Neuroplasticity has changed the old scientific beliefs and revealed a significant truth about the human brain.

Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist at the University of Toronto and author of the book The Brain That Changes Itself, claims that the belief that the brain remains unchanged has become an embankment in medical research.

“The best neurologists believed that the brain is structured like a complex machine, that each part of it has a function relevant to a particular region. If then, you were born with a damaged area that caused learning difficulties, according to the prevailing theory, you could not do anything to improve the situation. If you were injured or had a stroke, again you could not do anything. The exercises were of no importance because they didn’t produce any results. Furthermore, scientists believed that human nature was as steady and unchanged as the brain from which it came from”

, explains in his book.

The Case of Siltz

Neuroplasticity, however, may not allow the existence of different areas of the brain that are constantly changing but recognizes that if some of them are destroyed, other areas may be trained to undertake their functions, at least in some measure.

The case of Sheryl Siltz demonstrates that plasticity of the brain can change a patient’s life. Her story begins in 1997 when at the age of 39, she undergoes routine surgery and gets a serious infection. To treat it, doctors gave her the antibiotic gentamicin, which in some cases destroys the cells of the inner ear and causes deafness. In her case, however, it destroyed the entire inner ear system that allows us to have a sense of balance. As proven by examinations, only 2% of the function was left.

Thus, the patient always felt that was going to fall down. Indeed, this was often the case. But even when she was lying on the ground, the feeling was not changing. Many times, she felt like a hatch had opened and she was falling into the abyss.

Her doctor invented a genius way to cure her. She wore her a strange helmet with motion sensors, which signaled a metal plate into her mouth. If she came forward, she was feeling a pinch on the edge of her tongue, and when she stepped sideways, a pinch on the side of her tongue.

Recovery of Senses

The first time the device operated, Siltz began to cry. But, she stopped stumbling, she could stand up and slowly her brain learned to change the sense of her tongue into a sense of balance. With the passage of time and after taking lessons, the patient needed less and less the helmet. Her doctor believes her brain has finally adapted to the infinite messages received from the inner ear and recruited other neurons to help regain a sense of balance.

There is Also the Dark Side…

Plasticity of the brain also has a particularly dark side. Dr. Doidge has healed many men who saw their relationships break because of their addiction to porn. These patients spent so many hours looking at porn photos on the Internet, and eventually could not get sex with their partners while some had strange sexual preferences. Doidge believes that in this case some neuroplastic mechanisms have come into operation and unrestricted exposure to pornographic material has changed the men’s brain. Eventually, most of them recovered after they had said goodbye to their computer, forever.

Some psychiatrists believe that cognitive psychotherapy, which helps us to see events in our lives from another perspective, is effective precisely because of the plasticity of the brain.

Related: In How Long Can We Form a New Habit?

In his book, Doidge uses neuroplasticity as a cure for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and permanent anxiety. People should force themselves to do something that pleases them once they feel stressed or worried. Doidge also points out that he is not opposed to medication, but he wonders whether it can be substituted by neuroplasticity. “We can change our brain by using just the senses, the imagination and the hypocrisy. It is an economical way that does not require technological means.”

This article was originally appeared on kathimerini.gr and translated by Visual Meditation.

Research has now demonstrated that meditation builds brain cells and increases gray matter in the brain.

Using magnetic imaging (MRI), Harvard researchers found that meditation produced physiological changes in the brain’s gray matter. Some areas in the brains of the study participants thickened after only eight weeks of mindfulness practice.

The research was published in 2011 and represented the first time that physical changes to the brain caused by meditation were documented. The research was conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital by researchers from Harvard University. The research was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the NIH. Research subjects spend eight weeks doing a mindfulness meditation program.

For an average of 27 minutes a day, the study participants listened to audio recordings of guided meditation during the eight-week trial. The group met weekly as well.

Magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI) were taken of the participants’ brains two weeks before the trial started and at the end of the eight-week program. A control group also had brain imaging (MRI) but did not listen to the audio-recorded meditation guides.

