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Fri, 07 May 2021
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Is Dreaming a Form of Survival?

© John Anster Fitzgerald
The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of (1858), painted by John Anster Fitzgerald.
Dreaming could have begun as a form of survival in the wild, according to evolutionary psychologists. Some people credit their dreams for helping solve real-life problems.

No one really knows what dreams are for. But evolutionary psychologists theorize that humans started dreaming to promote survival by "rehearsing" adaptive responses to challenges.

"In prehistory it was, 'How do I get away from saber-toothed tigers?'" says Sandy Ginsberg, an Encino psychotherapist who leads a weekly dream group and says she's had, and heard, her own share of recession dreams of late. "We're still dreaming about how to survive."

About two-thirds of people surveyed say they've solved a practical problem in dreams, adds Deirdre Barrett, a clinical psychologist who teaches at Harvard Medical School - perhaps because "out of the box" solutions, shown visually, can eclipse the closed circles in which our logical minds travel.

Among such people are some eminent scientists who have credited breakthroughs to the options they saw in dreams.


Is Your Pet Psychic?

© Cute-Pets.net
I wanna be a ballerina when I grow up!

Lassie could always sense when Timmy was in trouble. Black Beauty knew the bridge was out.

Now two-thirds of Ameri­can pet owners said they can relate -- their pets have a sixth sense about bad weath­er. Forty-three percent say the same about bad news, ac­cording to an Associated Press-Petside.com poll.

Seventy-two percent of dog owners said they've got­ten weather warnings from their pets, compared with 66 percent of cat owners.

For bad news, 47 percent of dog owners and 41 percent of cat owners said they've been alerted by their pets, according to the poll con­ducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Com­munications.

Jim Fulstone said his farm dog, a pomeranian named Austin, gives warn­ings about 15 minutes before earthquakes and 45 minutes before thunderstorms.

"He'll run around in cir­cles and look at you. If you sit down, he'll sit down with you. If you are outside, he will come up to you, run around, look off, sniff your leg, just kind of be there. He's a lot more active," said Fulstone, 65, of Wellington, Nevada. "For the quakes, he was very alert and started bark­ing and doing his run-around routine."

The reason? Hard to know.


Birth of a Moral Compass, Even for Science

© Dick DeMarsico/New York World-Telegram
1929: Martin Luther King Jr. is born. Though his work for civil rights and peace will become widely known, he will also deliver an important warning on the perils of technological amorality.

King delivered a lecture at the University of Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 11, 1964, the day after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. He argued that progress in science and technology has not been equaled by "moral progress" - instead, humanity is suffering from a "moral and spiritual lag."

At 35, King was then the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was recognized for using nonviolent methods, including civil disobedience and the boycott (as well as the power of his oratory), to fight racial segregation and advance the civil rights movement in the United States.

2 + 2 = 4

Ramifications of Incest

© lodolcefamilylaw.com
Dr Kluft is in private practice of psychiatry and psychoanalysis in Bala Cynwyd, Pa, and is clinical professor of psychiatry at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. He has published extensively in the areas of trauma, dissociation, and hypnosis. He reports no conflicts of interest concerning the subject matter of this article

Few subjects in psychiatry elicit more profound, visceral, and polarized reactions than incest - the occurrence of sexual behaviors between closely related individuals - behaviors that violate society's most sacred and guarded taboos. Furthermore, few circumstances confront the psychiatrist with more complex, painful, and potentially problematic clinical dilemmas and challenges than the treatment of the incest victim and/or the management of situations in which incest has been suspected or alleged by one member of a family, and denied, often with both pain and outrage, by the accused and/or other members of that family.

The study of incest as an actual phenomenon rather than as a fantasy is a relatively recent event. In 1975, an authoritative text proclaimed that the incidence of father-daughter incest in the United States was 1 in a million families.1 Crucial contributions by feminist authors and traumatologists rapidly sensitized the profession to the frequency and importance of incest and its association with psychopathology.2-4 By 1986, Russell5 wrote that some form of father-daughter incestuous activity, ranging from minimal to brutal and aggressive, was found in approximately 1 in 20 families that included daughters and their natural fathers, and 1 in 7 families in which daughters resided with a stepfather. By the early 1990s, feminists, traumatologists, and contributors from the emerging study of dissociative disorders were engaged in a vigorous study of incest and the treatment of incest victims.

However, during this time, there emerged a trend of calling into question the recollections of those who reported incestuous abuse, mounting militant defenses of accused perpetrators. The rising number of incest accusations was attributed to faulty practices on the part of therapists who worked with patients who recalled incest, especially if the recollections had been absent from memory for some time and emerged either in the context of therapy or with the patient's exposure to certain media, books, and practices. Clinicians were accused of suggesting abuse that had never occurred and of causing their patients' memories to be contaminated with information and/or ideas that had planted erroneous ideas in their minds. Certain books and media were accused of encouraging false reports.


Perceived Emotions Can Intensify a Quarrel Between Lovers

© unknown
Within any romantic relationship, conflicts inevitably occur. And, as most of us are well aware, the fighting evokes intense emotions.

New research now suggests that how each person perceives the other partner's emotion during a conflict greatly influences different types of thoughts, feelings and reactions in themselves.

Baylor University's Keith Sanford, Ph.D., and his research team studied 105 college students in romantic relationships communicating through different arguments over an eight-week period.

Sanford focused on how emotion changed within each person across episodes of relationship conflict. He and his colleagues found demonstrated links between different types of emotion, different types of underlying concern, and different types of perceived partner emotion.


