Welcome to Sott.net
Thu, 28 May 2020
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit
Map

Butterfly

Meditation Better Than Morphine?

Meditation illustration
New research illustrates how meditation reduces pain.

Meditation produces powerful pain-relieving effects in the brain, according to new research published in the April 6 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.

"This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation," said Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., lead author of the study and post-doctoral research fellow at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Comment: To discover the many benefits of meditation for yourself, visit the Éiriú Eolas breathing and meditation programme HERE.


Heart - Black

The Darkest Secret

Mairilyn Van derbur
© People Magazine
Former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur Bravely Shares Her Difficult Past. Behind the Facade of a 'Perfect' Family, Her Father Committed An Unspeakable Crime: Incest.

"My father was a handsome, intelligent man," recalls Marilyn Van Derbur. "He served as president of the Denver Area Boy Scout Council and helped establish Denver's Cleo Wallace Village for Handicapped Children. But there was another - secret - side to him. From the time I was 5 until I was 18 and moved away to college, my father sexually violated me."

Even in an age when public confessions are commonplace, Marilyn Van Derbur's has the power to shock. The crime is repulsive almost beyond words; the people involved, as in a Greek tragedy, are larger than life. Francis S. Van Derbur, the father, was a millionaire socialite and a pillar of the Denver community; Marilyn, the youngest of his four daughters, was a golden-haired beauty, a straight-A student and an AAU swimming champ. In 1957, when she was 20, her predecessor, Marian Ann McKnight, would crown her Miss America in Atlantic City.

"We had all the trappings of a perfect family, " Marilyn says now. "Wealth, social status, a handsome father and lovely mother." So perfect was the illusion, in fact, that Marilyn completely repressed any knowledge of sexual violation by her father until she was 24, when D.D. Harvey, former youth minister at her Presbyterian church in Denver, broke down her guard. She shared her painful secret with her husband-to-be, attorney Larry Atler, now 56, and with her eldest sister, Gwen, 59, who revealed that she too had been victimized. (Sisters Nancy, 55, and Valerie, 57, have not commented.) Still, Marilyn's experience continued to haunt her, causing her emotionally rooted bouts of lethargy, physical paralysis and finally an anxiety so crushing that in 1984 her career as a motivational speaker came to a complete halt.

Since then, with the help of a number of therapists, she has found the courage to talk with her mother, Gwendolyn, about the incest and, more recently, with the world. On May 8, after two years of working with Denver's Kempe National Center for Prevention and Treatment for Child Abuse and Neglect, Marilyn told an audience of 35 the grimly inspiring story of what she calls "the greatest accomplishment of my life - surviving incest." Her address was frequently interrupted by applause. At her luxurious Denver ranch-style house, she talked to correspondent Vickie Bane about her struggle to survive.

Comment: Yet Gwendolyn Van Derbur allowed her daughters' lives to be ruined to keep her illusions of her "Adonis" and her marriage intact. That for years and years her husband was sexually abusing her daughters under the same roof and her being completely unaware of it says a lot about her wish to not see reality and the deep levels of denial into which she threw herself.


People

Higher levels of social activity decrease the risk of cognitive decline

Image
© Unknown
If you want to keep your brain healthy, it turns out that visiting friends, attending parties, and even going to church might be just as good for you as crossword puzzles.

According to research conducted at Rush University Medical Center, frequent social activity may help to prevent or delay cognitive decline in old age. The study has just been posted online in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.

The researchers were especially careful in their analysis to try to rule out the possibility that cognitive decline precedes, or causes, social isolation, and not the reverse.

"It's logical to think that when someone's cognitive abilities break down, they are less likely to go out and meet friends, enjoy a camping trip, or participate in community clubs. If memory and thinking capabilities fail, socializing becomes difficult," said lead researcher Bryan James, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the epidemiology of aging and dementia in the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center. "But our findings suggest that social inactivity itself leads to cognitive impairments."

The study included 1,138 older adults with a mean age of 80 who are participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, an ongoing longitudinal study of common chronic conditions of aging. They each underwent yearly evaluations that included a medical history and neuropsychological tests.

