Patients in a Vegetative State Might be Capable of Recognizing People They Care about

DSCN0373

I read something extremely intriguing today, and I wanted to share it with you. It seems that recent research has been focusing on trying to understand whether patients in a vegetative state are capable of recognizing loved ones.

The way in which they attempted to find this out was by showing them pictures of people they are close to, and by measuring their brain activity. The result? When showed photographs of loved ones, parts of the brain involved in the processing of emotion became active.

This is a transaxial slice of the brain of a 5...
This is a transaxial slice of the brain of a 56 year old patient (male) taken with positron emission tomography (PET). The injected dose have been 282 MBq of 18F-FDG and the image was generated from a 20 minutes measurement with an ECAT Exact HR+ PET Scanner. Red areas show more accumulated tracer substance (18F-FDG) and blue areas are regions where low to no tracer have been accumulated. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another similar experiment was done on one patient in a vegetative state that was asked to think of her parents’ face. The patient experienced an increase in the activity of areas of the brain connected to the processing of faces and of emotions.

These are amazing findings, though I am a little skeptical about them, particularly because the last experiment (done by asking the patient to think of something) speaks of increased activity in the brain of one patient only. One isn’t exactly the kind of number that would support an entire hypothesis when it comes to evidence for a conclusion.

However, I can’t deny that these findings are a gleam of hope in the world of families who have a member in a vegetative state. The very idea that perhaps the person lying in bed can actually recognize them is absolutely stunning and encouraging.

If you have any thoughts on the subject, please share them with me! I hope you find the topic as fascinating as I do 🙂

If you want to read the original article, click here.

And, on a different note, I wish you all a wonderful New Year!

/Larisa

The Embrace of a Dog

Tommy

The holiday season is all about love: love your family members, love your friends, love the less fortunate, love the entire world. With so much love concentrated on these “big” things, I believe I forgot to love the “little” ones.

Of course, animals aren’t as important as human beings. Well, at least not as important as some human beings. But they are, nevertheless, important.

I love dogs. I always have, though I never really knew just how much, until this summer, when I got one all to myself. He was only two weeks old when he “landed” in my arms, and I took care of him until the summer was over and I had to go back to school.

But this puppy is not the topic of this blog. I have another dog, who has recently turned two, and it is him that I want to talk about today.

I met Tommy when he was about 9 months old. By that time, he had done most of his physical growing, and all that was left was the shaping of his personality. And what a strange, wonderful personality it is. He is proud like no other dog I’ve ever seen. He is smart. Smart enough that he can learn a command after just a few times of me showing it to him. But he is proud enough that he will refuse to carry out that command unless he wants to do it.

He is very different from my other dog. My other dog is full of love, which he will constantly show by throwing himself in my arms, licking my hands, and sitting as close as possible to me at all times. Actually, he often blurs that line by sitting directly on me.

Tommy, on the other hand, is not like that. He will sometimes come to me to pet him, and sometimes he won’t. He doesn’t like to sit really close to me, and in fact, if I happen to sit next to him, he will often get up and walk away.

But not too far away. You see, even though he doesn’t appreciate being too close, he still likes to be within a few meters of me. It took me a long time to notice this, but after a while, I couldn’t ignore the fact that he would always be nearby. If I happened to move, he would magically change his location as well.

Tommy loves too, but in his own way. I’ve seen more proof of it in the past few months than I would be able to ignore. Yet, what strikes me the most is seeing how much Tommy needs to be loved back, despite not showing it all the time.

Being two years old, Tommy doesn’t need as much attention as the other one, who is, after all, still a puppy. I find myself spending more time with the puppy, trying to train him (and failing, more often than not). Tommy just sits in the distance and watches. Sadly, I don’t get to be around him as much as I’d like to, because I always have other things to do, and so I end up petting him hurriedly and then leaving to get on with my day.

Today, however, I couldn’t follow my normal routine, because Tommy asked for my attention in a way he’s never done before.

I went to where he usually sits, to bring him food and water. When he saw me, he started running towards me, giving me just enough time to place the bowls down. I expected he wanted to play, because that’s what he normally does. However, this wasn’t his intention.

When he got close, he jumped on me, with his front paws placed around my waist like a loving embrace. He remained like that, unmoved, looking at me with his beautiful big eyes, as if asking me to return the gesture. So I did. I embraced him back and petted his smooth, black fur for a while.

It may seem like an insignificant moment in the grand scheme of things, but to me, it was magnificent.

/Larisa

Going to a Party this Christmas? Here are 5 Tips that Will Make You Look Powerful and Confident

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu.
Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, the Holiday Season is here. Finally! With it, come countless of parties you have to attend, all of which are starting to make you nervous. If that is the case (or if you just want to learn about how to look powerful), keep on reading! The tips presented here are meant to help you look powerful and in control of the situation. (They will also come in handy in a variety of other life circumstances)

Funny thing about power: you don’t have to actually have it, you just have to look the part. So how can you do that?

