Saturday, February 28, 2009

Here Is One Technique To Motivate Kids For Better Performance

image by gokoroko,

Positive Visual Cues, Delivered Subtly, Does The Trick

Do you think that your kid's academic report-card does not reflect his or her true capabilities? A recent research has provided empirical evidence that positive visual cues delivered subtly can improve academic performance of certain category of students. Here are some details.

image by mexikids,

The research was conducted on a group of first year undergraduate students attending a regular psychology class (both genders, average age around 19). The class comprised a lecturer explaining the nuances of some topic by stepping through a slideshow. For one group of students, the slideshow was interspersed with "special" slides that contained negative-sounding words such as "obligation", "constraint", "forced" and "ought". For another group of students, the slideshow had slides that contained positive words such as "interested", "desire", "willing" and "free". Each such slide had one single such word, positioned at random locations on the slide. While normal slides were displayed for the appropriate duration by the lecturer to explain the topic, the special slides were each displayed for 32 milliseconds followed by a 16-millisecond-mask. In other words, using the self-development industry lingo, a visual subliminal technique was used.

image by kd5ytx,

The students were subjected to a quiz immediately after the class was over, on the topic that was just discussed. It was found that in the group that was subjected to the negative subliminals, certain students performed less better than they would have otherwise. Similarly, in the group that was subjected to positive subliminals, certain students performed much better than they would have otherwise. For the other students, the subliminals appeared to make no difference in their performance. The inference? These certain students are more amenable to being motivated / de-motivated to subtle visual cues delivered subliminally.

image by anissat,

So what was special about these "certain" students? A common attitude these students across the two groups shared was that their actions are driven by impulse and / or they blindly follow routines mechanically, automatically. Put differently, these kids would normally not pause and deliberate about their own thought processes and actions in day-to-day activities. These kids are normally easily affected by subconscious cues available in the environment, because they do not possess a "mindful" disposition.

image by ywel,

"Mindful" kids, on the other hand, keep in perspective their actions in the present context and are fully aware of why they are doing what they are doing. These kids have a questioning mind that wants justification all the time about what they are being asked to do. Thus, there is a defensive wall erected between the environmental cues and their subconscious. (While in one sense this could be good, the other side of the coin is that they are fobbing off even the cues that are positive and affirmative and useful for their growth.)

image by anissat,

Does this distinction between "mindful" behavior and "non-mindful" behavior confuse? Never mind, irrespective of which category you think your kid fits in, this could be one technique - providing positive visual cues, delivered subtly - worth using.

image by nicosven,

The research has been reported in the Journal of Research in Personality (article still in press), available online here: While on the subject of subliminality, here is a book that may be referred to for further information: "The new consciousness". There is a stack of articles on the subject on the blog here: (click on the 'subliminality' label in the side-panel.)

'The new consciousness', Amazon.com_*

* 'The new consciousness',

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Curing OCD Through Electrode Implanted Neurostimulators

image by de_lima,

Attempting To Grasp That Which Is Not Graspable

People suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) may not even realize it themselves; but those around them can see the suffering. A person who keeps going to the washbasin to clean their hands every fifteen minutes makes life difficult for family members who find it difficult to explain this behavior to strangers meeting them for the first time. Somebody who wants to take bath every half-an-hour during their waking hours is never ever able to leave the house. Somebody who returns back to the vehicle after locking the door the first time, to check, re-check and re-re-check whether it has been securely locked becomes an embarrassment for the people accompanying them. The disorder goes beyond one's control at some stage, and affects the quality of life of not only the person affected, but also the lives of those around.

image by marcos_bh,

This psychological condition is talked about in the same breath as are asthma and diabetes due to its prevalence. In the foreground of this fact is the buzz created by the press release issued by the FDA (available here) about the agency approving the use of an implantable device that delivers intermittent electrical therapy - called deep brain stimulation (DBS) -deep within the brain to suppress the symptoms associated with OCD. The approval comes under the category of "Humanitarian Device Exemption" (HDE), which means that, though the efficacy of treatment has yet not been established, the probable health benefits of the therapy have been found to outweigh the risks. So people suffering from OCD can get to avail themselves of this therapy right away before waiting for the efficacy to be fully established on humanitarian grounds. The therapy has been developed by Medtronic, Inc and is called "Reclaim DBS". It is expected to become available in the US by mid-2009, and will be administered at specific centers across the country. (There is a "Notify Me" online form on the company's webpage for those who wish to be notified by email when the treatment does become available.)

image by svilen001,

The therapy comes with a small battery-operated device that is implanted near the abdomen or the collar bone. This is in turn connected to four electrodes implanted in the brain at specific points with the help of insulated electric wires. The device generates pulses of the appropriate strength set by a clinician trained for this purpose.

