Study Shows How LSD Mimics Infant’s Mind as Ego Dissolves.

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A groundbreaking series of experiments show how LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) alters the operation of the brain.  Scientists gave LSD to 20 healthy volunteers in a specialist research center and used cutting-edge brain scanning techniques to understand what happens once the LSD is ingested.

One significant finding of the experiments was that when volunteers took LSD, many parts of their brain contributed to visual processing, not just the visual cortex.  They could essentially see things that weren’t there, experiencing dreamlike hallucinations.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, who led the research, elaborated on this discovery:

“We observed brain changes under LSD that suggested our volunteers were ‘seeing with their eyes shut’ — albeit they were seeing things from their imagination rather than from the outside world. We saw that many more areas of the brain than normal were contributing to visual processing under LSD — even though the volunteers’ eyes were closed. Furthermore, the size of this effect correlated with volunteers’ ratings of complex, dreamlike visions. “

Dr. Carthart-Harris explained further that under LSD, people’s brain networks behave in a “unified” way, with specialized functions like vision, movement and hearing working without separation.

He said: ”Our results suggest that this effect underlies the profound altered state of consciousness that people often describe during an LSD experience. It is also related to what people sometimes call ‘ego-dissolution’, which means the normal sense of self is broken down and replaced by a sense of reconnection with themselves, others and the natural world. This experience is sometimes framed in a religious or spiritual way — and seems to be associated with improvements in well-being after the drug’s effects have subsided.”

lsd study

FIG. 1: Whole-brain cerebral blood flow maps for the placebo and LSD conditions, plus the difference map (cluster-corrected, P < 0.05; n = 15).

Interestingly, Dr. Carthart-Harris also said that the brain in the LSD state resembles the free and unconstrained brain of infancy, with its inherent hyper-emotionality and imaginative nature.  He added that “our brains become more constrained and compartmentalized as we develop from infancy into adulthood, and we may become more focused and rigid in our thinking as we mature.”

It’s noteworthy that the study was crowdfunded, raising almost $80,000 from individual donations. You can see their crowdfunding pitch which explains some of their approaches here:

Additional research from the same team showed for the first time that listening to music while on LSD trigged more information to be received from the parahippocampus, which is involved in mental imagery and personal memory.  The combination of music and LSD triggered complex visions in the subjects, such as evoking scenes from their lives.

The researchers hope that their findings will eventually lead to new therapies involving LSD, in particular directed at conditions with entrenched negative thought patterns such as depression or addiction.  The intention is to disrupt negative patterns by employing psychedelics.

“Scientists have waited 50 years for this moment — the revealing of how LSD alters our brain biology. For the first time we can really see what’s happening in the brain during the psychedelic state, and can better understand why LSD had such a profound impact on self-awareness in users and on music and art. This could have great implications for psychiatry, and helping patients overcome conditions such as depression,” said Professor David Nutt, the senior researcher on the study and Edmond J Safra Chair in Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London.

Source:Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Extremely Positive People Aren’t as Good at Empathy.

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People with extremely sunny attitudes find it difficult to empathize with people who are recounting a negative experience, according to a study recently published at PLOS ONE. Ironically, positive people also reported being better at empathizing than did people who labelled themselves as slightly less than bubbly.

For the study, participants were shown videos of people telling life stories: two happy and two sad. The viewers were asked to rate, second-by-second, the level of positive or negative emotion they thought the speaker was feeling. Alex Fradera, at the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, describes the result:

“Participants with a more upbeat personality believed their accuracy on this task to be higher than others. However, the speakers had conducted an identical rating process on their own videos, and it turns out the happier participants were no closer to the true feelings than the more downbeat participants. In fact, happy participants found it harder to judge the emotional tone of a highly negative monologue, in which a participant described the death of a parent.”

Dev Patnaik, author and founder of Jump Associates, argues that empathy is not just a personal quality that we all (are blessed to) have. Empathy, he argues, is an essential business skill that corporations must possess to help their employees innovate and to create a loyal customer base.



Why People Use Information Avoidance to Choose Their Own Reality.

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Visualization of World Wide Web at London art conference.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University pinpointed the strategies that modern people rely on more and more to support their own versions of reality. On the surface, it may seem that rational people would always want to have more information, but that is often not the case. In fact, people actively avoid information that they feel might threaten their sense of wellbeing or happiness.

In a new paper that was published the Journal of Economic Literature, the team drew on cross-disciplinary research from economics, psychology and sociology to show how people use a variety of information avoidance strategies.

One way – by simply not obtaining available information. Just don’t ask for it. Another – people tend to only pay attention to the information that confirms what they already believe or is somehow making them feel good about themselves. The information that they’d rather see as untrue, people simply forget.

“The standard account of information in economics is that people should seek out information that will aid in decision-making, should never actively avoid information, and should dispassionately update their views when they encounter new valid information,” said the economics and psychology Professor George Loewenstein, the paper’s co-author who also co-founded the field of behavioral economics.

