Maneuver Your Consciousness In 12 Minutes Or Less
by Christine Comaford*
Preparation, you’ll need:
- An Emotion Wheel (we’ve included two samples)
- A timer – you’ll be doing four segments of three minutes in a row.
- Ideally, do this exercise with a buddy who will sit silently with you and ensure that you use all three minutes for each step below:
Think of something you are resisting. Pick something “meaty”, like:
A painful belief;
Anger at someone or something
An unpleasant person
A situation you don’t want in your life.
Circumstances out of your control
Step 1. Negative Evaluation State: Have your buddy set the timer for three minutes. During those three minutes, say out loud and don’t censor yourself or hold back. Really go all out:
All the things you don’t like about what you’re resisting.
What’s bad about it, what you can’t stand about it.
How painful it is.
How it makes you feel.
Why it’s wrong.
As soon as the three minutes are up, look at the Emotion Wheel and identify the key emotions you experienced during this state of Negative Evaluation.
Then have your buddy break your state. He or she can invite you to shake your body out, ask you a non-sequitur question involving a number, such as “How many stripes does a zebra have?”, or even ask you to count backwards from 10 to 1.
Step 2. Curiosity State: Have your buddy set the timer for three minutes. Now get really curious about this situation.
How did it come to be?
What is interesting about it?
What is familiar about it?
What good things come from it?
As soon as the three minutes are up, look at the Emotion Wheel and identify your key emotions from this state of Curiosity. Then, have your buddy break your state by inviting you to shake your body out, asking you a non-sequitur question involving a number, such as “How many spots does a cheetah have?”, or asking you to count backwards from 10 to 1.
Step 3. Amazement State: Have your buddy set the timer for three minutes, and actively become amazed that this situation ever came to be.
This is fascinating because . . . !
What’s amazing about it?
How do you feel about it?
As soon as the three minutes are up, look at the Emotion Wheel and identify the key emotions you noticed in this state of Amazement. Then, have your buddy break your state. He or she might invite you to shake your body out, ask you a non-sequitur question involving a number, such as “How many grains of sand are on a perfect beach?”, or ask you to count backwards from 10 to 1.
Step 4. Full Appreciation State: Have your buddy set the timer for three minutes. Ahhhh…deep breath. Honor everything about this situation:
“Yes! This has been so very helpful in bringing me to the next level.
Wow.” So much gratitude and appreciation.
How do you feel about it as you’re honoring it?
As soon as the three minutes are up, look at the Emotion Wheel and identify key emotions you experienced while in this state of Full Appreciation. Then have your buddy break your state. He or she could invite you to shake your body out, ask you a non-sequitur question involving a number, such as “What’s your favorite number?”, or even ask you to count backwards from 10 to 1.
This process help release resistance, and also allows us to have choices and possibly increase our productivity. The quicker you can shift out of resistance and into consent, the faster you can focus on what really matters most.
Give this process a try and tell us if it worked for you.
Christine Comaford is a leadership and culture coach who helps businesses achieve growth.
We are familiar with earth worms, and earworms (a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind after it is no longer playing).
Bet you didn’t know YOU have THOUGHT WORMS
The average person will typically have more than 6,000 thoughts in a single day, new research into the human brain suggests.*
*The academic project—which was led by Jordan Poppenk, from the Department of Psychology, and Masters student Julie Tseng—outlines a method of isolating specific moments when a human is focused on a single idea, a phenomenon the researchers described as a “thought worm.”
“Can measures of thought dynamics serve a clinical function? For example, our methods could possibly support early detection of disordered thought in schizophrenia, or rapid thought in ADHD or mania. “
“Thought worms are adjacent points in a simplified representation of activity patterns in the brain,” Poppenk explains. “The brain occupies a different point in this ‘state space’ at every moment.”
“When a person moves onto a new thought, they create a new thought worm that can be detected by brain scans……Drilling into this helped us validate the idea that the appearance of a new thought worm corresponds to a thought transition.”
Researching this spontaneous thought can help test how our brain patterns and thoughts are influenced by external influences, from drinking a cup of coffee to watching a movie for a second time.
“Thought transitions have been elusive throughout the history of research on thought, which has often relied on volunteers describing their own thoughts, a method that can be notoriously unreliable,” Poppenk said. “Being able to measure the onset of new thoughts gives us a way to peek into the ‘black box’ of the resting mind—to explore the timing and pace of thoughts when a person is just daydreaming about dinner and otherwise keeping to themselves.”
In the future, the team plans to look at how cognitive dynamics “vary across the lifespan” and attempt to better understand how mentation rate—the time it takes for a person’s thought to move on—relates to their individual personal qualities. “For example, how does mentation rate relate to a person’s ability to pay attention for a long period?” Poppenk said.
Caffeine, the main stimulant found in coffee, works on a chemical level to give you energy by replacing the biochemical adenosine, which makes you tired.
Your brain on coffee
Caffeine, the main stimulant in coffee, works on a chemical level to give you a boost of energy. However, caffeine is structurally similar to another chemical naturally created in the body, called adenosine, which makes you tired. Similar to how morphine binds to endorphin receptors, the caffeine in your morning coffee binds to your brain’s adenosine receptors, preventing the biochemical from making you tired.
What are the health benefits of coffee?
- Builds your adrenaline supply which increases your heart rate and allows blood to pump faster.
- Prevents dopamine from being reabsorbed into your system, which allows it to linger in the brain for a longer amount of time, causing you to feel it’s positive effects (such as happiness) for a longer amount of time.
- Boosts metabolism and increases physical performance/muscle strength.
- When consumed in excess, caffeine can cause anxiety, heart palpitations, and sleeping problems.(According to Consumer Reports, up to 400mg of caffeine per day (which equals two to four 8 ounce cups) can be part of a healthy diet, however anything over 600 mg per day is too much.)
- Helps with your nutrient intake (the vitamins B2, B3, B5, manganese, and potassium are all found in coffee)
- Lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Helps fight depression symptoms
- Provides a source of antioxidants
- Can cause your brain to function at optimal levels, making you smarter
This lingering of dopamine is what often triggers the brain to crave more caffeine. (While dopamine itself isn’t inherently addictive, it does play a large role in many addictions.)
The more coffee you drink, the more adenosine receptors are formed, meaning it can take more coffee to keep you awake now than it did when you started drinking coffee as a young adult.
According to research, caffeine has a half-life of around 6 hours.
- Within the first 10 minutes, the caffeine enters your bloodstream and is pumped throughout your body, causing an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
- Up to 20 minutes after intake, caffeine binds to the adenosine receptors, neutralizing fatigue. Dopamine levels increase and linger, which provides the drinker with an alert and focused feeling.
- Within 30 minutes, your adrenal glands shift into high gear and begin producing more hormones. During this time your vision may become sharper due to your pupils dilating.
- Within 40 minutes, your body begins producing more serotonin, which improves the neuron function within your spinal cord – this leads to improved coordination and muscle strength.
- After 4 hours, your metabolism increases, which is why you burn energy faster. Your body begins to break down stored fats during this time.
- Within 6 hours, the liquid coffee has gone through your system and you will likely feel the urge to urinate, during which time approximately half the caffeine you consumed is expelled.
Consuming caffeine when cortisol levels are high decreases the health benefits.
Cortisol, a naturally-occurring stress hormone, has a very distinct circadian rhythm that is regulated by the brain’s central pacemaker. Interrupting this rhythm can lead to metabolic abnormalities, fatigue, and poor quality of life, (2009 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism).
