How would you feel if someone implanted a fake memory into your mind?
Based on surprising new research, it’s possible. Your memory is malleable and can easily be fooled into remembering something that isn’t 100 percent true.
In fact, all it takes to create a false memory is a little “help” from your friends…
Social pressure makes it easy
The study, published in Science reveals the intimate connection between memory and our social selves.
Researchers at the Weizmann Institute in Israel had volunteers watch a documentary film in small groups.
To test the volunteers’ memories, researchers invited them to come back three days later to take a test that asked them questions about the film.
In addition to answering the questions, volunteers had to indicate how confident they were in their answers. Once this data was in place, researchers had what they needed to find out how social pressure could affect memory.
Again, the volunteers were invited back to the lab to retake the same test. This time, volunteers took the test while getting a functional MRI (fMRI) scan, to see what was going on in their brains.
The test was exactly the same, but with one addition. Each question came with a “lifeline.” This lifeline was the supposed answers of the other volunteers that were in their same viewing group (researchers also included social-media style photos).
What the volunteers did NOT know, however, was that among these “lifelines” were false answers to questions the volunteers had previously answered both correctly and confidently when they first took the test.
The results of these false “implanted” memories?
Despite having been confident about their answers on the first go-around, the volunteers changed their answers to what the planted “lifelines” were… as a result giving incorrect answers almost 70 percent of the time!
But the researchers didn’t stop there…
They wanted to determine whether the volunteers were just caving in to the perceived social pressure created by the “lifelines” or whether their memory of the film actually changed.
Again, they invited the same volunteers to take the test a third time. However, this time, they were told that the “lifelines” they were given were not actual responses from their peers. Rather, they were responses randomly generated by a computer.
This change caused a change to a few of the answers to the questions, but almost 50 percent remained unchanged!
Remember, these were on questions they initially answered correctly and confidently. So it seems to suggest that all it takes to change a memory is a little bit of social pressure.
The fMRI scans revealed why.
It turns out that both the hippocampus and the amygdala work together to create the false memories.
The hippocampus is related to long-term memory formation. The amygdala deals with emotions and also plays a role in social situations. Researchers think that the amygdala might act as a doorway that connects the social and memory processing areas of our brain.
Why can we be so confident in memories that aren’t true?
Duke University Medical Center did some research in 2008 that explains why the testers in the Weizmann Institute study were so certain of their incorrect and socially “planted” answers.
The researchers at Duke gave volunteers well-established tests of memory and false memory.
These tests were done while the volunteers were in an fMRI so researchers could see the brain activity.
When it comes to retrieving a memory, two regions of your brain are simultaneously accessed – your frontal parietal lobe (FPL) and your medial temporal lobe (MTL).
It turns out the reason we can be so confident in false memories is because of our front parietal lobe (FPL).
This region of the brain gives us an impression of a memory. It doesn’t give us exact details, but rather just a “gist” of what happened. So volunteers who were confident in the false memories had stronger activation of their FPL.
Those volunteers in the study who were confident in memories that were true had more activity in their medial temporal lobe (MTL).
The MTL is the region at the base of the brain that helps you remember specifics and details. It’s what helps you remember certain colors, smells, tastes, sounds, etc.
When you’re trying to remember something that really didn’t happen, your brain can’t come up with the specifics… so it activates more of the FPL to try and give you the sense of what supposedly happened in the memory.
What happens to memory as you age?
As you get older, it becomes even easier to be confident in memories that never took place.
This is because with aging comes some mental decline. And one of the first things to go is the ability of the MTL to recall specifics.
According to Dr. Roberto Cabeza, the lead author of the Duke University study:
“Specific memories don’t last forever, but what ends up lasting are not specific details, but more general or global impressions. Past studies have shown that as normal brains age, they tend to lose the ability to recollect specifics faster than they lose the ability recall impressions. However, patients with Alzheimer’s disease tend to lose both types of memories equally, which may prove to be a tool for early diagnosis.”
Good reason to do everything you can to keep your memory sharp.
Thankfully, there ARE a few things you can do right now to slow – and sometimes even prevent – mental decline as you age:
Walk more – Part of the reason for memory decline as you age, is that the hippocampus shrinks. But a study reported at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that walking just 3 times a week for 40 minutes can expand the size of the hippocampus by almost 2 percent.  This alone can have a huge effect on keeping your mind and memory “young.”
Vinpocetine – This extract from the periwinkle plant has been used in Europe for decades to treat and help prevent dementia. It’s so effective, one study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that regular supplementation with vinpocetine helped chronic cerebral dysfunction patients improve significantly and score better on numerous mental tests. 