1)      Start by Making Sure You Look Good

And by that, I don’t mean you have to go all out and start wearing formal suits or dresses 24/7. Simply make sure that you are well-groomed and wearing clothes that suit you well. If your appearance is sloppy, the tips that are coming up might not have the desired effect.

 2)       Don’t Slouch! Your Posture Invites Different Types of Responses

Slouching is like screaming out to the people around you that you have no confidence. I will push it a little further (though not unrealistically), and say that when you appear to have no confidence, you will get less respect from the people around you. So slouching -> (possibly) less respect.

Not good. Not good. Instead of that, start standing straight. Your back will thank you, and so will your self –esteem, which will be heightened after seeing how much better you are treated.

3)      Smile More Often

Now, don’t overdo it, as you might give off the impression that you are being insincere, impolite,  or just not very gifted, mentally speaking. It can also make you appear exactly the opposite of what you want, as smiling too often is typically seen in people who are dependent on others’ approval. However, if you manage to hit the right amount, you will give off the impression of being more pleasant than you would if you were to keep a straight face.

Smiling just enough isn’t that hard, once you’ve got the hang of it. Look for clues in the conversation, such as when someone is telling you something they think is really exciting and overall awesome. Smiling will make that person want to go on, labeling you a pleasant person in the process.

Do you know what pleasant people have in common with powerful people? Most powerful people are pleasant people! As surprising as that may sound, it is true. If how charming and easy-going political candidates appear to be doesn’t play a role in power, then why are all of them so concerned about keeping up appearances and making themselves look super nice?

4)      Say what’s on Your Mind

Have you noticed that powerful people don’t wait for others to ask them to tell them their opinion? Instead, they give their opinion. Why? Because they value their own thoughts and opinions so much that they believe others simply must hear them too. That’s what confidence does, and despite the fact that it might be annoying sometimes, it actually works.

5)      Connect with the People around You

English: A glass of port wine. Français : Un v...
English: A glass of port wine. Français : Un verre de Porto. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Connection can be established in a number of ways. Smiling, which I just discussed above, is one of them. Shaking hands is another. Yet another one is making sure that there is no object between you and the person you are talking to.

I talked about placing objects between the person one is talking to in my lying-detection post. However, objects placed between two individuals don’t always signal dishonest behavior. It may just be a way of distancing oneself from the other person, due to shyness, perhaps.

Make sure you avoid it as much as possible. Keep in mind that a glass of wine can also count as an object between you and the other person. While you can’t grab the glass out of the other person’s hand if they happen to keep holding it between you two, you can make sure that you are not holding your glass like that either.

So…why does power, or rather, the appearance of power, matter so much? I’m not sure myself, but I believe it has to do with the fact that someone who looks powerful appears to others as a leader. If you had the choice between spending your time with a leader or a follower, wouldn’t you choose to spend it with a leader? Perhaps you may think you wouldn’t, but you might be wrong. We are programmed to want to be around leaders, because a good leader means more chances of survival in the wilderness. Though consciously we may have gotten pass that, somewhere deep down we still continue to think that way.

So, have you had any instances that made you think of just how much the appearance of power matters? Or have you any suggestions for why appearing to have power matters so much to us?

Leave your thoughts in the comments! I always love reading them 🙂

Before I go, I just want to wish you a Merry Christmas! Enjoy those parties and don’t forget to put these tips to good use.

/Larisa

Want to Know when You’re Being Lied to? Here Are Some Tips

 

In a society where it seems we don’t consider truth to be of the utmost importance, being able to tell when someone is lying to you is a crucial skill. There are people to whom this skill comes naturally, and so they do not need to actively force themselves to notice the signs of untruthfulness. For the rest, this skill can be fostered, and if it is practiced enough, it will become second-nature eventually.

1)      Be Wary of Speech Changes, such as an Increase in the Number of Words Used

If you are talking to someone, and you notice that they start giving you lots and lots of unnecessary details, then that might be a sign you’re not getting the real story. Why? Many times, liars tend to rehearse the story they will tell you, and add in many details that are beside the point, simply to make the lie sound more real.

Confusingly enough, some liars may fall in the other extreme, which is not giving enough details. This tends to particularly happen when they’re lying by not revealing the entire truth. In an effort to ensure that they’re not giving away the details they want to remain secret, they will also skip on other, mundane details.

2)      Change in Temperament

If you have asked a question, and you notice the person is becoming offensive, you might be lied to. How does that work? When someone is lying, they will undoubtedly want to turn the spot light from them to you. They’ll probably start accusing you of doing things that are irrelevant to what you’re discussing. That’s a BIG red flag.

