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Thu, 20 Feb 2020
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New dream study reveals nightmares help brain prepare for real anxiety-provoking situation

Woman waking from a nightmare
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Nightmares are no fun, but a new international study finds all that nighttime fear may actually be serving a greater purpose. Researchers from both Switzerland and the United States identified the areas of the brain that were activated while a group of participants experienced fear in their dreams. Interestingly, they discovered that after the participants woke up, those same emotion-regulating brain areas responded to scary situations much more efficiently.

All in all, the research team believe their findings lend credence to the theory that dreams actually help our brains prepare to tackle real world stressful situations. Consequently, this research opens the door for a multitude of new dream-based therapeutic methods for treating anxiety.

Dreams have become a popular topic of research in neuroscience circles, more specifically the areas of the brain that activate as we doze off. Just recently it was discovered that certain brain areas are responsible for the formation of dreams. Furthermore, different brain regions are only activated depending on the type of dream one is experiencing. For example, the thoughts, emotions, and perceptions that a singular dream may incite.


How dancing gives your brain and mood a big boost

It doesn't matter if you are a professional dancer or if you just like to move on the dance floor on Saturday night. It doesn't matter if you like to tango or break dance. Dancing, of any kind, combines physical exercise with the positive power of music and social engagement. Together, these yield major mental health and brain benefits.

In fact, it has such beneficial effects on the brain that dancing is increasingly used as therapy for developmental disorders like Down's syndrome, mood disorders such as depression, and neurological disorders as in the case of schizophrenia, Parkinson's, and dementia. Here is why it's so good for your brain.

Comment: See also:


Marcus Aurelius's utterly practical Stoic guide to inner freedom

Marcus Aurelius statue
Marcus Aurelius's Meditations instructs us in practices to restore our power of free will.

In The Princess Bride, Westley disguised as the Dread Pirate Roberts delivers one of writer William Goldman's classic lines: "Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

The Stoic philosophers weren't trying to sell us anything. If you believe Stoicism is a superficial idea that encourages us to suck up our pain and get on with it, you are missing their point.

The Stoics didn't promise freedom from disturbing emotions and hardships. They promised the freedom to have emotional well-being despite our problems. The Stoics didn't teach us to resist our feelings or pretend they don't exist. To the Stoics, sucking it up was a waste of a learning opportunity.

In previous essays, I have considered the ideas of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca.

In this essay, I'm taking a deep dive into Meditations by Marcus Aurelius via classics professor Gregory Hays's magnificent translation. Aurelius did not expect that anyone but himself would ever read his aphorisms. He wrote for himself a guide to living a life consistent with his highest values.

To get the most out of reading Meditations, do as Aurelius did: Examine your reactions to your day-to-day experiences. Challenge your reactions, not other people, to uproot your conditioned responses.


Ben Shapiro interviews David Berlinski on his new book, Human Nature

david berlinski
Wow, this is an amazing, hour-long conversation between Ben Shapiro and our Discovery Institute colleague David Berlinski. It's today's Sunday Special on the Ben Shapiro Show and you can watch it here on YouTube:

Berlinski is wise and hilarious, and Shapiro a very fitting interlocutor. David's new book, which forms the spine of the interview, is Human Nature, out now.

I'll have more to say on their interaction later. But in the spirit of the Fast Track program of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, hastening needed prescription medicine ahead of otherwise routine burdensome drug trial requirements, here are David and Ben right NOW, covering the philosophical and political attack on essentialism, why evolution is fundamentally at odds with a fixed nature to human beings (or dogs, or anything else living), whether the problems with evolutionary science are more a matter of science or social consequences, whether the Nazis would have been satisfied by wiping out the Jews or whether they would have turned their evolutionary testing on Germans themselves in the end, and much more. You will enjoy this.


Medical scientists take Near Death Experiences seriously now

Today, we know much more about what happens to people when they die — and what we are learning does not support materialism
Near-death experiences
In a continuing discussion, Robert J. Marks and Walter Bradley, after whom the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence is named, looked at near-death experiences (NDEs). Here's the podcast: "Walter Bradley: Don't go towards the light?"


01:55 | Definition of a near-death experience

Walter Bradley: A near-death experience is a term that describes what today has become quite common in emergency rooms across the country as well as in highway accidents and so forth in which a person has a complete loss of heartbeat and brainwaves... And if they are resuscitated, what can they tell us about that intervening period where they were so-called clinically dead and yet, in many cases, they have remarkable experiences during that interval of time? So it's called a near-death experience in that it wasn't permanent.

