Saturday, July 16, 2011

Modifying the Brain to Avoid Pain and Increase Potential

Caregivingly Yours welcomes our first ever guest post. Patricia Walling is a web content designer in Washington State for several websites regarding the field of medicine and careers in health care, including Medical Transcription.

Christopher deCharms, who has a doctorate degree in neurophysiology, and his colleagues have made some amazing discoveries concerning the power of the human brain to control its own functionality. By using a mixture of Western technology and the medical concepts merged with the theories behind Buddhist meditation and self-awareness practices, deCharms has managed to allow people to interact with their own neural patterns. This interrelation of brain functions with perception and neural learning systems is quickly proving to be successful, particularly for those with chronic pain.

For years Buddhists have, as a matter of religious practice, been studying the interactions of themselves with themselves. Practices such as meditation make them more aware of the small things that happen within the body that most are wont to ignore. With increased technology in MRI and neuroimaging these processes can now be seen in real-time via virtual reality (VR) goggles by the patient. The patients who participated in the clinical trials were trained to selectively control localized portions of their brains and induce or reduce neural activity levels in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (RACC), which is related to pain perception and regulation. The initial results showed a 44-64 percent reduction among chronic pain victims – not perfect, but definitely a start considering the relative infancy of this theory. Furthermore, the results were tested with control subjects who were fed false information. These subjects had no instances of success. Eventually, the subjects were able to take control of these patterns without the help of the MRI, showing that one can be trained to have a permanent sort of control over his or her brain functions.

One doesn't have to be well-versed in the health care (which runs the gamut from nursing to medical coding) to see that above and beyond pain, the potential for this sort of technology is amazing. Some of the things that deCharms discusses in his talk on suggests control over more obscure elements of neural functioning such as depression levels, addiction patterns and even physical performance. If the process can be developed to these levels, then the raw power that a human being will possess over their own development is evolutionary in its scope. Being able to re-route neural processes and “re-map” the brain could be used to heighten desirable mental patterns while eliminating negative ones, at the will of the individual. Some other tests performed by deCharms and his colleagues show similar control over the somatomotor cortex, which controls muscle group activation. Again, the training was shown to be useful even after removing the MRI.

Evolution has always played a role in the development of humans. Between neural technology and genetics, it seems that humankind may have finally reached a point where evolution will be self-induced. A more detailed explanation of deCharms’s studies can be found on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Web site. Wherever this technology goes, it can certainly lead only to a more enlightened and learned view of the human mind.

1 comment:

  1. How interesting! I'm definitely going to have to look into this. Thank you so much for posting it!


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