Category Archives: Consciousness

Study: Love/Kindness Meditation Slows Biological Aging & Protects DNA Strands

ARJUN WALIA
DECEMBER 27, 2021

The Facts:

Scientists have shown that loving-kindness meditation has a positive impact at the cellular level.

The study examined how different types of meditation influenced telomere length, an indicator of physiological aging.

Cultivating compassion and friendly feelings towards others slowed the decline of telomeres.

Reflect On: Should mindfulness interventions be taught to us from a young age? Should they be included in school curriculums and perhaps implemented in the workplace? Should they be prescribed by doctors in certain circumstances?

In today’s world, where there’s no money there’s no attention. This is especially true when it comes to the medical-industrial complex, and it’s why the science behind health interventions that can be quite beneficial are not at the forefront of mainstream medicine.

The mind-body connection is one of these health interventions. A study published in 2019 is one of many that has provided proof of just how impactful mindfulness interventions can be on human biology. It’s titled “Loving-kindness meditation slows biological aging in novices: Evidence from a 12-week randomized controlled trial” and was published in the Journal  Psychoneuroendocrinology.

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The study suggests that loving-kindness meditation has a measurable positive impact at the cellular level. The study examined how different types of meditation influenced telomere length, which is an indicator of physiological aging.

Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of the strands of DNA called chromosomes. With time they get shorter. For the most part, the more we age the shorter they get. Other environmental toxins, like smoking and unhealthy habits, also contribute to the shortening of our telomeres. There are also a number of habits and substances that have been shown to slow down this process & even lengthen our telomeres, like fasting for example, which in essence means one is reversing the aging process.

“Chronological age and biological age are not identical. The former is measured in years, whereas the latter is often indexed by telomere length,” the authors explained. “Telomeres progressively shorten with cell division (i.e., aging) in general but may also be replenished or lengthened by the enzyme telomerase.”

The study was 12 weeks long and comprised of 176 participants between the ages of 35-64 years old. All of the participants had little to no meditation experience and were assigned to a 6-week long loving-kindness meditation workshop, a 6-week mindfulness meditation workshop, or a waitlist control group.

Researchers collected blood samples at the beginning and end of the study in order to measure telomere length before and after the meditation intervention.

The mindfulness meditation workshop helped the participants focus on the present moment and develop a nonjudgemental attitude. It was simply used to help bring one’s awareness into the present moment, while the loving-kindness meditation workshop focused on helping participants cultivate warm and friendly feelings towards others.

The researchers found that telomere length shortened for everybody, which is normal, but the daily practice of the loving-kindness meditation created a buffer against the decline. The researchers explained that in the loving-kindness group, there was “no significant telomere shortening over time.”

These results correlate with other studies that have looked at meditation and telomere length. Research published in the journal Cancer in 2014 found that telomeres maintained their length in breast cancer survivors who practiced mindfulness meditation. Additionally, a 2018 study in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that telomere length actually increased in meditation retreat participants after three weeks.

Feeling gratitude, which can be part of a loving-kindness meditation also changes the molecular structure of the brain. Neuroimaging studies have shown this to be true.

Having an attitude of gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier. When you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive and less resistant. Now that’s a really cool way of taking care of your well-being.

UCLA Newsroom, Joan Moran.

You can read more about that here.

Other fascinating research in this area has come from the scientists at the HeartMath Institute. Their research has also shown the importance of emotions not just on our own biology, but on others as well.

CONTINUE READING

The Profound Health Benefits of Being Grateful

By Joseph Mercola 
December 4, 2021

Gratitude is a simple practice that can have profound effects on your health and well-being. Positive effects linked to gratitude include social, psychological, and physical benefits, which increase the more you make gratitude a regular part of your daily routine.

“The limits to gratitude’s health benefits are really in how much you pay attention to feeling and practicing gratitude,” said neuroscientist Glenn Fox, a gratitude expert at the University of Southern California. “It’s very similar to working out, in that the more you practice, the better you get. The more you practice, the easier it is to feel grateful when you need it.”

How Gratitude Changes Your Brain

Gratitude has distinct neurobiological effects, including in brain regions associated with interpersonal bonding and stress relief. When Fox and colleagues told stories of survivors of the Holocaust to elicit gratitude in 23 female subjects, they found that “ratings of gratitude correlated with brain activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex,” which are associated with moral cognition, value judgment, and theory of mind. Theory of mind is a psychological term that refers to our capacity to understand other people by attributing mental states to them.

Fox grew deeply interested in gratitude after his mother’s death from ovarian cancer. During her illness, he would send her studies on the benefits of gratitude in cancer patients, and she kept a gratitude journal in her final years.

In one example, 92 adults with advanced cancer engaged in mindful gratitude journaling or routine journaling. After seven days, those who kept a gratitude journal had significant improvements in measures of anxiety, depression, and spiritual well-being, so much so that the researchers concluded that “mindful gratitude journaling could positively affect the state of suffering, psychological distress, and quality of life of patients with advanced cancer.”

“Grateful people tend to recover faster from trauma and injury,” Fox told The Pulse. “They tend to have better and closer personal relationships and may even just have improved health overall.”