The research findings

Study participants reported feeling less stressed after the eight-week period. MRI scans revealed decreased gray matter in the amygdalae and increased gray matter in the hippocampus.

The amygdalae are the parts of the brain that help the body deal with anxiety and stress and controls the “fight or flight” mechanism. The hippocampus, which showed an increase in gray-matter density, is the area of the brain that controls memory, learning, self-awareness, introspection and compassion.

Watch: Release Stress

Conclusion and implications

The study concluded that meditation builds brain cells. The shrinking of the amygdalae indicated a reduction in the body’s stress response, which was expressed as the feelings of relaxation and stress reduction that were reported by the study participants.

With the shrinking of the amygdalae, the pre-frontal cortex around them can then thicken. The pre-frontal cortex is the decision making part of the brain and is also in charge of concentration and awareness.

It has been concluded that meditation builds brain cells, increases gray matter and allows the brain to slow responses to stress, providing better concentration, learning and memory.

This article was originally published on Natural News.

Use these psychology hacks to improve the outcome of any social situation.

Social situations are among the most important in our lives. Psychologists who have a keen eye for details keep discovering new behavioral patterns that are believed to be rooted in our childhood and can be applied to everyone.

This list of psychology hacks hopefully will improve your communication skills and make your life easier in social situations.

1. Do you want to know if someone likes you?

Each time that a person uses a word, or a synonym of that word, nod, and smile. If the person likes you, they will start using that word all the time. From this point on, act accordingly.

2. If you want people to agree with you, try this.

When you are speaking to a person, maintain eye contact and nod. The ‘nod’ means ‘everything I am saying is true.’ People tend to like mimicking, so they will most probably nod back while you talk. This will subsequently communicate to their brains that they have to agree with you.

This one is powerful and also a bit manipulative. So, use it with your own responsibility and in an ethical way.

3. Want to see if someone is paying attention to what you are saying? Fold your arms.

Usually when we are in the middle of a conversation and especially if we talk about something very important to us, we get lost in our talking and rarely pay attention to whether the other person is following us or not.

So, instead of losing time talking to a person who is distracted and might not even be interested in what you are saying, do this: fold your arms while talking and see if the other person follows your movements. If the other person is observing you and pays attention, they will most likely mimic you.

4. Is that person staring at me?

If you would like to find out if someone is staring at you, yawn. Then, look there way. If the person yawns too, they are watching you, because yawning is contagious.

5. Want to know who likes who in a group of people?

Make a joke that is laughter inducing, and then glance around the group. People will immediately glance at the person in the group they feel closest to as they laugh.

6. Pay attention to people’s feet.

If you approach two people in the middle of a conversation and they only turn their torsos and not their feet, they don’t want you to join in the conversation.

Similarly, if you are in a conversation with a coworker who you think is paying attention to you and their torso is turned towards you but their feet are facing in another direction, they want the conversation to end.

7. Having trouble remembering names? Repeat the other person’s name during the conversation.

Remembering names is very important because we feel important when someone mentions us. So the moment you meet someone, repeat his name.

Example: “Hi. my name is Alex.” “Nice to meet you Alex. So, Alex how do you know John?” Then, continue to repeat his name for a few more times throughout the conversation.

8. Assume comfort in any interaction.

Our brain is an incredibly complicated instrument. We think we have control over it but it usually dictates our actions unconsciously.

In most of the social situations, we find it difficult to feel comfortable among strangers because our brain tries to protect us from an unknown environment.

This, however, isn’t helping us when trying to be social and meet new people, is it?

This is why assuming comfort is so powerful. Commanding your brain to feel that you already know the person you are about to meet, puts you in a position of advantage. It increases the chances of people showing interest in you and consequently even liking you.

9. If you want people to feel good, give them validation. Rephrase what they just told you.

We love validation. Most of our actions are the outcome of our need for validation. So what is the best way to get people to like you? Give them what they need, of course.

