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The benefits of compassion on performance (even toward yourself).

Check out this utube TED talk, by researcher Dr Kristen Neff on “compassion toward self” and the benefits. She goes on to explain the difference between “self esteem” that is based on being better than someone else, v.s. self compassion. Research on the tangible benefits of self compassion for happiness, psychological health and achievement is discussed.

Her explanation (and numerous studies) are in agreement with the first principle of learning theory: 1.  Behaviors that are followed by a positive outcome increase. And behaviors that are followed by an unpleasant outcome decrease. Makes sense if you think about. If, what you do works,  you’ll do it again. If what you do does not work, than you’ll stop and try something else.

Our brains have evolved to use behavior to effect the world around us and to adapt to changing circumstances. Being kind to yourself as you strive toward change, just works better.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/IvtZBUSplr4“>Dr Neff on compassion toward yourself

Add neurons, subtract anxiety

Wonderful news from science on the treatment of anxiety in both animals and humans. Fluoxetine, (a medicine for the treatment of anxiety) has been shown to stimulate the growth of new nerve cells. Specifically, cells in the memory storage and sorting area of the brain. As new cells grew, individuals were able to calm down more quickly. They were able to tell the difference between old (anxiety) memories and new (positive) memories. Several studies were done where positive memories were created in  people and animals. The circumstances that trigger an anxiety memory were copied, but with a slight change (like room color or smell) . Plus, and most important was that the events in the new circumstance ended with something  positive for the individual. (This type behavior therapy is called desensitization/counter-conditioning).  Individuals who grew more new cells, more quickly reduced their anxiety or fear.

How did new cells result in less anxiety? There is increase of new cells available to remember new events. Then, new, but similar events are paired with a positive outcome.  Sequences of events are stored in the brain as “memory patterns” The individual remembers, both the old and new memory patterns. With practice or repetition of patterns with the positive outcomes, the individual will learn the difference between old, fearful, v.s. new, more positive, memory patterns. The new memory patterns compete with the old pattern and the best outcome wins.  The result is less and less fear. This works, as long as the outcomes of similar events remain positive.The new cells, that were stimulated to grow by an anti-depressants, more quickly create new memory patterns. The final observation was that the new, positive, memory patterns are then stored long term in the brain and remain after the medication is stopped.

Then the rule “use it or lose it”, comes into play. Anxiety can return if old memory patterns are practiced more than the new memory patterns.  This leads to a regression or return to fearful behaviors and emotions. A little regression is normal, whenever life is stressful, but long term stress or just lack of practicing the skills, that once work, lead to more serious regression.

This is the first evidence that shows a rapid change in fear/anxiety is directly proportion to new cell growth and that medications increase growth of new cells.

In summary: Anxiety emotional states change more quickly when two things happen together.

1. Beneficial change in the environment, so that situations that creates fear/anxiety are changed and have positive outcome. (or at least block/prevent a negative outcome).

2. Anti-depressant Fluoxetine  at therapeutic dose.

This study explains, what has been observed, in behavior medicine for a long time. First, that medications alone are not enough to change anxiety. Second, the combination of  medication and behavior modification (or therapy) are the quickest treatment for anxiety. Finally, that the improvement is permanent.

Here is a link to the study:

Add neurons, subtract anxiety.

Reinforcer Strength – How to improve learning

A fun informational video introducing the concept of reinforcer strength and its affect on behavioral choice, by James Fritzler and Susan Friedman, PhD.

For a given learner… Dog, human, mouse etc.
in a given environment,
presented with a given cue…
there are always competing rewards (reinforcers) available,
for a wide variety of behaviors.

Some are weak… some are stronger…
but the strongest reinforcers produce the strongest behaviors.
So listen up: life is full of choices. The behaviors that produce the strongest reinforcers are the behaviors our learners will do more.

This is called The Matching Law!

The supermarket is becoming more confusing! This fact makes feeding our families quality and healthful food a challenge…..

I write allot about the  petfoods & nutrition products for Cats and Dogs. Readers may already realize it is difficult to select good quality and healthful petfood  for our pets. Well, the pet-care marketplace is confusing and becoming more so, as companies use more clever advertizing to increase sales.

Well Dr Lustig has tackled the same issue where it relates to human health and everyday food from supermarkets. This is a link to his articles is you do not want to read his new book called Fat Chance.

I highly recommend this website!!

UCSF COAST: Fat Chance with Rob Lustig.

perception, illusion and reality

Great talk about why we struggle to allow into our world, new information when, “we know what we know”.

Takes about 15 minutes to watch this video about how we and creatures map reality.

TED | TEDx | Event Detail.

Applies to pet owners because many problem behaviors that happen in the average home are based on the principles revealed in this TED talk. Basically, our prior learning results in ideas and remembered brain images, about a subject within our world. These image-ideas can interfere with seeing what is really happening. Our brains are constantly editing out information that is in the environment, so that we  only pay attention to what is judged important. This is a brain based shortcut for daily living. Obviously, we don’t take as long to do activities of daily life compared to when we first  learned them.  This is the result of editing out any information that is not important to the task. How does this interfere with learning as life goes on? We create a very detailed map of the world as we acquire experiences. This map is brought out of our memory as we go through our day. Visual maps, hearing maps, feeling and movement maps and even thinking and emotional maps. There is even an area of the brain dedicated to making us feel certain about our maps. Even though we know that maps are only a guide, as we gain repeated experiences we begin to feel certain that our personal map is the same as reality. This is how phobias are formed and knowing that repeating experiences creates a new map is also how phobias are treated effectively.

