Change Your Brain, Change Your Life!

Maria HillEmotional And Mental Health, Personal Development0 Comments

  Thoughts really do create our lives. New research by Fred Travis, Maharishi University of Management in the US, Harald Harung, Oslo University College in Norway, and Yvonne Lagrosen, University West in Sweden on the brains of musicians demonstrates the potentially for highly developed brains that are open, curious, learning, playful and holistic in their thinking. The study findings were reported in Consciousness and Cognition and Science Daily. The research compared the brains of professional and amateur musicians matched for age, gender and education on a number of brain tests: the Stroop color-word test which measures the ability to direct attention, brainwaves during a variety of paired reaction-time tasks, responses on the Gibbs Socio- moral Reflection questionnaire, and the subjects’ self-reported description of the frequencies of peak experiences. The study, which evaluated the brains of musicians who were at the top of their profession vs. the brains of amateur musicians, defined success as combination of talent and practice or experience. They found that those who practiced the most had the most success. As Dr. Fred Travis writes in his report, “The relation of practice to top performance is consistent with what is known with how the brain learns. The term neuroplasticity is used to describe the brain’s ability to adapt and change as a result of training and experience over the course of a person’s life. Through repeated experience we create neural circuits that support smooth, automatic flow of behavior.” Interestingly, moral reasoning skills were better developed in the more skilled musicians.  Our brains are apparently improved by our working at something over the long term. When we acquire advanced skills in a subject like music, we have developed brain functionong that we can then apply to other areas of our lives with the expected superior results. What you do with your time … Read More

Awareness And The Unconscious Mind

Maria HillEmotional And Mental Health, Research2 Comments

Neuroscientist David Eagleman has written a great article about our unconscious brain and the limitations of awareness in Discover Magazine.  Our unconscious mind is a source of fear and awe in many people. We cannot control it. Like our bodies, it operates according to rules and processes that we do not understand. It can make us feel vulnerable. Dr. Eagleman cites numerous examples of how the unconscious mind operates out of our control. I know this first hand because many years ago I was unable to walk and my conscious mind was unable to help me. In my 20’s I was unaware that I had a genetic predisposition to get blood clots, called phlebitis. Multiple times I became sick with blood clots that went to my lungs. To control the clots doctors performed surgery to limit the ability of the clots to leave legs to take a trip to my heart, lungs or brain, which meant death. By the time I finally had surgery, I had been in the hospital in bed for a month.  After the surgery when I tried to get out of bed, I fell flat on my face. I was unable to walk. Needless to say, I was upset and afraid. I started to watch everyone around me to see if I could learn how one walks.  I would notice the knee joint and how it moved, when the leg lifted and touched down and how the foot moved as part of the walking process. Observing walking was unable to help me walk. My conscious mind was unable to help me. Eventually I left the hospital and six months later after much effort was able to walk again. David Eagleman’s article makes a distinction between the conscious mind and what he calls implicit procedural memory, a … Read More

Child Abuse Affects The Brain

Maria HillDiseases, Emotional And Mental Health, Research8 Comments

  Article first published as Child Abuse Affects the Brain on Technorati. The December issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine has reported the findings of a Yale University Study which shows that child abuse, physical and emotional impact many areas of the brain. The study included the results of the self-reported Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and brain scans of 42 teenagers, with equal numbers of caucasian and African-Americans.  Four multiracial teenagers were also included in the study. The research showed that the volume of gray matter in the brain was diminished in the teenagers who had suffered the abuse or neglect.  The number of regions of the brain affected was substantial: According to MedPageToday which reported the study findings these are the regions of the brain and some of their functions that are affected: Physical abuse: left dorsolateral and left rostral prefrontal cortices (executive function), right orbitofrontal cortex (emotional regulation and sense of the self), right ventral striatum (emotion and motivation), right insula (emotional intelligence), and right temporal association cortex (memory) Physical neglect: left rostral prefrontal cortex (executive function), right parietal association cortex (spatial perception), and bilateral cerebellum (balance) Emotional neglect: certain portions of the hypothalamus and midbrain, bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex(executive function), bilateral rostral prefrontal cortex (executive function), bilateral dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (cognitive function), right superior frontal gyrus (self awareness ), right orbitofrontal cortex (emotional regulation and sense of the self), bilateral striatum, bilateral amygdala (processing emotions) and hippocampus (emotions and memory), bilateral cerebellum (balance), and left parietal (perceptual difficulties and problems with speech, writing and math), right temporal (visual memory), and left occipital association cortices (integration of visual information). Girls showed more brain deficits in areas governing emotional processing and boys were more challenged in areas of the brain responsible for impulse control. It is apparent that substantial and comprehensive brain … Read More

