Science of the Spirit

Black Cat

Control under the guise of healing! Military plans to test brain implants to fight mental disorders

head pain
© Kamira / Shutterstock

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is launching a $70 million program to help military personnel with psychiatric disorders using electronic devices implanted in the brain.

The goal of the five-year program is to develop new ways of treating problems including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, all of which are common among service members who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"We've seen far too many times where military personnel have neuropsychiatric disorders and there's very few options," says Justin Sanchez, a program manager at DARPA.

Comment: Don't be fooled that DARPA is doing this research for the well-being and care of individuals in the military dealing with mental health issues. This would seem to be just be a cover for possible experimentation on people in order to learn more about how to control individuals and to create the ultimate soldier. A soldier when going against what is right and just starts to break down would get an implant in order to bypass what makes them human. They become a human machine fighting toward the ends of the human predator, psychopaths.


How cynical personality traits affect dementia risk

© Daniela Vladimirova
Cynicism has already been linked with worse physical health, but what is it doing to the brain?
People with high levels of cynicism are more likely to develop dementia, according to a new study published in the medical journal Neurology (Neuvonen et al., 2014).

It's already been found that those who believe others are mainly motivated by selfish concerns - the definition of cynical distrust - have worse physical health; for example, cynicism has been linked to heart disease.

Now you can add dementia to the list.

In the study, conducted in Finland, 1,449 people were given tests of their cynicism that included questions like:
  • "I think most people would lie to get ahead."
  • "It is safer to trust nobody."
  • "Most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it."
The more people endorsed these statements, the stronger their cynical distrust was deemed to be.
Heart - Black

Why love literally hurts

Psychologists have discovered the neural link between social and physical pain

© Up by Disney
Carl grieves the loss of his wife.
Most of us see the connection between social and physical pain as a figurative one. We agree that "love hurts," but we don't think it hurts the way that, say, being kicked in the shin hurts. At the same time, life often presents a compelling argument that the two types of pain share a common source. Old couples frequently make the news because they can't physically survive without one another. In one example from early 2012, Marjorie and James Landis of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, who'd been married for 65 years, died just 88 minutes apart.

Truth is you don't have to be a sentimentalist to believe in broken hearts - being a subscriber to the New England Journal of Medicine will do. A few years ago a group of doctors at Johns Hopkins University reported a rare but lethal heart condition caused by acute emotional distress. The problem is technically known as "stress cardiomyopathy," but the press likes to call it "broken heart syndrome," and medical professionals don't object to the nickname.

Behavioral science is catching up with the anecdotes, too. In the past few years, psychology researchers have found a good deal of literal truth embedded in the metaphorical phrases comparing love to pain. Neuroimaging studies have shown that brain regions involved in processing physical pain overlap considerably with those tied to social anguish. The connection is so strong that traditional bodily painkillers seem capable of relieving our emotional wounds. Love may actually hurt, like hurt hurt, after all.

Comment: For more information on how lack of social support and isolation affects us, see these Sott links:

Social isolation affects DNA

How Early Social Deprivation Impairs Long-Term Cognitive Function


How a brain treatment for OCD turned a man into a fanatic for Johnny Cash

© AP
Johnny Cash in 1977
Here's a title you can't help but read, even though it's in a highly technical scholarly journal: "A case of musical preference for Johnny Cash following deep brain stimulation of the nucleus accumbens."

It's published in the May issue of Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience.

And it's one of the more unusual tales recently from the field of neuroscience, already famous for stories so fantastic that not even the authors can fully explain them, which is the case here.

Here's what happened: A patient identified only as "Mr. B," age 59, was referred to doctors at a hospital in the Netherlands for treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) from which he had suffered for 46 years.

He had made little or no progress with conventional treatment. So, in 2006, he was treated with deep brain stimulation (DBS), better known for making life easier for patients with Parkinson's disease, but also used for OCD.
Eye 1

Matt Drudge just deleted all his tweets - except one

Internet news mogul Matt Drudge displayed some unusual behavior on Twitter Saturday night, commenting on today's digital culture before deleting all of his tweets.

The Drudge Report founder tweeted that "in this manic Digital Age" it is "vital" for individuals to "constantly" clear the mind.
In this manic Digital Age... It's vital... To clear your mind... Constantly...
- MATT DRUDGE (@DRUDGE) May 18, 2014

Comment: Perhaps Mr Drudge is starting to realize how clouded his mind was. We all need a break occasionally.


Social conformity effects lasts up to 3 days

© flickr/Eduard V. Kurganov
People will deny their own senses to fit in with others, but the effect fades with time.

The effect of social pressure lasts around three days after a person is away from the group, new research suggests. It's well-known that people's opinions are strongly influenced by others around them.

The classic study, conducted in the 1950s by Solomon Asch, found that people will even deny the evidence of their own senses in order to conform (see: Conforming to the Norm).

But the new Chinese study looked at the time limits for conformity after a person has left a group (Huang et al., 2014).

Children benefit from mindfulness just as much as adults

In the growing conversation around mindfulness, we're constantly hearing about meditation in the workplace and tech CEOs who swear by the practice. But less attention is being paid to the quietly growing movement for mindfulness in the family, and the use of meditation to optimize the health, well-being and happiness of children.

