Science of the Spirit


Ever wonder how blind people dream?

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Ever wonder how blind people dream? Though some can dream visually, most of them use their other senses, namely hearing and touch.

A new study, published in the journal Sleep Medicine, shows that being blind certainly alters how one dreams. For the study, researchers observed 11 congenially blind, 14 late blind, and 25 sighted control participants over the course of four weeks. Every morning, participants completed surveys in relation to sensory construction of the dream, its emotional and thematic content, and the possible occurrence of nightmares. Scientists also tested participants' ability to produce visual images during waking cognition, sleep quality, and depression and anxiety levels.

Overall, the blind heard sounds and voices more than they saw anything in their dreams. The late-blind group, however, did experience some visual dreaming. All blind participants were also about four times more likely to have nightmares. Although the scientists didn't know why, they concluded that the blind might feel more threatened than other non-blind people.

Gut Feelings: Listen to your intuition

Have you ever been in a situation where your "gut feeling" told you one thing, but your rational mind said another? If you went with your brain rather than your intuition, there's a good chance you ended up regretting your decision. Your intuition is the subconscious leader that many people fail to give proper respect to. But learning to listen to this internal compass could help you make better decisions and live a more fulfilling life.
"I define intuition as the subtle knowing without ever having any idea why you know it," explains Sophy Burnham, bestselling author of The Art of Intuition, to The Huffington Post. "It's different from thinking, it's different from logic or analysis ... It's a knowing without knowing."
It's unconscious reasoning, the guidance that compels you to turn left when all signs may be pointing right. It's often the whisper inside that can lead you to the best results possible, if you will just learn to let go and give it a chance.

Comment: Additional information about the relationship between the gut and intuition:


Near-death experiences are overwhelmingly peaceful

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Near-death experiences often feature out-of-body episodes.
Near-death experiences are rare, but if you have one, it is likely to be overwhelmingly peaceful, however painful it might have been to get to that stage. This is the conclusion from the first study into how the cause of trauma affects the content of a near-death experience.

Such episodes are often described as emotionally rich, involving out-of-body sensations, tunnels of light and flashbacks. They most often occur when a person has been resuscitated after a traumatic event.

Steven Laureys, a neuroscientist at the University of Liège in Belgium who works with people in comas and vegetative states, started to investigate after his patients told him of their own near-death experiences. "I kept hearing these incredible stories in my consultations," he says. "Knowing how abnormal brain activity is during a cardiac arrest or trauma, it was impressive how rich these memories were. It was very intriguing."

There are several hypothesises as to how these events arise, such as lack of oxygen to the brain or damage to areas that control emotion. "So you'd expect to see differences between near-death experiences after drowning and those of other traumas," he says.

His team looked at 190 documented events that resulted from traumas including cardiac arrest, drowning, head injury and high anxiety. Using statistical analysis and a measurement called the Greyson scale to assess the number and intensity of different features of the near-death experiences, the team discovered that surprisingly, the reports shared many similarities.

Science explains why you can't remember being a baby

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Why don't you remember being a baby? How come you barely remember being a young child? How come a three-year-old can remember things that happened - but will then have no memories of that day a few years later?

These questions have puzzled people for ages. And a new paper in the journal Science provides the first evidence of a physical mechanism that might explain this odd phenomenon.

The paper, which studied rodents, concludes that the new cells that are constantly being formed in very young brains may be messing up the circuits that hold memories.

Early life stress can leave lasting impacts on the brain

stress effect on brain
© Jamie Hanson and Seth Pollak
Different forms of early life stress, such as child maltreatment or poverty, impacted the size of two important brain regions: the hippocampus (shown in red) and amygdala (shown in green), according to new University of Wisconsin–Madison research. Children who experienced such stress had small amygdalae and hippocampai, which was related to behavioral problems in these same individuals.
For children, stress can go a long way. A little bit provides a platform for learning, adapting and coping. But a lot of it - chronic, toxic stress like poverty, neglect and physical abuse - can have lasting negative impacts.

A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers recently showed these kinds of stressors, experienced in early life, might be changing the parts of developing children's brains responsible for learning, memory and the processing of stress and emotion. These changes may be tied to negative impacts on behavior, health, employment and even the choice of romantic partners later in life.

The study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, could be important for public policy leaders, economists and epidemiologists, among others, says study lead author and recent UW Ph.D. graduate Jamie Hanson.

