Commonly, we think of the mind and body as two separate things.
We think ‘I’ have a body, rather than I am my body.
As a result we feel cut off from ourselves; alienated from our true nature.
But is this split-view of ourselves scientifically accurate?
Or might the two be more interconnected than we previously thought?
In this series of talks we’ll explore the fascinating science of the mind-body connection; how the mind affects us biologically, and also how what happens in the body influences the mind.
You’ll learn how these insights can improve your own quality of life, but also your ability to help others, too.
Ever wondered why identical twins become less alike as they age, even developing different diseases? Why are the cells of your skin so different from the cells of your kidneys, even though they contain exactly the same DNA? The answer lies in epigenetics, an extra layer of information on top of genes, that controls how the genetic script gets used. It’s the link between nature and nurture and it’s important in a huge range of biological processes. It explains why tortoiseshell cats are almost always female, and why global warming is leading to catastrophic skewing of the sex ratios in turtle populations.
Drug companies are investing billions of dollars in creating new therapies for cancer, using their knowledge of how epigenetic problems can drive this disease. Most weirdly of all, the epigenetic system can be a means by which responses to the environment get passed down through generations, without any change in DNA. It’s a wonderful, strange, fascinating and sometimes controversial science, and it affects us all.
Dr Nessa Carey is a biologist working in the field of molecular biology and biotechnology. She is International Director of the technology transfer organisation PraxisUnico and a Visiting Professor at Imperial College London. With expertise in the field of epigenetics and in technology transfer, she promotes the movement of scientists between academia and industry, lecturing often to school students and early career scientists.
Dr Carey writes books and articles for a scientifically interested general audience, and contributes to the Huffington Post. She is the author of The Epigenetics Revolution and Junk DNA: A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome which explore advances in the field of epigenetics and their implications for medicine. You can find out more about her work at www.nessacarey.co.uk.
The wiring of the brain, the neural pathways, are laid down during the crucial years of life when the infant is dependent on the primary caregiver. The past is encoded in the present. The degree of developmental trauma caused by adverse situations and by the relationship of mother and infant determines to a large extent the infant’s nervous system responses and the attachment styles adopted to ensure survival. These behaviour patterns laid down in the early years of development govern relationships and interactions as adults. From conception onwards memory is not subject to recall in the obvious ways, but is stored as implicit memory, held in the body out of conscious awareness.
Neuroscience confirms the brain’s plasticity which ensures that we can rewire the brain, changing the autonomic nervous system responses, and consequently shift our attachment behaviours and heal developmental trauma. In Bodydreaming we learn tools to enable affect regulation, to produce greater ease, flow and expansion in our systems. We focus on our sensing bodies through inner and outer attunement which has the effect of changing our default responses of fight, flight, freeze, the residue of early trauma and insecure attachment patterns. The quality of this relationship to the body lays down a new template for a secure attachment – this time round an attachment to an embodied core sense of self. The work creates the foundation stone for healing developmental trauma.
Marian Dunlea is a Jungian analyst and somatics practitioner who has been leading workshops internationally for the past 25 years integrating body, mind and soul. She is head of the BodySoul Europe Training, which is part of the Marion Woodman Foundation.
Marian is the creator of Body-Dreaming; an approach which incorporates developments in neuroscience, trauma therapy, and attachment theory with Jungian psychology, and the phenomenological standpoint of interconnectedness. Her trainings include Jungian Analysis, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy, Infant Observation Supervision, and Somatic Experiencing.
Human beings have evolved to be highly adaptable creatures, psychologically and physiologically. From moment to moment we continually monitor the social and physical environment in order to assess opportunities or threats that lie ahead; and we change the face we present to the world accordingly.
In this talk I’ll explain how these adjustments to personality, mental and physical health can occur without our knowing it, as we respond instinctively to environmental cues. But of course we may sometimes get it wrong. We may be deceived by accidental or deliberate disinformation into forming a false picture of our prospects. Or we may be misled by information that – in evolutionary terms – is simply out of date. I’ll show how this explains not only the placebo effect, but much else about the misfit between human nature and the modern environment.
Nicholas Humphrey is a theoretical psychologist, based in Cambridge, who is known for his work on the evolution of human intelligence and consciousness. His interests are wide ranging. He studied mountain gorillas with Dian Fossey in Rwanda, he was the first to demonstrate the existence of “blindsight” after brain damage in monkeys, he proposed the celebrated theory of the “social function of intellect”, and he is the only scientist ever to edit the literary journal Granta.
His books include Consciousness Regained, The Inner Eye, A History of the Mind, Leaps of Faith, The Mind Made Flesh, Seeing Red and most recently Soul Dust. He has been the recipient of several honours, including the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, the British Psychological Society’s book award, the Pufendorf Medal and the International Mind and Brain Prize .
He has been Lecturer in Psychology at Oxford, Assistant Director of the Subdepartment of Animal Behaviour at Cambridge, Senior Research Fellow in Parapsychology at Cambridge, Professor of Psychology at the New School for Social Research, New York, and School Professor at the London School of Economics.
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