“But people often avoid information that could help them to make better decisions if they think the information might be painful to receive. Bad teachers, for example, could benefit from feedback from students, but are much less likely to pore over teaching ratings than skilled teachers,” Loewenstein explained.

When confronted with information they cannot just ignore, people still choose how to interpret it. They allow their biases to elevate questionable evidence if it agrees with their views and discount vigorously proven scientific evidence if it goes against their beliefs. 

There are also other real-world consequences to living in your own bubble and avoiding information. These are people who miss chances to catch and treat serious illnesses early or do not prepare financially for retirement. In what has been called “the ostrich effect” in behavioral finance, investors were found to check their online portfolios less frequently when the stock market was down.

The researchers see clear connections between their work and the political division currently plaguing American society, which is also undergoing a crisis of information. People are struggling to discern the truth between alternative facts, fake news, hacked emails and conspiracy theories.

“An implication of information avoidance is that we do not engage effectively with those who disagree with us,” said David Hagmann, a Ph.D. student involved in the research. “Bombarding people with information that challenges their cherished beliefs — the usual strategy that people employ in attempts at persuasion – is more likely to engender defensive avoidance than receptive processing. If we want to reduce political polarization, we have to find ways not only to expose people to conflicting information, but to increase people’s receptivity to information that challenges what they believe and want to believe.”

There are also some positive aspects to avoiding information. It’s a mental strategy that can help in certain situations. For instance, an athlete might not want to have too much information about competitors to not get psyched out. 

“People do it for a reason,” said Professor Golman, the paper’s other co-author. “Those who do not take a genetic test can enjoy their life until their illness can’t be ignored, an inflated sense of our own abilities can help us to pursue big and worthwhile goals, and not looking at our financial investments when markets are down may keep us from selling in a panic.”

The scientists see their research leading to better understanding by the government and any large organization looking to reach people most effectively.


9 Reasons Why Intelligent People Have Fewer Friends.

Intelligent people have less friends. The realer you are the fewer friends you have. Here’s why:

1. You’re liberated in your own speech, thoughts, and actions, which can be contrary to those of your “friends.”
You have a strong mindset and values. Your mind isn’t limited and you always have something to say. You think differently to others but you’re not bothered by their opinions on it.

2. You don’t have time for forced fake catch-ups or pointless conversations
, trying to keep up with what everyone is up to. So, you mostly spend time alone. You don’t care about the latest trends or latest music. You have no interest in materialistic things. You also don’t have FOMO (fear of missing out), so you’re quite content doing your own thing. Your world seems to flourish more on your own.

3. You can see beyond people’s “try hard” persona
so you distance yourself from people who aren’t worth your time. These people are what I like to call social climbers. They try to get involved with certain people for the sake of being popular or simply to look good (I have lost all faith in humanity).

4. You talk less and listen more
so you find yourself sitting back observing the norms of today: The constant posting on social media, backstabbing, unloyal partners and disrespectful behaviour. It puts you off because you’re far more mature. You see more to life. You believe in radiating the energy you want to be around. You are humble and encouraging to all but you don’t put your time and trust into people who don’t deserve it.

5. You don’t get involved in drama.
You don’t thrive off it like others do. Family is more important to you. You would rather watch an episode with your sister then go to a bar with the girls. The unnecessary drama that comes with a night out is exactly what you avoid because you know you’ll regret it when they instantly put you in a bad mood. You prefer doing things according to your own terms/will.

6. You don’t need to prove your worth to anyone.
You’re happy with yourself. You’re independent and strong. You don’t rely on others. You can support yourself. You don’t need to wake up to 10 snapchats or 300 Instagram likes to be able to smile every morning. You’re grateful for the little things. You don’t feel the need to be accepted by anyone but yourself.

7. You have already worked out who your real friends are
so you don’t feel the need to have any new ones. You are aware of who’s curious and who’s concerned. You are very cautious when letting people in your life unless someone throws your mind for a whirlwind and is as compatible as you. And by this I mean: thinks the same, expresses the same and has the same values. That’s the only time you let a new person in your life. But it still isn’t as easy as that. You still test them in situations to see if they really care about you as a person or if they just want to know your tricks of the trade.

8. You’re an old soul so you have visions for the future.
You feel uncomfortable telling your dreams to small minded people. You work hard to achieve your goals and you don’t have time for setbacks. While others are trying to plan their night out at the club, you’re grinding. You see more than just going to a club, you see a life you want to chase. Your focus is different. Your time is being invested on growth. You don’t expect people to understand what you’re up to. Eventually, they’ll see.

9. People see you as a threat because you keep to yourself.
Nevertheless, you have no fear in saying it straight or confronting someone when they’re out of line. You’re a force to be reckoned with. However, there are few that take you seriously and know how unique you are. These people are the ones you have time for and make effort with. You know what you bring to the table, and so this is why you’re not afraid to eat alone.


Do We Find People Who Swear More Honest? Yes, Says New Study.

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Italian actress Asia Argento poses as she arrives for the screening of the film ‘Zulu’ presented Out of Competition at the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes.

