Though closing one’s eyes is sometimes promoted as a quick way to soothe fear and anxiety in stressful situations, doing so may prompt the brain to engage in a higher degree of activity, resulting in more intense experiences. With an itch to identify the ways in which the brain handles a loss of visual input in the presence of frightening stimuli, and a curiosity about how such responses may serve a useful purpose for mental and medical health, a researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Functional Brain Center has recently published a study using what may seem like an unlikely research tool: spooky Alfred Hitchcock-esque music.
The study worked with fifteen participants, all of which were reported as being healthy, who were exposed to a series of neutral noises along with a sequence of scary music (ostensibly the stuff of haunted Halloween houses). Participants listened to the sounds both with their eyes open and closed, and researchers examined their brain activity during the process with functional magnetic resonance imaging equipment. Participant-provided feedback was also collected, and exhibited a match with the data collected from the brain scans: the mind was alive with more intense activity when the scary music was heard with participants’ eyes shut.
Highlighting the idea that small alternations in behavior can have a profound impact on experience, the study may prove helpful for those interested in developing more effective protocols for learning and working, and may also have implications for the treatment of neurological disorders, including dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and other mental health issues. With continuing research in how seemingly insignificant aspects of behavior can influence the mind, new breakthroughs in many fields may make their way to the headlines.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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