May 14, 2014
“The findings are the first to show that inducing brain waves of a specific frequency produces lucid dreaming.”
From: HuffingtonPost.com. By Sharon Begley.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nighttime dreams in which you show up at work naked, encounter an ax-wielding psychopath or experience other tribulations may become a thing of the past thanks to a discovery reported on Sunday.
Applying electrical current to the brain, according to a study published online in Nature Neuroscience, induces "lucid dreaming," in which the dreamer is aware that he is dreaming and can often gain control of the ongoing plot.
The findings are the first to show that inducing brain waves of a specific frequency produces lucid dreaming.
For the study, scientists led by psychologist Ursula Voss of J.W. Goethe-University in Frankfurt, Germany, built on lab studies in which research volunteers in the REM (rapid-eye movement) stage of sleep experienced a lucid dream, as they reported when they awoke. Electroencephalograms showed that those dreams were accompanied by telltale electrical activity called gamma waves.
Those brain-waves are related to executive functions such as higher-order thinking, as well as awareness of one's mental state. But they are almost unheard of in REM sleep.
Voss and her colleagues therefore asked, if gamma waves occur naturally during lucid dreaming, what would happen if they induced a current with the same frequency as gamma waves in dreaming brains?
When they did, via electrodes on the scalp in a technique called transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), the 27 volunteers reported that they were aware that they were dreaming. The volunteers were also able to control the dream plot by, say, throwing some clothes on their dream self before going to work. They also felt as if their dream self was a third party whom they were merely observing.
Voss does not foresee a commercial market in lucid-dreaming machines. Devices currently sold "do not work well," she said in an interview, and those that deliver electrical stimulation to the brain, like the one in her study, "should always be monitored by a physician."
But if the results hold up, the technique might help people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, who often have terrifying dreams in which they re-play the traumatic experience. If they can dream lucidly, they might be able to bring about a different outcome, such as turning down a different street than the one with the roadside bomb or ducking into a restaurant before the rapist attacks them.
"By learning how to control the dream and distance oneself from the dream," Voss said, PTSD patients could reduce the emotional impact and begin to recover.
Image source unknown.
May 08, 2014
There are no secrets in the nonlocal domain, as the remote viewing research, also with odds of better than one in a billion, repeatedly makes clear.
From: Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, “From One to the Many: The Social Implications of Nonlocal Perception.”
By Stephan A. Schwartz
Alexandra, a 22-year-old college student who recently graduated with a degree in psychology, was a summer intern at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. There she met Dean Radin, an experimental psychologist and chief scientist at the Institute. When he told her what he was working on in the lab, she volunteered to participate. Now she sat in his lab in Petaluma, California, staring at a computer monitor. Most of the time there would be nothing, but randomly, pictures would appear for a moment. As Alexandra stared at the monitor, Radin had rigged a macro video camera looking back at her, which was focused on the iris of her eye. Not always, but to a highly significant degree, just before a picture appeared on the monitor, her iris would dilate. And the degree of dilation correlated with the emotional content, the numinosity, of the picture. Violence or sex, not surprisingly, produced the largest effect. Just to be clear: her body responded to something before it happened. She had a presentiment. As Radin and his co-investigator Ana Borges state, “These studies, which replicate conceptual similar experiments, suggest that sometimes seers do see the future. This implies that developing comprehensive models of anticipatory behavior, from understanding the nature of intuition to the placebo effect, may require consideration of transtemporal and teleological factors.”1
Dutch mathematician and consciousness researcher Eva Lohbach, at the University of Amsterdam, has examined the several dozen presentiment articles already published in the peer-reviewed literature. These are studies conducted by multiple researchers working at different institutions at labs across the world. She has, in my view, reached the correct conclusion dictated by the data.
