Science of the Spirit
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Pills

New drug can erase memories

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© filterforge/Flickr.
Researchers reported that an HDAC2 inhibitor could remove traumatic memories from rats.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental condition often caused by a traumatic experience that involves symptoms such as severe anxiety. One of the most common treatment options for PTSD is psychotherapy, which reenacts the traumatic experience for the patient in a safe and controlled environment. Now, according to a new study, researchers identified a drug that has the potential to improve the treatment of PTSD.

For this study, neuroscientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) examined the effects of a type of drug called an HDAC2 inhibitor. This type of drug can make the brain more malleable. The researchers found that when rats were given the HDAC2 inhibitor, the rats' traumatic memories could be removed. The researchers believe that if this drug were to be given to patients who did not respond well to psychotherapy, the effects of therapy would ideally be improved.

Eye 1

We all have three eyes - one of them is inside the head

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© Shutterstock
A woman having a massage, with the masseuse working on a chakra long held by Eastern philosophies to have great spiritual power and also to be related to the pineal body in the brain.
The pineal gland in the human brain has the structure of an eye. It has cells that act as light receptors, as the retina does. It has a structure comparable to the vitreous - a gel-like substance between the retina and lens of the eye. It has a structure similar to a lens.

Scientists are still learning much about the pineal body, known in both Eastern spiritualism and Western philosophy as the seat of human consciousness. A bundle of nerve fibers connects it to the posterior commissure, another part of the brain that is not well-understood.

For many years, scientists have recognized the similarities between the pineal body and the eyes. In 1919, Frederick Tilney and Luther Fiske Warren wrote that the similarities listed above prove the pineal gland was formed to be light-sensitive and possibly to have other visual capabilities.

Bulb

There's a monkey in your mind, and his name is Trevor

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© CptnDerp, deviantart.com
'Fight your inner demons'
4 billion years of evolution is not easily overcome, but human history is littered with examples of individuals who said, "No", to their inner ape, their instincts. It can be done. The trick is to SEE it first. Then you can resist.

If you want to punch someone in the face for knocking your beer over, thy name be Trevor. If you want to punch someone because you're bored, you may as well wear a monkey suit. If you believe all the priest says and don't wanna think for yourself, it's not a coincidence that Trevor feels the same. If your heart is broken and you want your abusive ex-boyfriend or abusive ex-girlfriend back, that's Trevor messing with you.

He'll do anything, torture you if necessary, to get you to multiply (doesn't feel like that's what's going on, but Trevor's clever like that). The first step to easing a problem is admitting there IS a problem. And it's name is often "Trevor".

A comment that sums up what I was trying to say in just a few words.
"The more I learn, the more I think and reason, the weaker Trevor becomes. You can't kill Trevor, but you can become your own master."

¬ macnutz

HAL9000

Why psychopathic film villains are rarely realistic - and why it matters

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© Unknown
Norman Bates: not the typical psychopath

Many of film's most memorable villains, from Tony Camonte in Scarface (1932) to Norman Bates in Psycho (1960) to Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men (2007), have been portrayed as psychopaths.

But just how clinically realistic are those portrayals?

Not very - with a handful of exceptions, according to a paper published recently in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

This finding is of interest to more than just film buffs. Other research has shown that films exert a strong influence on people's perceptions of mental illness.

And those perceptions are often wrong. A study published earlier this year found that almost half of respondents to two surveys taken last January believed that people with a serious mental illness are more dangerous than members of the general population. In reality, however, less than 5 percent of individuals with a serious mental illness become violent. They are much more likely, in fact, to be the victim of a violent crime.

Bug

Psychopaths in power: The Parasite on the Human Super-organism

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I was reading another devastating commentary by American author Chris Hedges on the overbearing tyranny of the State, and it got me to thinking about this popular notion of "rising up against" oppressors. Hedges' analysis is on target, but I feel that his conclusion that we must "tear it down" in order to escape it is lacking something important.

To 'rise up against our oppressors', to 'take back the country', and to 'overthrow the ruling class' assumes that they are 'up there' to begin with. Yes, in many ways they are. Through their domination of industry, government, media, education and so on, they invariably influence - control even - just about everything material in our world; they possess most of the wealth, work in high-rise buildings, live in elevated suburbs and generally look down from their rarefied vantage point on the masses slumming it out below.

