Entries in SoulMindMatter (38)

Tuesday
Dec272011

Mindfulness meditation improves connections in the brain

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Mindfulness meditation improves connections in the brain

Posted April 08, 2011, 11:15 am

When I’m stressed, I listen to a 20-minute mindfulness meditation tape. It always helps me feel calmer and more relaxed. Many meditative practices can do this. But mindfulness meditation is getting a lot of attention because it seems to help with so many physical and psychological problems—like high blood pressure, chronic pain, psoriasis, sleep trouble, anxiety, and depression. It’s also been shown to boost immune function and stop binge eating. No one knows for sure what’s behind these benefits, but physical changes in the brain probably play a role.

Mindfulness meditation is a mental discipline. You start by focusing your attention on your breath, a sensation in the body, or a chosen word or phrase. You note the thoughts, emotions, and background sounds that arise from moment to moment, observing them without analyzing them or making judgments about what’s going on around you. If you drift into thoughts about the past or concerns about the future, you bring your attention back to the present, for example, by refocusing on your breathing. It takes practice.

A new study, published in the May 2011 issue of Neuroimage, suggests that one effect of all this focusing and refocusing is increased brain connectivity. Researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles compared the brain activity of volunteers who had finished eight weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction training with that of volunteers who did not do such training. Functional MRI scans showed stronger connections in several regions of the meditators’ brains—especially those associated with attention and auditory and visual processing. Unfortunately, the study didn’t scan the volunteers’ brains before mindfulness training, so no one can say for sure that mindfulness training was responsible for the differences.

At Massachusetts General Hospital, researchers used MRI scans to document before and after changes in the brain’s gray matter—the “processing” neurons—associated with mindfulness meditation. The density of gray matter increased in regions governing such distinctly different activities as memory, self-awareness, and compassion, and decreased in the amygdala—the part of the brain associated with fear and stress. We covered this intriguing research in the April issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

At the moment, scientists can only speculate about the relationship between these brain changes and the health benefits associated with mindfulness meditation. But the research adds to growing evidence that meditative practices can alter the body at a fundamental level—even, it turns out, at the level of our genes. Meditation elicits the “relaxation response,” a state of deep relaxation first described more than 35 years ago by mind-body pioneer Dr. Herbert Benson, currently emeritus director of the Benson-Henry Institute of Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Since then, Benson and his colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have discovered that relaxation techniques (including meditation and yoga) turn certain sets of genes on and off in people who practice them regularly. Benson, who is the medical editor of Stress Management: Approaches for preventing and reducing stress (a Special Health Report from Harvard Health Publications, which also publishes Harvard Women’s Health Watch), says these genes are involved with controlling “how the body handles free radicals, inflammation processes, and cell death.” You can read about the gene research here.

Mindfulness meditation improves connections in the brain

Posted By Carolyn Schatz On April 8, 2011

When I’m stressed, I listen to a 20-minute mindfulness meditation tape. It always helps me feel calmer and more relaxed. Many meditative practices can do this. But mindfulness meditation is getting a lot of attention because it seems to help with so many physical and psychological problems—like high blood pressure, chronic pain, psoriasis, sleep trouble, anxiety, and depression. It’s also been shown to boost immune function and stop binge eating. No one knows for sure what’s behind these benefits, but physical changes in the brain probably play a role.

Mindfulness meditation is a mental discipline. You start by focusing your attention on your breath, a sensation in the body, or a chosen word or phrase. You note the thoughts, emotions, and background sounds that arise from moment to moment, observing them without analyzing them or making judgments about what’s going on around you. If you drift into thoughts about the past or concerns about the future, you bring your attention back to the present, for example, by refocusing on your breathing. It takes practice.

A new study, published in the May 2011 issue of Neuroimage, suggests that one effect of all this focusing and refocusing is increased brain connectivity. Researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles compared the brain activity of volunteers who had finished eight weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction training with that of volunteers who did not do such training. Functional MRI scans showed stronger connections in several regions of the meditators’ brains—especially those associated with attention and auditory and visual processing. Unfortunately, the study didn’t scan the volunteers’ brains before mindfulness training, so no one can say for sure that mindfulness training was responsible for the differences.