“Past and present research has shown that emotionally arousing stimuli, visual or auditory, produce stronger anticipatory effects than more neutral ones. The most important physiological measures used in presentiment studies are heartrate, EEG, fMRI (BOLD signal), and electrodermal activity (EDA). So far, all of these have shown evidence of presentiment, so the whole body appears to be involved. Women appear to be somewhat more sensitive to presentiment than men. Effects of meditation are mixed.”2
In all these studies, the mind–body connection is expressed psychophysically, the response anticipated before there is any cognitive engagement. This is presentiment at the individual level. But I think the data is telling us something else as well: There is another dimension, the individual reaction expressed collectively. This effect is social.
Roger Nelson, an experimentalist psychologist and the Lab Manager for almost the entire history of the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) group has worked on this issue for years. The principal research vector for the PEAR lab was nonlocal perturbation, consciousness directly affecting time–space. Across several decades of research, individuals would be asked to affect the performance of random event generators (REGS). These instruments were constructed with great sophistication to assure their random performance. Yet, human intention could make them go non-random. Nelson was part of the research team in a dozen such studies. Taken as a whole, they demonstrate that the focused intention of ordinary people can do this, and the odds across the PEAR database once again are better than one in a billion.
"The evidence suggests an emerging noosphere, or the unifying field of consciousness described by sages in all cultures. Coherent consciousness creates order in the world.”
While still at Princeton, Nelson asked the following: Could this individual effect produce an objectively verifiable collective expression? To answer that question, he created the Global Consciousness Project (GCP), which has run continuously now for over a decade. The study design is quite straightforward: Is it possible that a mass of people having an individual but linked experience could have an effect on a constantly running coordinated planet-wide network of computer-linked REGS? A measure of consciousness linked nonlocally expressing itself as social awareness. Something like the world׳s reaction to the death of Princess Diana in a car accident, or the Japanese tsunami of 2011? I want to go into this in some depth because as hard as it is for many to imagine presentiment in an individual, it is that much harder again for some to see the logical extension, that there is social linkage.
Nelson describes it this way: “Subtle interactions link us with each other and the Earth. When human consciousness becomes coherent and synchronized, the behavior of random systems may change. Quantum event-based random number generators (RNGs) produce completely unpredictable sequences of zeroes and ones. But when a great event synchronizes the feelings of millions of people, our network of RNGs becomes subtly structured. The probability is less than one in a billion that the effect is due to chance. The evidence suggests an emerging noosphere, or the unifying field of consciousness described by sages in all cultures. Coherent consciousness creates order in the world.”3, 4
The GCP data is cumulative and publicly available.5 It lists hundreds of events in which a hypothesis predicting an event has been advanced and the subsequent results: Significant, Predicted Direction, Opposite, and Opposite and Significant. As I write, the most recent event that stands out is the death of Nelson Mandela. The data records the timeframe, the hypothesis source, the number of REGs recording it, the Z-score, and the probability. For Mandella, that was: 20131205, many people hypothesize, 45 REGs reporting, a Z-score of 2.238 and a probability of 0.013. From the GCP website, as I write, “The two following figures represent the history of our formal hypothesis testing. The first shows the Z-scores for more than 459 formally specified events in an ordinary scatterplot. While there is a noticeable positive bias, it is not easy to see its significance. Yet the odds against chance of this meanshift over a database this size are about a hundred billion to one.”
...If your body had a psychophysical linkage presentiment response that a catastrophe was coming, how would you internalize that? How would it manifest? Stress and fear surely. One might not know the source; it would register in your consciousness as just an existential fear. How would that consciousness enter into one׳s life? And, if many people felt it, what would be its social manifestation?
...The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure deep within the temporal lobe. In every species that has an amygdala, including ourselves, it has the same function. It is activated during periods of fear, stress, or a threat, and with sufficient stress it takes over. It is an heroic response, an attempt to save your life from a perceived threat. This activation overrides rational thought. What matters socially is that this response turns out to be highly political. Researchers at the University College London show “greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala.”7 The amygdala is an ancient brain structure, which is activated during states of fear and anxiety.
