Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mind and Consciousness

What did you grow up learning about your “mind” and “consciousness?” Although there are still multiple definitions for the mind (versus the brain), studies are showing a different concept of “mind.” According to work by Lorimer, your mind appears to be a multi-component unit that is not only interacting with the physical environment through demonstrable means, but also has the capacity to communicate with the cosmic universe through non-physical pathways. This certainly is, as the title of his book puts it, a wider science of consciousness.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Brain Hacking

Could your brain be hacked? Yes, theoretically at least. Ivan Martinovic, a computer scientist at the University of Oxford and colleagues just completed just such a study. Twenty-eight (28) participants were shown pictures of numbers, names, logos, and people. Using a program that interfaces with an electroencephalograph (EEG) device, identical to the ones marketed for entertainment and games, researchers analyzed the participant’s brain-wave activity. Researchers were looking for what's called a P300 response, a very distinct brain-wave pattern that occurs when you recognize something (e.g., a picture of your mother, your phone number written out). The results? Rsearchers were able to figure out data 15%-40% more accurately than would have occurred through random guessing. As equipment becomes more sophisticated, the percentages stand to increase.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Know Your Danger Signals

Do you know your own body’s physiological danger signals like you know the back of your hand or your face in a mirror? Hans Selye, sometimes referred to as the father of stress management, once compiled a list of what he considered physiological danger signals. For example, physical signals could include fatigue, headaches, backaches, pounding of the heart, frequent urination, diarrhea, and drying of the mouth. Emotional signals could include hypervigilance, anxiety, emotion tension, and a loss of the love of life. Behavioral signals could include irritability, unusual impulsivity, along with a tendency to overreact, take things personally, or jump to conclusions. Rather that learning to become aware of these danger signals only to perceive them as problems to be overcome, try viewing them as messages to be heeded. Your body is trying to tell you something.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Train Your Brain

You "train your brain" at some level every time you develop a habit or hone a skill. Psychologist Anna Rose Childress and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania used a combination of brain-scanning and feedback techniques to train subjects to move a cursor up and down using only their thoughts. The subjects could perform this task after just five minutes of training. Earlier studies have shown that people can learn to consciously control their brain activity if they're shown their brain activity data in real time—a technique called real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Using this technology people have learned to control chronic pain and depression. Similar feedback methods may be able to help people alter their behaviors in relation to substance abuse.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fat-Neuron Cell Communication

Did you know about the study showing fat cells and nerve cells talk to each other? A study by Johns Hopkins University scientists: Growing fat cells and nerve cells in the same dish has produced what is believed to be the first demonstration of two-way communication between the cell types. The study, using rat and mouse cells, provides the first clear evidence that signals from fat cells can directly influence neurons outside of the brain. Researchers believe this has implications for understanding the storage and burning of fat, obesity, and related disorders such as diabetes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Think for Yourself

Do you tend to take the advice of an "expert" (so called) instead of doing your own thinking? With hindsight, some think that the causes of the current global financial meltdown seem obvious, even predictable. Brain imaging has offered one explanation for why so few investors challenged foolhardy fiscal advice. Studies by Berns, a neuroeconomist at Emory University in Atlanta, found that the brains of participants raised few objections when presented with seemingly expert guidance. This suggested that the normal mechanisms people use to evaluate risk and reward are not being used when someone they perceive is an expert is telling them what to do. The conclusion is that people should take expert advice – fiscal, medical or otherwise – more shrewdly. In Berns' opinion, decision-making shouldn't be handed over to anyone, expert or otherwise.
Journal reference: PLoS-ONE (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004957)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Stress and the Brain

Findings from the National Institute of Mental Health may help to explain the reason females seem to have increased vulnerability to some conditions. The studies looked at the rat brain in relation to stressors. The rat brain is reportedly quite like the human brain in some respects so tends to work well with research studies, the results of which may apply to human brains. Reportedly, when the male brain is under stress, some of the receptors on the cell surface for stress hormones tend to retreat into the cell, making the brain less stress reactive. The opposite happens in the female brain. "Even in the absence of any stress, the stress-signaling system in the female brain appears to be more sensitive from the start." The receptors remain exposed on the cell surface, allowing CRF (corticotropin releasing factor) to persist in its effect. Thus, females may be more vulnerable to at least some stress-related disorders. Learning to manage stressors effectively is important for all brains. Apparently it may even be more important for a female brain.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Interpersonal Neurobiology

