By Meg Jordan March 4, 2014

Neuroscience used to be the subject where geniuses flourished and the rest of us grimaced--but not anymore. Neuroscience is hot, and everybody from app designers to massage therapists claim to apply the latest findings.

The last decade of neuroscience research has produced an explosion of novel approaches to track the bidirectional interfaces between the brain and all other cellular structures. Some of the neuroscience research heads toward cognition and behavior, and winds up informing the expanding field of Positive Psychology. This is where you’ll find evidence-informed practices for mindfulness, meditation, breath work, and other forms of stress reduction.

Other research in neuroscience maps out a more complex view of neurobiological systems, in which the laws of heredity seem to be rewritten every day.  Epigenetics (information from outside the gene), which arises from any number of stimuli, such as, nutritional compounds, stressful thoughts and anxiety, or environmental pollutants, has a greater effect on our DNA than we ever imagined. Neurology researcher David Perlmutter, MD, estimates that almost two-thirds of our genes responsible for the brain’s health, overall physical health and longevity are controlled by epigenetic factors. 

This all leads to new understandings of human behavior and motivation, along with a blurring of the old physiology charts that mapped out discrete systems. The immune system, the gut, and the brain are so intertwined, we should declare the whole of psychophysiological functioning as more of a big network than individual systems.

Where research flows, commercial enterprise follows. We are already seeing the expansion of a vibrant marketplace of digital tracking and apps for lifestyle coaching and brain optimization--all designed to get us humming along with enhanced, flexible and adaptive neuronal activation. Giving a boost to neurobiological flow of information can mean better emotional balance, attunement to communication, and body regulation.  Although we tend to think at CIIS that nothing quite replaces the face-to-face interaction of therapeutic and healing relationships, it is fascinating to watch the steady creep of the transhuman movement--a sort of cyborg creation.

You’ll find a range of ways to study neuroscience applications within programs at CIIS such as the Integrative Health Studies Master's degree. You'll soon start quoting your favorite research, like this one of mine: human touch can positively influence gene expression through the activation of signal transduction molecules that span the cellular membrane.  That's reason enough to book your massage now.

Photo by Kevin Dooley.

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