Archive for December, 2015

Happy New Years 2016! Now What About Those Resolutions?

December 31, 2015

If you are not already growing a growth mindset or meditating (for example, the relaxation response), the recommendation is to start.  Should your already be growing a growth mindset or meditating, then please give consideration to pursuing those activities with greater vigor.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

December 29, 2015

I titled an earlier post, “Watching Football, Feeling Guilty.”  After having viewed the movie, “Concussion,” starring Will Smith, I think that I will feel too guilty if I ever viewed football again.  “Concussion” is an outstanding move.  Will Smith is a fine actor, and the part of Dr. Bennet Heakandu Omalu allows him to show his full talent.    Dr, Omalu is an immigrant from Nigeria, a brilliant doctor, and an extremely conscientious coroner.  He performed an autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster in 2002.  Although Webster’s brain looked normal after the typical autopsy, Webster had been living out of his truck, trying to paste lost teeth back into his gums, and has been shocking himself with a taser.  He had been struggling for years with cognitive and intellectual impairment, dentition, mood disorders, depression, drug abuse, and suicide attempts, yet his autopsy did not indicate any problems with his brain.  Dr Omalu needed to use not only his initiative, but also his own money to conduct further research.  He conducted detailed tissue analysis and found the evidence of the cause of Webster’s dementia.  He did further research into likely causes.  In 2005 together with colleagues in the Department of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh. his finding were published in the journal “Neurosurgery” in an article titled “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in a National Football League Player.”  The NFL quickly started work to impugn both his integrity and his research.  Dr. Omalu persevered and published a second “Neurosurgery” paper based on his findings in the brain of former NFL player Terry Long, who suffered from depression and committed surgery in 2005.  Although long died at 45 he had a brain more characteristic of a 90 year old with advanced Alzheimer’s.

Evidence continued to accumulate.  After seven years refusing to recognize the legitimacy of Dr. Omalu’s research, the NFL finally acknowledged the link between concussions sustained in football and CTE.  In 2012 some four thousand NFL players “joined civil lawsuits against the league, seeking damages over the League’s failure to protect players from concussions, according to Judy Battista of the New York Times.”

In 2015 a final settlement was reached between players in the NFL in the case adjudicated by Judge Brody.  The NFL will make payments for $75 million for “baseline medical exams” for retired players, $10 million dollars for research and education, as well an uncapped amount for retirees “who can demonstrate that they suffer from one of the several brain conditions covered by the agreement,” will total payments expected to exceed $1 billion dollars over 65 years.

So the NFL regards the problem as a cost of doing business.  The have established a concussion protocol, whereby players who have suffered a concussion are allowed back into the game.  From games I have watched and read about, it seems that this protocol is administered inconsistently.  It is also believed to be the case that concussions are not a necessary condition for CTE.  Consistent pounding of the brain can have deleterious effects on the brain.

I read a review of the movie in Deadpan, “How Sony Changed Concussion to Make the NFL (Or Their Lawyers)  Happy.  Although I do not deny that the NFL was able to negotiate changes in the script, having viewed the movie I cannot believe that either the NFL or its lawyers happy.  The NFL comes across as a ruthless entity, oblivious to the damages being wreaked on its participants, interested only in money, and having no regard for the truth.  The agreements they eventually did agree to were forced upon them by the strength of the evidence.

Earlier diagnostic techniques, and treatments are being researched.  Perhaps changes in equipment or the rules of the game can mitigate the problem.  I am particularly interested in the effects this movie will have on the public.  It is well done and highly moving.  How many people, if any, will be like me and swear off the sport as a viewer.  There are already some professional players who are retiring early and an unknown number who might be reconsidering pursuing football as a sport.  Of particular interest are parents, who might not regard playing football as a risk their children should undertaken.  Young brains are especially vulnerable.

We seem to forget the purpose of athletics, namely as activities to make us healthier.  It’s perverse when the opposite results.  This goes beyond football.  I’ve known runners who have injured themselves  who continue to run knowing that they are putting their well being at risk.  It is easy to find many such examples.

Dr. Omalu continues his research.  He has discovered CTE in the brains of war veterans.  Oman has written a paper linking Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the CTE spectrum of diseases.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What Are the Consequences of Having Only Half a Brain?

