A little bipartisan experiment that may surprise

Posted: November 14th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Psychology | No Comments »

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-kass-13-nov13,0,2881384.column?page=2

an 8th grade girl went around wearing a mccain shirt at a predominantly obama-loving school. this shows some of what people said.

this isn’t methodologically sound, but it’s interesting nonetheless.


Nazi’s in the Military are BAD

Posted: September 1st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Psychology | No Comments »

holy crap i want to beat the shit out of all of these people.

The Dangerous Consequences of Recruiting Nazis to Serve in Iraq

By David Holthouse, Hate Watch. Posted August 29, 2008.

The U.S. military appears to be teaching a skinhead with genocide on his mind how to become a tactical bomb maker.

The racist skinhead logged on with exciting news: He’d just enlisted in the United States Army.

"Sieg Heil, I will do us proud," he wrote. It was a June 3 post to AryanWear Forum 14, a neo-Nazi online forum to which "Sobibor’s SS," who identified himself as a skinhead living in Plantersville, Ala., had belonged since early 2004. (Sobibor was a Nazi death camp in Poland during World War II).

About a month after he announced his enlistment, Sobibor’s SS bragged in another post to Forum 14 that he’d specifically requested and been assigned to MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty, 98D. MOS98D soldiers are in high demand right now. That’s because they’re specially trained in disarming Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) like the infamous roadside bombs that are killing and maiming so many U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Presumably, a part of learning how to disarm an IED is learning how to make one.

"I have my own reasons for wanting this training but in fear of the government tracing me and me loosing [sic] my clearance I can’t share them here," Sobibor’s SS informed his fellow neo-Nazis.

One of his earlier posts indicated his reasons serve a darker purpose than defending America: "Once all the Jews are gone the world will start fixing itself."

Sobibor’s SS included enough biographical details in his various posts to Forum 14 over the years, including that he’s a single father from the small town in southern Alabama, that a military investigator with access to enlistment records for recent months should have little trouble discerning whether the Army is actually teaching a skinhead with genocide on his mind how to be a tactical bomb maker.

But there’s little reason to expect that will happen.

Two years ago, the Intelligence Report revealed that alarming numbers of neo-Nazi skinheads and other white supremacist extremists were taking advantage of lowered armed services recruiting standards and lax enforcement of anti-extremist military regulations by infiltrating the U.S. armed forces in order to receive combat training and gain access to weapons and explosives.

Forty members of Congress urged then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to launch a full-scale investigation and implement a zero-tolerance policy toward white supremacists in the military. "Military extremists present an elevated threat to both their fellow service members and the public," U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, wrote in a separate open letter to Rumsfeld. "We witnessed with Timothy McVeigh that today’s racist extremist may become tomorrow’s domestic terrorist."

But neither Rumsfeld nor his successor, Robert Gates, enacted any sort of systemic investigation or crackdown. Military and Defense Department officials seem to have made no sustained effort to prevent active white supremacists from joining the armed forces, or to weed out those already in uniform.

Furthermore, new evidence is emerging that not only supports the Intelligence Report’s findings, but also indicates the problem may have worsened since the summer of 2006, as enlistment rates continued to plummet, and the military accepted an ever-lower quality of soldier in a time of unpopular war.

First of all, a new FBI report (PDF) confirms that white supremacist leaders are making a concerted effort to recruit active-duty soldiers and recent combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the unclassified FBI Intelligence Assessment, "White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel Since 9/11," which was released to law enforcement agencies nationwide: "Sensitive and reliable source reporting indicates supremacist leaders are encouraging followers who lack documented histories of neo-Nazi activity and overt racist insignia such as tattoos to infiltrate the military as ‘ghost skins,’ in order to recruit and receive training for the benefit of the extremist movement."

The FBI report details more than a dozen investigative findings and criminal cases involving Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as well as active-duty personnel engaging in extremist activity in recent years. For example, in September 2006, the leader of the Celtic Knights, a central Texas splinter faction of the Hammerskins, a national racist skinhead organization, planned to obtain firearms and explosives from an active duty Army soldier in Fort Hood, Texas. That soldier, who served in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, was a member of the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group.

"Looking ahead, current and former military personnel belonging to white supremacist extremist organizations who experience frustration at the inability of these organizations to achieve their goals may choose to found new, more operationally minded and operationally capable groups," the report concludes. "The military training veterans bring to the movement and their potential to pass this training on to others can increase the ability of lone offenders to carry out violence from the movement’s fringes."

Currently, 46 members of the white supremacist social networking website Newsaxon.com identity themselves as active-duty military personnel. Six of these individuals are members of "White Military Men," a New Saxon sub-group.

Earlier this year, the founder of White Military Men identified himself in his New Saxon account as "Lance Corporal Burton" of the 2nd Battalion Fox Company Pit 2097, from Florida, according to a master’s thesis by graduate student Matthew Kennard. Under his "About Me" section, Burton writes: "Love to shoot my M16A2 service rifle effectively at the Hachies (Iraqis)," and, "Love to watch things blow up (Hachies House)."

As part of his thesis research, Kennard, at the time a student at Columbia University’s Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, also monitored claims of active-duty military service earlier this year on the neo-Nazi online forum Blood and Honour, where "88Soldier88" posted this message on Feb. 18: "I am in the ARMY right now. I work in the Detainee Holding Area [in Iraq]. I am in this until 2013. I am in the infantry but want to go to SF [Special Forces]. Hopefully the training will prepare me for what I hope is to come."

One of the Blood and Honour members claiming to be an active-duty soldier taking part in combat operations in Iraq identified himself to Kennard as Jacob Berg. He did not disclose his rank or branch of service. "There are actually a lot more ‘skinheads,’ ‘nazis,’ white supremacists now [in the military] than there has been in a long time," Berg wrote in an E-mail exchange with Kennard. "Us racists are actually getting into the military a lot now because if we don’t every one who already is [in the military] will take pity on killing sand niggers. Yes I have killed women, yes I have killed children and yes I have killed older people. But the biggest reason I’m so proud of my kills is because by killing a brown many white people will live to see a new dawn."

The Army is currently investigating war crimes allegations leveled against Iraq combat veteran and active-duty Army soldier Kenneth Eastridge, 24, who is facing trial for the December 2007 murder of a fellow serviceman. After Eastridge was arrested for that killing, National Public Radio publicized his MySpace page, which showed Eastridge displaying a tattoo of SS lightning bolts, a common neo-Nazi insignia.

Another member of Eastridge’s company recently told Army investigators that Eastridge used a stolen AK-47 to fire indiscriminately at Iraqi civilians from his moving Humvee on the streets of Baghdad. "The military is to some extent desperate to get people to fight, soldiers who are not fit, mentally and physically sick, but they continue to send them," Eastridge’s attorney told Kennard. "Having a tattoo was the least [Eastridge’s] concerns."