Tree hugging is good for you

It has now been confirmed by science that hugging trees can beneficially affect human health by altering vibrational frequency.
tree hugging
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Hugging a tree may have gained popularity as a maligned hippy practice, but it has now been validated by science to be incredibly beneficial for both people and the planet. Contrary to popular belief, hugging - or even just being in the vicinity of - a tree can boost one's health in several ways.

In a recently published book by author Matthew Silverstone, Blinded by Science, evidence confirming trees and their healthful benefits includes their effect on mental illnesses, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), concentration levels, reaction times, depression, and the ability to alleviate headaches.

How to stop absorbing negative emotions

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Emotions such as fear, anger, frustration, and immobility are energies. And you can potentially 'catch' these energies from people without realizing it. If you tend to be an emotional sponge, it's vital to know how to avoid taking on an individual's negative emotions, or even how to deflect the free-floating negativities in crowds.

Another twist is that chronic anxiety, depression, or stress can turn you into an emotional sponge by wearing down your defenses. Suddenly, you become hyper-attuned to others, especially suffering with similar pain. That's how empathy works; we zero in on hot-button issues that are unresolved in ourselves.

From an energetic standpoint, negative emotions can originate from several sources: what you're feeling may be your own; it may be someone else's; or it may be a combination. Here is how to tell the difference and strategically bolster your positive emotions so you don't shoulder negativity that doesn't belong to you.
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Big boys don't cry BUT deep down they're more emotional than women, reports new study

They like to show a hard exterior but that emotion is just waiting to come out
* The study found that men felt twice as emotional than women when shown heart-warming video clips

* Emotions were measured by tracking physiological reactions

* Despite showing stronger emotions, men reported feeling less emotional than women

He might like you to believe he's as hard as nails, but don't be fooled by your man's tough exterior.

Enlightening new research has found that men are in fact more emotional than women.

The experiment found that when men and women watched the same heart-warming videos, it was the men who experienced stronger physiological reactions.

But true to type, when asked about their emotions, the women admitted feeling more emotional than the men did.

The research which was carried out by psychology research institute, Mindlab, and commissioned by the Royal Mail, dispels the myth that men don't experience the same range of feelings as women.

Neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis who led the study said, 'Gender stereotypes about men being stoic and women being emotional are reinforced by our day to day consumption of media and our social interactions.

Musical training improves cognitive function in math, language and executive tasks

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People with musical training make better choices and their brains process information more efficiently.
Musical training can boost the executive brain function of both adults and children, according to new research. Both the brains and behaviour of adult and child musicians were compared with non-musicians in the study by researchers at the Boston Children's Hospital. Fifteen musically trained children and 15 adult professional musicians were recruited and matched with non-musicians on a number of variables, like family income, IQ, parental education and so on.

They found that:
"Adult musicians compared to non-musicians showed enhanced performance on measures of cognitive flexibility, working memory, and verbal fluency.

Musically trained children showed enhanced performance on measures of verbal fluency and processing speed..." (Zuk et al., 2014)
Collectively these skills are known by psychologists as 'executive functioning'. High levels of executive functioning are what allow people to make good choices, effective plans and be flexible when situations change.

New way to boost self-control found

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What if by reframing the consequences of your choices, you could stay away from that tempting plate of cookies? Researchers have found it's possible.
The way the consequences of choices are presented can help people boost their self-control and delay gratification, researchers say.

These new findings could help in areas wherever delaying gratification is needed, such as diet, exercise, finance, addiction, crime and politics, scientists added.

Willpower can help people delay gratification and avoid less valuable rewards that are available immediately to get more valuable rewards later. However, using self-control to delay gratification can be exhausting, and often fails.

"I became interested in studying self-control before applying to graduate school, when I worked as a homeless outreach specialist in New York City," said lead study author Eran Magen, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

"I met a lot of people living through hard times who wanted to get better, but clearly stumbled along the way. It became very clear to me that the ability to make choices that are good for us in the long term is clearly important for a good life, not just for homeless people, but for regular people living regular lives."

As Magen pursued his doctorate, he reviewed prior studies investigating decision-making. "I noticed questions were always asked in the same format - 'Do you want X now or a bigger Y later?'" Magen said. "I felt there was something missing there. Intuition led me to explore what happened if we asked, 'Do you want to receive X now and not receive a bigger Y later, or do you want to receive a bigger Y later but not receive X now?' My intuition was that people might often choose the bigger reward later."