Science & Spirit: Toxic Evolution, Gut Health and Sex, and Thought Control

Science & Spirit: Toxic Evolution, Gut Health and Sex, and Thought Control


Harming others can be rewarding, stopping unwanted thoughts might make them more persistent, and it’s time to think more about sex.

Stop Stopping Your Unwanted Thoughts

Unwanted thoughts can be fleeting, like the sudden urge to yell at your coworker. Or they can be persistent, like degrading thoughts that arise every time you look in a mirror. In any form, unwanted thoughts are exactly that: unwanted.

A common way to fight unwanted thoughts is to stop them in their tracks, then consciously replace them with a healthier thought. However, there may be a better way, according to a new study published in PLOS Computational Biology.

Typically, internal or external cues evoke unwanted thoughts or memories. When this happens, a person does one of two things: Entertain the thought or consciously expel it from the mind. While immediately rejecting the thought may seem helpful, it can actually make the thought more persistent. Basically, consciously rejecting a thought may only reinforce your brain to bring up the thought again. So, instead of actively driving the thought away, it might be better to take a neutral approach. “Although people could not avoid unwanted thoughts, they could ensure that thinking an unwanted thought does not increase the probability of it coming to mind again,” explained study coauthor Isaac Fradkin. Let the unwanted thought float away, and over time, your brain may create a different association to the triggering cue.

The Innate Pleasure of Harming Others

Does it actually feel good to hurt others? New research from Virginia Commonwealth University gives the affirmative. And here’s why.

Since the dawn of existence, humans have formed groups and communities to survive. These groups were forced to fight each other for precious resources to stay alive. Over time, this has created an instinctual us-versus-them mentality that is still present today. Acting aggressively towards members of other groups can activate the brain’s reward network and is associated with positive emotions. “At a time of deepening political divisions and global conflict, it is crucial for us to understand why people divide each other up into ‘us’ and ‘them’, and then show a profound willingness to harm ‘them,’” stated corresponding author David Chester, PhD. Continuing to acknowledge and reverse unhealthy evolutionary habits may be the secret to a brighter future for our society.

A Different Type of Sex Education

A recent study published in Frontiers in Microbiology found that antibiotics can affect male and female gut microbiomes differently. One result found a greater loss of microbe diversity in males compared to females. Changes like this can negatively impact a person’s overall health.

“Sex is a biological variable, and like any variable, it needs to be taken into consideration in ... medical research,” said principal investigator Ruchi Mathur, MD. “Currently, we consider factors such as kidney function and weight when dosing medications for patients. Depending on the results of further research, the sex of patients may one day be an important consideration when prescribing antibiotics.”

Discover more: “Science & Spirit:Avocados, Constipation, and Wigging Out

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