Swearing is not an acceptable form of social discourse in most public situations. But impolite people who use profane language have been found to be more honest and trustworthy in a new study.

A three-part study was concluded with the appropriately titled paper “Frankly, we do give a damn: The relationship between profanity and honesty”, set to be published in the Journal of Psychological and Personality Science.

“Profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level, and with higher integrity at the society level,” write the researchers, led by Gilad Feldman of the Department of Work and Psychology in Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

What the scientists found was that people are more likely to swear to express themselves rather than to use the swearing as an attack on others. Interestingly, while liars were more likely to use third-person pronouns or negative words, honest people were more likely to resort to profanity.

The study consisted of analyzing responses of 276 participants on their use of swearing and their degree of honesty in various situations. In particular, the subjects were asked to relate how often they cursed, their favorite swear words, and their emotions during such moments.

Additionally, the study looked at status updates of 73,000 Facebook users around the world, investigating the frequency of profanity as well as pronouns that have been linked by previous studies to lying. They found that people who use profanity were generally more honest in Facebook status updates.

“There are two ways of looking at it. You might think if someone is swearing a lot, this is a negative social behaviour seen as a bad thing to do, so if someone swears they are probably a bad person as well. On the other hand, they are not filtering their language so they are probably also not putting their stories about what is going on through similar filters which might turn them into untruths. That is what we seemed to land on in this study, that people who use the language that comes to mind first are less likely to be playing games with the truth,” said the study’s co-author David Stillwell, from the University of Cambridge.

The researchers also conducted a study to compare integrity levels of American states with swearing frequency. To accomplish this, they relied on the 2012 Integrity Analyses of 48 U.S. states, carried out by the Center for Public Integrity. That report measured transparency and accountability in state governments. The researchers correlated the state data to swearing scores of individuals from their Facebook study and found a relationship between using more profanity and the integrity score of the state where that person lived.

Swearing has also been linked to higher verbal intelligence by previous research.

The researchers do warn that honesty in expression and honesty as an individual are not necessarily one and the same. You could certainly have someone who curses and commits crimes.


Attending to the Unconscious in a Psychotherapy Session.

Sigmund Freud postulated that for psychoanalysis to be effective, the client must share with the analyst all that crosses their mind during the course of the clinical hour. Whether their thoughts are deemed by them to be relevant and consequential or completely tangential and random, that the analyst needed access to that information to successfully understand the rest of the material presented in the session. This of course included feelings and thoughts about the analyst as a means of comprehending transferential issues at hand. Most contemporary analytic theories continue to support the importance of the client sharing associative thoughts, if perhaps with a bit less dogmatic demand.


One way to consider the relevance of this postulation, referred to as Freud’s fundamental rule, is to compare it to the associative details of a dream. Sometimes clients want to provide only the highlights of a dream; the story.

Client: “I had a dream last night where I was on this boat, but couldn’t stand to get to the sail. It was flapping in the wind making the ride so bumpy. The motion of the boat was making me so sick I just wanted to jump overboard. I literally still feel dizzy now.”

Therapist: “Tell me more about the dream. Start from the beginning.”

Client: “Oh no, it isn’t important, I was just thinking about it because I felt a bit dizzy when I sat down.”

Therapist: “Let’s imagine for a minute that it might be relevant to something you want us to think about today. Tell me about it.”

Client proceeds to report dream, with details, along with associations about details based on therapist probing. As the dream unfolds, some of the specifics (the boat’s cooler type) point to a particular sailing trip he took with his father in the year after his mother died, where he felt particularly shamed by his father about his distraction and inattention. Nausea was and continues to be a common response to feelings of shame for this client.

The random detail of the cooler was able to bring his father to mind, and man who did a very poor job of helping his son deal with the death of his mother. While the client had never been close with his father, he needed him desperately once his mother had died and did everything he could to align himself with the dad and try to please him. Above all things, he avoided making his father angry. The thing that made his father the most angry was when his son was angry or challenged him in any way. The result was that the son worked hard to swallow his anger, which my client instead experienced as nausea. When his father would shame him, which he did routinely, instead of feeling angry which could threaten his much needed relationship with the father, he felt both nauseous, and suicidal.

Suicidality in the face of a recent loss to death is not just the wish to be dead, but the wish to join the person who has recently died. In dream analysis, bodies of water are frequently associated with the mother, her womb and/or her body. Hence his wish to manage his nausea in the dream, by jumping into the water, is his desire to escape his father, and return to his mother, in the womb or in death.

His nausea upon sitting down on the couch, is that upon entering his therapy session, his unconscious wanted to alert him to his anger towards his father, disguised as nausea, that he and his therapist had been trying over the months to access and unpack together. The dream had been brought on by a conversation he had the night before with his father, and that he was not yet aware had left him hurt and angry. The nausea upon entering the session was his red flag to bring up the dream, so that he could gain access to his inner turmoil. The particular cooler in the dream was the clue that pointed to the father and help us unravel the dreams content.

