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Sun, 26 Feb 2017
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Science of the Spirit


Training can lead to synesthetic experiences: Does learning the 'color of' specific letters boost IQ?

© brunobarillari
A new study has shown for the first time that people can be trained to "see" letters of the alphabet as colours in a way that simulates how those with synaesthesia experience their world.
A new study has shown for the first time that people can be trained to "see" letters of the alphabet as colors in a way that simulates how those with synesthesia experience their world.

The University of Sussex research, published today (18 November 2014) in Scientific Reports, also found that the training might potentially boost IQ.

Synesthesia is a fascinating though little-understood neurological condition in which some people (estimated at around 1 in 23) experience an overlap in their senses. They "see" letters as specific colors, or can "taste" words, or associate sounds with different colors.

A critical debate concerns whether the condition is embedded in our genes, or whether it emerges because of particular environmental influences, such as colored-letter toys in infancy.

While the two possibilities are not mutually exclusive, psychologists at the University's Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science devised a nine-week training program to see if adults without synesthesia can develop the key hallmarks of the condition.


Finding 'lost' languages in the brain: Far-reaching implications for unconscious role of infant experiences

© McGill University
Finding lost languages in the brain.
An infant's mother tongue creates neural patterns that the unconscious brain retains years later even if the child totally stops using the language, as can happen in cases of international adoption, according to a new joint study. The study offers the first neural evidence that traces of the "lost" language remain in the brain.

"The infant brain forms representations of language sounds, but we wanted to see whether the brain maintains these representations later in life even if the person is no longer exposed to the language," says Lara Pierce, a doctoral candidate at McGill University and first author on the paper. Her work is jointly supervised by Dr. Denise Klein at The Neuro and Dr. Fred Genesee in the Department of Psychology. The article, "Mapping the unconscious maintenance of a lost first language," is in the November 17 edition of scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The Neuro conducted and analyzed functional MRI scans of 48 girls between nine and 17 years old who were recruited from the Montreal area through the Department of Psychology. One group was born and raised unilingual in a French-speaking family. The second group had Chinese-speaking children adopted as infants who later became unilingual French speaking with no conscious recollection of Chinese. The third group were fluently bilingual in Chinese and French.


Religious communities adapt better to harsh or unpredictable environments, study finds

© Credit: Michael Höefner, Wikimedia Commons
The belief in moral, high gods may be advantageous because it fosters cooperative behavior, especially in harsh environments.
Just as physical adaptations help populations prosper in inhospitable habitats, belief in moralizing, high gods might be similarly advantageous for human cultures in poorer environments. A new study from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) suggests that societies with less access to food and water are more likely to believe in these types of deities.

"When life is tough or when it's uncertain, people believe in big gods," says Russell Gray, a professor at the University of Auckland and a founding director of the Max Planck Institute for History and the Sciences in Jena, Germany. "Prosocial behavior maybe helps people do well in harsh or unpredictable environments."

Gray and his coauthors found a strong correlation between belief in high gods who enforce a moral code and other societal characteristics. Political complexity - namely a social hierarchy beyond the local community - and the practice of animal husbandry were both strongly associated with a belief in moralizing gods.

The emergence of religion has long been explained as a result of either culture or environmental factors but not both. The new findings imply that complex practices and characteristics thought to be exclusive to humans arise from a medley of ecological, historical, and cultural variables.

"When researchers discuss the forces that shaped human history, there is considerable disagreement as to whether our behavior is primarily determined by culture or by the environment," says primary author Carlos Botero, a researcher at the Initiative for Biological Complexity at North Carolina State University. "We wanted to throw away all preconceived notions regarding these processes and look at all the potential drivers together to see how different aspects of the human experience may have contributed to the behavioral patterns we see today."


For more information on learning lessons from history, adaptation to societal collapse and the need for communities; listen to: SOTT Talk Radio with Dmitry Orlov
Born in St. Petersburg, Orlov moved to the U.S. at the age of 12. Visiting his homeland between the late 1980s and mid-1990s, he was an eyewitness to the collapse of the U.S.S.R.

Orlov has written extensively on the stages leading up to collapse, and how different groups of people adapt to 'the new normal'. Orlov argues that the U.S. is heading the same way, and that the U.S.S.R. had it easy compared to what's in store for the Atlantic Empire.

Orlov is the author of two books Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects, and The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors' Toolkit, and regularly publishes essays at his Club Orlov blog.

Magic Wand

A mother believes her 4-year-old son is a reincarnated marine

It's common for 4-year-old boys to pretend they are soldiers.

But one little boy in Virginia Beach, Virginia, claims he was actually once a Marine -- and his mother thinks he's telling the truth.