As it turns out, putting your gratitude in words can be an effective way to improve your mental health. Among 293 adults who sought psychotherapy services, those who engaged in gratitude writing reported significantly better mental health after four and 12 weeks than those who didn’t write or who wrote about their thoughts and feelings.

Gratitude Boosts Health, Well-Being

Gratitude can be difficult to define, as it has elements of an emotion, a virtue, and a behavior all rolled into one. Gratitude involves a two-step process, as explained in “The Science of Gratitude,” a white paper by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California–Berkeley. Those two steps include “1) ‘recognizing that one has obtained a positive outcome’ and 2) ‘recognizing that there is an external source for this positive outcome.’”

In this regard, the benefits of gratitude may be gleaned from the actions of other people or experienced in an internalized manner, such as when feeling gratitude about good fate or nature. In this way, gratitude is both a state and a trait.

As a state, gratitude is based on a person’s ability to be empathic and experience grateful emotions that promote prosocial behavior. As a trait, it describes the practice of being grateful, noticing the little things in life, and appreciating the positive in the world and in other people. Gratitude can be felt from both being helped by others and habitually focusing on the good in your life.

A study published in Clinical Psychology Review found that gratitude has a positive effect on psychopathology, especially depression, adaptive personality characteristics, positive social relationships, and physical health, including stress and sleep. What’s more, they noted that “the benefits of gratitude to well-being may be causal.

Fox also explained that “benefits associated with gratitude include better sleep, more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure, and a host of other things we associate with better health,” including improved resilience.

It’s likely that gratitude leads to benefits via multiple mechanisms, not only by improving life satisfaction but also by contributing to an increase in healthy activities and a willingness to seek help for health problems. Those who are grateful have even been found to have a better sense of the meaning of life by being able to perceive good family function and peer relationships.

Gratitude Could Help You Sleep Better, Be Less Materialistic

Gratitude is known to facilitate improvements in healthy eating, and it benefits depression by enhancing self-esteem and well-beingA 2021 study comparing gratitude and optimism similarly found that both traits were associated with lower heart rate and blood pressure, better sleep quality, more exercise, less stress, more positive expectations and reflections, and greater feelings of appreciation toward others.

Feeling grateful can help you sleep better and longer, perhaps by improving your thoughts prior to sleep.

“The relationship between gratitude and each of the sleep variables was mediated by more positive pre-sleep cognitions and less negative pre-sleep cognitions,” a study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research reads.

Those who scored higher on measures of gratitude had better sleep quality and sleep duration, as well as less sleep latency (the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep) and daytime dysfunction.

Further, people who are more grateful tend to be happier, less materialistic, and less likely to suffer from burnout. Among adolescents, the simple practice of keeping a gratitude journal significantly reduced materialism and the negative effect of materialism on generosity.

Those who wrote down what they were grateful for donated 60 percent more of their earnings to charity, for instance. There’s good reason to teach children the importance of gratitude, as doing so can improve school performance and orient individuals toward a positive life approach.

Positive Gratitude Interventions

If you’re not a particularly grateful person, you might have to work on your gratitude skills. Fortunately, gratitude is something that you can practice, according to Fox.

“I think that gratitude can be much more like a muscle, like a trained response or a skill that we can develop over time as we’ve learned to recognize abundance and gifts and things that we didn’t previously notice as being important,” he said. “And that itself is its own skill that can be practiced and manifested over time.”

Rather than a magic bullet, it’s the regular practice of being grateful that makes a difference, according to Fox.

“You know, it’s like water cutting rock through a canyon,” he said. “It’s not done all at once, and it’s just steady practice is where you start to get things.”

Two gratitude practices that you can try in your daily life include keeping a gratitude journal and expressing gratitude.

With a gratitude journal, you write down lists of what you’re grateful for on a regular basis. Expressing gratitude is exactly what it sounds like, expressing grateful feelings to others, such as by saying thank you or writing gratitude letters, which you then read to the recipients.

Showing gratitude to your partner is also a good way to boost your relationship. In a study of romantic partners, gratitude from interactions was linked to increased connection and satisfaction in the relationship, with researchers suggesting that “gratitude had uniquely predictive power in relationship promotion, perhaps acting as a booster shot for the relationship.”

Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California–Davis and an expert on gratitude, has several tips for living a more grateful life. In an article he wrote for Greater Good Magazine, he advises that you remember hard times in your life, which remind you how much you have to be grateful for now; appreciate what it means to be human by tuning into and appreciating your sense of touch, sight, smell, taste, and hearing; use visual reminders, including people, to trigger gratitude, as this helps to combat forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, two primary obstacles to gratefulness; and make an oath of gratitude, as simply vowing to be grateful can increase the likelihood that you’ll stick to the behavior. Post your pledge to “count your blessings” somewhere where you’ll see it often.

If you want to get started today, keep a notebook by your bedside and make a point to jot down one or two things that you’re grateful for each night before bed and express gratitude to others often, such as writing quick thank you notes to friends.

You Never Lose By Giving Love

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria213

You never lose by giving love, because offering it with sincerity, passion, and delicate affection dignifies you as a person. On the other hand, those who don’t know how to accept or take care of this immense gift are those who truly lose out. For this reason, you should never regret having loved and lost, because the worst thing is not knowing how to love.