Suffering The Human Blind Spot

Maria HillEmotional And Mental Health, Personal Development, Stress1 Comment

I am human and I have a blind spot. We all do. It has been called a lot of things: reactiveness, shortsightedness, mindlessness, ignorance. The labels really do not matter, because labels do not help us understand ourselves better. In fact, if we react to the labels, they may make our situation worse. What Is Our Blind Spot? Like all other animals, we are all vulnerable. Our brains are organized to discern and respond to threats. When we are not being vigilant, we are pleasure seeking creatures. Most of the time we operate in one or the other way of being, trying to minimize threat and maximize pleasure. We, therefore, turn the world into one or the other: a source of potential harm or potential pleasure. Our vision and brains can keep us stuck in the vicious cycle of going back and forth between pain and pleasure. Our minds categorize everything according to our desire to minimize pain and maximize pleasure. This is why wise people tell us that our desires can create problems for us. It is not so much that our desires are a problem, it is what we do about them. What We See Is What We Get Our vision is the beginning of our perceptual system. Our vision system is one of the largest systems of the brain. It sorts everything in our environment and processes the information. It is not clear at what point visual inputs turn into cognition. However, it is clear that our visual system is the beginning of our perception. Our visual system may be more important than we realize. According to MyBrainWare, vision is responsible for 70% of what we learn. That is a lot of our learning! Our visual cortex is thought to be a part of the brain which plays an important role in visual cognition. It … Read More

Why Conformity Is About Group Norms

Maria HillCulture And Sensitive People, Emotional And Mental Health, Personal Development3 Comments

Source: flickr – mshades Have you ever thought one thing and done another? Have you ever changed your mind when in a group that had different ideas? I know I have and it made me feel like a wimp. Being an HSP means that my positions are not the norm, and I am always seeking ways to bridge the difference. Often that cannot be done and I feel bad when that is the case. I am an introvert but I still care about people and relationships. So where does the need to conform against our best instincts come from? Our Brains Help Us Cop Out According to an article in Spero Forum, researcher Vasily Klucharev of Erasmus University in the Netherlands, conducted a study which demonstrated that “when people hold an opinion differing from others in a group, their brains produce an error signal.” “If you make an error, if means that something [wrong is going on]. And, whenever we experience an error, it means this error signal pushes us to change behavior,” Klucharev said. “And, we see it looks like we quite automatically produce this signal when our opinion is quite different from other people.” “The researcher examined two brain areas,” said Klucharev. “The first, a zone of the brain popularly called the ‘oops area,’  becomes extra active signaling an error; while the ‘reward area”‘is less active, making people think they made a mistake.” This explains why people are likely to conform and why in doing so they are responding to what their brain is telling them even if their instincts or “better nature” tells them something else. This research tells us a lot.  It explains why: people act against their better judgment people are afraid of differences people are afraid of what they perceive to be dangerous mindsets people are … Read More

Migraines Increase Depression Risk

Maria HillDiseases, Research0 Comments

  Article first published as Migraines Increase Depression Risk on Technorati. Migraines increase depression risk according to new research conducted at the University of Calgary in Canada according to a report on November 26 in Medical News Today. The number of people suffering from migraines and depression is substantial. The National Institutes of Health in their Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2009 estimate that there are 36 million migraine sufferers in the United States, one-third of whom are male and two-thirds of whom are female. The Center for Disease Control 2008 health survey estimates that 9% or 27 million people suffer from depression. According to the Canadian study, the two conditions seem to feed each other. The study’s Lead author, Geeta Modgill, MsC believes that individuals suffering from either migraine or major depressive episodes (MDE’s) need to become aware of the symptoms of the other disease. The researchers gathered data about 15,254 persons who participated in the Canadian National Population Health Survey. The study process included 6 follow-ups: one every two years from 1994 for 12 years. They found that 15% of of the study participants had MDEs and 12% had bouts of migraine during the 12-year study period. The research and follow-up showed that migraineurs are 60% greater chance of having a major depressive episode and those who had the major depressive episode had a 40% chance of having a migraine headache. The researchers’ stated goal was to determine whether or not there was a link between the two disorders, since prior longitudinal studies had indicated some type of relationship.  The study does in fact support the perception of a link but does not arrive at any conclusions about causes. The November 15 study abstract in the journal  Headache states  “The current study provides substantial evidence that migraine is associated with … Read More