A simple example is when you are in a conversation with another person and he says something really important for him. After he finishes, rephrase what he just said in your own words. This will make him think that you are a good listener and that you are really interested in what he says. That makes him feel he is the center of attention.

10. If you ask someone a question and they only partially answer, just wait. They will keep talking.

This is a very common situation when you don’t know the other person that well or your question wasn’t clear enough. If they finish the answer without providing a full answer, just wait. Stay silent and keep eye contact. If the tension becomes unbearable, raise your eyebrows. It puts a bit of pressure on them but it communicates that you show interest. It also sub-communicates that you are a person that usually gets what he wants.

11. Confidence is more important than knowledge.

Two young candidates walked into the interview office to apply for the same job. The first one had a Ph.D., two Masters and a Bachelor’s degree. The second one had just a Bachelor. The first one was kind of shy, didn’t talk much, his body language was turned inward. The second one had an upright posture, was looking the interviewers directly in the eyes, showed a lot of interest in the job and his answers were emitting confidence. We don’t have to tell you who got the job.

12. Fake it until you make it.

No one became an expert on anything over night. However, the learning process in everything you do is accelerated by commanding your brain to think what you want it to think.

In simple words. You are what you believe you are. You are confident if you believe you are confident. You are attractive if you believe you are attractive. You are extrovert if you believe you are extrovert If you want to look deeper into this idea look up two words: Neuroplasticity and brain rewiring.

13. If you want to be persuasive, try and reduce the use of the words “I think” and “I believe.”

I don’t really feel the need to elaborate on this one. Obviously, these words do not evoke confidence and the other person will most probably not take you seriously. Change them to ‘I know’ and ‘I will’ instead.

14. A clean and organized environment affects your mood, productivity, and others perception of who you are.

How many times have you waken up without any motivation at all? How many times have you started working on something without being able to get focused and inspired?

Next time this happens, take a look around you. Is your environment clean and well-organized? If not, take some minutes to clean it up and put everything into place. You will feel refreshed and reborn and productivity will spark immediately. But not only that, you will come across as caring and punctual, two highly esteemed traits.

Why do you think most of the big companies pay so much attention to creating the best working environment for their employees? They know what makes them happy and how it affects their productivity.

15. When someone insults you, either ignore him or mock him. Never lose temper.

Haters are everywhere. The more you feed them with hate, the stronger they become. Never lose your temper. This is a great example of how to deal with a hater.

16. Stand up straight, hands out of your pockets and always keep eye contact.

Do the following:

  • Keep a straight posture and walk like a born leader. This sub-communicates confidence and others will respect you automatically.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets. If you don’t know what to do with them, it is better to fold your arms rather than keep them inside your pockets.
  • You have heard this a thousand times. Here is the 1001st. – never lose eye contact! Losing eye contact is like losing your confidence. One cool trick when first meeting someone is to focus on their eye color and smile at the same time. The eyes are the gateway to the soul, and taking the extra second to gaze shows you are confident and present. (Be sure to move your eyes away periodically, a constant stare will probably creep people out.)

17. Don’t be afraid to touch another person.

Touching someone on the shoulder or their knees create an emotional and physical bond. Especially during moments of joy, laughter, and excitement touching positively reinforce these traits.

18. If you work in a bar or in customer service of any kind.

Put a mirror behind you at the counter. When an angry customer approaches you, he will have to see himself in the mirror and will most probably calm down. Nobody likes ruining his image.

19. Chew gum if you are nervous.

Evolutionarily speaking, our brain assume that if we are eating then we aren’t in any immediate danger, so the fight or flight response is weakened.

20. Refer to people by their name.

If you’ve just met someone, refer to them by their name. People loving being referred to by their name and this will establish a sense of trust and friendship immediately.

21. Want to ace an interview?

People tend to remember the beginning and end of an event. Because of that, try to start and end the interview strongest. The middle will most likely be a blur, so during that time, if you don’t do so well, you should still do well overall.

Do you have some other interesting psychology hacks to suggest? Share them in the comments below.

