Science of the Spirit
Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:37 UTC
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).
Berkeley University of California
Wed, 25 Jan 2017 18:30 UTC
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.
Wed, 25 Jan 2017 01:05 UTC
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.
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.
Michael Prescott's Blog
Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:18 UTC
Recently, however, I did pick up the book at last, and I found it to be one of the more intriguing items in my parapsychological library. The subtitle notwithstanding, it's not really all about hypnotism. Perhaps a more accurate subtitle would be "The Forgotten Power of the Unconscious Mind." The book concerns itself with the still-unknown extent of psi abilities and their mediation by the right hemisphere of the brain — or, more accurately, the mental states loosely associated with the right cerebral hemisphere.
If This Be Magic does begin with a discussion of hypnotism and the related practice of mesmerism, tracing work in this area from its beginnings to modern times. Along the way, we learn that the (logical) left hemisphere of the brain seems to inhibit hypnotism, while the (intuitive) right hemisphere readily accepts it. Dr. David Pederson, president of the British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnosis, puts it succinctly: "When we hypnotize a patient, what we are doing is altering their mode of consciousness to the right hemisphere by inhibition of the left."
Tue, 24 Jan 2017 14:57 UTC
Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus—an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small "arms" that brain cells use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons. Stress is a formidable threat to your success—when stress gets out of control, your brain and your performance suffer.
Most sources of stress at work are easy to identify. If your non-profit is working to land a grant that your organization needs to function, you're bound to feel stress and likely know how to manage it. It's the unexpected sources of stress that take you by surprise and harm you the most.
Recent research from the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions—the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with difficult people—caused subjects' brains to have a massive stress response. Whether it's negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, difficult people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.
Mon, 23 Jan 2017 00:00 UTC
Comment: See also: Everyone is born creative, but it is educated out of us at school
Wed, 12 Oct 2016 17:49 UTC
Mon, 16 Jan 2017 00:00 UTC
I'm terrible at gratitude.
How bad am I? I'm so bad at gratitude that most days, I don't notice the sunlight on the leaves of the Berkeley oaks as I ride my bike down the street. I forget to be thankful for the guy who hand-brews that delicious cup of coffee I drink mid-way through every weekday morning. I don't even know the dude's name!
I usually take for granted that I have legs to walk on, eyes to see with, arms I can use to hug my son. I forget my son! Well, I don't actually forget about him, at least as a physical presence; I generally remember to pick him up from school and feed him dinner. But as I face the quotidian slings and arrows of parenthood, I forget all the time how much he's changed my life for the better.
Gratitude (and its sibling, appreciation) is the mental tool we use to remind ourselves of the good stuff. It's a lens that helps us to see the things that don't make it onto our lists of problems to be solved. It's a spotlight that we shine on the people who give us the good things in life. It's a bright red paintbrush we apply to otherwise-invisible blessings, like clean streets or health or enough food to eat.
Comment: See also: Can't keep your New Year's resolutions? Try being kind to yourself
Sat, 14 Jan 2017 00:00 UTC
Asking these questions is fundamental to understanding the true nature of our reality, and with quantum physics gaining more popularity, questions regarding consciousness and its relationship to human physicality become increasingly relevant.
Max Planck, the theoretical physicist credited with originating quantum theory — a feat that won him the Physics Nobel Prize in 1918 — offers perhaps the best explanation for why understanding consciousness is so essential:
"I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness."Eugene Wigner, also a theoretical physicist and mathematician, stated that it's not possible to "formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness."
Comment: See also: Researchers claim that humans have souls which can live on after death