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Sat, 25 Feb 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Near death experience reports include timeless review of life and other perspectives

Researchers said the parts of the brain which store memory were the last affected by trauma such as oxygen or blood loss
Your life really does flash before your eyes when you die, a study suggests - with the parts of the brain that store memories last to be affected as other functions fail.

Research on those who have had "near death" experiences suggests that the phenomenon rarely involves flashbacks in chronological order, as happens in Hollywood films.

Participants said that there was rarely any order to their life memories and that they seemed to come at random, and sometimes simultaneously.

Often, the mind played tricks - with people reliving their own experiences from the point of view of others who had been involved.

Comment: Could it be that all life is lessons, and those lessons are reviewed upon death when one reaches a timeless/spaceless 'rest zone'?


Loneliness actually hurts us on a cellular level

Loneliness is a vicious cycle. The more isolated we are, the more threatened we feel. The more threatened we feel, the more we seek isolation.
"Humans are social animals" is a phrase often repeated by psychologists to sum up why we've been such a successful species. Our ability to live, work, and cooperate in groups is the key to our survival.

But it comes with a tradeoff. Companionship is an asset for human survival, but its mirror twin, isolation, can be toxic.

Loneliness is associated with higher blood pressure and heart disease — it literally breaks our hearts. A 2015 meta-review of 70 studies showed that loneliness increases the risk of your chance of dying by 26 percent. (Compare that to depression and anxiety, which is associated with a comparable 21 percent increase in mortality.)

Comment: Loneliness: The deadly truth


Human connection and its profound role to addiction (VIDEO)

Everything we thought we knew about addiction is wrong.

It's easy to judge others based on the types of addictions they might form to various substances, including caffeine, alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, and even food. What most people don't understand, however, is that there are deep, underlying reasons some are more prone to becoming addicts than others.

The following animated video, which was created by Kurzgesagt - In a Nutshell and is adapted from Johann Hari's New York Times best-selling book 'Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs', explains why everything we, as a society, thought we knew about addiction is wrong.


Parkinson's patients improve with group drumming

A new study published in the journal Movement Disorders Clinical Practice reveals that group drumming improves the condition of those with Parkinson's disease; a condition largely considered by conventional medical authorities to be irreversible and lethal.

Drumming has been an integral part of traditional healing rituals worldwide since time immemorial. In fact, in a previous article, entitled 6 Ways Drumming Heals Body, Mind, and Soul, we explore the evolutionary roots of drumming behavior (percussive musicality) that goes so far back in time, as to be found in other species, such as chimpanzees and even insects.

Recently, there has been renewed interest in drumming as a therapeutic intervention in a wide range of disease; a development, no doubt, related to the failure of conventional, drug-based therapies to decelerate in any meaningful way chronic diseases. But more specifically, drumming may be an ideal therapeutic modality for addressing psychospiritual and emotional issues that are difficult, or we would say, impossible to treat chemically; that is to say, if we mean by "treat" heal, and not simply suppress symptoms. Learn more by reading our recent report, "Group Drumming Better Than Prozac, Study Suggest."


Split brain study reveals surprising new insight

The established view that so-called split-brain patients have a split consciousness is being challenged by a new study offering evidence to the contrary. University of Amsterdam researchers report that despite being characterised by little to no communication between the right and left brain hemispheres, a split brain does not cause two independent conscious perceivers in one brain.

Split brain refers to the result of a corpus callosotomy, a surgical procedure first performed in the 1940s to alleviate severe epilepsy among patients. During this procedure, the corpus callosum, a bundle of neural fibres connecting the left and right cerebral hemispheres, is severed to prevent the spread of epileptic activity between the two brain halves.

While mostly successful in relieving epilepsy, the procedure also virtually eliminates all communication between the cerebral hemispheres, thereby resulting in a 'split brain'.


This condition was made famous by the work of Nobel laureate Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga. In their canonical work, Sperry and Gazzaniga discovered that split-brain patients can only respond to stimuli in the right visual field with their right hand and vice versa.

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Extreme agreeing: The unexpected way to win an argument

Don't just contradict them — try a more radical approach. Extreme agreeing could be the answer to getting people to change their minds, psychological research suggests.

The natural reaction when arguing with someone is to contradict them. However, showing people a very extreme version of their own deeply held opinions can make them think again.

