Epigenetics Might Help Us Predict How the Brain Responds to Threats

If you could predict how well your clients might be able to deal with stress, just based on a blood or saliva sample, would that change your treatment approach? There’s a specific gene that’s been getting a lot of attention lately because it affects how the brain processes serotonin – a chemical created inside the body believed to be responsible for maintaining mood balance. The serotonin transporter gene codes for a molecule that regulates the amount of serotonin signaling between brain cells, and it’s a key target for the treatment of mood disorders. It’s also well known for its involvement…

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Brain Science and Meditation: How to Improve the Brain

Stress is no joke. Aside from the sleepless nights and lots of tension, stress can also have a range of negative health effects. So how do you reduce stress? A team of researchers at the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine started looking for answers. They gathered 18 patients who had received a diagnosis of breast cancer but were not in active treatment. Arguing that this was a population of people who were under high stress, researchers randomly assigned the patients to two different groups. One group received a mindfulness-based art therapy course, while the other received an education program…

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How Mindfulness Works to Help the Brain Manage Pain

Can meditation help you feel less pain? What if one week of short meditation classes could change the way your brain perceives pain? Fadel Zeidan, PhD, and his colleagues at Wake Forest University wanted to find out how mindfulness meditation affects pain reception. Specifically, they looked at the areas of the brain responsible for constructing the experience of pain, such as the prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and anterior insula. Researchers performed MRI exams on 18 subjects while they applied a series of neutral and painful stimuli. They then asked subjects to focus on the sensations of their breath while…

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A Better Night’s Sleep with Mindfulness

One of the problems with antidepressants is that they sometimes don’t work. Though many people try, it can be difficult to treat depression with antidepressants alone. And the side effects, like fatigue, anxiety, loss of libido, and sleep disturbance, can be frustrating. Dr. Willoughby Britton and her research team at the University of Arizona wanted to find out whether mindfulness could help with sleep disturbance – one of the most common side effects of antidepressants. Researchers randomly assigned 23 participants, all of whom were taking antidepressant medications, to one of two interventions. Some received a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy course while…

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Do Your Wandering Thoughts Make You Unhappy? You’re Not Alone

Everywhere I go, I see people glued to their phones – almost obsessed. And you might say, why not? Phones these days can do everything – take photos, store games and books, keep our calendars . . . even help us chart our happiness. Yes, I did say chart our happiness. This app is one that I had first heard of in a Science article. Matthew Killingsworth, a PhD student in Dr. Dan Gilbert’s psychology lab at Harvard, created a smartphone app that allows you to track how happy you are at various times. You register on his site and…

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How to Flip an “Insult” on Its Head

During a week’s-end meeting just before the 4th of July holiday, I realized something . . . . . . everyone present was a woman. Now I think we have a pretty diverse team here at NICABM, but in that moment, all of the guys were out of the office. And as I looked around, it reinforced something that I have always believed in and really, known – girls are every bit as capable, creative, and valuable as their male counterparts. So I thought it was fitting that, this week, I came across a video with exactly this sentiment. It’s…

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