Blueberries – You’ve probably heard that these are great for your heart. But it turns out they’re also good for your brain. One Tufts University study suggests it can even help prevent the loss of short-term memory.  You can eat them plain or add them to your favorite cereal or oatmeal.
Folic Acid – This is one I found surprising. It’s already well-known that folic acid is good for pregnant women. But a Dutch study found that supplementing with folic acid can improve your memory. Subjects who took 800mcg daily knocked off 5.5 years their age when it came to their performance on standardized memory tests. 
Reduce Stress – This is a big one. The research  is clear that higher cortisol levels caused by stress can drastically reduce memory (both short term and long term). Our recommendation of course is to use hypnosis. The most effective program out there is created by Dr. Randy Gilchrist, you can find it below:
And please take action on some or all of the other suggestions and you won’t have to worry about whether or not that memory of yours is true or not.
And while we’re at it, I’d love to hear your experience with this. Have you ever remembered something and were 100% sure about it… only to find out later that it wasn’t true?
- Micah Edelson, Tali Sharot, Raymond J. Dolan, Yadin Dudai. Following the Crowd: Brain Substrates of Long-Term Memory Conformity. Science, 2011; 333 (6038): 108-111
- Duke University Medical Center (2007, November 8). Why False Memories Sometimes Feel Like They Are Absolutely True.
- Kirk I. Erickson,et.al “Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory,” PNAS 2011 108 (7) 3017-3022
- Balestreri, R : Fontana, L : Astengo, F,“A double-blind placebo controlled evaluation of the safety and efficacy of vinpocetine in the treatment of patients with chronic vascular senile cerebral dysfunction.”, J-Am-Geriatr-Soc. 1987 May; 35(5): 425-30
- Journal of Neuroscience, September 15, 1999, 19(18); 8114-8121.
- Durga J, van Boxtel MPJ, Schouten EG, Kok FJ, Jolles J, Katan MB, Verhoef P. Effect of 3-year folic acid supplementation on cognitive function in older adults in the FACIT trial: a randomised, double-blind, controlled trial. Lancet 2007;369:208-16.
- Newcomer JW et al. Decreased Memory Performance in Healthy Humans Induced by Stress-Level Cortisol Treatment. Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 56, no. 6, pp. 527-533, June 1999.
Chronic pain isn’t just a nag. It can make day-to-day life downright miserable.
It’s hard to focus on anything when you’re in pain. New research tells us why.
A recent study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, sheds some light on exactly what goes on in the brain while folks are in constant pain …
Can pain change the brain? If so, can the changes be reversed?
For this study, researchers recruited eighteen adult patients with chronic low back pain.
Before they were given treatment for their pain, each patient was subject to a functional MRI (fMRI).
A control group of sixteen healthy, pain-free participants was also given an fMRI.
Here’s what happened:
The first thing researchers noticed was that a prominent region in the frontal cortex – called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) – was thinner in the lower back pain group than that of the pain-free group.
Next, during the brain scan, participants were asked to perform a mental task. They had to pick out a visual target from other characters.
Both groups performed the task equally well. The major difference was that those in pain had several more brain regions that were activated, including the DLPFC.
Once the brain scan data was collected, the patients received treatment for their pain.
Six Months Later
Post-treatment, the majority of patients reported being pain free.
Researchers then gave each one a new fMRI to see what changes occurred in the brain, if any.
It turns out that the thickness of the DLPFC increased in EVERY patient who reported an improvement in his or her pain.
Then, when performing the same mental task from the first fMRI, these former pain patients showed a significant decrease in brain activation than they did while in pain.
In fact, their brain scans looked like those of the control group.
New Horizons in Pain Management?
I found this study to be very interesting for two reasons…
1. It shows us that healing the body also heals the mind (quite literally).
2. It begs the question… could a focus on changing the mind first (instead of the body through invasive surgery or drugs) eventually become the preferred method of treatment?
More research needs to be done, to be sure. I just hope it gets done quickly.
Chronic pain sufferers may be the most under serviced…and downright mistreated people being herded through the health care systems of the world.
And despite all the cutting-edge research being done, (for example, we now know that emotions have a large effect on how intensely you feel pain. As well, it’s proven that stress and anxiety can change the structure of your brain for the worse) it seems like the day where doctors will turn to the mind as the first and preferred option for pain management is still far away.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion!
There’s no doubt about it…
Our brains are powerful, efficient learning machines. Unfortunately, our ability to learn things at breakneck speeds can also be a curse.
The most recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  explains why this is true.
More importantly, it explains how habits and addictions can sometimes be nearly impossible to break free of, once we’ve been conditioned to enjoy them.
It’s All About Pleasure
You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know that we’re hard-wired to seek out and pay attention to things that are rewarding (or pleasurable).
It’s why things like food, alcohol, smoking, and gambling can become highly addictive.