Most folks have heard of the term “free association.” It is both a technique, and more broadly, a concept. The technique is a therapist offering up a list of words that a client responds to with the first word that comes into their head. But more broadly, it is the meat and potatoes of every session. A skilled analytically oriented therapist is listening all the time for links and associations between topics, feelings, thoughts, gestures in both the client and themselves.

Upon entering a session, clients frequently make statements they want to view as simply conversational and separate from their clinical content. They mention the congested traffic; unaware they are commenting on their internal state. They ask if their therapist changed something in the office; alerting us to their anxiety that we might be different than they expect us to be. They tell us they need to eat their sandwich, communicating emotional hunger they fear will be left dissatisfied.

I know, I know, many of you will refute these statements are meaningful revelations about the internal state of the clients’ world. And alone, I would never interpret them, either to myself or to the client, just as I would never assume a body of water in a dream is the mother or her body. These little clues, associations, messages from the unconscious, are meant to be noted, and then watched in the course of the session. If relevant, they will join with other fragments of the session to reveal a picture, a story, a connection of truths, for our work as clinicians is to develop the skills necessary to note and pull together the fragments of unconscious communication so we may offer them to our client for their examination.

Another example.

The client is telling us about a conversation they had with their ex. There is a long silence in the session.

Therapist: Can you say what is happening for you right now?

Client: Nothing. I just got distracted.

Therapist: Tell me what you were thinking about.

Client: Ugh, it is too embarrassing. I was just making a list some stuff I need to get from the store on the way home.

Therapist: And what is on the list?

Client: Hahaha. Some shampoo, dishwashing liquid, and carpet cleaner.

Now a client who has been in therapy for a while with a clinician who desires access to unconscious materiel would have known to offer up the list making distraction without probing. If we can imagine that whatever we are discussing, the conscious mind has primary control of the conversation. If we are discussing the kind of topics we typically explore in therapy, the unconscious mind is just as present. The only way the unconscious mind can take control of the conversation is by forcing us to fall asleep and thereby dream. Otherwise it must insert itself. A primary it inserts itself is through “distracting” thoughts. Remember, the unconscious speaks through symbols.

So, our client who was talking about her ex has lots of mixed feelings about her ex. She has been struggling to understand why she continues to be so preoccupied with him. Her conscious mind doesn’t get why she isn’t ready to let him go. Perfect reason to keep an ear out for what the unconscious mind might be able to tell us about why she is stuck in her process.

Here is what her unconscious offered up to help her understand her distress. First: list making. We make lists when we feel disorganized, overwhelmed, out of control. Again, just because someone is making a list in their head shouldn’t lead the therapist to the conclusion that is what is going on. But between the therapist’s history and knowledge of this client and issues surrounding their ex, the list-making as an indicator of internal chaos was reasonable enough possibility to present it to the client who was able to confirm that she had begun to feel overwhelmed and internal disorganized while talking about her ex.

The other detail that the unconscious offered up is that all the items she listed were cleaning supplies. Now certainly one could argue, as clients often do, that she had that list in her head long before the session, the list likely has many more items, that were not readily available to her mind, because this particular thought surfaced for a reason, and offered up the items on her list that might us help discern her internal state. Again, based on clinical experience with this client and the topic of her ex, the therapist speculated with the client if the conversation about her ex was making her feel dirty, or somehow unclean. The client burst into tears. Over the remaining hour, and many proceeding sessions, the client was able to talk about having felt pressured to engage in sexual activities outside her interests and comfort zone with her ex that left her feeling humiliated for “dirtying herself” (her language) for someone who “still” left her.

The unconscious mind routinely attempts to insert itself into our conscious thought throughout our day, in the form of Freudian Slips, where we mean to say one thing but accidentally say something else, through song lyrics that get stuck in our heads, day dreams, or remembering something important in the middle of a conversation about something else. Unless we are someone who actively attended to unconscious communication, most of these clues to the burdens of our soul go unattended.

The unconscious, savvy as it is, understand that a therapy session, with an unconscious focused therapist, is a worthy place to try to get seen. From thoughts on the way to therapy, opening statements upon entering the session, “casual” questions to the therapist, “different” topics brought into the same session, “random” comments made about a beverage in the session, a purse zipper, seeing a possible bug out of the corner of their eye… everything! In the short span of 50 minutes, the unconscious is making its efforts to be seen, by the client, and by us.

A third example

During the prior week there is a scheduling mistake that is the fault of the therapist. It makes for a significant inconvenience for the client, including being unable to attend a session that week. At the start of the session there is an effort on the therapist’s part to discuss the incident. The client insists it is unproblematic and “no big deal.” This following is the next topic the client brings to the session.

Client: I went to see my Doctor last week. He is such an idiot. He can’t even remember what he was treating me for. I wanted to be like “Didn’t you pay attention in school?”

Hear the rage and hostility. The client doesn’t know it is about us. They were sincere when they said it was “no big deal.” We likely don’t want to know it is about us either. We might even try to sympathize with them, or try to help them figure out if they are getting the right medical help.

