Need Resources on Mind Energy Changing DNA
November 7, 2007 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I need solid scientific evidence that thought can change matter - how consciousness effects DNA structure, patterns and ultimately reality. Charts, studies, videos, all is welcome as a way of viewing and understanding how the mind's energy works in relation to physical matter. Thank you so much.
posted by watercarrier to Science & Nature (51 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
There isn't any.
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:19 AM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


You mean apart from thoughts controlling muscles to change matter?
posted by exogenous at 9:21 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thinking can change the configuration of neurons in your brain.
posted by demiurge at 9:26 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Unless you shuck and jive with the definition then it can't and doesn't.
posted by PantsOfSCIENCE at 9:31 AM on November 7, 2007


You aren't going to find any "solid scientific evidence that thought can change matter" -- because it can't.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:35 AM on November 7, 2007


If you find any, congratulations in advance on your Nobel Prize: I don't think there's a solid consensus on what consciousness is, precisely, let alone how it's embodied in matter, at this point, for the question to be answerable -- either in terms of proof or of flat denial.

(Someone's going to bring up Schroedinger's Cat, but that isn't the solid proof you're looking for -- the "observer" need not be a conscious entity for the waveform to collapse, by some interpretations of the theory. And the suggestions above could be argued both ways: are the thoughts controlling the neurons, or are the neurons controlling the thoughts?)
posted by ook at 9:38 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, there are things like how meditation can relax people and that in the long run along with other stress reducers will have a real impact on the health of the person.

There are some studies that show a small statstical effect on people who are generally optimistic being healthier.

You also have some pretty interesting things happening under hypnosis, but nothing on the level of changing matter.

In reality DNA creates and changes consciousness, not the other way around.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:40 AM on November 7, 2007


The mind's energy is, in fact, matter, so when you change your mind you change matter.

(Google "neurotransmitters".)

See also, "placebo effect".

I have a feeling that these are not the kinds of things you're talking about, though. In the sense you mean, where telekinesis is a going concern, you're not going to find any scientific evidence. See Bill Murray's first scene in Ghost Busters for a depiction of what research into this kind of thing typically looks like.
posted by OmieWise at 9:41 AM on November 7, 2007


OK, well, the act of thinking involves neurochemicals moving around, so one could say that thinking a particular thought moves neurochemicals around. Therefore, molecules are moved, therefore matter is moved.

One could also say that thought affects DNA insofar as my thinking someone is attractive could lead to our mating (if she finds me attractive as well), which therefore could create offspring DNA that is like, but different from, from what either one of us had individually.
posted by aramaic at 9:41 AM on November 7, 2007


You're going to have to be more specific, however, or you'll just get endless pedantry like mine.
posted by aramaic at 9:44 AM on November 7, 2007


Also, the "use it or lose it" theory of Alzheimer's.

Decent article on the mind body connection here.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:50 AM on November 7, 2007


I would agree that neurotransmitters are probably the closest you're going to get to any kind of matter that is moved by thoughts. However, there are many who would argue that the movement of the neurotransmitters are what causes thoughts, rather than the other way around.
posted by vytae at 9:53 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Besides the brain's ability to affect the physical processes inside your body (for example consciously controlling your muscles, the hypothalamus raising your body's temperature, etc.) the only scientific theory for consciousness affecting the real world is in quantum mechanics. Even then, most interpretations of quantum mechanics say consciousness plays no role, except in interpreting reality.

Here's a chart of different interpretations of QM. As you can see, the "consciousness causes collapse" interpretation is the only one that says the mind has any real role.

I'd like to add the following:

1.) It is my opinion that the consciousness causing collapse interpretation is dead wrong, although there are well-respected physicists who disagree.

2.) Based on how you framed the question, I suspect you've heard about some new age theory that you can manipulate your DNA or change the world by positive thinking. These theories are bunk. No scientific theory, including consciousness causing collapse, supports these ideas.
posted by justkevin at 9:59 AM on November 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


There's plenty of evidence that thought can change matter.


Take a look at an person under psychological stress. Certain psychological stressors are entirely subjective. What gives one person relaxing pleasure makes another person want to die, the difference is the perception of the stressor.

As soon as a person is under stress their blood glucose levels go up, amongst other things. This change in blood glucose is achieved by expressing different components of the DNA to create different enzymes in the cells that cause to release different hormones that stimulate higher levels of gluconeogenesis.
posted by 517 at 10:01 AM on November 7, 2007


Arthur Young has a theory of process/geometry of meaning,and answers to questions that no one is asking.
posted by hortense at 10:01 AM on November 7, 2007


Good luck on that.