Every time we partake, we get an instant reward.
But what happens when those things, that once represented a “reward,” are no longer a reward to us?
Are those things still powerful enough to get our attention – even when we’re busy paying attention to other things?
These are the questions neuroscientists at John Hopkins University set out to answer.
Subjects sat in front of a computer screen and were told to search for red or green circles. The circles themselves were scattered among numerous circles of different colors.
Each of the green or red circles was followed by a reward. For example, finding a red circle would be followed by a 10-cent reward. Finding a green circle was followed by a smaller 1-cent reward.
The participants did this task for over an hour… long enough to “wire” the brain to equate green and red with monetary rewards.
After completing this task, they were given a new assignment, which was to search for certain shapes among an array of other differing shapes. For instance, they had to find a circle among shapes like triangles, squares and stars.
In this second task, color was no longer the concern. More importantly, there was no monetary reward involved this time around.
From time to time, one of the items on the display was green or red.
When green or red items were displayed, the participants’ responses slowed down.
In fact, an overwhelming number of people in the study got distracted by the red or green objects.
This is despite the fact that they were told to completely ignore those colors… and when those red or green items were displayed, they were inconspicuous and had no relevance whatsoever to the task.
“It was clear to us that those red or green items had become valuable to the study subjects, because they were linked in their minds with a reward,” said Steve Yantis, the study’s lead author.
It Seems Rewarding Objects Can’t Be Ignored
Based on the results of this study, this holds true even when we’re consciously trying to ignore them.
It seems that once your brain has been “rewired” with the stimulus-response effect of the reward, it becomes VERY hard to suppress the desire to experience the reward again.
At least, through conscious will power.
Is it any wonder why so many people have a hell of a time trying to kick bad habits like overeating, smoking and drinking?
Consider this: did you know that certain combinations of salt, sugar and fat in food can activate the same area of the brain that cocaine does?
It affects the area of the brain that releases dopamine – the chemical messenger that makes you feel good.
With this kind of brain “rewiring” losing weight and keeping it off becomes an almost impossible task… especially if you’re trying to do it through will power and external quick fixes.
That’s why hypnosis is so powerful. It unravels your previous wiring and creates new reward associations – i.e. loving veggies, fruits and exercise. So the end result then becomes what the researchers found in this study. Instead of your mind getting distracted by something that was a “bad” reward… you’ll now find it almost impossible to ignore the “good” rewards that will get you where you want to be. .
You’re pulled to do the good things… the good habits that get you where you want to be. Best of all, you’ll have a hard time ignoring them!
Have you ever been distracted by, or found it too hard to ignore a “reward”?
I’d love to hear your stories and comments.
At least, according to a revealing long-term study by Stanford University on personality.
It started in the late 1960s at the Bing Nursery School, on the campus of Stanford University.
In total, 653 kids were individually taken into a “game room” at the nursery. The room itself was small and had a desk and chair for the child to sit at. When seated, each child was given one marshmallow.
Then, the researchers made the same offer to each kid:
- Eat the marshmallow right away.
- Wait to eat the marshmallow, while the researcher stepped out of the room. When the researcher returned, the child could then have a second marshmallow. Eating the first marshmallow, before the researcher returned, would automatically forfeit the second.
As you can imagine, most kids had trouble with this one. The video footage of the study is telling… kids closing their eyes… others intently staring at the marshmallow… some pretending it wasn’t there… yet others would play hide and seek with the desk to distract themselves until the researcher returned.
Around seventy percent of the children could not resist temptation and never got their second marshmallow. The remaining thirty percent somehow found a way to resist.
Here’s Where Things Get Really Interesting
Walter Mischel, the psychology professor at Stanford in charge of the study, followed up on the 653 kids a decade later.
He found that the kids who could not wait for the second marshmallow all seemed to have behavioral problems. They couldn’t seem to focus. They had lower S.A.T scores. They struggled emotionally and had trouble dealing with stressful situations. They also had trouble maintaining relationships.
Those who could delay gratification reported almost the exact opposite, including S.A.T scores that were 210 points higher on average.
Fast-forward another 15 years: Mischel continued his follow-up of the original participants, now in their thirties.
Again, those who couldn’t wait for the second marshmallow reported being unhappy with their lives. Many bounced from job to job. They had huge amounts of financial stress. Had trouble dealing with their emotions and achieving their goals. Had trouble maintaining relationships. Some even reported that they’d battled with drug addictions.
In comparison, the folks with self-control reported more fulfilling lives. Had their finances under control. They had satisfying careers and great, long-lasting relationships. And on average, they earned higher incomes.
So what’s the takeaway here? Delaying gratification is definitely a key to success.
