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The Neuroscience of Self-Esteem, Self-Criticism and Self-Compassion

The Neuroscience of Self-Esteem, Self-Criticism and Self-Compassion
All the emphasis on self-esteem building in recent decades has done little to instruct people on what to do when they hit a bump in the road. Most of us, research shows, unleash our inner critic – even if the hardship is brought on by age, illness or another inevitable part of life. Recently, scientists such as Paul Gilbert of Kingsway Hospital in the United Kingdom and Kristin Neff of the University of Texas at Austin, have suggested being self-compassionate, rather than self-critical, especially in rough times, is more likely to help us rebound and may lead to greater success and happiness in the long run. This is not just semantics or new-age feel-good fluff. Gilbert associates self-esteem, self-criticism and self-compassion with three interacting emotional systems in the brain, each with their own evolutionary purpose and mediating neurotransmitters. The "drive" system The threat-protection system For many of us, these first two systems dominate. The mammalian care-giving system

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Emotional Wiring Different in Men and Women Men and women are actually from the same planet, but scientists now have the first strong evidence that the emotional wiring of the sexes is fundamentally different. An almond-shaped cluster of neurons that processes experiences such as fear and aggression hooks up to contrasting brain functions in men and women at rest, the new research shows. For men, the cluster "talks with" brain regions that help them respond to sensors for what's going on outside the body, such as the visual cortex and an area that coordinates motor actions.

The Neurology Of Near-Death Experiences I've never had a patient confess to having had a near-death experience (NDE), but recently I came across a fascinating book called The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain by Kevin Nelson, M.D. that reports as many as 18 million Americans may have had one. If true, the odds are not only that some of my patients have been among them, but also some of my friends. Which got me wondering: just what does science have to tell us about their cause? That NDEs happen isn't in dispute. The sequence and type of events of which they're composed are similar enough among people who report them that NDEs could be considered a syndrome of sorts akin to a disease lacking a known cause. But just because millions of people have experienced NDEs doesn't mean the most commonly believed explanation for them—that souls leave bodies and encounter God or some other evidence for the afterlife—is correct.

Your Perception of Gravity Is All Relative, Study Finds In a discovery that could turn science on its head, researchers now find that you are a better judge of how objects fall when you are upright than when you lie on your side. Our senses are known to play tricks on us. For instance, we can keep our balance when our eyes are closed, but are better at doing so when we open our eyes or touch a surface. Everyday Stress Can Shut Down the Brain's Chief Command Center The entrance exam to medical school consists of a five-hour fusillade of hundreds of questions that, even with the best preparation, often leaves the test taker discombobulated and anxious. For some would-be physicians, the relentless pressure causes their reasoning abilities to slow and even shut down entirely. The experience—known variously as choking, brain freeze, nerves, jitters, folding, blanking out, the yips or a dozen other descriptive terms—is all too familiar to virtually anyone who has flubbed a speech, bumped up against writer’s block or struggled through a lengthy exam.

Some Strange Psychological Findings from Psych Central In their excellent book, 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology, Lilienfeld and colleagues (2010) investigate popular psychology myths. In addition to addressing these prevalent myths, the authors briefly discuss some “difficult to believe” psychological findings. Some of the findings include: Our brains contain approximately 3 million miles of neural connections. People suffering from extreme forms of anterograde amnesia, an inability to consciously recall new information, often display implicit memories without being able to display them consciously. As an example, they may show a negative emotional reaction when interacting with a doctor who has been rude to them, even though they can’t recall meeting the doctor.

Oddly, Hypocrisy Rooted in High Morals Morally upstanding people are the do-gooders of society, right? Actually, a new study finds that a sense of moral superiority can lead to unethical acts, such as cheating. In fact, some of the best do-gooders can become the worst cheats. Stop us if this sounds familiar. The neuroscience of happiness They say money can’t buy happiness. But can a better understanding of your brain? As recent breakthroughs in cognitive science break new ground in the study of consciousness — and its relationship to the physical body — the mysteries of the mind are rapidly becoming less mysterious.

What the science of human nature can teach us After the boom and bust, the mania and the meltdown, the Composure Class rose once again. Its members didn’t make their money through hedge-fund wizardry or by some big financial score. Theirs was a statelier ascent. They got good grades in school, established solid social connections, joined fine companies, medical practices, and law firms. Marijuana might cause new cell growth in the brain - health - 13 October 2005 A synthetic chemical similar to the active ingredient in marijuana makes new cells grow in rat brains. What is more, in rats this cell growth appears to be linked with reducing anxiety and depression. The results suggest that marijuana, or its derivatives, could actually be good for the brain. In mammals, new nerve cells are constantly being produced in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is associated with learning, memory, anxiety and depression. Other recreational drugs, such as alcohol, nicotine and cocaine, have been shown to suppress this new growth. Xia Zhang of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and colleagues decided to see what effects a synthetic cannabinoid called HU210 had on rats' brains.

The Neuroscience of Looking on the Bright Side Ask a bride before walking down the aisle “How likely are you to get divorced?” and most will respond “Not a chance!” Tell her that the average divorce rate is close to 50 percent, and ask again. Would she change her mind? Unlikely. Guitarists' Brains Swing Together When musicians play along together it isn't just their instruments that are in time – their brain waves are too. New research shows how EEG readouts from pairs of guitarists become more synchronized, a finding with wider potential implications for how our brains interact when we do. Ulman Lindenberger, Viktor Müller, and Shu-Chen Li from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin along with Walter Gruber from the University of Salzburg used electroencephalography (EEG) to record the brain electrical activity in eight pairs of guitarists. Each of the pairs played a short jazz-fusion melody together up to 60 times while the EEG picked up their brain waves via electrodes on their scalps.

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