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Can CNS neurons be stimulated with focused audio?

Can CNS neurons be stimulated with focused audio?

I know that neurons can be stimulated mechanically (like in the 'funny bone') and I'm wondering if neurons in the brain could be stimulated similarly, for example via focused ultrasound.


Spark of Genius

Courtesy of the Center for Brain Health

Scientists have rediscovered a centuries-old procedure for supercharging your brain. Depending on how it’s used, it could improve anything from focus to motor control to mathematical or even moral reasoning. It’s simple. It’s relatively cheap. The known side effects are minimal. And it’s so easy that you can do it in your own home, anytime you want. All you need are a pair of electrodes and a power source.

Happy April Fools’ Day, right?

Maybe. Incredible as it sounds, though, every claim in the paragraph above has been supported by experimental evidence. The procedure is called transcranial direct-current stimulation, or tDCS, and the idea has been around for 200 years, though it languished in disrepute until recently. The setup: You attach one electrode to your scalp above the part of the brain you’re trying to stimulate, and another electrode on the other side of your head, to complete the circuit. Then you turn on a milliampere or two of juice, and watch the mental sparks fly—figuratively, if you’re doing it right.

Almost every expert who talks about tDCS will tell you, “Don’t try this at home.” But a lot of people are starting to do just that. And it’s no wonder, given the parade of amazing results that researchers have reported achieving on subjects in the lab. It seems like you can make people better at just about anything if you just put the electrodes in the right place. To name just a few of the findings:

  • Applying the electrodes to the prefrontal cortex can improve learning and increase your working memory.
  • Applying them to the motor cortex can raise your threshold for pain and make you more adept with your nondominant hand.
  • Position them above the posterior portion of the left perisylvian area (in right-handed people) and they can facilitate language acquisition.
  • Stimulation of the parietal cortex can improve numerical reasoning.

The potential applications for tDCS (and a related technology called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, which uses magnets to induce a current) range from healing to educating to killing. Doctors are experimenting with tDCS to treat severe depression and help stroke victims regain their speaking skills. Students in theory could use it to solve math problems or pick up Russian. Air Force researchers are using it to make people better at guiding killer drones, and DARPA has found it could improve snipers’ marksmanship.

A few studies claim results that are even more jaw-dropping. In Neuroscience Letters last year, Australian researchers reported applying tDCS to 33 people as they tried to solve the notoriously tricky “nine-dot” logic problem. Not one was able to crack it without stimulation, or with “sham” stimulation (in which electricity is applied only briefly to mimic the feeling of tDCS). With current coursing between their left and right anterior temporal lobes, 40 percent solved it.

You might suspect the procedure would be painful or unpleasant. Many subjects report a tickling or burning sensation from the electrodes, and some say they feel different when the current is flowing, with time seeming to pass quickly. But far from finding it painful, an editor at New Scientist who tried it out during a marksmanship test described tDCS as “the most powerful drug I’ve ever used in my life” and “a near-spiritual experience.” The editor, Sally Adee, wrote:

“When a nice neuroscientist named Michael Weisend put the electrodes on me, what defined the experience was not feeling smarter or learning faster: The thing that made the earth drop out from under my feet was that for the first time in my life, everything in my head finally shut up. … I felt clear-headed and like myself, just sharper. Calmer. Without fear and without doubt. From there on, I just spent the time waiting for a problem to appear so that I could solve it.”

Oh, and she nailed the target.

Exactly how all of this works is not yet fully clear. But the process appears to make neurons in the stimulated area more malleable, so that new connections form more readily while under the influence of the current. It remains to be seen whether those changes are short-lived or enduring, but at least one study has found positive effects persisting for up to six months. The beauty of it, in theory, is that the electric current doesn’t rewire the brain on its own—it just makes it easier for the brain to rewire itself.

At this point it seems obvious that this is far too good to be true. So what’s the catch?

The catch is that we don’t know what the catch is. And to Peter Reiner, a neuroscientist at University of British Columbia, that’s a biggie. If tDCS can so quickly change the brain in ways that we can easily measure, he says, there’s a good chance it could also change the brain in ways we can’t easily measure—or that researchers so far haven’t tried to measure. Scientists often assume they can target the effects of tDCS by stimulating only the part of the brain relevant to the task that the subject is concentrating on. But most would admit there’s some guesswork involved, since brain topography can vary from one person to the next. And Reiner warns that there’s no guarantee the subject’s mind won’t wander, say, to “something horrific that occurred earlier today.” What if tDCS ends up forging traumatic connections along with useful ones?