Running on impulse 24/7 is a surefire recipe for disaster.
Live for the Moment?
While it certainly can be fun to just “go with the flow” and live for the moment, it is definitely a short-sighted life philosophy to live by.
Sure, there are times when you should hang loose and choose the path of instant gratification. But it should be the exception, not the rule.
As the Jesuit priest and philosopher Baltazar Gracian once said, “Let the first impulse pass. Wait for the second.”
So if you’ve been having trouble getting what you want out of life, take a hard look at yourself. Take a self-inventory and see where you’ve been choosing instant gratification versus the “right” thing to do.
For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, do you choose to eat junk food instead of what you know you should be eating? Or do you skip out on going to the gym in exchange for watching the latest reality show or hanging out with friends? You get the idea.
This awareness alone will help you develop self-control.
Learn to Change Your Focus
So exactly how did the kids who avoided temptation do it?
Simple: by changing their focus. It’s not that they somehow lost their desire for the marshmallow. They just changed their focus and “forgot” about it, until the researcher returned.
Years later, Mischel tested this theory, by recreating the experiment. Except this time, he taught the kids a simple way to change their mental focus towards the marshmallow.
The kids were told to pretend that the marshmallow wasn’t real. That it was only a picture surrounded by an imaginary frame.
This simple change in perspective dramatically increased the percentage of children who displayed self-control.
And it’s a testament to how important it is to learn how to focus your mind’s attention on what you want.
So tell me, have you ever battled with self-control? Did you find a way around it and delay instant gratification? Do you know someone who could turn his or her life for the better if he or she could just exercise a little self-control? If you do, please tell me about it in the comments below…
Most dieters will agree…
One of the hardest parts of sticking to any healthy eating plan is dealing with cravings.
That is, until now.
Losing weight has never been easier, with what some are calling the “Imagination Diet.”
As it turns out, the key to eliminating the great temptation of a craving is to eat as much of the foods you crave – in your own mental fantasy.
The researchers wanted to find out if “imagined habituation” (thinking something over and over again – kind of like a habit) could play a role in curbing appetite.
Habituation is similar to the principle of diminishing returns. For example, have you ever craved chocolate… and then caved in?
Eating one piece of chocolate tastes great and exciting; but as you continue eating more… the fourth and fifth pieces don’t have the same level of pleasure as the first. With each bite that follows, your desire for the chocolate drops. That’s habituation.
It’s why you can get “sick” of eating too much of the same food. After a while, it becomes commonplace and loses its appeal.
In order to determine exactly how the imagination can affect how much we eat, the researchers divided the subjects into two groups.
The first group was told to imagine eating 30 M&M chocolate candies and putting three quarters into a slot.
The second group was told to visualize putting 30 quarters into a slot and only eating 3 M&Ms.
Then, the team of researchers got a large bowl of M&Ms and asked the subjects to have as many as they wanted. This was done under the pretense that they were doing a “taste test.”
After the subjects ate the M&Ms, the researchers weighed the bowl to see how many grams were consumed. This was done without the subjects knowing.
The Results – Eating in Your Imagination Curbs Appetite
It turns out that eating in your mind does in fact make you eat less in the real world.
The group that imagined eating 30 M&Ms ate half as many as the group that imagined eating only 3.
And in case you think this was a fluke – it wasn’t.
The researchers tried this experiment on four more separate occasions with different groups of people.
The ratio stayed the same. Those that imagined eating more of the M&Ms ate 50% less than those who imagined eating only three candies.
According to Carey Morewedge, the lead researcher in this study, “Merely thinking of a food does increase our appetite for the food. But if we perform the mental imagery that would accompany its actual consumption, this kind of thought actually decreases our desire for the food.”
How this can Help You
This recent research confirms what we in the hypnosis community have known all along: Your mind is the most powerful ally when it comes to losing weight and getting fit.
Because imagining something in your mind creates the same physical responses in your body as if you were experiencing that thing in real life… Pretty Crazy!
So next time you find yourself craving that burger… or that piece of chocolate… imagine eating it a few times first. Then, see if you find yourself eating less when you do indulge.
Let me know what happens. I’d love to hear how this little insight works out for you.
If you’re like most folks, you know that hypnosis can be an effective tool at helping you reach a wide variety of goals.
But how powerful is hypnosis really?
A recent article in The New York Times , published April 2011, sheds some light on the subject.
According to the article, Kirsten Ritchie used hypnosis to heal herself after a MAJOR surgery.
Earlier this year, Kirsten had a plum-sized tumor removed from her brain. As you can guess, it was a pretty invasive surgery.
What surprised her neurosurgeon the most wasn’t the size of the tumor. It was Kirsten’s speedy recovery and the very little amount of medication she needed before and after the surgery.