We would have to be bold, and have enough of a relationship established with the client, but the right clinical move is to help the client know that we are the “Doctor” they are talking about (even if we don’t have a Doctorate). Even though they rejected our suggestion earlier that they might be angry, we have some “evidence” now and can help them see the parallels through the details of the story they just reported to the incident with us.

Anytime a client is talking about medical professionals, professors, or other authority figures, we should be listening for transferential themes.


If clients just need to think through something with someone, they don’t need a therapist. They can take a long walk, or talk to a friend or counselor (as opposed to a psychotherapist), meditate, or journal. Knowing one’s conscious mind is hard, but not what you pay a therapist big bucks for. What we can offer clients is access to a whole other part of them that is struggling right along with them, with every single one of their meaningful issues. Just as they spend their days trying to unravel their thoughts and feelings about complex emotional issues, their unconscious is trying to do the same thing.

The reason some of us are estranged from our unconscious, is it speaks in coded, symbolic language. It is by design veiled to protect us from information and truths that may be difficult to handle. But in its effort to be engaged, heard, appeased, attended to, it will sabotage, misdirect, and resist our conscious efforts until it is assured its needs be meet.

Clients often come to us with issues they believe defy reason. They insist that their behaviors and feelings make no sense and that they simply don’t understand why they keep doing the same thing. There is a good answer. And their unconscious holds the clues.

Smith is the founder/director of Full Living: A Psychotherapy Practice, which offers clinical services with seasoned, cultural competent clinicians throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding areas.

Harvard Researchers Have Found the Source of Human Consciousness.

A colorful picture of the human connectome.

What is human consciousness and where does it come from? Throughout the ages, some of our greatest minds have probed this question, and struggled to find answers. Today, different disciplines offer varying definitions. One theory says it is meta-cognition or our ability to ponder our own thought process. Another states it is our capacity to recognize our own mortality, and another still, to be able to imagine future scenarios, and make plans for them.

Scientists too have had difficulty, particularly in finding the source of what we experience continuously from one moment to the next, which makes us human, and which is what we lament in those stuck in a coma or a vegetative state. Those poor souls been stripped of something we feel is elemental to who we are, and worse still, they remind us just how fragile our own consciousness is.

Classical neurology defines consciousness as the ongoing process of arousal and awareness. Its origin however, has been much harder to pinpoint. Now, researchers at Harvard Medical School, along with colleagues at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, have discovered the neural network from which consciousness derives.

 We’ve known for some time that the brainstem regulates arousal, what neurosurgeon Richard M. Bergland called the “spark plug of consciousness.” This is the oldest and deepest part of the brain. The starting point for the spinal cord, the brainstem controls breathing, heart function, and the sleep-wake cycle. But where awareness emanates from has long been a mystery. Previous speculations say it resides in the cortex, the newest parts of the brain, and its outermost layer.

For the first time, neuroscientists have found a connection between these two regions, according to Michael D. Fox, MD, PhD, a researcher on this study. “A lot of pieces of evidence all came together to point to this network,” he said. To conduct the study, Fox and colleagues recruited 36 patients with brainstem lesions. 12 of these were in a coma and the remaining 24 conscious.

Map of the human connectome or connections between brain regions.

Those subjects who were unconscious showed damage to a small area of the brainstem known as the rostral dorsolateral pontine tegmentum. “When it is damaged, almost every patient became comatose,” Fox said. Only one of the 24 conscious patients did not see damage to this area of the brainstem. Due to this, researchers established that the tiny region plays a vital role in consciousness. Next, the neuroscientists turned to a map of the human connectome to investigate the connections between regions. They found two areas in the cortex connected to this part of the brainstem. That led them to believe that these three regions make up a neural network from which, consciousness derives.

Where exactly these connections terminate in the cortex is not yet known. One ends at a part called the left, ventral, anterior insula (AI). The other concludes in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC). Both areas are associated with awareness. But this is the first time they have been implicated in a neural network, never mind one which creates and maintains consciousness. In a follow-up segment, researchers examined the brains of 45 patients in a coma or vegetative state with an fMRI. They found in all the patients that these three regions were out of commission.

Other research must verify these findings. Even so, it looks like an incredible step forward which impacts not only neurology but medicine and even philosophy. Fox and colleagues believe that someday we may better understand those who are in a coma or a vegetative state, and may even find novel treatment options to help those patients “wake up.”


Does All Mental Illness Derive from a Common Source? 

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Woman struggling with mental illness.

When we think of psychological disorders, we consider each a separate condition. We examine the symptoms, try to find where they stem from, and what specific medication or therapy might address it. Addiction on the other hand, comes with a whole different set of causes, it is thought, and has its own treatments and procedures. Though we’ve compartmentalized mental illness and addiction into various divisions and subdivisions, former FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler says that in fact, these seemingly disparate issues actually derive from a single origin.