As part of the research for his thesis, "The New Nazi Army: How the U.S. military is allowing the far right to join its ranks," Kennard used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain from the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division investigative reports concerning white supremacist activity in 2006 and 2007. They show that Army commanders repeatedly terminated investigations of suspected extremist activity in the military despite strong evidence it was occurring. This evidence was often provided by regional Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which are made up of FBI and state and local law enforcement officials.

For example, one CID report details a 2006 investigation of a suspected member of the Hammerskins, a multi-state racist skinhead gang, who was stationed at Fort Hood, a large Army base in central Texas. According to the report, there was "probable cause" to believe that the soldier "had participated in a white extremist meeting and also provided a military technical manual 31-210, Improvised Munitions Handbook, to the leader of a white extremist group in order to assist in the planning and execution of future attacks on various targets."

The report shows that agents only interviewed the subject once, in November 2006, before Fort Hood higher-ups called off the investigation that December.

Another report, also from 2006, covers an investigation of another Fort Hood soldier who was posting messages on Stormfront.org, a major white supremacist website. One CID investigator expresses his frustration at the muddled process for dealing with extremists. "We need to discuss the review process," he writes. "I’m not doing my job here. Needs to get fixed."

A third CID report, regarding a 2007 investigation, notes the termination of an investigation of a soldier at Fort Richardson, Alaska, who was reportedly the leader and chief recruiter for the Alaska Front, a white supremacist group. According to the report, the investigation was halted because the solider was "mobilized to Camp Shelby, MS in preparation for deployment to Iraq."


Psychedelic Therapy

Posted: July 17th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Psychology | 1 Comment »

hmmm. maybe I want to do this instead of sex therapy. or both! Very insightful article.

Emerging from the Drug War Dark Age: LSD and Other Psychedelic Medicines Make a Comeback

By Charles Shaw, AlterNet. Posted July 11, 2008.

After a 40-year moratorium, credible research for treating illnesses and addictions with psychedelic compounds has made a miraculous comeback.

The return flight from Switzerland was a mix of hope and solemnity for Rick Doblin, the only American to attend the funeral of Dr. Albert Hofmann, the inventor of LSD who had just died at the age of 102. Doblin, a Harvard-educated Ph.D and founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, an organization that conducts legal research into the healing and spiritual potentials of psychedelics and marijuana, had spent his entire career trying to break through the virtually impenetrable wall of obstinacy that surrounds psychedelic compounds and their potential benefits to society.

More than anyone else in his field, Doblin is all too familiar with what he refers to as the "40-year-long bad trip" that researchers like him have faced in dealing with the fallout from the introduction of LSD and other psychedelic compounds to the Western psyche in the mid 1960s. This 40-year intellectual Dark Age, Doblin says, has been characterized by "enormous fear and misinformation and a vested interest in exaggerated stories about drugs to keep prohibition alive."

We’ve all heard the tales of kids jumping off rooftops because they think they can fly, of otherwise normal people taking a single hit of LSD and "going insane," and of course the all-pervasive myth of the "acid flashback." Although there were acid casualties, most were rare or aberrant tragedies, most often occurring in individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions who never should have taken LSD in the first place. Most of the tales are apocryphal at best, intentional propaganda meant to discourage use.

An Era of Censorship

Why would our government embark on this 40-year Inquisition to burn the psychedelic prophets at the stake and wipe clean from the Earth the true history of psychedelic culture, as if it were the secret of the Holy Grail and the Merovingian dynasty? Why has the psychedelic revolution of the 1960s — one of the most powerful revolutions in human consciousness in all of history — been reduced to pejorative tales of tie-dyed morons skipping through Golden Gate Park in an orgy of self-indulgence? Why would something that the government claims does not deserve respectable attention be the recipient of such Draconian repressive measures? Could it be because, like the secret of Mary Magdalene, the truth could bring the whole order crashing down?

The answer, my friend, blew away in the wind. The extent to which LSD fomented the cultural revolution of the 1960s has all but disappeared in a miasma of drug war propaganda. But do not be fooled. This was no hippie-dippy bullshit. In its time, LSD was more dangerous to the ruling order than Mao, Che or the Founding Fathers themselves. As the New York Times obituary for Hofmann read, "[LSD] was no hustler from a shotgun lab in Tijuana, after all, but a bourgeois revolutionary, born into establishment medicine and able to travel the world and enter societies from the top down, through their most hallowed institutions."

The U.S. government threw everything but the kitchen sink at getting (certain) Americans to stop "turning on," launching the drug war that eventually locked up millions of drug users. They handed down ridiculously disproportionate federal sentences to LSD makers that would have made Pablo Escobar commit suicide. But it wasn’t the "turning on" part that they feared, for there are many benefits to having a population otherwise occupied in a false reality. No, it was the "tuning in" and "dropping out" part that kept them awake at night.

Although it may be difficult for the uninitiated to understand at face value, LSD and other psychedelic compounds can have a profound life-altering affect on the user that, more often than not, serves to connect them (or reconnect, as the case may be) to the universal compassion and love for life that is inherent in our species. It invariably causes them to question the validity of the status quo, to examine their life and what surrounds them in terms of beliefs and values.

And in this epoch of industrial civilization, the last thing a corporate culture that survives on war, aggression and consumer spending needs is a consciously awakened population of people who inexorably choose to leave said culture in droves because they see it is killing the planet, themselves, and each other. This is precisely, to the letter, the meaning of "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out."

But even for those who would call this hyperbole, what was lost in all the derision and urban myths about LSD and other psychedelic compounds like ayahuasca, peyote, psilocybin and iboga — plant medicines thousands of years old — was the fact that they are miraculously powerful medicines, with the ability to effectively treat, and in some cases, cure some of the most debilitating illnesses and disorders plaguing humanity: addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and migraine and cluster headaches. They are also effective palliatives for the sick and dying.

Something with such legitimate potential to heal can only be kept in the bottle for so long. In fact, these transcendent therapies are now ebbing back into mainstream respectability. Doblin will be the first to tell you that times are changing, driven by too much government repression, too much scientific orthodoxy, and, perhaps more than any other factor, our culture’s desperate need to learn how to handle what he calls our "collective emotional state."

"We talk about the veterans suffering PTSD, but it’s really a culture-wide phenomenon," he said. "We’re at a place where technology and the structure of contemporary life have taken us so far away from our emotions as to create pathological conditions. The systemic violence and selfishness and greed that are in our society need treatment."

Doblin was one of the first to break through that wall of obstinacy and challenge the Inquisition. He got the U.S. government to approve clinical trials of MDMA-assisted therapy for returning veterans and victims of violent crime or abuse who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In many ways it was this Newtonian breakthrough that finally challenged the orthodoxy that reigned over the 40-year Dark Age. Western governments had to ask themselves what was more important to them: their irrational and erroneous drug propaganda, or the possibility that the millions of lives they had devastated by war, violence and iniquitous economic policies might actually be repaired. In this, the seeds of a psychedelic renaissance were planted.