Instead of waking up groggy and in pain after having the tumor removed, she felt “alert and awesome.” In fact, she even ate a full dinner the same night as the surgery and went home in two days.
How’d she do it?
Prior to the surgery she’d gone to four hypnosis sessions at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine. There she addressed her fear of the surgery.
In addition to that, Kirsten also practiced self-hypnosis daily.
Here’s another story about the power of hypnosis:
“I recently had elective surgery for the first time and was very nervous about it. Once I began to listen to Dr. Ginandes, I felt less anxious in general and I was able to sleep peacefully every night. When the big day came, I took my CDs with me in the waiting room – it was wonderful to be able to feel peaceful and calm during that time!
After the surgery I listened to the final session and healed so quickly that I did not even need to take any pain medication. The CDs were the most wonderful tool to get me through this stressful time – from beginning to end. I would highly recommend them to anyone going through a surgical procedure, whether it is your first time or not.”
- J. Tyler, Image Coach, Co-founder of Fabulous Over Forty
It’s no surprise here that hypnosis helped Kirsten and J. Tyler recover so quickly. After all, hypnosis has been used for more than two centuries.
In certain cases, hypnosis has been used in place of anesthesia for certain surgeries – with amazing success.
It’s why many respected hospitals, such as the Cleveland Clinic, Mount Sinai Medical Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in New York are welcoming it with open arms.
A Harvard Medical School study done in 2000* found that patients who receive hypnosis during surgery required less medication afterwards. But that’s not all – the patients had fewer complications and the procedures went faster than patients who did not receive hypnosis.
The Power of Your Unconscious Mind
If you don’t know already, your unconscious mind is pretty much “at the helm” when it comes to creating your experiences and your reality.
Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn puts it best: “Top-down processes override sensory, or bottom-up information. People think that sights, sounds and touch from the outside world constitute reality. But the brain constructs what it perceives based on past experience.”
Simply put, your reality and the way you experience it is created by your brain and the unconscious.
It’s what explains things like the placebo effect.
Dr. Amir Raz, professor of neuroscience at Columbia University, studied the nature of this very phenomenon.
His study used the Stroop effect.
Rather than go through a lengthy explanation, let’s see the Stroop effect in action right now.
You’re going to read a series of two words in just a moment. What I want you to do, is to identify (as quickly as you can) the color that the word is written in.
Here we go:
How’d you do?
If you’re like most people, it probably took you a second or two to identify the correct colors as red and blue.
The reason this is challenging – especially when you have to answer quite a few in a row – is that reading is deeply ingrained in the mind. So it might take a few seconds to identify the word GREEN (colored in red) as the color red.
Here’s how this was used in the study…
Dr. Raz split the subjects into two groups. One group was hypnotized and given the posthypnotic suggestion to see the words on the screen as gibberish. The other group was not under the influence of the posthypnotic suggestion.
The subjects entered a brain scanner, where the Stroop effect test took place. For the group who received the posthypnotic suggestion, the Stroop effect was null and void. They identified the correct colors instantly. The second group took a lot longer to identify the correct colors shown.
Dr. Raz then analyzed the brain scans and found that those under the influence of the posthypnotic suggestion had somehow shutdown the visual area of the brain that is used to identify words and language.
Use your mind to accomplish your goals
If the mind is so powerful to be able to act as an anesthetic during major surgeries… help patients heal faster, with less need for drugs… and able to shut down major areas of the brain at will… then the sky’s the limit when it comes to achieving your goals.
All it takes is giving yourself the right “programming” and overriding the beliefs that are creating limitation.
That said, I’d love to hear about your experiences with hypnosis and the results you got. Have you ever used hypnosis to help an ailment or disease? Any occasions where you used it to achieve your goals faster than you thought possible?
*Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2000 May;18(2):327-38, x. The use of hypnosis in emergency medicine. Peebles-Kleiger MJ, Menninger School of Psychiatry and Mental Health Sciences, Menninger Clinic, Topeka, KS, USA
* Raz, A., Kirsch, I., Pollard, J., & Nitkin-Kaner, Y. (2006). Suggestion reduces the Stroop Effect. Psychological Science, 17(2), 91-95
Deep down, we all know pain and love are profoundly coupled. Well, according to some Stanford researchers, it turns out pain and love overlap in the brain. And although love can hurt, it turns out love just might actually be a “pain reliever” as well.
In the brain, early stages of passionate love are similar to what drug addicts feel towards their drug of choice. In short, just thinking about the one you love kick starts activity in several regions on the brain – notably the “reward center.”
Because research has established that activation of this “reward center” reduces pain – researchers predicted people in the early stages of passionate love might experience pain reduction when the reward center was triggered by a picture of the person they were “hot” for at that time.
