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Brain pathways to imagination, hold the key to altruistic behaviour

Another example of how highly emotional or even out of the ordinary experiences of everyday life can affect the way we see our world and be less empathic, more self-centred as a result. It seems a collateral effect of normal or more calmer states of mind is that we have more time to think of others and, make a better life experience as a consequence. . . .    This is an excellent example to explain attributes of hypnosis because in some sense it is in stimulating the imagination of the client that eventually leads to behavioural and cognitive change. But let's look at the two areas mentioned in this research to find out more. The right temporoparietal junction (RTPJ) is towards the rear of the brain, i.e. the bottom rear part of the parietal lobe and the top rear of the temporal lobe, just where the occipital lobe meets with both. It receives information from the thalamus, the brain's sensory hub, the limbic system, which plays a crucial role in emotion and arousal and also has connections to the occipital lobe, the primary visual centre of the brain. The medial temporal lobe is composed of several brain areas, including, perhaps the most relevant of them being the hippocampus, entorhinal and perirhinal cortices. Apart from their role in memory location and orientation, they link with many important brain regions which translate into our most human attributes. So these regions appear to play a mediatory role, collecting data from crucial regions involved in emotion and cognition. The ability to respond to stored experience (memories) as well as novel stimulus and it is the synthesis of these aspects of these regions that appears to be at play.  However, the RTPJ is also involved in reflecting on our own self, as well as others (external environment) and because of its overall function, will connect into the emotional and cognitive systems within the limbic system, one such function will be survival, which could account for the diversity observed during the trials. The medial temporal lobe is involved in memory, emotion, information processing as well as linguistic, visual and motor function, so a very busy place. An aspect of this, which I think relates to the work I do, is in the degree of conflict that so often blights the lives of many clients. A very strong feature of therapy involves the client's thoughts, in relation to what they feel others are thinking about them, perhaps them at their least altruistic self?. This may just cause the spike in activity that lowered the willingness to help that the researchers observed? It is conceivable that the increase in the activity of this area (above what was observed in this research) is a consequence of the brain's threat detection system being activated. So, it appears that the more relaxed or less stimulated this area is, the more likely we are to be altruistic and help others?  Relating this to hypnotherapy, the brain is most often in a relaxed state, theta brain wave activity, during hypnosis. The relaxation though is merely a collateral effect of the hypnosis, not hypnosis itself. Theta brainwaves are a part of hippocampal function and it is here, that it gets more interesting. It is in theta wave activity that PGO waves precipitate the onset of REM sleep and REM sleep more or less turns off the locus coereleus' norepinephrine production, which precipitates the stress response. So, this may be a major factor in relaxation while sleeping/resting. Auditory signals (the hypnotist's voice) stimulate PGO waves and in the upper part of the parietal part of the Left TPJ is the primary auditory cortex. While not directly related to this study, these areas form levels of synchrony and in hypnosis the hypnotist has the ability and opportunity to tickle the client's imagination, thus increasing calmer (less stressed) states which also help with interhemispheric communication because in calmer states the hemispheres are more synchronised. If increased activity lowers the chances of altruistic behaviour (creating a higher level of neural self-centredness) and lower activity increases altruism, then hypnosis has the propensity to increase altruism by lowering stress/anxiety and increasing feelings of safety, calmness and normality. When we are in more normal states of brain function we will restore the brain's natural tendency to be altruistic and this can also be observed across various mammals in the animal kingdom.  It would seem that the takeaway from this research is, that the more we are in the normal and calmer states of mind and brain, the less focused we become on our own safety (primarily because we do not feel threatened) and therefore have more time to be aware of others?  Hypnotherapy (hypnosis) is an especially effective way to enhance this process because it allows us to experience, neurochemically, what it feels like to have a good experience; in the same way a dream of falling allows to have a fearful one? In both situations, the perceived reality is false but despite that, it is believable. The brains defensive mechanisms will take what it feels is appropriate action and in the case of the falling dream, this could lead to anxiety, chronic stress or depression. Similarly, the empowering uplifting experience in hypnosis can lead to a boost in confidence, heightened self-esteem, more ability to manage your emotions etc. Wouldn't that be nice!  Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is, especially in its ability to promote clear thinking and good states of mental wellness. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of too much stress, too little sleep and too little by way of clarity! So, to get or take back control of your mind and your life, it makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious mind's role in perpetuating negative, vague and ambiguous states of mind. Hypnosis helps us to create calm relaxing states of mind that make life work better! If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want to make your life feel better, then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life!   