The researchers also found that “greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex”—a region in the brain that is believed to help people manage complexity. The study also reported that conservatives׳ brains had smaller anterior cingulates—the part of the brain responsible for courage and optimism.8 This is neuroscience as politics. And we need to understand it more clearly because it is shaping our world. Neurologist Geraint Rees makes the point: “It is very significant because it does suggest there is something about political attitudes that are either encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that our brain structure in some way determines or results in our political attitudes.”9
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there.” ~ Rumi
...So where does that leave us? First, that all consciousness is interdependent and interconnected. Second, the fear that is so much a part of American culture today may be arising from precognitive awareness, a presentiment with psycho-neurological consequences that in turn has political and social consequences. Third, that this fear response affects a significant percentage of our population.
If we are to successfully navigate the world that is developing we must find a way to reduce fear. The world looks different when you see humanity as living in the Earth, not on the Earth, and embedded in the planet׳s biosphere, in a matrix of consciousness from the smallest single-celled organism to high-order mammals, like ourselves. It is within this matrix that through intentioned focused awareness we may be able to achieve what facts and logic cannot. It is a strategy of beingness.
This is not for the faint of heart. Larry Dossey, the Executive Editor of Explore in his latest book, One Mind,11 puts it very succinctly:
“The concept of One Mind is a dimension in which you and I meet.”
To which I would add “in naked awareness” a very Buddhist concept. There are no secrets in the nonlocal domain, as the remote viewing research, also with odds of better than one in a billion, repeatedly makes clear. 12 I think that is one of the reasons there is so much resistance in some quarters to accepting nonlocal consciousness, and the linkage of all life, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that it is so.
May 01, 2014
For the first time, astronomers were able to see a string of hot gas known as a filament that is thought to be part of the mysterious underlying structure that dictates the layout of all the stars and galaxies in our universe.
For the first time, astronomers were able to see a string of hot gas known as a filament that is thought to be part of the mysterious underlying structure that dictates the layout of all the stars and galaxies in our universe.
Scientists believe that matter in the universe is arranged into a gigantic web-like structure. This is called the cosmic web.
There are signatures of this structure in the remaining radiation from the Big Bang and in the layout of the universe itself. Without some mysterious force pulling visible matter into this web, galaxies would be randomly scattered across the universe. But they aren't.
We can see that galaxies are found in groups and those groups come together in larger clusters.
Computer models tell us that those galaxy clusters are linked by long filaments of hot gas and dark matter — a mystery substance that we can't see because it doesn't radiate or scatter light but that makes up most of the web.
It's believed that gas and dark matter flow along the filaments to form clumps of galaxies where the strands intersect. So filaments are important because they represent what the universe looks like on a large scale. The problem is that, even though we should technically be able to see hot gas filaments, they are really hard to detect.
To find this strand of gas, astronomers where able to take advantage of an extremely bright mass of energy and light known as a quasar.
What they were able to see is a cloud of gas extending two million light years across intergalactic space — the largest ever found. And it wasn't just a diffuse cloud...
The light from a quasar located 10 billion light-years-away acted like a "flashlight" to make the surrounding gas glow, researchers report Jan. 19 in the journal Nature. This boosted the Lyman alpha radiation that hydrogen gas emits to detectable levels over a huge swath of the region.
The researchers were able to figure out the wavelength of the Lyman alpha radiation emitted by the gas and used the Keck telescope in Hawaii to get an image at that wavelength.
What they were able to see is a cloud of gas extending two million light years across intergalactic space — the largest ever found. And it wasn't just a diffuse cloud, there are areas where there is more gas and areas of darker, emptier space. The gas-filled areas are filament, while the emptier areas are the gaps between filaments and galaxy clusters.
"This is a very exceptional object," first author Sebastiano Cantalupo, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Santa Cruz said in a statement. "It's huge, at least twice as large as any nebula detected before, and it extends well beyond the galactic environment of the quasar."