Consuming caffeine when your cortisol levels are at a natural peak can lead to interference in the production of cortisol and an increase in your tolerance, which can impact your response to stress and will cause to you need more and more caffeine as time goes on.
When is the best time to drink coffee?
The cortisol levels in your body are at a natural peak three times per day, one of which is in the early morning.
*To get the most positive impacts of your daily caffeine intake, drink coffee between 10 in the morning and 12 noon or between 2 in the afternoon and 5 in the evening.
This will allow your brain to make the most of your caffeine surge, as it’s not replacing any other important functions, such as the cortisol release that naturally happens several times per day.
Scientists Find Neuron ‘Nursery’ in Adult Human Nose Tissue
Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Duke Institute for Brain Sciences say they have discovered a thriving neuron ‘nursery’ in the olfactory neuroepithelium, a section of adult human nose tissue.
Previously, studies had been limited to nasal tissue samples from mice.
In the human tissue samples used in the new study, researchers found that immature neurons produced by stem cells represented more than half of the neurons in the samples, suggesting that new neurons were produced in the tissue.
Sense of Smell
“We do not fully understand why people lose their sense of smell, which can occur for many reasons, and our data sets provide a wealth of information about the cell populations present in adult olfactory tissue,”Dr. Goldstein, lead researcher said.
“This is an important step in developing treatment strategies for conditions when this tissue may be damaged.”
Approximately one in eight Americans over age 40 — up to 13.3 million people — have measurable smell dysfunction.
“It will be very useful to use this window to analyze samples from people with conditions in which the nervous system has degeneration, such as Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Goldstein said.
“Alzheimer’s is of particular interest, since these patients lose their sense of smell quite early in the disease process, and we have few treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.”
“While we weren’t able to observe the neurons being made because of the nature of human samples, the molecular makeup of the immature neurons in the sample provides strong evidence that they were made in the nose during adulthood,” said Professor Hiroaki Matsunami, co-author of the study.
“Because the nose is exposed to the external environment, it might be possible we could one day collect these neuronal stem cells from patients and use them to treat their own brain disorders. It is not outside of the realm of possibility.”
The research was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
The closest we will probably ever, knowingly, meet up with a psychopath is reading the fascinating interviews in . . .
The Wisdom of Psychopaths – What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success by Kevin Dutton
Psychopaths tend to be fearless, confident, charming, ruthless and focused – qualities found in brain surgeons, fighter pilots, lawyers, fire fighters. CEO’s and meditating monks.
In this fascinating book Keven Dutton, a British psychologist, combines neuroscience research, interviews with psychopaths, psychological studies and his own mind-altering experience to explore the mind, motives of people identified as psychopaths or psychopathic tendencies.
We found the accounts of his encounters with psychopaths, those locked away, those fully functioning within and outside the “norms” of society both chilling and intriguing.
One of the interesting interviews was with a U.S. Special Forces instructor for Navy SEALs (The guys who took out Bin Laden). The instructor describes how they tests recruits to to break them using “torture tactics”. The object is to determine if they are tough enough to qualify to be a seal (who, to a person, score high in psychopathic traits). Here’s the interview:
We did everything we could to break this guy. He was orphaned at eleven . . .looking after his younger brother and sister by living on his wits. Stealing. Wheeling. Dealing . . . when he was sixteen, he beat someone up so bad they went into a coma.
White noice. Sleep deprivation. Sensory deprivation. Water. Stress positions .. . We threw everything at him. Finally, after forty-eight hours, I removed the blindfold, put my face within a few inches of his, and yelled:
“Is there anything you want to tell me?” . . . he said yes. There was something he wanted to say.
“What is it?. ‘I asked.
“You want to cut down on the garlic, dude,” he said.
. . . It was the only time, in fifteen years as an instructor, that I let my guard slip. Just for a second, a split second, I smiled. I couldn’t help it. I actually admired this guy. And you know what? Even in the disgusting, state he was in . . ., the son of a bitch saw it. . .. he called me back closer to him. And there was a look of sheer, I don’t know, defiance . . in his eyes.
“Game over,” he whispered in my ear. “You’ve failed.”
“What? I was meant to be saying that to him? It was then that we realized he was one of what we call the “unbreakables.” The toughest of the tough . . .” And if he DID have a conscience I never saw it. He was cold as ice. At either end of a weapon. Which actually, in this line of work, isn’t always a bad thing”
Research in the lab has shown that it isn’t so much the case that psychopaths don’t feel anxiety in certain situations, but rather that they just don’t notice the threat. Their attention is focused purely on the task at hand, and extraneous distractions are ruthlessly filtered out.
The psychopathic traits that most of us recognize are:
- Failure to conform to social norms
- Deceitfulness, repeated lying, conning others for personal profit or pleasure
- Impulsivity, or failure to plan ahead
- Irritability and aggressiveness
- Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
- Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations
- Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to, or rationalizing, having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.
Dutton describes a scale of “madness” along which we all sit. Incorporating the latest advances in brain scanning and neuroscience, he explains that “functional psychopaths – different from their murderous counterparts – use their detached, unflinching and charismatic personalities to succeed in society.
Furthermore, there is an overlap of traits shared both by those who have psychopathic traits (Narcissism, impulsivity, lack of conscience, manipulativeness, pathological lying, coldheartedness) and those who have spiritual traits (love compassion, gentleness, humility, faithfulness, trustworthiness):
- mental toughness,
- openness to experience,
- focus/altered state of consciousness,
Here’s a synopsis, straight from the internet promo:
“In this engrossing journey into the lives of psychopaths and their infamously crafty behaviors, the renowned psychologist Kevin Dutton reveals that there is a scale of “madness” along which we all sit. Incorporating the latest advances in brain scanning and neuroscience, Dutton demonstrates that the brilliant neurosurgeon who lacks empathy has more in common with a Ted Bundy who kills for pleasure than we may wish to admit, and that a mugger in a dimly lit parking lot may well, in fact, have the same nerveless poise as a titan of industry.”
“Dutton argues that there are indeed “functional psychopaths” among us—different from their murderous counterparts—who use their detached, unflinching, and charismatic personalities to succeed in mainstream society, and that shockingly, in some fields, the more “psychopathic” people are, the more likely they are to succeed. Dutton deconstructs this often misunderstood diagnosis through bold on-the-ground reporting and original scientific research as he mingles with the criminally insane in a high-security ward, shares a drink with one of the world’s most successful con artists, and undergoes transcranial magnetic stimulation to discover firsthand exactly how it feels to see through the eyes of a psychopath.”
“As Dutton develops his theory that we all possess psychopathic tendencies, he puts forward the argument that society as a whole is more psychopathic than ever: after all, psychopaths tend to be fearless, confident, charming, ruthless, and focused—qualities that are tailor-made for success in the twenty-first century. Provocative at every turn, The Wisdom of Psychopaths is a riveting adventure that reveals that it’s our much-maligned dark side that often conceals the trump cards of success.”
Why do some of us find it easier to forgive?
When we feel that somebody has wronged us personally, we make a moral judgment. From a neuropsychological viewpoint, the act of judging a moral situation is incredibly complex and has a lot to do with intentionality – did the perpetrator really mean to do those awful things?
Making a mature moral judgment about a wrongful act involves not only considering the damage done, but also the perpetrator’s intention and mental state. When there is a clear contradiction between the two, however, intention seems to take precedence over the result of the action.
What happens in our brain when we know that whoever harmed us caused the harm did so UNINTENTIONALLY?
Indrajeet Patil, the study’s primary author, details this further and puts the new research into context:
“Behavioural studies have already shown that when the intention and outcome of an action are conflicting, as in the case of sometimes serious accidental harm, people tend to focus mainly on the intentions when formulating a judgment. And this is more or less a universal feature of mature moral judgments across cultures.”