A Return to Respectability

Much greater than usual media attention accompanied the most recent World Psychedelic Forum held in March in Basel, Switzerland, the home of Albert Hofmann. A headline in the May issue of the staid British medical journal The Lancet — known for challenging the Pentagon’s Iraq casualty numbers — read, "Research on Psychedelics Moves into the Mainstream."

The Lancet article identified a number of early-stage clinical trials being conducted on various "anxiety and neurotic disorders" using psychedelic compounds. As previously mentioned, Doblin and MAPS are conducting three parallel studies in Israel, Switzerland and the United States on the use of Ecstasy for treating PTSD. MAPS has also funded the work of controversial Harvard researcher John Halpern and Yale researcher Andrew Sewell, who are studying LSD and psilocybin as treatments for cluster headaches. (Information about their research is available on clusterbusters.com and Erowid, an online clearinghouse for reliable data on virtually every psychoactive plant and chemical known to humans.)

Harvard University, which conducted the last legal research on LSD in the mid-1960s and was the site for one of Halpern’s studies on the effects of MDMA on dying cancer patients, is once again considering clinical trials to support Halpern’s research.

And in a major milestone, on May 13 of this year, Swiss doctor Peter Gasser administered the first legal dose of LSD in more than 36 years. It was for a study of anxiety in palliative care, which helps terminally ill patients transition more peacefully — and with as little pain as possible — into death.

Other complexes like addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder are being treated with what are called the "shamanic plant medicines": ayahuasca, the Amazonian vine preparation whose psychoactive component is dimethyltryptamine (DMT); peyote, the North American cactus whose psychoactive component is mescaline; and iboga, an African rainforest shrub.

Addiction is one of the most important new fields of study, not only because of the sheer numbers of afflicted, which the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates at 23.6 million persons a year at a cost of $181 billion. According to a newly released report from the World Health Organization, the United States is the world’s most addicted society. Of those who are lucky enough to get treatment, half eventually go back to heavy use, and 90 percent suffer brief or episodic relapses for the rest of their lives. This makes the search for an effective and long-lasting new treatment more attractive — and more pressing — than ever.

The Healing Potential of Psychedelics

Unlike other treatments, which have shown pitifully low success rates, psychedelic-assisted therapy focuses on the emotional context under which a patient suffers addiction, not the use of the drugs themselves. "This," says Tom Roberts, a professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University and the co-editor of a new two-volume compilation, Psychedelic Medicine, "is what makes them uniquely effective. They allow negative ideas and feelings — where most addictions have their origins — to surface into consciousness. With the guidance of a mental health professional, the person can let them go." Once these negative feelings are gone, Roberts says, the person no longer feels the need to deaden them with drugs or alcohol.

Psychedelic-assisted therapy for addiction pokes a hole in conventional wisdom about drug use, which goes something like this: If, under American law, all illegal drugs are bad for you, how can you then treat an addiction to one drug with another purportedly dangerous drug? This shortsighted line of thinking has been keeping psychedelic compounds illegal in spite of evidence pointing to their benefits.

Indigenous peoples have been using psychedelics as traditional medicine for thousands of years. Ayahuasca and peyote have been used to treat toothaches, pain in childbirth, fever, breast pain, skin diseases, rheumatism, diabetes, colds, blindness, parasites and more. They have also been used as spiritual medicines to cure emotional disorders. Native Americans use peyote to treat the astronomical rates of alcoholism found on the reservations, reportedly with great success, although hard figures are difficult to obtain due to the legal protections given to the Native American Church.

And Western scientists have known of the healing capabilities of psychedelics for decades.

In 1954 two chemists, D.W. Woolley and E. Shaw, published an article in Science magazine that argued that the neurochemical serotonin was the likely culprit behind most major mental disorders, writes Dirk Hanson in Addiction: A Search for a Cure. The worst of the bunch were depression, drug addiction and alcoholism. Woolley and Shaw also confirmed in their study that the most powerful known manipulator of serotonin was LSD because it had an "eerily" similar chemical structure.

Later in the ’50s, a well-known LSD "apostle" named Alfred Matthew "Captain Al" Hubbard started peddling the idea that LSD might hold considerable psychotherapeutic potential. With the assistance of Aldous Huxley and other prominent acid-taking intellectuals, Hubbard gave LSD to Canadian researchers Abram Hoffer, Ross Mclean, and Humphrey Osmond, who studied it as a treatment for alcoholism, while a similar study was conducted at the Stanford Research Institute.

Later, Stan Grof worked with street-level addicts while Timothy Leary conducted psilocybin therapy on prisoners. Even Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was an acid enthusiast, promoting LSD as a "gateway to an accelerated spiritual awakening." Wilson noticed that the turnaround in alcoholics did not happen until they hit bottom, and LSD, because it surfaced difficult emotions, hastened an alcoholic’s bottom and helped them avoid more catastrophic bottoms.

The therapy is reinforced through the "afterglow" effect of a "transcendent psychedelic event" (a trip), which Psychedelic Medicine says is "characterized by an elevated and energetic mood and a relative freedom from concerns of the past and from guilt and anxiety." There emerges an "enhanced disposition and capacity to enter into close relationships." The "afterglow" usually lasts anywhere from two weeks to a month and then gradually fades into a series of memories that are thought to continue affecting attitude and behavior.

All of these researchers stress that psychological professionals must guide psychedelic sessions, and that full recovery is only possible through continued therapy.

"After 40 years of review," Doblin takes great care to mention, "we can accurately say it’s not a miracle cure." Psychedelic-assisted therapy has powerful healing potential, he says, but "does not work for people who don’t really want to look at their inner conflicts." eye_mystical_is.jpg


Andrew Weil’s Wellness Diet

Posted: July 16th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Psychology | 2 Comments »

Andrew Weil is AMAZING! a badass, if you will. the first book of his I read was about developing good relationships with drugs. Wonderful. He is very well known and well respected. Anyway, here is the short run down of his wellness diet. I should be getting the book any day now (come the f on, amazon) if anybody wants to borrow it. Anyway, I find that many of these things I have already been doing. They’re easy and they make you feel so much better. Also I lost 10 pounds so far, and that’s without the exercize blitz I’m getting into now. Just from making little changes :) also, EVERYBODY COME SHOP AT THE FLEA MARKET/FARMERS MARKETS WITH ME!

http://www.drweil.com/

damn, i totally want a full set of his books.

OVERVIEW: Aim for variety, and include as much fresh food as possible in your diet. Minimize your consumption of processed and fast food. Eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and try to include carbohydrates, fat and protein in every meal. Most adults need to consume between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day. Women and smaller, less active people require fewer calories; men and larger, more active people need more calories. The distribution of calories you take in should be: 40% to 50% from carbohydrates, 30% from fat and 20% to 30% from protein.

