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Neuroscience Reveals How You Can Help Make Your Brain Decades Younger

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Neuroscience Reveals How You Can Help Make Your Brain Decades Younger
Photo Credit: Collective Evolution

Science is revealing various mindfulness techniques that can literally change and restructure our brain. Neuroscientist Sara Lazar from Mass General and Harvard Medical School is one of the latest to illustrate this. After she sustained running injuries, she took up yoga. It had a tremendous effect on her, which inspired her to start researching the scientific literature that’s available on mindfulness meditation, which is one of the categories into which yoga falls into.

“The yoga teacher made all sorts of claims, that yoga would increase your compassion and open your heart,” said Lazar. “And I’d think, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m here to stretch.’ But I started noticing that I was calmer. I was better able to handle more difficult situations. I was more compassionate and open hearted, and able to see things from others’ points of view.”

In her research, she found a plethora of evidence showing that meditation can decrease stress,  depression, anxiety, and pain as well as increase one’s quality of life, among other things.

Obviously she was very curious at this point, and being a neuroscientist, she started doing her own research to find out what effect meditation could have on the brain.

In her first study, titled “Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness,” she found exactly that. Her research showed that meditation could spark structural changes “in areas of the brain that are important for sensory, cognitive and emotional processing. The data further suggest that meditation may impact age related declines in cortical structure.” (source)

That particular study used long-term meditators who had at least 7 years of experience with the practice compared to a control group with no experience. People 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. An increase in gray matter was also found in the brain region linked to decision making and working memory, which would be the frontal cortex.

What’s interesting here is that the frontal cortex shrinks as we age, but in this particular study, the 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter as those half their age. How astonishing is that?

Lazar and her team of researchers went on to publish a second study titled “Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.” (source)

This study demonstrates longitudinal changes in brain gray matter concentration following an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course compared to a control group. Hypothesized increases in gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus were confirmed. Exploratory whole brain analyses identified significant increases in gray matter concentration in the PCC, TPJ, and the cerebellum.

After just eight weeks of meditation, people’s brains changed in multiple ways. One 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).

What’s also interesting to note is that, in this study, new mediators experienced a shrinking of their 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 these particular participants.

This type of discovery is nothing new. Since Lazar’s study, and even before it, a lot of research has been published.

One of the most recent studies found that different types of meditation can actually effect different areas of the brain.

As Alice G. Walton, a writer for Forbes, points out:

“Meditation and mindfulness training have accumulated some impressive evidence, suggesting that the practices can change not only the structure and function of the brain, but also our behaviour and moment-to-moment experience.”

This recent study found the same thing, and the following describes what they discovered when they scanned the participants’ brains at the end of each module and then compared the groups against one another:

“Training in Presence was linked to enhanced thickness in the anterior prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which are known to be strongly involved in attention. Affect training was linked to increased thickness in regions known to be involved in socially driven emotions like empathy: and Perspective training associated with changes in areas involved in understanding the mental states of others, and, interestingly, inhibiting the perspective of oneself.”

These results further elaborate on a wealth of previous studies showing what meditation can do to the brain.

Walton goes on to emphasize,

“Lots of research has found that experienced meditators have significantly altered brain structure and function, but a growing number of studies has also found that relatively brief meditation training in novices (for instance, the well-known eight-week MBSR program) can also shift brain function, improve well-being, and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.”

The Takeaway

Mediation clearly has health benefits for the brain, among other parts of the body. Not only can it be used to improve your brain, decrease anxiety, depression, fear, etc., but it’s a great way to increase empathy and feel love and compassion as well. These are qualities the world needs more of, so perhaps the world needs more meditators?

Meditation could be used for interventions in schools and in other places where children and people feel stressed. Furthermore, meditation can be used to reach different states of consciousness, and perhaps even altered states of consciousness.

There is still a lot we are learning about meditation, but one thing is for certain, and that’s the fact that it can help change an individual for the better in several different ways.