” . . . very few studies have taken on this issue from an anatomical point of view, to gain an understanding of whether differences in the volume and structure of certain areas of the brain might explain variations in moral judgment. This research attempted to explore precisely this aspect.”
Studying the neuroanatomical basis of forgiveness
To do this, the researchers asked 50 participants to complete a moral judgement task. The volunteers were presented with 36 unique stories and four potential outcomes for each of them.
Each scenario comprised four parts:
- Some background information
- A foreshadowing segment, in which it was suggested that the outcome would be either neutral or harmful
- Information on the neutral or intentionally harmful mental state of the agent
- The consequence, which revealed the agent’s action and the resulting outcome.
“Participants read each story and were asked to give their moral judgment by answering questions regarding “acceptability” and “blame.” . . . “the participants were asked: “How morally acceptable was [the agent]’s behavior?” and “How much blame does [the agent] deserve?” The volunteers gave answers based on a scale from 1 to 7.”
“While answering the questions, the participants’ brain activity was analyzed using voxel-based morphometry – a neuroimaging technique that allows for a holistic examination of brain changes while simultaneously preserving a high degree of brain region specificity.”
“The researchers also used neuroimaging to localize the neural areas responsible for the so-called theory of mind (ToM). ToM, or “mentalizing,” is a person’s ability to correctly attribute mental states – such as beliefs, intentions, and desires – to others based on their behavior. Mentalizing also refers to the person’s ability to explain and predict other people’s behavior based on these inferences.”
People with a more developed aSTS are more inclined to forgive
The results revealed a connection between the differences in moral judgement severity about unintentional harm and the volume of the left aSTS brain region.
More specifically, the more developed the aSTS was, the less blame was attributed to the wrongdoers. “The greater the gray matter volume [in this area], the less accidental harm-doers are condemned.”
Patil further explains the findings:
“The aSTS was already known to be involved in the ability to represent the mental states (thoughts, beliefs, desires, etc.) of others. According to our conclusions, individuals with more gray matter at aSTS are better able to represent the mental state of those responsible for actions and thus comprehend the unintentional nature of the harm. In expressing judgment they are thus able to focus on this latter aspect and give it priority over the especially unpleasant consequences of the action. For this reason, ultimately, they are less inclined to condemn it severely.”
If you find it hard to forgive, your challenge NOW is to forgive your anterior superior temporal sulcus (aSTS) for not having more grey matter.
The researchers were led by Giorgia Silani from the University of Vienna in Austria, and the study was carried out in collaboration with scientists from Trieste University in Italy and Boston College in Massachusetts. The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
“Fans and critics alike have been calling our shows ‘awe-inspiring’ for more than 30 years now, and yet when we asked fans as marketers, ‘How do you feel? How do we connect with you?’ they were not able to explain it,” says Cirque du Soleil’s chief marketing and experience officer Kristina Heney. “We would get the proverbial world cloud of ‘Oh, my god, wow, you have to go, amazing, life-changing,’ but we couldn’t understand that emotional bridge.”
If you worry you have a evolved brain.
Powerful emotions, like anger, fear, anxiety, are products of our neurology and created largely for survival. It’s just that our brains no longer know we are not living in caves and threatened by being eaten alive.
Alfred E. Neuman was an iconic figure in the comic book MAD in the 1950’s*. MAD’s first editor, Harvey Kurtzman identified him: “It was a kid that didn’t have a care in the world, except mischief.” Few of us don’t have a care in the world and most of us worry.
If you are someone who tends to worry or be anxious (probably most of us), listen to what Professor B.L. Chakoo has to say:
” Worrying is primarily the result of poor communication between the thinking prefrontal cortex (which is the whole surface of your brain) and the anterior cingulate which notices all your mistakes and contributes to ‘the tendency to dwell on everything that is going wrong’.”
“Anxiety, by comparison, is mediated by some circuits within the limbic system which is the emotional part of the brain and is responsible for things like fear, anxiety and memory. So, there is no reason to get upset with yourself for feeling anxious or worrying too much. It is just a by-product of your brain’s evolution.”
“Yes, it would be a marvelous world if we never felt worried or anxious, but that is not the way our brains are ‘structured or wired’. We as human beings worry about the future, ‘regret the past, and blame ourselves for the present’. We get upset, feel angry, frustrated when we cannot have what we want, and sad, irritable or disappointed when what we desire ‘ends’.”
He also says that our brains make things up, and so you can worry about something that has not happened yet, as well as regret what did happen.
The Good News
If the brain is the cause of suffering, it can also be its “cure.” Understanding why you worry or are anxious will help your brain will develop the ability to right itself. Decades of neuroscience inquiries have shown us how to modify our brains and change the levels of different neurochemicals.*
We can also grow new neurons and improve the way our brains work to reduce stress:
- Movement – walking, jogging, gardening or even walking up and down stairs – increases ‘the firing rate of serotonin neurons’, which causes them to release more serotonin.
- Exercise with moderate intensity increases norepinephrine which helps with concentration and deep thinking.
- Activity outside is best since sunlight improves serotonin production . . . as does . . .
- . . . Interactions with others.
All these activities increase serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex, which help keep you from thinking about negative experiences.
And that means having an easier time saying “What? Me worry?”
*To read the entire article by Professor B L Chakoo
Perhaps you haven’t heard that the hype about mindfulness is backed by hard science? Recent research provides strong evidence that practicing non-judgmental, present-moment awareness (a.k.a. mindfulness) changes the brain.
Your anterior cingulate cortex
“The first is the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a structure located deep inside your forehead, behind the brain’s frontal lobe. The ACC is associated with self-regulation, meaning the ability to purposefully direct attention and behavior, suppress inappropriate knee-jerk responses, and switch strategies flexibly.”
“People with damage to the ACC show impulsivity and unchecked aggression, and those with impaired connections between this and other brain regions perform poorly on tests of mental flexibility: they hold onto ineffective problem-solving strategies rather than adapting their behavior.”
“Meditators, on the other hand, demonstrate superior performance on tests of self-regulation, resisting distractions and making correct answers more often than non-meditators. They also show more activity in the ACC than non-meditators. In addition to self-regulation, the ACC is associated with learning from past experience to support optimal decision-making. Scientists point out that the ACC may be particularly important in the face of uncertain and fast-changing conditions.”
“The hippocampus, a region that showed increased amounts of gray matter in the brains of a 2011 mindfulness program participants. This seahorse-shaped area is buried inside the temple on each side of the brain and is part of the limbic system, a set of inner structures associated with emotion and memory. It is covered in receptors for the stress hormone cortisol, and studies have shown that it can be damaged by chronic stress, contributing to a harmful spiral in the body. People with stress-related disorders like depresssion and PTSD tend to have a smaller hippocampus. All of this points to the importance of this brain area in resilience.”
Neuroscientists have also shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to
- body awareness
- pain tolerance
- emotion regulation
- complex thinking
- sense of self.
Mindfulness can be integrated into your religious or spiritual life, or practiced as a form of secular mental training. When we take a seat, take a breath, and commit to being mindful, particularly when we gather with others who are doing the same, we have the potential to be changed.
“What we know about how memories are made at a neuroscience level is that it’s not just important to repeat a stimulus, but it is important to leave spaces in between,” . . . “There are changes that happen to the genes and proteins on a neuron that help fix the memory if there are spaces between learning something.”
The latest neuroscience shows students who took part in spaced learning, where lessons are broken up by activities such as juggling, improved their attainment.