Carbohydrates

On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, adult women should eat about 160 g to 200 g of carbohydrates daily. (Most of this should be in the form of less refined, less processed foods.)

Adult men should eat about 240 g to 300 g of carbohydrates a day.

REDUCE your consumption of foods made with wheat flour and sugar, especially bread and most packaged snack foods.

Eat more whole grains (not whole-wheat-flour products), beans, winter squashes and sweet potatoes.

Cook pasta al dente and eat it in moderation.

AVOID products made with high-fructose corn syrup.

Fat

On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, 600 calories can come from fat–that is, about 67 g. This should be in a ratio of 1:2:1 of saturated to monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fat.

REDUCE your intake of saturated fat by eating less butter, cream, cheese and other full-fat dairy products, unskinned chicken, fatty meats and products made with coconut and palm-kernel oils.

Use extra-virgin olive oil as a main cooking oil. If you want a neutral-tasting oil, use expeller-pressed organic canola oil. High-oleic versions of sunflower and safflower oil are also acceptable.

AVOID regular safflower and sunflower oils, corn oil, cottonseed oil and mixed vegetable oils.

STRICTLY AVOID margarine, vegetable shortening and all products listing them as ingredients. Strictly avoid all products made with partially hydrogenated oils of any kind.

Include in your diet avocados and nuts, especially walnuts, cashews and almonds and nut butters made from them.

For omega-3 fatty acids, eat salmon (preferably wild–fresh or frozen–or canned sockeye), sardines, herring, black cod (sablefish, butterfish), omega-3 fortified eggs, hempseeds, flaxseeds and walnuts; or take a fish-oil supplement (see next page).

Protein

On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, your daily intake of protein should be between 80 g and 120 g. Eat less protein if you have liver or kidney problems, allergies or autoimmune disease.

DECREASE your consumption of animal protein except for fish and reduced-fat dairy products.

Eat more vegetable protein, especially from beans in general and soybeans in particular.

Fiber

Try to eat 40 g of fiber a day. You can achieve this by increasing your consumption of fruit, vegetables (especially beans) and whole grains.

Ready-made cereals can be good fiber sources, but read labels to make sure they give you at least 4 g and preferably 5 g of bran per 1-oz. serving.

Phytonutrients

To get maximum natural protection against age-related diseases, eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and mushrooms.

Choose fruits and vegetables from all parts of the color spectrum, especially berries, tomatoes, orange and yellow fruits, and dark leafy greens.

Choose organic produce whenever possible. Learn which conventionally grown crops are most likely to carry pesticide residues, and avoid them.

Eat cruciferous (cabbage-family) vegetables regularly.

Include soy foods in your diet.

Drink tea instead of coffee, especially good-quality white, green or oolong tea.

If you drink alcohol, use red wine preferentially.

Enjoy plain dark chocolate (with a minimum cocoa content of 70%) in moderation.

Vitamins And Minerals

The best way to obtain all your daily vitamins, minerals and micronutrients is by eating a diet high in fresh foods, with an abundance of fruits and vegetables.

In addition, supplement your diet with this antioxidant cocktail:

Vitamin C, 200 mg a day; vitamin E, 400 IUs of natural mixed tocopherols (d-alpha-tocopherol with other tocopherols or, better, a minimum of 80 mg of natural mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols).

Selenium, 200 mcg of an organic (yeast-bound) form.

Mixed carotenoids, 10,000 IUs to 15,000 IUs daily.

In addition, take a daily multivitamin-multimineral supplement that provides at least 400 mcg of folic acid and at least 1,000 IUs of vitamin D. It should contain no iron and no preformed vitamin A (retinol).

Take supplemental calcium, preferably as calcium citrate. Women need 1,200 mg to 1,500 mg a day, depending on their dietary intake of this mineral; men should get no more than 1,200 mg of calcium a day from all sources.

Other Dietary Supplements

If you are not eating oily fish at least twice a week, take supplemental fish oil, 1 g to 2 g a day. Look for molecularly distilled products certified to be free of heavy metals and other contaminants.

Talk to your doctor about going on low-dose aspirin therapy, 1 or 2 baby aspirins (81 mg or 162 mg) a day.

If you are not regularly eating ginger and turmeric, consider taking them in supplemental form.

Add coenzyme Q-10 to your daily regimen: 60 mg to 100 mg in a soft-gel form taken with your largest meal.

If you are prone to metabolic syndrome, take alpha-lipoic acid, 100 mg to 400 mg a day.

Water

Try to take 6 to 8 glasses of pure water or drinks that are mostly water (tea, very diluted fruit juice, sparkling water with lemon) every day.

Use bottled water or get a home water purifier if your tap water tastes of chlorine or other contaminants.

For more information, see healthyaging.com and http://www.drweil.com/

oh man, there were some great pictures….check the attachment, it looked a little too creepy for this food post… weil77.jpg (37.18 K) wholehealth0602.jpg


Anarchy and Alcohol!!!!!!

Posted: May 8th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Psychology | No Comments »

so inspiring!!

http://crimethinc.com/tools/downloads/pdfs/anarchy_and_alcohol_reading.pdf

ps crimethinc.com has cheap amazing books and free pdfs like this one…or borrow mine!


Comfortably Numb: Happiness and Prescription Drugs

Posted: April 17th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Psychology | No Comments »

Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation

By Onnesha Roychoudhuri, AlterNet. Posted April 17, 2008.

Author Charles Barber discusses Americans’ unrealistic notions about happiness. We’ve medicalized a lot of life issues that aren’t mental illnesses. Tools
While we’ve now become accustomed to the barrage of prescription drug commercials on prime-time TV, it’s jarring to learn that this advertising is legal only in the United States and New Zealand. The pharmaceutical industry doesn’t just target Americans directly, but also spends roughly $25,000 per physician per year. With the aid of information from data mining companies, a pharmaceutical representative knows exactly how many prescriptions for what medication a doctor has written, allowing the industry to individually target them.

How Americans came to this fraught relationship with the pharmaceutical industry and its drugs — particularly antidepressants — is the subject of Charles Barber’s new book, Comfortably Numb. A veteran of mental health programs in homeless shelters and a lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, Barber trains his eye to the confluence of science and culture that have led to the widespread prescribing of medications once reserved for the most serious cases.

While the field of neuroscience continues to churn out new data about the way our brains work, Barber is quick to remind us how much more is yet to be understood. Barber recently spoke with AlterNet about how less sexy treatments like social interventions and therapies can be just as effective in changing the brain.

Onnesha Roychoudhuri: What led you to write the book?