At Massachusetts General Hospital, researchers used MRI scans to document before and after changes in the brain’s gray matter—the “processing” neurons—associated with mindfulness meditation. The density of gray matter increased in regions governing such distinctly different activities as memory, self-awareness, and compassion, and decreased in the amygdala—the part of the brain associated with fear and stress. We covered this intriguing research in the April issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

At the moment, scientists can only speculate about the relationship between these brain changes and the health benefits associated with mindfulness meditation. But the research adds to growing evidence that meditative practices can alter the body at a fundamental level—even, it turns out, at the level of our genes. Meditation elicits the “relaxation response,” a state of deep relaxation first described more than 35 years ago by mind-body pioneer Dr. Herbert Benson, currently emeritus director of the Benson-Henry Institute of Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Since then, Benson and his colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have discovered that relaxation techniques (including meditation and yoga) turn certain sets of genes on and off in people who practice them regularly. Benson, who is the medical editor of Stress Management: Approaches for preventing and reducing stress (a Special Health Report from Harvard Health Publications, which also publishes Harvard Women’s Health Watch), says these genes are involved with controlling “how the body handles free radicals, inflammation processes, and cell death.” You can read about the gene research here.

Wednesday
Oct262011

High Testosterone Levels Protect Against Stroke And Heart Attack

Consultations and sessions are also available via email, skype, phone or video conference (assisted by an interpret if requested). Email rainer.arendt@doublecheck.ch or call +41788250803 or +41442121100 to arrange an appointment time with Dr. Rainer Arendt.

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Lifestyle Coach & Jin Shin Jyutsu

 

   

By Lisa Nainggolan
Medscape

Testosterone and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) levels have important metabolic effects that might contribute to the risk for cardiovascular disease among  men. The authors of a current study note that low serum testosterone levels are associated with increased adiposity, an adverse metabolic risk profile, and atherosclerosis. Low levels of SHBG are associated with pre-diabetes and obesity.

Cross-sectional studies suggest that adults with coronary heart disease have lower testosterone levels, but the results of prospective research evaluating the possible link between testosterone levels and cardiovascular risk are more mixed. Moreover, limited data exist regarding the role of SHBG in the development of cardiovascular disease. The current study by Ohlsson and colleagues uses data from a large cohort of older men to address these issues.

 

Study Synopsis and Perspective

A new Swedish study has shown that elderly men in the highest quartile of serum testosterone levels have around a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular events over five years compared with men in the lower three quartiles [1].

And the association remains even after adjustment for traditional cardiovascular risk factors and excluding those with cardiovascular disease at baseline, say Dr Claes Ohlsson (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and colleagues in their paper in the October 11, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Senior author Dr Asa Tivesten (University of Gothenburg) told heartwire : "This paper is an important start, because previously data have been inconsistent about whether there is an association between serum testosterone and cardiovascular events or not. We now know there is an association, but we don't know what is causing it."

(Unpublished research we had done years ago at the University of Munich, indicated that testosterone blocks the release of  the most potent endogenous vasoconstrictor endothelin from blood vessel wall cells - endothelial cells -  thus counteracting any decrease in blood vessel diameter. ra)

 Endothelin-1 in human cell line

 

Study Looked at Community-Dwelling Elderly Men

Ohlsson and colleagues analyzed baseline levels of testosterone in 2416 men aged 69 to 81 years who were participating in the prospective, population-based Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study (MrOS). They also measured SHBG and obtained cardiovascular clinical outcomes from central Swedish registries.

This paper is an important start, because previously data have been inconsistent about whether there is an association between serum testosterone and cardiovascular events or not.

Over a median of five years of follow-up, there were 485 fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events, and both total testosterone and SHBG levels were inversely associated with risk of cardiovascular events (trend over quartiles p=0.009 and p=0.012, respectively).

Tivesten said initially they used quartile 1 (ie, the lowest levels of serum testosterone) as a reference and compared events in this group with those in quartiles 2, 3, and 4. However, they saw no significant difference in the number of cardiovascular events between the first three quartiles.

But men in the highest quartile of testosterone (>550 ng/dL) had a lower risk of cardiovascular events compared with men in the lower three quartiles (hazard ratio 0.70; p=0.002). This association remained when the first 2.6 years of follow-up were excluded--in order to rule out any effect of baseline (subacute) disease--and was only slightly attenuated after adjustment for confounding factors (hazard ratio 0.77; p=0.032).

