Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition!
I already did. It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Our amazing brains, 2011

Today, I offer you some articles dedicated to human health and mind. Reading them, one can clearly see the power of our amazing brains! It's just unbelievable how much we can achieve if we set our minds to it. And what's even more remarkable is that sometimes we can achieve it even without thinking about it - like the article on the placebo effect. 59% improvement in the conditions of the group on placebo compared to 35% in the control group. That's certainly something to think about.
Last but not least, you can see some videos that simply left me speechless.
Enjoy! And don't forget - our life is our most precious treasure. :)

Brains of Buddhist monks scanned in meditation study

In a laboratory tucked away off a noisy New York City street, a soft-spoken neuroscientist has been placing Tibetan Buddhist monks into a car-sized brain scanner to better understand the ancient practice of meditation.
Zoran Josipovic, a research scientist and adjunct professor at New York University, says he has been peering into the brains of monks while they meditate in an attempt to understand how their brains reorganise themselves during the exercise.Since 2008, the researcher has been placing the minds and bodies of prominent Buddhist figures into a five-tonne (5,000kg) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine.
Dr Josipovic, who also moonlights as a Buddhist monk, says he is hoping to find how some meditators achieve a state of "nonduality" or "oneness" with the world, a unifying consciousness between a person and their environment.
When one relaxes into a state of oneness, the neural networks in experienced practitioners change as they lower the psychological wall between themselves and their environments, Dr Josipovic says.And this reorganisation in the brain may lead to what some meditators claim to be a deep harmony between themselves and their surroundings.
Shifting attention Dr Josipovic's research is part of a larger effort better to understand what scientists have dubbed the default network in the brain.
He says the brain appears to be organised into two networks: the extrinsic network and the intrinsic, or default, network.
The extrinsic portion of the brain becomes active when individuals are focused on external tasks, like playing sports or pouring a cup of coffee. The default network churns when people reflect on matters that involve themselves and their emotions.
But the networks are rarely fully active at the same time. And like a seesaw, when one rises, the other one dips down.
This neural set-up allows individuals to concentrate more easily on one task at any given time, without being consumed by distractions like daydreaming.
Dr Josipovic has found that some Buddhist monks and other experienced meditators have the ability to keep both neural networks active at the same time during meditation - that is to say, they have found a way to lift both sides of the seesaw simultaneously.And Dr Josipovic believes this ability to churn both the internal and external networks in the brain concurrently may lead the monks to experience a harmonious feeling of oneness with their environment.
But Dr Raichle says the default network is important for more than just thinking about what one had for dinner last night."Researchers have wrestled with this idea of how we know we are who we are. The default mode network says something about how that might have come to be," he says.
And Dr Raichle adds that those studying the default network may also help in uncovering the secrets surrounding some psychological disorders, like depression, autism and even Alzheimer's disease.
"If you look at Alzheimer's Disease, and you look at whether it attacks a particular part of the brain, what's amazing is that it actually attacks the default mode network," says Dr Raichle, adding that intrinsic network research, like Dr Josipovic's, could assist in explaining why that is.

Light therapy promising for treating major depression

January 7, 2011 by Lin Edwards
( -- A small clinical trial in The Netherlands suggests bright light therapy may be a useful treatment for the symptoms of major depression in older adults.
The trial was run by a team led by Dr. Ritsaert Lieverse of GGZ inGeest and the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, and studied 89 adults aged 60 or over who had been diagnosed with (also called Disorder or MDD), around half of whom were randomly assigned to bright light therapy for three weeks.
The therapy involved spending an hour each morning with the same kind of light-therapy box as that used for treating seasonal affective disorder, which is a type of depression related to seasons such as winter, when the days are shorter and people are exposed to less natural light. The control group used a light box that emitted a dim red light (50 lux) rather than the bright pale blue light (7500 lux) of the light-therapy box. Dim red light has no known benefits or detrimental effects on humans.
The results of the trial showed those given bright light therapy made improvements over the controls, and the improvements were comparable to the use of antidepressant drugs. Improvements were measured using the standard Hamilton Scale for Depression. The light-therapy group also showed an increased level in the evening of the sleep-promoting hormone, , and a decrease in levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
The light-therapy group continued to improve for the three weeks after the treatment, with 54 percent experiencing improvement of their symptoms compared to 33 percent of the control group.
Other research has shown that bright light affects the levels of some chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, which is implicated in some forms of depression. Light also appears to affect the same areas of the brain as those targeted by antidepressant drugs. source