In his new book Capture: A Theory of the Mind, he elaborates on this concept. By studying what causes people to smoke or overeat, Kessler says he discovered that the same mechanisms which drove these habits were also responsible for things like depression. The idea is that we are “captured,” or captivated by something in such a way that we can’t let it go. According to the former pediatrician and Yale dean, capture is really a brain-based phenomenon. Not only that, but it can also become an overarching perspective through which we may view any obsession, disorder, mental illness, addiction, and even suicide.

There are three parts to this theory: the “narrowing of attention, perceived lack of control and change in affect, or emotional state.” To boil it down, capture is basically any stimulus, be it an object, thought, activity, substance, or person, which overtakes our mind. Though depression may not at first glance seem to fit easily into this theory, Kessler says, “‘Depression’ is a label used to describe a group of symptoms. It is not a cause.”

Though medication can help, Dr. Kessler says it doesn’t delve down to the root of the problem.

In some sense, capture is a mental hijacking. But it isn’t always bad. In fact, the doctor credits the Protestant Reformation and the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous on capture. There are ways to take over the process and make it work for a higher goal, he says. The stimulus itself is neutral. You can be captured by something positive or negative. What is central is the lack of control one feels when faced with the overwhelming desire to unite with it. Even though we are constantly bombarded with stimuli, it’s this one particular thing that preoccupies out thoughts. While in reality we may be in the driver’s seat, capture gives us the illusion of losing control.

In the case of depression, it may originate with an early memory or trauma. The person becomes fixated on that memory. Whenever he or she encounters a trigger or cue, it turns the mind toward it, and the person begins to ruminate over the experience, which thereby causes depression. The emotion itself soon takes over, becoming the stimulus. In an interview on the Diane Rehm Show Kessler said, “That output becomes the input.”

In this way, the person gets caught in a vicious cycle and can’t break free.  Kessler believes that we should move away from the idea that people with mental illness as “sick” or “broken.” Instead, we need to look at it as a physical problem, and begin to examine what brain circuitry underlies such phenomena.

Historically, mental illness was seen as evil or a form of possession. Today, many sufferers feel broken or lost. But Dr. Kessler’s theory offers a healthier outlook and hope for those struggling.

Though in essence the book is about the “biological mechanism” behind mental illness and addiction, reviewers say anecdotes in the book are numerous, whereas hard science is scarce. Instead of brain imaging studies, case studies are what Kessler’s theory rests upon, at least for now. There is mention of Hebb’s rule, which states that brain neurons are prone to firing in patterns that have previously taken place. So the more we interact with the stimulus, the more this pattern becomes ingrained and the harder it is to break, what radio host Brian Lehrer called a “feedback loop.”

Though Kessler believes medication is worthwhile, it only dampens the desire for the stimulus, he says. “I think that the best way to treat being captured, whether it’s by a negative stimuli or an addictive substance or a fear, is to find something else that’s going to capture me that has even more importance to me.” This means supplanting the obsession with something positive and deeply fulfilling for the person.

This new outlook is interesting and could cause a wave of research in its aftermath. It may even revolutionize how we look at mental illness. Yet as it stands now, without hard science to back it up, such as an identified neural pathway, capture remains in the theoretical realm. Another issue is exactly why some people get captured, while others don’t. Beyond such questions, we must recognize that such radical speculation is necessary, particularly today when addiction and psychological disorders are on the rise.


Surprising New Role for Lungs Making Blood

Exciting studies with mice are showing that your lungs may have an additional role beyond providing you with air to breathe, according to HealthCanal. Scientists report that they discovered that the lungs in mice not only produce platelets necessary for blood clotting, but can restore blood production when bone marrow stem cells are depleted.

While the studies are still too new to know whether this applies to humans, it’s still a good opportunity to talk about ways to keep your lungs healthy. Of course, we know the importance of not smoking and avoiding environmental exposures that can damage our lungs — especially since exposure to chemical toxins affects your lungs, cognitive function, and even is connected to a rising number of children affected by autism spectrum disorder and ADHD.

But did you know that something as simple as eating a high-fiber diet can help your lungs stay healthy? It’s true: Studies show that people who ate a lot of fiber scored better on two breathing tests, indicating larger lung capacity and the ability to exhale more air in one second.

This adds to mounting research suggesting that a high-fiber diet can help reduce your risk of premature death from any cause, including cancer and heart disease.

If you want to increase your daily fiber intake, forget grains and concentrate on eating veggies. A high-grain diet tends to promote insulin and leptin resistance, which is counterproductive as this actually promotes many of the chronic diseases that healthy fiber can help reduce, most notably type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Excellent fiber choices include soluble fibers found in veggies and fruits like cucumbers, blueberries, beans and nuts, and insoluble fibers like dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery and carrots.

