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UCLA study endorses yoga to reduce Alzheimer’s risk

Special to Earthpages.org

University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) “study finds that yoga and meditation can help minimize cognitive impairment”, according to UCLA release issued on May 10.

To reduce risk for Alzheimer’s, skip Lumosity (games claiming to improve memory, etc.) and get onto the yoga mat, this study by UCLA-led team of neuroscientists and funded by the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, adds in the release.

It further says: “If you or your relatives are trying to improve your memory or offset the risk for developing memory loss or dementia, a regular practice of yoga and meditation could be a simple, safe and low-cost solution to improving your brain fitness.”

Rajan Zed called the UCLA looking into the usage of multi-faceted yoga to combat Alzheimer’s “a step in the positive direction.” Zed urged all major world universities to explore various benefits yoga offers.

Yoga, referred to as “a living fossil,” is a mental and physical discipline for everybody to share and benefit from, says Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism. He says yoga can be traced back to around 2,000 BCE to the Indus Valley civilization.

Zed further added that yoga, although introduced and nourished by Hinduism, is a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all. According to Patanjali who codified it in Yoga Sutra, yoga is a methodical effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical.

According to US National Institutes of Health, yoga may help one to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply, and get rid of stress. According to a recently released “2016 Yoga in America Study”, about 37 million Americans (which included many celebrities) now practice yoga; and yoga is strongly correlated with having a positive self image.  Yoga was the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche, Zed added.

UCLA claims to be “known worldwide for the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletics programs.”


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Artificial Intelligence will have to learn like the rest of us

Interesting idea in the tweeted article:

It would take far too long to program every speech thread required for normal human conversation, so machines will have to ask the right questions when faced with uncertainty, and learn from the human answers.

That sounds great. But what about morality. Can a machine learn right from wrong? Or decide whether or not to save a child or a bumblebee from a natural disaster? I’m not sure. Part of the answer, I think, depends on whether or not AI would have some kind of soul or higher consciousness that transcends its circuits. Before we say that it doesn’t, it’s probably best to just say “we don’t know” and leave it there.

Myself, it seems like our car and computers have a personality of their own. Sure, I’m probably just projecting my own thoughts and feelings onto the machines… but … they are just organized energy… and so are we. So can we really be sure?

Something for future philosophers and, perhaps, social rights activists to ponder down the road.

–MC


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Interpretation stage of science eclipsed by the wonders of new tech?

Don’t get me wrong. I am the first to champion the elimination or, at least, alleviation of unnecessary suffering. The problem with “gee-whiz” stories like this, however, is that the interpretative aspect of data observation is often dealt with inadequately. If we start screening and medicating young people who statistically deviate from the norm, might we be blotting out future Einsteins or van Goghs for the sake of some kind of contented stagnation?

And who is to say that human evolution might not require some genetic variation? Pre-doping people into conformity for a given historical period seems a bit short-sighted to me, no matter how well-intentioned.

–MC


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“Brainprints” the new thing?


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How the brain smoothly processes words


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Online demonstration of Carl Jung’s “synchronicty”


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How cults exploit one of our most basic psychological urges

Sigmund Freud saw all religion and the belief in God as a kind of cultic approach to life. However, Freudian lore suggests that toward the end of his days Freud said he would focus on parapsychology if he could do it all again.  Image – Amazon.com (This image and comment added by earthpages.org and is not part of the original article sourced from http://www.theconversation.com)

Lou Manza, Lebanon Valley College

The new Hulu TV series “The Path” – described by Time as the streaming service’s “best show yet” – centers on a cult-like faith, Meyerism, whose adherents seek fulfillment under the guidance of their leader, Cal.

As pure entertainment, the show seems promising. But as someone who studies human cognition and why people believe scientifically dubious claims, I’m more interested in the real-life versions of Cal – specifically, the needs that leaders of cult-like faiths tap into that make them so attractive to certain people.

The illusion of comfort

An answer to this question can take a variety of forms. One that has gotten a considerable amount of attention over the years is the emotional comfort cults can provide.

California Institute of Technology psychologist Jon-Patrik Pedersen, in attempting to explain why people are drawn to cults, has argued that the human desire for comfort, in the face of fear and uncertainty, leads us to seek outlets that can soothe our anxieties.

