Re-Wiring our Brains key to future Wellness?

     UCLA has a division called “MARC” that stands for Mindful Awareness Research Center. I continually look to them as a resource for the latest news and research regarding meditation, mindfulness, and its impact on health and wellness.

     I came across an article on the MARC website detailing a new technique that UCLA is experimenting with on anxiety disorders. (Although a certain amount of stress and fear is normal and can be healthy, it becomes an anxiety disorder when a higher level of fear than that which is adaptive occurs.)

     To address the issue, UCLA is conducting a study assessing the differences between two forms of treatment: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as well as the new application of mindfulness meditation as therapy to treat anxiety. The study uses a functional MRI brain imaging tool to assess the changes in brain activation after patients received one of the two treatments during a 12-week period. It will use people suffering from social anxiety, the fear of being severely judged in social situations, and general anxiety disorder, which is the excessive worrying about areas of life that can be trivial and out of one’s actual control. While in the MRI brain scanner, participants will be exposed to their fear, which will be intrusive images such as a crowded room. 

    Past research has shown that the activation of the amygdala, the area of the brain responsible
for emotion and fear regulation, gets dampened after cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT),
which teaches the patient alternative ways of thinking and acting. Also, the prefrontal cortex, which isresponsible for higher order thinking and planning, is activated more after the treatment, allowing the person to override their emotions with rational thought.

     I wonder if a deeper understanding of how the mind works, and learning how to “re-wire” our thoughts and manipulate thinking patterns could be the wave of the future in health and wellness. We know that most sickness and illness is caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices, and those unhealthy lifestyle choices are typically caused by stress, anxiety, and fear. But perhaps when we are able to go one step beyond this; into our actual unique and individual thought processes and thought patterns, we might only then be able to start mastering our complete body-mind system and finally become a much healthier and happier society.

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Jack Witt