Charles Barber: When I started in the mental health field in the late ’80s there wasn’t really a name for what I did. If I talked to professional, educated people, they didn’t understand psychiatric diagnoses or medications. Then, 10 years later, people were very up on diagnoses, they were sympathetic to what I was doing, and there was now a name for the field: mental health. Many of them were taking the same medications that my clients were. There was a series of events over the late ’80s and early ’90s that set all that up. The main thing being Prozac and its cousins Paxil and Zoloft, which became totally mainstream; the TV advertising of drugs in the mid-’90s, well-known figures going public with their clinical depression, and a lot of subsequent pop culture stuff: The Sopranos and A Beautiful Mind, for example. All of this brought psychiatry, particularly medications, into the fore.

OR: Can you talk about your involvement in the mental health field and what it has enabled you to observe?

CB: I fell into the field for a lot of different reasons. I worked in psychiatric homeless shelter programs for about 10 years in New York — Bellevue being the most well-known. So I was working with the really seriously mentally ill, many of whom had been in and out of prisons and state psychiatric facilities and homeless shelters. What I found was that psychiatry, at least for certain diagnoses, has confused the really serious forms of the illness with the far lesser forms. The best example is depression. Many of the folks that I worked with suffered from severe depression. I make the distinction in the book between big "D" depression and small "d" depression. In its severe forms, it’s an absolutely brutal, horrific and malevolent illness where people are at dire risk of hurting themselves.

It’s jarring to go to a cocktail party and hear people talking about being bummed out or hear that they’re going through a divorce, and their family doctor put them on an antidepressant. There has been a confusion and conflation of this diagnosis that confuses serious disorders with far lesser conditions or, in many cases, life problems. We’ve medicalized a lot of life issues that are not mental illnesses.

OR: Just to be clear, this book is not about medication as a "bad" thing.

CB: Absolutely not. I think I make clear in the book that for serious disorders, I’ve seen the medications work really, really well. However, there are often side effects that the field has overlooked and is becoming more aware of these days. And these medications still don’t work a good percentage of the time for people with serious disorders. My critique is that the further you get away from serious or moderate disorders, where you’re treating nondisorders or marginal disorders with medication, the risk/reward calculus of the medications becomes more iffy — particularly antidepressants.

When the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft and Paxil first came out, they were considered pretty much side-effect-free, largely because the previous generation of antidepressants had a lot of side effects. But in the past few years, people have become more aware that they have more side effects. These effects are seen most when people are getting on and off the drugs.

OR: You write that, in 2002, more than 11 percent of American women and five percent of American men were taking antidepressants. I was struck by the high percentages, but also the fact that more than 1 in 10 women are on these medications.

CB: Depression does affect women more than men, and the marketing has capitalized on that. So women’s magazines are a place where you see a lot of ads for antidepressants and sleep aids. The U.S. accounts for two-thirds of the market for antidepressants. I don’t think anybody knows the exact utilization figures, but the finances are largely driven by the U.S. It’s a very American phenomenon in that most of the drugs were developed here. Also an American thing is the television advertising of drugs, which is illegal everywhere in the world except for New Zealand and the U.S.

OR: Throughout the book, you connect what’s going on culturally with what’s going on scientifically. You write, for instance, that SUVs and SSRIs have similar stories.

CB: That was referencing a point that Malcolm Gladwell made in an article in the New Yorker on SUVs and how many American products have been guilty of what he calls "over-performance." In other words, what they’re maximally capable of doing is much more than we really need on a day-to-day basis. SUVs can drive you up the Himalayas, but really we just need them to go to the grocery store. The same can be said of the antidepressants. They can be wonderful for people that really need them, but they’ve been indiscriminately given out to people and the utility is arguable. It’s this very American thing of focusing on the technology and sexy high-tech solutions, and not really looking at what is really needed.

OR: You say that the drugs came along at a culturally ripe moment, at a time when we had socially and politically moved away from collectively approaching problems.

CB: The arrival of Prozac in 1988 was a perfect storm, culturally and just in terms of the drug itself. In the ’70s Valium paved the way for Prozac. It was the first psychiatric drug for anxiety that became mainstream. The earlier generation of antidepressants had a lot of side effects and could be fatal in overdose, and Prozac seemed very clean by contrast. It was the first drug that you didn’t have to be crazy to take. You could be a judge or a journalist and take Valium and obviously millions of people did. It entered the culture, from the Rolling Stones’ "Mother’s Little Helper," Valley of the Dolls to celebrities talking about their Valium use.

Culturally, the ’80s were the time when we gave up on collective enterprises of doing things. The country had experienced multiple recessions, and there was a sense that a college education really didn’t get you a good job anymore. With the Reagan revolution, it was time to straighten up and "pull up your bootstraps" and do things as individuals. I think that transferred into how we took our drugs. There’s not such a huge difference between illicit and licit drugs. In the early part of the ’60s, when there was a spiritual aspect to the drug taking, people took drugs together. One of the hallmarks of the Prozac revolution is that people take them individually, and even the treatment is individualized. It used to be that if you were taking a psychiatric drug, you were probably working with a therapist, and now the large majority of people taking psychiatric drugs are in no ongoing dialogue with a caregiver.

OR: As a contrast to the American cultural relationship to antidepressants, you talk about the sale of SSRIs in Japan.

CB: There wasn’t really a term for depression in Japan. The drug companies invented one [kokoro no kaze, or "one’s soul catching cold"]. There weren’t any sales of antidepressants in Japan until the late 1990s, because they didn’t really think that depression was that much of a problem. I’m sure people were depressed in Japan, and part of it was probably underreported, but in any case, there was a different attitude. A cultural minister in Japan said they didn’t really think of depression, in its milder forms, as anything bad. Rather, they saw it as a sign of awareness and artistic sensitivity.

The drug companies put on a brilliant advertising campaign and, sure enough, the sales of antidepressants went up five-fold in a very short time. But our American sensibility is to be uncomfortable with unhappy feelings and root them out as quickly as possible. I want to be very clear not to romanticize suffering, but there can be a utility to some difficult emotions.

The American notion of happiness is a very recent phenomenon in human history. You could argue that only since WWII and really since the ’60s and ’70s has happiness been the goal. Ironically, I think if you set happiness to be your primary goal, it tends not to work out very well. The late Canadian novelist Robertson Davies said that happiness is a byproduct, and that you become happy when you’re engaged in productive activity or when you’re in a relationship with someone you love. So this idea that we have to be happy is a highly American thing and highly problematic concept.

OR: The British health [service] recommendations reveal a pretty different relationship to depression.

CB: The clinical guidelines to the National Health Service for mild depression recommend watchful waiting, diet and exercise, self-help and counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and then if all those things don’t work, to try antidepressants. Our de facto practice in the United States is pretty much the opposite. I think a critical development that coincides with the Prozac entry into the culture is that family doctors now prescribe most antidepressants. It used to be that psychiatric drugs were primarily prescribed by psychiatrists. Family doctors just realistically aren’t going to know cognitive behavioral therapists to refer people to. Or they don’t know the research on diet and exercise on even severe depression. So, managed care is yet another factor in the move towards the quick and expedient approach, which is hastily writing antidepressant prescriptions rather than plumbing the larger issues.