In and of itself, the urge to quiet internal demons is not a negative trait. I’d argue that, to the contrary, it’s an effective adaptation that allows us to cope with the stressors, big and small, that bombard us on a regular basis.

However, cult leaders meet this need by making promises that are virtually unattainable – and not typically found anywhere else in society. This, according Pedersen, could include “complete financial security, constant peace of mind, perfect health, and eternal life.”

Beyond exploiting human desire for emotional comfort, cult leaders don’t always have the best intentions when it comes to the mental health of their followers.

Psychiatrist Mark Banschick has pointed out that cult leaders employ mind and behavioral control techniques that are focused on severing followers’ connections to the outside world.

These methods can actually deepen members’ existing emotional insecurities, while encouraging them to become completely reliant on their cult for all their physical and emotional needs. At the same time, they’re often told to sever ties with any friends or relatives who are not part of the group.

Hulu’s new series ‘The Path’ is about a fictional cult group called the Meyerist Movement.
Hulu

This can result in physical and psychological isolation, which actually exacerbates many of the problems, like anxiety and depression, that attracted people to the cult in the first place.

The anxiety and depression can become so overwhelming and feel so insurmountable that the followers feel trapped.

It’s a vicious cycle that can lead to truly tragic consequences, such as the well-documented 1978 Jonestown Massacre, when over 900 people died in a mass murder-suicide carried out under the supervision of cult leader Jim Jones. Then there were the Heaven’s Gate suicides in 1997, when 39 individuals, including cult leader Marshall Applewhite, willingly overdosed on phenobarbital and vodka in the hope of being transported to an alleged alien spaceship flying behind the (real) Hale-Bopp comet.

The case for reason

So just how can one face his or her fears, but avoid the potential danger of cult-like groups?

In a word: rationality.

Seeking reason-based solutions for emotion-focused conditions is by no means a new concept. Unfortunately, rationality is not as intuitively appealing as remedies that simply exploit sentimental cravings.

Sigmund Freud, in his 1927 text “The Future of an Illusion,” argued that religion was a mere mental trick constructed to comfort believers and help them overcome insecurities – even though their acceptance of dogma was irrational. While Freud’s position was focused on mainstream faiths, his highlighting of the emotional comfort central to them is analogous to the role that this element plays in cults.

His solution? Replace religion (or, in the present case, cults) with rational guides for living that deal with problems directly. Are you anxious about your appearance? Eat healthy and exercise regularly. Stressed about relationship problems? Talk directly to your partner in a clear and honest manner to arrive at mutually agreed-upon resolutions.

One could certainly argue that Freud, by highlighting religion’s negative elements, was ignoring the potential positive outcomes correlated with spirituality such as stable relationships, moral grounding and life satisfaction.

But there is no denying that emotions can cloud judgment and result in poor decisions.

For example, Gerd Gigerenzer, a German psychologist who studies decision-making, illustrated the very real consequences of favoring an emotional response over a more data-driven one. In his 2004 analysis of highway fatalities in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, he pointed out how people became afraid of flying in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Many who still needed to travel ended up driving instead of flying in order to reach their destinations.

However, this influx of cars on the road led to approximately 350 more people dying in automobile accidents from October to December of 2001. As Gigerenzer noted, these deaths could likely have been avoided “if the public were better informed about psychological reactions to catastrophic events.”

It’s not easy to simply “use reason over emotion.” The fact that cults continue to exist – and that people continue to play the lottery despite the minuscule chance of winning, or insist on subjecting themselves to unproven cancer treatments such as urine therapy – is a testament to the potency of emotions as behavioral motivators.

Furthermore, this should not be taken as a directive to surrender our emotions, which can enhance human experiences in many ways.

But it’s important to be vigilant, and recognize the value of approaching decisions using logic, especially when emotion-driven choices can lead to negative, life-altering outcomes.

Which of these paths will Cal and his Meyerists pursue? My guess is emotions will win the day. In the fictional world of television, that’s OK.

But for those of us viewing their exploits from our living rooms, perhaps it’s an opportunity to think about our choices, and whether or not our feelings had the final say.

The trailer for ‘The Path.’

The Conversation

Lou Manza, Professor and Department Chair of Psychology, Lebanon Valley College

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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