image by agentoseis,

The OCD treatment targets the anterior limb of the internal capsule (AIC) in the brain, and within it the ventral capsule / ventral striatum (VC/VS). This is the point in the complex web of neural circuits where mood and anxiety get to be regulated.

image by sundesigns,

There are criteria for selecting candidates to undergo this therapy, such as they must have failed at least three selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), they should not be scheduled to undergo electroconvulsive shock therapy or magnetic resonance imaging or deep tissue heat treatment (diathermy), females should not be pregnant, etc.

image by mmagallan,

The HDE tag implies that up to a max 4,000 such candidates can avail themselves of this therapy per year.

image by ilco,

How it works exactly, is not known. Of the subjects on whom clinical trials were carried out, 40% have been reported to have reduced their OCD symptoms. (The results of the trials have been published in the Feb 2009 issue of Biological Psychiatry, here:

image by eidesign,

The probes in the brain position themselves to the point where the thought-tokens that control mood and anxiety and apparently generate all the drives of obsession and compulsion. Thought-tokens that are beyond grasp. Can these physical, tangible pieces of fine wire grasp that which is not graspable? It is like a shot in the dark, relying on empirical observations. While wishing the new therapy all the best, here is another, non-invasive, technique that may alternatively be tried: Obsession Disorders - Cure Possible Through Meditation.

image by flaivoloka,
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Respite For Those With Rare Diseases

image by cmseter,

Those Diseases Too Hurt, That Affect A Small Minority

How does it feel to be neglected, overlooked and ignored? Not the most ideal of circumstance to find oneself in, is it? This is precisely what people who are afflicted with diseases that the majority is fortunate enough to not be afflicted with, find themselves in.

Female with Alopecia Areata Totalis - wiki_*

* Female with Alopecia Areata Totalis - wiki. This condition affects 0.1% to 0.2% of humans, occurring in both males and females.

A disease is a disease is a disease. Makes no difference whether a medical condition is experienced by just one in this world or very many. But the problem with rare diseases is that because the number of people who are afflicted are in a minority, not enough is done to investigate them and to find out the underlying causes and to work out their intervention techniques. Meanwhile, those who carry the creatures of such diseases suffer silently, get misdiagnosed hopelessly, often bear psychological / psychosocial ostracism, and have no practical support whatsoever from the society. There indeed is comfort in numbers. It indeed feels good to be part of the majority.

Bloom Syndrome - bio.davidson.edu_*

* Bloom Syndrome - A rare chromosomal disorder for which science has no cure yet.

It is sad to feel all alone, an island of isolation in the ocean of humanity, people everywhere around you, people who complain of their own little problems which get taken care of, but not have a single soul around who understands what you are going through. And worse, people can only sympathize but cannot help, because either the medical community is too busy or there aren't enough grants going round to be invested into investigation.

Child afflicted with Townes-Brocks syndrome - reanna.miller.home_*

* Child afflicted with Townes-Brocks syndrome - reanna.miller.home. Fewer than 200 people have this disease.

It is in this background that a "Rare Disease Day" is being organized on February 28, 2009 by the National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD) in the US, and by the European Rare Disease Organization (EURORDIS) in Europe - with plans to observe this day globally on the last day of February each year.

Rare Disease Day_*

* Rare Disease Day Logo

There are more than 1,150 medical conditions that have been identified to be afflicting human beings, but for which there is either no money being set aside nor any resources being allocated nor research personnel being drafted to conduct research and investigations. The list includes both biological as well as psychological conditions. For instance, Antisocial personality disorder (ASP) is a mental illness which usually manifests itself during adolescence, before the kid turns fifteen. A kid with ASP will exhibit very little concern for others' rights, very little or no respect of the standards of morality of their region or community. The actions and manners of such kids are manipulative and exploitative and without remorse. Sadly, it is quite possible that the people around them might not even look at this behavior as a "personality disorder", so there is no attempt to try and seek advice.

Black hairy tongue, wiki_*

* Hairy tongue - wiki.

Or let's see another medical condition in this list. It's called the "LEOPARD Syndrome". This exotic-sounding disease is called by quite a few other names, and is a result of a different "missense mutation of the same gene". A single molecule somewhere in the DNA decides to swim contrary to the mainstream, with the result that you become a different personality altogether. Even researchers concede that it is not clinically possible for them to identify accurately whether the patient in their custody is afflicted with LEOPARD syndrome or with a similar condition called Noonan Syndrome (for which apparently there is some hope for cure). Now where does the individual with LEOPARD go to for solace? A LEOPARD syndrome patient spends money and time in getting treated for a different condition altogether and still remained uncured.