References:

Photo: Source

The next time you go out for running, remember that you are not only helping your brain but also improving your emotional health.

Running is a road to self-awareness and reliance – you can push yourself to extremes and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations or coast quietly down a solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet. – Doris Brown

Are you familiar with this feeling? Do you gain insight into your emotional and physical self while you run? Do you enjoy the feeling of the wind against your face and the freedom of being outdoors alone with your thoughts? You may feel that after a good run your mind is clear and ready to absorb information.

You can also find that your outlook is more positive after a run and that things that were troubling you no longer feel so bad. Well, your feelings have a scientific basis. Research conducted in the field of neuroscience shows the effects aerobic exercise have on cognitive clarity and emotional well-being.

New Neurons Would Be Created

It used to be accepted that we were born with a certain amount of neurons and that by the time we became an adult no new neurons would be created. This however, has been proven to be incorrect. Through research on animals it has been discovered that new neurons are continually produced in the brain throughout our entire life.

Karen Postal, president of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology says that the only activity that is shown to trigger the birth of these new neurons is vigorous aerobic exercise. “If you are exercising so that you sweat – about 30 to 40 minutes – new brain cells are being born” says Postal. So sweating it out on the treadmill or out in the open is doing your brain a lot of good and helping it stay mentally healthy for years to come.

People Who Run Can Recover From Negative Emotions More Quickly

In a study by Emily Bernstein and Richard McNally it was found that aerobic exercise may help reduce negative emotions. Bernstein is a runner and she said “I notice in myself that I just feel better when I’m active.” She wanted to find out why this was the case and to know exactly the effect that exercise has on us.

The study set out to look at the way exercise changes the way people react to their emotions. Participants were told to stretch or jog for 30 minutes and were then were shown a sad movie; the final scene of the 1979 film The Champ. The participants then reported their emotional responses. It was found that those who had run for 30 minutes recovered more quickly from their sad emotional experience than those who had just stretched.

Working Memory Would Be Enhanced

A recent study by Lin Li et al titled: “Acute Aerobic Exercise Increases Cortical Activity during Working Memory: A Functional MRI Study in Female College Students”  looks at the effect of acute aerobic exercise on cognitive function.

Their study looked at the effect of a session of acute aerobic exercise on working memory. Fifteen young females participated in the study. There were scanned, after an acute exercise session, using a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) while they performed a working memory task. It was found that the cortex and the left frontal hemisphere showed signs of improvement of control processes. From these findings the researchers noted that this indicates: “acute exercise could benefit working memory at a macro-neural level.” Thus, the study shows a connection between aerobic exercise and improvement in memory.

Summation

Next time you are out for a run know that you are doing yourself a world of good. Not only are you aiding your brain on a neurological level you are also working to improve your emotional health. Your cognitive abilities such as memory will be improved and your outlook on life will probably be more positive. If you don’t already run, then you may want to take out those old running shoes and give them a try.

This article was originally posted on Life Hack.

Human knowledge is constantly evolving and changing, yet most of us believe scientific theories to be fact rather than working understandings of a topic.

But they are theories, and our understanding of ‘what is’ continues to change. These are always difficult times, because long-held beliefs enforced by scientific dogma are, for many people, difficult to adjust or relinquish. Anger and disbelief are common reactions, no matter how thoroughly an old theory is disproven. Just think back to when we discovered the Earth was round, not flat, or that Earth was not the center of the universe — the Catholic Church went so far as to persecute and even put to death scientists and ‘free-thinkers’ who opposed them.

Fast forward to today and, fortunately, much has changed. Although several industries that we rely upon are plagued by corruption, fraud, and disinformation, some would argue that it’s not as bad as it used to be, as evinced by the scientific study of concepts once deemed to be spiritual ‘nonsense’ by the community, like meditation, or non-material science.

Over the past few years alone, a wealth of scientific data has outlined the many benefits meditation can have on our biology, furthering strengthening the scientific validity of the mind-body connection.