The objective here is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into irrational emotional experiences that may actually be happening for reasons different to that which we would imagine! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy can help you; why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?  For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here or to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here  The Research:  In those split seconds when people witness others in distress, neural pathways in the brain support the drive to help through facets of imagination that allow people to see the episode as it unfolds and envisions how to aid those in need, according to a team of Boston College researchers.  The underlying process at work is referred to as episodic simulation, essentially the ability of individuals to re-organize memories from the past into a newly-imagined event simulated in the mind.  Neuroimaging helped the researchers identify multiple neural pathways that explain the relationship between imagination and the willingness to help others, researchers from Boston College and the University of Albany, SUNY, reported recently in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.  The team explored two separate brain regions with different functions: the right temporoparietal junction (RTPJ), a key brain region thought to be involved in representing the minds of other people, also known as "perspective-taking"; and the medial temporal lobe (MTL) subsystem, a set of brain regions that support the simulation of imagined scenes.  The study discovered evidence for the direct impact of scene imagery on willingness to help, according to Boston College Associate Professor of Psychology Liane Young, a co-author and the principal investigator on the project. While study participants imagined helping scenes, neural activity in MTL predicted overall willingness to help the person in need, according to the article, "A role for the medial temporal lobe subsystem in guiding prosociality: the effect of episodic processes on willingness to help others," which was published in the journal's April 14 edition.  "If we are able to vividly imagine helping someone, then we think we're more likely to actually do it," said Young, director of the Morality Lab at BC. "Imagining the scenery surrounding the situation can also prompt people to take the perspective of the people in the situation who need help, which in turn prompts prosocial action."  This may be because of a phenomenon known as imagination inflation, where humans use the vividness of their imagination as a kind of cue to estimate the likelihood of an event, according to the co-authors, which also included former BC postdoctoral researcher Brendan Gaesser, now an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Albany, SUNY, research assistants Joshua Hirschfeld-Kroen and Emily A. Wasserman, and undergraduate research assistant Mary Horn.  The team set out to learn how the capacity to simulate imagined and remembered scenes of helping motivate individuals to form more altruistic intentions. The goal was to uncover the cognitive and neural mechanisms that explain the relationship between episodic simulation and the enhanced willingness to help those in need.  In the first experiment, which allowed the team to look at both brain regions, the researchers collected functional brain images as people imagined and remembered helping others in hypothetical scenarios. In the second experiment, while people were imagining helping another person, the team used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to disrupt activity in their right temporoparietal junction (RTPJ), a key brain region thought to be involved in representing the minds of other people.  Neuroimaging revealed that the willingness to help was also predicted by activity in the RTPJ, a critical node that's involved in taking the perspective of other people, according to the researchers. However, in the second experiment, when the team used TMS to temporarily inhibit activity in the RTPJ, they found that the altruistic effect of vividly imagining helping remained significant, suggesting that this effect doesn't depend exclusively on perspective-taking.  "We had initially expected that higher neural activity in the medial temporal lobe subsystem would be associated with a greater willingness to help," the team reported. "Surprisingly, we found the opposite: the more activity a person had in their MTL subsystem while they were imagining helping scenes, the less willing they were to help the person in need."  This contradiction may be explained by lower MTL activity reflecting greater ease of imagining episodes, and that ease of imagination means that participants are more willing to help. Consistent with this account, the team found that when participants reported finding it easier to imagine or remember helping episodes, they also tended to report being more willing to help the person in need.  Young and Gaesser recently found in a separate study, led by BC postdoctoral researcher Jaclyn Ford and Professor Elizabeth Kensinger, that vividly remembering helping was associated with making more generous donations in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Next steps in the research will further connect the lab's neuroimaging approach with measures of real-world altruistic behaviour.  Story Source:  Materials provided by Boston College. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.  Journal Reference:  Brendan Gaesser, Josh Hirschfeld-Kroen, Emily A Wasserman, Mary Horn, Liane Young. A role for the medial temporal lobe subsystem in guiding prosociality: the effect of episodic processes on willingness to help others. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2019; DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsz014  Cite This Page:  Boston College. "The brain's pathways to imagination may hold the key to altruistic behaviour: When we see people in trouble, we also imagine how we can help before we act." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 July 2019. .

