Monthly Archives: February 2012

Leading neuropsychiatrist Peter Whybrow authored “American Mania: When More Is Not Enough,” a neurobiological look at the instinctual and social behaviors that balance a market economy. Pay attention as he explains how America’s reward-driven culture is pushing the physiological limits of our evolutionary inheritance – making us sick in body and mind.

Dr. Peter Whybrow bibliography includes:
Lipowski, Z. J., Lipsitt, D., Whybrow, P. C. (eds.) (1977) Psychosomatic Medicine: Current Trends and Clinical Applications. Oxford University Press.
Whybrow, P. C., Akiskal, H., McKinney (1984) Mood Disorders: Toward a New Psychobiology. W. J., Plenum Press, New York.
Whybrow, P. C. & Bahr, R. (1988) The Hibernation Response. Arbor House, New York.
Whybrow, P. C. (1997) A Mood Apart: Depression, Mania, and Other Afflictions of the Self. Harper Collins/Basic Books, New York.
Whybrow, P. C. (2005) American Mania: When More Is Not Enough. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Teaching happiness at UCLA – Emily van Sonnenberg

When Emily van Sonnenberg was in a wheelchair five years ago after surviving a fatal car crash, she was told she would never walk again. Then a friend gave her a book by Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, which she says changed her life. She adopted Seligman’s methods of positive thinking and miraculously was able to walk again.

Wanting to share the methods of positive psychology and achieving happiness with others, van Sonnenberg created the course “Happiness” at UCLA, part of the Undergraduate Student Initiated Education program which allows students to teach other students a course not already offered at UCLA.

The course teaches and assigns practical applications of positive psychology such as keeping daily gratitude and intention journals.

Personal Brain Management (PSYCTRY 182) is offered at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.

Personal Brain Management begins with a basic overview of brain function, and then moves on to consider some of the “management” methods that exist already, and what the future may hold. Among these topics are new methods for predicting our own futures and modeling ‘what if’ scenarios that might alter risks and benefits of different courses of action, based on our individual genetic background and other elements of personal history and environmental exposures. Key principles from the science of behavior change are introduced, illustrating how important health-related behavioral habits are, and how difficult these can be to change, and why. The course then covers a series of topics that center on personal enhancement of well-being through consideration of stress management, long-term goal and value identification, mapping of long-term goals onto immediate actions, reinforcement learning, meditation, Neurofeedback, and time management. The course emphasizes critical appraisal of tools that are already finding their way to the marketplace, and aims to help students distinguish scientifically validated procedures from those that are not. Final lectures emphasize creative cognition and the concept of “flow”, focusing on what this actually may mean in terms of brain function.