Less dramatically, it seems plausible that researchers are overlooking subtle drawbacks of tDCS. One of the first papers to identify downsides to the procedure was published last month in the Journal of Neuroscience, titled “The Mental Cost of Cognitive Enhancement.” Subjects who had their parietal lobes stimulated during a numerical-processing task performed better than those who received fake stimulation. But a week later, they struggled to apply the newly learned techniques to a different task. “They had trouble accessing what they’d learned,” study co-author Roi Cohen Kadosh of Oxford told Wired. Subjects who had a different region of their brain stimulated during the task showed the opposite effect, performing slowly at first but better at week’s end.

As for the amateur applications, you don’t need to be an Oxford professor to deduce that building your own tDCS kit and sticking electrodes onto your head willy-nilly might have some adverse consequences. All you need are some YouTube videos, like the one in which a teen describes his first forays into electrical brain stimulation. “I’ve been experimenting on where, which places on my head would improve memory—more specifically, visual memory,” the young DIY-er says in the video. “So I’ve been thinking, OK, does the left dorsal, uh, prefrontal cortex—which I thought would be around, about, left side, right here (points to head)—and that would be where the cathode goes, and the anode would go right up here. Well I put it on, and after about five minutes, I felt really angry and depressed. So … I guess that wasn’t a good idea.”

An observant YouTube commenter pointed out that the young man had reversed the anode and the cathode, a mistake akin to putting the wrong jumper cables on your car battery. “Flip it around and try again,” the commenter suggested.

The fact that tDCS may pose unknown risks, that its benefits and drawbacks are not yet fully understood, that it can be dangerous in the wrong hands—none of these arguments should keep scientists from carefully exploring its potential. Having spent the better part of two months immersed in the vertiginous world of human enhancement, I’ve become convinced that societal and academic taboos against the use of technology to give healthy people extraordinary powers are, on the whole, counterproductive. College students are already popping Adderall in droves. Body hackers are implanting microchips in their bodies. Entrepreneurs are hawking tDCS kits for $99 online. Some athlete, somewhere, is probably experimenting with gene doping. The riskiness of some of these behaviors makes it tempting to simply outlaw them all and expect everyone to comply. But that’s as unrealistic as it is blinkered.

This isn’t a call to legalize everything and let God or Darwin sort ’em out. It’s a plea to lawmakers, the media, academics, and those who fund academic research to take seriously the growing availability of and demand for human-enhancement technologies. Only by acknowledging and researching their potential benefits as well as their risks can we hope to craft mature policies that promote public safety and welfare. If that means continuing to classify Adderall as a Schedule II controlled substance until we’re even more convinced that it doesn’t pose long-term health risks, so be it. But here’s where we’re going astray: One university professor who studies ADHD drugs told me he has learned that every public-health research paper “has to have a certain (cautionary) tone to it” in order to be accepted for publication. “I know what I have to write, and it has to be, basically, ‘Drugs are bad.’ ”

Maybe he’s wrong. But I’ve talked with enough academics over the past two months who flat-out refused to even discuss the potential use of various medical technologies for human enhancement—or to even have their name attached to an article that discusses them—to suspect that there’s some legitimacy to his paranoia. Too many people seem to think that humans are fine the way we are, and that the only proper use of these technologies is to restore “normal” human functions to people with disabilities.

Why is that short-sighted? As Duke philosophy professor and bioethicist Allen Buchanan told Ross Andersen in the Atlantic:

“The list of design flaws in human beings is pretty long, as it is in other organisms, and so to think that somehow we’re at the summit of perfection and that we’re stable is to have the wrong idea of human nature. The misleading assumption is that if we don’t interfere, we’re going to continue the way we are, and of course that goes completely contrary to everything we know about evolution. In fact it might turn out that the only way to prevent us from going extinct, or to prevent some great worsening of our condition, is to enhance some of our capacities.”

I’m skeptical of a lot of the advertised merits of tDCS as a wonder tool for cognitive enhancement. After all, the modern field is still young, and it’s always easier to get research published and publicized if a result is dramatic. Already one study has cast doubt on the use of “sham” stimulation as an effective control for tDCS experiments. Perhaps it will take a backlash like the one against ADHD drugs to spur studies that debunk some of the more outlandish positive results.