The bizarre -- and possibly exaggerated -- discovery came after Michele Lucas and her son, Andrew, connected with the producers of Ghost Inside My Child, a reality show on LMN about kids who are allegedly experiencing memories of past lives.

Although reincarnation is a part of many religions, there is no scientific evidence supporting it, according to Ben Radford, the deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

"Usually, people remember their past lives through hypnosis, but the interpretation of a past life is brought to them by someone else, such as a therapist who believes in reincarnation," Radford told The Huffington Post.

Michele Lucas admits she was perplexed when her son, Andrew, started talking about his tragic death.

Comment: Skeptics can try to debunk the reincarnation phenomena as much as they want, but the fact is there is plenty of evidence to suggest that reincarnation has a high probability. Listen to the following podcasts to learn more:
Reincarnation Part 1

In this podcast, we discuss the possible reality of reincarnation with Laura Knight-Jadczyk. In part one, Laura discusses evidence that she collected during her years as a hypontherapist. In part two, Laura shares a very personal experience that provided startling evidence to suggest that reincarnation is indeed a reality.

Running Time:27:54Date:2006-01-14
Large Download- 9.2 MB
Small Download- 4 MB
Reincarnation Part 2

In this podcast, we discuss the possible reality of reincarnation with Laura Knight-Jadczyk. In part one, Laura discusses evidence that she collected during her years as a hypontherapist. In part two, Laura shares a very personal experience that provided startling evidence to suggest that reincarnation is indeed a reality.

Running Time:30:44Date:2006-01-14
Large Download- 10.1 MB
Small Download- 4.4 MB

Heart - Black

The lifelong cost of burying our traumatic experiences

© Image: Stanley Greene/Noor/eyevine
Past trauma can mean not feeling fully alive in the present.
The trauma caused by childhood neglect, sexual or domestic abuse and war wreaks havoc in our bodies, says Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score

WHAT has killed more Americans since 2001 than the Afghanistan and Iraq wars? And which serious health issue is twice as likely to affect US women as breast cancer?

Comment: Also see:
Dr. Gabor Maté: "When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection"
When the Body Says No: How Emotions Can Cause or Prevent Deadly Disease
Why Emotional Memories Of Traumatic Life Events Are So Persistent

More on Bessel van der Kolk:
Psychomotor Therapy: A revolutionary approach to treating PTSD?


Disgusting stuff turns us into liars and cheats, and cleanliness makes us honest again

© The Independent, UK
Study reveals the subconscious impact of emotions on decision making.
Feeling physically disgusted can make us prone to deceive others, whereas cleanliness prompts us to play fair again, say scientists behind a newly published study.

The decisions you make are often highly influenced by seemingly innocent objects and events around you, whilst you remain completely oblivious to the effect. Seeing an ad for a burger chain and choosing to stop for food is an obvious example, but some of the ways in which our minds are guided by the outside world are less self-evident. Would you have guessed, for example, that watching the toilet scene from Trainspotting would make you more likely to lie and cheat?

That infamous scene was shown to one group of participants in a new study published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes which aimed to uncover the effects of disgust on unethical behaviour. And lo and behold, those who had just watched Ewan McGregor slide through the 'Worst Toilet in Scotland' were more likely to lie in order to get two dollars than those who had been spared this ordeal.

Vikas Mittal, professor of marketing at Rice University in Houston, Texas, co-authored the paper and explains the mechanism behind the seemingly bizarre connection.

"As an emotion, disgust is designed as a protection. When people feel disgusted, they tend to remove themselves from a situation. The instinct is to protect oneself. People become focused on 'self' and they're less likely to think about other people. Small cheating starts to occur: If I'm disgusted and more focused on myself and I need to lie a little bit to gain a small advantage, I'll do that."


Be present: Living in the moment really does make people happier

© Corbis RF/Alamy
Reminiscing, thinking ahead or daydreaming tends to make people more miserable.

Psychologists have found that people are distracted from the task at hand nearly half the time, and this daydreaming consistently makes them less happy.

Happiness is found by living in the now, particularly if the now involves having sex, according to a major study into mental wellbeing.

But the study also found that people spend nearly half their time (46.7%) thinking about something other than what they are actually doing.

The benefits of living in the moment are extolled by many philosophical and religious traditions, but until now there has been scant scientific evidence to support the advice.

Psychologists at Harvard University collected information on the daily activities, thoughts and feelings of 2,250 volunteers to find out how often they were focused on what they were doing, and what made them most happy.

