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What is Mindfulness? How Mindfulness Resets Your Genes

How Mindfulness Resets Your Genes
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Mind Over Matter

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself – any direction you choose.” – Dr. Suess

After millions of years of natural selection, most of the epigenome that we inherit is beneficial and works well for us most of the time. To eliminate both that inheritance that does not suit us, and those epigenetic alterations that we’ve picked up within our own lifetimes, long-term mindfulness can change our patterns of brain waves – and gradually de-methylate our epigenomes. Cognitive therapy, that produces new ways of thinking produces can have similar effects upon epigenetic methylations.

One drug that removes methyl groups from histone proteins, Trichostatin A, has been shown to erase behavioral deficits in young rats. Self-destructive and anti-social behaviors produced early on by neglectful mothers are completely reversed by Trichostatin A. This drug that de-methylates, also inhibits the proliferation of eight types of breast cancer!

In human children excess methyl groups on chromosomes, or hypermethylation, has also been shown to result from abused childhoods. Excess methyl groups affect thinking, leading to increased incidence of suicide. The tipping point to curing many adverse behaviors and deadly ways of thinking appears to reside in histone protein modifications that come into our lives before we’re born, but are also generated by experiences or toxins. Chemically removing such methyl groups may not only cure cancer, but can reboot the brain.

Genetically identical twins raised in the same households share some traits but develop increasingly different and individual personalities. We decide, we direct our minds in certain directions. As we do, we can modify our epigenomes. With a steadfast belief in an outcome, we have the molecular ability to wipe our slates clean and get ourselves back to the epigenome that is uniquely us. By a thorough house-cleaning – of diets, habits, beliefs, lifestyles and subconscious patterns of thinking – we are each capable of chemically re-booting our brains and re-vitalizing our health.

Rebooting Your Brain

Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.” – Mark Twain

Dozens and dozens of classes and subclasses of ever-maleable and complex histone protein octamers are entwined within incredibly long strands of DNA to form our 46 chromosomes. These histone proteins divide when our chromosomes divide, passing into sperm and egg, then uniting to form a new life, an embryo. Half our inherited histone proteins come from the egg, half from the sperm. These histone proteins, and the tagalong activators and suppressors that come with them, endow us with the truly important (and traumatic) information that our parents had learned by the time we were conceived. By the time we’re born, our epigenome already “knows” a few things. Each generation gets a little smarter and a little better adapted.

While our genes and childhood experiences are powerful initial influences – they do not define us. Like Trichotin A, our minds can remove methyl groups. Our subconscious minds can wash away the molecular switches for stress, the source of up to 90% of disease in our society.

A Lifetime of Personal Growth and Evolution

A man who carries a cat by the tail, learns something he can learn in no other way.” – Mark Twain

Well before we’re born and our senses are fully developed we are learning and remembering, soaking in all types of experience, and programming neural pathwways. During certain critical periods in early childhood our rapidly expanding nervous and immune systems are selectively soaking up information, not only from our external environments but from the ocean of molecular signals circulating in mother’s blood. To accomodate the deluge of early information, brain stem cells divide and differentiate in a Forth of July explosion of neural activity. Dozens of variations of a hundred billion neurons make a thousand trillion synaptic connections – with the number of synaptic connections peaking at the age of three!

Categories:   Brain Plasticity, Epigenetic, Epigenetics, Mind-Body, Mindfulness, Neurogenisis, Neuroplasticity

Published by

Burt Glenn

Burt Glenn

Burton Glenn is a former Biology and Chemistry Professor and world traveler. He studies and writes about the effects of aging on the body and mind, as well as his personal experiences transitioning into retirement.