OR: And you say that only 20 percent of those prescribed a medication then have a follow up.

CB: The reality is that in most cases a family doctor is writing the prescription, and maybe you’ll see them six months or a year later. In most cases, no one is really following the treatment. There are people who have difficulties going on and off the medication, and it seems to me irresponsible that there’s no regular monitoring. I would argue that psychiatrists should really be the people prescribing and monitoring, as well as therapists who will be talking to a patient about how the drugs are going and then can relay that to a doctor.

OR: In the analysis of the FDA under the Bush administration, you quote a scientist who says, "There is a remarkable amount of pressure placed on reviewers to find creative ways to approve problematic drugs." This was an eerie echo of the drive to find intelligence to justify the Iraq war. Also disconcerting was the information on the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA). Can you explain its impact?

CB: This dates to the early ’90s. Before then, the money for drug evaluation was public money. Now, about 50 percent of the money to evaluate drugs is paid for by the drug companies. In the latest iteration of PDUFA, it even called for some of the drug company money to pay for the rent at a new FDA facility in Silver Spring. The fact that the drug companies are paying the bills can affect one’s judgment. I would call for two reforms: One would be getting the drug ads off television and fully public financing of FDA drug evaluation.

OR: How successful are those TV ads in increasing demand?

CB: I think they’ve been extraordinarily effective. The evidence shows that they influence patient habits and prescribing habits. They also focus on the top 20 or so blockbuster drugs — a billion or more in sales. We all know the names of these: Nexium, Prozac, Zoloft, Lipitor. They have become household names and at times household staples. The fact that they’re advertised next to toothpaste and Chevrolet makes them seem like they’re toothpaste and Chevrolet. But drugs are powerful agents.

While illicit drug use has declined among younger people in the last 10 to 15 years, the abuse of prescription drugs has soared. Part of that is their omnipresence, and part of it is the perception of kids who grow up on these ads that make the drugs seem like toothpaste.

At a more technical level, there are studies showing that when doctors are asked for antidepressants, they’re more likely to prescribe them even if the patient isn’t genuinely depressed. The patient request makes a huge difference. The advertising of drugs is unpopular among many doctors, because they feel like patients have really incomplete and naive information about the drugs and yet put pressure on them to prescribe it.

OR: You also talk about how there is so much money going into these drugs that there is a pressure to come up with as many uses for the drug as possible. You cite the irony of Zoloft’s slogan "No. 1 for millions of reasons."

CB: Drug companies can’t advertise for diagnoses that aren’t FDA prescribed, but there has been a huge expansion of diagnosis. The first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) came out in the 1950s, and it had 50 or 60 diagnoses; the latest one has over 300. There is also off-label prescribing, which means prescribing by an individual doctor for use that’s not FDA approved. That has also gone up a lot.

OR: You also write that it seems as though diagnoses follow the pills available to treat them.

CB: Over the course of the ’90s, SSRIs were allowed to be prescribed for a number of conditions. I think at a cultural level, when Valium was king in the ’60s and ’70s, if people talked about a kind of societal disorder, it was anxiety. It was the "age of anxiety." Then, when Prozac was king in the 1990s, if people talked about a broad issue, it was depression. And so our perception of what bothers us follows the drugs that are most in currency at that time.

OR: You mention the dramatic increase of diagnoses in the DSM. Can you give some examples of what diagnoses are now included?

CB: For example, adjustment disorder is a diagnostic category in the DSM, and essentially it’s having a difficult time dealing with a major life change. There are categories such as "phase of life problem" and "sibling relational problem." These might be very painful issues, but are they mental illnesses? A hundred years ago psychiatry included a lot of treatments that were brutal, but it concentrated on serious disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression. Psychiatry has been sufficiently diluted by the expansion of diagnosis and the way that it has entered the culture, that we’ve created people with far lesser conditions and arguably no conditions whatsoever.

The great irony is that there hasn’t been much traction in people with severe mental illness — the kind of people that I’ve worked with. The rates of their retention and treatment haven’t really improved much in the last 20 years. You could argue that your chances of being in treatment go up as the severity of your condition goes down. I think there should be an emphasis, in any branch of medicine, on the most ill people first. In psychiatry, it has sort of been the opposite of that.

OR: In addition to the $22 billion that the pharmaceutical industry spends a year to market directly to doctors, I was shocked to read about the role that data mining plays in targeting doctors with marketing.

CB: The level of access struck me as remarkable. Data mining companies track individual doctors and what they’re prescribing, and then sell this information to pharmaceutical companies. They can then target doctors. Nobody knows about this, least of all the patient.

OR: We all know about the massive scope of the pharmaceutical industry and yet, despite all this money, you talk about how there haven’t been many new drugs. Rather, we’re seeing a lot of what you call "me-too" drugs that are slight variants of the same old thing. It echoes the publishing industry in terms of larger companies not wanting to take chances on anything new when they have a formula for what makes a lot of money.

CB: They call it the "pipeline problem." There haven’t been many breakthrough drugs in psychiatry. The breakthrough drug happened in the 1950s with Thorazine, and most of the anti-psychotics have been variations one way or the other on that original. It’s so expensive to develop a drug that it’s much easier and economically reasonable to just play with existing paradigms. The creativity of new drugs has come from small biotech firms and universities. The big industry has been stuck in these existing paradigms for the most part.

I think the other part of it is moving away from really severe conditions that only affect a very small portion of people. It’s more profitable to hit a larger market base with people with lesser conditions or lifestyle issues. So, some of the big drugs of recent years arguably are not really about serious disorders, they’re about lifestyle issues: Viagra, Cialis, Lipitor, and antidepressants. You’re going to hit 10 percent of the population as opposed to the 2 percent that have serious depression.

OR: Throughout the book, you talk about the irony that, in the neuro-science age, psychotherapy can now be viewed as a biological treatment along with pharmaceuticals.

CB: There are a lot of very simple, straightforward approaches to depression and anxiety that can be very effective either alongside of or apart from medications, but they’re not marketed like the medications, and they don’t sell.

In a study done in 1993 at UCLA, antidepressants were given to people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Half of the patients they gave the antidepressants to and the other half they gave cognitive therapy, which is also a proven treatment for OCD. Then they did brain scans, and they found that, in the part of the brain that is associated with OCD, the activity levels had been reduced in very similar ways. There have now been many studies using the brain technology showing that psychosocial interventions and psychotherapy are capable of changing the brain in similar and different ways as the drugs. In other words, to dismiss psychotherapy as unscientific and having no durable or easily assessable impact is no longer the case. That’s not really understood by the public and even in the field there’s still this notion of "hard science" and then the rest of the people who do this mushy headed stuff that isn’t consequential.