Researchers think that the gas filament is even more extended since they only see the part that is illuminated by the radiation from the quasar.
The research still "provides a terrific insight into the overall structure of our universe," co-author J. Xavier Prochaska, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz said in statement, since the "quasar is illuminating diffuse gas on scales well beyond any we've seen before, giving us the first picture of extended gas between galaxies."
April 15, 2014
Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
From The Huffington Post. By Dr Michelle K. Nielsen
We've all heard of the placebo affect, but what exactly is it and why does it work?
Can our beliefs really change our health, our brain or perhaps our whole reality?
These are certainly interesting questions to ponder.
So what exactly is the "placebo effect"?
Put simply, it is when you are literally tricked into healing yourself. In the gold standard of scientific testing (the double blind randomized control study) patients are divided into 2 groups. One group takes the "real medicine" and the other group (known as the placebo or control group) takes a "sugar pill" which does not contain any pharmacological or chemical agents.
In many cases, people in the control group (who are convinced that they are taking the real pill) get better. In fact, across the board, the placebo has an overall 15% success rate! That's pretty impressive, considering that a 2007 article in the British Medical Journal's "Clinical Evidence" found that after reviewing over 2,500 medical treatments, many reported a mere 13 % success rate. (BMJ, 2007).
The placebo effect is no small or insignificant statistical aberration. In fact, it has been estimated that the placebo cure rate ranges from a low of 15 percent to a high of 72 percent. Additionally, the longer the period of treatment and the more visits to the physician, the greater the placebo effect. In other words, as the patient's belief of the treatment grows, the effectiveness of the "fake treatment" increases as well.
Finally, the placebo effect is not restricted to subjective self-reports of pain, mood, or attitude. Physical changes are real and can be documented. For example, there's a striking new study that's a real game changer. It shows that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients were able to dramatically improve their symptoms by taking placebos-- even though they knew full well that the medication they were given was a placebo, not an active drug. Our brains and bodies are our own biological pharmacy that can mimic the drugs we take on a daily basis. There's evidence to prove it.
Belief can be so strong that pharmaceutical companies not only use double- blind, but also sometimes triple-blind randomized studies to try to exclude the power of the mind over the body when evaluating new drugs.
The nice thing about the placebo is that it doesn't cost anything and doesn't come with any harmful side effect....Perhaps our thoughts are more powerful that we realize.
Your brain is an amazing processing unit, controlling and co-ordinating the 7 trillion cells in your body into a symphony of well-coordinated activity. When your body is balanced and in equilibrium, it is a self-regulating and self-healing mechanism. The placebo effect shows us that a strong belief or faith can initiate this natural healing response, known as the innate intelligence of your body.
In his book, You are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter, Dr. Joe Dispenza explores the history and the physiology of the placebo effect as he asks the question:
Is it possible to teach the principles of the placebo, and without relying on any external substance, produce the same internal changes in a person's health and ultimately in his or her life?- Dr. Joe Dispenza
He answers this question with the techniques layed out in his book, and then he shares scientific evidence (including color brain scans) of amazing healings from people who made a concerted effort to change their beliefs and successfully "thought themselves back to health."
Many techniques are discussed, including meditation. Like hypnosis, meditation is a way to bypass the critical mind and move into the subconscious. The whole purpose of meditation is to take your attention off your outer world, your body, and time--and to pay attention to your inner world of thoughts and feelings. In terms of the placebo effect, it takes a similar high degree of suggestibility to be greater than the body and greater than the environment for an extended period of time--that is, to accept, believe, and surrender to the idea of your inner world being more real than your outer world.
Truly intriguing stuff!
The placebo effect will continue to fascinate scientists and patients for years to come and makes for an interesting area of study. The nice thing about the placebo is that it doesn't cost anything and doesn't come with any harmful side effect.
Perhaps our thoughts are more powerful that we realize.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi:
Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.