Fortunately, neuroscience offers new and revealing information every day that explains why you act as you do concerning this thing called love. The first thing to remember is that your human brain isn’t prepared for loss. Hence, it overtakes you, immobilizes you, and traps you in suffering.

“Love has no cure, but it is the only medicine for all ills”

-Leonard Cohen-

You’re genetically programmed to connect with others and build emotional ties. These make you feel safe and help you build your life. In fact, this is how we’ve survived as a species, by connecting with others. Therefore, a loss, a separation, or even a simple misunderstanding can instantly trigger an alarm signal in your brain.

Another complex aspect concerning emotional relationships is the way in which you face these separations and losses. From a neurological point of view, stress hormones are instantly released, forming, in many cases, what we know as ‘the broken heart’. However, from an emotional and psychological point of view, you may experience another kind of reality.

In fact, you don’t only experience the pain related to losing your loved one. You also feel a loss of energy, of vital breath. It’s as if all the love you gave, all the hopes and affection you dedicated to that person are gone as well, leaving you feeling empty, barren, and withered.

How can you ever love again if the only things left inside you are bad memories? Well, as a matter of fact, you need to face these moments in a different way. Let’s take a closer look.

give love

Continue giving love or avoid loving again?

You’re comprised of a delicate and chaotic compendium of past stories, lived emotions, buried bitterness, and camouflaged fears. When you start a new relationship, you don’t put all your previous experiences in the recycling binYou don’t start from zero. Everything’s still there, and the way in which you’ve managed your past will dictate whether you live your emotional present with greater maturity and fullness.

“Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. “

-Alfred Lord Tennyson-

A bitter betrayal or the simple fact that your partner’s love for you has died greatly changes the way you see things. In fact, giving love so intensely at one point, only to later find yourself feeling empty and trapped by your memories and lost dreams can completely alter the make-up of your personality.

For example, you might become distrustful. Alternatively, you might adopt the isolating attitude of thinking that, to avoid suffering, it’s better not to love at all. However, these are slow processes of self-destruction.

You must never regret having loved, of risking all or nothing for that one person. It’s these acts that dignify you, that make you a wonderful human being. Living is loving and giving love gives meaning to your life through all the things you do: your work, your hobbies, and your personal and emotional relationships.

If you renounce love or regret having loved, you also renounce the most beautiful part of yourself.

Healing lost love

Binghamton University (USA) and University College, London (UK) conducted a study that stated there are certain differences between men and women when it comes to coping with emotional breakdowns. In fact, their emotional responses are very different. For example, women feel the impact of separation much more. However, they tend to recover earlier than men.

On the other hand, men usually appear, on the surface, to be okay. They give the impression of being strong and tend to take refuge in their occupations and responsibilities. Nevertheless, they don’t always manage to overcome the break-up. Furthermore, they may take years to do so. The reason for this is that women usually possess better skills in managing their emotional world. In fact, they gain relief because they seek help and they face what happened from a forgiving perspective. This makes moving on easier.

However, regardless of gender, or the reason that caused the break-up, there’s one thing that should be taken into account. It’s the fact that no emotional failure should ever prevent you from being happy again. Therefore, you must say no to being a slave to the past and a prisoner of eternal suffering.

give love

Another aspect that you should remember is that loving isn’t synonymous with suffering. For this reason, you shouldn’t ever keep a relationship going that’s well past its sell-by-date. Removing yourself will save unnecessary heartbreak and your brave goodbye will close one door and another will open, the one where love will be conjugated with the word happiness.

Cybersickness: When Technology Overwhelms You

There’s no doubt that technology affects you. In fact, you’re able to create visual environments that are so immersive, they can drive your perceptual system crazy. This is cybersickness.

Have you ever felt a headache or eyestrain after spending a lot of time in front of a screen? If it happens to you frequently, it’s likely that you’re suffering from cybersickness. You may not have heard this word before, but it’s an increasingly common condition in society today. For that reason, it’s important to know how to recognize the symptoms.

Although it may seem like a mild problem there’s a high probability that it could become chronic. In this way, it ends up affecting your ability to function normally and can even cause accidents. For this reason, it’s a condition that shouldn’t be ignored.

Cybersickness

Dizziness makes you lose your balance and orientation. Other relatively common symptoms are nausea and a spinning sensation. Furthermore, there are different types of dizziness. In this case, we’re going to focus on motion sickness.

Motion sickness occurs when there’s a mismatch between your sensory information. For example, when you’re on a boat, your inner ear is able to feel the movement of waves. However, your eyes don’t detect any movement. It’s that incoherence that causes dizziness.

Cybersickness is a disorder associated with the use of technologies such as smartphones, computers, etc. The symptoms it generates are similar to those of common motion sickness. These include:

  • Visual fatigue
  • Headaches.
  • Sickness.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Difficulty in focusing.
  • Vertigo.
Tired woman with mobile

Causes

Anyone exposed to screens can experience these symptoms. However, in what way does technology make you dizzy?

When you’re using a device, you’re exposed to a large amount of visual information that’s constantly moving. For example, when you’re looking at a gallery of images you’re scrolling through. In fact, your eyes perceive movement, but you’re not moving. Therefore, your ear and your other senses send the signal to your brain that you’re still. Because of this inconsistency, cybersickness is generated.