Syringe

Risk of accelerated aging seen in PTSD patients with childhood trauma

stress depression
Adults with post-traumatic stress disorder and a history of childhood trauma had significantly shorter telomere length than those with PTSD but without childhood trauma, in a study by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco.

Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes that cap the ends of chromosomes and protect them from damage and mutations. Short telomere length is associated with an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as early death.

For the study, published in the online Articles in Press section of Biological Psychiatry, the authors collected DNA samples from 43 adults with PTSD and 47 matched participants without PTSD. Initial analysis showed that on average, the subjects with PTSD had shorter telomere length than those without.

"This was striking to us, because the subjects were relatively young, with an average age of 30, and in good physical health," said lead author Aoife O'Donovan, PhD, a researcher in psychiatry at SFVAMC and UCSF. "Telomere length was significantly shorter than we might expect in such a group."

The authors then looked at incidence of severe childhood trauma, including neglect, family violence, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. They found that, among the subjects with PTSD, the more childhood trauma a subject had experienced, the higher the risk of shorter telomere length. "People who had multiple categories of childhood traumas had the shortest telomere length," said O'Donovan.

Comment: PTSD has been shown to be treatable with such modalities as meditation. The Éiriú Eolas program has been shown to be highly effective in relieving the symptoms of PTSD. Find it here.


People

"Everything passes", a natural balance of good and evil: Psychologists warn that therapies based on positive emotions may not work for Asians

Image
© Unknown
Thinking happy thoughts, focusing on the good and downplaying the bad is believed to accelerate recovery from depression, bolster resilience during a crisis and improve overall mental health. But a new study by University of Washington psychologists reveals that pursuing happiness may not be beneficial across all cultures.

In a survey of college students, Asian respondents showed no relationship between positive emotions and levels of stress and depression. For European-American participants, however, the more stress and depression they felt, the fewer positive emotions they reported.

The study indicates that psychotherapies emphasizing positive emotions, which can relieve stress and depression in white populations, may not work for Asians, who make up 60 percent of the world population.

The findings have implications for helping the Japanese recover from natural disasters and subsequent nuclear crisis in March, and for Chinese coping with post-traumatic stress following the 2008 Sichuan province earthquake.

"If we are to relieve some of the trauma from the tsunami and earthquakes, we have to be careful of imparting Western therapies," said Janxin Leu, UW assistant professor of psychology. "I worry that if a therapy which relies on positive emotions and thinking is used with Asian patients, it will not be effective and may even make patients feel worse."

People

The Discontentment of Comparison: Happiest Places Have Highest Suicide Rates Says New Research

Image
© Unknown
The happiest countries and happiest U.S. states tend to have the highest suicide rates, according to research from the UK's University of Warwick, Hamilton College in New York and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

The new research paper titled "Dark Contrasts: The Paradox of High Rates of Suicide in Happy Places" has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. It uses U.S. and international data, which included first-time comparisons of a newly available random sample of 1.3 million Americans, and another on suicide decisions among an independent random sample of approximately 1 million Americans.

The research confirmed a little known and seemingly puzzling fact: many happy countries have unusually high rates of suicide. This observation has been made from time to time about individual nations, especially in the case of Denmark. This new research found that a range of nations - including: Canada, the United States, Iceland, Ireland and Switzerland, display relatively high happiness levels and yet also have high suicide rates. Nevertheless the researchers note that, because of variation in cultures and suicide-reporting conventions, such cross-country scatter plots are only suggestive. To confirm the relationship between levels of happiness and rates of suicide within a geographical area, the researchers turned to two very large data sets covering a single country, the United States.

The scientific advantage of comparing happiness and suicide rates across U.S. states is that cultural background, national institutions, language and religion are relatively constant across a single country. While still not absolutely perfect, as the States are not identical, comparing the different areas of the country gave a much more homogeneous population to examine rather than a global sample of nations.

Eye 2

Beware the Workplace Psychopath

Image
© Unknown
Workplace bullying victim ... Brodie Panlock.
The Victorian government announced plans this week to introduce a jail term of up to 10 years for workplace bullying. But until it becomes law - and probably afterwards, too - terror at the hands of the workplace psychopath will continue for many victims. Apparently, they can't be stopped. Or cured.