December 28, 2015

We actually have the answer to this question as the result of the unfortunate circumstance in which a young girl found herself (this can be found in Eagleman’s “The Brain”).  As a result of the damaging consequences from a disease she was suffering, it was necessary to remove an entire half of her brain.   And what were the consequences from this surgery,  She is weak on one side of her body, but otherwise she’s essentially indistinguishable from other children.  She has no problems understanding language, music, math, and stories.  She’s good in school and participates in sports.

When I was a graduate student I remember reading a study about a man who has a result of hydrocephalus had only 10% of the volume of a normal cortex.  Nevertheless, he not only was able to lead a normal life, but earned an bachelor’s degree in mathematics.  Should anyone no a reference for this study, please comment.  It was in the early 1970s and in the journal Science, I believe.

Then there is the research described in the books by Doidge (enter Doidge in this blog’s search block).  Neuroplasticity as reflected in the brain’s ability to heal itself is truly phenomenal.  There are frequent mentions of individuals whose autopsies indicated that they had the defining neurofibril tangles and amyloid plaque that defines Alzheimer’s, yet never exhibited any symptoms or cognitive deficits of the disease.  This finding has been accounted for by saying that these individuals had a cognitive reserve that overcame these potential debilitating characteristics.  So the recommendation of the healthy memory blog is to undertake a lifestyle that not only prevents Alzheimer’s, but also leads to a more satisfying life.

It seems that most of the research on Alzheimer’s is aimed at detecting the plaque or tangles early, identify relevant genes, sor in slowing the growth of these features.  I would appreciate some work that attempts to capitalize on the brain’s neuroplasticity.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Notes on “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age”

December 26, 2015

“Reclaiming Conversation” is a book by Sherry Turkle.  She focuses on smartphones in particular.  As a matter of personal edification, and as the user of a dumb cell phone I  found this book valuable in understanding the popularity of smartphone and texting.  There are several reasons I do not use a smartphone.  I find the screen size much to small.  I require much more context in what I view.  I also need a conventional keyboard, those on smartphones are much too small.  Similarly I refuse to text and do not read texts.  I also find that smartphones add to an already existing information overload.  Consequently, I do not like interruptions and live in a world where timeliness will not suffer if I wait until a time when I am free to devote full attention to messages and material which is important to process.  Having read Turkle’s book, I have no desire for a smartphone, and should I ever purchase a smartphone, I’ll use it sparingly.

I’ve long been baffled trying to understand why people text when it is so much easier to talk.  Most teenagers send around 100 texts per day, so there must be some reason this is so popular.  Apparently, there is a sense of control when one texts.  One can read what one has written before it is sent, and once it is sent, one can wait to see if and who, if anyone responds.  So many feel that texting provides a sense of control that they feel is important.

In addition to needing to feel in control, there also seems to be a compulsion to be connected.  According to Turkle, 44% of users never turn off their phones.  Although I understand the data indicating that people feel a need to be connected most of the time, I still fail to see why they feel this necessity.  The healthy memory blog has written posts about FACEBOOK and Dunbar’s number.  See the healthy memory blog post “How Many Friends is Too Many.”  Dunbar is an evolutionary biologist who calculated the maximum number of relationships our brain can keep track of at one time to be 150.  Before smartphones Dunbar estimated that there are about five people who are close and who we speak with frequently, and  about 100 acquaintances we speak with about once a year.  With the exception of the 150 number, which is a biological constraint, the other numbers have apparently gone up drastically since the advent of the cell phone.  Friendship requires an investment of time.  We can only afford a limited number of good friends.  A large number of friends implies a large number of superficial relationships.  It appears that in the smartphone era, quantity is valued over quality.

There also appears to be an aversion to solitude.  An experiment was run in which participants were asked to sit by themselves for fifteen minutes.  They were provided a device which they could use to shock themselves, although all the participants indicated that they would not use the device.  Nevertheless, many of the participants shocked themselves after only six minutes.  I find this result extremely depressing, to think that people would find solitude that they chose to give themselves an aversive shock to cope with loneliness.  Solitude is important for both personal and intellectual development.  We need to spend time with ourselves.

