Mental Health and Well-Being for Mind and Brain

Why do some of us show only minor effects of stress while others show a more severe and disabling mental and physical decline? This slide share presentation explains how you can use your brain to recognise stress and manage it so as to benefit yourself and others in your lives.

Topics addressed include (i) understanding the brain and how it processes emotions, (ii) understanding psychological stress including its sources and consequences and (iii) reducing and preventing stress through the practice of mindfulness (awareness), cognitive restructuring (recognising your thoughts), diet, exercise and progressive relaxation.

Click here for audio recording of a workshop presentation to students and faculty at the Flinders University Department of Education, Adelaide, South Australia.


Weekly Neuroscience Update

Feeling happy or sad? Researchers have measured brain signals to accurately read emotions in individuals. (Credit: Karim S. Kassam et al PLOS ONE 10.1371/journal.pone.0066032)

For the first time, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have identified which emotion a person is experiencing based on brain activity.

Pre-treatment scans of brain activity predicted whether depressed patients would best achieve remission with an antidepressant medication or psychotherapy, in a new study.

People who experience any stroke symptoms—but do not have a stroke—may also be more likely to develop problems with memory and thinking, according to new research published in the June 19, 2013, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

And finally this week, a study, led by Royal Holloway University researcher Carolyn McGettigan, has identified the brain regions and interactions involved in impersonations and accents.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Different brain areas are activated when we choose to suppress an emotion, compared to when we are instructed to inhibit an emotion, according to a new study.

Researchers say signs of psychopathy could be detected as early as childhood. The conclusion was drawn from a study where psychologists scanned the brains of children with conduct problems. When the children were shown images of someone in pain, regions of the brain associated with empathy remained inactive.

Using MRI, neuroscientists have found significant differences in brain anatomy when comparing men and women with dyslexia to their non-dyslexic control groups, suggesting that the disorder may have a different brain-based manifestation based on sex.

Research into the comparative size of the frontal lobes in humans and other species has determined that they are not – as previously thought – disproportionately enlarged relative to other areas of the brain, according to the most accurate and conclusive study of this area of the brain.  It concludes that the size of our frontal lobes cannot solely account for humans’ superior cognitive abilities.

When the brain’s primary “learning center” is damaged, complex new neural circuits arise to compensate for the lost function, say researchers who have pinpointed the regions of the brain involved in creating those alternate pathways — often far from the damaged site.

Your brain often works on autopilot when it comes to grammar. That theory has been around for years, but University of Oregon neuroscientists have captured elusive hard evidence that people indeed detect and process grammatical errors with no awareness of doing so.

Image Credit: © Tryfonov / Fotolia

The Empathic Brain

Empathy is a powerful interpersonal tool which is under-valued in our society.  Ineed it is a skill that is frequently underutilised. Perhaps this is in part due to the misconception that em-pathetic somehow implies pathetic? It is often confused with sympathetic, but while empathy denotes a deep emotional understanding of another’s feelings or problems, sympathy is more general and can apply to small annoyances or setbacks.

In Deep Brain Learning: Pathways to Potential with Challenging Youth, Brendtro, Mitchell, and McCall summarize empathy as follows:

Empathy is the foundation of moral development and pro-social behavior. The original word began in the German language as Einfuhlung which is literally translated as feeling into. Empathy taps the ability of mirror neurons to display in our own brain the emotions, thoughts, and motives of another. Empathy allows us to share anothers joy and pain and motivates care and concern.

Stephen Covey writes in his book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’

Empathetic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with.  Instead of projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretation, you are dealing with the reality inside the other person’s head.

Empathy allows us to not only  interact with each other effectively, but
also to predict the actions, intentions, and feelings of others. A useful trait indeed. But is empathy something that we can cultivate or is it more innate? Are we hard wired for empathy?

Despite the advances in our understanding of neuroplasticity, research on the empathic brain is still in its early stages. In recent years, the field of social neuroscience has begun to shed light on the neural underpinnings of empathy.

In an interesting review paper,”The Social Neuroscience of Empathy“, Tania Singer and Claus Lamm of the University of Zurich,  give an overview of this research, and provide recommendations for future research. If you are interested in learning more, you can download a pdf copy by clicking here.

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The Neuroscience of Emotions

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