Cybersickness and simulator sickness are generally assumed to be the same. However, a study in which eight experiments were conducted with different virtual systems indicated that the clinical profiles are different. It concluded that in cybersickness, disorientation predominates as a symptom, while with simulator sickness it’s oculomotor conditions (Stanney, Kennedy & Drexler, 1997).

Factors contributing to cybersickness

We don’t yet know for sure the factors that cause a person to suffer from cybersickness. In this respect, Weech, Varghese, and Barnett-Cowan (2018) published a study on the sensorimotor components involved in cybersickness. They concluded that certain variables, such as susceptibility to motion sickness, predict the risk of cybersickness.

However, there are other measures that need to be considered where there would be large individual differences. For this reason, the authors claim that it would be necessary to develop methods to evaluate individual variables. Thus, electronic and virtual reality devices should be adjusted to the needs of each user to prevent cybersickness.

As a matter of fact, VR headsets like the Oculus Rift include adjustments that can be calibrated as needed. Indeed, it’s important for technology companies to develop methods to alleviate cybersickness so that they can sell their products. However, more specific tools will be needed to improve the experience.

Associated risks

It’s common for people to tend to underestimate the dangers associated with the symptoms of cybersickness. This could be because, as a rule, symptoms only last a few minutes or hours. Nevertheless, there are serious cases where cybersickness persists for up to 24 hours. Consequently, it poses a health risk, as it impairs normal function.

For example, someone experiencing cybersickness could try to drive a vehicle and be involved in an accident. Also, handling dangerous utensils such as knives or other tools could lead to injury. Vertigo could also cause dangerous falls and bumps.

If you have any of the symptoms of cybersickness, it’s best to avoid any risky activity and seek help.

Dizzy man in front of a computer

What can be done?

The best strategy for dealing with virtual motion sickness is to use technology in a healthier way. For example, if you work from home, it’s important to take regular breaks so your eyes can relax. It’s not a good idea to wait until you feel bad to do this.

Finally, remember that remote work means many people now spend many more hours in front of a screen. Hence, cybersickness is becoming increasingly common.

Furthermore, virtual reality – and the technology that enables it – has made great strides in recent years. It means you can physically be in one place and mentally in another. This is a situation that’s conducive to inconsistencies in the information you receive from your senses.

OpEd: Scientific Materialism Is A Busted Philosophy

by Daniel Pinchbeck
Edited by Ryan DeLarme

Scientific materialism posits that the physical universe exists independently of consciousness, and that minds emerge through an accidental process of physical and biological evolution. Materialism — or physicalism — has been the dominant ideology of the last two centuries, pervasively inflecting every aspect of our society.

Idealism proposes, instead, that consciousness is the fundamental reality or the “ontological primitive.” The apparition of the physical universe arises out of this foundational ground of consciousness, like a vast turbulent dream.

In Why Materialism is Baloney and The Idea of the World, philosopher Bernardo Kastrup makes a great case for idealism.

“The physical properties of the world exist only insofar as they are perceptually experienced,” he writes. “There is no ontological ground outside mind where these properties could otherwise reside before being represented in mind.”

As individuals, we are dissociated “alters” of this unbounded, instinctive consciousness.

materialism, philosophy,

Physics experiments have, he notes, “confirmed that, unlike what one would expect if the world were separate or distinct from mind, the observed properties of the world indeed cannot be said to exist prior to being observed.”

He quotes the physicist Anton Zeilinger:

“There is no sense in assuming that what we do not measure [that is, observe] about a system has [an independent] reality.”

In The Idea of the World, Kastrup surveys various counter-arguments against idealism, one by one, and refutes them. He considers the means by which ideologies take root in society and become entrenched as the norm, despite their fallacies, and how to supersede them:

“We are all immersed in myriad unexamined cultural assumptions and conventional patterns of thought. It is the unavoidable task of the idealist to patiently identify and expose these hidden assumptions and faulty thought patterns, one by one, whilst persisting in repeated elucidations of his or her argument. Only in this manner can the logic behind the idealist’s argument eventually pierce through the cultural shield.”

I completely agree with Kastrup. I feel we need something like an army of intellectually rigorous idealists, attacking this from many angles.

I know this still seems far-fetched to many, but I believe that the paradigm shift from materialism to idealism is both crucial and inevitable. The question, for me, is how and when we get there.

It is inevitable because idealism is true while materialism is false (or, as Kastrup puts it, “baloney”). This has been demonstrated again and again, scientifically, and it becomes increasingly sensible as we develop better ways to talk and think about it.

Many other thinkers and scientists have reached this perspective, including the physicist Amit Goswami, author of Physics of the Soul, and biologist Robert Lanza, who coined the term, “biocentrism.”

Investigating the nature of reality, many of the great physicists of the 20th Century discovered that the universe to be a “great thought,” made from “mind stuff” rather than matter. Their discoveries accorded with the basic tenets of Eastern mysticism.

However, it must be said that, in the past, false ideologies and bad ideas often prevailed over true ones. The triumph of idealism is, therefore, not completely certain.

The paradigm shift from materialism to idealism has tremendous implications, on many levels. It is profoundly important for the future of our world. I consider it a necessary evolutionary leap. It is the paradigm shift we have been waiting for. It is the game-changer.