This article (Neuroscience Reveals How You Can Help Make Your Brain Decades Younger) was originally created for Collective Evolution and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Scientists Successfully Perform A ‘Memory Transplant’ Between Living Organisms

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Human brain
Photo Credit: TMU

Animal testing is extremely heart-breaking. All beings in my opinion, are intelligent, emotional, and have the ability to feel deeply. All life on this planet is so similar in so many ways. These days, living life forms are bred for experimentation and consumption, this not only harms the being in what some would perceive as an extreme act of cruelty, but in many cases it’s harming the integrity of our planet when it comes to environmental issues and human health as well. This is why I am always very conflicted when presenting information that’s discovered through some type of ‘testing’ that’s done on another being. There are other ways scientists can conduct studies without the use of live life forms.

The last time I was conflicted about sharing this type of information was when scientists injected aluminum into animals, mimicking the childhood vaccine schedule, to see what the difference between injected and ingested aluminum was and where it ends up in the body. You can read more about that topic here.

Theodora Capaldo is president of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society. Founded in 1895, NEAVS is a Boston-based, national animal advocacy organization dedicated to ending the use of animals in research, testing and science education. Through research, outreach, education, legislation, and policy change, NEAVS advocates for replacing animals with modern alternatives that are ethically, humanely and scientifically superior. It’s one of many organizations bringing alternatives to light. It’s a big time bioethics issue, and I just wanted to mention this before getting into the subject matter at hand.

What Happened: This may be old information to some, but I recently came across it. In 2018 a team of researchers successfully transplanted memories in snails by transferring a form of genetic information called RNA from one snail into another. The snails were trained to develop a response to a mild electric shock to their tails, after these shocks were administered the snails’ defensive withdrawal reflex – where the snails contract or curl up to protect themselves from harm – became more pronounced. Yes, again, this is extremely cruel, the thought of inflicting any type of pain or fear response in another living being is heart-breaking. But that’s just my opinion.

The snails exhibited a defensive contraction lasting about 50 seconds. The researchers extracted RNA from the nervous systems of the snails that had been shocked and injected the material into the snails that had not been shocked. RNA’s main role, from what we know (and there is a lot that we don’t know) is to serve as a messenger inside of cells, it carries protein-making instructions from DNA. When the RNA was injected into the un-shocked snails, the snails also had the same type of response as shocked snails for an extended period of time after a soft touch, something they weren’t doing before. They were reacting to something that had never even happened to them. Control snails that received injections of RNA from snails that had not received shocks did not exhibit a response for as long.

It’s as if we transferred a memory. – Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology, Neurobiology at UCLA (source)

The researchers also showed that Aplysia sensory neurons in Petri dishes that had been shocked were more excitable if they were exposed to RNA from the shocked snails. Exposure to RNA from snails that had never been shocked did not cause the cells to become more excitable.

The results, said Glanzman, suggest that memories may be stored within the nucleus of neurons, where RNA is synthesized and can act on DNA to turn genes on and off. He said he thoughts memory storage involved these epigenetic changes – changes in the activity of genes and not in the DNA sequences that make up those genes – that are mediated by RNA (source)

It’s also interesting to note that Michael Levin at Tufts has replicated McConnell’s experiments on headless worms under more controlled settings.

Glanzman said one of McConnell’s students, Al Jacobson, demonstrated the transfer of memories between flatworms via RNA injections, coincidentally while an assistant professor at UCLA. The work was published in Nature in 1966 but Jacobsen never received tenure, perhaps because of doubts about his findings. The experiment was, however, replicated in rats shortly afterward. (source)

Another example,

Steve Ramirez, a 24-year-old doctoral student at the time, placed the mouse in a small metal box with a black plastic floor. Instead of curiously sniffing around, though, the animal instantly froze in terror, recalling the experience of receiving a foot shock in that same box. It was a textbook fear response, and if anything, the mouse’s posture was more rigid than Ramirez had expected. Its memory of the trauma must have been quite vivid.

Which was amazing, because the memory was bogus: The mouse had never received an electric shock in that box. Rather, it was reacting to a false memory that Ramirez and his MIT colleague Xu Liu had planted in its brain. (source)

What Does This Tell Us? Can Living Organisms Transfer Memory? Yes, we already know that living organisms can transfer memory. For example, a Nature Neuroscience study published several years ago shows mice trained to avoid a smell passed their aversion on to their children as well as their grandchildren. This study dealt with phobia and anxiety research, as the animals were trained to fear a smell similar to cherry blossom. The researchers then looked at the mice’s sperm and found that the section of DNA responsible for sensitivity to the cherry blossom scent was much more active in the sperm. As a result, the offspring were “extremely sensitive” to cherry blossom and would avoid the scent despite never having experienced it in their lives. “The experience of a parent, even before conceiving, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations,” the report concluded.