But we should resist the urge to demonize either technology just because they feel wrong, or like cheating, and so to close the door to progress. What if it turns out that something like a tDCS “thinking cap,” goofy as it sounds, could not only make us sharper but help us to exercise greater self-control or make better decisions under pressure? Is that really possible? Would it be safe? Let’s find out! And until then, I’ll join the chorus: Kids, don’t try this at home.


Exploiting hype

These sorts of issues are why a team from the Oxford Martin school at Oxford University is now calling calling for regulation of the commercially sold devices.

Lead author of this paper, Dr Maslen, explains that as they are marketed to gamers and do not make any treatment claims, they avoid the need for regulation.

"If you were to make a treatment claim, that the device would alleviate symptoms or treat a recognised disease or illness, the device would automatically fall under the medical devices directive and the legislation associated with that."

Her team does not want to restrict access to cognitive enhancement devices but wants consumers to have "the information they need to assess what risks they are willing to take in pursuit of which potential benefits".

Another concern is that the science behind these devices is not ready for the commercial market, something Steven Novella a neurologist at Yale University has raised. He says that companies are jumping on the hype of research that is not quite ready for the world because it "sounds very advanced and sexy".

"There's lots of published evidence that could make it seem as if these are proven therapies but I think the marketing is a couple of steps ahead of the science.

"Any device with medical claims that it's meant to affect our biological function should be appropriately regulated. Regulation is the only thing that creates the motivation to spend the money and take the time to do the proper research," he adds.

Suggestions of increased attention and the alleviation of certain medical conditions means interest in electrical stimulation is bound to increase but if the research continues to show promising results it's clear that TDCS will need to be treated with some caution.


Summary

The brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is comprised of the somatic and autonomic nervous systems. The somatic nervous system transmits sensory and motor signals to and from the central nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls the function of our organs and glands, and can be divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions. Sympathetic activation prepares us for fight or flight, while parasympathetic activation is associated with normal functioning under relaxed conditions.


Mind & Body Articles & More

Imagine that your mind is like a garden. You could simply be with it, looking at its weeds and flowers without judging or changing anything. Or, you could pull weeds by decreasing what’s negative in your mind. Or, you could grow flowers by increasing the positive in your mind. In essence, you can manage your mind in three primary ways: let be, let go, or let in.

When something difficult or uncomfortable happens—when a storm comes to your garden—these three ways to engage your mind give you a very useful, step-by-step sequence.

© Fotosmurf03

First, be with your experience. Observe it and accept it for what it is even if it’s painful. Second, when it feels right—which could be a matter of seconds with a familiar worry or a matter of months or years with the loss of a loved one—begin letting go of whatever is negative. For example, relax your body to reduce tension. Third, again when it feels right, after you’ve released some or all of what was negative, replace it with something positive. For instance, you could remember what it’s like to be with someone who appreciates you, then stay with this experience for 10 or 20 seconds.

Besides feeling good in the moment, this third step will have lasting benefits, for when you take in positive experiences, you are not only growing flowers in your mind. You are growing new neural circuits in your brain. You are hardwiring happiness.

Experience-dependent neuroplasticity

The brain is the organ that learns, so it is designed to be changed by your experiences. It still amazes me but it’s true: Whatever we repeatedly sense and feel and want and think is slowly but surely sculpting neural structure. As you read this, in the five cups of tofu-like tissue inside your head, nested amidst a trillion support cells, 80-100 billion neurons are signaling each other in a network with about half a quadrillion connections called synapses. All this incredibly fast, complex, and dynamic neural activity is continually changing your brain. Active synapses become more sensitive, new synapses start growing within minutes, busy regions get more blood since they need more oxygen and glucose to do their work, and genes inside neurons turn on or off. Meanwhile, less active connections wither away in a process sometimes called neural Darwinism: the survival of the busiest.

All mental activity—sights and sounds, thoughts and feelings, conscious and unconscious processes—is based on underlying neural activity. Much mental and therefore neural activity flows through the brain like ripples on a river, with no lasting effects on its channel. But intense, prolonged, or repeated mental/neural activity—especially if it is conscious—will leave an enduring imprint in neural structure, like a surging current reshaping a riverbed. In the saying in neuroscience: Neurons that fire together, wire together. Mental states become neural traits. Day after day, your mind is building your brain.