Personal Brain Management Syllabus
1: Course Introduction and Overview
o Personal Brain Management
 why now?
 how is it different from other ‘self-help’ methods?
o Brain orientation
 quick summary of brain evolution
 basic frontal-posterior (output-input) organization
 mismatch detection, resonance and resonance failure
o Neurofeedback
 General principles of biofeedback
 Introduction to MyndPlay system software
o Optional Reading-Homework:
 YouTube video on PBM from TEDx San Diego, 2010:
 Gruzelier, J. (2009). “A theory of alpha/theta neurofeedback, creative performance enhancement, long distance functional connectivity and psychological integration.” Cognitive Processing 10(0): 101-109.
 LaConte, S. M. (2011). “Decoding fMRI brain states in real-time.” Neuroimage 56(2): 440-454.
2: Personal Predictive Modeling
o Predicting health outcomes from genes and biology
o Aging applications and face-aging software
o Predicting health outcomes from behavioral monitoring
o Predicting depression risk
o As easy as it looks?; assessing causal relations, probability calculus, counterfactuals
o Reading-Homework:
 Saphire-Bernstein, S., B. M. Way, et al. (2011). “Oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is related to psychological resources.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 10.1073/pnas.1113137108
 (optional) Alloy, L. B., L. Y. Abramson, et al. (2006). “Prospective incidence of first onsets and recurrences of depression in individuals at high and low cognitive risk for depression.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 115(1): 145.
 (optional) Kendler, K. S. and C. O. Gardner (2010). “Dependent Stressful Life Events and Prior Depressive Episodes in the Prediction of Major Depression: The Problem of Causal Inference in Psychiatric Epidemiology.” Arch Gen Psychiatry 67(11): 1120-1127.
 ALSO: Implications of DNA scanning: “My Genome Myself” by Pinker (
 “DNA as Destiny” by Duncan (
3: – Basics of Behavior Change
o Stages of Change model: Prochaska
 Stages: Precontemplative, Contemplative, Preparation, Action, Maintenance
 Matching treatments to stages of change
o Brain-based theories of reward, learning and decision-making
o Reading-Homework:
 Prochaska, J. O. (2008). “Decision Making in the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change.” Medical Decision Making 28(6): 845-849.
 (optional) Rushworth, M. F. S., M. P. Noonan, et al. (2011). “Frontal Cortex and Reward-Guided Learning and Decision-Making.” Neuron 70(6): 1054-1069.
 (optional) Prochaska, J. O. (2008). “Multiple Health Behavior Research represents the future of preventive medicine.” Preventive Medicine 46(3): 281-285.
4: Self-Monitoring: Experience Sampling and Logging
o Mood monitor, c/o Margie Morris
o Affectiva tools, measuring skin conductance and facial expression for marketing, personal development?
o Reading-Homework:
Fletcher, R. R., K. Dobson, et al. (2010). “iCalm: Wearable sensor and network architecture for wirelessly communicating and logging autonomic activity.” Information Technology in Biomedicine, IEEE Transactions on 14(2): 215-223.
5: Brain Training
o Education as brain training
o Psychotherapy as brain training
o Brave new world of on-line brain training exercises – panacea or snake oil?
o See Lumosity, Posit Science, Google “brain training”
o Reading-Homework:
 Jaeggi, S. M., M. Buschkuehl, et al. (2008). “Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105(19): 6829. [see also “Brain Workshop” where you can download and play the game that yielded generalized improvement…]
 Optional Reading-Homework: Bryck, R. L. and P. A. Fisher (2011). “Training the brain: Practical applications of neural plasticity from the intersection of cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and prevention science.” American Psychologist.
o InBoxZero: a mantra for the multi-taskers of the world (see Merlin Mann website/video)
o Getting Things Done (GTD): David Allen’s system, with a focus on “stress-free” productivity
o How the brain works in responsive (under stimulus control) versus projectional (under volitional control) modes, and how this relates to our inbox loads and fixation on incoming messages rather than our own plans and goal
o Reading-Homework:
GTD – Finding Your Inside Time (PDF), Getting Email Under Control (PDF), and Micro-Managing Your Mind.
 (Optional) try your own Core Dump!
7: Mobile Health and Psychotherapy
o mHealth overview and future directions
o mHealth applications for brain health, psychological health
o Behavioral Activation and Cognitive Therapies
BAT: principles of aligning long-term goals & values with immediate actions
CBT: principles of re-evaluating one’s own thoughts
o Reading-Homework:
Morris, M. E., Q. Kathawala, et al. (2010). “Mobile therapy: Case study evaluations of a cell phone application for emotional self-awareness.” Journal of Medical Internet Research 12(2): e10.
Optional Reading-Homework: Estrin, D. and I. Sim (2010). “Open mHealth Architecture: An Engine for Health Care Innovation.” Science 330(6005): 759.
Optional Reading-Homework: Newman, M. W., D. Lauterbach, et al. (2011). It’s not that I don’t have problems, I’m just not putting them on Facebook: Challenges and Opportunities in Using Online Social Networks for Health, ACM.
8: Buddhism & the Brain
o Developing mind control; the last few eons of experience
o Modern links of Buddhism & neuroscience
o Mindful awareness, brain function, and health
o The Yerkes-Dodson Law: inverted U curve relating anxiety or arousal to performance
o How to find the “sweet spot” of arousal with respect to your proficiency in a given task
 Reading-Homework: Lutz, A., H. A. Slagter, et al. (2008). “Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12(4): 163-169.
9: Brain & Creativity
o Creativity defined: novelty & utility
o Big C and little c
o Dimensions of creative cognition: generation, working memory, response inhibition
o Persistence, Openness, and Dis-Agreeableness – plus the 10,000 hour effect
o Flow and the psychology of optimal experience
o Reading-Homework:
 M. Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, “Enhancing Personal Creativity” (chapter)
 Liane Gabora, Revenge of the ‘Neurds’: Characterizing Creative Thought in terms of the Structure and Dynamics of Memory, Creativity Research Journal (see
 Dietrich, A. and R. Kanso (2010). “A review of EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies of creativity and insight.” Psychol Bull 136(5): 822-848.
 Arden, R., R. S. Chavez, et al. (2010). “Neuroimaging creativity: A psychometric
view.” Behavioural Brain Research 214(2): 143-156.
 Seligman, M. E. P. and M. Csikszentmihalyi (2000). “Positive psychology: An introduction.” American Psychologist 55(1): 5-14.
10: You And Your Machines
o Dialectic – Ray Kurzweil (The Singularity is Near) versus Jaron Lanier: You Are Not a Gadget
o Ethical implications of modifying brain function
o Reading-Homework:
 excerpts from “You Are Not a Gadget” by Jaron Lanier
 (optional) Newman, M. W., D. Lauterbach, et al. (2011). It’s not that I don’t have problems, I’m just not putting them on Facebook: Challenges and Opportunities in Using Online Social Networks for Health, ACM