Author Daniel Siegel used the term Interpersonal Neurobiology to describe the connection between a person’s history and the way in which those personal experiences have been handled, managed, or dealt with in terms of brain and body. Studies have shown, for example, that women who are unhappily married and do not express their emotions have a greatly increased risk of death compared with similarly unhappy women who do not repress their feelings. Research in Canada showed that people abused in childhood have a nearly fifty percent increased risk of cancer in adulthood. That’s one reason I believe identifying and tweaking the Script you were handed at birth can be so critical (refer to Mini-Monographs at Identifying family-of-origin issues and resolving them in your life can be helpful to your neurobiology, as well. Your body has both innate memory and wisdom. Self-examination, insight, and transformation can result from understanding the wisdom your body possesses.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Figit and Learn

Are you one a person who begins to fidget soon after sitting down? This may be especially true if you've been told to be still. Some brains really need to move to learn. For them, to figit is to learn. Of course, this makes the traditional educational model of "sit down, be quiet, and be still" a nightmare for many. The conclusions from a groundbreaking study conducted by a team at the University of Central Florida could help to change this educational model. "Could" being the key word here. The brains of many individuals (e.g., extraverts, and ADHD children in this study) may be stifled unless they are allowed to move while they learn. For example, some kids (especially those with ADHD) may tap their feet, swivel in their chairs, or bounce in their seats while their brains are busily figuring out a math test or some other educational equivalent.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Nasreddin's Grapes

Have you heard of Nasreddin? In some parts of the world this man is so famous, in Turkey for example, that an annual festival is celebrated in his honor every year. And UNESCO declared 1996–1997 to be International Nasreddin Year. According to Wikipedia, the oldest manuscript of Nasreddin dates to 1571. Depending on whom you talk to, this Ottoman Turk was a wise philosopher or an unenlightened fool. Or maybe both. One anecdote attributed to him could apply to several different areas in life. The story goes that Nasreddin had a vineyard. One day he was returning from said vineyard, two large basketfuls of grapes loaded on his faithful donkey. Some children saw him, gathered around, and begged to be given a taste. Nasreddin picked up a bunch of grapes and handed each child one single grape. The children complained that he, who had so much, had given them so little. Nasreddin replied: "There is no difference whether you have a basketful or a small piece. They all taste the same.” Hmmm.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology (PNI)

Are you aware of the tight connection between your brain and your body? It is impossible to separate mind from body or emotions from illness. Socrates was teaching that thousands of years before the advent of psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology. Okay, PNI for short. Current studies are validating Socrates’ position. According to Gabor Maté, MD, author of When the Body Says NO – Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection, individuals typically do not become ill despite their lives but rather because of their lives. The body is a fount of innate wisdom. Much disease could be healed and much prevented if people understood the existing scientific evidence verifying the mind-body connection. Knowledge is power and it is often life-saving. The goal is to identify a relationship between stress and illness as a physiological reality. It can be literally lifesaving to use the information one uncovers to promote learning and healing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Protective Anger

How do you typically deal with the emotion of anger? It's a challenge for most people. In this society, culture has said that it's more okay for males to exhibit anger than for females. Do you become frightened by your anger and try to repress it? Do you let it hang out all over everyone and everything or blame others for it? Do you allow it to drive your behaviors or do you simply recognize what the emotion is trying to tell you (e.g., that your boundaries are being actually or potentially invaded) and decide whether you just need to file away the information and do things differently next time or take some action right now? Therapist Joann Peterson put it this way: “Anger is the energy Mother Nature gives us as little kids to stand forward on our behalf and say I matter. The different between the healthy energy of anger and the hurtful energy of emotional and physical violence is that anger respects boundaries. Standing forward on your own behalf does not invade anyone else’s boundaries.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Many Facets of Assertion

How assertive are you? Do you know what being assertive really means? Typically in this culture, assertion has the connotation of stepping up to the plate and taking some bold action. Gabor Mat̩, MD, author of When the Body Says NO РExploring the Stress-Disease Connection, presents an interesting perspective on assertion. He asserts that it may have little to do with taking action. Rather it is the declaration to oneself and to the world that I am and that I am who I am. Assertion in the sense of self-declaration is deeper than the limited autonomy of action. It not only challenges the core belief that you must somehow justify your existence, but also demands neither acting nor reacting. Assertion may be the very opposite of action, not only in the narrow sense of refusing to do something you do not wish to do but also in letting go of the very need to act. Assertion is being, irrespective of action.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chimp Genius

Smarter than the average chimp? Well, it appears that (just like humans) some chimps are smarter than others. One of these is a female chimp named Natasha, a resident of the Ngamba Island chimpanzee sanctuary in Uganda. This adult female chimp in her 20s scored off the charts in a battery of tests. The findings, published in the latest Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, suggest that geniuses exist among non-humans. So far researchers have not been able to identify a general intelligence factor. Rather, Natasha’s performance might be a bundling of skills related to learning, tool usage, understanding of quantities, and an ability to reach conclusions based on evidence and reasoning. They do surmise, that a willingness to learn and a positive attitude seem to make as big of a difference in dogs, chimps, and other animals as they do in humans.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bilinguality and Alzheimer's