This is what scientists call “experience-dependent neuroplasticity,” which is a hot area of research these days. For example, London taxi drivers memorizing the city’s spaghetti snarl of streets have thickened neural layers in their hippocampus, the region that helps make visual-spatial memories like building a muscle, these drivers worked a part of their brain and grew new tissue there. Moving from the cab to the cushion, mindfulness meditators have increased gray matter—which means a thicker cortex—in three key regions: prefrontal areas behind the forehead that control attention the insula, which we use for tuning into ourselves and others and the hippocampus. Your experiences don’t just grow new synapses, remarkable as that is by itself, but also somehow reach down into your genes—into little strips of atoms in the twisted molecules of DNA inside the nuclei of neurons – and change how they operate. For instance, if you routinely practice relaxation, it will increase the activity of genes that calm down stress reactions, making you more resilient.

Order your copy of Dr. Hanson's latest book, Hardwiring Happiness.

If you step back from the details of these studies, one simple truth stands out: Your experiences matter. Not just for how they feel in the moment but for the lasting traces they leave in your brain. Your experiences of happiness, worry, love, and anxiety can make real changes in your neural networks. The structure-building processes of the nervous system are turbocharged by conscious experience, and especially for what’s in the foreground of your awareness. Your attention is like a combination spotlight and vacuum cleaner: It highlights what it lands on and then sucks it into your brain—for better or worse.

There’s a traditional saying that the mind takes its shape from what it rests upon. Based on what we’ve learned about experience-dependent neuroplasticity, a modern version would be that the brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. If you keep resting your mind upon self-criticism, worries, grumbling about others, hurts, and stress, then your brain will be shaped into greater reactivity, vulnerability to anxiety and depressed mood, a narrow focus on threats and losses, and inclinations toward anger, sadness, and guilt.

On the other hand, if you keep resting your mind on good events and conditions (someone was nice to you, there’s a roof over your head), pleasant feelings, the things you do get done, physical pleasures, and your good intentions and qualities, then over time your brain will take a different shape, one with strength and resilience hard-wired into it, as well as a realistically optimistic outlook, positive mood, and a sense of worth. Looking back over the past week or so, where has your mind been mainly resting?

In effect, what you pay attention to—what you rest your mind upon—is the primary shaper of your brain. While some things naturally grab a person’s attention—such as a problem at work, a physical pain, or a serious worry—on the whole you have a lot of influence over where your mind rests. This means that you can deliberately prolong and even create the experiences that will shape your brain for the better. This is what I call “taking in the good.”

This practice, applied to positive experiences, boils down to just four words: have it, enjoy it. And see for yourself what happens when you do.

The experiences that serve you most

Contemplating your mental garden these days, which flowers would be good to grow? Certain kinds of experiences will help you more than others will.

Negative experiences could still have value for a person. For instance, working the graveyard shift in a bottling plant one summer while in college toughened me up. But negative experiences have inherent negative side effects, such as psychological discomfort or the health consequences of stress. They can also create or worsen conflicts with others. When my wife and I were tired and frazzled raising two young children, we snapped at each other more often. The costs of negative experiences routinely outweigh their benefits, and often there’s no benefit at all, just pain with no gain. Since neurons that fire together wire together, staying with a negative experience past the point that’s useful is like running laps in Hell: You dig the track a little deeper in your brain each time you go around it.

On the other hand, positive experiences always have gain and rarely have pain. The most direct way to grow inner strengths such as positive emotions, determination, and compassion is to have experiences of them in the first place. If you want to develop more gratitude, keep resting your mind on feeling thankful. If you want to feel more loved, look for and stay with experiences in which you feel included, seen, appreciated, liked, or cherished. The answer to the question of how to grow good things inside your mind is this: take in experiences of them. This will weave them into your brain, building up their neural circuits, so you can take them with you wherever you go.

How do we do this, exactly? I explain how to take in the good in great detail in my new book, Hardwiring Happiness. But for starters, perhaps the most basic way to have a positive experience is to notice the good things that already surround us in everyday life.

Try this brief practice designed to help you notice the positive experiences already hovering on the edge of your awareness—a simple way to help you have a positive experience. Then walk through the next two steps of taking in the good, enriching and absorbing that positive experience.

1. Have: Find a pleasant sensation that’s already present in the foreground or background of your awareness. Perhaps a relaxed feeling of breathing, a comfortable warmth or coolness, or a bodily sense of vitality or aliveness. This sensation could be subtle or mild, yet it still feels good. There may be other sensations, or thoughts or feelings, that are uncomfortable, and that’s alright. Just let go of those for now and bring your attention to the pleasant sensation. When you find a pleasant sensation, move into the next step.