Comment: 'Happiness is found by living in the now' and what leads to emotional wellness is being fully present in the moment. In our present fast paced technological society there appears to be no room for 'just being'. A recent article details such an (unhappy) state: The dis-ease of being busy
This disease of being "busy" (and let's call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.
The solution? 'The benefits of living in the moment are extolled by many philosophical and religious traditions.' Meditation is just one tradition that brings the practitioner back into the moment, focusing on the breath, the meditator is able to observe thoughts and sensations in the body. Meditation has also been called The art of attention, to learn more about breathing and meditation, in addition to experiencing moments of presence check out the Eiriu Eolas Stress Reduction and Meditation program here.


An example of how lying and believing lies damages the brain: Glenn Beck reveals mystery illness and says doctors had to 'reboot' his brain

The conservative commentator Glenn Beck has revealed that he has suffered from severe neurological problems for several years, and credits, in part, "medical cowboys" at a chiropractic brain rehabilitation center for helping "reboot" his brain.

Beck detailed his health problems during a filmed broadcast shown Monday night, saying that his troubles began while he worked for Fox News and they "quite honestly made me look crazy". He described the first symptom as a "time collapse", saying he lost the ability to connect memories and facts. "I then began to lose names and faces ... entire conversations would go away."

He teared up as he described almost two years of increasing uncertainty and fear in the face of a mysterious ailment, which doctors said could leave him unable to function "in five to 10 years". Beck said that "vocal paralysis" and seizures began to affect his work, and that he was told by doctors that his lifestyle could not continue "because it was literally killing me".

He said doctors were baffled by the range of symptoms, which included "strange eyesight problems" and sensations of limbs crushed or "set on fire or pushed broken glass into them".

Comment: Andrew Lobaczewski in his seminal work, Political Ponerology - A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes, talked about "the first criterion for ponerogenesis" being the atrophy of critical faculties.

One of the reasons this particular point is so interesting is because we at SOTT.net have observed this "turning into half-wits" over and over again. It's the damnedest thing! The instant an individual makes a decision to believe a lie, it's as though their ability to use accurate reasoning about anything else - not just a contentious item - grinds to a halt.

Which, of course, leads to the consideration of Faith itself. Soren Kierkegaard suggested that religion is, of its essence, not persuasion of the truth of a doctrine, but commitment to a position which is inherently absurd. Human beings attain their identity by believing something that deeply offends their minds (or others).To exist, he says, we must believe, and to really believe means to believe something that is dreadfully hard to believe.You can't just believe something plausible because that is easy...So, for some people, it may be that believing lies is some kind of proof that they are in control of their choices, they aren't being pushed around or dominated by irritating things like facts and evidence.

We wonder if lying, holding onto a lie, even if one is only lying to the self (and in case of Glenn Beck is being an intentionally lying presstitute of the PTB), causes some kind of damage to this area of the brain? Or, if not actual damage, just sets up a pattern of activity that affects other areas of the brain in a detrimental way? One suspects that even when people believe a lie that some part of their brain knows the truth and they know, at some level, that they are lying or believing lies (which amounts to lying to the self).

We also wonder what kinds of results would show up doing these kinds of scans on psychopaths? Do psychopaths know they are lying in all cases? And if that is the case, does it have the same physiological effect on them as it does on an individual with a conscience?

Just a whole lot of thoughts and questions...

People 2

Why we may cry with happiness

© Psychcentral
Life is full of events that ignite emotions.

When these events occur people may react by performing an action or expressing an emotion that may be opposite of the actual emotional state. The actions and even our use of seemingly contradictory language may help us relieve emotional stress.

For example, the phrase "tears of joy" never made much sense to Yale psychologist Dr. Oriana Aragon. But after conducting a series of studies of such seemingly incongruous expressions, she now understands better why people cry when they are happy.

"People may be restoring emotional equilibrium with these expressions," said Aragon, lead author of a study that will be published in the journal Psychological Science.

"They seem to take place when people are overwhelmed with strong positive emotions, and people who do this seem to recover better from those strong emotions."

There are many examples of responding to a positive experience with a negative emotion.

A crying spouse is reunited with a soldier returning from war. Teen girls scream at a Justin Bieber concert and so do soccer players as they score a winning goal. The baseball player who hits a winning home run is pounded at home plate by teammates. And when introduced to babies "too cute for words," some can't resist pinching their cheeks.

"I was surprised no one ever asked why that is," said Aragon.

Aragon and her colleagues at Yale ran subjects through some of these scenarios and measured their responses to cute babies or happy reunions.

Comment: See also:

Eleven characteristics of bona fide happy people

Face life with Éiriú Eolas, a stress relief program


How playing an instrument benefits your brain

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. What's going on? Anita Collins explains the fireworks that go off in musicians' brains when they play, and examines some of the long-term positive effects of this mental workout.