Placebos work -- even without deception

December 22, 2010 by David Cameron

( -- For most of us, the "placebo effect" is synonymous with the power of positive thinking; it works because you believe you're taking a real drug. But a new study rattles this assumption.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School's Osher Research Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have found that placebos work even when administered without the seemingly requisite deception.

Placebos—or dummy pills—are typically used in clinical trials as controls for potential new medications. Even though they contain no active ingredients, patients often respond to them. In fact, data on placebos is so compelling that many American physicians (one study estimates 50 percent) secretly give placebos to unsuspecting patients.
Because such "deception" is ethically questionable, HMS associate professor of medicine Ted Kaptchuk teamed up with colleagues at BIDMC to explore whether or not the power of placebos can be harnessed honestly and respectfully.
To do this, 80 patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were divided into two groups: one group, the controls, received no treatment, while the other group received a regimen of placebos—honestly described as "like sugar pills"—which they were instructed to take twice daily.
"Not only did we make it absolutely clear that these pills had no active ingredient and were made from inert substances, but we actually had 'placebo' printed on the bottle," says Kaptchuk. "We told the patients that they didn't have to even believe in the . Just take the pills."
For a three-week period, the patients were monitored. By the end of the trial, nearly twice as many patients treated with the placebo reported adequate symptom relief as compared to the control group (59 percent vs. 35 percent). Also, on other outcome measures, patients taking the placebo doubled their rates of improvement to a degree roughly equivalent to the effects of the most powerful IBS medications.
The authors caution that this study is small and limited in scope and simply opens the door to the notion that placebos are effective even for the fully informed patient—a hypothesis that will need to be confirmed in larger trials."Nevertheless," says Kaptchuk, "these findings suggest that rather than mere positive thinking, there may be significant benefit to the very performance of medical ritual." source

Scientists find evidence for 'chronesthesia,' or mental time travel

December 22, 2010 by Lisa Zyga
( -- The ability to remember the past and imagine the future can significantly affect a person's decisions in life. Scientists refer to the brain’s ability to think about the past, present, and future as "chronesthesia," or mental time travel, although little is known about which parts of the brain are responsible for these conscious experiences. In a new study, researchers have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural correlates of mental time travel and better understand the nature of the mental time in which the metaphorical "travel" occurs. 
"Mental travel consists of two independent sets of processes: (1) those that determine the contents of any act of such ‘travel’: what happens, who are the 'actors,' where does the action occur; it is similar to the contents of watching a movie – everything that you see on the screen; and (2) those that determine the subjective moment of time in which the action takes place – past, present, or future," Tulving told
In their study, the researchers asked several well-trained subjects to repeatedly think about taking a short walk in a familiar environment in either the imagined past, the real past, the present, or the imagined future. By keeping the content the same and changing only the mental time in which it occurs, the researchers could identify which areas of the are correlated with thinking about the same event at different times.
The results showed that certain regions in the left lateral parietal cortex, left frontal cortex, and cerebellum, as well as the thalamus, were activated differently when the subjects thought about the past and future compared with the present. Notably, brain activity was very similar for thinking about all of the non-present times (the imagined past, real past, and imagined future).
Because mental time is a product of the human brain and differs from the external time that is measured by clocks and calendars, scientists also call this time “subjective time.” Chronesthesia, by definition, is a form of consciousness that allows people to think about this subjective time and to mentally travel in it.
Some previous research has questioned whether the concept of subjective time is actually necessary for understanding similarities in brain activity during past and future thinking compared with thinking about the present. However, since scene construction was held constant in this study, the new results suggest that the brain’s ability to conceive of a subjective time is in fact necessary to explain how we think about the past and future.
And some amazing videos on brain power:

 And finally, you can check out this article (Talk to the animals (w/ video), to bring you back to Earth. Because those parrots not only talk, but they understand the concepts of shape, color and size!!! 