John Clarke is the author of Working with Monsters, which provides readers with information on how to protect themselves. I asked him whether workplace psychopaths are aware they're psychopathic.

"They wouldn't recognise themselves as a psychopath but the behaviour is always conscious and intentional," he says. "Some of the ones I've spoken to don't really see why it's such a big issue because they see it more as a strategy they need to use to survive. It's survival of the fittest."

Info

Childhood Music Lessons May Provide Lifelong Boost In Brain Functioning

Piano lessons
© Unknown

Those childhood music lessons could pay off decades later - even for those who no longer play an instrument by keeping the mind sharper as people age, according to a preliminary study published by the American Psychological Association.

The study recruited 70 healthy adults age 60 to 83 who were divided into groups based on their levels of musical experience. The musicians performed better on several cognitive tests than individuals who had never studied an instrument or learned how to read music. The research findings were published online in the APA journal Neuropsychology.

"Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of aging," said lead researcher Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, PhD. "Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older."

While much research has been done on the cognitive benefits of musical activity by children, this is the first study to examine whether those benefits can extend across a lifetime, said Hanna-Pladdy, a clinical neuropsychologist who conducted the study with cognitive psychologist Alicia MacKay, PhD, at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Info

Do We Have a Soul? A Scientific Answer

Does your cat or dog have a soul? What about a flea?

In the last century, science has undergone several revolutions, with profound implications for answering this ancient spiritual question.

Traditionally, scientists speak of the soul in a materialistic context, treating it as a poetic synonym for the mind. Everything knowable about the "soul" can be learned by studying the functioning of the human brain. In their view, neuroscience is the only branch of scientific study relevant to one's understanding of the soul. The soul is dismissed as an object of human belief, or reduced to a psychological concept that shapes our cognition and understanding of the observable natural world. The terms "life" and "death" are thus nothing more than the common concepts of "biological life" and "biological death."

Of course, in most spiritual and religious traditions, a soul is viewed as emphatically more definitive than the scientific concept. It is considered the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing, and is said to be immortal and transcendent of material existence.

The current scientific paradigm doesn't recognize this spiritual dimension of life. The animating principle in humans and other animals are the laws of physics. As I sit here in my office, surrounded by piles of scientific books and journal articles, I cannot find any reference to the soul or spirit, or any notion of an immaterial, eternal essence that occupies our being. Indeed, a soul has never been seen under an electron microscope, nor spun in the laboratory in a test tube or ultra-centrifuge. According to these books, nothing appears to survive the human body after death.

While neuroscience has made tremendous progress illuminating the functioning of the brain, why we have a subjective experience remains mysterious. The problem of the soul lies exactly here, in understanding the nature of the self, the "I" in existence that feels and lives life. But this isn't just a problem for biology and cognitive science, but for the whole of Western natural philosophy itself.

What we have to understand is that our current worldview −- the world of objectivity and naïve realism -- is beginning to show fatal cracks. Of course, this will not surprise many of the philosophers and other readers who, contemplating the works of men such as Plato, Socrates and Kant, and of Buddha and other great spiritual teachers, kept wondering about the relationship between the universe and the mind of man.

Family

Insane Psychiatrists Redefining Process of Mourning - Proposal Would Label Grief a Mental Disorder

Grief
© Unknown
"This is a disaster," says Frances, a renowned U.S. psychiatrist who chaired the task force that wrote the current edition of the DSM

Human grief could soon be diagnosed as a mental disorder under a proposal critics fear could lead to mood-altering pills being pushed for "mourning."

Psychiatrists charged with revising the official "bible" of mental illness are recommending changes that would make it easier for doctors to diagnose major depression in the newly bereaved.

Instead of having to wait months, the diagnosis could be made two weeks after the loss of a loved one.

The current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - an influential tome used the world over - excludes people who have recently suffered a loss from being diagnosed with a major depressive disorder unless his or her symptoms persist beyond two months. It's known as the "grief exclusion," the theory being that "normal" grief shouldn't be labelled a mental disorder.

But in what critics have called a potentially disastrous suggestion tucked among the proposed changes to the manual, "grief exclusion" would be eliminated from the DSM.