Thirty-seven year old, second generation patient, exhibiting hypertelorism, broad nasal root, slight ptosis - wiki._*

* Thirty-seven year old, second generation patient, exhibiting hypertelorism, broad nasal root, slight ptosis - wiki A LEOPARD syndrome case.

Every entry in this list of over 1,150 rare diseases has a story to tell - a story of pain that nobody can understand, a story of neglect by a society that pays attention only when the disease has inflicted a minimum critical mass of the human populace. Here is the list: Here is the NORD website:, and here is the EURORDIS site:

image by craigpj,

[While waiting for research on healing biological conditions of the body to come out with results, we can take action to perform healing on our own mind. And wait for the mind's influence on the body to perhaps heal the body too. This is one article that talks about this: "Heal Thyself - You Are Your Own Healer".]
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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Poverty Is A State Of Mind

image by svilen001,

Here's The Secret To Become Rich

Can you fake richness? Can you project an image of being ultra-wealthy when inwardly you quaver at the thought of the bank impounding your property because the debt remains unpaid? Can you put on a mask of all-is-well in your world when your mind is preoccupied by the worry of how to pay this vendor or settle that bill? The answer is - to an extent, you cannot. Fake the poverty in your mind, that is.

image by svilen001,

Report of a study conducted by researchers on the body language exhibited by children of people coming from different socio-economic strata has appeared on the internet recently (a brief summary of the survey's results is available here). The study revealed that it is possible to guess the socio-economic status of even strangers from the subtle non-verbal cues they let out. Children from high economic background homes exhibit a greater sense of confidence in their interaction with others, do not baulk at making eye-contact, and have an easy smile and an easy laughter; while kids with not-so-high-economic background are nervous about making eye-contact, fidget with the button of their shirt while introducing themselves, and are generally unsure about how uninhibited they can be when laughing.

image by woodsy,

Reflecting on the survey, it occurs that if you clothe a person in the most expensive threads, that person will still reveal the state of their bank balance through their body language and non-verbal cues. Poverty is a state of mind, not the state of your bank balance. Poverty is also not the texture of the thread you are wearing. If you think you are poor, a failure, a reject, a nobody --- then your body language will show it all. But if you think you are rich, prosperous, a success, a somebody who has accepted life as it is, at ease with yourself, a human being of worth, then even if there aren't very many numerals before the decimal point in your bank balance figure --- your body language will still show it all. Your body does not know how much cash you have or what material wealth you possess; but it very well understands the quality of the thoughts you are holding in your mind; and it truthfully reflects them as is.

image by woodsy,

The way we have evolved over the ages, we define "rich" and "poor" in terms of tangible assets and physical entities. This man owns a residence of size X, so he must be rich. This woman owns a residence of size Y and also commutes in her own jet, so she must be richer than the man who owns just the X-sized residence. What we tend to overlook, because we can never see them, is the quality of our thoughts. Like the material entities, even our thoughts have two different qualities - one may be defined as "rich", and the other may be defined as "poor". Very interestingly, while it takes effort to earn richness in the material-world, it does not take any effort whatsoever to achieve richness in the thought-world. All that we have to do is to remain alert about the quality of thoughts that we allow to pass through our mindscape.

image by svilen001,

What are these "rich thoughts"? These are thoughts of being at ease with oneself; being ease with the world; these are thoughts of acceptance of life as it is; these are thoughts of love directed towards oneself and holding oneself in high esteem; these are thoughts that one is worthy of all the love and respect that there is in this world; these are thoughts that are not dependent on the opinion of the others, and definitely not dependent on how many numerals there are before the decimal point; and these are the thoughts that drive one to aspire, work for and achieve greater things in the most positive manner. So what are the "poor thoughts"? Any thought that self-defeats, self-deprecates, self-discounts, self-loathes, self-pities, and self-put-me-down, is not a "rich thought" but its exact opposite.

image by paulgeor,

Now tell me, how much money do you have to spend in acquiring these rich thoughts for yourself? What effort do you have to expend in acquiring them? What skills do you need, which school or college do you have to attend, which exam do you have to pass and which qualification do you need to acquire in order to own these rich thoughts for yourself? You see, thoughts are all there in ether, and available to you free of cost, and as abundantly like the air and the sunshine. Now it is up to you to pick and choose the exact quality of thoughts you want to acquire.

image by ositopl,

Tell you what? You wanna become rich? You want money and wealth and prosperity badly? Okay so here is the secret. Acquire richness in thoughts first. Richness in the material world will automatically follow. Take my word on this.

image by barunpatro,
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