Research has since showed that ‘memories’ and behaviours may actually be passed down 14 generations.

This is very important, and it suggests that a number of ‘memories’ can be passed down from our previous generations, including fear, anxiety, trauma, perhaps susceptibility to substances like alcohol for example, and much more. This opens up a wide plethora of discussions when it comes to human behaviour in general.

What’s more important to recognize is that what’s encoded into our DNA and into our genes also has the ability to be changed using the power of our own mind. There is a lot of evidence emerging suggesting that thoughts, feelings and emotions can change our DNA. This also corroborates with the research posted above given the fact that emotions, like fear, are used. So my question is, what happens when the organism overcomes that fear, and does not react in the same way? What happens when it makes a conscious choice to perceive events in a different manner?

Imagine what love, peace and other “positive” emotions can do. If we can code fear, anxiety and trauma into our DNA and pass them on, can an organsm change that by changing themselves within and training themselves to experience more “joyful” type of experiences and/or mind/heart state?  Scientists have shown how the feeling of gratitude, for example, can literally change the structure of the human brain.

According to the HeartMath Institute,

The power of intentional thoughts and emotions goes beyond theory at the HeartMath Institute. In a study, researchers have tested this idea and proven its veracity.

HeartMath researchers have gone so far as to show that physical aspects of DNA strands could be influenced by human intention. The article, Modulation of DNA Conformation by Heart-Focused Intention – McCraty, Atkinson, Tomasino, 2003 – describes experiments that achieved such results.

For example, an individual holding three DNA samples was directed to generate heart coherence – a beneficial state of mental, emotional and physical balance and harmony – with the aid of a HeartMath technique that utilizes heart breathing and intentional positive emotions. The individual succeeded, as instructed, to intentionally and simultaneously unwind two of the DNA samples to different extents and leave the third unchanged.

“The results provide experimental evidence to support the hypothesis that aspects of the DNA molecule can be altered through intentionality,” the article states. “The data indicate that when individuals are in a heart-focused, loving state and in a more coherent mode of physiological functioning, they have a greater ability to alter the conformation of DNA.

“Individuals capable of generating high ratios of heart coherence were able to alter DNA conformation according to their intention. … Control group participants showed low ratios of heart coherence and were unable to intentionally alter the conformation of DNA.”

As far as memory goes, perhaps they are not even completely a product of our physical make-up? Who is to say that human consciousness, for example, resides in the brain? Perhaps there is a non-physical aspect, or a place we cannot perceive with our senses where memories and experiences are stored. After all, memories themselves, despite having physical characteristics as exemplified in this study, are in a sense themself nonphysical things. DNA has also been shown to have some non-physical aspects, you can read about one of many examples here.

The mind-body connection is also gaining traction,  As Garth Cook from Scientific American points out:

A growing body of scientific research suggests that our mind can play an important role in healing our body — or in staying healthy in the first place. . . There are now several lines of research suggesting that our mental perception of the world constantly informs and guides our immune system in a way that makes us better able to respond to future threats. That was a sort of ‘aha’ moment for me — where the idea of an entwined mind and body suddenly made more scientific sense than an ephemeral consciousness that’s somehow separated from our physical selves.

The mind body connection suggests that we can change our biology through belief, which suggests we can break the cycle of ‘negative’ aspects we’ve inherited through epigenetics. These types of interventions require a shift in human consciousness, a shift in perception.

Suggested reading: The Biology of Belief.

When it comes to learning about the mind-body connection and its relationship to our health, it can be difficult to choose a starting place amongst the vast and growing body of research; one of the best places to start, however, is the placebo effect, which demonstrates that the mind can create physiological changes in the body. Neuroscientist Fabrizio Benedetti explains:

There isn’t just one placebo effect, but many. Placebo painkillers can trigger the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins. Patients with Parkinson’s disease respond to placebos with a flood of dopamine. Fake oxygen, given to someone at altitude, has been shown to cut levels of neurotransmitters called prostaglandins (which dilate blood vessels, among other things, and are responsible for many of the symptoms of altitude sickness.