Did you know that being bilingual offers some protection against Alzheimer’s? Ellen Bialystok, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto, studied 450 Alzheimer’s patients (half monolingual and half bilingual). Bilingual patients with Alzheimer's symptoms were diagnosed between four and five years later than the monolingual patients with Alzheimer’s symptoms. Mastering a second language appears to strengthen the brain in ways that seem to delay developing Alzheimer's disease later on. Just as a regular physical exercise program can keep your physical body in good shape well into your senior years, an effective mental exercise program can do the same for your brain. If you’re not bilingual and don’t want to learn another language, stimulate your brain daily with challenging brain aerobic exercises.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

High Fructose Corn Syrup and the Brain

Did you know that what you eat affects how you think? Studies at UCLA, reported in the Journal of Physiology, reported that a steady diet of high-fructose corn syrup disrupted the ability of lab rats to think clearly and to recall how to run a learned maze route. Some of the rats also developed signs of insulin resistance; insulin is a hormone that controls blood sugar and regulates brain function. (According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes more than 40 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per year, it being found commonly in soda, applesauce, baby food, condiments, and other processed snacks.) Researchers reported that the study “shows that a high-fructose diet harms the brain as well as the body. This is something new."

Friday, September 14, 2012

PTSD and Sleep

Did you know that about twenty 20 percent of people exposed to a severe traumatic event, such as a car or work accident, terrorist attack or war, cannot carry on their lives normally for a period of time? They often retain the memory of the event for many years, which can cause considerable difficulties in daily life. A new rat study done at Tel Aviv University and published in the international scientific journal, Neuropsychopharmacology, showed that sleep deprivation of approximately six hours immediately after exposure to a traumatic event reduced the development of post trauma-like behavioral responses. This means that sleep deprivation the first hours after stress exposure could represent a simple, yet effective, intervention for PTSD. Researcher Hagit Cohen is currently planning a pilot study in humans.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Accuracy and Flashbulb Memories

Do you know how accurate your flashbulb  memories are? Flashbulb memories are usually extremely vivid and have some personal significance for the individual. For the person recalling these vivid memories, they often seem to be more accurate than everyday less vivid memories. This may not actually be the case, however. For example, in one study, both flashbulb memories of 9/11 and everyday memories were found to deteriorate over time. For the individual having the flashbulb memories, however, the reported vividness, recollection, and personal belief in the accuracy of the memories remained high.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Babysitting by Electronics

Did you know that an American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation is that babies under the age of two watch no television? A study, reported in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, suppported that recommendation, concluding: watching television not only isn't educational but it seems to stunt babies' development. Nancy Shute reported on this in her article entitled TV Watching Is Bad for Babies' Brains. The study reported that babies who watched 60 minutes of television daily had developmental scores one-third lower at age 14 months than babies who weren not watching that much. Television offers us, as older individuals, the option of receiving information that we could not otherwise get in real time. For example, I watched TV broadcasts of the summer olympics every chance I got! Ordinarily, however, I babysit my brain by reading . . . 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pain and Empathy

Empathy activates some, but not all, of the brain’s pain-processing regions. If you grab a hot spoon handle, pain shoots into temperature receptors on your skin, through nerves, up your spine and into your brain. Some brain regions process where the pain comes from and how hot the spoon really was. Other regions process how unpleasant you felt the pain to be. Thus, how much the burn hurts and how bothersome this pain is differs for each situation and depends partly on what else is going on in your head and the environment. On the other hand, knowing that a loved one is in pain automatically activates the subjective pain-processing regions of your brain, which leads to empathy. But the areas involved in processing the exact location of the pain in your body as well as the objective intensity of the pain are involved only when you experience pain in yourself.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Stay Young as You Grow Old

Many of you wrote to ask for the link to my article entitled "Do You LIKE Growing Older?" Here it is:   The bottom line is that the alternative is unattractive. There is a growing body of research that strongly suggests you can stay younger while growing older. That doesn't mean you'll live forever on this planet as you know it. It does mean that by developing and implementing a high-level-wellness living life style, it appears possible (all things being equal) to retard the onset of symptoms of aging, perhaps by up to 25 or 30 years. My brain's opinion? "It's worth it!" Remember that there are many brain aerobic exercises available free of charge on the Realizations Inc website: The recommendation is to obtain at least thirty minutes of challenging mental stimulation every day. Plus ten minutes of reading aloud. Get busy. Everyone who knows you will be glad you took care of your brain!

