“What you pay attention to GROWS” and not just for monkeys

I had the fortune of studying and teaching under the direction of David Bresler  Ph.D and Marty Rossman M.D.  Both are pioneers in the field of MindBody Medicine.   They founded The Academy for Guided Imagery, a teaching academy for health care professionals to provide treatment using individualized one-on-one imagery for health and wellness.

By now you already know that Peggy and I rant and rave about the power of our minds – not to dwell on the negative, not to focus on what we can’t do but on what we are capable of.  When I came across this article by Dr Rossman I wanted to share.

Shifting Your Attention Can Change Your Brain

from The Worry Solution

by Martin Rossman, M.D.

“Repetitively shifting your attention to positive outcomes may actually result in growth in areas of your brain that start to do this automatically. My colleague, neuroscientist Dr. David Bresler, always says that “what you pay attention to grows” and research proves him correct.

“Neuroscience journalist Sharon Begley wrote in a 2007 Wall Street Journal article, “Attention, … seems like one of those ephemeral things that comes and goes in the mind but has no real physical presence. Yet attention can alter the layout of the brain as powerfully as a sculptor’s knife can alter a slab of stone.”

Not to be confused for either Dr Bresler or Dr Rossman

“She describes an experiment at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in which scientists “rigged up a device that tapped monkeys’ fingers 100 minutes a day every day. As this bizarre dance was playing on their fingers, the monkeys heard sounds through headphones. Some of the monkeys were taught: Ignore the sounds and pay attention to what you feel on your fingers…Other monkeys were taught: Pay attention to the sound.”

“After six weeks, the scientists compared the monkeys’ brains and found that monkeys paying attention to the taps had expanded the somatosensory parts of their brains (where they would feel touch) but the monkeys paying attention to the sounds grew new connections in the parts of the brain that process sound instead.”

“UCSF researcher Michael Merzenich and a colleague wrote that through choosing where we place our attention, “‘We choose and sculpt how our ever-changing minds will work, we choose who we will be the next moment in a very real sense, and these choices are left embossed in physical form on our material selves.’”

 I won’t say, “We told you so.”

(jw)

Originally posted on Curious to the Max on 

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Are You a Highly Sensitive Person? You might have ADRA2b like me.

Goggle “emotional sensitivity” and you’ll find tons (well maybe not tons, but a lot) of articles, books, survival guides on how to overcome “being so sensitive”.   

About 1 in 5  fit the HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) profile.  I currently rate a 12 1/2 out of 16 traits below.  When I was younger it was 16 out of 16.  (Interestingly, artists and therapists seem to fit this profile in larger numbers than the general population . . . hmmm)

Fragile Fleur by judy

Fragile Fleur by judy

It’s baaaaaaaad:  I cry at dog food commercials and can’t tolerate anything that has a hint of violence.

My husband prefers “blow’em up – shoot ’em dead – stab ’em hard” for his watching pleasure.  He reminds me that it’s “not real” as I lock him in his room so I can’t see or hear what he’s watching.  I watch HGTV House Hunters International, preferring my suspense and intrigue to trying to guess which house the couple will buy.

However, rather than label myself as a “Highly Sensitive Person”, I prefer to think of myself as a fragile flower . . . so much more feminine.    

_____________________

Here are 16 HSP traits.  If you want to read more about each click here

  1. They feel more deeply.
  2. They’re more emotionally reactive.
  3. They’re probably used to hearing, “Don’t take things so personally” and “Why are you so sensitive?”
  4. They prefer to exercise solo.
  5. It takes longer for them to make decisions.
  6. They are more upset if they make a “bad” or “wrong” decision.
  7. They notice details.
  8. Not all highly sensitive people are introverts.
  9. They work well in team environments.
  10. They’re more prone to anxiety or depression (but only if they’ve had a lot of past negative experiences).
  11. That annoying sound is probably significantly more annoying to a highly sensitive person.
  12. Violent movies are the worst.
  13. They cry more easily.
  14. They have above-average manners.
  15. The effects of criticism are especially amplified in highly sensitive people.
  16. They prefer solo work environments.