When you find the peer-reviewed studies and evidence, please let us know. It goes against what has so far been tested, and will definitely be noteworthy on a Nobel Prize scale. At least a FPP on metafilter...
posted by lothar at 10:03 AM on November 7, 2007


There are some studies that show a small statstical effect on people who are generally optimistic being healthier.

In fact, just last week a review was published of hundreds of other studies that demonstrated that a patient's mindset has no appreciable effect on his/her health, other providing a motivation to live a healthy lifestyle.

I have no link for you, sorry.
posted by randomstriker at 10:03 AM on November 7, 2007


I don't understand how people can claim that thought has zero effect on matter. As others have pointed out, at the most basic level, neural signals involve lots of matter moving around—for starters, simple ions and neurotransmitters. At the next level, changes in calcium ion concentration induce calmodulin to cause all sorts of changes in other cellular proteins. Even probable chromatin remodelling, that is changes in DNA structure.

Since everything about thought is essentially a lot of change in matter, I'm uncertain as to how to answer your question further. Be more specific.
posted by grouse at 10:05 AM on November 7, 2007


Read a textbook on vertebrate physiology, neurobiology, or neurochemistry for lots more examples.
posted by grouse at 10:06 AM on November 7, 2007



In fact, just last week a review was published of hundreds of other studies


I take it by mindset you mean optimist/pessimist not stressed or unstressed?
posted by 517 at 10:07 AM on November 7, 2007


Also, wikipedia article on PNI.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:39 AM on November 7, 2007


how the mind's energy works in relation to physical matter

...the brain gets its energy from physical matter, specifically glucose...
posted by salvia at 10:50 AM on November 7, 2007


Would evidence that cognitive changes create changes in neurochemistry be adequate? The people who don't believe in mental phenomena changing matter won't be convinced, because that observation is no different from a running computer program changing the orientation of memory bits. A my name with no mental existence would look the same.

Most who think that consciousness really exists come from the idea that either 1) physical phenomena affects mental phenomena, but not vice versa or 2) observed physical and mental phenomena are jointly derived from a deeper underlying substance.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:51 AM on November 7, 2007


I don't understand how people can claim that thought has zero effect on matter. As others have pointed out, at the most basic level, neural signals involve lots of matter moving around—for starters, simple ions and neurotransmitters.

I think people are responding to this:


I need solid scientific evidence that thought can change matter ... and ultimately reality. ...how the mind's energy works in relation to physical matter.


It's very unclear what watercarrier is talking about. You're right, of course, when you say that the thinking affects matter INSIDE the thinker's body. But watercarrier's wording makes it SOUND like he's talking about ESP or telekinesis -- which is pseudoscience. We may be misreading the question, though. Maybe he's just talking about internal changes.
posted by grumblebee at 10:56 AM on November 7, 2007


"In fact, just last week a review was published of hundreds of other studies that demonstrated that a patient's mindset has no appreciable effect on his/her health, other providing a motivation to live a healthy lifestyle....I have no link for you, sorry.

I believe you may be talking about the recent Cancer study out of UPenn?
posted by illovich at 11:09 AM on November 7, 2007


Back issues of Omni?
posted by sourwookie at 11:15 AM on November 7, 2007


The placebo effect.
posted by rocket88 at 11:17 AM on November 7, 2007


Notice the focus in the question on 'changing DNA'. I googled that term and found this discussion, and this one, which may shed some light on the question being asked.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:25 AM on November 7, 2007


You aren't going to get any scientific evidence about this. This sort of question is in the realm of philosophy (look up the mind-body problem), not science.
posted by ssg at 11:27 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


The movie is total BS, but it sounds like you'd love watching What the Bleep Do We Know? It was made by a cult up in Washington state to try to convince people that the mind could change matter/DNA. There was a metafilter post about it, but I cannot find it...
posted by pwb503 at 11:30 AM on November 7, 2007