It's not just adults that can stand to benefit from cultivating a focused awareness on the present moment. Research is beginning to shed light on the power of mindfulness as an intervention for a number of behavioral challenges that children face. We're also starting to recognize that mindfulness practices could be beneficial for children for the same reasons it helps adults, contributing to reduced stress, improved sleep quality and heightened focus.

At increasingly younger ages, kids are facing higher levels of stress, and it may be taking a significant toll on their health. Stressful events in childhood can increase the risk of developing health problems as an adult, but the impact may hit much earlier. A recent University of Florida study found that stressful events can impact a child's health and well-being almost immediately, and can contribute to the development of physical and mental health problems and learning disabilities.

Comment: Mindfulness and Meditation are tools that can regulate and reduce stress levels in addition to increasing relaxation in the body, mind and spirit. A regular practice can generate a sense calmness, presence and compassion in the practitioner. As the author writes, recent studies have shown school mindfulness programs to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety among children, listed below are a two examples of mindfulness and meditation and it's beneficial application among children:
  • 'Mindfulness' Meditation Being Used in Hospitals and Schools
To learn more about the benefits of meditation visit the Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program. Éiriú Eolas is the modern revival of an ancient breathing and meditation program.


Sound and vision: Visual cortex processes auditory information, too

© Antonioguillem / Fotolia
Researchers suggest that auditory input enables the visual system to predict incoming information and could confer a survival advantage.
"Scientists studying brain process involved in sight have found the visual cortex also uses information gleaned from the ears as well as the eyes when viewing the world.

They suggest this auditory input enables the visual system to predict incoming information and could confer a survival advantage.

Professor Lars Muckli, of the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow, who led the research, said: "Sounds create visual imagery, mental images, and automatic projections.

So, for example, if you are in a street and you hear the sound of an approaching motorbike, you expect to see a motorbike coming around the corner. If it turned out to be a horse, you'd be very surprised."

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, involved conducting five different experiments using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to examine the activity in the early visual cortex in 10 volunteer subjects.

In one experiment they asked the blindfolded volunteers to listen to three different natural sounds -- birdsong, traffic noise and a talking crowd.

Using a special algorithm that can identify unique patterns in brain activity, the researchers were able to discriminate between the different sounds being processed in early visual cortex activity.

Psychomotor Therapy: A revolutionary approach to treating PTSD?

Bessel van der Kolk
© Matthew Woodson
Bessel van der Kolk wants to change the way we heal a traumatized mind — by starting with the body
Bessel van der Kolk sat cross-legged on an oversize pillow in the center of a smallish room overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur. He wore khaki pants, a blue fleece zip-up and square wire-rimmed glasses. His feet were bare. It was the third day of his workshop, "Trauma Memory and Recovery of the Self," and 30 or so workshop participants - all of them trauma victims or trauma therapists - lined the room's perimeter. They, too, sat barefoot on cushy pillows, eyeing van der Kolk, notebooks in hand. For two days, they had listened to his lectures on the social history, neurobiology and clinical realities of post-traumatic stress disorder and its lesser-known sibling, complex trauma. Now, finally, he was about to demonstrate an actual therapeutic technique, and his gaze was fixed on the subject of his experiment: a 36-year-old Iraq war veteran named Eugene, who sat directly across from van der Kolk, looking mournful and expectant.

Van der Kolk began as he often does, with a personal anecdote. "My mother was very unnurturing and unloving," he said. "But I have a full memory and a complete sense of what it is like to be loved and nurtured by her." That's because, he explained, he had done the very exercise that we were about to try on Eugene. Here's how it would work: Eugene would recreate the trauma that haunted him most by calling on people in the room to play certain roles. He would confront those people - with his anger, sorrow, remorse and confusion - and they would respond in character, apologizing, forgiving or validating his feelings as needed. By projecting his "inner world" into three-dimensional space, Eugene would be able to rewrite his troubled history more thoroughly than other forms of role-play therapy might allow. If the experiment succeeded, the bad memories would be supplemented with an alternative narrative - one that provided feelings of acceptance or forgiveness or love.

The exercise, which van der Kolk calls a "structure" but which is also known as psychomotor therapy, was developed by Albert Pesso, a dancer who studied with Martha Graham. He taught it to van der Kolk about two decades ago. Though it has never been tested in a controlled study, van der Kolk says he has had some success with it in workshops like this one. He likes to try it whenever he has a small group and a willing volunteer.

Comment: If psychomotor therapy doesn't work for you, try Peter Levine's Somatic Experiencing. Also adding Éiriú Eolas in your daily practice, it will help relieve you from stress and gently let go of repressed emotions in the body.


Stressed out? Take a hike! No, Really

For the first decade that I suffered from severe and almost daily migraines, I didn't consider them a gift. Yet, in a way - a very painful one - they are.

My headaches began setting me apart from the rest of society at the age of 15. Back in 1996, my brother got a Nintendo 64. Eager to try it out, I begged him to give me a turn. But it was unmistakable - watching the screen gave me headaches.

Everyone who gets migraines has a different "trigger" - a food, a smell, lack of sleep. My triggers are all visual and luminescent: looking at fluorescent lights, TV, and movies. That keeps me out of gyms, some stores and restaurants, and even some jobs.

In 2006, after trying 20 medications with limited success, my doctor gave me the prescription I'd needed all along. "Unless you exercise outdoors for 30 minutes a day, there is no pill I can give you that will help."