As a Creative Arts Therapist who specializes in the body and is a former Yoga teacher this article is not at all surprising. Most therapists who have worked with trauma survivors know that people have a tendency to have some level of dissociation with their bodies. Yoga can gently bring a new level of conscious feeling, movement and functionally of the body which can’t be processed with other modalities.
As a teenager, Rocsana Enriquez ran away from home frequently to escape fights with her mother and sexual abuse from her stepfather. She got involved with street gangs and cycled in and out of juvenile detention.
While she was incarcerated in Central California, she started to learn yoga. It became an outlet for her anger and an antidote to the deep insecurity she felt. Before she got into a fight, she reminded herself to take a deep breath. And she loved the way she felt when she stretched into “Warrior II” pose. “It made me feel very strong,” she said.
A new report by the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown Law School shows that yoga programs can be particularly effective at helping girls who are incarcerated cope with the effects of trauma that many have experienced. Research shows yoga and mindfulness can promote healthier relationships, increase concentration, and improve self esteem and physical health.
Such programs, if offered more broadly, would be a cost-effective way to help one of the country’s most vulnerable groups heal and improve their lives, the report says.
Plants are able to “remember” and “react” to information contained in light, according to researchers.
Plants, scientists say, transmit information about light intensity and quality from leaf to leaf in a very similar way to our own nervous systems.
These “electro-chemical signals” are carried by cells that act as “nerves” of the plants.
In their experiment, the scientists showed that light shone on to one leaf caused the whole plant to respond.
And the response, which took the form of light-induced chemical reactions in the leaves, continued in the dark.
This showed, they said, that the plant “remembered” the information encoded in light.
“We shone the light only on the bottom of the plant and we observed changes in the upper part,” explained Professor Stanislaw Karpinski from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland, who led this research.
He presented the findings at the Society for Experimental Biology’s annual meeting in Prague, Czech Republic.
“And the changes proceeded when the light was off… This was a complete surprise.”
In previous work, Professor Karpinski found that chemical signals could be passed throughout whole plants – allowing them to respond to and survive changes and stresses in their environment.
But in this new study, he and his colleagues discovered that when light stimulated a chemical reaction in one leaf cell, this caused a “cascade” of events and that this was immediately signaled to the rest of the plant via a specific type of cell called a “bundle sheath cell”.
The scientists measured the electrical signals from these cells, which are present in every leaf. They likened the discovery to finding the plants’ “nervous system”.
What was even more peculiar, Professor Karpinski said, was that the plants’ responses changed depending on the colour of the light that was being shone on them. N
“There were characteristic [changes] for red, blue and white light,” he explained.
He suspected that the plants might use the information encoded in the light to stimulate protective chemical reactions. He and his colleagues examined this more closely by looking at the effect of different colors of light on the plants’ immunity to disease.
“When we shone the light for on the plant for one hour and then infected it [with a virus or with bacteria] 24 hours after that light exposure, it resisted the infection,” he explained.
“But when we infected the plant before shining the light, it could not build up resistance.
“[So the plant] has a specific memory for the light which builds its immunity against pathogens, and it can adjust to varying light conditions.”
He said that plants used information encrypted in the light to immunize themselves against seasonal pathogens.
“Every day or week of the season has… a characteristic light quality,” Professor Karpinski explained.
“So the plants perform a sort of biological light computation, using information contained in the light to immunize themselves against diseases that are prevalent during that season.”
Professor Christine Foyer, a plant scientist from the University of Leeds, said the study “took our thinking one step forward”.
“Plants have to survive stresses, such as drought or cold, and live through it and keep growing,” she told BBC News.
“This requires an appraisal of the situation and an appropriate response – that’s a form of intelligence.
“What this study has done is link two signaling pathways together… and the electrical signaling pathway is incredibly rapid, so the whole plant could respond immediately to high [levels of] light.
With evidence growing that meditation can have beneficial health effects, scientists have sought to understand how these practices physically affect the body.
A new study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation. The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice,” says study author Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” says Perla Kaliman, first author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain (IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS), where the molecular analyses were conducted.
Mindfulness-based trainings have shown beneficial effects on inflammatory disorders in prior clinical studies. The new results provide a possible biological mechanism for therapeutic effects.
The results show a down-regulation of genes that have been implicated in inflammation. The affected genes include the pro-inflammatory genes RIPK2 and COX2 as well as several histone deacetylase (HDAC) genes, which regulate the activity of other genes epigenetically by removing a type of chemical tag. What’s more, the extent to which some of those genes were downregulated was associated with faster cortisol recovery to a social stress test involving an impromptu speech and tasks requiring mental calculations performed in front of an audience and video camera.
Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers say, there was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups of people at the start of the study. The observed effects were seen only in the meditators following mindfulness practice. In addition, several other DNA-modifying genes showed no differences between groups, suggesting that the mindfulness practice specifically affected certain regulatory pathways.
However, it is important to note that the study was not designed to distinguish any effects of long-term meditation training from those of a single day of practice. Instead, the key result is that meditators experienced genetic changes following mindfulness practice that were not seen in the non-meditating group after other quiet activities — an outcome providing proof of principle that mindfulness practice can lead to epigenetic alterations of the genome.