Can Pink Noise Help You Sleep?

pink noise for sleep

Story at-a-glance

  • Listening to pink noise improved sleep and memory among 60- to 84-year-olds, a population that tends to have reduced slow wave sleep, or deep sleep, compared to younger individuals
  • Pink noise enhanced slow wave sleep and was linked to better scores on memory tests
  • The participants scored about three times better on memory tests the morning after listening to pink noise in their sleep

You probably don’t think of noise in terms of colors, but there is a rainbow of noise out there — from the familiar white noise that occurs when a TV turns to static to the higher-pitched blue noise, which sounds similar to a hissing spray of water.1

Somewhere in the middle is pink noise, gentle sound similar to that of rushing water or wind blowing through leaves on a tree.

Pink noise contains frequencies from 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz, just like white noise, but the lower frequencies are louder and more powerful than the higher frequencies (white noise, in contrast, has equal power in all of its frequencies).2

However, pink noise has equal power per octave (a range of frequencies whose upper frequency limit is twice that of its lower frequency limit), which is why most people hear it as an even noise.3

To an untrained ear, pink noise may sound quite similar to white noise, but the former, it seems, may have particular promise for helping you sleep and improving other areas of human health, including that of your brain.

Pink Noise at Night May Help You Sleep Better and Improve Memory

Research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience revealed that listening to pink noise could improve sleep and memory among 60- to 84-year-olds, a population that tends to have reduced slow wave sleep, or deep sleep, compared to younger individuals.4 Slow wave sleep is also associated with memory consolidation.

While spending the night in a sleep lab, participants listened to pink noise one night and no noise the next. Notably, the pink noise was played in bursts to match the timing of participants’ slow wave sleep.

Not only did the pink noise enhance slow wave sleep, it also was linked to better scores on memory tests. The participants scored about three times better on memory tests the morning after listening to pink noise in their sleep.5

Senior study author Dr. Phyllis Zee, professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told Time, “The noise is fairly pleasant; it kind of resembles a rush of water … It’s just noticeable enough that the brain realizes it’s there, but not enough to disturb sleep.”6

Does the Timing of Pink-Noise Exposure Matter?

Zee and her team are working on developing a device you can use to deliver pink noise at home, although there are many apps already available that claim to do so.

Zee said that the memory benefits, however, may depend on the pink noise enhancing slow wave sleep, which means the noise may need to be administered at appropriate times to be most effective.7 She said in a press release:8

“This is an innovative, simple and safe non-medication approach that may help improve brain health … This is a potential tool for enhancing memory in older populations and attenuating normal age-related memory decline.”

Past research also found that steady pink noise helped to regulate brain waves and led to more stable sleep and improved sleep quality in adults, both during the night (a 23 percent improvement with pink noise) and during naps (a 45 percent improvement).9

Seventy-five percent of the study participants also said they experienced more restful sleep when exposed to pink noise.10

Sleeping Too Much or Too Little Linked to Higher Weight

Sleep influences far more than your energy level; it’s intricately involved in virtually every aspect of your health, including your weight. Among people genetically predisposed to obesity, the amount you sleep may also make a difference.

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who slept less than seven hours or more than nine hours a night weighed more, on average, than those who slept the recommended seven to nine hours.11

The short sleepers weighed about 4.5 pounds more while the long sleepers weighed nearly 9 pounds more than the normal sleepers.12

The association persisted regardless of diet, and it was also found that shift work and daytime napping was associated with higher weight among this population. Study co-author, research associate Carlos Celis-Morales, BHF Cardiovascular Research Centre at Glasgow, said:13

“It appears that people with high genetic risk for obesity need to take more care about lifestyle factors to maintain a healthy body weight. Our data suggest that sleep is another factor which needs to be considered, alongside diet and physical activity.”

In this study, there was not as strong a link between sleep duration and weight among people with low genetic obesity risk; however, other studies have shown links between weight and sleep.

For instance, people who typically slept five hours or less a night showed a 32 percent gain in visceral fat (a dangerous type linked to heart disease and other chronic diseases) versus a 13 percent gain among those who slept six or seven hours per night, and a 22 percent increase among men and women who got at least eight hours of sleep each night.14

Night Owls May Eat Less Healthy Than Morning People

There are various reasons why sleep affects weight. Lack of sleep also decreases levels of the fat regulating hormone leptin while increasing the hunger hormone ghrelin. The resulting increase in hunger and appetite can easily lead to overeating and weight gain.

In addition, according to a study in the journal Sleep, later bedtimes correlate to greater weight gain even in healthy, non-obese people.15

Late-night snacking further increases that risk. In fact, avoiding food at least three hours prior to bedtime is one of my standard recommendations as it helps to make sure that your body is burning fat as its primary fuel which will keep you lean.

A recent study published in the journal Obesity further revealed that the types of foods chosen by morning and evening types of people differ, with night owls tending to eat less healthy, perhaps as a consequence of “living against their internal biological time.”16

Specifically, on weekdays the night owls tended to choose breakfast foods that were higher in sugar and lower in fiber compared to those chosen by the morning types. In the evening, the night owls also tended to eat more sugar.