Training teachers to break up lessons with 10 minute “distractions”, such as juggling or model making, has been found to significantly boost pupils’ learning, early research has shown.
“A study involving 2,000 pupils revealed that information is more easily learnt if it is delivered in intense 12-minute bursts and broken up by 10 minute periods of an unrelated activity. The project, called SMART Spaces, is based on the latest neuroscience, which shows that information is better absorbed and more easily recalled when it is repeated a number of times, but spaced out with distractions.”
Whoops . . . wrong “space”
“In Sheffield England technique as part of their revision lessons ahead of students’ GCSEs. Pupils had an intense 12 minute Power Point lesson in chemistry, then juggled for 10 minutes. After that they had 12 minutes of physics before another 10 minutes of juggling. The lesson was then finished with 12 minutes of biology. This was then repeated over two more days. Other schools broke up their lessons with plasticine model making and games of Simon Says. Mr Gittner said the study led to some significant gains in learning, and there are plans to implement a full-scale randomised controlled trial involving up to 50 schools.”
“The idea for the project came after Monkseaton High School in Newcastle made headlines in 2009 for teaching its pupils to pass a GCSE after just three days of learning. They were able to pass a sixth of a GCSE in just 60 minutes. Distractions boost results Mr Gittner said such approaches were not to counteract shrinking attention spans, adding that the techniques were backed up by the latest developments in neuroscience.”
“It fits with the generally accepted views that people can only really focus for 20 minutes, even adults. Students that took part in our trial were able to concentrate fully because they new in 15 minutes they were going to get to to juggle,”
There is an ever-increasing body of research evidence that shows that meditation decreases stress, depression, and anxiety, reduces pain and insomnia, and increases quality of life.
One study looked at long-term meditators (seven to nine years of experience) versus a control group. “The results showed that those with a strong meditation background had increased gray matter in several areas of the brain, including the auditory and sensory cortex, as well as insula and sensory regions.”
“This makes sense, since mindfulness meditation has you slow down and become aware of the present moment, including physical sensations such as your breathing and the sounds around you.”
Neuroscientists also found that the meditators had more gray matter in the brain region, linked to decision-making and working memory: the frontal cortex. In fact, while most people see their cortexes shrink as they age, 50-year-old meditators in the study had the same amount of gray matter as those half their age.
Just to make sure this wasn’t because the long-term meditators had more gray matter to begin with, a second study was conducted in which they put people with no experience with meditation into an eight-week mindfulness program.
“Even just eight weeks of meditation changed people’s brains for the better. There was thickening in several regions of the brain, including the left hippocampus (involved in learning, memory, and emotional regulation); the TPJ (involved in empathy and the ability to take multiple perspectives); and a part of the brainstem called the pons (where regulatory neurotransmitters are generated).”
“Plus, the brains of the new meditators saw shrinkage of the amygdala, a region of the brain associated with fear, anxiety, and aggression. This reduction in size of the amygdala correlated to reduced stress levels in those participants.”
How long do you have to meditate to see such results?
“The study participants were told to meditate for 40 minutes a day, but the average ended up being 27 minutes a day. Several other studies suggest that you can see significant positive changes in just 15 to 20 minutes a day”
In 8 weeks my brain will look and act half its age . . . .if only meditating could do the same for my body . . .
Peggy & Judy were working on their book Hack Your Way to Happiness, based on neuroscience and decided to make a 2019 calendar with 12 of the book’s 22 Happiness Hacks. (They aren’t quite done with the book . . . they get diverted very easily . . . I have a hard time keeping them on track.)
If I needed a calendar, which I don’t since I prefer to live in the moment, I would get their calendar. HOWEVER, the calendar has pictures of the Curious Critters but not ONE picture of me so I wouldn’t pay full price and would buy it with a 60% off Zazzle coupon, which is often available.
Here’s one of the Happiness Hacks from the book . . . don’t tell them I’m sharing it with you for free.
There are two sides to a coin, two sides to a pancake and two sides to every thought you have. When a negative thought bothers you, flip the thought to the positive side:
Imagine the opposite – something better, pleasurable, anything POSITIVE – is true and how you would feel.
Positive thoughts signal your brain to release “happy” neurochemicals.
To see all 12 Hacks, Click HERE
Freddie Parker Westerfield
NOT a Hack
What is your preference?
Some research suggests that ingredients in chocolate chip cookies may have additive properties. Take sugar: Evidence in humans shows that sugar and sweetness can induce rewards and cravings comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs, including cocaine.
Texture and flavor: Key to a cookie’s addictive characteristics
A happy indulgence
I always explained to the patients I worked with in the hospital there was one important thing to understand about how to maximize their brain’s potential which can lead them to be more positive, motivated, understand what it takes to learn new skills and be in control of how they respond to life’s events:
“What fires together, wires together”*
Brain neurons that fire together wire together. What this means is that the more often you use a specific neuro-pathway in your brain, the stronger the connections along that pathway become. It is like making a path through a field: Walk through once and there may be a suggestion of where you went; Walk the same path many times, it becomes a clear trail, and the easiest way to go.
When the same neurons fire in your brain, it means you brain will find it easy to use this path, and will get “good” at taking it. The more you practice the easier, quicker and more automatic a new skill, learning language or responding to others with compassion becomes.
Your brain also works in “reverse”, unlearning old connections.
Your Brain Has A “Delete” Button
“Imagine your brain is a garden, except instead of growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables, you grow synaptic connections between neurons. These are the connections that neurotransmitters like dopamine, seratonin, and others travel across.”
“Glial cells” are the gardeners of your brain–they act to speed up signals between certain neurons. But other glial cells are the waste removers, pulling up weeds, killing pests, raking up dead leaves. Your brain’s pruning gardeners are called “microglial cells.” They prune your synaptic connections. The question is, how do they know which ones to prune?”
“Researchers are just starting to unravel this mystery, but what they do know is the synaptic connections that get used less get marked by a protein, C1q (as well as others). When the microglial cells detect that mark, they bond to the protein and destroy–or prune–the synapse.”
“This is how your brain makes the physical space for you to build new and stronger connections so you can learn more.”
A lot of this pruning happens when you sleep, which is one reason sleep is so important, especially when you are learning new things. This pruning leaves your brain ready to make new connections. This pruning also happens during naps. A 10- or 20-minute nap gives your microglial gardeners the time to clear away unused connections and leave space to grow new ones.
Thinking with a sleep-deprived brain is like hacking your way through an overgrown jungle with overlapping paths and no light getting through . . . slow-going, exhausting. Thinking on a well-rested brain is like strolling through a well-groomed park . . . the paths are clear, connect at distinct junctions, you can see where you’re going.
How To Use Your Brain’s Delete Button
Be Mindful Of What You’re Mindful Of
You actually have some control over what your glial-cell brain gardeners decide to prune while you sleep – the synaptic connections you don’t use while awake get marked for recycling. Those you focus on get “watered and oxygenated”. So be mindful of what you’re thinking about.
To take advantage of your brain’s natural gardening system, think about the things that are important to you. Your “glial-gardeners” will strengthen those connections and prune the ones that are not important.
*Sigrid Lowell coined the phrase“What fires together, wires together”.
Judah Pollack, co-author of The Chaos Imperative, and Olivia Fox Cabana, author of The Charisma Myth.
This was of personal interest to me given that the last several days I wasn’t feeling very optimistic. Seems my brain’s left inferior frontal gyrus was not gyrating. (jw)
P.S. Be patient while the video loads. If you don’t like what Tali says you will like how she looks (certainly not like a stereo-type neuroscientist).