OR: You write extensively on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Can you give a quick explanation of what it entails?

CB: It’s usually 12 to 15 highly focused, goal-oriented sessions, in which the patient collaborates with the therapist to look at the thoughts, beliefs and attitudes behind their anxiety or depression. It has also been proven to be effective for a range of conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), insomnia and OCD. It allows the patient to analyze what the core beliefs are behind their issues and to look at ways of replacing them or examining them in a more accurate way. The founder of cognitive therapy found that there were a great deal of cognitive distortions or thinking errors associated with his depressed patients. They particularly had a very negative view of themselves, the future, and the world, but a lot of it based on erroneous perceptions: thinking that if something bad happened, it was always related to them. When it’s successful, cognitive therapy allows the patient to clear up some of those thinking errors, and that can have a direct effect on mood. It has since been generalized to many conditions and is the most empirically validated form of psychotherapy in the world.

OR: I think these notions of a "cure" are in part propagated by oversimplified science journalism. In the book, you write that "in just one edition of the Times, four articles appeared, each of which offered genetic and neurological explanations for behavior that a decade or two ago likely would have been analyzed in social or cultural terms. What’s the risk in couching these behaviors in genetic and neurological terms?

CB: In the ’90s, these terms and concepts started showing up like "hard-wired" for some behavior. Mental illnesses were thought of as the product of chemical imbalances, or that you’re genetically programmed a certain way. Those concepts have completely entered the culture, and you can’t pick up a publication without some latest genetic explanation of, for instance, schizophrenia. Writing about the science and talking to scientists, you learn that it’s more complicated that that. Genetic transmission can be heavily influenced by the environment itself, and so these cartoonish versions of what directs our behavior are facile. The best scientists are not prone to making these sweeping and simplistic judgments.

Eric Kandel, probably the most eminent psychiatrist in this country, writes a lot about the social influence on genes. This can be very dangerous to think of in such simple terms. In psychiatry in particular, it sets up this division of a house divided against itself: genes versus environment, psychotherapy versus drugs, or nature versus nurture. The sophisticated thinkers understand that these things work together in an infinite dance.

The pendulum is always swinging, and in the last 20 years or so it has been genetic focused. The leading genetic researcher on depression talks about depression being 50 percent genetic; that means it’s 50 percent environmental. But the way the studies are reported, it’s all hard wired and chemical imbalance-related. These things are just cartoons of the science. There is no clear chemical imbalance for any mental illness. There is no one to one relationship between any neurotransmitter.

OR: The research you cite in the book points to the fact that the brain has an incredible capacity to create new neural connections. At the same time, I recall that one study showed that the placebo effect has increased 7 percent each decade. This seems like a fascinating example of the power of faith in medicine.

CB: And also just the perception of psychiatric drugs having more and more entered the consciousness. Prozac is portrayed as a wonder drug, so people taking it think, wow, it has got to be doing something. It absolutely speaks to the cultural ways in which we regard science. These are incredibly influenced by the social dialogue. In the mid-’90s, the term "chemical imbalance" became en vogue. I was running facilities for people with severe mental illness, and a client would say to me, "I can’t go to my treatment program today, because I’ve got a chemical imbalance." There’s a social context to all of this that is not written about much.

Onnesha Roychoudhuri is a San Francisco-based writer and editor. She has written for AlterNet, the American Prospect, Salon, Mother Jones, Truthdig, In These Times, Huffington Post, and Women’s eNews. hear01_5depressionquestions.jpg


Moving tribute to victims of VT massacre on annive

Posted: April 16th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Psychology | No Comments »

you have to go to the link for the pictures. so sad. also good critique of the media.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chez-pazienza/virginia-tech-one-year-la_b_96961.html


Testosterone and Financial Markets?

Posted: April 15th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Psychology | No Comments »

WASHINGTON — The hormone that drives male aggression and sexual interest also seems able to boost short term success at finance. But what seems to start out well can turn bad, with elevated testosterone levels over several days possibly leading to irrational risk-taking, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge in England.

"If people want to get practical, it would be good for both banks and the financial system as a whole if we had more women and older men in the markets," said John M. Coates, lead author of a study appearing in this week’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Such a change would produce a much more stable financial system, said Coates, a research fellow in the university’s department of physiology, development and neuroscience.

Coates and Joe Herbert studied male financial traders in London, taking saliva samples in the morning and evening. They found that levels of two hormones, testosterone and cortisol, affected traders.

Those with higher levels of testosterone in the morning were more likely to make an unusually big profit that day, the researchers found.

Testosterone, best known as the male sex hormone, affects aggression, confidence and risk-taking.

Cortisol is tied to uncertainty, novelty and unpredictability, "which pretty much describes a trader’s life," Coates said in a telephone interview.

Coates and Herbert’s study comes less than two weeks after U.S. researchers reported that young men shown erotic pictures were more likely to make a larger financial gamble than if they were shown a picture of something scary, such as a snake, or something neutral, such as a stapler.

Money and women trigger the same brain area in men, those researchers said.

One member of that team, Camelia Kuhnen, an assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Finance at Northwestern University, said Coates and Herbert’s findings "are very interesting and they help support the claim that emotion influences financial decisions."

But she cautioned that the findings don’t prove a causal link between testosterone and profitability.

Kuhnen, who was not part of Coates and Herbert’s team, termed the idea that long-term high testosterone levels can lead to irrational risk-taking "an interesting hypothesis."

Coates said he worked as a Wall Street trader during the dot.com bubble in the 1990s when millions of dollars were invested in new Internet companies, many of which later collapsed.

He said trader behavior he observed didn’t make sense in terms of economic or game theory, "everyone seemed to be on a drug."

Even in airport bars the crowd would be ignoring baseball to watch and cheer financial reports on television, Coates said.

That prompted him to begin a study of the behavior, which didn’t seem to affect women.

In hormone research there is the "winner model," based on both human and animal activity, in which competitors have rising testosterone levels. When one wins, his hormone levels increase even more, while they fall in the loser.

That can give the winner an advantage in aggression and risk-taking in the next competition, a positive feedback, he explained. But after a while the effect overreaches and the male begins making stupid decisions.

"I wondered if that was what was going on in the financial markets," he said.

The London study indicated that hormone levels in the traders were both responding to financial events and influencing them.

Their conclusion:

"Cortisol is likely, therefore, to rise in a market crash and, by increasing risk aversion, to exaggerate the market’s downward movement. Testosterone, on the other hand, is likely to rise in a bubble and, by increasing risk taking, to exaggerate the market’s upward movement."

And that, Coates and Herbert wrote, "may help explain why people caught in bubbles and crashes often find it difficult to make rational choices."


Meditating Can Teach Compassion and Love?

Posted: April 7th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Psychology | No Comments »

true.

