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From Mental Health to Behavioral Health…and back?

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Know Thy­self: Well-Being and Sub­jec­tive Expe­ri­ence (Cere­brum):

Ancient Greek philoso­phers were fond of the apho­rism, “know thy­self,” inscribed above the entrance of one of the Tem­ples of Apol­lo at Del­phi. One expres­sion of this tra­di­tion, vari­ably attrib­uted to Socrates and Pla­to, is that “the unex­am­ined life is not worth liv­ing.” Anoth­er, attrib­uted to Aris­to­tle, is “to know thy­self is the begin­ning of wis­dom.” And, accord­ing to Socrates, the path to such self-knowl­edge is through inner reflec­tion, or what we now call intro­spec­tion.

Thou­sands of years lat­er, pro­fes­sions arose to help peo­ple know them­selves bet­ter Read the rest of this entry »

New brain imaging methods help detect giant, superconnected neurons such as this one (in a mouse’s brain)

A Giant Neu­ron Has Been Found Wrapped Around the Entire Cir­cum­fer­ence of the Brain (Sci­ence Alert):

For the first time, sci­en­tists have detect­ed a giant neu­ron wrapped around the entire cir­cum­fer­ence of a mouse’s brain, and it’s so dense­ly con­nect­ed across both hemi­spheres, it could final­ly explain the ori­gins of con­scious­ness. Read the rest of this entry »

How Do Words, such as Yes and No, Change Our Brains and Lives?

The neu­ro­science of lan­guage, con­scious­ness, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion rais­es many fun­da­men­tal ques­tions, the answers to which con­sis­tent­ly defy def­i­n­i­tion. For exam­ple: when we speak, where do our words come from? Our brain, or our mind? And what do we mean by mind? Sim­i­lar dilem­mas arise when we try to study the nature of con­scious­ness. What is it, and where is it? Is it gen­er­at­ed sole­ly by neur­al activ­i­ty, or is it a sep­a­rate force that influ­ences the activ­i­ty of the brain? Hypothe­ses abound, but nobody seems to know for cer­tain.

How­ev­er, we do have a few clues that illu­mi­nate the rela­tion­ship between the brain, the mind, and Read the rest of this entry »

Meditation on the Brain: a Conversation with Andrew Newberg

Dr_Andrew_NewbergDr. Andrew New­berg is an Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Radi­ol­o­gy and Psy­chi­a­try and Adjunct Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Reli­gious Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia. He has pub­lished a vari­ety of neu­roimag­ing stud­ies relat­ed to aging and demen­tia. He has also researched the neu­ro­phys­i­o­log­i­cal cor­re­lates of med­i­ta­tion, prayer, and how brain func­tion is asso­ci­at­ed with mys­ti­cal and reli­gious expe­ri­ences. Alvaro Fer­nan­dez inter­views him here as part of our research for the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: How to Opti­mize Brain Health and Per­for­mance at Any Age.

Dr. New­berg, thank you for being with us today. Can you please explain the source of your inter­ests at the inter­sec­tion of brain research and spir­i­tu­al­i­ty?

Since I was a kid, I had a keen inter­est in spir­i­tu­al prac­tice. I always won­dered how spir­i­tu­al­i­ty and reli­gion affect us, and over time I came to appre­ci­ate how sci­ence can help us explore and under­stand the world around us, includ­ing why we humans care about spir­i­tu­al prac­tices. This, of course, led me to be par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in brain research.

Dur­ing med­ical school I was par­tic­u­lar­ly attract­ed by the prob­lem of con­scious­ness. I was for­tu­nate to meet researcher Dr. Eugene D’Aquili in the ear­ly 1990s, who had been doing much research on reli­gious prac­tices effect on brain since the 1970s. Through him I came to see that brain imag­ing can pro­vide a fas­ci­nat­ing win­dow into the brain.

Can we define reli­gion and spir­i­tu­al­i­ty -which sound to me as very dif­fer­ent brain process­es-, and why learn­ing about them may be help­ful from a pure­ly sec­u­lar, sci­en­tif­ic point of view?

Good point, def­i­n­i­tions mat­ter, since dif­fer­ent peo­ple may be search­ing for God in dif­fer­ent ways. I view being reli­gious as par­tic­i­pat­ing in orga­nized rit­u­als and shared beliefs, such as going to church. Being spir­i­tu­al, on the oth­er hand, is more of an indi­vid­ual prac­tice, whether we call it med­i­ta­tion, or relax­ation, or prayer, aimed at expand­ing the self, devel­op­ing a sense of one­ness with the uni­verse.

What is hap­pen­ing is that spe­cif­ic prac­tices that have tra­di­tion­al­ly been asso­ci­at­ed with reli­gious and spir­i­tu­al con­texts may also be very use­ful from a main­stream, sec­u­lar, health point of view, beyond those con­texts. Sci­en­tists are research­ing, for exam­ple, what Read the rest of this entry »

Scientific American Mind Promotion offer

One of our favorite pop­u­lar sci­ence pub­li­ca­tions is Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can Mind, a mag­a­zine that always brings good arti­cles on brain & mind issues and some fun teasers.

Scientific American Mind
We are there­fore pleased that Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can is offer­ing a Spe­cial Part­ner­ship offer for Sharp­Brains read­ers: a sub­scrip­tion to Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can Mind mag­a­zine, at 55% off the cov­er price. Plus, they offer an exclu­sive gift for new sub­scribers: a spe­cial pub­li­ca­tion on Secrets of the Expert Mind.

You can click Here to learn more about this offer.

Descrip­tion: SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND is a new mag­a­zine from the edi­tors of Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can — tak­ing read­ers inside the most riv­et­ing break­throughs in psy­chol­o­gy, neu­ro­science and relat­ed fields.

Read the rest of this entry »

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