“Optimism bias is the belief that the future will be better, much better, than the past or present. And most of us display this bias. Neuroscientist Tali Sharot wants to know why: What is it about our brains that makes us overestimate the positive?
Tali Sharot, The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain.
In the book, Sharot reviewed findings from both social science and neuroscience that point to an interesting conclusion: “Our brains aren’t just stamped by the past. They are constantly being shaped by the future.”
In her own work, Sharot is interested in how our natural optimism actually shapes what we remember, and her interesting range of papers encompasses behavioral research (how likely we are to misremember major events) as well as medical findings — like searching for the places in the brain where optimism lives. Sharot is a faculty member of the Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences at University College London.”
Love potions have been a plot point in fairytales for centuries.
Now, thanks to dramatic advances in our understanding of the neuroscience behind love, they’re close enough to reality to be studied by Oxford University researchers. Anders Sandberg, a neuroethicist at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, He says that while we can’t buy romance pills yet, it’s only a matter of years before they exist. His work combines neuroscience and philosophy to unpack the ethical consequences of such pills, and just how they’ll fit into our lives.
“All our emotions are built on the foundations of neuroscience,” Sandberg says—whether that’s fear or anger or love. Recently, neuroscientists have begun to map out just what happens in the brain when we’re in love, bringing us closer to artificially recreating those neurochemical processes. “While there’s still not anything you can find in the supermarket or approved, we’re getting towards the point where they probably will show up,” he says.
Images of the brain show that love is, well, extremely complicated. Different parts are involved in the initial lustful attraction, the rush of falling in love, and the commitment and affection of long-term love. Romance drugs are most likely to focus on the last, long term part.
Different from the love potion of song that you drink, then fall in love with the next person you see.Ethically it would be worrisome for that to happen. A love drug may come to be something you take with someone, to keep or enhance your love.
Oxytocin is key
The brain system which determines long term commitment was discovered first in prairie voles. One species is monogamous and another closely related one is promiscuous. It turns out that the differences in their oxytocin systems is behind the different behaviors. Oxytocin helps couples stay together. Not just in voles, as neuroimaging studies in humans who say they are in love also show that oxytocin is the key element.
Drugs are already available to release oxytocin, (some are not legal), and experimentation of new substances such as MDMA and ayahuasca, an Amazonian hallucinogenic. Sandberg says “Ecstasy is not implausible.”
Sandberg thinks the drugs we have now do not last long enough to be effective at improving romance. “You probably want to teach your brain to produce oxytocin when you actually meet your partner,” he explains. “You want to teach the brain: This is the person I’m together with.”
We also need to ask ourselves if we want to fool with love? Maybe fading love is telling us something important that we need to pay attention to.
In some senses,though, we already interfere with the pathways of long-term love, argues Sandberg.
- “Should people having trouble in a relationship go to a marriage counselor?” he asks.
- “Shouldn’t a marriage just fall apart naturally?…
- If someone goes away on a romantic holiday that costs a lot of money and comes back with a better marriage, we’d probably say, ‘Yeah, that’s great.’”
“But surely there’s a clear line between medicalization and other means of improving a marriage, just as in sports there’s a difference between physical training and using drugs to boost performance? Well, the key concern in the sporting analogy is cheating, says Sandberg. Cheating in how you fall in love doesn’t make much sense: “Could you look at a married couple and say, ‘They cheated”?” he asks. “‘They’re deeply in love but they got to that state in the wrong way. Ha, those losers.’”
The question is would these drugs be good to have. Romantic love can be wonderful, but it isn’t always positive. In fact, maybe drugs that inhibit romantic love would be useful, for example, in letting people leave an abusive relationship.Or even just to ease that heartbreak of a failed relationship.
“Beyond the requisite drug trials and safety questions, these ethical concerns are likely to delay the introduction of love drugs. “I think in many ways, the drugs might be the easy part,” Sandberg says. “Figuring out how they actually fit into our lives is going to be the great challenge.”’
“When we’re put under pressure, our brains can suddenly process information much faster – but only in certain situations, says neuroscientist Tali Sharot.”
Some of the most important decisions you will make in your lifetime will occur while you feel stressed and anxious.
Do we become better or worse at processing and using information under such circumstances?
A perceived threat made firefighters better at processing information
“My colleague Neil Garrett, now at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute in New Jersey, and I ventured from the safety of our lab to fire stations in the state of Colorado to investigate how the mind operates under high stress.”
“Firefighters’ workdays vary quite a bit. Some days are pretty relaxed; they’ll spend part of their time washing the truck, cleaning equipment, cooking meals and reading. Other days can be hectic, with numerous life-threatening incidents to attend to; they’ll enter burning homes to rescue trapped residents, and assist with medical emergencies. These ups and downs presented the perfect setting for an experiment on how people’s ability to use information changes when they feel under pressure.”
“When you’re stressed, your brain undergoes physical changes that can make it hard to ignore possible dangers.
We found that perceived threat triggered a stress reaction that made the firefighters better at processing information – but only as long as it conveyed bad news.”
“This is how we arrived at these results. We asked the firefighters to estimate their likelihood of experiencing 40 different aversive events in their life, such as being involved in a car accident or becoming a victim of card fraud. We then gave them either good news (we told them that their likelihood of experiencing these events was lower than they’d thought) or bad news (that it was higher) and asked them to provide new estimates.”
“Cortisol levels spiked, their heart rates went up and, lo and behold, they suddenly became better at processing unrelated, yet alarming, information”
“Research has shown that people are normally quite optimistic – they will ignore the bad news and embrace the good. This is what happened when the firefighters were relaxed; but when they were under stress, a different pattern emerged. Under these conditions, they became hyper-vigilant to any bad news we gave them, even when it had nothing to do with their job (such as learning that the likelihood of card fraud was higher than they’d thought), and altered their beliefs in response. In contrast, stress didn’t change how they responded to good news (such as learning that the likelihood of card fraud was lower than they’d thought).”
“Back in our lab, we observed the same pattern in undergraduates who were told they had to give a surprise public speech, which would be judged by a panel, recorded and posted online. Sure enough, their cortisol levels spiked, their heart rates went up and, lo and behold, they suddenly became better at processing unrelated, yet alarming, information about rates of disease and violence.”
“When you experience stressful events, whether personal (waiting for a medical diagnosis) or public (political turmoil), a physiological change is triggered that can cause you to take in any sort of warning and become fixated on what might go wrong. A study using brain imaging to look at the neural activity of people under stress revealed that this ‘switch’ was related to a sudden boost in a neural signal important for learning(known as a prediction error), specifically in response to unexpected signs of danger (such as faces expressing fear). This signal relies on dopamine – a neurotransmitter found in the brain – and, under stress, dopamine function is altered by another molecule called corticotropin-releasing factor.”
“Such neural engineering could have helped early humans to survive. When our ancestors found themselves in a habitat filled with hungry animals, they benefited from an increased ability to learn about hazards so as to avoid predators. In a safe environment, however, it would be wasteful to be on high alert constantly. A certain amount of ignorance can help to keep your mind at ease.”
“So a ‘neural switch’ that automatically increases or decreases your ability to process warnings in response to changes in your environment might be useful. In fact, people with clinical depression and anxiety seem unable to switch away from a state in which they absorb all the negative messages around them.”
This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons and is edited for space.
Scientists used to think that the brain didn’t change after childhood. While it is true that our ability to learn new things is greater in our early years, it turns out our brains reorganize, physically change, and alter the function of different parts through our lives.
Each time we learn a new skill, make a new memory, rethink, respond, react, interact our brains change. Your brain is changing right now reading this post.
Why is this important?
