Friday, June 7, 2013

Your Mind Makes It Real

The Placebo Effect.  The Nocebo Effect.  Priming.  Um...  The Matrix.

Your mind has an uncanny ability to make perceived things real.  I used to think this was incredibly impressive.  But I didn't know the half of it.

Check out this experiment:

If you're like me and are too lazy to read it, here's the gist:

Some researchers in Cleveland wanted to determine if mental practice of an exercise could actually result in physical changes to the targeted areas of the body.  One group of subjects did a regular exercise involving moving their finger sideways.  A second group regularly imagined doing the same exercise but did not actually go through the physical motions.  The control group did nothing.

After 12 weeks, the 'actual physical exercise' group showed a finger strength increase of 53%.  The control group did not show any strength increase.  Now, the fun part: the 'mental exercise' group showed a strength increase of 35%!

That's right: the group that didn't perform any physical exercise increased their physical strength by imagining they were exercising.  "They didn't have to lift a finger in order to convince their brains that they were, in fact, lifting a finger."

When I first read this, I thought it must have been some mistake.  But the same results were obtained by a separate experiment done in Canada in 2007:

In this case, the experiment involved hip muscles.  They used the same 3 types of groups.  The 'actual physical exercise' group increased their strength by 28%.  The control group, none.  The 'mental exercise' group... wait for it... 24%!

I don't know about you, but I am blown away by this.  And I'm sure I will continue to be blown away as we uncover more amazing things our minds can do.