It seems that the absurdity of extreme agreeing helps to foster a rethink.


Addressing memory loss with music & meditation

Meditation training programs can have measurable effects on how the brain functions even when someone is not actively meditating. The effects are even more pronounced with music. In a recent study of adults with early memory loss, a West Virginia University research team lead by Dr. Kim Innes found that practice of a simple meditation or music listening program may have multiple benefits for older adults with preclinical memory loss.

Published research has demonstrated that the practice of regular meditation can increase brain density, boost connections between neurons, decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety, provide clarity of thought, and increase positive mood endorphins. Other published studies have shown meditation can improve physical functioning, decrease chronic disease risks, and enhance overall quality of life.

In this randomized controlled trial, 60 older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD), a condition that may represent a preclinical stage of Alzheimer's disease, were assigned to either a beginner meditation (Kirtan Kriya) or music listening program and asked to practice 12 minutes/day for 12 weeks. As detailed in a paper recently published by the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, both the meditation and music groups showed marked and significant improvements in subjective memory function and objective cognitive performance at 3 months. These included domains of cognitive functioning most likely to be affected in preclinical and early stages of dementia (e.g., attention, executive function, processing speed, and subjective memory function). The substantial gains observed in memory and cognition were maintained or further increased at 6 months (3 months post-intervention).

Comment: Listening to music enhances activity of genes involved in learning and memory while down-regulating genes associated with neurodegeneration


How Does Personality Affect Your Level of Happiness?

According to a new study, the relationship between happiness and personality is more complex than we thought.

Extraverts are happier, and so are the emotionally stable, personality researchers tell us. It also pays to be more open to new experiences, more agreeable, and more conscientious. What does that mean for the rest of us—the introverts, the neurotics, the disorganized?

You may recognize these personality dimensions as part of the Big Five, the traits that researchers are often referring to when they talk about personality. According to a 2008 review, the Big Five explain anywhere from 39 to 63 percent of the variation in well-being between people.

That's enough to be discouraging, if you don't fall into one of the "beneficial" categories. But don't lose heart yet, the authors of a new study say. Each Big Five domain can be divided into two "aspects"—enthusiasm and assertiveness rather than simply "extraversion," for example—and, it turns out, one of each pair is more predictive of well-being than the other.

Comment: Further reading:


New study links brain cortex shape to personality traits

© AFP/Ernesto Benavides
Personality traits such as moodiness or open-mindedness are linked to the shape of one's brain, a study said Wednesday.

Researchers said they found a striking correlation between structural brain differences and five main personality types.

"The shape of our brain can itself provide surprising clues about how we behave -- and our risk of developing mental health disorders," said a statement from the University of Cambridge, which took part in the study.

Psychologists have previously developed a "Big Five" model of main personality types: neuroticism (how moody a person is), extraversion (how enthusiastic), open-mindedness, agreeableness (a measure of altruism) and conscientiousness (a measure of self control).

Using brain scans from over 500 people aged 22 to 36, the new study looked at differences in the cortex -- the wrinkly outer layer of the brain also known as grey matter. Specifically it focussed on combinations of thickness, surface area, and the number of folds in different people.


New study shows psychopaths have lower IQs

© Off Guardian
It's long been believed that psychopaths possess the gift of brains. But new research suggests that this commonly-held belief about psychopaths might be wrong. Although psychopaths are often portrayed as preternaturally intelligent (especially in fiction), this may not actually be the case — a finding which drastically alters the image we've held for so many years.

In truth, over the years, the findings of the relationship between intelligence and psychopathy have been inconsistent; still, though, the stereotype persisted. Why? Because much of the research conducted on the matter was biased from the get-go, mainly focusing on people who were well-educated and from the upper and middle class. These kinds of samples are not necessarily representative of the general population.

The current study — authored by Olga Sanchez de Ribera, Nicholas Kavish, and Brian Boutwell at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory — was a meta-analysis of 97 previous studies involving over 9,000 participants in total. They found one small but interesting correlation: Those who scored higher for psychopathic traits often scored lower on measures of IQ. To further debunk the myth that psychopaths are smarter than most of us is the fact that there may be more variation in intelligence than we ever knew among psychopaths, who are sometimes divided into "primary" and "secondary" based on how inhibited they are.