In upcoming essays, I will paraphrase parts of Kastrup’s philosophical argument for idealism. I will then consider the implications of idealism in a number of different areas, ranging from the personal quandary of what it means to live a meaningful life to the collective — social and political — the question of how we reinvent civilization to address wealth inequality, technological control, and ecological catastrophe.

Analytic Idealism gives us the answer to Capitalist Realism, Neoliberalism, and Transhumanism. It has the potential to reshape our relationships with each other and with the world as a whole.

As idealism becomes our interpretive framework, humanity’s attention will turn in a new direction, rescuing us from the abyss of quantification, control, and nihilism in which the vast mass of humanity is currently lost.

Idealism also allows us to fully understand indigenous animism and other ancient cosmologies, integrating them into a comprehensive, integral worldview.

The shift to idealism restores meaning and purpose to the world. Under materialism, the world has no intrinsic meaning. Humanity wanders hopelessly in a wasteland:

“Our culture believes that the semantic value of the world is simply an artifact of human minds. The world doesn’t have a story to tell, a suggestion to make or an insight to convey. It isn’t saying anything. There is nothing meaningful to be gleaned from the world, just utilitarian predictions to be made about its behavior,” Kastrup writes.

But if the world is actually the projection of a universal, instinctive consciousness, then it begs for interpretation and analysis:

“If the world is mental, it points to something beyond its face-value appearances and is amenable to interpretation, just as ordinary dreams. In this case, the project of a Hermeneutic of Everything is metaphysically justifiable.”

If consciousness is the fundamental reality, then, as conscious beings, our ongoing activity of interpreting, understanding, and giving creative expression to the world is not contingent, accidental, or meaningless.

It must be seen as an essential aspect of the world-process, of reality in its unfolding, of the “worlding” of the world. William Blake turns out to be phenomenologically precise when he wrote, “The imagination is not a state: It is the human existence itself.”

Psychedelics Show Promise in Treating Mental Illness

Summary: A growing body of evidence suggests psychedelics including psilocybin and LSD show promise in providing lasting relief from symptoms for those suffering some mental health disorders. Researchers found DOI, a similar drug to LSD, reduced negative behavioral responses following fear triggers in mouse models of anxiety.

Source: Virginia Tech

One in five U.S. adults will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, according to the National Alliance of Mental Health. But standard treatments can be slow to work and cause side effects.

To find better solutions, a Virginia Tech researcher has joined a renaissance of research on a long-banned class of drugs that could combat several forms of mental illness and, in mice, have achieved long-lasting results from just one dose.

Using a process his lab developed in 2015, Chang Lu, the Fred W. Bull Professor of Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering, is helping his Virginia Commonwealth University collaborators study the epigenomic effects of psychedelics.

Their findings give insight into how psychedelic substances like psilocybin, mescaline, LSD, and similar drugs may relieve symptoms of addiction, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The drugs appear to work faster and last longer than current medications—all with fewer side effects.

The project hinged on Lu’s genomic analysis. His process allows researchers to use very small samples of tissue, down to hundreds to thousands of cells, and draw meaningful conclusions from them. Older processes require much larger sample sizes, so Lu’s approach enables the studies using just a small quantity of material from a specific region of a mouse brain.

And looking at the effects of psychedelics on brain tissues is especially important.

Researchers can do human clinical trials with the substances, taking blood and urine samples and observing behaviors, Lu said. “But the thing is, the behavioral data will tell you the result, but it doesn’t tell you why it works in a certain way,” he said.

But looking at molecular changes in animal models, such as the brains of mice, allows scientists to peer into what Lu calls the black box of neuroscience to understand the biological processes at work. While the brains of mice are very different from human brains, Lu said there are enough similarities to make valid comparisons between the two.

VCU pharmacologist Javier González-Maeso has made a career of studying psychedelics, which had been banned after recreational use of the drugs was popularized in the 1960s. But in recent years, regulators have begun allowing research on the drugs to proceed.

In work by other researchers, primarily on psilocybin, a substance found in more than 200 species of fungi, González-Maeso said psychedelics have shown promise in alleviating major depression and anxiety disorders. “They induce profound effects in perception,” he said. “But I was interested in how these drugs actually induce behavioral effects in mice.”

To explore the genomic basis of those effects, he teamed up with Lu.

This shows a psychedelic brain
The drugs appear to work faster and last longer than current medications—all with fewer side effects. Image is in the public domain

In the joint Virginia Tech—VCU study, González-Maeso’s team used 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine, or DOI, a drug similar to LSD, administering it to mice that had been trained to fear certain triggers. Lu’s lab then analyzed brain samples for changes in the epigenome and the gene expression. They discovered that the epigenomic variations were generally more long-lasting than the changes in gene expression, thus more likely to link with the long-term effects of a psychedelic.

After one dose of DOI, the mice that had reacted to fear triggers no longer responded to them with anxious behaviors. Their brains also showed effects, even after the substance was no longer detectable in the tissues, Lu said. The findings were published in the October issue of Cell Reports.

It’s a hopeful development for those who suffer from mental illness and the people who love them. In fact, it wasn’t just the science that drew Lu to the project.

For him, it’s also personal.

“My older brother has had schizophrenia for the last 30 years, basically. So I’ve always been intrigued by mental health,” Lu said. “And then once I found that our approach can be applied to look at processes like that—that’s why I decided to do research in the field of brain neuroscience.”

