Archive for 'Mind-Body Matters'

The effect of belief on intelligence

A unique and fascinating new study was released this year by Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University, researching the effects of belief on cognitive performance.

The results: children who believed that intelligence was malleable and could be improved were much more likely to perform well in school. Children who believed intelligence was something set in stone – a genetic gift from birth that never changes – did not perform as well.

To test this, Dweck separated one hundred 7th grade students into 2 equal groups. All students had suffering math scores. One group was taught good studying habits, the other was taught about the plasticity of the brain, and how the brain can change; new neural connections can be formed and intelligence can actually be increased.

At the end of the semester, the children who had the crash course in neuroscience ended up performing better than those who were taught study skills! This is because their beliefs about intelligence had changed.

Here’s some excerpts from an article on this:

“Some students start thinking of their intelligence as something fixed, as carved in stone,” Dweck says. “They worry about, ‘Do I have enough? Don’t I have enough?'”

Dweck calls this a “fixed mindset” of intelligence.

“Other children think intelligence is something you can develop your whole life,” she says. “You can learn. You can stretch. You can keep mastering new things.”

She calls this a “growth mindset” of intelligence.  

“When they studied, they thought about those neurons forming new connections,” Dweck says. “When they worked hard in school, they actually visualized how their brain was growing.”

“We saw among those with the growth mindset steadily increasing math grades over the two years,” she says. But that wasn’t the case for those with the so-called “fixed mindset.” They showed a decrease in their math grades.

“If you think about a child who’s coping with an especially challenging task, I don’t think there’s anything better in the world than that child hearing from a parent or from a teacher the words, ‘You’ll get there.’ And that, I think, is the spirit of what this is about.”

In the articles on our website, we’ve been talking for years about how beliefs can work for or against your cognitive performance. Many people who approach us with cognitive issues want to focus only on the neurological or physiological aspect of that. Often, after a few months of work, it becomes apparent that a psychological approach is needed – the physiology is right for peak performance, but the belief system keeps the brain stuck in first gear. Negative beliefs about one’s intelligence can often be very hard to counteract. This study is useful in that it shows that merely learning more about the brain can help give your brain the boost it needs to make real progress.

NPR has a nice broadcast of this new research online:

Gamma Synchrony and consciousness

Stuart Hameroff talks about the definition of consciousness, relating to gamma  synchrony, EEG spikes, quantum computing and other hot topics in the study of conscious experience.


Using neuroimaging to analyze mind-over-body effects

NPR brings us one step closer to understanding the mind-body connection in a recent segment on the mysterious placebo effect. Using relatively recent neuroimaging techniques, researchers are able to isolate the specific neural effects of belief and expectation.

Take a listen:

Radio Lab explores the power of suggestion

Anton MesmerThe Radio Lab started up a new season on May 18th. I haven’t gotten around to listening to them until now. I just finished the first episode, which is a fascinating program about placebo and the power of suggestion.

The placebo effect is a very interesting subject. Ernest Rossi estimated that as much as 56% of the effect of pain killers is due to placebo, and many believe that percentage may be significantly higher. Radio Lab explores some cases where the effects are identical to actual treatment, and not just for pain killers: for mental disorders, warts, even Parkinson’s!

Of course you cannot talk long about placebo without talking about its natural ally, Hypnosis. Radio Lab reviews some astounding cases of hypnosis, and also takes a look at Anton Mesmer, the inadvertent father of hypnotism and the author of probably the most widespread and well known example of placebo – Mesmerism, or “animal magnetism”.

Radio Lab also explores how the white coat that doctors wear has such a powerful impact on patients, and on the attitude of the doctors that wear them. Users of NP2 may recognize some of this from the “white coat” visualization technique.

Radio Lab, Season 3, Ep 1:

Here is a direct link to the full episode:

Weekly Brain Video: Mirror Neurons

Mirror Neurons are a relatively new discovery, and are being touted by many as one of the most important discoveries in the last decade of neuroscience. There was a lot of media attention on these buggers last year, primarily because of what they indicate fundamentally about human social interaction.

Essentially, Mirror Neurons are built to respond to actions that we observe in others. The interesting part is that mirror neurons fire in the same way when we actually recreate that action ourselves! For example, if you move your arm up and down groups of motor neurons in the brain will fire. But, if you observe someone moving their arm, many of those same neurons will fire in the same way!

Now, if you have read the documentation of our Neuro-Programmer product, you might not be too surprised by this. One of the fundamental concepts behind the program is that neural responses to observed or imagined actions will be similar to the brain activity of actual events, and this is one of primary reasons why creative visualization is so effective. In a sense, mirror neurons have been known about and studied for a very long time. Ask any professional athletic coach about visualization and you’ll hear all about it. Ask anyone who feels like they can perform huge feats of kung fu after a Bruce Lee movie. Ask me why I can’t bear to watch the particularly embarrassing scenes from The Office.

But, it is great to see analysis going into the exact neurology behind this brain phenomenon. And not only that, but it is giving us valuable insight into brain disorders. Defective Mirror Neurons are now thought to play a role in Autism, since many Autistic individuals often have perfectly functioning brains, but seem to struggle in social situations.