April 07, 2014
Brain regions activated by the out-of-body experience include the supplementary motor area, the cerebellum, the supramarginal gyrus, the inferior temporal gyrus, the middle and superior orbitofrontal gyri.
It may sound like the plot of the Twilight Zone, but a psychology graduate student at the University of Ottawa says she can voluntarily enter an out-of-body experience. This was a lucky break for scientists, who were able to scan her brain during the episode.
A unique experience
The study — which only involved this one person — was published Feb. 10 in the journal Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, a peer-reviewed open access publication. The researchers are members of the School Of Psychology at the University of Ottawa.
According to the paper, this woman enters her out-of-body state right before sleeping, visualizing herself from above. She started doing so during naptime in preschool, they write. She currently only does it sometimes.
The researchers wrote in the paper:
She was able to see herself rotating in the air above her body, lying flat, and rolling along with the horizontal plane. She reported sometimes watching herself move from above but remained aware of her unmoving "real" body...
She told the researchers:
I feel myself moving, or, more accurately, can make myself feel as if I am moving. I know perfectly well that I am not actually moving. There is no duality of body and mind when this happens, not really. In fact, I am hyper-sensitive to my body at that point, because I am concentrating so hard on the sensation of moving. I am the one moving – me – my body. For example, if I ‘spin’ for long enough, I get dizzy. I do not see myself above my body. Rather, my whole body has moved up. I feel it as being above where I know it actually is. I usually also picture myself as moving up in my mind’s eye, but the mind is not substantive. It does not move unless the body does.
The brain out of the body
The researchers did a fMRI before and after asking her to enter her out-of-body state to find out what that looked like in the brain. They compared these to when she was imagining, but not actually entering, the state.
Interestingly, the pathway that seemed to be activated during her out-of-body experience is also involved in the mental representation of movements.
She didn't have any specific emotions surrounding this experience, and it seems to be a kind of hallucination she can turn on at will.
Even if there is no soul stuck in our bodies, this woman isn't making this up. There's obviously something happening in her brain that is making her experience the world in a different way — but researchers can't yet say exactly what it is. Plus, this study was about one woman's out-of-body experience, not all out-of-body experiences.
Still, the changes they observed could be similar to how the brain can be trained using meditation. The researchers even suggested that this could be something many kids can do, but that with practice could be carried into adulthood.
Interestingly, the researchers suggested that this kind of experience may be much more common than we thought. The woman in question actually "appeared surprised that not everyone could experience this," the researchers wrote....
March 26, 2014
Gravitational waves detected in the aftermath of the Big Bang suggest one universe just might not be enough.
This illustration depicts a main membrane out of which individual universes arise; they then expand in size through time. Image credit: Moonrunner Design.
From National Geographic Daily News
By Dan Vergano
Bored with your old dimensions—up and down, right and left, and back and forth? So tiresome. Take heart, folks. The latest news from Big Bang cosmologists offers us some relief from our humdrum four-dimensional universe.
Gravitational waves rippling through the aftermath of the cosmic fireball, physicists suggest, point to us inhabiting a multiverse, a universe filled with many universes. (See: "Big Bang's 'Smoking Gun' Confirms Early Universe's Exponential Growth.")
That's because those gravitational wave results point to a particularly prolific and potent kind of "inflation" of the early universe, an exponential expansion of the dimensions of space to many times the size of our own cosmos in the first fraction of a second of the Big Bang, some 13.82 billion years ago.
"In most models, if you have inflation, then you have a multiverse," said Stanford physicist Andrei Linde. Linde, one of cosmological inflation's inventors, spoke on Monday at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics event where the BICEP2 astrophysics team unveiled the gravitational wave results.
Essentially, in the models favored by the BICEP2 team's observations, the process that inflates a universe looks just too potent to happen only once; rather, once a Big Bang starts, the process would happen repeatedly and in multiple ways. (Learn more about how universes form in "Cosmic Dawn" on the National Geographic website.)