The course is offered by Dr. Robert Bilder, Ph.D., ABPP who is Michael E. Tennenbaum Family Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine and Professor of Psychology UCLA College of Letters and Science

Dr. Robert Bilder: Personal Brain Management TedX San Diego (Video)

For more information about Personal Brain Management (PSYCTRY 182) at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, please visit:

Oprah’s Lifeclass tickets can be requested until Saturday, February 25, at 11:59 p.m. CT. Oprah’s Lifeclass: The Tour will be taping at Peabody Opera House with Jakes and Iyanla Vanzant in St. Louis on Monday, March 26. At Radio City Music Hall in New York City with Deepak Chopra and Tony Robbins on Monday, April 2. Each city will have an afternoon and evening show.

Read more:

You can get your tickets on: where you can join Oprah’s Lifeclass, get access to the online companion course featuring exclusive videos, articles, assessments and advice from leading experts to get your life on track and moving in a new direction. And have a chance to get tickets for her live recordings.

*Brain, Behavior, and Immunity* has scheduled a study for publication in a future issue of the journal: “Stress appraisals and cellular aging: A key role for anticipatory threat in the relationship between psychological stress and telomere length.” This news is courtesy of Ken Pope.

The authors are Aoife O’Donovana, A. Janet Tomiyamab, c, Jue Lind, Eli Putermana, Nancy E. Adlera, Margaret Kemenya, Owen M. Wolkowitza, Elizabeth H. Blackburnd, & Elissa S. Epela.

Here’s the abstract:

Chronic psychological stress is a risk factor for multiple diseases of aging.

Accelerated cellular aging as indexed by short telomere length has emerged as a potential common biological mechanism linking various forms of psychological stress and diseases of aging.

Stress appraisals determine the degree and type of biological stress responses and altered stress appraisals may be a common psychological mechanism linking psychological stress and diseases of aging.

However, no previous studies have examined the relationship between stress appraisals and telomere length.

We exposed chronically stressed female caregivers and non-caregiving controls (N = 50; M age = 62.14 6.10) to a standardized acute laboratory stressor and measured their anticipatory and retrospective threat and challenge appraisals of the stressor.

