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Depth of the Kindness Hormone Appears to Know Some Bounds

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© unk
Oxytocin has been described as the hormone of love. This tiny chemical, released from the hypothalamus region of the brain, gives rat mothers the urge to nurse their pups, keeps male prairie voles monogamous and, even more remarkable, makes people trust each other more.

Yes, you knew there had to be a catch. As oxytocin comes into sharper focus, its social radius of action turns out to have definite limits. The love and trust it promotes are not toward the world in general, just toward a person's in-group. Oxytocin turns out to be the hormone of the clan, not of universal brotherhood. Psychologists trying to specify its role have now concluded it is the agent of ethnocentrism.

A principal author of the new take on oxytocin is Carsten K. W. De Dreu, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam. Reading the growing literature on the warm and cuddly effects of oxytocin, he decided on evolutionary principles that no one who placed unbounded trust in others could survive. Thus there must be limits on oxytocin's ability to induce trust, he assumed, and he set out to define them.

Evil Rays

Scientific Evidence for Psychic Phenomena Finally?

Precognition
© n/a
New studies show people can anticipate future events.

In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, the White Queen tells Alice that in her land, "memory works both ways." Not only can the Queen remember things from the past, but she also remembers "things that happened the week after next." Alice attempts to argue with the Queen, stating "I'm sure mine only works one way...I can't remember things before they happen." The Queen replies, "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards."

How much better would our lives be if we could live in the White Queen's kingdom, where ours memory would work backwards and forewords? For instance, in such a world, you could take an exam and then study for it afterwards to make sure you performed well in the past. Well, the good news is that according to a recent series of scientific studies by Daryl Bem, you already live in that world!

Dr. Bem, a social psychologist at Cornell University, conducted a series of studies that will soon be published in one of the most prestigious psychology journals (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology). Across nine experiments, Bem examined the idea that our brain has the ability to not only reflect on past experiences, but also anticipate future experiences. This ability for the brain to "see into the future" is often referred to as psi phenomena.

Comment: Suggested Reading:

Bem, D. J. (in press) "Feeling the Future: Experimental evidence for anomalous retroactive influences on cognition and affect." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. [To read an early copy of this article, visit Dr. Bem's website]


Phoenix

Remembrances of Lives Past

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© Dustin Leader/The New York Times
Peter Bostock and his wife, Jo-Anne, of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He believes they loved each other in past lives working on an estate in 1880s Derbyshire, England.
"The popular purveyors of reincarnation belief these days are not monks or theologians, but therapists - intermediaries between science and religion who authenticate irrational belief." writes Lisa Miller in her New York Times article on how belief in reincarnation has gone mainstream and can now be found "On the fringes of legitimate science, [where] some researchers persist in studying consciousness and its durability beyond the body."

In one of his past lives, Dr. Paul DeBell believes, he was a caveman. The gray-haired Cornell-trained psychiatrist has a gentle, serious manner, and his appearance, together with the generic shrink décor of his office - leather couch, granite-topped coffee table - makes this pronouncement seem particularly jarring. In that earlier incarnation, "I was going along, going along, going along, and I got eaten," said Dr. DeBell, who has a private practice on the Upper East Side where he specializes in hypnotizing those hoping to retrieve memories of past lives. Dr. DeBell likes to reflect on how previous lives can alter one's sense of self. He, for example, is more than a psychiatrist in 21st-century Manhattan; he believes he is an eternal soul who also inhabited the body of a Tibetan monk and a conscientious German who refused to betray his Jewish neighbors in the Holocaust.

Belief in reincarnation, he said, "allows you to experience history as yours. It gives you a different sense of what it means to be human."

Magnify

Emotional Stress Can Change Brain Function

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© iStockphoto
Research conducted by Iaroslav Savtchouk, a graduate student, and S. June Liu, PhD, Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, has shown that a single exposure to acute stress affected information processing in the cerebellum -- the area of the brain responsible for motor control and movement coordination and also involved in learning and memory formation.

The work is published in the January 12, 2011 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

The researchers found that a five-minute exposure to the odor of a predator produced the insertion of receptors containing GluR2 at the connections (synapses) between nerve cells in the brain. GluR2 is a subunit of a receptor in the central nervous system that regulates the transfer of electrical impulses between nerve cells, or neurons. The presence of GluR2 changed electrical currents in the cerebellum in a way that increased activity and altered the output of the cerebellar circuit in the brains of mice.

Our ability to learn from experience and to adapt to our environment depends upon synaptic plasticity -- the ability of a neuron or synapse to change its internal parameters in response to its history. A change in the GluR2 receptor subunit has been observed both during normal learning and memory as well as during many pathological processes, including drug addiction, stress, epilepsy, and ischemic stroke. However, the effect of this change on neuronal function is not fully understood.

Magnify

Study Shows How Brain's Wiring Develops in Babies

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© 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."

Info

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.

Heart

Children need more meditation and less stimulation

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© 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:

EEbreathe.org


Beaker

What Your Brain Looks Like After 20 Years of Marriage

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© 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.

Info

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.


Oscar

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.