Exercising and strengthening our brains is as important as keeping our bodies strong and limber. The way you keep your brain in good shape spends on what you pay attention to, what you think, what you feel, and how you react to your environment. You can change your brain with purpose by understanding how neuroplasticity works.
Two Main Ways You Can Drive Neuroplasticity
“Neurons that fire together, wire together.”*
Donald Hebb developed the idea that when two neurons fire at the same time repeatedly, chemical changes occur in both, so that they connect more strongly. Because neuroplasticity follows this rule, it’s fundamentally reversible. Neurons that fire together wire together, but when neurons “fire apart” their connection becomes weaker. That means your brain works on a “use it or lose it” principle. Information and behaviors that you do not use weaken and may be completely lost. This is called called “synaptic pruning.”
“It is almost just as easy to drive changes that can impair one’s memory or slow down one’s mental or physical control as it is to improve one’s memory or speed up the brain’s actions.”**
Brain change comes from external experiences
What we practice or are exposed to becomes part of our brain wiring.
Everything that happens in our life wires our brains. What we repeatedly do becomes wired – everything from muscle patterns (remember when you first learned to walk, ride a bike?), to skills (learning a native language – when’s the last time you thought about how to form a sentence?) to smiling or frowning (do you have to concentrate on each of your facial muscles to express a feeling?).
To keep our brains growing, functioning well and avoiding decline, we need to give it challenges such as learning new skills, exploring new places, changing routines and interacting with people.
Brain change comes from internal experiences
Mental & emotional exercise changes our brains too. What we think and imagine can change our brains for the better or worse. Where we focus our attention directs the synaptic connections, the brains wiring, and develops and strengthens connections.
We can purposefully and actively create the connections we want. Thoughts and images we replay in our minds create stronger connections. Make neuro-connections by thinking of things in sequence, create positive mental images, do crossword puzzles. (You already do this whenever you study for a test, read a book, rehearse what to say, worry about your future, ruminate on the past.)
Here are some proven ways to positively impact our brains:
Practicing mindfulness is learning to control your thoughts and develop ability to focus where we choose.
By decreasing stress, anxiety and depression meditation helps encourage neurogenesis (development new brain cells). This can happen in just a few weeks.
Neurons fire whether something is real or imagined. Imagining doing something is not very different from doing it in terms of brain wiring. Athletes use this to “practice” by imagining a perfect performance over and over. It helps them actually perform better. Research has validated that the practice influences physical changes from muscle strength to brain pathways.
Now that you’ve finished reading, give yourself a pat on the brain for all the new neuro-connections it has just made for you.
*neuro-scientist Carla Shatz
**Dr. Michael Merzenich, author of Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life
I’ve barely made a dent in the editing down of this article. Why? It’s a big article, I don’t know where to start and I am blaming it on my brain.
“Closets bulging with clothes and shoes. Plastic bins of stuff shoved under the bed. Stacks of mail covering the dining table. Has anyone seen the car keys?”
“It’s spring, time of rebirth and rejuvenation. Time to throw open the windows and do some spring cleaning. But the magnitude of the project is daunting. How to begin?”
“If you want to know why it’s so difficult to tackle a big project like spring cleaning, blame your brain, said Randall O’Reilly, professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the Computational Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at CU Boulder.”
“The brain is wired to be very cautious and conservative in starting big projects, because once you do start, it takes over your brain,” he said. “The brain, researchers think, is wired to track progress towards whatever it is you’ve decided to do, like spring cleaning, which is hard work. You have to make a lot of difficult decisions and the outcome is uncertain. Your brain recognizes that and says, ‘Maybe I won’t start on that project after all.’ It’s an adaptive property of the brain.”
“Once we get over the initial stalling and begin the project, the brain rewards us with small hits of dopamine as we make progress. This provides an incentive to stick with the task.”
“Dopamine is a chemical released by neurons that sends signals to other nerve cells and plays a major role in both mood and reward-motivated behavior.”
“So, you’ve tackled cleaning and decluttering and you’re making progress. And then you notice the teapot that belonged to your grandmother stored in the back of the cupboard. It’s sweet and dainty and evokes fond memories of your grandmother, but it’s not your style at all. Now you’re confronted with a dilemma: Keeping a teapot you never use is taking up much-needed space, but getting rid of it would feel disrespectful to your grandmother.”
“Things with an emotional attachment take on meaning,” O’Reilly said. “The teapot is not just a teapot. It has a personal history, so it’s unique in that sense. If you get rid of the teapot, it feels sacrilegious. It’s valuable to you because it carries that authenticity and history with it, so it feels like you’re disrespecting that value.”
“So, why do we accumulate clutter? The answer is found in the dopamine system, which is based on expectations. When we accumulate something or have a pleasurable experience, the brain releases dopamine and we feel good. As soon as our wants and desires are satisfied, however, the brain discounts that feel-good moment.”
“You can see mathematically that the brain is constantly comparing what we have versus what we expected to get,” he said. “Every moment of our lives, that’s what our brain is doing. How much better is that movie versus what you thought it would be? How much better was that cookie than you remembered? Every single thing is being compared to a baseline of what your expectation is.”
It needs to be better than what you expected
“Attachments to things are like those expectations. We want them and feel that we need them. This is where it gets diabolical, O’Reilly said. If something we like is meeting our expectations, we no longer get a dopamine burst. Our brains are constantly trying to up the ante, so we continue to acquire more stuff to feel better.”
“To get the dopamine surge, the experience needs to be better than what you expected. If it just meets expectations, guess what? No dopamine for you! The flip to the reward of dopamine is a downer.”
“If the experience was less than you expected, there’s actually a reduction in the firing of dopamine neurons, leaving you feeling disappointed,” O’Reilly said. “Then the brain tries to come up with new ways to get the dopamine. It needs to be better than what you expected.”
“The expectation system is what drives learning,” he said. “This system in our brains drives us forward, to learning more and more. You’re changing your expectation level, your sense of self. Don’t have attachments. Have ambition.”
Click Here: Spring has Sprung and so have I
I know the difference between reality and imagination.
My vision is smooth and continuous.
I can tell the difference between my limbs and yours.
I consciously control my behavior.
Turns out I’m wrong and YOU are no different.
“There are hundreds of surprising, perspective-shifting insights about the nature of reality that come from neuroscience. Every bizarre neurological syndrome, every visual illusion, and every clever psychological experiment reveals something entirely unexpected about our experience of the world that we take for granted. Here are a few to give a flavor:”
Famous illusion done by Meowie
1. Perceptual reality is entirely generated by our brain. “We hear voices and meaning from air pressure waves. We see colors and objects, yet our brain only receives signals about reflected photons. The objects we perceive are a construct of the brain, which is why optical illusions can fool the brain.”
2. We see the world in narrow disjointed fragments. “We think we see the whole world, but we are looking through a narrow visual portal onto a small region of space. You have to move your eyes when you read because most of the page is blurry. We don’t see this, because as soon as we become curious about part of the world, our eyes move there to fill in the detail before we see it was missing. While our eyes are in motion, we should see a blank blur, but our brain edits this out.”
3. Body image is dynamic and flexible. “Our brain can be fooled into thinking a rubber arm or a virtual reality hand is actually a part of our body. In one syndrome, people believe one of their limbs does not belong to them. One man thought a cadaver limb had been sewn onto his body as a practical joke by doctors.”
4. “Our behavior is mostly automatic, even though we think we are controlling it. The fact that we can operate a vehicle at 60 mph on the highway while lost in thought shows just how much behavior the brain can take care of on its own. Addiction is possible because so much of what we do is already automatic, including directing our goals and desires. In utilization behavior, people might grab and start using a comb presented to them without having any idea why they are doing it. In impulsivity, people act even though they know they shouldn’t.”