González-Maeso said research on psychedelics is still in its early stages, and there’s much work to be done before treatments derived from them could be widely available.

Abstract

Prolonged epigenomic and synaptic plasticity alterations following single exposure to a psychedelic in mice

Highlights

  • Exposure to the psychedelic drug DOI results in enduring molecular adaptations
  • Post-acute DOI unveils phenotypes akin to antidepressant adaptations
  • Concurrent occurrence of synaptic plasticity mediated via 5-HT2AR

Summary

Clinical evidence suggests that rapid and sustained antidepressant action can be attained with a single exposure to psychedelics. However, the biological substrates and key mediators of psychedelics’ enduring action remain unknown.

Here, we show that a single administration of the psychedelic DOI produces fast-acting effects on frontal cortex dendritic spine structure and acceleration of fear extinction via the 5-HT2A receptor.

Additionally, a single dose of DOI leads to changes in chromatin organization, particularly at enhancer regions of genes involved in synaptic assembly that stretch for days after the psychedelic exposure. These DOI-induced alterations in the neuronal epigenome overlap with genetic loci associated with schizophrenia, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Together, these data support that epigenomic-driven changes in synaptic plasticity sustain psychedelics’ long-lasting antidepressant action but also warn about potential substrate overlap with genetic risks for certain psychiatric conditions.

SOURCE: https://neurosciencenews.com/psychedelics-doi-lsd-anxiety-19682/

Americans Are Dropping LSD at an Increasing Rate – And Acid Use “Probably Tripled” in 2020 Alone

ELIAS MARAT
 JUL 22, 2020

As 2020 has clearly shown, life is fraught with existential dread and can often resemble a nightmare for many of us.

If it were just a matter of cabin fever resulting from the coronavirus health crisis, that would be one thing. But this year has also entailed chaos in the streets, economic instability sweeping through our families and communities, not to mention the usual madness that has been raging across the world in recent years.

And if you’ve thought of reaching for some chemicals to escape the madness, even momentarily, you’re hardly alone.

As a recent study has shown, a growing number of Americans are using LSD to escape the deep crisis that our society has found itself in. In fact, the hallucinogen’s popularity has grown exponentially in recent years.

The authors of the study have a very simple explanation for why adults – primarily millenials and Gen Xers – are dabbling or diving headlong into using hallucinogens. Simply put, the world is on fire.

“LSD is used primarily to escape. And given that the world’s on fire, people might be using it as a therapeutic mechanism,” University of Cincinnati doctoral candidate Andrew Yockey explained to Scientific American“Now that COVID’s hit, I’d guess that use has probably tripled.”

In undertaking one of the first major studies of acid dropping among adults in the U.S., the researchers examined surveys of 168,000 Americans and found that intake of LSD had risen by a shocking 56.4 percent between 2015 and 2018.

And while one might expect that it would be the youth – in this case Generation Z – that decides what the trendiest drug might be, it turns out that Gen Z isn’t so interested in the drug that helped define the hippie an psychedelic counter-cultures of the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, those aged 18 to 25 saw their LSD use decrease by 24 percent.

By a huge margin, Those who tripped the most on acid were adults with college degrees and people aged 35 to 49, whose interest in LSD skyrocketed by 223 percent in the three-year period. Meanwhile, those over 50 saw 45 percent increase while those age 26 to 34 saw an increase in LSD use by 59 percent. Those with college degrees did 70 percent more LSD.

A number of factors have boosted the popularity of the psychedelic substance, well before the current global crisis made us desperate for some form of escape. Researchers believe that one factor may have been the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, which made certain groups seek out the drug in lieu of, perhaps, escaping to Canada.

The rising popularity of microdosing is also a likely factor in the rise of LSD use. Microdosing typically involves taking one-tenth to half of a typical “trip”-sized dose as a means to reduce depression or anxiety, enhance creativity or simply sharpen the mind.

Acid has been found to have major mood-boosting effects and, like psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms, has been found to be effective in treating anxiety, depression, and certain mental illnesses.

As a psychedelic drug, however, LSD is classified as a schedule 1 substance by the federal government due to the belief that the drug is addictive, dangerous and has no medical value.

While LSD’s popularity is rising over the years it still doesn’t come close to the mid-20th century peak of acid culture, experts say.

2 Surprisingly Powerful Ways To Calm Your Mind

Nick Polizzi,
July 22nd, 2020

We are living through tumultuous times. Between the global pandemic and the worldwide outcry for social change, it is easy to become overwhelmed. I know I do.

Alarming footage is everywhere, there’s a hodgepodge of different ideas, and it seems like everyone is on edge.

That’s why it is incredibly important to cultivate a few practices that will calm and center you – within minutes.

If you’re in a constant state of fight-or-flight, your body’s vital processes slowly shut down, and your immune and digestive systems are the first to suffer. BUT – if you can catch yourself in those challenging moments before they turn into anxiety, your body can bounce back quickly!

Here are two of the biggest allies I have in my arsenal to nourish and calm my mind.

1) The magic of magnesium 

There are a lot of supplements out there and trying to find what’s right for you can sometimes be dizzying. But studies have shown that up to 75% of adults in the US are not meeting the 320 mg (women) or 420 mg (men) of magnesium needed daily.