One researcher reports a 40% loss of empathy in the past 20 years.  The healthy memory blog post “A Single Shifting Mega-Organism noted that throughout our lives our brain circuitry decodes the emotions of others based on extremely subtle facial cues.  Geoff Colvin and many others regard empathy as a uniquely human skill that will prevent computers from pushing humans out of the job market.  Well, empathy apps are being developed.  But empathy is developed best during conversations with our fellow humans.  This excessive use of smartphones are inhibiting, if not precluding this development.

Smartphone use implies multitasking, and whenever we multitask the performance on component tasks declines.  If you do not believe this, then read the 18 healthy memory blog posts on the topic.  The use of smartphones during classes detracts from the lecture or the topic being discussed.  Were I still teaching I would not allow the use of smartphones during classes.

There is a chapter on smartphones and romance that I found extremely depressing.  Most of the time I am envious of the young in this digital age, but not in the case of romance.  In short, smartphones take the romance out of romance.

I disagree with what Turkle writes about Massively Online Open Courses.  She puts conversations against  these courses and ignores the genuine benefits of these courses.  First of all, a Massively Online Open Course does not preclude conversations.  Secondly, conversations, as important as they are, need not be a necessary component of all courses.

At the end of the book Turtle writes about humanoid robots and robotic pets.  I did not see the relevance of these topics to the central thesis regarding conversations.

So having stated the problem, what can be done about it.

First of all, having recognized the costs of multi-tasking and do a cost benefit analysis of where smartphone use is appropriate.  Then establish rules or guidelines.

It is noted that many employees of social media companies make it a point to send their children to technology free schools.  And there is the following quotation from Steve Jobs biographer.  “Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and variety of things.  No one ever pulled out an iPAD or computer.  He did not encourage his own children’s use of iPADS or iPHONES.

“Restoring Conversations” is extensively documented.  Touching them takes you to the notes.  Unfortunately, there is no DONE enabling an easy return to the text.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How to Develop a Healthy Memory

December 22, 2015

I get the sense that many who read the healthy memory blog are disappointed that advice is not provided on exactly what to do for a healthy memory.   If a vaccine to either prevent or cure Alzheimer’s and dementia is not in the offing, what specifically should they do.  Is there a diet that will save them?  Will physical exercise suffice, and if so, how much?  What online games do they need to play or what specific cognitive exercises need to be done and for how long?

Hints to some of these question can be found, but no definitive answers.  The reason that no definitive answers can be found is that there are no definitive answers.  The two big themes of this blog are to develop growth mindsets and to practice meditation.  Although diet and physical exercise do play a role, growth mindsets and meditation are key in my view.  The healthy memory blog presents many ideas as to how to pursue growth mindsets and meditation, as well as posts that are provided to help one think about different ideas.

No guarantees can be provided that dementia cannot be prevented.  But I strongly believe that not only reading, but pursuing some of the ideas in the healthy memory blog will greatly reduce one’s risks.  They also provide some guidance on leading a more satisfactory life.  Accordingly, the healthy memory blog should be of interest to people of all ages.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Benefits of Turning Right

December 21, 2015

Astute readers might well question what this post has to do with a healthy memory.  Having a blog offers one certain liberties for venting on certain topics.  One of my pet peeves is being stuck behind a driver making a left turn.  I wonder if the driver has actually though through his destination, and if there is not a better route turning right.

While reading “Why the Net Matters” I encountered a study done by UPS.  Having their riders take efficient routes saves money for the company, so they have done detailed studies and developed algorithms to guide their drivings into take the most efficient routes.

The finding that caught my eye is that in the case of left turns time is lost waiting for traffic to pass.  Not only time is lost, but fuel is wasted.  What the research found is that one left turn is as costly as three right turns.

I am not asking you to weight making right turns more heavily just to mitigate my personal aggravation, but to save time and fuel costs for yourself.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cultivating & Effectively Exploiting Human Capital

December 19, 2015

My favorite chapter in “Why the Net Matters” is Chapter 6, Cultivating Human Capital.  Regular readers might recognize this as one of my favorite topics.  Human Capital refers to knowledge and know-how, which is key to the success of any country.  The chapter begins by discussing the benefits of crowd sourcing.  For example, fold.it tackles the computationally difficult problem of protein folding by turning it into a game played by thousands.  CSTART.org, which stands for Collaborative Space Travel and Research Team is an open-source development to get a manned craft to the moon.  CSTART is a non-government, non-profit, collaborative space agency with the mission of “space exploration, by anyone, for anyone.