Saturday, September 8, 2012


For the past several decades, research in developmental psychology, social psychology, and cognitive neuroscience has focused on the human ability to have a “theory of mind” or to “mentalize.” This involves the ability to make attributions about the mental states (desires, beliefs, intentions) of others. This ability is absent in monkeys and only exists in a rudimentary form in apes. It develops by about age five and is impaired in autism. (The lack of a theory of mind in most autistic children could explain their observed failures in communication and social interaction.) Normal adults are capable of both mentalizing and empathizing. These abilities are useful for making self-interested choices because they enable people to predict others’ actions more accurately.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Forgive You First

Did you know that is order to be able to genuinely forgive others you must first learn to forgive yourself? Self-forgiveness means taking a nonjudgemental stance in your own thoughts and actions, knowing that being human means you are allowed to make mistakes, and that you can learn from them. Forgiveness is immensely beneficial but never easy and it takes time. It requires reconditioning of one’s thinking and unlearning a justice-seeking (e.g., revenge) mindset, replacing ill-feelings with feelings of love and compassion. The past cannot be changed but, by forgiving, you can change the future.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Automatic Pilot

Part of one's day is spent in a state of hyperconsciousness (e.g., logical, rational, decision-oriented, verbal mode) in which one foreces the mind to attend. At other times, one operates in an altered state of consciousness. THink of it as the "automatic pilot effect" (e.g., you are driving and many miles have gone by outside conscious awareness). Most of what one is capable of is determined by part of the mind of which you can never become aware: the unconscious mind. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Heart-Intuition Take Two

Your heart is involved in the processing and decoding of intuitive information. Previous studies by Childre and McCraty (2001) suggested that the heart’s field was directly involved in intuitive perception through its coupling to an energetic information field outside the bounds of space and time. Additional studies provided evidence that both the heart and brain receive and respond to information about a future event before the event actually happens. Even more surprising was that the heart appeared to receive this intuitive information even before the brain received it. This puts another spin on the importance of paying attention to your intuition. It appears that your heart and brain are not just whistling Dixie.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Your Brain's Switchboard Operator

Did you know that deep within your brain there is a swithboard operator? It's the pulvinar. Its job it to regulate communication between clusters of brain cells as your brain focuses on the people and objects that need your attention—to make sure that separate areas of your visual cortex are communicating about the same external information. The pulvinar appears to provide guidance for your behaviors. For example, without the pulvinar, your observation of an oncoming semi-truck as you start to cross a busy street might get lost in a jumble of other stimuli. fMRI study results of the pulvinar could assist with developing treatment strategies for medical disorders characterized by a failure of attention mechanisms (e.g., ADHD, schizophrenia, spatial neglect that involves an inability to detect stimuli often observed following a stroke). Results of the Princeton study suggest that visual information is not transmitted solely through a network of areas in the visual cortex, but involves the pulvinar as an important regulator of neural transmission.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cancer Risk and Alcohol

Almost a third of a century after discovery of a link between alcohol consumption and certain types of cancer, scientists have reported the first human research evidence of how the popular beverage may be carcinogenic. As the human body metabolizes alcohol in beer, wine, and hard liquor, acetaldehyde is produced. Acetaldehyde attaches to DNA in humans in a way that results in the formation of a ‘DNA adduct’ that is linked to an increased risk of cancer. Most people have an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which quickly converts acetaldehyde to acetate, a relatively harmless substance. About thirty percent of people of Asian descent, however, (almost 1.6 billion people) have a variant of the alcohol dehydrogenase gene and are unable to metabolize alcohol to acetate. That genetic variant results in an elevated risk of esophageal cancer from alcohol drinking. Native Americans and native Alaskans have a deficiency in the production of that same enzyme. Study results were reported at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Do You Get 1/3

Did you know humans are designed to spend a third of their lives sleeping—on a regular basis? That is a "yes" according to performance-therapist and medical researcher Robert Rudelic. Sleep deprivation can lead to a laundry list of short-term and long-term effects. In the short-term, the individual may experience irritability, quick temper, edginess, pessimism, negative attitude, lack of focus, poor eating choices, and a higher risk of getting sick or of getting into an accident. Long-term effects (over the course of a few months to a year or longer) may be as severe as type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety, stroke, gastrointestinal problems, and even premature death.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Photographic Memory

Do you have a photographic memory? Do you know someone who does? Photographic or eidetic memory refers to the ability of an individual to recall large amounts of detailed and vivid visual images, sounds, and/or objects. Studies have found that children with photographic memory, after being shown a picture and asked to study it for about thirty minutes, are able to recall and maintain the image in their memory as vividly as if it were still there after the image has been removed.