Why is this a problem?

Magnesium is a vital nutrient that your body needs to make and use energy in your cells. It also stops your body from absorbing toxins that you come into contact with in your everyday life!

But the big reason you absolutely need magnesium is because it pulls the plug on your brain’s reflexive responses to stress, so you produce fewer stress hormones!

Otherwise, when you’re constantly stressed, your hippocampus creates an excess of cortisol, which eventually can lead to big problems like the inability to retain memories.

Here’s an awesome recipe for plant-based magnesium-rich granola bars!

Magnesium Power Bars

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups oatmeal
  • ¼ cup almonds – 1 oz, 80 mg of magnesium
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds – 1 oz, 168 mg of magnesium
  • ¼ cup cashews – 1 oz, 74 mg of magnesium
  • ? cup honey/molasses/maple syrup
  • ? cup peanut butter + 2 tablespoons, 49 mg of magnesium
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, but yummy)
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt salt
  • ½ cup berries or chocolate chips (or both)

Instructions

  1. Pour oats and nuts onto a cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes. Shake the pan and flip larger pieces over. Then bake for another 3 minutes.
  2. Combine liquid ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Add in nuts and oats.
  4. Stir until completely combined.
  5. Transfer mixture to a large wax paper-lined cookie sheet and press flat.
  6. Freeze for at least 3 hours.
  7. Slice and enjoy

2) Deep Belly Breathing

First of all, what is “deep belly breathing”? Diaphragmatic breathing is when you breathe in with enough depth that your stomach (specifically the area of the diaphragm) expands followed by your lungs.

According to a study at Harvard, belly breathing helps oxygen travel all over the body. This calms down racing hearts and stimulates the vagus nerve which lowers the body’s need to produce stress hormones.

If you can get yourself into the habit of practicing deep belly breathing 1-4 times a day, you can ease tension in your body, decrease your anxiety levels, find deeper sleep, and boost your energy.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Find a safe place — somewhere quiet where you can lay flat on your back or sit with your back flat against a wall. When your back is straight, it’s easier to notice the depth of your breath.
  2. Take 3 normal breaths.
  3. Place your hands on your stomach, just above your belly button.
  4. Breathe in slowly through your nose and try to expand your stomach so much that your hands rise with it.
  5. Hold for just a second and notice how far your hands have risen on your belly.
  6. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth.
  7. Repeat 5 times. Each time, try to relax even deeper into the breath.

These are two incredibly simple, and surprisingly powerful, additions to your daily routine. Be sure to be kind to your mind every day, but especially during these stressful times.

About The Author

Nick Polizzi

Nick Polizzi has spent his career directing and editing feature length documentaries about natural alternatives to conventional medicine. Nick’s current role as director of “The Sacred Science” documentary and author of “The Sacred Science: An Ancient Healing Path For The Modern World” stems from a calling to honor, preserve, and protect the ancient knowledge and rituals of the indigenous peoples of the world.

Courage is about Making Things Happen

Exploring your Mind
September 4th, 2020

Courage makes people act like they have no fear, and it’s about making things happen even in the worst circumstances. Thus, courageous people are those who promote changes in order to achieve well-being or freedom. 

What makes a person courageous? Courage is about fearlessness, determination, and making things happen.

Psychology has been analyzing this dimension for years. The consensus, as curious as it might sound, is that courage is as simple as making things happen. It’s about generating positive change even during difficult circumstances. That is, in situations in which others would give up.

Martin Seligman, a promoter of positive psychology, spoke about courage. He said it’s the dimension that acts as one of the most healing components during therapy. In addition, it has genetic, educational, and environmental roots.

Parents often instill a proactive attitude towards life to remind their offspring that they have to put fear aside in order to reach their goals. Unfortunately, people who lack such reinforcement during their childhood and grow up insecure or have suffered a traumatic experience often lack this courage.

For this reason, Seligman conceives it as an essential element during the therapeutic process. It must arise after the patient works with a professional and some effort on their part. Thus, when the person changes, it’ll be clear they’ve learned to treasure their own determination. In other words, they’ll have the motivation to transform their life.

This is when they decide to shape and achieve a new stage in which to feel more in control and safe. This is the best courage of all, the most enriching for a person’s well-being.

A backpacker on top of a mountain.

Courage is about making things happen

Some scientific literature says that courage arises as a result of a primary struggle against emotions such as fear. From a neurobiological standpoint, it involves regulating the influence of the amygdala. This is the brain region related to the most intense emotions. The same one that paralyzes and hijacks your thoughts when it takes over.

Similarly, it also implies enhancing areas such as the prefrontal cortex. In other words, those linked to decision-making, reflection, planning, and attention to environmental stimuli without the influence of fear or anguish. In fact, much of the research available on this type of behavior comes from the military sphere (Neria, Solomon, Ginzburg, and Dekel (2000)) and from stories in which certain soldiers performed heroic acts when they were in great danger.

“I just remained calm and did what I had to do,” say many of these young people trained to react quickly in risky situations. But what about civilians? Can anyone be a hero without military training?

Doctors Uhri Kugel and Catherine Haussman conducted a study at the University of Oxford. The date it reveals is interesting. Let’s analyze this!