Writing About Worries Eases Anxiety and Improves Test Performance

© Unknown
Students can combat test anxiety and improve performance by writing about their worries immediately before the exam begins, according to a University of Chicago study published Friday in the journal Science.

Researchers found that students who were prone to test anxiety improved their high-stakes test scores by nearly one grade point after they were given 10 minutes to write about what was causing them fear, according to the article, "Writing about Testing Boosts Exam Performance in the Classroom." The article appears in the Jan. 14 issue of Science and is based on research supported by the National Science Foundation.

Comment: Another excellent way to calm the nervous system when under stress is to learn to relax and regulate your breathing. To learn how easy and effective it is visit the Éiriú Eolas website at EEbreathe.com


Depth of the Kindness Hormone Appears to Know Some Bounds

© unk
Oxytocin has been described as the hormone of love. This tiny chemical, released from the hypothalamus region of the brain, gives rat mothers the urge to nurse their pups, keeps male prairie voles monogamous and, even more remarkable, makes people trust each other more.

Yes, you knew there had to be a catch. As oxytocin comes into sharper focus, its social radius of action turns out to have definite limits. The love and trust it promotes are not toward the world in general, just toward a person's in-group. Oxytocin turns out to be the hormone of the clan, not of universal brotherhood. Psychologists trying to specify its role have now concluded it is the agent of ethnocentrism.

A principal author of the new take on oxytocin is Carsten K. W. De Dreu, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam. Reading the growing literature on the warm and cuddly effects of oxytocin, he decided on evolutionary principles that no one who placed unbounded trust in others could survive. Thus there must be limits on oxytocin's ability to induce trust, he assumed, and he set out to define them.

Evil Rays

Scientific Evidence for Psychic Phenomena Finally?

© n/a
New studies show people can anticipate future events.

In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, the White Queen tells Alice that in her land, "memory works both ways." Not only can the Queen remember things from the past, but she also remembers "things that happened the week after next." Alice attempts to argue with the Queen, stating "I'm sure mine only works one way...I can't remember things before they happen." The Queen replies, "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards."

How much better would our lives be if we could live in the White Queen's kingdom, where ours memory would work backwards and forewords? For instance, in such a world, you could take an exam and then study for it afterwards to make sure you performed well in the past. Well, the good news is that according to a recent series of scientific studies by Daryl Bem, you already live in that world!

Dr. Bem, a social psychologist at Cornell University, conducted a series of studies that will soon be published in one of the most prestigious psychology journals (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology). Across nine experiments, Bem examined the idea that our brain has the ability to not only reflect on past experiences, but also anticipate future experiences. This ability for the brain to "see into the future" is often referred to as psi phenomena.

Comment: Suggested Reading:

Bem, D. J. (in press) "Feeling the Future: Experimental evidence for anomalous retroactive influences on cognition and affect." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. [To read an early copy of this article, visit Dr. Bem's website]


Remembrances of Lives Past

© Dustin Leader/The New York Times
Peter Bostock and his wife, Jo-Anne, of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He believes they loved each other in past lives working on an estate in 1880s Derbyshire, England.
"The popular purveyors of reincarnation belief these days are not monks or theologians, but therapists - intermediaries between science and religion who authenticate irrational belief." writes Lisa Miller in her New York Times article on how belief in reincarnation has gone mainstream and can now be found "On the fringes of legitimate science, [where] some researchers persist in studying consciousness and its durability beyond the body."

In one of his past lives, Dr. Paul DeBell believes, he was a caveman. The gray-haired Cornell-trained psychiatrist has a gentle, serious manner, and his appearance, together with the generic shrink décor of his office - leather couch, granite-topped coffee table - makes this pronouncement seem particularly jarring. In that earlier incarnation, "I was going along, going along, going along, and I got eaten," said Dr. DeBell, who has a private practice on the Upper East Side where he specializes in hypnotizing those hoping to retrieve memories of past lives. Dr. DeBell likes to reflect on how previous lives can alter one's sense of self. He, for example, is more than a psychiatrist in 21st-century Manhattan; he believes he is an eternal soul who also inhabited the body of a Tibetan monk and a conscientious German who refused to betray his Jewish neighbors in the Holocaust.

Belief in reincarnation, he said, "allows you to experience history as yours. It gives you a different sense of what it means to be human."


Emotional Stress Can Change Brain Function

© iStockphoto
Research conducted by Iaroslav Savtchouk, a graduate student, and S. June Liu, PhD, Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, has shown that a single exposure to acute stress affected information processing in the cerebellum -- the area of the brain responsible for motor control and movement coordination and also involved in learning and memory formation.

The work is published in the January 12, 2011 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

The researchers found that a five-minute exposure to the odor of a predator produced the insertion of receptors containing GluR2 at the connections (synapses) between nerve cells in the brain. GluR2 is a subunit of a receptor in the central nervous system that regulates the transfer of electrical impulses between nerve cells, or neurons. The presence of GluR2 changed electrical currents in the cerebellum in a way that increased activity and altered the output of the cerebellar circuit in the brains of mice.

Our ability to learn from experience and to adapt to our environment depends upon synaptic plasticity -- the ability of a neuron or synapse to change its internal parameters in response to its history. A change in the GluR2 receptor subunit has been observed both during normal learning and memory as well as during many pathological processes, including drug addiction, stress, epilepsy, and ischemic stroke. However, the effect of this change on neuronal function is not fully understood.