The study itself is sort of involved, but very cool…so bear with me for a moment and everything will become clear…
The Set Up
Stanford University chose students from its own campus, selecting 15 total (7 men, 8 women, average age of 20) who all described themselves as passionately, intensely, deeply in love.
(They had to take a test to prove their level of love, and all scored at least 90 out of 100 on a 9-point scale called the Passionate Love Scale – and all were within the first 1- 9m stage of their relationship).
Subjects brought 3 photos of their beloved, and 3 photos of a personal acquaintance that they found to be equally as attractive as their significant other (and the same sex as their significant other, too).
Because they were testing pain reduction, the researchers had to induce pain.
So, the first step was to establish a ‘moderate’ threshold of pain for each student, using an Advanced Thermal Stimulator – a small device placed into the palm that would generate heat.
Heat was generated into the palm of each student and he or she had to rate their pain on a scale of 1-10 (1 for little pain to 10 for intense pain) and say when they felt a) moderate pain, and b) significant pain.
For the group, 4 was determined to be the average ‘moderate’ pain level, and 7 was the average ‘significant’ pain level. They also established a “no pain” level with the device putting out zero heat.
Subjects were hooked up to an fMRI so researchers could observe brain activity throughout the experiment.
Three possible situations tested pain relief in relation to the following:
- Romantic partner pictures. The romantic partner baseline was established by having the individual look at pictures of their beloved and think only of that person.
- The good looking acquaintance pictures. The second situation involved looking at photos of the attractive acquaintance and thinking of that person – the acquaintance baseline. (The participant had chosen that acquaintance based on the fact that while they were equally as good looking as the beloved person, the tester claimed zero romantic attachment to the person.)
- A distraction control game. The researchers used a word manipulation game that had been previously proven to reduce pain… (For example, one question was: “name all sports played with a ball,” and the person had to list all of the sports he could think of…and yes, this technique is a common, proven tactic for reducing pain because it distracts the participant from the pain at hand).
Subjects all experienced each of the above scenarios under the conditions of no pain, moderate pain, and significant pain.
The article, printed online in October’s PLoS One, breaks down the 54 total trials clearly: “Each condition (partner, acquaintance, and distraction) by pain (none, moderate, high) combination was repeated six times, for a total of 54 randomly ordered trials.”
Viewing pictures of romantic partners and playing the word distraction game both significantly reduced pain in the participants…there was actually zero difference in the amount of pain reduction when comparing the two – both reported the pain going from 4 or 7 down to 1 or 3, respectively, on the pain scale.
However, viewing a non-romantically linked acquaintance did not reduce pain.
So distraction and love appear to be excellent pain relievers!
However, different parts of the brain were triggered to reduce pain during each situation…
During the word distraction game, the right orbitofrontal cortex was activated, which does help reduce pain in the short term.
However, looking at pictures of one’s romantic partner showed reduced BOLD (blood oxygen level dependent) activity in certain spots, which lends itself to longer lasting pain relief than the distraction tasks alone.
In sum, this study shows us that there are other cognitive, non-pharmaceutical ways to eliminate pain. This study has added both emotion- and distraction- based methods as ways of reducing pain.
The prediction here then is that the pain reduction from love is longer lasting…
Pass The Passion Phase…
One thing though, this study only examined the most passionate phase of love, the 1-9 month phase…I can’t help but wonder if the passion-reducing love has a limited time offer – can you still reduce pain by looking at your partner’s photo if you’ve been together 10 years? Or 40 years?
A study using older people would better aid the more senior population – those most often affected by chronic pain!
Regardless, this study certainly adds to the range of knowledge on pain, and we must now continue to examine the pathways of the brain linked to pain relief in order to hopefully, some day, be able to eliminate chronic pain once and for all.
Sources: Younger, Jarred, et al. October 2010.“Viewing Pictures of a Romantic Partner Reduces Experimental Pain: Involvement of Neural Reward Systems.”PLoS ONE: 5(10): online publication only.
White, Tracie. “Love Takes Up Where Pain Leaves Off, Brain Study Shows.” Inside Stanford Medicine. Stanford School of Medicine, October 2010. http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2010/october/love.html
Men apologize less because they do fewer things wrong…according to a new study, anyway!
Karina Schumann and Michael Ross from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, were determined to find out if women do, in fact, apologize more than men, and if so, why?
To answer their questions, they created two studies.
In order to find out, once and for all, if women apologize more than men, the researchers recruited 33 college students, men and women, aged 18-44, and asked them to keep a journal for 12 straight days.
In their journals, the students were supposed to write down when and if they did something that was worthy of an apology. They were also asked to keep track of when they felt someone owed them an apology for something, even if the apology was never verbally delivered.
