Archive for May, 2015

Hacking The Nervous System

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

One nerve connects your vital organs, sensing and shaping your health. If we learn to control it, the future of medicine will be electric.
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However the technology develops, our understanding of how the body manages disease has changed for ever. “It’s become increasingly clear that we can’t see organ systems in isolation, like we did in the past,” says Paul-Peter Tak. “We just looked at the immune system and therefore we have medicines that target the immune system.

“But it’s very clear that the human is one entity: mind and body are one. It sounds logical but it’s not how we looked at it before. We didn’t have the science to agree with what may seem intuitive. Now we have new data and new insights.”

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The power of curiosity

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Over the past four decades, Hollywood veteran Brian Grazer has worked on television shows and movies that have been nominated for 43 Academy Awards and 149 Emmys, making him one of the most successful producers in the entertainment industry. During his prolific career, Grazer says he’s learned that having one particular quality directly correlates to one’s level of success: curiosity.

As he tells Oprah in the above video from “Super Soul Sunday,” curiosity has been a big factor in helping him achieve his greatest accomplishments.

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Virtual Body Swap Experiment Maps Out-of-Body Illusion in the Brain

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

Beyond pure research, body swap illusions might put us in someone else’s shoes to increase our empathy towards them. Or they might be a useful therapy. An interesting finding of the invisibility illusion study was that participants were less socially anxious standing in front of an audience when under the illusion.

More broadly, however, the research shows how dependent we are on the brain’s interpretation of the world—and no matter how permanent or natural it feels—just how pliable that perspective can be.

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Why Walking Meetings Can Be Better Than Sitting Meetings

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

The walk and talks have obvious benefits. Desk-bound office workers can all use a bit more exercise. Sitting too much is killing us. Yet the walking meeting’s upsides go far beyond the physical. Walking helps break down formalities, relaxes inhibitions and fosters camaraderie between colleagues — and less eye contact can fuel more personal conversation. Meeting on the go also minimizes distractions — no phones, no email, no texts, no colleagues interrupting you.

Perhaps most intriguing, walking leads to more creative thinking, according to a recent study from researchers at Stanford University.

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This Is What Happens When You Give A Pig Her Own Pet

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

When farm owner and filmmaker John Chester first met Emma the pig, she was near the brink of death. Pregnant, sick and underweight, Emma nearly died while giving birth to 13 piglets.

In the end, it was Emma’s own piglets who saved her. Chester noticed that as soon as she was reunited with her brood, Emma’s condition seemed to improve. “If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes, I would have never believed it,” he said in a short film he produced for “Super Soul Sunday.”

With a new purpose in life, Emma grew healthy and strong. But as all children do, her little ones eventually grew up and moved onto pastures of their own. Chester noticed that Emma appeared lonely.

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FROM DAWN TO DUSK, THE COLOR OF LIGHT HAS AN IMPACT, TOO

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Artificial lights can wreak havoc on us. Fluorescent office lights can make us work far longer—but not always better—than we would naturally be able, and the LEDs illuminating our mobile devices can disrupt sleep if we spend time with them before bed.

Now science is telling us that our biological clocks may be responding not only to the type and amount of light, but the color, too. According to a new study from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), our eyes may be just as susceptible to the changing color of light as it dwindles through twilight.

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The Problems, Potentials Of Mixing Religion And Politics

Monday, May 11th, 2015

But can this potion be used for advancing peace rather than instigating war?

That’s the argument that an A-list panel of experts – including Shaun Casey, special adviser on religious issues at the U.S. State Department – explored on Wednesday (April 15) in a provocative debate at Fordham University that produced some surprising insights.

The goal, as author and moderator Eliza Griswold put it in opening “Beyond Extremism: Reclaiming Religion’s Peacebuilding Capacity in an Unstable World” – was to go beyond the easy optimism that says “religion really has nothing to do with the problems of the world right now.”
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R. Scott Appleby, dean of the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame, didn’t mince any words.

“Religious communities, including most religious leaders, are not peacebuilders and indeed have little awareness that they are called to peacebuilding, and what it might take to become a peacebuilder,” he said.

Appleby, a leading expert on fundamentalism and religion and violence, argued that religion in practice isn’t really about building peace, but rather “trying to build and maintain a flock” and “protecting one’s own religious community, even if that means exaggerating and amplifying discord with neighboring communities.”

Appleby’s other three points were just as eye-opening:

For example, he asserted that contrary to many claims, “radical Islam is about Islam” and “until this is understood, religious peacebuilding is an empty promise.” He also said that Hindu nationalism, Jewish “irredentism,” Christian “chauvinism” and other forms of religious extremism are about those religious traditions as well, not entirely alien to them.

While such manifestations by no means form the core or entirety of religions like Islam, they nonetheless are features of those traditions. And they must be dealt with by building up religious institutions, reducing religious corruption, improving religious education and denouncing extremism in one’s own ranks.

Another point: All those lovely interreligious dialogues and ceremonies? They are little more than “the parlor games of those not sufficiently serious about religious peacebuilding, which begins with and should be focused upon intra-religious reform and intra-communal mobilization for peace.”

At best, Appleby said, such events are “useful for building solidarity among elite.” But they have “virtually no traction at the grassroots.”

In addition, Appleby argued that “well-intentioned” governmental efforts to foster religious communities to promote peace, especially after the 9/11 attacks, have actually “undermined religious peacebuilding, robbing it of its true potential.”

More of this insightful article.

10 Jaw-Droppingly Awesome Ways Service Dogs Help Out Their Owners

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Great videos, both informative and awesome.

Want A Healthy Brain? Better Avoid These 7 Habits

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Why are some people sharp as a tack at 95 years old, while others begin struggling with mental clarity in their 50s?

A lot of it has to do with genetics, but certain lifestyle factors also play an important role in how our brain ages. So while you can’t control your genes, you can take advantage of the latest science and avoid these seven big brain mistakes:

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When Grief Becomes a Disorder

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

As M. Katherine Shear, MD, professor of psychiatry at the Columbia University School of Social Work, puts it: “Grief is not one thing. It is a shorthand word for a complex, time-varying experience that is unique for each person and each loss.”

There is no timetable for the healing process. “In general, grief usually evolves over time from an acute form that tends to dominate a person’s mind to an integrated form in which the core features of sadness and yearning are much more subdued,” Dr. Shear says. When those feelings persist or intensify, the result may be a condition known as complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder (PGD). As much as 10 percent of all bereaved people experience complicated grief.

Complicated grief is marked by “broad changes to all personal relationships, a sense of meaninglessness, a prolonged yearning or searching for the deceased, and a sense of rupture in personal beliefs,” according to the American Psychological Association.

People with complicated grief often experience chronic sleep disturbances and disruptions in their daily routine. Studies have found that they are at increased risk for hypertension, heart disease, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts. They may “try to avoid confronting the intense pain associated with the loss and this, paradoxically, ends up increasing the pain and interfering with the natural adaptive process,” says Shear, who is director of Columbia’s Center for Complicated Grief.

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Thomas Ramey Watson is an affiliate faculty member of Regis University's College of Professional Studies. He has served as an Episcopal chaplain (lay), trained as a psychotherapist, done postdoctoral work at Cambridge University, and was named a Research Fellow at Yale University.

In addition to his scholarly writings, he is a published author of poetry and fiction.

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