Positive, negative thinkers' brains revealed

#1

The ability to stay positive when times get tough—and, conversely, of being negative—may be hardwired in the brain, finds new research led by a Michigan State University psychologist.
The study, which appears in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, is the first to provide biological evidence validating the idea that there are, in fact, positive and negative people in the world.

"It's the first time we've been able to find a brain marker that really distinguishes negative thinkers from positive thinkers," said Jason Moser, lead investigator and assistant professor of psychology.

For the study, 71 female participants were shown graphic images and asked to put a positive spin on them while their brain activity was recorded. Participants were shown a masked man holding a knife to a woman's throat, for example, and told one potential outcome was the woman breaking free and escaping.
More: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-04-positive-negative-thinkers-brains-revealed.html
 
#2
Interesting, I thought this had already been determined. The article implies that we are stuck as either negative or positive, but studies indicate that we can take advantage of neuroplasticity to change our brain in the positive direction through mindfulness meditation.
Analyses in a priori regions of interest confirmed increases in gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus. Whole brain analyses identified increases in the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction, and the cerebellum in the MBSR group compared with the controls. The results suggest that participation in MBSR is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.
An extreme example, Buddhist monk Ricard Matthieu, whose brain was scanned while he meditated :
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson wired up the monk's skull with 256 sensors at the University of Wisconsin as part of research on hundreds of advanced practitioners of meditation. The scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard's brain produces a level of gamma waves - those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory - 'never reported before in the neuroscience literature', Davidson said. The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain's left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, giving him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity, researchers believe.
Aside from Matthieu, they found some positive brain changes in new meditators after only 3 weeks of meditating 20 minutes a day.

Research like this is actually what convinced me (a materialist Skeptic at the time) to start meditating in the first place. For me, it had the side effect of opening my mind a bit, and loosening the hold that had me locked into a belief system that I didn't even realize I had.
 
#3
Interesting, I thought this had already been determined. The article implies that we are stuck as either negative or positive, but studies indicate that we can take advantage of neuroplasticity to change our brain in the positive direction through mindfulness meditation.


An extreme example, Buddhist monk Ricard Matthieu, whose brain was scanned while he meditated :

Aside from Matthieu, they found some positive brain changes in new meditators after only 3 weeks of meditating 20 minutes a day.

Research like this is actually what convinced me (a materialist Skeptic at the time) to start meditating in the first place. For me, it had the side effect of opening my mind a bit, and loosening the hold that had me locked into a belief system that I didn't even realize I had.
What tipped you from being a materialist skeptic?
 
#4
What tipped you from being a materialist skeptic?
Good question, and it's hard for me to put a finger on anything specific and say "that's what did it". I haven't had any notable paranormal experience. I suppose it was more of a slow realization, or change of perception. Subjectively, I give some credit to meditation, although I can't say for sure that it was directly responsible for the change. The only part of it that is noticeable from the outside would be contentness/happiness.

This is purely my subjective experience, and others will certainly vary -

Mindfulness made me much more perceptive of the world around me. Although I specifically read about meditation from secular sources and avoided any kind of religious traditions (I was a scientist, damn it! I thought religious folks were just blinded by dogma), I felt my way of thinking start to move me toward certain Buddhist ideas. I started to perceive more from myself, my environment and the people around me. Empathy began to grow beyond what I have ever known. I grew a sense of calm, where only a year prior I would frequently experience anxiety. Right now, I go through every day with this calm, a sense of "It's all OK" in the back of my mind. My sense of self-importance has diminished greatly. I don't feel like I am any more important than a bum on the street. Neither is Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, the president, or anyone else. We all just ARE.

Maybe it is the weakening of my ego that tipped the scale, so to speak. I don't need to be right. I don't need to be the smartest guy in the room. I don't need to have a tidy answer to explain away other people's experiences. I don't need a complete, defined belief system, I'll just take each moment as it comes - always open and searching for what might be. I'll embrace the unexplained, and follow the mystery wherever it leads.

