Times of Social Unrest Appear to Boost Our Brain’s Neuroplasticity

Social Unrest Boosts Neuroplasticity

New research suggests that times of global unrest present a unique opportunity for neurological growth and profound behavior change, but only when leveraged correctly.

Kayla Osterhoff is a neuropsychophysiologist who studies the interaction of the mind and brain, which she calls the ‘human operating system.’

“One of the greatest mysteries in modern neuroscience is actually how the brain produces the mind. The reason why we have not been able to come up with the answer for this is because that’s not how it works. These two are actually separate systems that interact together to produce what I call the ‘human operating system,’ which is responsible for our version of reality as humans,” Osterhoff said.

Osterhoff has recently been researching the hypothesis that times of social unrest provide a valuable opportunity to neurologically upgrade this human operating system.

“Right now, we have this very unique opportunity to upgrade our ‘human operating system’ globally,” Osterhoff said. “And that is because as a society around the entire world we are experiencing this social unrest and this has caused a couple of significant cognitive and neurological shifts that have provided an opportunity for us to grow and evolve as a society.”

Osterhoff points to several fascinating factors that contribute to this phenomenon.

“So, studies are showing that acute states of stress, like shock, trauma, or something surprising like what we’re currently experiencing in our world, caused this cognitive psychological shift that actually makes our subconscious mind more suggestible, meaning that our subconscious mind is brought forward so to speak, and it’s more malleable, it’s more programmable,” Osterhoff said. 

“If you look back at clinical hypnosis research and Ericksonian research — he was kind of the father of clinical hypnosis — he found in his research that shock and surprise are actually a form of hypnotic induction that can be utilized to reprogram the subconscious mind or increase subconscious suggestibility,” she said. 

Another contributing factor Osterhoff has uncovered has to do with the phenomenon of neuroplasticity.

“So, neuroplasticity refers to the way that our neurons, our brain cells, fire, and wire together. So, neuroplasticity increases our ability to change and reshape these neural pathways,” Osterhoff said. “The second opportunity that we have right now is a global increase in neuroplasticity. Now, in these times of unrest, our lives have been upended, our patterns have shifted, and we’re experiencing things for the first time. So, because of this our globe is experiencing heightened neuroplasticity and heightened subconscious suggestibility.”

What are the implications of these findings?

“Now, the opportunity here is that we can leverage these two abilities to change, grow, evolve, shift, and learn to our benefit or if we remain unaware of this, we can be shifted in a way that is detrimental to us as well,” Osterhoff said. 

“For instance, if you want to quit smoking, or you want to change some kind of behavior, you have a greater ability to do that right now than ever before. On the opposite side of things, if you spend this time in fear or in worry, you risk hardwiring those behaviors into your physiology. Because this is happening on a mass scale, our world has a greater capacity to evolve, shift, and grow than it ever has before. So we need to leverage this, we need to take advantage so that we can make the positive changes that we want to see in the world happen.”

Researchers Find Way to Interact With People in Lucid Dreams

Researchers communicate with lucid dreamers

The mysterious world of dreams has thus far only been fully accessible to one person—the dreamer... until now. With a recent groundbreaking study, a new age of dream research has just begun.

The lucid dream is a state of awareness that you’re dreaming while possibly having some control over what happens within it. It’s estimated that some 50 percent of people have had a lucid dream, especially in childhood.

Scientists have been studying this phenomenon for decades but haven’t been able to adequately explain it because a person’s ability to recount their dreams upon waking is often unreliable. But recently, scientists have made a breakthrough by showing that people can both comprehend questions and provide answers to them, all while dreaming.

A team of international researchers studied 36 people with the goal of finding a way to communicate with them while they were dreaming. The results were groundbreaking.

Charlie Morley is a dream researcher who teaches people how to lucid dream.

“Up to this point, there’s been no way to directly communicate to the lucid dreamer while they’re in the lucid dream,” Morley said.  “You can give them instructions before, you can speak to them afterwards, but while they’re in that internal virtual reality simulation of their own mind, there’s a blackout in comms. The brilliant thing about this new study is that blackout was broken through, they could actually communicate to the lucid dreamer while they were inside the lucid dream.”

“What they discovered was, while you’re in a lucid dream you can actually direct your physical eyes at will. So, using a form of literal morse code flicking the eyes left, right, up, down to indicate certain responses, they were able to communicate with the dreamer while they were still asleep. How did it enter the dream? Three main different ways, one person said it came through a car radio in the dream, suddenly the radio station changed and they could hear the voice of the scientist. Another person said it was like the voice of god, it just came down from the sky. And another person said it was like a narrator in a film, they would then reply ‘yes, I can hear you,’ by doing two eye flicks to the left or whatever code they had predecided to indicate ‘yes.'”

Out of 158 trials, participants were able to give correct answers about 18% of the time—a statistically significant result. The validity of the results was strengthened by the fact that there were four separate teams of researchers in four different countries, all using slightly different techniques and getting very similar results.

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