For example, an eight-week study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) determined that meditation can literally rebuild the brain’s grey matter in just eight weeks. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces changes over time in the brain’s grey matter. They also released a study showing that meditation can have a significant impact on clinical symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The study showed that elicitation of the relaxation response (a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress) improves symptoms in all these disorders. It was also recently discovered that meditation creates a distinct network of anti-aging genes and improves cellular health.

This time, new research from the UCLA School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology has shown that long-term meditators have younger brains, with higher concentrations of tissue in the brain regions most depleted by aging. The study found that meditation can protect against the decline we normally see occurring through old age and keep our brains young.

According to the study, “On average, the brains of long-term meditators were 7.5 years younger at age 50 than the brains of non-meditators, and an additional 1 month and 22 days younger for every year after 50.”

Pretty remarkable, isn’t it? Some showed a brain that is a full decade younger.

The study used brain imaging data from a previous study that had examined the impact of meditation on cortical thickness. To compare the brains of meditators aged 50 and over to the ones of non-meditating controls, they went through the data. Both groups included 22 women and 28 men with an average age of 51.4 years. Meditators had close to 20 years of meditation experience on average, though experienced ranged from 4 to 46 years.

A press release by the university explains further:

It is important to note that this study relied on estimates of brain change based on age and not actual values. Although these findings are consistent with prior research that detected significant differences in brain structure among meditators compared to non-meditating controls, results of the present study are inferential, and do not answer questions regarding how many years of meditation are necessary to attain this effect, or whether structural brain change directly corresponds to cognitive, behavioral, or psychosocial functioning.

The authors conclude by hypothesizing several different explanations for the results they observed. Firstly, meditation could be stimulating growth in neural structures and promote increased connectivity and efficiency within neural networks. Secondly, it buffers the brain and nervous system against the deleterious effects of chronic stress, which may reduce pro-inflammatory response, stimulate telomerase activity, and inhibit age-related brain change”

This is precisely why these practices are being introduced into the workplace and at school.

These current findings can now be added to a long and growing list suggesting that meditation (along with other mindfulness-based practices) does wonders for our biology, and is another great example of how, sometimes, we don’t need scientists to validate something that is clearly already known. This isn’t the first time ancient wisdom has been validated by modern science, and it certainly won’t be the last.

How to Meditate

A common misconception about meditation is that you have to sit a certain way or do something in particular to achieve the various benefits that it can provide. All you have to do is place yourself in a position that is most comfortable to you. It could be sitting cross-legged on the floor, relaxing in a chair, or lying down in a bed — it’s your choice.

Another common misconception about meditation is that you have to “try” to empty your mind. One important factor I enjoyed reading from the study mentioned above is that participants were engaged in “non-judgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind.” When meditating, you shouldn’t try to “empty” your mind. Instead, try to let your thoughts, feelings, and whatever emotions you are experiencing at the time flow. Don’t judge them and don’t attach to them; just let them come and go and recognize that they are transitory.

I also believe that meditation is a state of being/mind more than anything else. One does not have to sit down for half an hour and “meditate,” so to speak, in order to reap the benefits of it, or to be engaged in the practice itself. One can be engaged in meditation while walking, for example, or while preparing for sleep. Throughout the day, one can resist judging their thoughts, letting them flow until they are no more, or just be in a constant state of peace and self-awareness. Contrary to popular belief, there is more than one way to meditate.

Watch: Increase Your Conscious Awareness

“You will have to understand one of the most fundamental things about meditation: that no technique leads to meditation. The old so-called techniques and the new scientific bio-feedback techniques are the same as far as meditation is concerned. Meditation is not a byproduct of any technique. Meditation happens beyond mind. No technique can go beyond mind.”

– Osho

That being said, partaking in the style of meditation that involves actively sitting down, breathing, and concentrating on quieting your mind or on a specific intent can be particularly helpful.

Ream more articles on meditation from Visual Meditation by clicking here.

This article was originally created and published by Collective Evolution.