When I was a skeptic, I used to say "I don't believe in magic". Now I am the opposite - I feel that everything IS magic. Your perspective makes all the difference. I am overwhelmed by love of life. I see beauty everywhere. I read poetry every day. I listen to the conversations of strangers in a bus station, and it makes me smile. I can sit in nature for hours with no one for miles around and feel completely connected. If I get something I want, I am happy. If I don't, I am happy anyway.

I don't worry about death. If this is all there is, well it was a great time, right? I don't care if I am remembered by future generations. If you somehow proved that materialism is correct and the entire universe was meaningless, I admit I would be disappointed. But then I would just have to laugh. Because the whole situation is kind of ridiculous, isn't it? Nothing to get too serious about anyway.

Even so, I wish I could live a million lifetimes in a million different ways. I want to live one life as a deep sea fisherman in South America, a life as a poor homeless man on the streets of Cairo, a life as an overworked Japanese businessman, a life as a militant atheist arguing on online message boards, and a life as an Indian yogi sitting 12 hours a day on top of a mountain. And maybe I'll get that chance - maybe I'm doing it right now ;)
 
C

chuck.drake

#5
Good question, and it's hard for me to put a finger on anything specific and say "that's what did it". I haven't had any notable paranormal experience. I suppose it was more of a slow realization, or change of perception. Subjectively, I give some credit to meditation, although I can't say for sure that it was directly responsible for the change. The only part of it that is noticeable from the outside would be contentness/happiness.

This is purely my subjective experience, and others will certainly vary -

Mindfulness made me much more perceptive of the world around me. Although I specifically read about meditation from secular sources and avoided any kind of religious traditions (I was a scientist, damn it! I thought religious folks were just blinded by dogma), I felt my way of thinking start to move me toward certain Buddhist ideas. I started to perceive more from myself, my environment and the people around me. Empathy began to grow beyond what I have ever known. I grew a sense of calm, where only a year prior I would frequently experience anxiety. Right now, I go through every day with this calm, a sense of "It's all OK" in the back of my mind. My sense of self-importance has diminished greatly. I don't feel like I am any more important than a bum on the street. Neither is Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, the president, or anyone else. We all just ARE.

Maybe it is the weakening of my ego that tipped the scale, so to speak. I don't need to be right. I don't need to be the smartest guy in the room. I don't need to have a tidy answer to explain away other people's experiences. I don't need a complete, defined belief system, I'll just take each moment as it comes - always open and searching for what might be. I'll embrace the unexplained, and follow the mystery wherever it leads.

When I was a skeptic, I used to say "I don't believe in magic". Now I am the opposite - I feel that everything IS magic. Your perspective makes all the difference. I am overwhelmed by love of life. I see beauty everywhere. I read poetry every day. I listen to the conversations of strangers in a bus station, and it makes me smile. I can sit in nature for hours with no one for miles around and feel completely connected. If I get something I want, I am happy. If I don't, I am happy anyway.

I don't worry about death. If this is all there is, well it was a great time, right? I don't care if I am remembered by future generations. If you somehow proved that materialism is correct and the entire universe was meaningless, I admit I would be disappointed. But then I would just have to laugh. Because the whole situation is kind of ridiculous, isn't it? Nothing to get too serious about anyway.

Even so, I wish I could live a million lifetimes in a million different ways. I want to live one life as a deep sea fisherman in South America, a life as a poor homeless man on the streets of Cairo, a life as an overworked Japanese businessman, a life as a militant atheist arguing on online message boards, and a life as an Indian yogi sitting 12 hours a day on top of a mountain. And maybe I'll get that chance - maybe I'm doing it right now ;)
Nicely put, G.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#6
Good question, and it's hard for me to put a finger on anything specific and say "that's what did it". I haven't had any notable paranormal experience. I suppose it was more of a slow realization, or change of perception. Subjectively, I give some credit to meditation, although I can't say for sure that it was directly responsible for the change. The only part of it that is noticeable from the outside would be contentness/happiness.
Interesting. I've actually come from the other direction, having a host of seemingly paranormal phenomena occurring around me and being forced to ask myself if any of it was real.

I'm basically agnostic at this point, while leaning one way or another on occasion.
 
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