In models that included testosterone and SHBG, testosterone, but not SHBG, predicted risk.

 

More Research to Assess Risk/Benefit of Testosterone Supplements

Tivesten says that more work is required to investigate whether testosterone supplements should be used to try to prevent cardiovascular disease, because one trial using high doses of exogenous testosterone in older men has actually shown an increase in cardiovascular events.

However, what is established, she says, is that men with testosterone deficiency should receive testosterone supplementation. But there is currently a debate as to what level of testosterone represents a true deficiency, so this is a gray area, she notes.

 

References

1. Ohlsson C, Barrett-Connor E, Bhasin S, et al. High serum testosterone is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular events in elderly men. The MrOS (osteoporotic fractures in men) Study in Sweden. J Am Coll Cardiol 2011; 58:1674-1681.   

Clinical Implications

 

  • Low serum testosterone levels are associated with increased adiposity, an adverse metabolic risk profile, and atherosclerosis. Low levels of SHBG are associated with higher rates of insulin resistance and obesity.
  • The current study by Ohlsson and colleagues suggests that high serum testosterone levels are significantly protective against the risk for cardiovascular events among older men.


Thursday
Oct132011

Freud as Philosopher

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sigmund_freud_um_1905.jpg

 

 

 

 

October 9, 2011, 7:15 pm
By GORDON MARINO

Tags: Freud, Philosophy, psychoanalysis, psychology, unconscious 

 

Sigmund Freud, that seer of the psyche, taught that you could be angry and not know it. You can also be a philosopher and not know it. And Freud was just that, an unconscious philosopher of the unconscious — one who had nary a positive word to say about philosophy. Just listen to him grouse in 1933:

Philosophy is not opposed to science, it behaves itself as if it were a science, and to a certain extent it makes use of the same methods; but it parts company with science, in that it clings to the illusion that it can produce a complete and coherent picture of the universe. Its methodological error lies in the fact that it over-estimates the epistemological value of our logical operations… But philosophy has no immediate influence on the great majority of mankind; it interests only a small number even of the thin upper stratum of intellectuals, while all the rest find it beyond them. (New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, Lecture xxxv)

Still, as Philip Rieff observed in his classic 1959 book, “Freud: The Mind of the Moralist,” the father of psychoanalysis was also a moralist, and a conservative one at that — conservative in both his personal mores and in his deep seated conviction that repression and self-restraint are essential to civilization. In his science, Freud prescribed a vision of the good life and in that regard he was, for all his sneering at philosophy, a member of the Socrates guild.

Socrates’s ukase was  “know thyself.” Though it may come as a surprise to some philosophers, self-knowledge requires more than intellectual self-examination. It demands knowing something about your feelings. In my experience philosophers are, in general, not the most emotionally attuned individuals. Many are prone to treat the ebb and flow of feelings as though our passions were nothing but impediments to reason. Freud, more than the sage of Athens, grasped the moral importance of emotional self-transparency. Like the Greek tragedians but in language that did not require an ear for poetry, he reminded us of how difficult it is to own kinship with a whole range of emotions.

Freud counseled that a much neglected aspect of maturity is the ability to tolerate ambivalent feelings, to be able to eschew dividing the world into white and black hats. After the death of his father, Freud suffered from a profound depression born of torturing himself about the stew of affectionate and hostile sentiments he had towards him. But as Freud came to understand it, the emotions we feel towards those we deeply love are always a blend. And it is Stygian labor to admit the likes of disappointment and rage towards a father or mother. Sometimes, as in the case of sitting bedside at the often long and horrific fifth acts of life, it does not require a Freud to fathom the excruciating work of reconciling intensely conflicting affects.

In short, if there were one wisp of wisdom that we could pluck from the mind of Freud it might be this: those who are unaware of their feelings risk becoming puppets of those feelings.

By http://ssuunnddeeww.deviantart.com/ 


In his most openly philosophical work, “Civilization and its Discontents,” Freud maintained that our psyches are layered. As he explained it, much as Rome is built upon the ruins of past Romes, our emotions are stratified: what is past and below lives on and informs what is above, even if we refuse to acknowledge it. This law of the inner life also applies in telling ways to how we relate to so-called cold-facts.