Usually, when someone is being truthful with you, they will feel hurt after having been accused unjustly. They might get angry too, after a while of being constantly accused under false pretenses. But they usually don’t respond with anger right off the bat.

3)      Is the Person’s Posture Compatible with Their Words?

If not, then it might be a sign of untruthfulness. What does honest body language look like? Well, for starters, the gestures are reflected by what is being said, and vice versa. Actually, usually speech comes after gestures, which means that if someone is saying “I am being honest”, and placing their hand on their heart after having said that, they’re simply acting out their gestures to interpret their language. Badly so.

If they’re telling you they’re sad, but their posture screams confidence, then you can assume that they are not telling you what’s really on their mind. How does a “sad” posture look like? It’s hunched over. Confidence is usually seen through a straight posture.

4)      Are They Acting Like They’re Trying to Hide?

Attempting to hide themselves from you can take many forms. The most typical one is by placing an object between the two of you. This is usually done without conscious command, which means that the person doing it does not even realise it. However, placing an object between you and them gives them the illusion of being safe from the truth-digging you are doing.

Another form of hiding comes back at body language. If they are crossing their arms, or keeping their body turned away from you, it’s a sign they’re uncomfortable with the situation, and they’d like to be out of it.

The Caveat…

These tips are pretty sweet, huh? Now you can just memorize them and BAM! You’re going to be the best human lie-detector ever. Well, that’s not true.

As with many things in life, lying is complicated and cannot be efficiently covered in one page or so of writing. There are good liars out there, and terribly bad ones as well. The latter are easier to identify, but the former? Not so much… Perhaps they are good actors, or have simply trained themselves to evade the signs of lying, meaning that just by using the tips above you will not be able to find the liars that are well trained.

Just as lying is complicated, so is the truth. The one advantage with the truth is that it does not put a tremendous mental strain on you when you’re telling it. What does that mean? Sometimes people may appear to be lying, when they are actually telling the truth. That can happen especially in cases where you have just asked them an embarrassing question. In fact, with this case, they might display all the things I listed above, though they are not lying.

Why Do People Lie?

Even if you are in absolutely certain that someone is lying, you should still take a minute to assess the reasons they might be doing it. This is hard, particularly when your ego is at stake, since you have the power to show that person just how much smarter you are than they originally believed.

However, take a step back and consider:

1)      Some people just really hate confrontations. So much, in fact, that they are ready to lie in order to avoid it.

2)      Some are lying to avoid hurting you.

3)      Others are lying to save themselves from being hurt.

And, of course, there are bad reasons:

4)      They might be lying to make themselves appear to be better than they really are. This goes both for the outside world and for themselves.

5)      They are trying to make you act a certain way, which will benefit them.

Knowing why you are being lied to helps in deciding what action you are going to take. Perhaps you might not want to deal with someone who is lying to make you feel better in the same manner as with someone who is trying to get you to do something.

That’s about it for today! Do you know of any other signs that show people might be lying? Let’s discuss them in the comments!

/Larisa

Tips on Improving Your Memory

This post is a follow-up of “Matters of the Mind: “How to Be a Mentalist: Master the Secrets Behind the Hit TV Show”, by Simon Winthrop”. Since I am expanding upon the second lesson I discussed, Improve Your Memory, you will find some tips on how to do that. The first two are more general things you should do to improve the health of your brain, and the last is broken down into a variety of practical strategies that help you memorize information.  

Sun and Flowers on a Cold Day

As I am writing this post, I am surrounded by the beautiful, strong scent of a small bouquet of lilies. Together with the rays of the sun entering through the large windows, they make the perfect distraction for the winter that’s outside. In fact, I have to keep reminding myself that the temperature outside is below zero degrees Celsius.

But now on to the topic of the post, which is one I am very excited about, simply because of its practicality. We all hope to have a great memory, and some of us seem to have it come to them naturally. But what about the rest of us (and yes, I’m including myself in the group)? Well, we can exercise our way to an improved capacity of recalling! Here are some tips:

1)      Do Physical Exercise

When I said that we would need to exercise our way to a good memory, I meant it; both figuratively and literally. Engaging in physical exercise is helpful on so many fronts that it should be done as often as possible. Now there’s another reason to do it: it helps your mind work better!

Exercising prevents a variety of mental disorders, because it increases blow flow in the brain. Increased blood flow in the brain also results in a better ability to learn and remember. And the best part? It doesn’t require you to pay for expensive therapy treatments. Read more about a study on how exercising improves memory here.

2)      Don’t Stress it

That’s easy enough to say, and terribly complicated to achieve. So let’s break it down into things you can do to reduce the stress. Exercising, which I talked about above, is one thing that can help take the edge off. But there’s more you can do.

First, get your sleep. Not any kind of sleep, but one that is good and enough. Sleep helps you function at your best, and reduces the likelihood of you getting stressed at pointless things. Memory is also consolidated while you sleep, which is why you shouldn’t skip it.

