Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Mental Training for Gratitude and Altruism

Bran­don Keim writes a nice post on The Future Sci­ence of Altru­ism at Wired Sci­ence Blog, based on an inter­view with Jor­dan Graf­man, chief of cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science at the Nation­al Insti­tute of Neu­ro­log­i­cal Dis­or­ders and Stroke.

Bran­don pro­vides good con­text say­ing that “Sci­en­tists, said Graf­man, are under­stand­ing how our brains are shaped by cul­ture and envi­ron­ment, and a mech­a­nism of these changes may involve fluc­tu­a­tion in our genes them­selves, which we’re only begin­ning to under­stand”. (more on this in our post Richard Dawkins and Alfred Nobel: beyond nature and nur­ture).

And gives us some very nice quotes from Dr. Graf­man, includ­ing

  • One of the ways we dif­fer­en­ti­ate our­selves from oth­er species is that we have a sense of future. We don’t have to have imme­di­ate grat­i­fi­ca­tion.… But how far can we go into the future? How much of our brain is aimed at doing that? […]”
  • Oth­er great apes have a frontal lobe, fair­ly well devel­oped, but not near­ly as well devel­oped as our own. If you believe in Dar­win and evo­lu­tion, you argue that the area grew, and the neur­al archi­tec­ture had to change in some way to accom­mo­date the abil­i­ties asso­ci­at­ed with that behav­ior. There’s no doubt that did­n’t occur overnight; prob­a­bly a slow change, and it was one of the last areas of the brain to devel­op as well. It’s very recent evo­lu­tion­ary devel­op­ment that humans took full advan­tage of. What in the future? What in the brains can change?”
  • The issue becomes — do we teach this? Train peo­ple to do this? Chil­dren tend to be self­ish, and have to be taught to share.”

The UC Berke­ley mag­a­zine Greater Good tries to answer that ques­tion with a series of arti­cles on Grat­i­tude. I espe­cial­ly enjoyed A Les­son in Thanks, described as Psy­chol­o­gist Jef­frey Froh infused mid­dle-school class­es with a small dose of grat­i­tude and found that it made stu­dents feel more con­nect­ed to their friends, fam­i­ly, and their school.”. Quotes:

  • In our study, we fol­lowed 221 mid­dle school stu­dents for five weeks. We ran­dom­ly assigned 11 class­rooms to one of three con­di­tions: grat­i­tude, has­sles, and a con­trol group. Stu­dents in the grat­i­tude con­di­tion were asked to record up to five things they were grate­ful for since the pre­vi­ous day.”
  • Express­ing grat­i­tude was not only asso­ci­at­ed with appre­ci­at­ing close rela­tion­ships; it was also relat­ed to feel­ing bet­ter about life and school. Indeed, com­pared with stu­dents in the has­sles and con­trol groups, stu­dents who count­ed bless­ings report­ed greater sat­is­fac­tion with school both imme­di­ate­ly after the two-week exer­cise and at the three-week fol­low-up. They made state­ments such as: “I go to a great school,” “I am grate­ful for my edu­ca­tion, and “I am thank­ful for my aca­d­e­mics and for mak­ing the Nation­al Junior Hon­or Soci­ety.

Anoth­er impor­tant actor is this field of, let’s call it, “moral fit­ness”, is the Mind & Life Insti­tute: you can read some quotes from Adam Engle, one of its founders, fol­low­ing the link, such as

  • From ear­ly on it became clear that they need­ed to engage West­ern neu­ro­sci­en­tists in order to be cred­i­ble and become a real East-West bridge with poten­tial to reach main­stream soci­ety. You can see below a par­tial list of par­tic­i­pants in their most recent meet­ing, 2 weeks ago”
  • They are very hap­py that Sharon Beg­ley’s book Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain has become a non-fic­tion Best­seller, since it is based on one of the Mind & Life Dia­logues (more on Books on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty)”

Leave a Reply...

Loading Facebook Comments ...

11 Responses

  1. Mak­ing a prac­tice of express­ing grat­i­tude can be a won­der­ful way to change your life.

  2. Hi Sharp­brains folks!

    I think you’ll real­ly enjoy this book that I’ve start­ed read­ing, Why Good Things Hap­pen to Good Peo­ple.…

    It’s on why grat­i­tude, altru­ism, etc. are actu­al­ly good for a per­son.


Leave a Reply

Categories: Health & Wellness

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

Search in our archives

Follow us and Engage via…

RSS Feed

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)