In addition to the basic, instantaneous level of neotransmitters moving across a synapse when you think something, there is a long term process of dendritic branching that increases in well-worn mental pathways. How solidly you could say this is all "thought changing matter" is definitional, but learning does seem to prompt the brain to alter itself on a minute scale. But if this is just the "thoughts" involved with learning rearranging and growing brain cells, or a response to the environment and conditions of learning (or much more likely a complex interaction of the two) is entirely open to debate. Basically what you need for brain cells to make new connections is a new stimulus, that triggers a novel electrical response in the brain, and repeat multiple times until the cells start to adjust to better respond to the now familiar stimulus
(and that is the most bastardized, simple way to possibly put it).
posted by slow graffiti at 11:43 AM on November 7, 2007


resources are coming through http://www.thequantumsite.com/articles/2006/03/dna_some_strange_experiments.html
posted by watercarrier at 11:49 AM on November 7, 2007


If there was any real science behind the site you link to, watercarrier, then they would give citations to research published in peer-reviewed journals. Since they don't, and make some pretty odd claims, you can safely assume that it is bunk.
posted by ssg at 12:01 PM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I am a huge skeptic... but I believe there's a lot to the adage "you're only as healthy as you feel".
posted by Mr_Crazyhorse at 12:02 PM on November 7, 2007


resources are coming through http://www.thequantumsite.com/articles/2006/03/dna_some_strange_experiments.html

If you're actually serious about this you might want to look for peer-reviewed journals instead of fly-by-night animated-gif-laden-website claptrap.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:02 PM on November 7, 2007


watercarrier, frankly that site is nothing but a few true statements about quantum mechanics sprinkled inside a whole lot of nonsense. No legitimate scientist would take any of that seriously.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:06 PM on November 7, 2007


From the site you linked to:

In this experiment, first a container was emptied, therefore creating a vacuum within it. Then, the only thing left were photons (particles of light); he measured the distribution or location of those photons and found they were completely random inside the container. This, of course, was the expected result.

But surprisingly enough, then some DNA was placed inside the container, and the distribution (location) of the photons was remeasured again, but this time the photons were lined up in an ordered fashion, aligned with the DNA.

What does this means? That the physical DNA had an effect on the non-physical photons!

Following that, the DNA was removed from the container and the distribution of the photons was remeasured once more. The photons remained ordered and lined up where the DNA had been. So this arised a question: What are the light particles connected to?


What the hell does that even mean? It makes absolutely no sense on even a semantic level.
posted by odinsdream at 12:30 PM on November 7, 2007


ssg - what do you consider as being *real science* and what in you mind constitutes valid scientific inquiry that the ones posted failed to meet? Because from what I've read all of the experiemnts conducted were carried out under the conditions set forth in labs around the world - elemental, environmental and human resources - which were met without controvercy or bias.
posted by watercarrier at 12:35 PM on November 7, 2007



Needless to say that this is a new science - or the new biology and requires an open mind and a leap of faith into the unknown.

Some more resources sent - http://www.brucelipton.com/article/mind-over-genes-the-new-biology
posted by watercarrier at 12:40 PM on November 7, 2007


This seems to be turning into a debate between the OP and various skeptics, and that's not what AskMe is supposed to be about.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:45 PM on November 7, 2007


odinsdream - I believe the reference is to the quantum membrane.
posted by watercarrier at 12:46 PM on November 7, 2007


watercarrier, one of the most important components of real science is that the methodology, results, and conclusions are subject to scrutiny by other experts who are qualified in the relevant areas of research. This is called peer review.

If the results of an investigation are not peer reviewed then they are suspect. This holds true for the latest groundbreaking press release to appear in New Scientist as it does to a cursory description of an experiment on a some guy's web site.
posted by grouse at 12:46 PM on November 7, 2007


"Solid scientific evidence" involves properly designed experiments generating data supporting or denying a coherently formulated, scientifically testable hypothesis. Confirmation of this evidence involves publication in a peer-reviewed, established scientific journal or equivalent periodical venue, review and comment by the relevant scientific community and replication of the experimental data in independent laboratories.

The article you linked is a fairly typical example of new age writing attempting to establish support for its metaphysical assertions through the examination of the discipline of science. Which is to say, it is completely incoherent and full of statements that indicate a complete lack of a serious understanding of the most basic scientific principles. It contains no citations and no context and it's clear that, whatever its core source might be, there's no reason to place any confidence in the author's interpretation of any of it. It has no credibility. It is the opposite of "solid scientific evidence"

It's hard to say what the actual research that inspired this study claimed - if you look at a statement purported to be by Dr. Poponin himself about this research I think you'll find it much more difficult to extract any kind of simple metaphysical assertion from it (setting aside its intrinsic validity, which is is impossible to judge). Note also from the citations that this research was published in 1992 - it appears it hasn't exactly set the scientific world ablaze in the intervening 15 years.