“On weekends, the differences were even greater,” The New York Times reported. “Evening people ate significantly more sugar and fats, had more irregular mealtimes, and ate meals and snacks twice as often as morning people.”17

Since “our society is pretty much structured to suit morning types better,” the study’s lead author Mirkka Maukonen of the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare told the Times, “awareness of one’s own chronotype [when you are naturally predisposed to sleep and wake] may encourage paying more attention to overall healthier lifestyle choices.”18

Sleeping More Than Nine Hours a Night Linked to Dementia

Your brain is also affected by how much you sleep, and research again shows that there appears to be a “Goldilocks” zone that’s best — neither too much nor too little.

Those who sleep for more than nine hours a night consistently, for instance, had a six-fold greater risk of developing dementia in the next 10 years compared to those who slept less.19

Long sleep duration was also associated with smaller brain volume and poorer executive function, which suggests prolonged sleep duration may be a marker of early neurodegeneration, the researchers said. Too little sleep has also been linked to dementia.20 As Newsweek reported:21

“Missing out on deep non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep may allow proteins linked to dementia to have easier access to the brain.

Beta-amyloid, a protein suspected of triggering Alzheimer’s, aggregates in higher concentrations in the brains of those who chronically suffer from poor sleep. As beta-amyloid accumulates, the protein further inhibits the ability to sleep, which feeds into a terrible cycle linked to dementia.”

The Link Between Sleep and Mental Health

Episodes of insomnia may also be predictive of mental illness, while addressing sleep problems may support mental health. Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at the University of Oxford, wrote in Epoch Times:22

“To date a surprisingly large number of genes have been identified that play an important role in both sleep disruption and mental illness. And if the mental illness is not causing disruption in sleep and circadian rhythm, then sleep disruption may actually occur just before an episode of mental illness under some circumstances.

Sleep abnormalities have indeed been identified in individuals prior to mental illness. For example, we know that sleep disruption usually happens before an episode of depression. Furthermore, individuals identified as ‘at risk’ of developing bipolar disorder and childhood-onset schizophrenia typically show problems with sleep before any clinical diagnosis of illness.”

In the case of schizophrenia, for instance, up to 80 percent of those affected have sleep disturbances such as insomnia.23Separate research found that 87 percent of depression patients who resolved their insomnia had major improvements to their depression, with symptoms disappearing after eight weeks whether the person took an antidepressant or a placebo pill.24

Interestingly, exposure to dim light at night, which can also interfere with your sleep, has also been linked to depression. The link could be due to the production of the hormone melatonin, which is interrupted when you’re exposed to light at night.

There are many studies that suggest melatonin levels (and by proxy light exposures) control mood-related symptoms, such as those associated with depression. For instance, one study about melatonin and circadian phase misalignment (in which you are “out of phase” with natural sleeping times) found a correlation between circadian misalignment and severity of depression symptoms.25

Does Daylight Saving Time Affect Your Health?

Daylight Saving Time (DST), the practice of moving clocks ahead one hour in the summer months and returning them back an hour in the winter, may not seem like a big deal in the scheme of things, but it’s enough of a shift to throw off your body’s sensitive circadian rhythm. As such, there are consequences to both health and productivity.

One study found that the shift to DST results in a “dramatic increase in cyberloafing behavior,” or the tendency to waste time surfing the web while at work.26 This drop in productivity was linked to lost sleep (quality and quantity wise) the night before.27Night owls also fared worse following the DST switch, feeling more fatigued during the day for up to three weeks compared to those who went to sleep earlier.28

Your heart health may also suffer. One 2012 study found that heart attacks increased by 10 percent on the Monday and Tuesday following the time change to DST.29 Heart attacks decreased by 10 percent on the first Monday and Tuesday after clocks are switched back in the fall. Other consequences include an increase in workplace accidents and injuries, increases in traffic accidents and a compromising effect on immune function.

While some studies have suggested a slight benefit to the extra hour of daylight for people suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), as well as the potential to burn more calories during exercise (because it stays light outside later),30 it’s likely not enough to compensate for the negative effects.

Pink Noise and Other Tips for Improving Your Sleep

Taking steps to improve your sleep quality is crucial for optimal health. Adding soothing noise to your bedroom, such as pink noise, soothing music, nature sounds, white noise or a fan, is one simple tip that helps many people sleep better.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, I also suggest reading my Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep for 33 tips on improving your sleep. Getting back to the basics of improving your sleeping environment is important. No. 1 on my list? Avoid exposure to blue light, including LEDs, after sunset. Wearing blue-blocking glasses is a simple way to achieve this. Further:

Avoid watching TV or using your computer/smartphone or tablet in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed.
Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can’t appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.
Get some sun in the morning. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night.
Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your clock radio up at night or get rid of it altogether. Move all electrical devices at least 3 feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades, or wear an eye mask when you sleep.
Install a low-wattage yellow, orange or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose, as are natural, non-toxic candles.
Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees F.
Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.
Avoid using loud alarm clocks. Being jolted awake each morning can be very stressful. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, you might not even need an alarm, as you’ll wake up naturally.
Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well.

A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home. If possible, install a kill switch to turn off all electricity to your bedroom. If you need a clock, use a battery-operated one.

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