This goes to show that based on our thoughts alone and how we perceive our environment, we can alter our biology.

Then there is the idea that thoughts and human intention can alter physical systems. If thoughts can alter physical systems imagine what they can do to our own biology as well as the body of another. For more information this, you can read the publication titled “Distant Healing Intention Therapies: An Overview of the Scientific Evidence.”

There are also multiple credible reports of mind/matter interaction beyond the quantum scale, where we already know it exists. You can read about one example here.

The Takeaway

At the end of the day, the evidence showing that our ‘memories’ can be transferred down many generations is quite strong. What seems to be left out of the mainstream conversation is the importance of our perceptions. Our environment, yes, plays a key role in shaping our biology, but we can begin to counteract the effect of our environment, especially if it is ‘negative,’ by changing our perception of that environment. We are not bound by the genetics we inherit from our ancestors, we can actively change them. If mice are trained to fear the smell of a certain substance, for example, yes their offspring also fear it but they are not doomed to that destiny. The mouse that can expand its consciousness, think, and realize that there is no reason to be afraid is the one that then changes their DNA.

The science of human consciousness, also known as non material science, is advancing quite rapidly, and it goes to show that if more of us can operate, or at least make an effort to operate from a place of peace within we can truly make the world a better place as well as transform our biology. The term “change comes from within” comes in many forms. If you look at the modern history of the human race, although there are many beautiful aspects and memories, there is also a lot of trauma. As a human collective we still have a lot of work to do on ourselves, and I believe we are currently going through that process and I believe it’s being triggered by the fact that more people are having a big change in how they perceive their environment.

This article (Scientists Successfully Perform A ‘Memory Transplant’ Between Living Organisms) was originally created for Collective Evolution and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Study: Humans Can Communicate From Brain To Brain (Telepathy)

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Study: Humans Can Communicate From Brain To Brain (Telepathy)
Photo Credit: Collective Evolution

Fascinating research out of the University of Washington successfully replicates a direct brain-to-brain connection between multiple pairs of people in a scientific study, following-up on the teams initial demonstration.

The study involved six people who were engaged with each other in pairs from different areas of campus. Researchers sent signals from one person’s brain over the internet to another person in an attempt to control the other’s hand motions with thought.

Study Method

In order to properly conduct the study researchers needed to separate the subjects and close off certain perceptions of the study method. Each sender of thought was placed in front of a computer game where he or she had to defend a city by firing a cannon and intercepting rockets launched by a pirate ship. But, the senders were not able to interact with the game physically. The only way they could properly defend their city was through thought. When a rocket was coming or when they wanted to fire a cannon, they had to think about doing that intentionally.

Across campus, each receiver sat in a dark room with headphones on and no ability to see the computer game. Their right hand was positioned overtop the touchpad that would fire the cannon when tapped. If brain-to-brain connection was successful between the two pairs, the send would effectively be able to get the receiver to tap the touchpad and fire the cannon.

From a technology standpoint, researchers used two types of non-invasive instruments that can connect with human brains in real-time. One participant was hooked up to a electroencephalography machine that reads brain activity and sends electrical pulses via the web to the receiver. The receiver is wearing a swim cap with a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil placed near the area of the brain that controls hand movements.

This setup effectively allows one person to send a command that would in theory move the hand of another person simply through thought.

“The new study brings our brain-to-brain interfacing paradigm from an initial demonstration to something that is closer to a deliverable technology,” said co-author Andrea Stocco, a research assistant professor of psychology and a researcher at UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. “Now we have replicated our methods and know that they can work reliably with walk-in participants.”

The Results

It was found that accuracy varied depending on each pairing. The accuracy range was from 25 to 83%. Misses were mostly found to be caused by the sender failing to accurately execute the thought to send the “fire” command. The researchers also were able to quantify the exact amount of information that was transferred between the two brains.

Interestingly the degree of accuracy being low in subjects who couldn’t properly extend intention to the receiver also indicates that it isn’t simply just thoughts that affect our reality but actually the intention. Therefore during study of the phenomenon accuracy in whether or not subjects are truly intending vs just thinking is crucial.