Another example of how highly emotional or even out of the ordinary experiences of everyday life can affect the way we see our world and be less empathic, more self-centred as a result. It seems a collateral effect of normal or more calmer states of mind is that we have more time to think of others and, make a better life experience as a consequence. . . . 

 This is an excellent example to explain attributes of hypnosis because in some sense it is in stimulating the imagination of the client that eventually leads to behavioural and cognitive change. But let's look at the two areas mentioned in this research to find out more. The right temporoparietal junction (RTPJ) is towards the rear of the brain, i.e. the bottom rear part of the parietal lobe and the top rear of the temporal lobe, just where the occipital lobe meets with both. It receives information from the thalamus, the brain's sensory hub, the limbic system, which plays a crucial role in emotion and arousal and also has connections to the occipital lobe, the primary visual centre of the brain. The medial temporal lobe is composed of several brain areas, including, perhaps the most relevant of them being the hippocampus, entorhinal and perirhinal cortices. Apart from their role in memory location and orientation, they link with many important brain regions which translate into our most human attributes. So these regions appear to play a mediatory role, collecting data from crucial regions involved in emotion and cognition. The ability to respond to stored experience (memories) as well as novel stimulus and it is the synthesis of these aspects of these regions that appears to be at play.

However, the RTPJ is also involved in reflecting on our own self, as well as others (external environment) and because of its overall function, will connect into the emotional and cognitive systems within the limbic system, one such function will be survival, which could account for the diversity observed during the trials. The medial temporal lobe is involved in memory, emotion, information processing as well as linguistic, visual and motor function, so a very busy place. An aspect of this, which I think relates to the work I do, is in the degree of conflict that so often blights the lives of many clients. A very strong feature of therapy involves the client's thoughts, in relation to what they feel others are thinking about them, perhaps them at their least altruistic self?. This may just cause the spike in activity that lowered the willingness to help that the researchers observed? It is conceivable that the increase in the activity of this area (above what was observed in this research) is a consequence of the brain's threat detection system being activated. So, it appears that the more relaxed or less stimulated this area is, the more likely we are to be altruistic and help others?

Relating this to hypnotherapy, the brain is most often in a relaxed state, theta brain wave activity, during hypnosis. The relaxation though is merely a collateral effect of the hypnosis, not hypnosis itself. Theta brainwaves are a part of hippocampal function and it is here, that it gets more interesting. It is in theta wave activity that PGO waves precipitate the onset of REM sleep and REM sleep more or less turns off the locus coereleus' norepinephrine production, which precipitates the stress response. So, this may be a major factor in relaxation while sleeping/resting. Auditory signals (the hypnotist's voice) stimulate PGO waves and in the upper part of the parietal part of the Left TPJ is the primary auditory cortex. While not directly related to this study, these areas form levels of synchrony and in hypnosis the hypnotist has the ability and opportunity to tickle the client's imagination, thus increasing calmer (less stressed) states which also help with interhemispheric communication because in calmer states the hemispheres are more synchronised. If increased activity lowers the chances of altruistic behaviour (creating a higher level of neural self-centredness) and lower activity increases altruism, then hypnosis has the propensity to increase altruism by lowering stress/anxiety and increasing feelings of safety, calmness and normality. When we are in more normal states of brain function we will restore the brain's natural tendency to be altruistic and this can also be observed across various mammals in the animal kingdom.

It would seem that the takeaway from this research is, that the more we are in the normal and calmer states of mind and brain, the less focused we become on our own safety (primarily because we do not feel threatened) and therefore have more time to be aware of others?

Hypnotherapy (hypnosis) is an especially effective way to enhance this process because it allows us to experience, neurochemically, what it feels like to have a good experience; in the same way a dream of falling allows to have a fearful one? In both situations, the perceived reality is false but despite that, it is believable. The brains defensive mechanisms will take what it feels is appropriate action and in the case of the falling dream, this could lead to anxiety, chronic stress or depression. Similarly, the empowering uplifting experience in hypnosis can lead to a boost in confidence, heightened self-esteem, more ability to manage your emotions etc. Wouldn't that be nice!

Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is, especially in its ability to promote clear thinking and good states of mental wellness. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of too much stress, too little sleep and too little by way of clarity! So, to get or take back control of your mind and your life, it makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious mind's role in perpetuating negative, vague and ambiguous states of mind. Hypnosis helps us to create calm relaxing states of mind that make life work better! If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want to make your life feel better, then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life! 