In an article largely critical of Freud, the philosopher Jonathan Glover gleans this truth: the facts we grasp are often cherry picked by our emotions. He writes, “Knowledge of the possibility of unconscious factors distorting our view of our situation places on us a special duty of skeptical scrutiny.” [1]

Our awareness of the idea of the unconscious can help us keep a third eye on the underlying leitmotifs of our lives, lest they dominate our understanding of the world. For example, for whatever reason there are throngs of Americans who detest nothing more than the idea of someone getting something for free, especially if it might involve their tax dollars. Thus, during the recent political debates over health care and, further back, welfare reform, the attention of many was riveted on collecting and serving up instances of the tiny percentage of people who perhaps worked the system to keep from working, or to get free medical treatment — as though the shiftless few were the rule rather than the exception. Could not some of these hidebound individuals profit from considering the possibility that there might be a hefty element of selfishness and/or resentment embedded in their psychic hard-drives, and that these fractious feelings filter their understanding of the facts?

Though Freud was never given to preaching, his guidance was surely that anyone aspiring to think in a clear-headed fashion ought to strive hard to be honest about his or her emotional biases. Of course this, as Glover implies, need not entail surrendering the positions that your sentiments spell out. It does, however, involve taking care that you recognize the possibility that your commitments might not be based as much upon reason as on unacknowledged emotions and desires. No group has appropriated this fundamental Freudian point more than the advertising industry.

Philosophy embodies a love of wisdom, a knowledge of how best to live. And Freud most certainly uncovered and delivered that type of knowledge. Along with Marx, Dostoevsky and a handful of others, Freud was one of the first thinkers in the Western tradition to put conscience under such hard, honest scrutiny. Up until the 19th century, our sense of right and wrong was held to be sacrosanct, grounded in God and/or reason. Freud, however, detected that conscience is often inconsistent, irrational and sometimes plain bonkers. In the end, he believed it was frequently the magistrate on our shoulder rather than our basic drives that steers us into neurosis.

On Freud’s reckoning, hyperbolic ideals such as the prohibition of lustful feelings or of hatred towards our loved ones make for a snarling Rottweiler of a conscience, one that takes a sizable bite out of our prospects for happiness. Unlike moral rigorists such as Kant and Kierkegaard, Freud maintained that humans are born with psychological as well as physical limitations. As a result, he was intensely critical of the Christian ideal that we should not only love our neighbor but our enemies as well. In sum, the doctor prescribed calibrating our morals to our psychological abilities.

http://spmcrector.blogspot.com/2011/02/you-shall-be-holy-for-i-lord-your-god.html


Like Kierkegaard, Freud endlessly mucked around in the morass of anxiety and depression and, like those other great explorers of the mind, was often accused of being too depressing. Yet, when pressed to provide some positive vision of health, Freud more than once implied that what is fundamental to happiness is the ability to love and work; that is, to be able to invest in something other than yourself. In an age often daubed in Freudian terms as “narcissistic” and which, in part thanks to Freud, has come to deify the self, getting outside of one’s own orbit might be a wise and practical ideal.

FOOTNOTE

[1] Glover, J.  Freud, morality, and responsibility. In Philosophy and Psychoanalysis, Brian A . Farrell (ed). New York : Macmillan College Pub. Co. 1994, p. 157.

Gordon Marino is a professor of philosophy and the director of the Hong Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. He is the editor of “Ethics:The Essential Writings” (Modern Library Classics, 2010) and is currently editing “The Quotable Kierkegaard” for Princeton University Press.

http://philosophy.uchicago.edu/prospective/

Thursday
Jul282011

The Colorists - Swiss Landscape Graphics from 1766-1848

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Tobias Pfeifer-Helke with the Foundation Graphica Helvetica (editor), catalogue in collaboration with Francisca Lang and Gun-Dagmar Helke: Die Koloristen, Schweizer Landschaftsgraphik von 1766 bis 1848. Berlin/München 2011 (Deutscher Kunstverlag).