For me personally, this brings interesting insight to my theory that thoughts don’t create reality, but that there needs to be a power behind that thought. A strong intention, emotion, feeling, etc. Further to that, it takes deep practice and a level of mastery to truly train yourself to impact physical reality with thought and intention.

This isn’t the first time brain-to-brain communication has been demonstrated scientifically. Another research team from the company Starlab in Barcelona, Spain, recently published a study with very similar results to the one above. Direct communication between two human brains was demonstrated but this one only featured two subjects.

Also, a study was done that demonstrated telepathy between humans during dreams.

The research team from the University of Washington has been granted a new $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation so they can take their work to the next level. This clearly illustrates the validity and impressive potential implications of their work.

“Imagine someone who’s a brilliant scientist but not a brilliant teacher. Complex knowledge is hard to explain – we’re limited by language,” said co-author Chantel Prat, a faculty member at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences and a UW assistant professor of psychology.

Keeping An Open Mind

It feels like we are living in a time where new discoveries are truly making us question what it means to be human. Who are we? What are our capabilities? If the story of who we truly are changes, would that change how we choose to create our society and life?

Thankfully there are many brilliant people out there not only doing this work to bring forth cutting edge science. Of course this new science does come with opposition and controversy as paradigms are challenged by these ideas. It’s my feeling that there is little value in simply calling this work “pseudoscience” as it often is called, as it only seeks to cast off this work without truly looking into it and remembering to stay curious and playful.

“The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.” – Nikola Tesla

Source

This article (Study: Humans Can Communicate From Brain To Brain (Telepathy)) was originally created for Collective Evolution and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Neuroscientist Claims That Consciousness Itself Is Its Own Energy Field

A neuroscientist has suggested in a new theory that our consciousness is derived from a field of electromagnetic waves given off by neurons.

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Neuroscientist Claims That Consciousness Itself Is Its Own Energy Field
Photo Credit: TMU

A neuroscientist has suggested in a new theory that our consciousness is derived from a field of electromagnetic waves given off by neurons.

The study published last month in the journal Neuroscience of Consciousness is entirely based off a theory absent of tangible evidence. However, the author of the research Johnjoe McFadden said that his hypothesis could offer a way forward for robots that think and feel emotions.

McFadden believes that neuron waves of electrical activity get sent out and as they propagate across the brain, they help compose our entire conscious experience.

Johnjoe McFadden, is a molecular geneticist and director of quantum biology at the University of Surrey. McFadden points to flaws in other models of consciousness as the reason that we don’t have sentient artificial intelligence or robots capable of achieving consciousness.

McFadden’s hypothesis swerves away from most traditional neuroscientists, who generally see consciousness as a narrative that our brain constructs out of our senses, perceptions, and actions. Instead, McFadden returns to a more empirical version of dualism — the idea that consciousness stems from something other than our brain matter.

McFadden’s theory adapts the idea of “dualism,” which is the belief that consciousness is a supernatural force. Dualism has long been rejected by scientists and ruled pseudo-science, but McFadden has attempted to apply a scientific explanation for the idea, which hasn’t been done before.

Neuroscience news reports that the theory is based on scientific fact:

“The theory is based on scientific fact: when neurons in the brain and nervous system fire, they not only send the familiar electrical signal down the wire-like nerve fibres, but they also send a pulse of electromagnetic energy into the surrounding tissue. Such energy is usually disregarded, yet it carries the same information as nerve firings, but as an immaterial wave of energy, rather than a flow of atoms in and out of the nerves.”

3 Powerful tools for Pineal Gland activation. (Click here to read the full article!)

It’s also a fact we have an electromagnetic field surrounding our brain is well-known and is detected by brain-scanning techniques such as electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) but has previously been dismissed as irrelevant to brain function and supernatural. Instead, McFadden contends that the brain’s information-rich electromagnetic field is, in fact, itself the seat of consciousness, driving the ‘free will’ of an individual.

“How brain matter becomes aware and manages to think is a mystery that has been pondered by philosophers, theologians, mystics and ordinary people for millennia,” McFadden said in a press release published by Medical Xpress. “I believe this mystery has now been solved, and that consciousness is the experience of nerves plugging into the brain’s self-generated electromagnetic field to drive what we call ‘free will’ and our voluntary actions.”

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