We hypothesized that threat and challenge appraisals would be associated with shorter and longer telomere length respectively, and that chronic caregiving stress would influence telomere length through altered stress appraisals.

Higher anticipatory threat appraisals were associated with shorter age-adjusted telomere length ( B = .32, p = .03), but challenge appraisals and retrospective threat appraisals showed no independent association with telomere length.

Caregivers reported significantly higher anticipatory ( B = .36, p = .006) and retrospective ( B = .29, p = .03) threat appraisals than controls, but similar challenge appraisals.

Although there was no significant main effect of caregiver status on telomere length, caregiving had a significant indirect effect on telomere length through anticipatory threat appraisals.

Exaggerated anticipatory threat appraisals may be a common and modifiable psychological mechanism of psychological stress effects on cellular aging.

Thanks to Anne M Jones for sharing her thoughts about her Diploma in psychotherapy.

“Let’s see how you get on with this one” were Dharmavidya’s words when I applied for the Diploma in 2005, confessing that I had rejected, two-thirds through, two other recognised courses. Happily I gained the Diploma in 2007 and on the strength of it have been working in a London teaching hospital with children’s mental health services since then.

Recently I have been battling with the cumbersome paperwork required to obtain accreditation by the BACP, essential if I am to continue offering psychotherapy after the NHS throws me out along with thousands of others in order to ‘save money’ , so I have been reflecting on what I learned on the course and how it has helped me. It would be good to know thoughts of other Diploma holders (should we be called Amida Diplomats?).

The first thing that comes to mind, possibly because I am in a hospital setting where hierarchies abound, is how seldom now am I bothered by notions of ‘status’. In Western thinking this features strongly; in Buddhism it is a mental construct and does not exist. All around me ranting is going on about the ‘unfairness’ of so-and-so being a “band whatever” which bears no relation to the valuable work taking place, and the respect placed upon the families worked with . In general, my colleagues in the NHS leave no stone unturned to help children and families, their commitment and care flies in the face of all the gloomy newspaper reports which so undermine the service. Being fortunate enough to work alongside committed people feels sometimes reward enough.

The training at Narborough spent a lot of time thinking about notions of ‘non-self’ and though I am constantly pondering this, it took me away from notions of exclusivity as a social care practitioner. This proved so helpful in my work in mental health , encountering people whose deprivations are on an immense scale, yet their determination shines out, to do their best by their children in this often hostile environment, and I humbly offer what I am able, be it simple listening, or more complex work involving another specialist or a school. The parent who said of himself “I’m just another useless single parent on a sink estate” had been infected by Western false constructs about people in society, and Buddhist training helped me detach myself from such constructs, to relate to the courageous human behind the label (Sixteenth vow- unconditional positive regard).

To be able to listen, without being preoccupied by theories or judgements, helps me to enter, as far as I am able, that intangible space of the person’s private worries or terrors. Just occasionally when another is speaking of some appalling loss, our grief’s will meet and I will feel my eyes filling up, and I have been relieved to find that this goes unnoticed because s/he is too absorbed in their own outpouring. Afterwards, there is sometimes a sense of catharsis in the room. The complexity of the problems has not gone away but a clearing in the tangle has emerged (Eighth vow- empathic understanding).

This training constantly reminded me of my ‘bombu nature’ my foolishness and self-delusion- a very necessary stripping of self-kidding if one is to be able to reach out as humanely as possible to people who are frightened by the formalities and trappings of hospital settings. Fortunately I work in a setting where practitioners are respected enough (up to a point) to permit a level of freedom, so it has been possible to by-pass the formal clinic-based appointment system in favour of traipsing the streets to see people. These are people who might not speak English, might be illiterate, or who are so beset with traumas and crises they cannot organise timed meetings, or even a bus pass. Once a warm, empathic connection has been made in their home, changes can begin.
‘Home’, in London, can mean just one room for a family of five, or a damp-infested flat that causes respiratory diseases. I am frequently amazed at how little has changed in relation to housing since my days working in this same area of south east London forty years ago (by serendipitous coincidence). Curiously, a huge housing project that was built after I left here , is now about to be demolished, having apparently failed to meet local needs in the way intended- one reason being that crime there soared. Many families have been distraught at the enforced moves, and I understand the buildings are still in sound condition. (Planners’ delusions on a huge scale?).