Previous studies in rodents and in people have shown dynamic epigenetic responses to physical stimuli such as stress, diet, or exercise within just a few hours.
“Our genes are quite dynamic in their expression and these results suggest that the calmness of our mind can actually have a potential influence on their expression,” Davidson says.
“The regulation of HDACs and inflammatory pathways may represent some of the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic potential of mindfulness-based interventions,” Kaliman says. “Our findings set the foundation for future studies to further assess meditation strategies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions.”
Study funding came from National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (grant number P01-AT004952) and grants from the Fetzer Institute, the John Templeton Foundation, and an anonymous donor to Davidson. The study was conducted at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the UW-Madison Waisman Center.
Perla Kaliman, María Jesús Álvarez-López, Marta Cosín-Tomás, Melissa A. Rosenkranz, Antoine Lutz, Richard J. Davidson. Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators.Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2014; 40: 96 DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.11.004
They have been told as bedtime stories by generations of parents, but fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood may be even older than was previously thought.
Dr Jamie Tehrani, a cultural anthropologist at Durham University, studied 35 versions of Little Red Riding Hood from around the world
A study by anthropologists has explored the origins of folk tales and traced the relationship between varients of the stories recounted by cultures around the world.
The researchers adopted techniques used by biologists to create the taxonomic tree of life, which shows how every species comes from a common ancestor.
Dr Jamie Tehrani, a cultural anthropologist at Durham University, studied 35 versions of Little Red Riding Hood from around the world.
Whilst the European version tells the story of a little girl who is tricked by a wolf masquerading as her grandmother, in the Chinese version a tiger replaces the wolf.
In Iran, where it would be considered odd for a young girl to roam alone, the story features a little boy.
Contrary to the view that the tale originated in France shortly before Charles Perrault produced the first written version in the 17th century, Dr Tehrani found that the varients shared a common ancestor dating back more than 2,600 years.
He said: “Over time these folk tales have been subtly changed and have evolved just like an biological organism. Because many of them were not written down until much later, they have been misremembered or reinvented through hundreds of generations.
“By looking at how these folk tales have spread and changed it tells us something about human psychology and what sort of things we find memorable.
“The oldest tale we found was an Aesopic fable that dated from about the sixth century BC, so the last common ancestor of all these tales certainly predated this. We are looking at a very ancient tale that evolved over time.”
Dr Tehrani, who will present his work on Tuesday at the British Science Festival in Guildford, Surrey, identified 70 variables in plot and characters between different versions of Little Red Riding Hood.
He found that the stories could be grouped into distinct families according to how they evolved over time.
The original ancestor is thought to be similar to another tale, The Wolf and the Kids, in which a wolf pretends to be a nanny goat to gain entry to a house full of young goats.
Stories in Africa are closely related to this original tale, whilst stories from Japan, Korea, China and Burma form a sister group. Tales told in Iran and Nigeria were the closest relations of the modern European version.
Perrault’s French version was retold by the Brothers Grimm in the 19th century. Dr Tehrani said: “We don’t know very much about the processes of transmission of these stories from culture to culture, but it is possible that they may being passed along trade routes or with the movement of people.”
Professor Jack Zipes, a retired professor of German at the University of Minnesota who is an expert on fairy tales and their origins, described the work as “exciting”. He believes folk tales may have helped people to pass on tips for survival to new generations.
He said: “Little Red Riding Hood is about violation or rape, and I suspect that humans were just as violent in 600BC as they are today, so they will have exchanged tales about all types of violent acts.
“I have tried to show that tales relevant to our adaptation to the environment and survival are stored in our brains and we consistently use them for all kinds of reference points.”
Generation X writer Neal Pollack thought he had it all: a good writing career, a strong marriage, even a lucrative 3-day run on “Jeopardy”! That brought him national attention. Like many in his generation, he also smoked a lot of marijuana. He had discovered that food, music and even his beloved yoga was much better when he smoked. In 2014, as several states in the country legalized pot, Pollack scored a writing gig for a marijuana site that provided free weed. He saw his drug use as harmless and joked about it often in his writing. But as more states, including California, began to legalize the drug, Pollack’s life began to fall apart, in part because of his drug use. Both of his parents died and he soon found himself spiraling out of control, sometimes in public. By 2018, Pollack admitted publicly he had a marijuana addiction and set about to conquer it, through honesty . . . and humor. Pollack’s new book, Pothead, is about coming to terms with his marijuana problems just as the country increased its recreational availability. The book is a cautionary and timely tale for those who think the drug isn’t dangerous and can’t cause serious addictive problems. Join us for a special evening program as Pollack discusses his story with Los Angeles novelist Bucky Sinister.
By placing dogs in an MRI scanner, researchers from Hungary found that the canine brain reacts to voices in the same way that the human brain does. Emotionally charged sounds, such as crying or laughter, also prompted similar responses, perhaps explaining why dogs are attuned to human emotions.
Eleven pet dogs took part in the study; training them took some time. “We used positive reinforcement strategies – lots of praise,” said Dr Andics. “There were 12 sessions of preparatory training, then seven sessions in the scanner room, then these dogs were able to lie motionless for as long as eight minutes. Once they were trained, they were so happy, I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it.”