This article is the final article of the 7-part series on “The Ever-Adapting Brain”!
In the last few years Buddhist monks and clinical psychologists, neuroscientists and meditators alike, have come together in agreement about the transformational power of certain ways of thinking. In what has been a literal east/west “meeting of the minds,” a fifteen-year study connected countless wires to the brains of thousands of eastern and western subjects in all stages of activity. The state of mind achieved during meditation can now be described as “high-amplitude gamma-band oscillations and phase synchrony at between 25 and 42 hertz” – a state of mind shown to produce wellness and to heal. These scientifically-defined “mindful states” have been defined and identified by MRIs, brain scans, and neuro-imaging techniques. “Mindful states” have been shown to rewire neural circuitry, create lasting anatomical changes in the brain, reduce stress, improve bodily health, change perceptions, and facilitate focus, learning, and memory. The New York Times, Times Magazine, and Scientific American magazine have featured cover stories about the growing popularity and applications of “mindfulness.”
Nothing moves on heaven nor earth but that thinking makes it so.
Rather than charter the next yak for a trek up the Himalayas, convert to Buddhism, or enlist in cognitive therapy westerners wanting to eliminate self-destructive habits can opt for any number of hi-tech shortcuts. Currently, neurologists and psychologists employ techniques like Neurotherapy, EEG Biofeedback (EEGBF), Brainwave Synchronization,
Brain Entrainment,and Binaural Beats that bypass mindfulness altogether. Such treatments have been used successfully to treat ailments such as alcoholism, depression, ADHD, and anxiety disorders.
Mindful patterns of brain waves can also be reached the old-fashioned way – through mindful meditations, or active meditations (such as trance dancing in Bali or Whirling Dervish dancing still practiced by Sufis in Turkey). Brain wave treatments, dervish dancing, religious meditation, mindful meditation, and transcendental meditation (TM) all strive for the same patterns of mindful oscillations and synchrony.
“Mindfulness,” however, requires no wires and no dancing to produce its“high-amplitude gamma-band oscillations and phase synchrony at between 25 and 42 hertz,” the brain waves that are most effective in opening the mind to new patterns of thinking and behavior. By learning to alter our brain waves we subconsciously “learn to learn,” broaden our perceptions and lessen expectations and judgment, better balance our internal physiologies, and so, avoid disease (or dis- ease). Our learned states of mind are the overlords of unconscious healing, and sometimes harming of the body.
Regardless of which method we use and what psychological benefits result,“mindful states” produce a bumper crop of stem cells in the hippocampus, the nursery school for neurons. We can train the mind to change its electrical activity and thus, its gross anatomy, and even increase the production of its stem cells.
Most recently, researchers at Ohio State have grown a rudimentary human brain in a petri dish – from human skin cells converted to pluripotent stem cells.
After reprogramming these pluripotent stem cells into brain stem cells and providing the right environment the newly engineered cells self-replicate by the trillions while self-organizing into a rudimentary brain “organoid” resembling the brain of a five-week-old fetus. In real life, brain stem cells have refined the process, differentiating, dividing, and completely organizing themselves from the first stages of life to the last. Once organized and developed into neurons they combine their efforts with synergy and awareness as the mind, while directing healing of the body.
Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed by drives.
Viktor E. Frankl