 

After the Seven Years’ War (a global military conflict between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines) Switzerland - along with Italy – began to be perceived by the contemporaries as the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. For this, the Swiss printed graphic art was of enormous importance. Prints were an agent for and multiplier of the growing enthusiasm for Switzerland and the enchantment with her landscapes. The Swiss colored prints were also an important link between the older Dutch tradition of watercolor painting and novel techniques after 1800. Travelers such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, or the Russian Tsar Paul I appreciated the immediate grasp of nature in the prints and admired the coloring technique, a novelty in the European graphics market.

 

Heinrich Rieter (born in Winterthur, 1751-1818). View of Spiez on Lake Thun. Pencil and watercolor on handmade paper, before 1790. (Tobias Pfeifer-Helke. Die Koloristen. 2011)

 

Gabriel Ludwig Lory (born in Berne, 1763-1840). Island of Schwanau in Lake Lauerzer. Colored contours etching, 1795. (Tobias Pfeifer-Helke. Die Koloristen. 2011)


Gabriel Ludwig Lory (born in Berne, 1763-1840). Lauterbrunnen valley with Jungfrau. Pencil and pen in black with watercolor. (Tobias Pfeifer-Helke. Die Koloristen. 2011)

 

Gabriel Matthias Lory (borne in Berne, 1784-1846). Santa Maria degli Angioli in Lugano. Pen in black and watercolor. (Tobias Pfeifer-Helke. Die Koloristen. 2011) 

 

Gabriel Matthias Lory (borne in Berne, 1784-1846). Matterhorn. Pencil and watercolor. (Tobias Pfeifer-Helke. Die Koloristen. 2011)

 

Peter Birmann (borne in Basel, 1758-1844). Fiumelatte on Lake Como. Pen in black and brush in brown, 1807. (Tobias Pfeifer-Helke. Die Koloristen. 2011)


Samuel Birmann (borne in Basel, 1793-1847). Aiguille Verte with Glacier des Bois and the village of Les Praz. Pencil, pen, watercolor and bodycolor, 1823. (Tobias Pfeifer-Helke. Die Koloristen. 2011)

 


Samuel Birmann (borne in Basel, 1793-1847). Lake Thun with Stockhorn and Niesen. Pencil and watercolor. (Tobias Pfeifer-Helke. Die Koloristen. 2011)

 

 

We like to invite you to the sites of unfading natural beauty in Switzerland, and to catch up with all what happened here since 1848, some of that will last too, at least for a while....  

 

Harald Naegeli (born in Zurich, 1939). Graffiti study. Spray on paper, 1993. (Gallery Kunst im West)

Monday
Jul252011

Faces from Switzerland

The Dolder Grand

Health Care &
Rejuvenation

 

PD Dr. Rainer Arendt
Internal Medicine & Cardiology FMH
Prevention & Regenerative Medicine 

Timeea-Laura Burci
Lifestyle Coach & Jin Shin Jyutsu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Melchior Imboden, Innerschweizer Gesichter. Berne 2011 (Benteli). 

 

Get real people looking at you.... 

Albertina, a countrywoman from Stansstad (Melchior Imboden).  

 

Karl, a forestry worker from Erstfeld (Melchior Imboden). 

 

Bernhard, an Älpler from Alp Eggenrüti (Melchior Imboden). 

 

 

Fritz, a shunter from Lucerne (Melchior Imboden). 

 

 Angela Rosengart, a gallery owner from Lucerne (Melchior Imboden).

 

Peter von Matt, a literature professor from Zurich (Melchior Imboden). 

 

Young girl at the International Costumes Festival in Buochs (Melchior Imboden).  

 

Flüela Hotel, Davos. Winter brochure 1920. 

 

 

Benno at the cattle market in Stans-Oberdorf (Melchior Imboden).

 

 

Pirmin at the cattle market in Stans-Oberdorf (Melchior Imboden). 

 

 

Rhybadi in Schaffhausen (Bruno and Eric Bührer, 1961). 

 

 

 Carlos, a handball player from Hergiswil (Melchior Imboden).

 

Chantal, a student from Lucerne (Melchior Imboden). 

 

Sibel, a student from Lucerne (Melchior Imboden). 

 

Elisabeth EIDENBENZ, founder of the Swiss maternity home "Mothers of Elne", Southern France, for refugees from fascism in Spain and Germany, 1937-45.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisabeth_Eidenbenz

http://www.maternitesuissedelne.com/eng/elisabeth.html

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