2. Enrich: Stay with the pleasant sensation. Explore it a little. What’s it like? Help it last. Keep your attention on it for 10, 20, or more seconds in a row. Come back to it if your attention wanders. Open to this sensation in your mind and body. Without stress or strain, see if it can become even fuller, even more intense. Enjoy it. Let the pleasure of this sensation help keep it going. See if you can embody it through small actions, such as shifting your body to breathe more fully or smiling softly.

3. Absorb: Both during the second step and right after it, intend and sense that the pleasant sensation is sinking into you. People do this absorbing in various ways. Some imagine the experience weaving its way into them like water soaking into a sponge, golden dust sifting down, a jewel placed into the treasure chest of the heart, or a soothing balm. Others simply understand conceptually that the experience is becoming a part of them. In the absorbing, there is a sense of receiving, letting in, softening, and sinking into the experience as it sinks into you.

When you’re done with this practice, see how you feel. Get a sense of what it’s like to take in the good.

More from Rick Hanson

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If you weren’t able to notice any pleasant sensations, either you were overwhelmed with agonizing pain (I hope not!) or you just need to try it a few times. It’s natural to have difficulties with the first step of taking in the good, and easy to underestimate it. When working with your mind, it helps to have a gentle yet persistent spirit of exploration. Keep looking. If you can’t find something positive right now, maybe it will arise a moment later.

Self-directed neuroplasticity

The science of experience-dependent neuroplasticity shows that each one of us has the power to change his or her brain for the better—what Jeffrey Schwartz has called “self-directed neuroplasticity.” If you don’t make use of this power yourself, other forces will shape your brain for you, including pressures at work and home, technology and media, pushy people, the lingering effects of painful past experiences, and Mother Nature herself.

On the other hand, in quick, easy, and enjoyable ways right in the flow of your day, you can use the power of self-directed neuroplasticity to build up a lasting sense of ease, confidence, self-acceptance, compassion, feeling loved, contentment, and inner peace. In essence what you’ll do is simple: Turn everyday good experiences into good neural structure. Putting it more technically: You will activate mental states and then install them as neural traits. When you need them, you’ll be able to draw on these neural traits, which are your inner strengths, the good growing in your mind.

You’ll be using your mind to change your brain to change your mind for the better. Bit by bit, synapse by synapse, you really can build happiness into your brain.

And by doing this, you’ll be overcoming its negativity bias: the brain is good at learning from bad experiences, but bad at learning from good ones—if the mind is like a garden, the “soil” of your brain is more fertile for weeds than for flowers. So it’s really important to plant the seeds of inner strengths by repeatedly taking in the good.


Reading VS. Television: Attention Span

Whether a series or a lengthy movie, television condenses a story. The scenes are rapidly changing with shifts in camera angles. The plot is broken up for advertisement breaks. Most people are preoccupied with other tasks simultaneously such as doing homework, browsing the computer, sending text messages, or are engaged in a craft. The act of watching television does not involve equal levels of thinking in comparison to reading.

Reading requires constant attention. When reading, readers are often engrossed in the story and are not completing other tasks at the same time. They can process the material at their own pace instead of attempting to keep up with rapidly changing television scenes.


Mind & Body Articles & More

This month, we feature videos of a Greater Good presentation by Rick Hanson, the best-selling author and trailblazing psychologist. In this excerpt from his talk, Dr. Hanson explains how we can take advantage of the brain’s natural “plasticity”—it’s ability to change shape over time.

There’s this great line by Ani Tenzin Palmo, an English woman who spent 12 years in a cave in Tibet: “We do not know what a thought is, yet we’re thinking them all the time.”

It’s true. The amount of knowledge we have about the brain has doubled in the last 20 years. Yet there’s still a lot we don’t know.

In recent years, though, we have started to better understand the neural bases of states like happiness, gratitude, resilience, love, compassion, and so forth. And better understanding them means we can skillfully stimulate the neural substrates of those states—which, in turn, means we can strengthen them. Because as the famous saying by the Canadian scientist Donald Hebb goes, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

Ultimately, what this can mean is that with proper practice, we can increasingly trick our neural machinery to cultivate positive states of mind.

But in order to understand how, you need to understand three important facts about the brain.

Fact one: As the brain changes, the mind changes, for better or worse.

Take this quiz to learn how mindful you are.

Register for our upcoming full-day seminar with Dr. Hanson on "Taking in the Good."