Start relaxing. You can do that in a number of ways. For example, you may choose to take a long bath, watch your favorite TV show, or read a book. Another way, which is most effective for the majority of people, is meditating. It has been proven that it helps those who do it on a regular basis concentrate, learn, feel happier, and reduce stress.

3)      Make the Most Out of Mnemonic Devices

Now, let’s see what are the things you can do to help you memorize easier:

a)      Memory Palace

This is talked about in “How to Be a Mentalist”, because it shows up on the show quite a few times. Basically, the trick here is using a place (a room, a house, a road) that you are extremely familiar with. Then, break down the things you have to remember into parts, and place them in sections of your memory palace. When you’re trying to remember what you have to do, imagine yourself taking a walk through your “palace”, and hopefully, the images you planted there will pop out.

b)      Visualize it

Pain vivid images in your mind that are related to what you have to remember. Do a good job at it, and make those images as complex and as beautiful as possible, because it will increase your chances of remembering. A concrete, but simplified example of that can be used when learning someone’s name for the first time: Imagine that their name is written in clear letters on their forehead, and see where that gets you.

c)       Rhymify

That’s not an actual word, but I sort of like it. Anyway, have you ever wondered why nursery songs rhyme? Besides making them sound pleasant, rhyming also helps people remember things easier. Start making rhymes up for what you have to remember, and chances are, you’ll get better at it (both at making rhymes and at remembering).

d)      Group things together

Breaking things down into parts and attempting to memorize them that way is much easier than trying to remember an entire long and complicated list. We already do it a lot when it comes to phone numbers, so why not bring that into other aspects as well?

e)      Acronyms

Yes, they can be a great way to sort things and make them easier to remember. The reason is that they make you reduce information down to a few letters that will trigger recall.

Lily

That’s about it for today. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed making it. When it comes to trying to remember and memorize things, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you should engage with the needed information as much as possible. Repeating it may be useful, but try taking it a step further by implementing some of the devices I outlined above.

/Larisa

Your Body and Mind Interact with Each Other in Ways that Might Surprise You

This post is a follow-up of  “Matters of the Mind: “How to Be a Mentalist: Master the Secrets Behind the Hit TV Show”, by Simon Winthrop”. Here, I am expanding upon the first lesson, The Mind-Body Connection, I discussed in that post. Let me know what you think 🙂

 

We are all quite familiar with the idea that exercising helps you concentrate, improves your mood, sleep, and that it has an overall good influence on your general state. What this phenomenon suggests, is that there is a connection between the mind and the body. However, it is difficult to know just how strong that connection, and if it goes both ways.

It seems that it does go both ways. Have you ever been under a lot of stress, experience which lead to you getting sick easier than you normally would? I think all of us have gone through this type of situation at least once.

In “How to be a Mentalist”, Winthrop explains that taking care of your body will result in your mind working better. He also mentions meditating as a means to improving your power to relax and concentrate, but do these things go further than that?

Brain, computer art
Brain, computer art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Mind and the Body are Not Separate

Research has started to concentrate on finding out how the workings of the internal organs affect the mind. One such research has proven that the heart has an influence on the way we handle fear. Interestingly enough, when the heart is pumping blood, we tend to notice the fear on other people’s faces more than when the heart is relaxing. Read more here.

Here’s another interesting finding: if you’re right-handed, you tend to prefer objects located on the right than those on the left. The opposite is true for left-handed people. The suggestion is that we tend to prefer the side with which we “cooperate with” more. You can find out more here.

What about the Placebo Effect?

The Placebo effect is another example of how the mind influences the body. In various experiments it has been shown that just thinking that something will help you in a certain condition, tends to result in an improvement in that condition.

One example is a study in which Parkinson’s disease patients were either given medication which behaved like dopamine, or a Placebo pill. The result? The brains of the patients who received the Placebo manufactured more dopamine, mimicking the pill. For more information, click here.    

Research is at its infancy when it comes to this fascinating topic, but perhaps we can still use these ideas to our advantage. Things that might sound silly, such as “Think you can, and you’ll be able to do it”, begin to make more sense.

The reason I am so tempted to give up most of my skepticism (but not entirely) when it comes to this phenomenon is simple. Even if it is not true, the worst that could happen is that we’re all going to take better care of our bodies, and try to stay more positive. That’s not so bad, is it?

(When I say “the worst”, I’m not thinking of people giving up on modern medicine entirely. Even if this theory of the mind-body connection being strong is true, being ready to cure all diseases with the mind alone would probably be a difficult point to arrive at).

If you have time, and want to read more on the connection between mind and body, here are two articles I suggest you read:

Welcome to the Mind-Body Revolution

The cancer patient cured by a broken radiotherapy machine and the paralysed man who walked again after visiting Lourdes: New book shows incredible influence of the mind over the body