________________________

The good news! I no longer have to read up on how to overcome, minimize, explain or justify my emotional sensitivity because I must have a ADRA2b gene.

(Now I can blame my mother for my sensitivity – aren’t mothers always the ones who get the credit for how we turn out . . .  or the blame?)

Genes might explain differences in how we experience emotions

“Your genes may influence how sensitive you are to emotional information, according to new research by a UBC neuroscientist. The study, recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that carriers of a certain genetic variation perceived positive and negative images more vividly, and had heightened activity in certain brain regions.”

“People really do see the world differently,” says lead author Rebecca Todd, a professor in UBC’s Department of Psychology. “For people with this gene variation, the emotionally relevant things in the world stand out much more.”

“The gene in question is ADRA2b, which influences the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Previous research by Todd found that carriers of a deletion variant of this gene showed greater attention to negative words. Her latest research is the first to use brain imaging to find out how the gene affects how vividly people perceive the world around them, and the results were startling.”

"Fragile flower . . . I think WUSS may be closer to the truth . . "

“Fragile flower?  HSP? . . . I think she’s just plain melodramatic. . “

Genetic Literacy Project

This post first appeared in 2015 on Curious to the Max

Name it, Blame it and feel happier

A favorite strategy to feel better, feel happier is backed by neuroscience, requires no Rx, practically no time nor physical energy.

When feeling angry, stressed, sad, lonely all you need to do is give your feeling a name to defuse it.

David Rock* explains:
“To reduce arousal, you need to use just a few words to describe an emotion, and ideally use symbolic language, which means using indirect metaphors, metrics, and simplifications of your experience. This requires you to activate your prefrontal cortex, which reduces the arousal in the limbic system. Here’s the bottom line: describe an emotion in just a word or two, and it helps reduce the emotion.”

“fMRI studies support this idea.  Participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Each participant’s amygdala activated to the emotions in the picture. But when they were asked to name the emotion, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activated and reduced the emotional amygdala reactivity. In other words, consciously recognizing the emotions reduced their impact.”

Here are some Peggyjudy ways you can NAME IT-BLAME IT and feel HAPPIER:

Call your emotion a Silly Name

  • Fantastically futile funk
  • Silly Sally Sad
  • Fangry Angry
  • Mumifiably Mad
  • Fraiday-Cat Fear

Draw a stick figure or an “emoji”

Metrics – Washed over by Emotion

  1. Give your emotion a number from 1 – 10 points.
  2. 1 = Ripple  5=Body-surfing wave  10=Tzunami
  3. Each minute after assigning a number to your emotion subtract 1 point until you are down to a ripple.

Pick a Mad Metaphor

Fit to be Tired by Peggy

  • I’m fit to be tied
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Fly off the handle
  • Blow a gasket, blow a fuse
  • Up in arms
  • In a black mood
  • Go ballistic

Pick a Fear Metaphor

  • Trembling like a leaf
  • Like a deer (or a mouse) in headlights
  • A shivering wreck. 
  • Paralysed with terror. 
  • Scared silly

Pick a Sad Metaphor

Woofer’s Sinking Heart by Peggy

  • Down in the mouth
  • Feeling low
  • Feeling blue
  • In a black mood
  • Gloomy Gus
  • My heart sank.
  • In the depths of despair.

DISCLAIMER!

You are hereby notified that the stunts and tricks displayed in this post are performed by professional animals and stick figures in controlled environments, such as closed circuit dark roads at midnight. Do not attempt to duplicate, re-create, or perform the same or similar stunts and tricks at home, as personal injury or property damage may result. All animals were paid scale-wage treats and none were harmed in the production of this post. The authors of this post are not responsible for any such injury or damage.

 

*David Rock,  Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long

Pawsitively Tuesday – Your Brain

Just three weeks after conception, the embryonic brain generates a quarter of a million neurons every minute.