When Mr. Obama got his Nobel prize, I was very disapointed by the Nobel committee. Not because I had anything against Obama, but because giving prizes before the achievement goes against the very idea of those prizes. The explanation was that there were no better candidates. Well, I doubt it. So many people all over the world try to work for peace. They could have found at least one of them and handed him/her the prize. Not a chance. The prize went to a person whose only achievement was that he won US presidential election. As glorious as this may sound, it is not. Because being a good president is not something easy and it certainly doesn't depend only on your personal qualities. You can be the greatest person and yet, in certain situations to be a bad president. And you can be perfect president for your country, buto be the worst president for the rest of the world! So giving the prize before any significant contribution to the world peace was like a mockery to all the other Nobel laureates.
My personal conviction is that when you bet too much on one person, he's likely to disappoint you. And Obama disappointed me. Because he was supposed to fight for peace. Instead, he started the civil war in Libya (well, actually France did that, but USA supported them!) and he approved the execution of Osama bin Laden.
Don't get me wrong - I completely agree that Osama is a terrorist, who needs to pay for what he did. However, I don't approve executions without judge and verdict. And this is what they did - US soldiers went to Pakistan with the order to kill. As you can read in the articles below, this is actually what happened. They went there to kill. Well, I cannot approve that and I have to speak out. If the situation required it, and some situations may require it, ok. You do what you have to do. But in the case, the situation didn't require it. The reports of Pentagona prove it. There was no heavy fire and no immediate danger to those soldiers. There was no reason why bin Laden wouldn't be captured alive and brought to justice trough a court. But they didn't do that, they shot him to death.
Did he deserve it? Yes he did. But this goes against our idea of justice! Justice is supposed to come from authorized judges (or judges and jury) and not from the hands of unknown soldier. I don't get the idea that the President may give death penalty to anyone. It just don't seems right. And it returns us to the times of monarchies when all the citizens belonged to their monarch.
I could say a lot more, but this is very emotionally loaded issue. Many people died because of that person - both on the US side and on other sides. And since human life should be the most precious thing on this world, I don't want to offend the memories of the victims.
I just want to know - is this how we achieve peace? By killing off the people we don't like. Justice of the law makes sense and it can bring peace, because it makes all the people equal. But justice of the force is simply wrong. It makes the powerful people more powerful and all the others become expendable. And once we go this path, the return will be very hard. So I hope this act will remain the only one.
And I hope that all the people who celebrated on the day when someone was killed will ask themselves: if we react like this to anyone's death, what separates us from the fanatics we're fighting against? He was a villain, he was a terrorist, that's all true. But will this end the war against terrorism? No. Even Obama admitted it - this is a victory, but it's not the end. In this case, we have to ask how much of our emotions are real, how much are right and how much are genuine.

P.S. I must admit that the fact Obama watched live the whole operation definitely speaks well of him. But it doesn't speak well of his Nobel prize.