New Age metaphysics does this all the time: finds some isolated, enigmatic research descriptions with the window dressing (legitimate or not, it scarcely matters) of formal scientific investigation and draws ridiculously elaborate "spiritual" interpretations out of it. If you want more of this kind of thing, hit that article I linked and start googling spooky-sounding terminology out of it, stuff like "DNA Phantom Effect," and you'll get all the woo-hoo hand-waving pseudoscience you could possibly want.

There is interesting scientific thought to be explored on the issues of consciousness, and "free" will - you could hit a page like this and look around the relevant links.

One other less scientifically bankrupt (and more current) line you might enjoy following up is random event generator experiments - though the claims for interpretations of their data is a matter of debate.
posted by nanojath at 12:51 PM on November 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


watercarrier, the sites you're linking to are crackpot nonsense; the "experiments" they're describing don't even make sense as descriptions, let alone as repeatable experiment.

Once you use the phrase "leap of faith", you're no longer talking about science.
posted by ook at 12:51 PM on November 7, 2007


Assuming that we reject belief in the supernatural (souls), then everything is matter (or more properly, everything is physical -- so that we can include matter and energy and forces and whatnot). The mind, whatever it is, is made of matter.

The world affects the mind: Sensory impulses travel physical pathways and somehow come into consciousness through processes that are entirely physical (not well-understood, but physical).
The mind affects the mind, and that's all physical: Decisionmaking and conscious awareness are processes that are entirely physical.
The mind affects the world: The actions that result from our decisionmaking occur in physical pathways (eg signal going from brain to arm makes arm reach for glass of water).

The mind has lots of affects on matter, and vice versa.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:08 PM on November 7, 2007


You need to start with a definition of "thought" before you can approach this question.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:08 PM on November 7, 2007


If what is being proposed worked, I would be a muscle-bound terror capable of ripping the flesh from your bones in less time than it takes to open a packet of chips. All would cower before my hideous mass, the pure form of hate made into a skyline-dominating atrocity.

Pure and utter BS, with the added bonus that if you die of lymphoma, it's only because you weren't dedicated enough! Oh, if only you'd been more disciplined and had followed the right guru, you might still be alive! Follow me instead, and my super-ninja remote reiki madness will keep you alive forever!

...plus I've got a whole line of magic books, crystals, and some really nifty tea that my importer just swears comes from special siberian ninja-monks who use it to align the cosmic DNA balance while simultaneously tripping their frozen siberian asses off!
posted by aramaic at 1:20 PM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


There isn't any really. People test this out pretty often with prayer or remote viewing or what-have-you. The results are usually equivalent of random. There is sometimes a small bias one way or the other, which people then use to argue their position.

If there is a strong bias, the experiment was probably borked badly. A good example of this is Elisabeth Targ's work on the power of prayer to heal. Most new-agers cite her work. If you find the paper and ready the flurry it created then you need to go read the Wired article than ran right after her death (July 2002)*. She let her personal bias influence the research.

That's not to say that meditation or prayer isn't healthy. If nothing else it can relieve stress. But it pays to use a critical eye even if we want to believe in the power of thought to directly change reality.

* Elisabeth was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor, the exact same kind she was focusing on for her next study. Needless to say, she received an enormous amount of prayer and love, essentially becoming a participant in her own research. She died anyway (and I still miss her even though I disagree with her).
posted by chairface at 4:10 PM on November 7, 2007


Lo and behold, though Wired search returns nothing, the Wired article is online.
posted by chairface at 4:13 PM on November 7, 2007



Thinking
about playing the piano can can your brain structure just like actually playing the piano. Certainly chromatin remodeling etc. must be done for neuron growth and movement.
posted by fermezporte at 6:15 AM on November 8, 2007


While the study that Targ was working on when she died, about "distance healing" (sic) and brain cancer has finished, there don't seem to be any results published. However, on this page, almost at the very bottom, there is a listing for a talk from Andrew Freinkel who took over as PI, called, "No Effect of Anonymous Distant Healing on Survival Time for Patients With Glioblastoma Multiforme". So I guess it matters a lot more whether or not the study is manipulated than it does whether or not you're prayed for.
posted by OmieWise at 8:44 AM on November 8, 2007


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