Surprisingly, according to the study, both genders apologize at the same rate of 81% when they feel they have wronged someone.
So, why does it seem like women apologize so much more?
It is because women simply feel as if there are a lot more situations that call for an apology than men.
That math makes sense!
Study Two – Confirmation
Based on these responses, the researchers conducted a second study. They wanted to find out what types of situations are reported as offensive enough to warrant an apology in the first place.
In order to test this, over 120 undergraduates of both genders were given scenarios that might warrant an apology. Subjects were then surveyed on whether they indeed thought the situation was apology worthy.
Across the board, though we do not have the actual figures for you, women rated offenses as more severe than men. Also, women more often suggested an apology was in order for that specific offense.
Schumann concludes that because women are more emotional and nurturing by nature, the fact that they see more offenses as being worthy of an apology does make sense.
That may be the case, but more importantly, we now know the reason for lots of couple fights!
I know that knowing this earlier could have prevented some tension in my household for sure. As a man, it will be helpful to know that what I think is no big deal – just might warrant an apology. And for my wife, it might help her to know that my insensitivity is gender based.
Now this is a cop out that I can get behind!
Source: Schumann, Karina, and Michael Ross. September 2010. “Why Women Apologize More Than Men: Gender Differences in Thresholds for Perceiving Offensive Behavior.” Journal of Psychological Science.Epublication ahead of print.
Turns out, Beyonce was on to something when she declared ‘if you like it, then you should’ve put a ring on it,’ in one of her most popular songs, “Single Ladies.”
It’s true – in places where there are less women than men, men are rushing to do just that: where there are less single ladies, men are more likely to ‘put a ring on it’ when women are younger.
Operational Sex Ratio
Daniel Kruger, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, calculated the Operational Sex Ratio of the 50 biggest metropolitan areas in the United States, to figure out where ladies were represented the least.
The Operational Sex Ratio is the availability of single men to single women in a given area. A ratio of 100 in any given city would mean an equal sex ratio, while anything over 100 indicates an excess of men, and a ratio below 100 indicates an excess of women.
For example, this means if the ratio of a given city is 116, there are 16 available men to every 10 women. Score!
Kruger found that in areas with an abundance of men, women tended to get married at a younger age.
Hopefully, you’ve read previous articles we’ve written about the brain and competition! The brain tends to jump into action when a potential mate is around, and the competition gene kicks into action when someone is honing in on your territory!
This situation is no different. Men realize that because there are fewer women available in their area, they need to find an acceptable mate and cement the relationship with a ring, as soon as possible.
The Journal of Evolutionary Psychology lists the top 5 places with an abundance of men, and the top 5 with an excess of women, and we’ve reprinted them here, so don’t say we never did anything nice for you.
Top Five Areas Woman Are Scarce (and an excess of men):
(OSR:Opposite Sex Ratio; Avg. Age:Average Age Women Get Married)
1. Las Vegas, NV (OSR: 116, Avg. Age: 24.5)
2. San Diego, CA (OSR: 115, Avg. Age: 25.9)
3. Salt Lake City, UT (OSR: 113, Avg. Age: 23.2)
4. Austin, TX (OSR: 112, Avg. Age: 26.2)
5. Phoenix, AZ (OSR: 111, Avg. Age: 25)
Top Five Areas Men Are Scarce (and an excess of women):
(OSR:Opposite Sex Ratio; Avg. Age:Average Age Women Get Married)
1. Birmingham, AL (OSR: 88, Avg. Age: 26.7)
2. Memphis, TN (OSR: 88, Avg. Age: 27.2)
3. New Orleans, LA (OSR: 89, Avg. Age: 27.8)
4. Richmond, VA (OSR: 89, Avg. Age: 26.3)
5. Tie: New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC (OSR: 92, Avg. Age: 28.3, 27.9, and 27.8 respectively).
Source: Kruger, Daniel J. “Female Scarcity Reduces Women’s Marital Ages and Increases Variance in Men’s Marital Ages.” Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 2010. Volume 8, Number 3: 420-431.
Interested, aren’t you? Us, too. Anything to help get a better night’s sleep!
There is a bit of technical information here, so give us a chance to explain – and let us know if you have any unanswered questions – we always do!
Every human being’s internal clock (also known as the sleep-wake cycle) is controlled by a group of genes called clock genes.
These genes vary their activity throughout the day. They can form an ‘established’ pattern if you have a strict and consistent sleep-wake schedule, (does anyone really have this?) which drives our circadian rhythms (the 24-hour cycle).
The first clock genes were not identified until 1997, and since then, researchers have been looking for reliable ways to isolate and study the clock genes, in order to better understand the sleep-wake cycle of the human being. (This was also tested in mice.)