About 20% of the body’s energy is channelled to the brain, yet it remains staggeringly efficient, consuming less energy than a filament light bulb.

The human brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-twenties – much later than experts once thought.

The internal clock that controls sleepiness runs up to three hours ‘late’ in teenagers, although scientists aren’t quite sure why.

Even into old age neurons are still building new connections and circuits, maintaining our ability to adapt and learn.

Did You Know Your Brain is Wired to be Social?

Research indicates that the stronger your social connections the healthier and longer you may live.   Scientific studies show that your brain is not just a passive device, disconnected from other brains, alone in the world.  You are literally on the same wave-length with people in your life.

How Your Brain Wiring Drives Social Interactions

Credit: agsandrew/Shutterstock

Here are excerpts from two interesting studies:

“On 11 days over the course of one semester, researchers hooked up all 12 of the students in a biology class to portable devices called electroencephalograms (EEGs) that measured their brain waves.”

The more synced up a student’s brain waves were with the brain waves of the rest of the students in the class, the more likely that person was to say that he or she enjoyed the class that day. For example, when the researchers analyzed brain waves called alpha waves, they found that students’ waves were more likely to rise and fall at the same time as other students’ waves when they were highly engaged in the class

Likewise, when a student’s brain waves were less synced with those of the rest of the class, the student was less likely to say that he or she was engaged.

“How well our brain waves sync up with those of another person appears to be a good predictor of how well we get along and how engaged we are,” lead study author Suzanne Dikker, a psychology research scientist at New York University”. 

Monkey See, Monkey Sync

“New tools which involve electrodes implanted into the brains of animals can probe the brains of living animals while they are engaged in social interactions, providing insights into how the brain controls certain behaviors.”

These tools have also revealed that brains likely don’t operate in isolation. There is biological evidence that two minds really can be on the same wavelength.

“What could be more social than brains acting in sync? Similar brain activity may be fundamental for how animals, including humans, interact to form social bonds, according to Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of neuroscience at Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina.”

“Nicolelis’ group built an experiment in which one monkey drives a vehicle to get a fruit reward while another monkey watches. Each time the driver monkey gets a fruit reward, the spectator monkey gets one, too. So they are linked, Nicolelis said during the news conference.”

“To our shock, what we found is that as these animals are interacting … both brains are highly synchronized,” Nicolelis said. “We have, in fact, in some instances, 60 percent of [the firing of neurons] in the motor cortexes of both monkeys [happening] precisely the same time.”

The synchronicity became more precise as the monkey got closer to the fruit reward or, as shown during a second experiment in the study, as the spectator monkey helped control the vehicle remotely, Nicolelis said. The finding suggests that the optimal performance of social tasks, such as gathering food, requires synchronization of brain activity across the brains of all subjects involved — in other words, with everyone being on the same wavelength.

Conversely, Nicolelis said that some antisocial neurological disorders, such as autism, may result in an inability to establish such interbrain synchronization. He said he hopes to test this in his lab with human subjects.

“We’re beginning to see a striking aspect of the brain … that brains are wired for social interactions,” said Dr. Robert Green, a professor of neuroscience and psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. 

https://www.livescience.com/60937-social-brain-wiring.html

Do you wonder if your brain syncs up with animals too?

 

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How to flip the switch – Shame, guilt and worry

Our brain wants us to feel good but it hasn’t quite figured out how to differentiate “good” feelings from “bad”.  When you feel shame, guilt and worry your brain is trying to reward you by activating its reward center! 

Feel’n Blue by Peggy

When you are being followed by a black cloud, Alex Korb* has some insights that might help you find the sun. It’s all about neuroscience.

According to Korb, “Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward center.“

“A similar thing may be going if you just can’t seem to stop worrying. Korb says worrying stimulates the medial prefrontal cortex and lowers activity in the amygdala, thus helping your limbic system, your emotions, remain copascetic. His theory is that, even though worry is widely recognized as a pointless thing to do from a tactical point of view, apparently the brain considers it better than doing nothing at all when you’re anxious.”