But at least in the time period that we are interested in, they were clinically dead in the sense that their physical body was medically dead. But it didn't mean that they ceased to exist. So I think that some of the most interesting empirical data that's been accumulating over the past thirty to forty years about this mind-body question has come through these so-called near-death experiences, which provide what I think of as remarkable evidence for what happens after we die — as told to us by people who actually did die and were subsequently resuscitated — and come back with these amazing stories.



Sleepwalking is still a mystery to scientists

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Sleepwalking is a little-understood, but mostly harmless sleep disorder.
Somewhere in the murky space that divides alert from dormant — an enigmatic realm through which we all drift in the course of a good night's sleep — the human body sometimes behaves as though it belongs to both worlds at once.

It rises from bed, ambling aimlessly. Perhaps it fiddles with household objects, cleans the kitchen or rearranges the furniture. At a glance, it seems to see, to feel, to register its surroundings. But look closer: The eyes are glassy, the movements clumsy. "These people are stuck in the nether regions between asleep and awake," says Nathaniel Watson, co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center.

Sleepwalking (a sleep disorder formally known as somnambulism) has mystified and intrigued humankind throughout history. Lady Macbeth suffered a bout of it in her post-homicide guilt; Dracula used it to his advantage when he lured a slumbering Lucy out of the house. Centuries later, neurologists still don't fully understand the phenomenon, though they have made some progress.


Gratitude Heals: How a Neuroscientist Used His Research to Recover From Grief

© spineuniverse.com
Neuroscientist Glenn Fox has dedicated his life to studying gratitude — how it improves our resilience, lowers stress, and boosts overall health. He's an expert on the ability of gratitude to help us through tough times.

But on Thanksgiving in 2013, Fox was feeling anything but grateful. That's because, just a few days before, he'd lost his mother to ovarian cancer.

The day after, going down to Starbucks for coffee and some pastries, "it was like the most intense experience ever. And I just thought, how am I even going to get through this? How am I even going to order?"

Fox was just months away from completing his Ph.D. on the neural bases of gratitude. He knew from his research how therapeutic gratitude can be — and how it could help him in his long journey recovering from grief. What he didn't know was how to make that happen on a practical level.

"I thought, you know, I really need to put this into action," he said. "I don't want to be flattened by this forever. I don't want this to define me."

Comment: More on the salutary effects of 'an attitude of gratitude':


A whole branch of science turns out to be fake

gears head fading
Devotees of science often assume that what is called science is real and true. It must be. Otherwise, their faith is broken. Their superficial understanding is shattered. Their "superior view" of the world is torpedoed.

Such people choose unofficial "anti-science" targets to attack. They never think of inspecting their own house for enormous fraud.

For example: psychiatry.

An open secret has been slowly bleeding out into public consciousness for the past ten years.

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MindMatters: The Reality and Implications of an Afterlife

While materialist scientists and academics dismiss the possibility out of hand, there is not only an extensive amount of research suggesting the validity of reincarnation, near-death out-of-body experiences, and the like - but also much more to the reality of an afterlife than many people assume. Through automatic writing and the use of mediumship there exists a whole body of literature that presents such a world to us. While perhaps impossible to prove the validity of this material, it is worth taking a look at it.

This week on MindMatters we examine some of texts that make the case for what life after death might look like, what functions the 'place' serves, what people do there, and how beings on that plane of existence seem to be acutely aware of the challenges and struggles of those who live and breathe in our 'land of the living'. We'll also be discussing the implications of this information and what it might possibly mean for the choices we make, and how we live our lives in the here and now.

Running Time: 01:20:19

Download: MP3 — 73.6 MB


Excessive obsessing and rumination takes a toll on you physically and mentally

If you rehash past conversations, dwell on your choices or get trapped in a tunnel of "what if" scenarios, there's a pretty good chance you're an overthinker.

This widespread rumination and over-obsessing has become somewhat of an epidemic. One study from the University of Michigan found that 73% of adults between the ages of 25 and 35 overthink, as do 52% of 45- to 55-year-olds.

Interestingly, research has found that many overthinkers believe they're actually doing themselves a favor by cycling through their thoughts. But the truth of the matter is that overthinking is a dangerous game that can have a lot of negative consequences on our well-being.

As David Spiegel, the director of the Center on Stress and Health at Stanford Health Care, puts it, "There are times when the worry about the problem is a lot worse than the problem itself."

Here's what happens to your body when you overthink:

Comment: Or try out Éiriú Eolas, the breathing and meditation program that is easy to apply in your everyday life, and works wonders for your mental, emotional and physical problems.