Although courage is often romanticized, it’s actually a cognitive skill

Courage is about making things happen because you promote change. Furthermore, courage is about focusing on a goal in the midst of adverse circumstances. No, you don’t have to be the classic hero who battles dragons. Courage is a cognitive skill anyone can learn and apply, according to current science.

It basically consists of igniting your will to act in spite of your fear, in being able to look at uncertainty and doubt to then move forward and take action. You can attain something like this by working on the following:

  • Proper anxiety management, as you’ll reset your mentality in order to take action when you’re able to recognize the thought patterns that imprison you.
  • Be emotionally aware. This consists of knowing how to connect with your emotions in order to transform them and use them to your benefit.
  • Remember what your values, vital purposes, and personal goals are.
  • Courage is about making things happen. This is because you develop a very specific capacity to visualize the desired goals you’ll reach if you dare to.
A woman happy to be alive.

Courage is about making things happen in order to have a more satisfying reality

Franco, Blau, and Zimbardo (2011) defined courage as the ability to act prosocially despite personal risk. Now, there’s current criticism regarding this definition. This is because courage isn’t always geared toward saving others. Instead, courage is mainly necessary to save oneself.

Martin Seligman already pointed out that for therapy to be effective, you must awaken your courage. In other words, you must ignite your determination in order to overcome your fears, limitations, and insecurities. This way, you’ll be more empowered and be able to achieve anything you want. Thus, you’ll be able to promote changes that resonate with you and bring you satisfaction.

Some say that people live in faith and hope. However, taking action is the only thing that can truly transform your reality. This is because courage is a mixture of emotions, thoughts, and feelings oriented towards advancement in order to promote something positive, either for yourself or for others. Just keep this in mind.

The Human Soul, According to Science

Exploring your Mind
September 2nd, 2020

The human soul has been a mystery for a long time, and there are many hypotheses about it. In fact, the various academic disciplines continuously try to answer it. Today’s article will discuss what the scientific community has to say about it.

You’re about to take a tour of the scientific paradigm, tradition, and current challenges. In addition, you’ll learn about Robert Lanza’s fascinating theory of biocentrism.

Your path will go beyond the spiritual. As you know, most religions mention the existence of a soul. What’s the position of science in this regard? How does it currently deal with this paradigm? Continue reading to find out.

Is there such a thing as a human soul?

The idea of ​​the existence of a human soul is related to beliefs about life after death. This idea of ​​a soul is linked to the conviction of eternal life. In addition, many people also believe that the soul is a guide by which a person thinks and feels and that it operates independently from the body.

Certainly, the conception of the soul will vary depending on the context, religion, and discipline that addresses it. It’s been mainly religious throughout history as these institutions allegedly deal with the spiritual dimension. They’ve taken it upon themselves to explain its existence.

Religions argue about the idea of ​​a soul, independently of its connection to the spiritual, by inferring that evidence of its existence is among the mysteries associated with birth, death, different states of consciousness, memory, and imagination. Thus, they suggest that the soul is like a kind of vital force, an impulse.

The scientific paradigm regarding the human soul

According to philosopher and science historian Thomas Kuhn, a scientific paradigm is the set of universally recognized achievements of this type. Paradigms are subject to criticism, in addition to generating models of problems and solutions in the scientific community.

The current scientific paradigm doesn’t usually recognize the spiritual dimension. Rather, it points out that there’s no need for a soul. In fact, it tends to explain life through equations about the activity of carbon and the activity of proteins, etc.

On one hand, religion gives the answer to the existence of the soul from a spiritual point of view. It associates it with the transcendent and incorporeal. On the other, science associates it with the material, if it conceives it at all. In other words, the latter understands it as the mind. Also, it reduces it to the concept of cognition and consciousness, at least from a poetic standpoint.

An enlightened person.

Challenging current scientific theories

Neuroscience has made great strides in explaining the functioning of the human nervous system and trying to explain the reason for subjective experiences. However, it’s still a mystery. Thus, the problem of whether the soul exists or not is related to the understanding of the nature of the self.

Currently, different theories have begun to challenge the scientific paradigm. The physicochemical, above all. Biocentrism is an example of this. It’s about emphasizing tough questions about human nature. For example, it asks if there’s such a thing as a soul or if there’s something beyond time.

This new perspective of being, of the cosmos and of reality, believes that life goes beyond mere atoms and particles. It would explain things such as quantum entanglement and the uncertainty principle. In fact, some authors point out that quantum weirdness occurs in the world on a human scale. At least according to Gerlich and his team, which co-authored the article “Quantum interference of large organic molecules”.

Robert Lanza, an American scientist, first suggested the theory of biocentrism. In this theory, he considers that life and biology are essential to being, reality, and the cosmos. In fact, he affirms that consciousness creates the universe and not the other way around. Thus, he didn’t ignore the physicochemical approach to the explanation of the affairs of being. Instead, he gives more importance to the biological one.

Conclusion

Therefore, space and time are mind tools directly connected to existence for other planes of scientific knowledge. This challenge takes humans away from classical intuition and suggests that a part of the mind or soul is immortal and exists outside these categories.

In short, certain parts of science do recognize the soul, either because they associate it with poetic vision or because they reduce it to cognition. Others continue with the traditional perspective of denying it, while some current theories begin to think about its existence. This is due to new discoveries that account for the nature of being associated with time and space.