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Giselle Fernandes
CHID 222
20 August 2015
Biofutures Final Paper
We place people into categories depending on what aspect of
their lives or history we learn about first or understand better. We
fragment the individual into special segments, often ignoring or
overlooking the effect that the mind has on the body and the body has
on the mind.
Joan E. Caserta, The Mind-Body
New discoveries in the field of biomedicine have important
impacts on how we identify as human beings. Specifically,
breakthroughs in neuroscience can reveal to us that there is more to
who we are then what we are consciously aware of. Recent advances in
this field have shown that there is a powerful bidirectional relationship
between the body and the mind. Understanding the mind-body
connection can have powerful implications on the field of biomedicine
by allowing us to cater medical treatments to work to heal both the
psyche and the soma, but can also exacerbate the sometimes
misguided beliefs we have about bodies in society.
How Does the Mind Impact the Body?

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Historically, medical practices have often viewed the body as
essentially independent of the activities of the mind. Yet modern
technologies have helped to reveal that this way of thinking is very
untrue. Patients suffering from neurological diseases were thought to
have mental conditions that were not reflected by the body. Yet when
schizophrenic patients, for example, have hallucinations, new imaging
technologies show that their auditory complexes become activated.
Thus, for these individuals, they truly are having a very real somatic
auditory experience and not just hearing voices as we may have
previously assumed. This shows us that experiences that we may have
thought to operate only in the realm of the mind can actually feedback
onto the body.
Interestingly, this phenomenon occurs in situations where
empathy between individuals is demonstrated as well. Researchers
have found that cells called mirror neurons fire both when an animal
performs an action as well as when the animal observes another
individual performing the action (Gintis). In a similar study, scientists
found that people who watched others shiver experienced a drop in
their own body temperatures (Freeman). Despite the fact that
individuals may not have these specific somatic experiences
themselves, the mind can influence the body to act as if such bodily
incidents actually occurred.

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These examples can have significant implications on how we
treat patients in our healthcare system. In a clinical study performed
with cardiovascular disease patients, scientist Nancy Lutwak found a
statistically significant association between cardiovascular health and
emotional stressors. She argues that screening for depression and
other such stressors should be as important as looking for risk factors
like family history or ethnicity (Lutwak). In a famous news story, a
twins Kyrie and Brielle Jackson were born prematurely in a
Massachusetts hospital. Following the common practice of the time,
the twins were placed in separate rooms. Though Kyrie was healthy,
Brielle was soon found to be in critical condition. With time running out,
the medical staff made a desperate move to place Kyrie in the same
bed as Brielle, and almost immediately, Kyrie reached out her arm to
touch her sister. Amazingly, Brielles heart rate stabilized and her blood
oxygen levels and body temperature became normal. The twins story
revolutionized medicine by showing that something as simple as the
emotional impact of human touch can serve as a life-saving de-stressor
for the human body. Re-thinking medical practices in such a way can
allow us to broaden our spectrum of treatments to more fully address
the diversity of human needs in areas of both the body and the mind.
The Psychic Action of the Soma
Traditional outlooks in medicine often encourage us to think of
the mind as the architect behind the establishment of a human

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individual and the body as its humble servant. New understandings in
biomedicine refute this logic, showing that the body itself can be
functionally autonomous (Wilson). Disability studies professor Tobin
Siebers states that, the body is alive, which means that it is as
capable of influencing and transforming social languages as they are
capable of influencing and transforming it (Siebers). Just by being part
of a living whole, the body serves as a complex system that is
intrinsically integrated with its environment.
In fact, our bodies are often aware of happenings in the
environments that our minds are oblivious to, and send us messages
about such goings-on in the form of distress signals. In this way, our
bodies protect us from harms we may not even know exist or are not
able to comprehend (Neuroscience).
In her essay Gut Feminism, Elizabeth Wilson also explains that
the organs can even become compulsive and such that they are no
longer directly tied to meaningful, analyzable events in the patients
internal or external world (Wilson). Understanding that psychosomatic
events can be viable explanations for the suffering of patients with
eating disorders or other neurological conditions helps us become
more cognizant of the complicated interactions that contribute to such
ailments and allows us to re-think the ways in which we treat them.
Understanding the Body as an Integrated Whole