Watch clips from Dr. Hanson's Greater Good last talk.

Learn more about Dr. Hanson's work, including his books Buddha's Brain and Just One Thing, on his website.

For example, more activation in the left prefrontal cortex is associated with more positive emotions. So as there is greater activation in the left, front portion of your brain relative to the right, there is also greater well-being. That’s probably in large part because the left prefrontal cortex is a major part of the brain for controlling negative emotion. So if you put the breaks on the negative, you get more of the positive.

On the other hand, people who routinely experience chronic stress—particularly acute, even traumatic stress—release the hormone cortisol, which literally eats away, almost like an acid bath, at the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain that’s very engaged in visual-spatial memory as well as memory for context and setting.

For example, adults who have had that history of stress and have lost up to 25 percent of the volume of this critically important part of the brain are less able to form new memories.

So we can see that as the brain changes, the mind changes. And that takes us to the second fact, which is where things really start getting interesting.


Fact two: As the mind changes, the brain changes.

These changes happen in temporary and in lasting ways. In terms of temporary changes, the flow of different neurochemicals in the brain will vary at different times. For instance, when people consciously practice gratitude, they are likely getting higher flows of reward-related neurotransmitters, like dopamine. Research suggests that when people practice gratitude, they experience a general alerting and brightening of the mind, and that’s probably correlated with more of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine.

Here’s another example of how changes in mental activity can produce changes in neural activity: When college students deeply in love are shown a picture of their sweetheart, their brains become more active in the caudate nucleus, a reward center of the brain. As the mind changes—that rush of love, that deep feeling of happiness and reward—correlates with activation of a particular part of the brain. When they stop looking at that picture of their sweetheart, the reward center goes back to sleep.

Now the mind also can change the brain in lasting ways. In other words, what flows through the mind sculpts the brain. I define the mind as the flow of immaterial information through the nervous system—all the signals being sent, most of which are happening forever outside of consciousness. As the mind flows through the brain, as neurons fire together in particularly patterned ways based on the information they are representing, those patterns of neural activity change neural structure.

So busy regions of the brain start stitching new connections with each other. Existing synapses—the connections between neurons that are very busy—get stronger, they get more sensitive, they start building out more receptors. New synapses form as well.

One of my favorite studies of this involved taxi cab drivers in London. To get a taxi license there, you’ve got to memorize the spaghetti-like streets of London. Well, at the end of the drivers’ training, the hippocampus of their brain—a part very involved in visual-spatial memory—is measurably thicker. In other words, neurons that fire together wire together, even to the point of being observably thicker.


This has also been found among meditators: People who maintain some kind of regular meditative practice actually have measurably thicker brains in certain key regions. One of those regions is the insula, which is involved in what’s called “interoception”—tuning into the state of your body, as well as your deep feelings. This should be no surprise: A lot of what they’re doing is practicing mindfulness of breathing, staying really present with what’s going on inside themselves no wonder they’re using, and therefore building, the insula.

Another region is the frontal regions of the prefrontal cortex—areas involved in controlling attention. Again, this should be no surprise: They’re focusing their attention in their meditation, so they’re getting more control over it, and they’re strengthening its neural basis.

What’s more, research has also shown that it’s possible to slow the loss of our brain cells. Normally, we lose about 10,000 brain cells a day. That may sound horrible, but we were born with 1.1 trillion. We also have several thousand born each day, mainly in the hippocampus, in what’s called neurogenesis. So losing 10,000 a day isn’t that big a deal, but the net bottom line is that a typical 80 year old will have lost about 4 percent of his or her brain mass—it’s called “cortical thinning with aging.” It’s a normal process.

But in one study, researchers compared meditators and non-meditators. In the graph to the left, the meditators are the blue circles and the non-meditators are the red squares, comparing people of the same age. The non-meditators experienced normal cortical thinning in those two brain regions I mentioned above, along with a third, the somatosensory cortex.

However, the people who routinely meditated and “worked” their brain did not experience cortical thinning in those regions.

That has a big implication for an aging population: Use it or lose it, which applies to the brain as well as to other aspects of life.

That highlights an important point that I think is a major takeaway in this territory: Experience really matters. It doesn’t matter only in our moment-to-moment well-being—how it feels to be me—but it really matters in the lasting residues that it leaves behind, woven into our very being.

Which takes us to the third fact, which is the one with the most practical import.

Fact three: You can use the mind to change the brain to change the mind for the better.