Traipsing the streets with names such as ‘Pilgrimage St.’, I am reminded of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, his humour in describing the idiosyncrasies of pilgrims hundreds of years ago on their journey, and reflect how unchanged is bombu nature. And I pass ‘Guinness Buildings’.built by nineteenth century philanthropists, renewing my hopefulness for man’s humanity to man.

Learning, Carl Rogers style, to be ‘an authentic human’ involves reaching levels of humility that I had not known. It involves respecting the strengths, values and knowledge in others and working alongside them to help a struggling child. In this job I have to draw on the expertise of other. For example, Clinical Psychologists, who test children for ‘ADHD’. This diagnostic description has been challenged by many practitioners and journalists but it has a value in highlighting for teachers and parents that a child is simply prone to some extreme behaviours. It does not confer an automatic prescription for calming drugs- parents and children can opt out. They can be helped in finding ways of managing their behaviours, given time and caring attention.

The knowledge in itself can be helpful to parents and children alike. Pre-course, I was far more sceptical, making judgements that potentially excluded help. This is just one example of many myths around children and mental health. Dependant origination teaches us that everything depends upon everything else.

The jumbled words or baffling extreme behaviours of a child begin to make sense once a story is heard, links are connected , an incomprehensible picture deciphered, a process of communication begins, the inexpressible becomes expressed. Sometimes it’s like magic.

Working in a teaching hospital gives me access to constant opportunities to update my knowledge on child development. Sometimes , for all the impressive words and statistics and breakthroughs such as MRI scans that enable researchers to detect activation I find myself wondering how ‘new’ is all this . It is now established that baby’s brains thrive on good quality care (food, cleanliness) and above all love, without which brain connective tissue shrivels and dies. Did not most mothers down the ages know this instinctively? And did not the ‘great, kind’ Qhan Shi Yin express this many aeons ago?

Funny videos of babies: Top 10 Funny Baby Videos.

Integrative East-West Medicine for Health and Wellness (MED 180 Section 1), at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, is designed to provide an overarching introduction to integrative healthcare, particularly the therapeutic approaches originated from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Students will learn (1) the theoretical underpinnings of integrative medicine and TCM, (2) the management of personal well-being through experiential learning of various therapeutic modalities, and (3) current clinical applications of integrative medicine from practitioners and patients. Topics include: integrative East-West Medicine and its role in prevention and health cultivation; herbs and nutritional supplements; pain management using acupuncture, acupressure, massage and other self-help techniques; as well as maintaining a healthy immune system and reducing inflammation and stress. Hands-on practice and clinical site visits will be incorporated.

Integrative Chinese and Western Medicine in Global Health Care

Ka-Kit Hui, MD, FACP of the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine gives a talk on Personalized Medicine at the 7th Sino-US Symposium on Medicine presented by the Salk Institute and UCSD Health Sciences

For more information about Integrative East-West Medicine for Health and Wellness (MED 180 Section 1) at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, please visit:

Moni Vangolen will be sharing with us her presence in satsang in Yaletown. Please visit: for more information.

Quoting Eckhart Tolle: “Within the still sacred space that Moni provides, it is easy to find the inner stillness that is the essence of who you are.”

Moni sites:

For the past nine and a half years, Moni has been sharing presence through her weekly meetings in Vancouver, where she lives, and throughout North America & Europe. Her gatherings are simply a celebration of being. We meet as our essential nature, beingness, and deeply honour and explore this that we all are. She invites you to join her in this profound pure presence.

Page 3 of 15«12345»...Last »