How do you redirect your brain from “rewarding” you with guilt, shame or worry?

“Korb suggests asking yourself: “What am I grateful for?” His reasoning is chemical: “One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.”

“Even more intriguingly, actually coming up with something you’re thankful for — not always an easy thing to do in a dark mood — isn’t even required. Just the acts of remembering to be thankful is the flexing of a type of emotional intelligence: “One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.”

Serotonin Boost by Peggy

We’ve written about gratitude before – and will undoubtedly continue.  Quick and easy ways to refocus on what you can be grateful for is often hard when you’re feeling down.  Force yourself to name, list, draw 3 – 5 things every day.

They can be the same things every day and minor things taken for granted.

Examples of my gratitude:

  • I have teeth to brush

  • When I turn on the faucet water runs out

  • Blog followers clicked “like” on this post whether they “liked” it or not

Ahhhh. . .  I feel a serotonin surge in my anterior cingulate cortex and my  emotional intelligence increasing as I type . . . 

(jw)

*Alex Korb,  The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time

http://bigthink.com/robby-berman/4-things-you-can-do-to-cheer-up-according-to-neuroscience

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Is your present presentable? – 13 Guidelines –

In my family when we bought someone a gift we asked ourselves 3 questions:

  • The first criteria – “What do they NEED?”.
  • If we answered ourselves in the affirmative the next question asked – “What DON’T they have?”
  • And the final test to pick a gift – “Would the gift be USEFUL to them?”.

Sometimes the resulting gift was wonderful and appreciated.  This, I will admit, was often when the gift giver didn’t follow those rules or asked the recipient what they WANTED.

Entering adulthood I learned that my family-rules-of-gift-giving are waaaaay off.  Here are my own guidelines (I’ve been told that I am pretty good at picking out gifts that hit the mark):

Gift Exchange by Peggy

 

  1. Give people what they already have! I know, this doesn’t seem to make sense. Nobody needs what they already have.  But if they have it, they LIKE it. If they have a whole lot of whatever it is, they like it a whole lot. So get them more. They will love it. They have already told you by their own choices.
  2. If they don’t have it be sure they want it. This is something I have been guilty of–I think they need this. It would be good for them to have this. But if it’s easy for them to get and they haven’t gotten it . .   they may not want it, unless it’s new or updated.
  3. Wrap it beautifully or creatively. The neuroscience bears this out: When people are impressed by the wrapping that carries over to the gift. This is a similar concept to the wine testing that found people like a wine better when they are told it costs a lot, and like it less when told it is cheap – when it’s the exact same wine.
  4. Use their colors & style. Think about the colors they wear or have in their homes.  If you are getting clothes, this is also true of style–do they dress like a tomboy or a diva? Match their style. Matching style is good for everything, even a toaster.
  5. Give an experience or time.  Help them do more of what they love:  Tickets to an event, creating free time (Your time babysitting, pet walking, running errands, cooking a meal etc ), Always ask yourself the same questions you would for a physical gift –  Would they want/enjoy this?, Will it be easy for them to do?)
  6. Resist temptation to get what YOU would want,
  7. Think about how they will use it later, not so much about how they will react when opening the gift
  8. Ask what they would like (research on  gifts shows following the gift list is more appreciated than off list items).
  9. If you’ve found a great gift that fits more than one person, go ahead,  give the same gift to different people.
  10. Don’t go too fancy or complicated as most people want easy and convenient (unless you know they like fancy).
  11. Let them know you were thinking about them–why you got it, what it reminded you of about them (especially for unusual or weird gifts).
  12. if you give a “big” gift, leave it at that.  Additional small gifts decrease the perceived value of a big gift
  13. Ask their friends or look at their Facebook page for ideas on what they like (hobbies, interests, clothes/jewelry  do they wear in their photos)

Are there gift-giving guidelines you follow?  Let me know!

(PA)

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/12/7-science-backed-ways-to-give-less-bad-gifts.html?utm_source=eml&utm_medium=e1&utm_campaign=sharebutton-t

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