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Mysteries of Brain and Mind

Several recent NYT articles focus on several fascinating frontiers of brain science. We know much more about brain and mind than only 20 years ago, yet exponentially less than 20 years from now.

A few worthy explorations on mindfulness, perceptual capacities, and the power of placebo:

Lotus Therapy

Mindfulness meditation is easy to describe. Sit in a comfortable position, eyes closed, preferably with the back upright and unsupported. Relax and take note of body sensations, sounds and moods. Notice them without judgment. Let the mind settle into the rhythm of breathing. If it wanders (and it will), gently redirect attention to the breath. Stay with it for at least 10 minutes.

After mastering control of attention, some therapists say, a person can turn, mentally, to face a threatening or troubling thought  about, say, a strained relationship with a parent and learn simply to endure the anger or sadness and let it pass, without lapsing into rumination or trying to change the feeling, a move that often backfires.

At workshops and conferences across the country, students, counselors and psychologists in private practice throng lectures on mindfulness. The National Institutes of Health is financing more than 50 studies testing mindfulness techniques, up from 3 in 2000, to help relieve stress, soothe addictive cravings, improve attention, lift despair and reduce hot flashes.

Since mindfulness meditation may have different effects on different mental struggles, the challenge for its proponents will be to specify where it is most effective  and soon, given how popular the practice is becoming.

Read article: Lotus Therapy.

A Superhighway to Bliss

Her perceptions changed, too. She could see that the atoms and molecules making up her body blended with the space around her; the whole world and the creatures in it were all part of the same magnificent field of shimmering energy.

“My perception of physical boundaries was no longer limited to where my skin met air, she has written in her memoir, “My Stroke of Insight, which was just published by Viking.

Dr. Taylor shows the less mystically inclined, she said, that this experience of deep contentment “is part of the capacity of the human mind.

Read article: A Superhighway to Bliss (includes link to fantastic video).

Experts Question Placebo Pill for Children

With the help of her husband, Dennis, she founded a placebo company, and, without a hint of irony, named it Efficacy Brands. Its chewable, cherry-flavored dextrose tablets, Obecalp, for placebo spelled backward, goes on sale on June 1 at the Efficacy Brands Web site. Bottles of 50 tablets will sell for $5.95. The Buettners have plans for a liquid version, too.

This is designed to have the texture and taste of actual medicine so it will trick kids into thinking that they’re taking something, Ms. Buettner said. “Then their brain takes over, and they say, Oh, I feel better.

Even if Obecalp proved helpful, some doctors worry that giving children “medicine” for every ache and pain teaches that every ailment has a cure in a bottle.

“Kids could grow up thinking that the only way to get better is by taking a pill,” Dr. Brody said. If they do that, he added, they will not learn that a minor complaint like a scraped knee or a cold can improve on its own.

Read article: Experts Question Placebo Pill for Children.

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3 Responses

  1. Jilly says:

    I read “My Stroke of Insight” in one sitting – I couldn’t put it down. I laughed. I cried. It was a fantastic book (I heard it’s a NYTimes Bestseller and I can see why!), but I also think it will be the start of a new, transformative Movement! No one wants to have a stroke as Jill Bolte Taylor did, but her experience can teach us all how to live better lives. Her TED.com speech was one of the most incredibly moving, stimulating, wonderful videos I’ve ever seen. Her Oprah Soul Series interviews were fascinating. They should make a movie of her life so everyone sees it. This is the Real Deal and gives me hope for humanity.

  2. Alvaro says:

    Jilly, thank you for sharing your impressions.

    I have just bought the book, and can’t wait to enjoy it!

  3. Hameed says:

    Its true that most adults are addicted to common drugs and these placebo controls for kids are no different.

    I think its best to teach children how to manage emotions with changes in thinking. In this way we can help build emotionally stable kids.

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