Mirror Neurons are also helping to explain how humans interact, and are showing empathy to be a much more powerful and pronounced neurological process than previously thought. On a related note, in EEG tests mirror neuron responses seem to be stronger in women than in men. 😉



Also, here is a link to another video on Mirror Neurons and Autism:


Weekly Brain Video: Hypno-Surgery, Live surgery using only hypnosis as a pain killer

One of the oldest uses of hypnosis is in surgery. James Braid, the Scottish man who coined the term “Hypnosis”, was a neurosurgeon. Another surgeon, James Esdaile, performed hundreds of operations in the mid 19th century using nothing but the power of suggestion as a pain killer (at the time, what he did was called “Mesmerism”).

This video records a live surgical procedure using no anesthetics whatsoever. It also goes into the fascinating history of anaesthesia, surgery and hypnosis, as well as interviewing many others who have had similar operations.


The Mind-Over-Body Diet: Part 2 – Hypnosis doubles weight loss results

As a follow up on this post, I found a number of studies analyzing hypnosis as a way to increase weight loss results.

A meta-analysis of the subject was conducted in 1996, by Irving Kirsch, Ph.D. at the Department of Psychology in the University of Connecticut. The meta study analyzed the data of 2 other studies, as well as 2 previous meta-analyses.

Averaged out, hypnosis nearly doubled the weight lost during the trial period!

Additionally, subjects whose treatment included hypnosis kept the pounds off for 2 years following the trial. Kirsch noted that the effectiveness of hypnosis seems to increase over time.

Here is the abstract:

The next time you try to lose weight, remember what your mind is capable of.

The Mind-Over-Body Diet

I’ve always seen this as a kind of “holy grail” of the mind’s potential control over the body. In today’s society, who wouldn’t want to program their mind for weight loss?

The Wall Street Journal recently featured a study that examined this very thing. Here is an excerpt(provided by Frontal Cortex):

Psychology researcher Ellen Langer of Harvard University has long been intrigued by mind-over-body effects. She and student Alia Crum therefore invited 84 women, ages 18 to 55 years old, who worked as housekeepers at seven Boston hotels, to participate in a study. Those in four hotels were told that their regular work was good exercise and met the guidelines for a healthy, active lifestyle. After all, the women cleaned about 15 rooms a day, taking 20 to 30 minutes for each, so they did get a bit of a workout. Those in the other three hotels were told nothing.

Questionnaires established that the actual amount of work the women did, at work as well as off duty, didn’t change over the four weeks of the study. Yet the so-called informed group told the scientists that their life was healthier. They had taken to heart the information about the fitness value of stripping beds and scrubbing bathrooms.

More surprising, the women in the informed group lost an average of two pounds, saw their systolic blood pressure (the first number) drop 10%, lost about 0.5% of their body fat, and reduced their body-mass index by .35 of a point. The other women showed no such changes.

True, these weren’t “I dropped 20 pounds in a month!!” results. But considering that the women made no changes in how they lived or ate (the informed group didn’t start dieting, for instance), it was nothing to sneeze at. The only change for the women who reaped these benefits was in their heads: They now believed that their cleaning work was a fitness routine.

“If you can put the mind in a healthy place, you can have dramatic physiological consequences,” says Prof. Langer, whose study will appear in the February issue of Psychological Science.

I’ve actually talked to hundreds of people who have used self-hypnosis or visualization techniques to augment their fitness routine, and most report great success.

This reminds me of an article by Hilda Silva Rubio, which luckily I was able to find. Hilda experimented with various self-help techniques meant to completely replace her diet. Here is an excerpt from her story:

Dr. Bruce Lipton speaks often about how our thoughts dictate our lives. This we have known for eons and yet we continue with negative programming. By this I mean, what is the one main thing that we say when we see a big, luscious piece of creamy cheesecake dripping with your favorite topping? Do you say, “If I eat all of that giant piece of mouth watering pie conceived by a heavenly beings, I will stay at the weight I am at?” NO! We are in the habit of saying, “If I even look at that cheese cake I will gain weight instantly!”

Why do we do this to ourselves?

 And the results!

I ordered all that I wanted including the cheesecake but before I ate I closed my eyes, took a deep cleansing breath and said the following: “This food will help me reduce in weight for better health and my mind and body will be satisfied.” That night before going to bed I went to level and used the mirror of the mind technique. In the blue frame I saw myself standing on a scale and it read 263. I saw a big belly with “wide load” hips and I saw the size label of my blouse, which read 4x and the size label of my pants that read 26W. I had a sad unhappy face. I then moved over to the white frame and saw myself standing on the scale and it read 220! The labels on my blouse, were now 2x and my pants were 20W! I was smiling. The next night I put all my energy on only the white frame. DO NOT USE THE BLUE FRAME AGAIN TILL YOU REACH THIS FIRST SHORT TERM GOAL. I continued to say this affirmation with everything that I ate and drank. After 2 months I had not gained weight and I then began to shed the pounds the day after the second month was completed.

I have gone from a size 4x blouse to an 18-20 and from a size 26 pant to a 14 in a little over two years! Yes the reduction is slow compared to other diets but it has stayed off. It is less of a shock to the system, it is easy and I feel great!