5. Our brain can fool itself in really strange ways. “In Capgras syndrome, familiar people seem foreign (the opposite of deja vu). One elderly woman who lived alone befriended a woman who appeared to her whenever she looked in a mirror. She thought this other woman looked nothing like herself, except that they seemed to have similar style and tended to wear identical outfits. Another woman was being followed by a tormenter who appeared to her in mirrors but looked nothing like herself. She was fine otherwise.”
6. Neurons are really slow. “Our thinking feels fast and we are more intelligent than computers, and yet neurons signal only a few times per second and the brain’s beta wave cycles at 14-30 times per second. In comparison, computers cycle at 1 billion operations per second, and transistors switch over 10 billion times per second. How can neurons be so slow and yet we are so smart?”
7. Consciousness can be subdivided. “In split-brain patients, each side of the brain is individually conscious but mostly separate from the other. In post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), memories of a traumatic event can become a compartmentalized inaccessible island. In schizophrenia, patients hear voices that can seem separate from themselves and which criticize them or issue commands. In hypnosis, post-hypnotic suggestions can direct behavior without the individual’s conscious awareness“.
Why does your heart race when you see your crush? What gives you that feeling of butterflies? And why does love make us act so dumb? This love ballad is our Valentine’s gift to you.
Follow Skunk Bear
Who knew my urge to read the National Inquirer headlines at the grocery store check-out stand means I’m highly adaptive in the food chain . . . if not the food market.
This is fascinating!
Our intense interest in gossip is not really a character flaw. It’s part of who we are. It’s almost a biological event, and it exists for good evolutionary reasons.
P.S. If you aren’t in the mood to read the whole thing, scroll down to where I’ve highlighted in red the results of the study.
Psst! The Human Brain Is Wired For Gossip by Jon Hamilton,
“Hearing gossip about people can change the way you see them — literally.
Negative gossip actually alters the way our visual system responds to a particular face, according to a study published online by the journal Science.
The findings suggest that the human brain is wired to respond to gossip, researchers say. And it adds to the evidence that gossip helped early humans get ahead.
“Gossip is helping you to predict who is friend and who is foe,” says Lisa Feldman Barrett, distinguished professor of psychology at Northeastern University and an author of the study.
Barrett is part of a team that’s been studying how gossip affects not just what we know about an unfamiliar person but how we feel about them. The team has shown that getting second-hand information about a person can have a powerful effect.
But Barrett and her team wanted to answer another question: Once hearsay has predisposed us to see someone in a certain way, is it possible that we literally see them differently?
That may seem like a strange thing to ask. But it makes sense when you consider that the human brain has a whole lot of connections between regions that process visual information and areas involved in our most basic emotions, Barrett says.
So the team brought in volunteers and had them look at faces paired with gossip. Some of these faces were associated with negative gossip, such as “threw a chair at his classmate.” Other faces were associated with more positive actions, such as “helped an elderly woman with her groceries.”
Participants in the study were shown a neutral face paired with (A) negative gossip, (B) positive gossip, (C) neutral gossip, (D) negative non-social information, (E) positive non-social information, and (F) neutral non-social information. When the study participants viewed the faces again, their brains were more likely to fix on the faces associated with negative gossip.
Then the researchers looked to see how the volunteers’ brains responded to the different kinds of information. They did this by showing the left and right eyes of each person very different images. So one eye might see a face while the other eye would see a house.
These very different images cause something called binocular rivalry. The human brain can only handle one of the images at a time. So it unconsciously tends to linger on the one it considers more important.
And the researcher found that volunteers’ brains were most likely to fix on faces associated with negative gossip.
“Gossip doesn’t just influence your opinions about people, it actually influences how you see them visually,“ Barrett says.
The finding suggests we are hardwired to pay more attention to a person if we’ve been told they are dangerous or dishonest or unpleasant, Barrett says.
“If somebody is higher than you in the food chain, you want dirt about them. You want negative information, because that’s the stuff you can exploit to get ahead.”
– Frank McAndrew, Knox College psychology professor
Other scientists say that makes sense from an evolutionary perspective.
Even when primitive humans lived in small groups, they needed to know things like who might be a threat and who was after a particular mate, McAndrew says. And learning those things through personal experience would have been slow and potentially dangerous, he says.
So McAndrew says one shortcut would have been gossip.
“People who had an intense interest in that — that constantly were monitoring who’s sleeping with who and who’s friends with whom and who you can trust and who you can’t — came out ahead,” he says. “People who just didn’t care about that stuff got left behind.”
And it makes sense that our brains pay special attention to negative gossip, McAndrew says.
“If somebody is a competitor or somebody is higher than you in the food chain, you want dirt about them,” he says. “You want negative information, because that’s the stuff you can exploit to get ahead.”
Who knew tabloid news is the best thing
since we discovered fire?
National Hugging Day TM
1) Hugs make us feel “happy”! When we hug another person, our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone associated with “happiness,” according to scientific studies.
2) Hugs alleviate stress! Just as a good hug increases our oxytocin levels, it decreases our cortisol or “stress” levels.
3) Babies need hugs as much as water and food! According to researchers at Harvard University, hugs help promote normal levels of cortisol necessary for child development.
4) Hugs make us better students! Students who receive a supportive touch from a teacher are twice as likely to volunteer in class.
5) Hugs improve our game! Scientists at University of California, Berkley discovered that the more affectionate members of a team are with each other, the more likely they are to win.
6) A hug a day keeps the doctor away! A hug stimulates the thymus gland, which in turn regulates the production of white blood cells that keep us healthy and disease-free.
7) A hug stops the bug! Researchers at Carnegie Mellon proved that individuals who were sick and received hugs had less severe symptoms and were able to get better quicker.
8) A hugging heart is a healthy heart! Research from University of North Carolina showed that a good hug helps ease blood flow and lower cortisol levels, which in turn help lower our heart rates.
9) A hugging couple is a happy couple! Couples that experience their partners’ love through physical affection share higher oxytocin levels.
10) Hugs let someone know you care without having to say a word! According to Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, we can identify love from simple human touch – imagine how much love a big hug can communicate!
By now you already know that Peggy and I rant and rave about the power of our minds – not to dwell on the negative, not to focus on what we can’t do but on what we are capable of. When I came across this article by Dr Rossman I wanted to share.
by Martin Rossman, M.D.
“Repetitively shifting your attention to positive outcomes may actually result in growth in areas of your brain that start to do this automatically. My colleague, neuroscientist Dr. David Bresler, always says that “what you pay attention to grows” and research proves him correct.
“Neuroscience journalist Sharon Begley wrote in a 2007 Wall Street Journal article, “Attention, … seems like one of those ephemeral things that comes and goes in the mind but has no real physical presence. Yet attention can alter the layout of the brain as powerfully as a sculptor’s knife can alter a slab of stone.”
“She describes an experiment at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in which scientists “rigged up a device that tapped monkeys’ fingers 100 minutes a day every day. As this bizarre dance was playing on their fingers, the monkeys heard sounds through headphones. Some of the monkeys were taught: Ignore the sounds and pay attention to what you feel on your fingers…Other monkeys were taught: Pay attention to the sound.”
“After six weeks, the scientists compared the monkeys’ brains and found that monkeys paying attention to the taps had expanded the somatosensory parts of their brains (where they would feel touch) but the monkeys paying attention to the sounds grew new connections in the parts of the brain that process sound instead.”