There are so many resources on the net for cultivating human capital.  There is the Wikipedia.  There is MIT’s open courseware that is open to any self-learner.  Rice University launched Connexions (cnx.org), which features 17,000 modules woven into 1,000 collections for levels from children to professionals, in fields ranging from electrical engineering to psychology.  Also there is Khan Academy.  By no means is this an exhaustive list.

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are being made available through many universities.  Although courses are usually free, there is the matter of getting credit for successfully completed courses.  These issues are being worked out.  However, sometimes it is better to audit a course first, before taking it for credit.  I had a friend who did this for his Calculus courses.  He would first audit course, and then take it for credit.  He earned straight As in these courses.

Of course, education is appreciated most by those who are growth minded.  In the lingo of the health memory blog, this is transactive memory, which is knowledge available via technology and fellow humans.

It can be argued that we are much better at cultivating human capital than at exploiting human capital.  Although crowd sourcing is a good example of effectively exploiting human capital, I spent my career with the privilege of working with brilliant individuals, yet this talent was not effectively exploited and frequently ignored.  Bureaucracies in both government and in private companies stifle this human capital.  Management does not appreciate, and sometimes cannot appreciate, this potential, so it remains unexploited.  Bureaucracies excel at growing themselves rather than understanding and making use of effective human capital.  Bureaucracies also adversely impact the cultivation of human capital.    I’ve heard the argument, and I believe this argument, that a factor bearing a significant impact on the ridiculously increased costs  of higher education is the growth of unnecessary bureaucracy.  Bureaucracies need to be studied and changed so that their goal is the cultivation and exploitation of human capital rather than the growth of the bureaucracy.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Review of Why the Net Matters

December 17, 2015

The full title is “Why the Net Matters:  Six Easy Ways to Avert the Collapse of Civilization,” by David Eagleman.  This book is recommended to all who have growth mindsets.  It provides a good vehicle for growing one’s mind.  The healthy memory blog has had a variety of posts on technology, the potential it offers, and possible threats it potentially portends.  Eaglemen poses the question, “Why Do Civilizations Collapse/“, and discusses six reasons previous civilizations have collapsed.

Epidemics have wiped out some civilizations.

Knowledge has been destroyed.  He cites the burning of the Library of Alexandria, which at the time was the sole repository of available knowledge.  The writings of the Mayans were destroyed by the colonizing Spaniards.  Many other examples are provided.

Natural disasters in the form of wind, water, fire, and quakes have toppled carefully built civilizations in a day.

Tyrants have destroyed civilizations and have stunted the development of their own civilizations.

The necessary resources required to sustain a population are not met.  Eagleman notes that these are not mutually exclusive causes.  Frequently different causes interact to wipe out the civilization.

Anthropologist Joseph Tainter suggests that societies fail because they do not change their fixed designs for solving problems.  Arnold Toynbee noted that civilizations find problems that they cannot solve.  In other words, the societies collapse due to insufficient human capital.

Eagleman argues that the net provides the basis for avoiding all these causes of the collapse of previous civilizations.  No guarantees are provided, and unless the net is used to advance, these causes can reoccur.  Moreover, he does identify new threats.

He discusses four ways that the net can go down.

The first is through cyberwarfare, a threat with which we all are aware.

The second is by cutting cables.  He identified cases of cable cutting of which I had be entirely unaware.

The third is by political mandate.  In other words, governments shut down the net.

The fourth is via space weather.  Satellites have been disabled via solar flares, but the threat goes beyond satellites.  When a massive solar flare erupts on the sun, it can cause geomagnetic storms on earth.  The Carrington flare, which occurred in 1859 sent telegraph wires across Europe and American into a sparking, frizzing frenzy.  It boggles the imagination to consider the damage that would occur were such a flare to occur today.  Theoretically, a major solar event could melt down the whole net.