Hopefully by now, someone has taken a photo or video of you that  demonstrates that what you remember can be very wrong. Yet we are stuck with feelings of certainty about how we see the reality around us. Luckily neuroscience is pointing out that each persons and each species only perceives a small portion of the world.

Let me explain how this applies to animal training. First, the experience of eye sight, hearing, feeling sensations, smells and second how this information is identified by the brain is very different between us and our animal companions. Many of the difficulties, that happen within human-animal households, can be traced to these facts. We do not see, feel, smell, hear, experience the same World. Modern pet training differs from, the older, so called “Leader of the Pack” beliefs, by applying what has been learned through 200 years scientific study of how animals  really experience their world.  More importantly, modern science applies the two principles: one –  what can be measured can be improved and two – what we know today is just a map of reality so learning never ends.

It is essential to document training ideas, methods and results in ways that can be objectively measured.  Renowned Innovators and Entrepreneurs  know that accepted thinking gets in the way of discovery. They also know the importance of measuring results. So as you train your animals I suggest that we all; test ideas, document objectively, retest, retest and have someone else look over your methods and results.

Once one realizes that accepted ideas can get in the way of seeing reality this is the best we can do, for now…..

Plastic in Foods & easy ways to avoid them.

This is an excellent, truthful, summary of  how plastic gets into our bodies. Plus, practical advice that is accurate, easy to follow and will  make a big difference to your families health.

Nutrition Diva : Plastic in Foods :: Quick and Dirty Tips ™.

Why are chemicals, that get into our food and water, allowed:

Veterinary and animal scientists have been warning since the 1980’s that the molecules from plastics were accumulating in animals and causing bone, hormone and health problems. However, neither the FDA nor the EPA  had the power to ban or even warn the public, because the findings were “only in animals”, not people.  Washington law makers have been unwilling to limit any industry because of economic concerns, so there have never been  requirements for safety prior to use or sale of chemicals in the USA.  Any chemical ingredients or products can be used freely in our environment, air, water, food, household goods, until proven harmful to people. Laboratory studies alone that may indicate harm are not sufficient to meet this standard of proven harmful in everyday use. The EPA can only act once sufficient numbers of people are harmed from a chemical that is proven to be the definitive cause of such harm. This is very hard to prove because we live in a chemical filled world, exposed to numerous chemicals every day of our lives.

Remember, we don’t need a government agency to protect us from everything. We can take action based on the large amount of knowledge from  “reliable scientific analysis” . What is clear so far: The harm from chemicals is not from a high dose of a single chemical,   rather the total  sum of many chemicals because they accumulate in our bodies.  The dose of  several chemicals that each interfere with  hormone function is well documented as a cause of many health problems in humans and animals. Beginning in 2008, with Bisphenol-A the EPA &FDA have  started to enforce more restrictions on known chemicals.

The list of problems known so far:

1. Silent inflammation -This occurs without major symptoms but continues deep within  in our bodies and leads to premature aging, obesity, heart disease, auto-immune diseases and cancers. The single most important known cause of  life limiting diseases of modern times.

2. Hormone problems  are rising in numbers like a slow epidemic. These are: low or high thyroid function, abnormal immune function, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, low fertility in men and women, plus cancer of lymph nodes, pancreas, adrenals, brain, breast, ovary, testes and prostate.

4. Children – starting the womb, chemicals are taken up by rapidly growing cells of the fetus. Later chemicals can be  transferred to children in breast milk. Children are regularly getting higher doses than adults. The rising number of children with health problems of the brain, immune system, hormone organs, skin, bone and bone marrow are linked to their higher exposure. One widely used group of  chemicals work by disrupting hormone function in pests or weeds, or are useful in plastics and coatings. One example, Bis-phenol A, has been in the news. Health problems linked to these chemicals in children include: brain tumors, ADHA, autism, childhood cancers, leukemia, allergies and other autoimmune diseases. abnormal bone formation and early onset of puberty and obesity  in girls and boys.

What can we do

Anti-oxidants in our diet can help to reduce the harm by counteracting silent inflammation. This alone is not enough, we can  reduce  how much we take  in through minor changes to daily life choices. See link at top of article.

Stay informed and Vote with your wallet. When we consumers buy healthier choices, companies quickly change their products to keep us loyal to their company. This action on our part also produces new products that in the end stimulate new business and the economy. Important skill to practice is reading labels carefully looking for hard to identify words (tip off to a chemical)  Be informed and check into products who use advertizing slang to blur the real ingredients. Large words on the front are meaningless it is the back in the ingredient list that matters and is regulated by truth in labeling laws. Slang to look for Green, Healthy, Low fat, Low carb. or no carb., Naturally made, Naturally   fill in the blank___ .

I provide a link to the FDA website from this blog where you can look up foods or ingredients to see what is real.

I will continue be tuned to this subject and pass along meaningful information so  my readers can actively protect their families, pet and human.  I am extremely interested in this subject because my background as a Veterinarian includes 10 years of teaching & research at 2 Universities specializing in reproduction, hormones and nutrition.

Dr Richie Davidson – The Emotional Life of Your Brain (Complete) – YouTube

A must see video for anyone interested in improving your life or the lives of others. Fascinating info about the brain.

Richie Davidson – The Emotional Life of Your Brain (Complete) – YouTube.

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