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In neurological studies, it can be tempting to consider the brain
as the area where the psyche and soma meet to create our thoughts
and emotions and everything that makes us human. Yet this sort of
thinking is dangerously flawed. We certainly need brains to have
experiences, but by itself, the brain is just an organ like any other
organ. Philosopher Mary Midgley argues that the brain is not an
independent dynamo", and is simply one of many parts that form a
whole human being (An Extraordinary Time for Neuroscience).
Similarly, Elizabeth Wilson argues that medications such as
antidepressants don't just go straight to the brain and nowhere else,"
but instead can also directly enliven the viscera (Wilson). The gut, too,
has intricate and extensive networks of nerves and has the ability to
respond to stimulation. Thus, we must recognize that if we hope to
truly understand neurobiology we cannot study brains in isolation, but
rather consider the whole body and all it is influenced by
(Extraordinary time' for neuroscience).
An Integrative Approach to Healing:
Recognize the connections between the mind and body as
bidirectional compels us to ask the question of how we apply this
knowledge to the realm of healthcare. Researcher Ann Taylor found
that bidirectional interactions between the brain and peripheral
tissues contribute to both mental and physical health, and that such
interactions should dictate how we treat patients (Taylor). If both the

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psyche and the soma have impacts on and are impacted by health
conditions, it makes logical sense that we tailor medical treatments to
endeavor to heal both the mind and the body. A study conducted by
Suzanne Little and her colleagues found that depressive suffering was
rooted not only in biological processes or human behaviors, but in the
loss of connection to intangible but perceived healing forces that
surround us, and to a unified or holistic sense of nature, however we
might describe it, which impel the human instinct towards wholeness
and harmony (Little). Little redefined health as a state of dynamic
equilibrium, and illness as a force that disrupts this stability of the
mind-body connection. She states that the best method of
reestablishing this balance is by using an integrated, multidisciplinary
approach that serves to address not just some, but all the forces
involved in sustaining a persons equilibrium (Little).
Complications in Applying the Mind-Body Connection
Though recognizing the mind-body connection undoubtedly
expands our ability to understand the interplay of the psyche and
soma in many influential ways, we should also be careful not use it to
make fallacious assumptions. We must remember that though the
mind and body are closely bonded, the body does not necessarily
completely reflect all that is happening in the mind or vice versa.
We can see how problems arise from not fully understanding the
complexity of the mind-body connection and leaping to conclusions

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about it by looking at the case of lie detectors in the criminal justice
system. Theoretically, fMRI scans of suspects brains are supposed to
exhibit more activity in the parietal and prefrontal cortices if the
individuals are lying. Yet time and time again, these scans as well as
traditional polygraph lie detectors have erroneously declared
blameless people to be lying while actual criminals are pronounced
innocent. For these reasons, evidence from lie detectors cannot be
used in American or British criminal courts. However, lie detector
evidence can be used in the criminal investigation stage with the aim
of extracting a confession from the suspect. Considering that 90% of
cases are resolved at the investigation stage without actually going to
court, the notion that an individuals bodily responses can ascertain
what is happening in her mind significantly influences how the law
judges person (The Truth and Nothing but the Truth).
Critics of the lie detection practice argue that there are many
complications that the system ignores. Recognizing the soma as
functionally autonomous should help us understand that bodily
responses can be caused by a multitude of stimuli, some of which we
may not even know about. Even fMRIs, which are considered more
accurate than polygraphs, can be flawed because any single part of
brain can be activated by multiple stimuli. For example, the area of the
brain called the insula can be activated by disgust, eating chocolate, or
sexual pleasure, which are undeniably three very different stimuli

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(The Truth and Nothing but the Truth). In addition, personality effects
may be a far more telling reason for why individuals react in a certain
way to a lie detector than whether or not they are actually lying. An
interpretation of lie detector results that immediately assumes a
causational relationship between stimuli without examining other
effects only reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the dynamic
way in which the mind and body interact.
Appeal of Empirical Evidence about Bodies:
If assumptions about the impact minds can have on bodies can
be so flawed, then why do we as humans constantly search for
empirical evidence about bodies? Dr. Geoff Bunn explores this
question, hypothesizing that tools like lie detectors appeal to a certain
ideal of justice that aims to transcend human prejudice using the
scientific understanding of bodies (The Truth and Nothing but the
Truth). Essentially, we want to feel like our judgments are not
influenced by discriminatory impulses. We would much rather claim
that the support for a sentence comes directly from a suspects own
body. We must be wary that our motivation for exploring the
technologies of bodies does not stem solely from the fact that we are a
fearful society enticed by empirical evidence we can cater to our
Implications of Culture on Bodies and Minds:

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For better or for worse, culture and society have major effects on
how bodies and minds respond to stimuli. With the example of lie
detectors, we can see that results are entirely reliant on what the
suspect believes constitutes a lie, which in turn is dependent on what
the society she is a member of sees as a lie. In this way, lie detectors
can only really work well in very controlled circumstances where the
impact of culture on bodies can be minimized. Neuroscientist Dr. Geoff
Bunn also adds there is a placebo effect caused by the influence of
culture and society such that machines like lie detectors only work to
the extent the people think they work (The Truth and Nothing but the
Truth). Of course, this must happen at a population level as well as an
individual one. This is where items like comic books come in handy. For
example, comic book characters like Dick Tracy and Wonder Woman
popularize the supposed infallibility of lie detectors in understanding
the intricate inner workings of the human mind (The Truth and
Nothing but the Truth). These sorts of influences govern the publics
expectations about what science can tell us about the body and the
mind. We must constantly remind ourselves that the body-mind
connection is only one force at play within a myriad of influences that
effect how human beings live each moment of their lives.
New technologies in the field of neuroscience can be used to
better our understanding of the body-mind connection, but we must be

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careful to remember that even todays most advanced technologies
cannot reveal everything there is to know about the human mind. We
must recognize that minds and bodies are parts of individuals, and
individuals are part of a dynamic society that is endlessly influencing
and being influenced by its members. We should use our valuable
knowledge about the body-mind connection to create the most
benefits we can in society while at the same time realizing that the
insights we draw from the body-mind connection cannot possibly tell
us everything there is to know about the mystery of what it means to
be human.

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An Extraordinary Time for Neuroscience. Today. BBC Radio 4. 5
September 2012. Web. Accessed 22 August 2015.
Neuroscience. In Our Time. BBC Radio 4. 13 November 2008. Web.
Accessed 22 August 2015.
The Truth and Nothing but the Truth. BBC Radio 4. 23 May 2013.
Web. Accessed 22 August 2015.
Caserta, Joan E. The Mind-Body Connection. Home Healthcare Nurse.
Vol. 11(2). (1993): 6-7. Print.
Chen, Fangfang, et al. The Effect of Body-Mind Relaxation Meditation
Induction on Major Depressive Disorder. Journal of Affective
Disorders. Vol. 183. (2015): 75-82. Print.
Ertelt, Steven. Their Rescuing Hug Stunned the World, Now the
Twins Are All Grown Up. National Life News. 20 June 2014. Web.
Accessed 22 August 2015.
Freeman, Sophie. Feeling cold is contagious. Daily Mail. 12 January
2015. Web. Accessed 22 August 2015.

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Gintis, Herbert. A Framework for the Unification of the Behavioral
Sciences. Cambridge University Press. Vol. 30. (2007): 161.
Little, Suzanne, et al. Multimodal Mind/Body Group Therapy for
Chronic Depression. Explore. Vol. 5(6). (2009): 330-337. Print.
Littrell, Jill. The Mind-Body Connection: Not Just a Theory Anymore.
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Lutwak, Nancy. The Mind-Body Connection and Cardiovascular
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(2012): 1125-1127. Print.
Oosterwijk, Suzanne, et al. States of Mind: Emotions, Body Feelings,
and Thoughts Share Distributed Neural Networks. NeuroImage.
Vol. 62. (2012): 2110-2128. Print.
Siebers, Tobin. Disability in Theory: From Social Constructionism to the
New Realism of the Body. The Disability Studies Reader. Ed.
Lennard Davis. New York: Routledge, Taylor Francis Group, 2006.
173-183. Print.
Taylor, Ann, et al. Top-down and Bottom-up Mechanisms in Mind-Body
Medicine. Explore. Vol. 6(1). (2009): 29-41. Print.

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Wilson, Elizabeth A. Gut Feminism. Differences. Vol. (15)3. (2004):
66-94. Print.