This is known as “self-directed neuroplasticity.” Neuroplasticity refers to the malleable nature of the brain, and it’s constant, ongoing. Self-directed neuroplasticity means doing it with clarity and skillfulness and intention.

The key to it is a controlled use of attention. Attention is like a spotlight, to be sure, shining on things within our awareness. But it’s also like vacuum cleaner, sucking whatever it rests upon into the brain, for better or worse.

For example, if we rest our attention routinely on what we resent or regret—our hassles, our lousy roommate, what Jean-Paul Sartre called “hell” (other people)—then we’re going to build out the neural substrates of those thoughts and feelings.

On the other hand, if we rest our attention on the things for which we’re grateful, the blessings in our life—the wholesome qualities in ourselves and the world around us the things we get done, most of which are fairly small yet they’re accomplishments nonetheless—then we build up very different neural substrates.

I think that’s why, more than 100 years ago, before there were things like MRIs, William James. the father of psychology in America, said. “The education of attention would be an education par excellence.”

The problem, of course, is that most people don’t have very good control over their attention. Part of this is due to human nature, shaped by evolution: Our forbearers who just focused on the reflection of sunlight in the water—they got chomped by predators. But those who were constantly vigilant—they lived.

And today we are constantly bombarded with stimuli that the brain has not evolved to handle. So gaining more control over attention one way or another is really crucial, whether it’s through the practice of mindfulness, for instance, or through gratitude practices, where we count our blessings. Those are great ways to gain control over your attention because there you are, for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, coming back to focus on an object of awareness.


Taking in the good
This brings me to one of my favorite methods for deliberately using the mind to change the brain over time for the better: taking in the good.

Just having positive experiences is not enough to promote last well-being. If a person feels grateful for a few seconds, that’s nice. That’s better than feeling resentful or bitter for a few seconds. But in order to really suck that experience into the brain, we need to stay with those experiences for a longer duration of time—we need to take steps, consciously, to keep that spotlight of attention on the positive.

So, how do we actually do this? These are the three steps I recommend for taking in the good. I should note that I did not invent these steps. They are embedded in many good therapies and life practices. But I’ve tried to tease them apart and embed them in an evolutionary understanding of how the brain works.

1. Let a good fact become a good experience. Often we go through life and some good thing happens—a little thing, like we checked off an item on our To Do list, we survived another day at work, the flowers are blooming, and so forth. Hey, this is an opportunity to feel good. Don’t leave money lying on the table: Recognize that this is an opportunity to let yourself truly feel good.

2. Really savor this positive experience. Practice what any school teacher knows: If you want to help people learn something, make it as intense as possible—in this case, as felt in the body as possible—for as long as possible.

3. Finally, as you sink into this experience, sense your intent that this experience is sinking into you. Sometimes people do this through visualization, like by perceiving a golden light coming into themselves or a soothing balm inside themselves. You might imagine a jewel going into the treasure chest in your heart—or just know that this experience is sinking into you, becoming a resource you can take with you wherever you go.


73 thoughts on &ldquo How You Can Use Sound And Music To Change Your Brain Waves With Laser Accuracy And Achieve Huge Focus And Performance Gains. &rdquo

I know this web site gives quality dependent articles and other information, is there any other website which offers these kinds of data in quality?

How does the constant noise of a 60hz high voltage power line affect the brain? One was put up near our house a week ago and every night the noise brings horrible waves of depression along with sleeplessness. Is this normal?

Thankyou for your wonderful information…I have confusion about binaural beats since last two weeks. Now I finally understand how binaural beats works on mind.

The best way to proceed would be reaching out through this link: BenGreenfieldFitness.com/contact

Mr Greenfield
Thanks. I’ll go look for that page.

In the meantime, Would you please remove my request to you from this page. Thank you. (the page at this
Link?
https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/brain-podcasts/how-you-can-use-sound-and-music-to-change-your-brain-waves-with-laser-accuracy-and-achieve-huge-focus-and-performance-gains/#comment-874504

U should research these cases effects on a astronomical level threw cellular development and the scales its ability. To broadcast frequency without noticeable awareness of it being a factor of possibility. To everyone that has a cellphone and is lost to what they are capable of affecting in standard living entity’s as we develop harmful experimental technology that is of higher intelligence than most men or woman existing today. Hope we notice the possible outcomes before we are so diminished as human beings science is life and psychology is experience but perception is knowledge to encounter truthful lession for others to prosper from generation to generations to come. Sad thing is im not college graduate im a 9th grade drop out that had a hard life and never used my intelligence to peruse a involvement in educational aspects for others that are as of the same placement as myself.hope somebody can use my knowledge to become a valuable existence in our world use the time u have here to matter not to be a ignorance hope u achieve greatness and have a wonderful life thanks.

