterans' relationships and lower their substance abuse.

Researcher Carla Green led the year-long "Pairing Assistance-Dogs with Soldiers" (PAWS) study and recently shared her findings with legislators at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

"The study is significant because no research has been conducted on how service dogs affect the mental health of veterans," Green said. Although benefits for veterans cover service dogs for physical disabilities, they are not available for help with mental health problems.

Comment: Anything the federal government can do to improve the lives of veterans should be undertaken and funded to the fullest extent possible. These soldiers have endured horrific treatment by the government and the VA, including excessive waiting for health care, inadequate treatment for PTSD, homelessness as a result of their inability to reincorporate into society and the destruction of their families.

Millions of U.S. veterans and soldiers suffering needlessly; suicides, mental illness, poverty

Why Does The U.S. Government Treat Military Veterans Like Human Garbage?

Heart

A lesson for humans: Monkey revives electrocuted fellow monkey

The video of a monkey in India patiently and persistently working to revive a fellow monkey has gone viral. Check out this and other animal rescue stories.


Last week Pope Francis proclaimed that animals have souls and can go to heaven. Now, one monkey in Kanpur, India, has displayed the kind of compassion and heroics many humans might admire.


Comment: Whether heaven exists or not, most mammals care for their offspring and behave like souled beings. They demonstrate more 'humanity' than many of us humans, that is for sure.


This monkey - probably a Rhesus macaque, the most common urban dweller in India - worked frantically to revive another monkey that had passed out on the train tracks after getting a severe shock while cavorting on an electric wire above the station.

Dozens of humans watched, took videos and snapped photos on Dec. 21, but none made a move to help as the doggedly determined little monkey shook, bit, slapped, and splashed water on the unconscious primate.

When his companion was finally revived, the two huddled together in a safe space between the tracks.
Music

Singing together encourages social bonding

© Julie/Flickr
Cranking out a tune cements our social networks.
We're enjoying the one time of year when protests of "I can't sing!" are laid aside and we sing carols with others. For some this is a once-a-year special event; the rest of the year is left to the professionals to handle the singing (except, perhaps, some alone time in the shower or car).

Music - and singing in particular, as the oldest and only ubiquitous form of music creation - plays a central role in our lives and shared community experiences, and this has been true for every culture for as far back as we can trace our human ancestors.

So does singing in a group provide specific and tangible benefits, or is it merely a curious ability that provides entertainment through creative expression?

Comment: The numerous benefits of music should encourage everyone to incorporate music into their lives in as many ways as possible. Learning to play an instrument, joining a choir, or singing Karaoke with friends are great ways to begin. See also:

Bulb

Psychology determines our biology? How your personality is linked to your health

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.

Comment: For a more in depth look at the 'epidemiological associations between personality, physical health, and human longevity'' read:

Dr. Gabor Maté: "When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection"
The Vancouver-based Dr. Gabor Maté argues too many doctors seem to have forgotten what was once a commonplace assumption, that emotions are deeply implicated in both the development of illness and in the restoration of health. Based on medical studies and his own experience with chronically ill patients at the Palliative Care Unit at Vancouver Hospital, where he was the medical coordinator for seven years, Dr. Gabor Maté makes the case there are important links between the mind and the immune system. He finds stress and individual emotional makeup play critical roles in an array of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

The point now is that the emotional centers of the brain, which regulate our behaviors and our responses and our reactions, are physiologically connected with - and we know exactly how they're connected - with the immune system, the nervous system and the hormonal apparatus. In fact, it's no longer possible, scientifically, to speak of these as separate systems, as if immunity was separate from emotions, as if the nervous system was separate from the hormonal apparatus. There's one system, and they're wired together by the nervous system itself and joined together by chemical messengers that they all secrete, and so that whatever happens emotionally has an impact immunologically, and vice versa. So, for example, we know now that the white cells in the circulation of our - of the blood can manufacture every hormone that the brain can manufacture, and vice versa, so that the brain and the immune system are always talking to one another.

So, in short, we have one system. The science that studies it is called psychoneuroimmunology. And scientifically, it's not even controversial, but it's completely lacking from medical practice.


Top