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The Men In My Life; Blockbuster Brain Study

07 Sep

Well, a propos of nothing in particular, here I am, surrounded by the men in my life. These guys constitute my primary fan club, and it’s mutual. Not that I wouldn’t mind a granddaughter or two... but I take what I can get, and what I’ve got so far is these 4 male squeezers. I know this has nothing to do with guided imagery or mind-body healing. But we Gramma’s have unique perks and bragging rights, and I’m claiming mine. We had a lot of fun romping around on Martha’s Vineyard this summer, I have to say.

But the party’s over and it’s time to get back on the road. I’ll be in New Orleans Oct. 4-5, for a workshop on Reversing Panic Attacks, Acute Stress and PTSD: Powerful New Solutions to Formerly Intractable Problems. The courageous and plucky denizens of that dear, beleaguered city deserve all the help they can get, and with these latest emergency alerts, I’m sure a lot of panic and PTS has been re-activated yet again. This training, for professionals and lay people, should offer a lot of practical help and take-away tools. Please spread the word. For more information, call 800-395-8445, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or look for the new brochure here. The following week, I’ll be in Denver.

And now, I have a treat for fellow geeks who love following the research: you’ve probably noticed a huge spike recently in "mental imagery" studies, showing that imagining movement fires many of the same neurons in the brain that actual movement generates. This has wonderful implications for stroke and other conditions that impair movement, and has been the main reason why so many physical therapy programs are now incorporating imagery into their regimens.

And for conditions where it’s too painful to move, but where practice at moving would be really helpful, imagery becomes the happy substitute. Thanks to all the newly available brain imaging technology, we get to certify what we could only theorize about or intuit before: imagery rocks for rehab.

Now a huge blockbuster of a study out of UCLA and the Weizmann Institute at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel takes this one step further (or deeper) and proves physiologically for the first time that when we summon up a memory, the same neurons fire that were firing during the actual experience. Using the electrode implants set in place during surgeries on severely epileptic patients, researchers Fried, Gelbard-Sagiv, Harel, Malach and Mukamel had these game subjects look at 5-10 second film clips (Seinfeld, The Simpsons, animals, landmarks, etc), during which time they recorded the firing activity involved in the hippocampus as they experienced each video; then they had the subjects recall the clips, one by one, and - lo and behold! - the same clusters of neurons fired for each memory.

This is HUGE, people!! A central piece of the memory puzzle has been solved - and at the hard-core, physiological, cellular level at that. This article just came out in this week’s issue of the highly respected journal, Science.

And of course this was always our explanation about why imagery works. Back in 1994, in Staying Well with Guided Imagery, I posited that imagery helped with healing in part because "images in the mind are almost as real to the body as actual events". Well, now it’s not just a guess, I guess! Let’s hear it for MRI’s and PET scans, eh? They’ve advanced our knowledge beyond our wildest hopes.

In celebration of this splendid outcome, I’m featuring some of the aforementioned stroke and rehab imagery studies in our Hot Research section.

I also want to remind you of some cutting edge workshops out of Jim Gordon’s most excellent shop, The Center for Mind-Body Medicine. There’s another one of their stellar, multi-modal professional trainings in Minneapolis on October 25-29; And a state-of-the-art Food as Medicine workshop in San Francisco on Jan 8-11, and in Washington D.C. on June 11-14.

OK, take care and be well,

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award