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Fri, 03 Feb 2023
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Science of the Spirit


Study Shows How Brain's Wiring Develops in Babies

© Reuters/Vivek Prakash
Babies lie in cots at a maternity ward in a file photo.
British scientists have shown for the first time how our brain "wiring" develops in the first few months of life and say their findings will help in the understanding of a range of brain and psychiatric disorders.

Using a new imaging technique, researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London scanned babies brains to monitor the formation of insulating layers around nerve cells.

They found that by the age of nine months, the process -- known as myelination and vital for normal brain function -- was visible in all brain areas and in some regions had developed to a near adult-like level.

"We already know that insulating myelin sheaths form the cornerstone of our neurodevelopment. Without them, messages to and from the brain would be in disarray," said Sean Deoni, who led the study, published by the Journal of Neuroscience.

"By understanding exactly how myelin develops and when this process breaks down, we hope to be able to tailor treatments for vulnerable patients, such as premature babies, and understand what differentiates those that develop normally from those who have some delay or disability."


Trust Your Gut - If You're Aware of Your Heartbeat

Gut Choices
© Marcus Mok, Asia Images/Corbis
People who are more aware of their heartbeats can trust their guts when making choices, a study says.

All the songs that tell people to listen to their hearts may be truer than crooners realize, a new study says.

Test subjects who were more conscious of their heart rates were more likely to "trust their guts" when making decisions - and in some cases that intuition paid off.

University of Cambridge researcher Barnaby Dunn and colleagues had 28 subjects play a virtual card game in which they could win money by choosing cards from four supposedly random decks. The game involved guessing whether a chosen card would be the same color as an already upturned card.

In actuality the decks were stacked, and it was only possible to win big by choosing from two of the four decks.

No matter what the participants guessed, they would be correct 60 percent of the time if they chose from deck A or B. They'd be right only 40 percent of the time if they chose from deck C or D.

"In the card game, there were good choices to make and bad choices, and when they make bad choices, their body should give them an arousal signal," such as an increased heart rate, Dunn said.


Children need more meditation and less stimulation

© Unknown
If you want your children to feel more relaxed and less stressed, give them silence, not iPods.

This unthinkable idea came to mind after listening to Ernie Christie and Dr Cathy Day, two educationists from Queensland, Australia. They were addressing an audience at Regent's College, London, on the benefits of allowing children to experience regular periods of silent meditation in the classroom.

A pilot study in 2005, involving teaching meditation to five- to 17-year-olds, had shown that children are not only capable of meditation, they actually enjoy it. The benefits to children's wellbeing were so obvious to teachers that it persuaded Cathy Day, director of Townsville Catholic Education Office, to spend precious funds implementing the first Christian meditation programme for all schools in the diocese.

The initiative had two important catalysts: a diocesan bishop sympathetic to meditation, Michael Putney, and the input of Laurence Freeman OSB, leader of the World Community for Christian Meditation. Without their help, Day admitted, nothing would have got off the ground. When an almost pathological "busyness" is the norm, valuing stillness and silence is counter-cultural. When our culture trains us to be winners, to compete and to consume, we all sense society's imbalance, said Freeman. We need to give children an experience of another way of relating to themselves and to others.

Comment: A very beneficial meditation program for children is the Eiriu Eolas. For more information, please see this link:



What Your Brain Looks Like After 20 Years of Marriage

© Getty Images
Contrary to popular opinion, people who say they are still madly in love with their spouses after more than two decades are not crazy. At least, some of them aren't. And in answer to your next question, apparently they're not lying either. This is the proposition of a new study published in the December issue of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience that took brain scans of long-married people who claimed to still be besotted with their marital partner.

The prevailing theory on romantic love is that it more or less serves the same purpose as the booster rocket in expeditions into outer space. The initial tingly can't-think-about-anything-else swooning launches the couple into orbit, but falls away after the spacecraft reaches a certain altitude, to be replaced by "companionate love," a more regulated, less passionate affection that binds two people together, bolted together a bit with shared history and interests.


New Psychic Test Claims Future Events Can Predict Past Events

I wrote this article and published it on suite 101; it is copyrighted to me. You have republished it without permission, and now Google is directing readers to this site instead of mine to read it. That means I make no income on it - you are stealing my living! Please could you remove my article from your site.
Cathy Anne Smith

Comment: No problem. We have removed it, removed the link to the original, and displayed your notice to our one million daily readers.

The article that Cathy Anne Smith wrote about (we won't use the word plagiarize), is published by Psychology Today magazine and can be read in the original HERE. We apologize for foolishly thinking that we could help out by presenting Ms. Smith's work to a wider audience.


The Allure of Narcissistic Spirituality

Several months ago, my wife and I attended a prayer service at a synagogue that is well known for its spiritual, and spirited, approach. As we entered, the rabbi was leading a meditation. "Close your eyes and breathe in the peace of Shabbat [the Sabbath]." she said. "And on the out-breathe imagine that you are sending healing love to all beings." We passed a man who appeared to be deep in meditation. His eyes were closed, and through a slightly opened smile he slowly breathed in and out. As we moved to our seats, I accidentally stepped on his toe. He quickly turned toward me; his smile vanished and he angrily hissed, "Hey, watch it, buddy!"