Like athletes or musicians, people who practice meditation can enhance their ability to concentrate—or even lower their blood pressure. They can also cultivate compassion, according to a new study. Specifically, concentrating on the loving kindness one feels toward one’s family (and expanding that to include strangers) physically affects brain regions that play a role in empathy.

"There is such a thing as expertise when it comes to complex emotions or emotional skills, such as the one of cultivating benevolence," says Antoine Lutz, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison who led the study. "That raises the possibility that you can train someone to cultivate this positive emotion."

Lutz and his colleagues, including neuroscientist Richard Davidson, director of the university’s Waisman Center for Brain Imaging where the study was conducted, took fMRI scans of the brains of 16 veteran meditators as well as 16 others who had started with no meditation experience but received cursory training before they carried out a series of tests. During these tests, the researchers measured the flow of blood in the brains of both the veterans (some of them Tibetan monks) and the American novices as the subjects did or did not meditate on compassionate feelings while being subjected to various sounds with positive and negative connotations.

When engaged in compassionate meditation, the brain region known as the insula burst into action when the expert meditators heard the sound of a woman in distress. (The insula—a part of the limbic system—has been associated with the visceral feeling of emotion, a key part of empathizing with another’s emotional state.)

And when these experts heard the female screams or the sound of a baby laughing, their brains showed more activity than the novices in areas like the right temporal-parietal juncture, which plays a role in understanding another’s emotion.

"The way you are going to understand the emotion of someone else is by somehow simulating, experiencing the emotion. It makes sense that we found some activation of the brain region which is critical for the experience of an emotion," Lutz says. Similarly, "sometimes you can understand someone but not necessarily experience the emotion … it makes sense that you get activation in a brain region that is more contemplative."

Although the research does not prove that compassion can be learned, it does suggest that possibility—and that could have implications for treating a range of issues. "Can this type of training be used for depression?" Lutz asks. "Another question is whether this form of mental training and empathy can have an impact for education. We don’t know yet."

The researchers have already begun a long-term study to see if and how the brain can be trained as well as to compare how different forms of meditation, such as simple concentration versus focusing on compassion, affect the brain differently. In the meantime, compassionate meditation is as simple as visualizing someone you care about, holding that feeling of loving kindness in your mind, and then extending it to others—even people you don’t like.

"It primes the mind for some form of readiness to act with compassion or loving kindness," Lutz adds. "You can build on this very basic, natural feeling that you have for close relatives and extend that to a stranger." alex_gray44.jpg


Building Self Control

Posted: April 2nd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Psychology | No Comments »

If I’ve described my honors thesis to anyone, this is the concept behind it, although for mine boys were supposed to come in and act sexually towards this attractive confederate of mine who they were teaching to play golf. Fortunately, no one sexually harrassed her. I would have been pissed!

Also Jess Sawyer worked on the radishes and cookies project. I told her to go work in Baumeisters lab haha.

Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind
comments (35)
Sign In to E-Mail or Save This
Print
Share

By SANDRA AAMODT and SAM WANG
Published: April 2, 2008
DECLINING house prices, rising job layoffs, skyrocketing oil costs and a major credit crunch have brought consumer confidence to its lowest point in five years. With a relatively long recession looking increasingly likely, many American families may be planning to tighten their belts.

Enlarge This Image

Michael Klein
Readers’ Comments
"Does this mean I can’t lose weight and save money at the same time? Darn."
Tarra Kohli, Washington, DC
Read Full Comment »
Post a Comment »
Interestingly, restraining our consumer spending, in the short term, may cause us to actually loosen the belts around our waists. What’s the connection? The brain has a limited capacity for self-regulation, so exerting willpower in one area often leads to backsliding in others. The good news, however, is that practice increases willpower capacity, so that in the long run, buying less now may improve our ability to achieve future goals — like losing those 10 pounds we gained when we weren’t out shopping.

The brain’s store of willpower is depleted when people control their thoughts, feelings or impulses, or when they modify their behavior in pursuit of goals. Psychologist Roy Baumeister and others have found that people who successfully accomplish one task requiring self-control are less persistent on a second, seemingly unrelated task.

In one pioneering study, some people were asked to eat radishes while others received freshly baked chocolate chip cookies before trying to solve an impossible puzzle. The radish-eaters abandoned the puzzle in eight minutes on average, working less than half as long as people who got cookies or those who were excused from eating radishes. Similarly, people who were asked to circle every “e” on a page of text then showed less persistence in watching a video of an unchanging table and wall.

Other activities that deplete willpower include resisting food or drink, suppressing emotional responses, restraining aggressive or sexual impulses, taking exams and trying to impress someone. Task persistence is also reduced when people are stressed or tired from exertion or lack of sleep.

What limits willpower? Some have suggested that it is blood sugar, which brain cells use as their main energy source and cannot do without for even a few minutes. Most cognitive functions are unaffected by minor blood sugar fluctuations over the course of a day, but planning and self-control are sensitive to such small changes. Exerting self-control lowers blood sugar, which reduces the capacity for further self-control. People who drink a glass of lemonade between completing one task requiring self-control and beginning a second one perform equally well on both tasks, while people who drink sugarless diet lemonade make more errors on the second task than on the first. Foods that persistently elevate blood sugar, like those containing protein or complex carbohydrates, might enhance willpower for longer periods.

In the short term, you should spend your limited willpower budget wisely. For example, if you do not want to drink too much at a party, then on the way to the festivities, you should not deplete your willpower by window shopping for items you cannot afford. Taking an alternative route to avoid passing the store would be a better strategy.

On the other hand, if you need to study for a big exam, it might be smart to let the housecleaning slide to conserve your willpower for the more important job. Similarly, it can be counterproductive to work toward multiple goals at the same time if your willpower cannot cover all the efforts that are required. Concentrating your effort on one or at most a few goals at a time increases the odds of success.

Focusing on success is important because willpower can grow in the long term. Like a muscle, willpower seems to become stronger with use. The idea of exercising willpower is seen in military boot camp, where recruits are trained to overcome one challenge after another.

In psychological studies, even something as simple as using your nondominant hand to brush your teeth for two weeks can increase willpower capacity. People who stick to an exercise program for two months report reducing their impulsive spending, junk food intake, alcohol use and smoking. They also study more, watch less television and do more housework. Other forms of willpower training, like money-management classes, work as well.

No one knows why willpower can grow with practice but it must reflect some biological change in the brain. Perhaps neurons in the frontal cortex, which is responsible for planning behavior, or in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is associated with cognitive control, use blood sugar more efficiently after repeated challenges. Or maybe one of the chemical messengers that neurons use to communicate with one another is produced in larger quantities after it has been used up repeatedly, thereby improving the brain’s willpower capacity.

Whatever the explanation, consistently doing any activity that requires self-control seems to increase willpower — and the ability to resist impulses and delay gratification is highly associated with success in life.

Sandra Aamodt, the editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience, and Sam Wang, an associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton, are the authors of “Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life.”