Eagleman proposes a seed vault for the net.  There is a Global Seed Vault in Svalband, Norway.  It holds duplicate samples of seeds held in gene banks worldwide.  If a nuclear winter were to wipe out all the crops on the planet, future generations could reboot the agricultural systems.  Eagleman proposes a similar vault for the net.

In short, this is a good read for a growth mindset.

Ann Applebaum’s Column on Facebook

December 14, 2015

The title of her column was Undoing Facebook’s damage.  Anyone who has read any of my sixteen previous posts about Facebook should be aware that I am not a fan.  However, I must applaud Mark Zukerberg and his wife on their pledge to give away $45 billion dollars.  Nevertheless, I also applaud Anne Applebaum for her column.  Here is her advice “…use it to undo the terrible damage done by Facebook and other forms of social media to democratic debate and civilized discussion all over the world.”  She goes on to say that weak democracies suffer the most.  Given the extensive damage done in the USA, that is an extraordinary amount of damage.  Just let me cite one example, the conversion of Moslems to radical jihadism.  This is a problem most acutely felt by Moslems, in general, and by the parents of those converted, in particular.

Of course, this was not Zukerberg’s intention. Rather it is an unintended and rather extreme consequence.   Applebaum goes on to write, “The longer-term impact of disinformation is profound:  Eventually it means that nobody believes anything.”

Readers of the healthy memory blog should be aware that it is extremely difficult to disabuse people of their false beliefs.  Moreover there are organizations who produce false information.   This has become an activity with its own name, agnogenesis.

So an activity is needed to counter agnognesis. Disagnogensis?  Please help, Mr. Zukerberg.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One’s Negative View of Aging Increases Alzheimer’s Risk

December 11, 2015

An Article by Tara Bahrampour in the December 8 Washington Post summarizes two articles in the Journal Psychology and Aging.  This research shows that people who have negative beliefs about aging are more likely to have brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s.  They found that the volume of the hippocampus, measured by an MRI exam declined by three times as much among those who hold negative stereotypes about aging when compared with those who do not.  The hippocampus is a structure in the brain which is critical for memory.

The research participants were interviewed about their views on aging long  before the onset of dementia.  Here are some of the examples of the stereotypes believed by these individuals:
Old people are absent minded.
Old people are grouchy.
Old people can’t learn new things.

Readers of the healthy memory blog should be well aware that these stereotypes are false.  Readers of the healthy memory blog should also be well aware that one’s attitude is key in thwarting Alzheimer’s.  Remember the distinction between fixed and growth mindsets.  People having the above beliefs obviously have fixed mindsets.  However, those with growth mindsets would strongly disagree with these sentiments.  And those who are growing their growth mindsets would be even less prone to Alzheimer’s.

These articles also indicated that individuals holding these views showed symptoms of stress.  Stress can be reduced by practicing the Relaxation Response.

So beware of and debunk these negative views of aging.

You might want to read or reread the following healthy memory blogs:

The Myth of Alzheimer’s

The Myth of Cognitive Decline

I’m also reminded of a remark I overheard at work.  A man, who was apparently about to retire said, “When I retire I am going to to nothing—absolutely nothing.   If there are nothing but Lucy reruns on TV, then I’ll watch I Love Lucy.

Unfortunately, this man is a prime candidate for Alzheimer’s.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cognitive Benefits of the Relaxation Response and Mindfulness

December 8, 2015

It is not surprising that Dr. Benson, being a physician, focuses on the medical benefits of the relaxation response.  However, it is important to note that the relaxation response is important for cognition and memory health (See the healthy memory blog post “Keys to a Healthy Memory:  Growth Mindsets and Mindfulness”).

Key to the relaxation response is that it helps us to take control of our attention.  Regular readers of the healthy memory blog should be aware that attention is key to getting information into long term memory.  Very often when we cannot remember something, it is because we did not adequately attend to it in the first place.  Concentration and the ability to focus is central to effective thinking. Our attentional resources are both limited and precious, so we cannot afford not to use them efficiently.  Meditation helps us to control our attentional resources.  They are especially important to  controlling the executive functioning of our brains.  When we are stressed, worried or upset, we lose control of our attentional resources.  Before responding in any situation it is important to remember the acronym STOP, which stands for

S – Stop. Simply pause from what you are doing.
T –Take a few slow, deep, breaths with awareness and tune in.
O – Observe and curiously notice your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
P – Proceed with whatever you were doing with awareness and kindness.