Hi, I have %60 loss in my right ear. Would it effect the frequency? Plus would it work whenyou listen with bluetooth ear buds? And allegedly, YouTube videos were squeezed which means loss, is that true? I need to solve this frequency loss or change issue, thanks in advance…

Things I learned in 2018, and lessons I admittedly should not repeat….

My first question for you would be to ask where in particular does your interest in using sound lie? Do you want it for physical performance enhancement, for relaxation, to help cure a physical injury? As this will inevitably have an impact on how you can best use the sound.

From my work using sound with people who have hearing loss, it is based on the law that for any sound to be activated it also evokes a physical vibration. Thus, I actually use instruments in real life over and around the body of a person with hearing loss and they can actually feel the vibration physically in their body, which is even better than the sound as the vibration travels better in water than air, and since the body is 80% water…

So for example, the pounding of a big deep drum sends a vibration directly through the body and entire room, even changing the vibration in the room and energy fields.

Also if a drum was beaten slow enough (similar idea to a fast bpm or slow bpm song beats/minute) it will induce deep Theta and even Delta brainwave states. That process is called entrainment and can be used to even slow down your heart rate (great if you are an archery player and need a steady hand) or slow down breath rate or even used to get a rhythm back into people with erratic breathing patterns through anxiety.

There are also other elements to the sound we can apply to induce other effects, For example instruments that are low in pitch such as an oboe will inevitably slow down the brainwaves, than say a high pitched sound from a flute which instead gives alertness. Humming a note also calms down your central nervous system, as do long smooth tones… such as the long tones that come out of a flute or when you sing an extended note Ahhhhhh. These long tones have a calming effect on your nervous system and can be great tools to use when you are nervous and need to calm down and you don’t have any other instrument but your voice. Look up Vagus Nerve and singing… it’s a nerve that runs through your vocal chords to the base of your stomach, and when activated can have profound calming response through the body.

As for your hearing loss that won’t have any effect on changing the actual frequency/pitch of the sound, as the frequency comes from the actual instrument playing the sound, not from the way it is process in the ear canal. So once the instrument/sound is played the frequency does not alter. Although what may happen, is that you will hear a distorted version of the sound and that may inadvertently have a different effect on your emotional response and limbic system.

Can I ask if your hearing loss was from birth? And have you ever had a frequency analysis of your hearing? Where they identify what particular frequencies you are not actually hearing? As some people have hearing loss at the top end/high frequencies, others at low ends, and some in the mid frequency levels, and to a certain point we can actually re-train ourselves to hear these frequencies. BUT it would depend on the reason for your hearing loss.

I seem to have rambled on quite a bit, I apologise, and hope I have been somewhat helpful, it’s my passion to use sound to help people and I get overly excited about it. But most of all try different things out and see what works for you. Wishing you all best in your journey of sound exploration, Nicole :)

you should never use bluetooth…it is extremely high level microwave radiation akin to putting your head in a microwave oven on low power, not very clever..


Sensory neurons

Sensory neurons are the nerve cells that are activated by sensory input from the environment - for example, when you touch a hot surface with your fingertips, the sensory neurons will be the ones firing and sending off signals to the rest of the nervous system about the information they have received.

The inputs that activate sensory neurons can be physical or chemical, corresponding to all five of our senses. Thus, a physical input can be things like sound, touch, heat, or light. A chemical input comes from taste or smell, which neurons then send to the brain.

Most sensory neurons are pseudounipolar, which means they only have one axon which is split into two branches.


Can brain stimulation aid memory and brain health?

Stimulating your brain doesn't just mean spending an evening at the theater or reading a good book. These days it can involve sitting with your head against a magnet or wearing electrodes that transmit a low-voltage current through your scalp to activate—or suppress—certain neurons in your brain. The prospect of regulating brain signals responsible for mood, pain, and learning is so compelling that scores of studies are under way to see if, and how, the approach can be used to sharpen mental skills and treat symptoms of several mind-body disorders. "Brain stimulation, if used carefully and safely, looks promising, especially if combined with other therapies," says Dr. Daniel Press, a neurologist with the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr. Press has used noninvasive brain stimulation for almost a decade.