Pakistani Army, Shaken by Raid, Faces New Scrutiny

Published: May 4, 2011
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The reputation of the army, the most powerful and privileged force in Pakistan, has been severely undermined by the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden, raising profound questions about its credibility from people at home and from benefactors abroad, including the United States.
That American helicopters could fly into Pakistan, carrying a team to kill the world’s most wanted terrorist and then fly out undetected has produced a stunned silence from the military and its intelligence service that some interpret as embarrassment, even humiliation.
There is no doubt that the raid has provoked a crisis of confidence for what was long seen as the one institution that held together a nation dangerously beset by militancy and chronically weak civilian governments.
The aftermath has left Pakistanis to challenge their leadership, and the United States to further question an already frequently distrusted partner.
By Wednesday, members of Parliament, newspaper editorials and Pakistan’s raucous political talk shows were calling for an explanation and challenging the military and intelligence establishment, institutions previously immune to public reproach.
Some were calling for an independent inquiry, focused less on the fact that the world’s most wanted terrorist was discovered in their midst than on whether the military could defend Pakistan’s borders and its nuclear arsenal from being snatched or attacked by the United States or India.
But the most urgent question of all is what to do about it, and whether the United States should continue to invest in a Pakistani military whose assurances that it does not work with terrorists carry less weight than ever. Pakistani officials, who feel betrayed by the United States for not informing them in advance about the raid, are responding more defensively by the day.
The biggest question for Pakistan is whether the event prompts a reconsideration of its security strategy, which has long depended on militant proxies, including groups entwined with Al Qaeda.
American officials are certain to use the fact that Bin Laden had taken shelter in Pakistan to press the country for a clearer break from its past. Both sides have an interest in preserving some form of the status quo. Pakistan would like to keep the billions of dollars in aid that flow from the United States. The United States would like to prevent this nuclear-armed Muslim nation from turning more hostile, hosting terrorist networks and complicating efforts to end the war in Afghanistan.
The Foreign Office defended the fact that Bin Laden was not detected because the high security walls at his house in Abbottabad were in line with a culture of privacy.

Account Tells of One-Sided Battle in Bin Laden Raid

WASHINGTON — President Obama decided Wednesday not to release graphic photographs of Osama bin Laden’s corpse, as new details emerged about the raid on Bin Laden’s fortified compound that differed from the administration’s initial account of the nearly 40-minute operation.
Mr. Obama, after a brief but intense debate within his war council, concluded that making the images of Bin Laden public could incite violence against Americans and would do little to persuade skeptics that the founder of Al Qaeda had been killed, White House officials said.
The new details suggested that the raid, though chaotic and bloody, was extremely one-sided, with a force of more than 20 Navy Seal members quickly dispatching the handful of men protecting Bin Laden.
Administration officials said that the only shots fired by those in the compound came at the beginning of the operation, when Bin Laden’s trusted courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, opened fire from behind the door of the guesthouse adjacent to the house where Bin Laden was hiding.
After the Seal members shot and killed Mr. Kuwaiti and a woman in the guesthouse, the Americans were never fired upon again.
This account differs from an official version of events issued by the Pentagon on Tuesday, and read by the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, which said the Seal members “were engaged in a firefight throughout the operation.”
In a television interview on PBS on Tuesday, Leon E. Panetta, the director of the C.I.A., said, “There were some firefights that were going on as these guys were making their way up the staircase of that compound.”
Administration officials said the official account of events has changed over the course of the week because it has taken time to get thorough after-action reports from the Seal team. And, they added, because the Special Operations troops had been fired upon as soon as they touched down in the compound, they were under the assumption that everyone inside was armed.
“They were in a threatening and hostile environment the entire time,” one American official said.
When the commandos moved into the main house, they saw the courier’s brother, who they believed was preparing to fire a weapon. They shot and killed him. Then, as they made their way up the stairs of the house, officials said they killed Bin Laden’s son Khalid as he lunged toward the Seal team.
When the commandos reached the top floor, they entered a room and saw Osama bin Laden with an AK-47 and a Makarov pistol in arm’s reach. They shot and killed him, as well as wounding a woman with him.
The firefight over and Bin Laden dead, the team found a trove of information and had the time to remove much of it: about 100 thumb drives, DVDs and computer disks, along with 10 computer hard drives and 5 computers. There were also piles of paper documents in the house.
The White House declined to release any additional details about the operation, saying that further information would jeopardize the military’s ability to conduct clandestine operations in the future. The administration’s reticence came after it was forced on Tuesday to correct parts of its initial account of the raid, including assertions that Bin Laden had used his wife as a “human shield.”
The deliberations were reminiscent of Mr. Obama’s decision in May 2009 to fight the release of photos documenting the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan by American military personnel. The administration said originally that it would not oppose releasing the pictures, but the president decided he would fight making them public after his military commanders warned that the images could provoke a reaction against troops in those countries.source

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