Why Are Clock Genes Important?
Disruption of the natural circadian rhythm can cause a bunch of health problems, including permanent jet lag, insomnia issues, and increased risk of heart diseases and stroke.
To be able to analyze the clock gene would be able to accurately treat and even prevent some of these sleep-related disorders and issues.
Initially two methods had been developed to try to isolate the clock genes, but both have proven to be unreliable, so researchers have been looking for a new method.[i]
Check Your Hairbrush
In very recent news, scientists have finally found a reliable way to isolate the clock gene, using human hair.
Apparently, if you tweeze or pluck a human hair from the scalp, the hair follicle cells that stay attached to the root are excellent samples of RNA:
“Total RNA purified from scalp hair follicle cells exhibits clearly distinguishable peaks correlating the 18S- and 28S-rRNA signals, suggesting these cells are suitable for isolation of high-quality total RNA.”(1)
Upon closer examination, the researchers isolated three clock genes that were easily readable within the hair follicle cells.
The three eligible genes are the PER3, NR1D1, and NR1D2, the only three of seven total[ii] clock genes that were found to have reliable enough markers to chart the human sleep cycle.
Only these three “met the criteria for rhythm markers of the circadian clock.”(2)
First Experiment – To Establish The Control
To make sure the hair follicle test would prove to be accurate time and time again, researchers performed a control experiment to test their initial hypothesis and ideas.
The idea was to establish a basic circadian rhythm that could be found successful in hair, with tests that could be successfully repeated.
To do this, four healthy individuals were put on a very strict eating, sleeping, and waking schedule, which acted as the “period of maintenance” to establish a set circadian pattern that would be seen in the hair, and then the testing began.
The individuals were monitored for three weeks, with hair samples being taken every four hours.[iii]
On average, it took only 10 hairs from each person to get a great sample of clock genes with accurate and consistent results. For people with thin hair, 20 strands were taken, while only 5 were taken from people with thick hair.
This is cool, too – beard hair (from men…) was also sampled, and it took only about 3 hairs to get accurate results from the facial hair cells.
In all the hair follicles of all four individuals, the circadian levels fluctuated as expected with the sleeping, eating, and waking schedule set by the researchers.
This proved that the hair follicle’s cells, with the three isolated clock genes, were a reliable way to monitor the “human peripheral circadian clock.”(3)
Over another three weeks, the scientists forced a shift in the four individual’s schedules, advancing their schedules by 4 hours over the course of three weeks.
Though the schedules had been advanced by 4 full hours, hair samples taken at the end of the three weeks revealed only a change in the cells by 2.1 hours on average.
This proves two things. First, it reiterates that hair follicle cells provide good examples of the sleep-wake cycle, and it also shows that three weeks was not enough time for the body to ‘catch-up’ and adjust to the new schedule.
The body’s internal clock simply did not match the new schedule. This puts the individual at increased risk for circadian rhythm-related disorders, like insomnia, stroke, and some heart conditions.
A second experiment was conducted as well. A group of six individuals with a schedule of rotating shifts were followed – the people worked one week from 6am-3pm, and the next week from 3pm-12am, rotating back and forth.
This group was followed for a full three weeks as well, and the researchers determined that these people stayed in a perpetual state of jet lag.
According to their clock genes, the worker’s bodies never ‘caught up’ with their new schedules. Risk of on the job errors, insomnia issues, heart and stroke issues rises considerably with this group, according to the experiments.
As with most of our articles, the conclusion here is not the results we have found so far, but the new avenues of research that can now be conducted.
It would be really interesting to follow a group of individuals until the body did ‘catch up’ with the forced shift schedule, with the evidence of the sleep-wake cycle captured by the hair test.
I wonder how long it would take the body to catch up to the 4 hour shift mentioned above – the experiment only went on for three weeks.
It will also be cool to see how scientists end up applying this new information, and what ills it can help to cure or prevent. Since this is brand new information, the possibilities are endless.
[i] The other methods tried were isolating the genes from white blood cells and mouth cells. Collecting white blood cells was invasive, costly, and the time delay from collecting to processing the cells made their readings inaccurate. Collecting tissue from the mouth to harvest RNA there has also proved unreliable because the researchers claim the samples are often fragmented, incomplete, and do not give accurate readings either. A new method was necessary to continue the research.
[ii] The others, PER2, Dbr, Bmal1, and Npas2, are not usable because they do not contain enough circadian properties to help detect nuances in the human sleep-cycle analysis.
[iii] Behavioral rhythms were monitored using a device called the Actiwatch, which measured circadian rhythms.
Source: Akshi, Makoto, et al. “Noninvasive Method for Assessing the Human Circadian Clock Using Hair Follicle Cells.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. August 24, 2010.