We tend to think that our memories determine our identity, but it’s moral character that really makes us who we are ... ‘Know thyself’ is a flimsy bargain-basement platitude, endlessly recycled but maddeningly empty. It skates the very existential question it pretends to address, the question that obsesses us: what is it to know oneself? The lesson of the identity detector is this: when we dig deep, beneath our memory traces and career ambitions and favourite authors and small talk, we find a constellation of moral capacities. This is what we should cultivate and burnish, if we want people to know who we really are.
Trust us ladies — we’re worth the hassle. _____ by Serge Bielanko for YourTango Of all the types of guys you might ever end up with in this world, you could do a lot worse that the emotionally complex one.
The discovery that the human brain continues to produce new neurons in adulthood challenged a major dogma in the field of neuroscience, but the role of these neurons in behavior and cognition is still not clear.
The science behind many anti-depressant medications appears to be backwards, say the authors of a paper that challenges the prevailing ideas about the nature of depression and some of the world’s most commonly prescribed medications.
A recent student project at the University of Southern California is using virtual war in an unfamiliar way. Rather than glory in combat and explosions, like many blockbuster video games, this program aims to use an immersive recreation of the Syrian civil war to educate players about the experience of being in the middle of such a terrible conflict.
We often think of video games as tools for imaginary killing, not imaginary caring. The reality is, however, that games can help us build empathy.
Strokes are areas of damage in the brain caused by blocked blood vessels or bleeding. They can set off a host of problems, including paralysis or impaired vision. Cognitive and behavioral changes after stroke are common yet often overlooked because the effects may be subtle.
OBJECTIVE: Kindness-based meditation (KBM) is a rubric covering meditation techniques developed to elicit kindness in a conscious way. Some techniques, for example, loving-kindness meditation and compassion meditation, have been included in programs aimed at improving health and well-being. Our aim was to systematically review and meta-analyze the evidence available from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing the effects of KBM on health and well-being against passive and active control groups in patients and the general population. METHOD: Searches were completed in March 2013. Two reviewers applied predetermined eligibility criteria (RCTs, peer-reviewed publications, theses or conference proceedings, adult participants, KBM interventions) and extracted the data. Meta-analyses used random-effects models. RESULTS: Twenty-two studies were included. KBM was moderately effective in decreasing self-reported depression (standard mean difference [Hedges's g] = -0.61, 95% confidence interval [CI] [-1.08, -0.14]) and increasing mindfulness (Hedges's g = 0.63, 95% CI [0.22, 1.05]), compassion (Hedges's g = 0.61, 95% CI [0.24, 0.99]) and self-compassion (Hedges's g = 0.45, 95% CI [0.15, 0.75]) against passive controls. Positive emotions were increased (Hedges's g = 0.42, 95% CI [0.10, 0.75]) against progressive relaxation. Exposure to KBM may initially be challenging for some people. RESULTS were inconclusive for some outcomes, in particular against active controls. The methodological quality of the reports was low to moderate. RESULTS suffered from imprecision due to wide CIs deriving from small studies. CONCLUSIONS: KBM showed evidence of benefits for the health of individuals and communities through its effects on well-being and social interaction. Further research including well-conducted large RCTs is warranted.
(Free full text available)The ability to infer and understand the mental states of others (i.e., Theory of Mind) is a cornerstone of human interaction. While considerable efforts have focused on explicating when, why and for whom this fundamental psychological ability can go awry, considerably less is known about factors that may enhance theory of mind. Accordingly, the current study explored the possibility that mindfulness-based meditation may improve people’s mindreading skills. Following a 5-minute mindfulness induction, participants with no prior meditation experience completed tests that assessed mindreading and empathic understanding. The results revealed that brief mindfulness meditation enhanced both mental state attribution and empathic concern, compared to participants in the control group. These findings suggest that mindfulness may be a powerful technique for facilitating core aspects of social-cognitive functioning.
In the quest to understand what are the crucial differences between human and chimpanzee brains, scientists have isolated a stretch of DNA, once thought to be “junk”, near a gene that regulates brain development in mice.
As we turn our awareness to the shift from “me” to “we,” we are faced with the joys and sorrows of maintaining healthy relationships. Supported by both Buddhism and Western psychology, the keys to healthy relationships include not only empathy and compassion, but also the assertive strength and boundaries that allow us to keep our heart open. These states of mind are based on underlying states of your brain. The emerging integration of modern neuroscience and ancient contemplative wisdom offers increasingly skillful means for activating those brain states--and thus for cultivating a caring heart, effective communication, balance during upsets and more fulfilling relationships.
Drugs that target a specific melatonin receptor appear to relieve chronic pain that results from nerve damage.
This condition, known as neuropathic pain, is often severe and can be permanent. It develops after nerve damage from conditions such as shingles, injury, amputation, autoimmune inflammation, and cancer.
Melatonin, a neurohormone present in mammals, acts on the brain by activating two receptors called MT1 and MT2. Those receptors are responsible for regulating several functions, including sleep, depression, anxiety, and circadian rhythms.
A team led by Gabriella Gobbi, associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University, demonstrated that a drug called UCM924, which targets the MT2 receptors, relieves chronic pain in animal models. The team also identified the drug’s mechanism in the brain.
The drug is able to switch off the neurons that trigger pain and switch on the ones that turn off pain by activating the MT2 receptors in the periaqueductal grey (a brain area controlling pain). The findings are reported in the February issue of the journal PAIN.
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