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.


  1. Jilly on May 30, 2008 at 8:59

    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 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 on May 31, 2008 at 7:24

    Jil­ly, thank you for shar­ing your impressions.

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

  3. Hameed on June 9, 2008 at 4:44

    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.

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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