The objective here is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into irrational emotional experiences that may actually be happening for reasons different to that which we would imagine! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy can help you; why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here or to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here


The Research:

In those split seconds when people witness others in distress, neural pathways in the brain support the drive to help through facets of imagination that allow people to see the episode as it unfolds and envisions how to aid those in need, according to a team of Boston College researchers.

The underlying process at work is referred to as episodic simulation, essentially the ability of individuals to re-organize memories from the past into a newly-imagined event simulated in the mind.

Neuroimaging helped the researchers identify multiple neural pathways that explain the relationship between imagination and the willingness to help others, researchers from Boston College and the University of Albany, SUNY, reported recently in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

The team explored two separate brain regions with different functions: the right temporoparietal junction (RTPJ), a key brain region thought to be involved in representing the minds of other people, also known as "perspective-taking"; and the medial temporal lobe (MTL) subsystem, a set of brain regions that support the simulation of imagined scenes.

The study discovered evidence for the direct impact of scene imagery on willingness to help, according to Boston College Associate Professor of Psychology Liane Young, a co-author and the principal investigator on the project. While study participants imagined helping scenes, neural activity in MTL predicted overall willingness to help the person in need, according to the article, "A role for the medial temporal lobe subsystem in guiding prosociality: the effect of episodic processes on willingness to help others," which was published in the journal's April 14 edition.

"If we are able to vividly imagine helping someone, then we think we're more likely to actually do it," said Young, director of the Morality Lab at BC. "Imagining the scenery surrounding the situation can also prompt people to take the perspective of the people in the situation who need help, which in turn prompts prosocial action."

This may be because of a phenomenon known as imagination inflation, where humans use the vividness of their imagination as a kind of cue to estimate the likelihood of an event, according to the co-authors, which also included former BC postdoctoral researcher Brendan Gaesser, now an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Albany, SUNY, research assistants Joshua Hirschfeld-Kroen and Emily A. Wasserman, and undergraduate research assistant Mary Horn.

The team set out to learn how the capacity to simulate imagined and remembered scenes of helping motivate individuals to form more altruistic intentions. The goal was to uncover the cognitive and neural mechanisms that explain the relationship between episodic simulation and the enhanced willingness to help those in need.

In the first experiment, which allowed the team to look at both brain regions, the researchers collected functional brain images as people imagined and remembered helping others in hypothetical scenarios. In the second experiment, while people were imagining helping another person, the team used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to disrupt activity in their right temporoparietal junction (RTPJ), a key brain region thought to be involved in representing the minds of other people.

Neuroimaging revealed that the willingness to help was also predicted by activity in the RTPJ, a critical node that's involved in taking the perspective of other people, according to the researchers. However, in the second experiment, when the team used TMS to temporarily inhibit activity in the RTPJ, they found that the altruistic effect of vividly imagining helping remained significant, suggesting that this effect doesn't depend exclusively on perspective-taking.

"We had initially expected that higher neural activity in the medial temporal lobe subsystem would be associated with a greater willingness to help," the team reported. "Surprisingly, we found the opposite: the more activity a person had in their MTL subsystem while they were imagining helping scenes, the less willing they were to help the person in need."

This contradiction may be explained by lower MTL activity reflecting greater ease of imagining episodes, and that ease of imagination means that participants are more willing to help. Consistent with this account, the team found that when participants reported finding it easier to imagine or remember helping episodes, they also tended to report being more willing to help the person in need.

Young and Gaesser recently found in a separate study, led by BC postdoctoral researcher Jaclyn Ford and Professor Elizabeth Kensinger, that vividly remembering helping was associated with making more generous donations in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Next steps in the research will further connect the lab's neuroimaging approach with measures of real-world altruistic behaviour.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Boston College. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Brendan Gaesser, Josh Hirschfeld-Kroen, Emily A Wasserman, Mary Horn, Liane Young. A role for the medial temporal lobe subsystem in guiding prosociality: the effect of episodic processes on willingness to help others. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2019; DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsz014

Cite This Page: Boston College. "The brain's pathways to imagination may hold the key to altruistic behaviour: When we see people in trouble, we also imagine how we can help before we act." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 July 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190712105705.htm>.
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