“UCSF researcher Michael Merzenich and a colleague wrote that through choosing where we place our attention, “‘We choose and sculpt how our ever-changing minds will work, we choose who we will be the next moment in a very real sense, and these choices are left embossed in physical form on our material selves.’”
I won’t say, “We told you so.”
Compassion makes you feel better. I saw this first hand when I worked in an outpatient program with people diagnosed with severe psychiatric disorders – schizophrenia, manic depressive disorder and major depression. Many had been hospitalized more than once.
My goal was to help patients manage their illness, so they could stay out of the hospital and live a more normal life. Besides many of the things the program offered to help them, including medication, I believed if I could help them be happier, have more positives in their lives, some of the stressors they felt would be offset and help them stay well.
I had read a research project using compassion exercises and decided to try it. It worked well in the research and I hoped it worked for the patients. Here’s what I did:
Week 1: I asked the patients to spend an hour being really good to themselves, something to pamper themselves. It didn’t matter what they chose as long as they personally enjoyed it. When they shared everyone expressed liking their experiences and felt happy they participated.
Week 2: The patients were to take the same amount of time – an hour – and do something nice for somebody else, something to brighten someone else’s day. It didn’t matter who they chose or what they did as long as it was something kind and giving. When they shared this experience they were even happier! All reported they felt better doing something nice for somebody else for an hour than doing something for themselves.
Caring for others, having compassion, can make you happier. You don’t have to wait weeks between. Do something nice for yourself for an hour one day. The next day do something nice for another person. It doesn’t even have to be for an hour. Try it and see for yourself. And let us know how it goes.
According to brain science Buddhist monks are some of the happiest people in the world. They are don’t leave their monasteries and do things for others, but meditate on compassion. Research shows compassion meditation changes the brain and makes it happier!
Don’t have an hour to do something nice for someone else? Spend 10 – 20 minutes and meditate on compassion . . . Remember – It’s a hack NOT a substitution for the real thing.
Research indicates that the stronger your social connections the healthier and longer you may live. Scientific studies show that your brain is not just a passive device, disconnected from other brains, alone in the world. You are literally on the same wave-length with people in your life.
Here are excerpts from two interesting studies:
Students Syncing up
“On 11 days over the course of one semester, researchers hooked up all 12 of the students in a biology class to portable devices called electroencephalograms (EEGs) that measured their brain waves.”
The more synced up a student’s brain waves were with the brain waves of the rest of the students in the class, the more likely that person was to say that he or she enjoyed the class that day. For example, when the researchers analyzed brain waves called alpha waves, they found that students’ waves were more likely to rise and fall at the same time as other students’ waves when they were highly engaged in the class
Likewise, when a student’s brain waves were less synced with those of the rest of the class, the student was less likely to say that he or she was engaged.
“How well our brain waves sync up with those of another person appears to be a good predictor of how well we get along and how engaged we are,” lead study author Suzanne Dikker, a psychology research scientist at New York University”.
Monkey See, Monkey Sync
“New tools which involve electrodes implanted into the brains of animals can probe the brains of living animals while they are engaged in social interactions, providing insights into how the brain controls certain behaviors.”
These tools have also revealed that brains likely don’t operate in isolation. There is biological evidence that two minds really can be on the same wavelength.
“What could be more social than brains acting in sync? Similar brain activity may be fundamental for how animals, including humans, interact to form social bonds, according to Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of neuroscience at Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina.”
“Nicolelis’ group built an experiment in which one monkey drives a vehicle to get a fruit reward while another monkey watches. Each time the driver monkey gets a fruit reward, the spectator monkey gets one, too. So they are linked, Nicolelis said during the news conference.”
“To our shock, what we found is that as these animals are interacting … both brains are highly synchronized,” Nicolelis said. “We have, in fact, in some instances, 60 percent of [the firing of neurons] in the motor cortexes of both monkeys [happening] precisely the same time.”
The synchronicity became more precise as the monkey got closer to the fruit reward or, as shown during a second experiment in the study, as the spectator monkey helped control the vehicle remotely, Nicolelis said. The finding suggests that the optimal performance of social tasks, such as gathering food, requires synchronization of brain activity across the brains of all subjects involved — in other words, with everyone being on the same wavelength.
Conversely, Nicolelis said that some antisocial neurological disorders, such as autism, may result in an inability to establish such interbrain synchronization. He said he hopes to test this in his lab with human subjects.
“We’re beginning to see a striking aspect of the brain … that brains are wired for social interactions,” said Dr. Robert Green, a professor of neuroscience and psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Do you wonder if your brain syncs up with animals too?
Our brain wants us to feel good but it hasn’t quite figured out how to differentiate “good” feelings from “bad”. When you feel shame, guilt and worry your brain is trying to reward you by activating its reward center!
When you are being followed by a black cloud, Alex Korb* has some insights that might help you find the sun. It’s all about neuroscience.
According to Korb, “Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward center.“
“A similar thing may be going if you just can’t seem to stop worrying. Korb says worrying stimulates the medial prefrontal cortex and lowers activity in the amygdala, thus helping your limbic system, your emotions, remain copascetic. His theory is that, even though worry is widely recognized as a pointless thing to do from a tactical point of view, apparently the brain considers it better than doing nothing at all when you’re anxious.”
How do you redirect your brain from “rewarding” you with guilt, shame or worry?
“Korb suggests asking yourself: “What am I grateful for?” His reasoning is chemical: “One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.”
“Even more intriguingly, actually coming up with something you’re thankful for — not always an easy thing to do in a dark mood — isn’t even required. Just the acts of remembering to be thankful is the flexing of a type of emotional intelligence: “One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.”
We’ve written about gratitude before – and will undoubtedly continue. Quick and easy ways to refocus on what you can be grateful for is often hard when you’re feeling down. Force yourself to name, list, draw 3 – 5 things every day.
They can be the same things every day and minor things taken for granted.
Examples of my gratitude:
I have teeth to brush
When I turn on the faucet water runs out
Blog followers clicked “like” on this post whether they “liked” it or not
Ahhhh. . . I feel a serotonin surge in my anterior cingulate cortex and my emotional intelligence increasing as I type . . .
I don’t know about you but I remember being told as a child: “Do your best”, “Try your best” and questioned: “Is that the best you can do?” I worried a lot that I wasn’t trying hard enough or I should have done better. Whether that led me to being a “perfectionist” (which some will dispute) I’ll never know. After reading about the neuroscience research what I do know is, from now on, I’m DECIDING to strive for GOOD ENOUGH.
Alex Korb, UCLA neuroscientist, maintains: One thing to try is making a decision about what’s got you worked up. It doesn’t even have to be the perfect decision; just a good one will do.
“. . . Trying for the best, instead of good enough, brings too much emotional ventromedial prefrontal activity into the decision-making process.”
“In contrast, recognizing that good enough is good enough activates more dorsolateral prefrontal areas, which helps you feel more in control …” Korb: “Actively choosing caused changes in attention circuits and in how the participants felt about the action, and it increased rewarding dopamine activity.”
Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals:
- Decisions, intentions & goals – all three are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety.
- Helps overcome striatum activity, which usually pulls you toward negative impulses and routines.
- Changes your perception of the world — finding solutions to your problems and calming the limbic system.”
“A key thing here is that you’re making a conscious decision, or choice, and not just being dragged to a resolution. Your brain gets no reward for that.”
“If you’re still reluctant to make a choice between one option or another, the science suggests don’t worry, you’re likely to gain a positive bias toward the decision you make anyway.”
“We don’t just choose the things we like;
we also like the things we choose.”
Alex Korb, UCLA neuroscientist author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time