"A multiverse offers one good possible explanation for a lot of the unique observations we have made about our universe," says MIT physicist Alan Guth, who first wrote about inflation theory in 1980. "Life being here, for example."
The Big Bang and inflation make the universe look like the ultimate free lunch, Guth has suggested, where we have received something for nothing.
But Linde takes this even further, suggesting the universe is a smorgasbord stuffed with every possible free lunch imaginable.
That means every kind of cosmos is out there in the aftermath of the Big Bang, from our familiar universe chock full of stars and planets to extravaganzas that encompass many more dimensions, but are devoid of such mundane things as atoms or photons of light.
In this multiverse spawned by "chaotic" inflation, the Big Bang is just a starting point, giving rise to multiple universes (including ours) separated by unimaginable gulfs of distance. How far does the multiverse stretch? Perhaps to infinity, suggests MIT physicist Max Tegmark, writing for Scientific American.
That means that spread across space at distances far larger than the roughly 92 billion light-year width of the universe that we can observe, other universes reside, some with many more dimensions and different physical properties and trajectories. (While the light from the most distant stuff we can see started out around 14 billion light-years away, the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, stretching the boundaries of the observable universe since then.)
"I'm a fan of the multiverse, but I wouldn't claim it is true," says Guth. Nevertheless, he adds, a multiverse explains a lot of things that now confuse cosmologists about our universe.
For example, there is the 1998 discovery that galaxies in our universe seem to be spreading apart at an accelerating rate, when their mutual gravitational attraction should be slowing them down. This discovery, which garnered the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics, is generally thought to imply the existence of a "dark energy" that counteracts gravity on cosmic scales. Its nature is a profound mystery. About the only thing we understand about dark energy, physicists such as Michael Turner of the University of Chicago have long said, is its name.
"There is a tremendous mismatch between what we calculate [dark energy] ought to be and what we observe," Guth says. According to quantum theory, subatomic particles are constantly popping into existence and vanishing again in the vacuum of space, which should endow it with energy—but that vacuum energy, according to theoretical calculations, would be 120 orders of magnitude (a 1 followed by 120 zeroes) too large to explain the galaxy observations. The discrepancy has been a great source of embarrassment to physicists.
A multiverse could wipe the cosmic egg off their faces. On the bell curve of all possible universes spawned by inflation, our universe might just happen to be one of the few universes in which the dark energy is relatively lame. In others, the antigravity force might conform to physicists' expectations and be strong enough to rip all matter apart.
A multiverse might also explain away another embarrassment: the number of dimensions predicted by modern "superstring" theory. String theory describes subatomic particles as being composed of tiny strings of energy, but it requires there to be 11 dimensions instead of the four we actually observe. Maybe it's just describing all possible universes instead of our own. (It suggests there could be a staggeringly large number of possibilities—a 1 with 500 zeroes after it.)
Join the "multiverse club," Linde wrote in a March 9 review of inflationary cosmology, and what looks like a series of mathematical embarrassments disappears in a cloud of explanation. In a multiverse, there can be more things dreamt of in physicists' philosophy than happen to be found in our sad little heaven and earth.
Life, the Universe, and Everything
The multiverse may even help explain one of the more vexing paradoxes about our world, sometimes called the "anthropic" principle: the fact that we are here to observe it.
To cosmologists, our universe looks disturbingly fine-tuned for life. Without its Goldilocks-perfect alignment of the physical constants—everything from the strength of the force attaching electrons to atoms to the relative weakness of gravity—planets and suns, biochemistry, and life itself would be impossible. Atoms wouldn't stick together in a universe with more than four dimensions, Guth notes.
If ours was the only cosmos spawned by a Big Bang, these life-friendly properties would seem impossibly unlikely. But in a multiverse containing zillions of universes, a small number of life-friendly ones would arise by chance—and we could just happen to reside in one of them.
"Life may have formed in the small number of vacua where it was possible, in a multiverse," says Guth. "That's why we are seeing what we are seeing. Not because we are special, but because we can."
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