In the irony of a person being angry at a stranger for accidentally interrupting his meditation about universal, unconditional love, this man demonstrated the disturbing, alluring and all-too common phenomenon of "spiritual narcissism."

To understand spiritual narcissism we must first understand the word "spirituality." My acting definition is, "The experience of a transformative connection." In other words, spirituality is experienced -- it is not a concept or construct. It transforms us. It changes how we act, think and feel in all environments. And it is a connection -- a profound contact with something and someone outside of our selves.

All three of these components are needed in order for spirituality to occur, but the most essential is that it be a connection -- between a person and the Divine, or between one person and another. Spiritual practices are designed to facilitate these connections, and begin with the knowledge that we have two selves: an ego-self and a true-Self. The ego-self is built on our strategy for ensuring that we are physically safe, stemming from our interpretation of the experiences of our lives (primarily our childhood) in which we determined what was required in order to survive. The ego-self may need to impress, dominate or control and sees others as either threats or tools. There is nothing inherently wrong with the ego-self; it is a necessary structure put in place so that we can survive in physical reality. But it is not who we really are, and we can not make a spiritual connection from it. Our true-Self, however, which is often referred to as our soul, contains the very purpose that we incarnated, and is in constant connection with Spirit/Consciousness/Creation/God. It sees others as fellow souls with equally needed purposes, and has compassion for the suffering that comes from the ego-self's attachment to things.

Comment: The Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program is a method using meditation and deep breathing that enables one to detox both body and mind. Working through past emotional and psychological trauma can help with narcissistic wounding and enable one to embrace a true spirituality.


I'm a psychopath! BBC presenter Michael Mosley's shocking discovery thanks to a revolutionary brain scan

Michael Mosley
© Lee Wilson/Getty
Why do we behave the way we do? What really makes us tick?

These questions have traditionally been left to philosophers and theologians but now scientists have come along with machines that can probe our brains in ways we never dreamed possible.

Their work has led to discoveries that are often surprising and sometimes disturbing.

Until recently, if you wanted to really understand what made someone tick, you would have had to rely on their own account of themselves, or perhaps guess what they were really like by close observation.


What is Happening in Our Society That We Need to Drug Five-Year-Old Children?

Attention deficit disorder can be hard for parents
A report in today's newspaper says that children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) can't switch off the default mode network (DMN) in their brains, the daydreaming function. Stimulant drugs such as methylphenidate may help to switch off this DMN, turn down the volume, as it were, and enable the ADHD sufferer to focus on a task.

These findings are interesting, but they do not address the question of why so many children are suffering from the condition in the first place. We've reached a point where plenty of us know a child personally who's being medicated to improve his or her behavior. Half a million prescriptions for Ritalin - one version of methylphenidate - are filled every year. That is worrying in itself of course, the dosing-up of so many young children with drugs that alter their behavior. But even more alarming is just to think of the changes in society that are creating disturbed children in such numbers. Especially, it is staggering to contemplate the casual neglect and abandonment of children that occurs.

Basically, what's happening is that some people carelessly have children, don't look after them properly and then someone else - the state, the care system - takes over. The process of abandonment combined with lack of love and maltreatment is actually altering the young brains of these children - causing brain damage, really. That's how you get disorders like ADHD: the odd behaviors point to something having changed in the chemistry of the brain, perhaps even in its structure.


Explaining Why Meditators May Live Longer

© Juzant via Getty Images
The image of the ancient but youthful-looking sage meditating on a mountaintop might be closer to reality than you think, according to a new study that found that after a three-month stay at a meditation retreat, people showed higher levels of an enzyme associated with longevity.

The study is preliminary and didn't show that meditation actually extends life, but the findings suggest a possible means by which it could.

Researchers led by Tonya Jacobs of the University of California-Davis compared 30 participants at a meditation retreat held at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado with matched controls on a waiting list for the retreat. Participants meditated six hours per day for three months. Their meditation centered on mindfulness - for instance, focusing solely on breathing, in the moment - and on lovingkindness and enhancing compassion towards others.


Journal's Paper on ESP Expected to Prompt Outrage

© unknown
One of psychology's most respected journals has agreed to publish a paper presenting what its author describes as strong evidence for extrasensory perception, the ability to sense future events.

The decision may delight believers in so-called paranormal events, but it is already mortifying scientists. Advance copies of the paper, to be published this year in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, have circulated widely among psychological researchers in recent weeks and have generated a mixture of amusement and scorn.

The paper describes nine unusual lab experiments performed over the past decade by its author, Daryl J. Bem, an emeritus professor at Cornell, testing the ability of college students to accurately sense random events, like whether a computer program will flash a photograph on the left or right side of its screen. The studies include more than 1,000 subjects.