Drumming Beats out Drugs for Depression
With the World Health Organization identifying depression as the #1 leading cause of disability, globally, and psychiatric medications causing severe side effects, including permanently disabling the body’s self-healing mechanism, drug-free alternatives are needed now more than ever. Could group drumming provide just such a solution?
UK researchers enrolled thirty adults who were already recipients of mental health services but were not receiving antidepressant medications in a 10 week program of drumming versus a control group of 15. The two groups were matched for age, sex, ethnicity and employment status. The control participants were informed that they were participating in a study about music and mental health but were not given access to the group drumming sessions. The treatment group received weekly 90-minute group drumming sessions over a period of 10 weeks. Both groups were monitored for biomarkers related to immune status and inflammation, e.g. cortisol and various cytokines, to track the biological as well as psychological changes associated with the intervention.
After six weeks the drumming intervention group experienced decreases in depression, increased social resilience; by 10 weeks they saw further improvements in depression, alongside significant improvements in anxiety and mental wellbeing. These changes continued to be maintained 3 months follow-up. The drumming intervention group also saw their immune profile shift from a pro-inflammatory towards an anti-inflammatory response.
This remarkable research opens up the possibility that group drumming may produce positive psychospiritual changes that, in comparison to conventional treatment with psychiatric medications like Prozac, support side-effect free improvement in parameters beyond symptom suppression.
Another important discovery here is that group drumming down-regulated inflammation within the immune profiles of study participants. The inflammation-depression link, in particular, explains how interventions such as turmeric have been clinically proven to be superior to common antidepressant medications like Prozac, presumably because of turmeric’s broad spectrum and systemic anti-inflammatory properties.
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Scientists have long known that our sensory processing must automatically screen out extraneous inputs--otherwise, we couldn’t experience the world as we do. When we look at our surroundings, for instance, our perceived field of view holds steady or moves smoothly with our gaze. But the eye is also constantly making small movements, or saccades; our visual system has to subtract that background jitter from what we see.
And automatic background subtraction, it turns out, can also manifest in intriguing, unexpected ways. Take a counterintuitive finding researchers made: We’re good at perceiving the movements of small objects, but if those objects are simply made bigger, we find it much more difficult to detect their motion.
Recently in Nature Communications, neuroscientist Duje Tadin and his team offered a tantalizing explanation for why this happens: The brain prioritizes the detection of objects that are more important for us to see, and those tend to be smaller. To a hawk hunting for its next meal, a mouse suddenly darting through a field matters more than the swaying motion of the grass and trees around it. The brain suppresses information about the movement of the background, but as a side effect, it has more difficulty perceiving the movements of larger objects, because it treats them as a kind of background, too.
The team further confirmed this idea with a training experiment conducted in older adults. Other researchers had previously reported that there’s not much difference between how well seniors observe the motion of a small object and the motion of a larger one. Tadin's team found that older people have problems spotting small moving objects against a moving backdrop.
“Before attention gets to do its job,” Tadin said, “there’s already a lot of pruning of information.” For motion perception, that pruning has to happen automatically because it needs to be done very quickly. “Attention can do the same thing in much smarter and more flexible ways, but not so effortlessly.”
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Can we train ourselves to be compassionate? A new study suggests the answer is yes. Cultivating compassion and kindness through meditation affects brain regions that can make a person more empathetic to other peoples’ mental states, say researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
The study was the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to indicate that positive emotions such as loving-kindness and compassion can be learned in the same way as playing a musical instrument or being proficient in a sport. The scans revealed that brain circuits used to detect emotions and feelings were dramatically changed in subjects who had extensive experience practicing compassion meditation.
The study was part of the researchers’ ongoing investigations with a group of Tibetan monks and lay practitioners who have practiced meditation for a minimum of 10,000 hours. In this case, Lutz and Davidson worked with 16 monks who have cultivated compassion meditation practices. Sixteen age-matched controls with no previous training were taught the fundamentals of compassion meditation two weeks before the brain scanning took place.
"Many contemplative traditions speak of loving-kindness as the wish for happiness for others and of compassion as the wish to relieve others’ suffering. Loving-kindness and compassion are central to the Dalai Lama’s philosophy and mission," says Davidson, who has worked extensively with the Tibetan Buddhist leader. "We wanted to see how this voluntary generation of compassion affects the brain systems involved in empathy."
Various techniques are used in compassion meditation, and the training can take years of practice. The controls in this study were asked first to concentrate on loved ones, wishing them well-being and freedom from suffering. After some training, they then were asked to generate such feelings toward all beings without thinking specifically about anyone.
Each of the 32 subjects was placed in the fMRI scanner at the UW–Madison Waisman Center for Brain Imaging, which Davidson directs, and was asked to either begin compassion meditation or refrain from it. During each state, subjects were exposed to negative and positive human vocalizations designed to evoke empathic responses as well as neutral vocalizations: sounds of a distressed woman, a baby laughing and background restaurant noise.
The scans revealed significant activity in the insula — a region near the frontal portion of the brain that plays a key role in bodily representations of emotion — when the long-term meditators were generating compassion and were exposed to emotional vocalizations. The strength of insula activation was also associated with the intensity of the meditation as assessed by the participants.
Activity also increased in the temporal parietal juncture, particularly the right hemisphere. Studies have implicated this area as important in processing empathy, especially in perceiving the mental and emotional state of others.
"Both of these areas have been linked to emotion sharing and empathy," Davidson says. "The combination of these two effects, which was much more noticeable in the expert meditators as opposed to the novices, was very powerful."
The researchers are interested in teaching compassion meditation to youngsters, particularly as they approach adolescence, as a way to prevent bullying, aggression and violence.
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Health & Healing Hack of the Week
There are different ways to do it, but a good starting one is to first determine a short path you are going to physically walk--say through your garden, or a short stretch of ground in a park--say, maybe 100 feet or so. Now, start walking, step by step, very slowly. As you slowly move, take in every bit of the five senses (or more). Observe the tendency to get bored, or hurry, or do something else with your mind. Instead, retrieve your attention back to the Walk. Observe the earth, the trees, the flowers, the grass, any flora and fauna, your breath, heart beat, pulses and other sensations. I've done this over a 100 foot stretch in a garden, taking 45 minutes to traverse the distance. At the end, I felt not only intimately connected with my surroundings, but also much more connected with Nature at large.
The other version of this is to walk at a normal pace, but keeping your attention on everything you are sensing, and observing what the mind does. Refrain from following any particular thought sequence, such as thinking about future events, or plans, or past experiences. Keep it all in the NOW. Soon, you'll experience a deep, relaxing connection to Life and your place in the world. From 25 No Cost Health & Healing Hacks by Boyd Martin)
Quantum Healer of the Week
Sue Storm is a renowned international author, inspirational speaker, and prosperity consultant. She has a special connection with the angels that provides accurate “at your fingertips” information to jump start all aspects of life. Her expertise in the field of business is unparalleled. Through angelic guidance Sue is able to provide the direction to make better decisions and attain maximum success. The Angel Lady’s advice has been shared on 4,000 radio and TV shows worldwide, including all major networks. As the author of the Angel First Aid series of books, Sue Storm is sending the message of the angels across the globe. Sue Storm's first encounter with angels was at the age of eighteen months when she saw them hovering overhead during a near-death experience. From that time on she has been able to see, hear, and feel the presence of angels. In particular, Archangel Michael has been her personal guide since childhood. WEBSITE
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