Effective cognitive functioning also fosters good interpersonal relations.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cancer and the Genetic Horizons of Mind Body Treatment

December 5, 2015

This title is the same as the title of Chapter 8 in the “Relaxation Revolution” by Benson and Proctor.  This research is in an early stage.  They used the data from the experiment reported in the immediately preceding healthy memory blog post, “The Genetic Breakthrough—Your Ultimate Mind Body Connection.”  The data from this study was compared with cancer databases compiled  by the Broad Institute  of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Weitzman Institute of Science in Israel.  These databases identify cancer gene “signatures” or “sets,” which are associated with groups of gene activity of different cancer patients.  Specifically, they assessed whether gene sets in the relaxation response subjects might correlate with cancer-associated gene sets in cancer patients.

The results were presented at the Society for Integrative Oncology, 6th International Conference in 2009.  The findings were highly encouraging for future research and possible medical treatment.  They found that the gene set expression in the long-term relaxation response practitioners in their study was counter to the gene expression in the following cancers:  lymphoma (follicular and B cell lymphoma), neuro tumors (central nervous system and glioma), liver, leukemia), multiple myeloma, B cell chronic lymphoblastic leukemia, and another form of leukemia.  The results from the long-term practitioners showed gene set expression that was in the same direction as, or consistent with, the expression found in certain anticancer therapies.

The results were also encouraging for the short-term trainees who had started with no background in mind body techniques, but who had been instructed in Phase One relaxation response.  Their relaxation response gene set expression signatures countered or opposed the gene signatures for such cancer as neuro tumors, multiple myeloma, and leukemia.

Do not forget that the relaxation response is helpful in dealing with stress in general.  So to the extent cancer or cancer treatments produce stress, the relaxation response is helpful in dealing with that stress.

Unfortunately, I do not know how far research has advanced since the publication of this book.  Anyone who can provide information or sources,  please provide comments.

The Genetic Breakthrough—Your Ultimate Mind Body Connection

December 2, 2015

This is the title of the second chapter from the “Relaxation Revolution” by Benson and Proctor.  Lamarkian transmission, the notion that experience could be passed on to offspring because genes would be changed  was long ago debunked.  However, recent research has revealed that although genes cannot be changed, due to epigenetics the read out from genes can be changed.  The following experiment demonstrated how the relaxation response or meditation can modify the read out from genes to the good.

The experiment involved 38 individuals. Nineteen were practitioners of techniques that invoked the relaxation response.  The average amount of experience was 9.8 years of practice.  These nineteen individuals were matched as closely as possible with nineteen individuals who had no experience with the relaxation response.  The latest microarray analysis was used to check the activity of all of the 54,000 genes in each of the research participants.  2,209 genes in the experienced practitioners group were expressed differently than the same genes in the inexperienced participants.  The genes that acted differently have been associated with stress related medical problems, including unhealthful regulation of immune responses; various forms of inflammation;premature aging, including thinning of the cortex of the brain; and other health conditions that may involve oxidative stress.

Next eight weeks were set aside to teach the non-practioners  how to enter the relaxation response state.  They were guided through a 20-minute relaxation response experience using the Olivia audio disk, a 20-minute CD.  After the eight weeks of training, blood was drawn and gene expression was measured again.

There were three sets of measurement
The experienced practitioner group
The non-practitioners before relaxation response training
The non-practitioners after relaxation response training.

They found that 433 gene expression signatures were similar in both groups.  It is remarkable that in only eight weeks of training differences were found in so many gene signatures.

This is a remarkable finding that the mind can not only affect the body, but it can also affect epigenetics, the expression of genes.

This experiment can be found in the following article:

Dusek, J.A., H.H. Otto, A.L. Wohlhueter, M. Bhasin, L.F. Zerbini, M.G. Joseph, H. Benson, aand T.A. Libermann, “Genomic Counter-Stress Changes Induced by the Relaxation Response.”  PLoS ONE, Jul., 2008, 3(7): e2576.  http://www.plosone.org.

The Olivia CD can be obtained by going to http://www.massgeneral.org/bhi and clicking on meditation CDs.