But when it comes to the important things - moral character, worldly experience, creative abilities, and basic intelligence - what do they really possess? Few, if any of these things. In fact, I think we can make the case that, psychologically-speaking, they are actually pretty far 'down there' on the scale of haves and have-nots.

Ok, so they certainly set no moral example to follow. Well, what then do we need the State for? Standard political theory teaches that the State is the final arbiter of contracts between people, without which there would be lawless chaos. Left unto themselves, claimed schizoids like Thomas Hobbes, life for humans would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." I'm not so sure. In fact, I'm beginning to think it's the other way around: life is brutish for most because of the State.

Magnify

Scientists Call For Open, Informed Study of Psi Effects and Consciousness

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Is there safety in numbers when it comes to science? Some 90 scientists and academics have co-signed a letter, written by Etzel Cardeña of Lund University and published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, that calls for more mainstream support of open and honest investigation of parapsychological topics, and related mysteries of human consciousness.

Hourglass

The science behind reincarnation - The research of Dr Jim Tucker

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It's been almost seven years since the death of Dr. Ian Stevenson, well-known for his extensive and detailed research into apparent cases of reincarnation. Stevenson was very much the 'public face' of this research strand, but one of his proteges at the University of Virginia, Dr. Jim Tucker, has also spent many years investigating the same topic, and has recently released a new book on his own research titled Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives. Tucker was recently on NPR discussing his work, for those interested in taking a listen [transcript below]:


As might be expected, Tucker's seven-minute appearance on NPR has engendered a comments thread with more than 230 entries, with no shortage of bickering between people horrified that NPR would cover such an 'unscientific' topic and others defending the discussion - reminiscent of last year's blow-up after the University of Virginia's own magazine printed a piece on his reincarnation research.

Comment: For more information see Psychiatrist investigates children's claims of past lives


Smiley

Comedians may be psychotic sez Oxford Psychology Prof

© Rex/ITV
Comedian Spike Milligan, whose struggle with bipolar disorder is cited in the new study.
Comedians are able to make people laugh because they often display characteristics usually found in people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, research published on Thursday claims.

Their talent to amuse people lies in having unusual personalities and displaying what researchers say are high levels of psychotic characteristics, according to findings which appear to support the widely held belief of a link between madness and creativity.

The results are based on a study of how 523 comedians from the UK, USA and Australia described their own personalities and beliefs when they filled in a questionnaire measuring psychotic traits in people who are not troubled by mental illness.

"The creative elements needed to produce humour are strikingly similar to those characterising the cognitive style of people with psychosis - both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder," said Professor Gordon Claridge from Oxford University's department of experimental psychology. He is also one of the three co-authors of the findings, which are published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

People

Finding pleasure in productive activities the key to boosting self-control

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After a long, tiring day many of us simply give in to the urge to grab a favourite unhealthy snack and avoid tackling obligatory tasks. But we don't have to.

A new study from the University of Toronto Scarborough shows that while people have a harder time controlling themselves when tired, it doesn't mean they've exhausted all of their willpower. The key to boosting self-control is finding pleasure in the necessary activities of life.

"When people are fatigued they experience a change in motivational priorities such that they are less willing to work for the things they feel obliged to do and more willing to work for things they like to do," says Michael Inzlicht, professor in the Department of Psychology at UTSC and affiliate faculty at U of T's School of Public Policy and Governance.

Hearts

Meditation transforms roughest San Francisco schools

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© Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle
Barry Zito, David Lynch, Russell Brand meditate with students during Quiet Time at Burton High.
At first glance, Quiet Time - a stress reduction strategy used in several San Francisco middle and high schools, as well as in scattered schools around the Bay Area - looks like something out of the om-chanting 1960s. Twice daily, a gong sounds in the classroom and rowdy adolescents, who normally can't sit still for 10 seconds, shut their eyes and try to clear their minds. I've spent lots of time in urban schools and have never seen anything like it.

This practice - meditation rebranded - deserves serious attention from parents and policymakers. An impressive array of studies shows that integrating meditation into a school's daily routine can markedly improve the lives of students. If San Francisco schools Superintendent Richard Carranza has his way, Quiet Time could well spread citywide.

What's happening at Visitacion Valley Middle School, which in 2007 became the first public school nationwide to adopt the program, shows why the superintendent is so enthusiastic. In this neighborhood, gunfire is as common as birdsong - nine shootings have been recorded in the past month - and most students know someone who's been shot or did the shooting. Murders are so frequent that the school employs a full-time grief counselor.

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