Study: Factors Associated With Consciousness Can Influence Our Autonomic Nervous System

by Arjun Walia
Collective Evolution

What is the autonomic nervous systems (ANS)? It regulates the functions of our internal organs. Its role is to regulate several bodily functions such as digestion, heart rate, urination, sexual arousal, respiratory rate, pupillary response, and more. It operates reflexively and unconsciously, often without our even noticing. For example, we do not decide to make our heart beat faster when we are afraid, or notice when our blood vessels change size. This system just does what it does, assumed to have no external influences, and considered to be a natural body response that’s regulated by the hypothalamus in the brain (which is what regulates the autonomic nervous system. It’s the primary regulator of acute stress response, also known as the ‘fight or flight’ response.

What are ‘factors associated with consciousness?’ From a modern day scientific standpoint, factors associated with consciousness include observation, measurements, human intention, perception, and our thoughts. We have seen these terms used in publications before, and we’ve written about a quantum physics experiment where “factors associated with consciousness” had significant results in physical systems. When talking about consciousness today, the perception and definition of this term is very different from, let’s say, an ancient Ayurvedic perspective, and it’s important to make that distinction here.

The Study

Thoughts have been shown, from a scientific perspective, to yield some very significant results when it comes to influencing physical systems, including our own bodies.

It’s no secret that a well-functioning immune system protects the body from pathogens, but sometimes it’s not strong enough, and this can lead to the development of various autoimmune diseases. The immune system is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, and it has long been thought that we could not voluntarily influence our immune system nor the autonomic nervous system. This all changed when an intensive care researcher by the name of Dr. Matthijis Kox, along with Peter Pikkers, Professor of Experimental Intensive Care Medicine at Radboud University in Nijmegen, decided to conduct a study. According to them, humans do indeed have the potential and ability to influence the autonomic immune system with the power of the mind. And Wim Hof proved it.

Wim Hof, aka “Iceman,” raised the eyebrows of many scientists after he was able to use meditation to stay submerged in ice for almost two hours without his core body temperature changing one bit. This is remarkable, to say the least, and adds to the growing body of evidence that points to the important role consciousness plays in our body’s reaction to certain situations/ailments.

Since Wim was able to successfully maintain his core body temperature in such a harsh environment, he’s since gone on to climb Mount Everest in his shorts, resist altitude sickness, complete a marathon in the Namib Desert with no water, and proven under a laboratory setting that he’s able to influence his autonomic nervous system and immune system at will.

Almost everything this man has done was thought to be impossible by most; that is, influence his autonomic nervous system and immune response through concentration and meditation. According to the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre:

“The results obtained are remarkable, however, the investigators emphasize that so far, these results have only been obtained in a single individual. Therefore, they can not serve as scientific evidence for the hypothesis that the autonomic nervous system and the immune response can be influenced through concentration and meditation techniques.” (source)

To examine Hof’s ability, researchers injected an endotoxin, which is a dead cell-wall component of bacteria, into healthy volunteers. When this happens, the immune system reacts as if real, live bacteria have actually entered into the body, and thus it automatically creates a an immune system response. The response is characterized by the production of inflammatory mediators and flu-like systems.

“These experiments are completely safe and have been performed on more than 240 subjects in our centre.” (source)

When Hof was injected with the endotoxin, while using his focus, power of mind, and meditation, his immune system reaction was extremely unusual compared to all other patients who were administered with the endotoxin.

During the experiment, several measurements were taken, including that of brain activity, inflammatory mediators in the blood, and autonomic nervous system activity.

The experiment showed that:
  • The stress hormone cortisol in Hof was much more pronounced compared to the other healthy volunteers. This hormone is released in response to increased autonomic nervous system activity and it suppresses the immune response.
  • The levels of inflammatory mediators in Hof’s blood were much lower. “On average, Hof’s immune response was decreased by 50 percent compared to other healthy volunteers.”
  • He hardly had any flu-like symptoms.
At the end of the study the researchers concluded that, although the results were extremely promising, “further research is warranted in which a group of volunteers that have acquired Hof’s concentration and meditation technique is compared to a group that does not master this technique.”

This is perfectly understandable, of course. Just because one human being is observed to display certain abilities or behaviours does not mean all humans will be able to do the same. It does, however, suggest that we at least have the potential. (And there are, in fact, multiple humans who have shown to be able to use power of mind to influence physical systems.)

Indeed, Cox and Pickkers were so fascinated by what they had witnessed that they chose to conduct another study.

Wim Hof ended up training twelve healthy young male volunteers for 10 days. This took place in Poland, where each volunteer learned specific breathing and meditation techniques. They were trained to swim in ice-cold waters and expose their bare skin to freezing temperatures. Science would tell us that these people are supposed to develop hypothermia, or at the very least, have the expected immune system response.

These individuals were then transported to the Netherlands, where scientists gave them injections of the endotoxin mentioned earlier. The trained men ended up producing more of the hormone epinephrine, a stress hormone that is released during increased activity on the sympathetic nervous system to suppress immune response.

“We indeed observed that in the trained subjects the release of inflammatory proteins was attenuated and that they experienced far less flu-like symptoms,” said Kox.

Wim Hof is famous for a number of world records that are related to cold exposure, and the fact that he was able to produce less than half of the quantity of inflammatory proteins than healthy volunteers who had not learned his method is amazing. What’s even more amazing is that some of these abilities were then seen in the subjects he did train, which means that we all potentially have the ability to influence our immune system with the power of the mind.

Almost everything this man has done was thought to be impossible by most scientists. Below is a documentary done on Wim by VICE News. If you are interested, check it out.

For more on Wim and the studies conducted on him, you can visit his website here.

Wim isn’t the only one, during a visit to remote monasteries in the 1980s, Harvard professor of medicine Herbert Benson and his team of researchers studied monk living in the Himalayan Mountains who could, by g Tum-mo ( yoga technique), raise the temperatures of their fingers and toes by as much as 17 degrees. This is very significant, and it’s still unknown how the monks are able to generate such heat. (source)

It doesn’t stop there, the researchers also studied advanced meditators in Sikkim, India, where they were astonished to find that these monks could lower their metabolism by 64 percent.(source)

In 1985, the Harvard research team made a video of monks drying cold, wet sheets with body heat alone. Monks spending winter nights 15,000 feet high in the Himalayas is also not uncommon.

Can yoga, meditation, and other similar practices unleash our inherent supernormal mental powers?

Just over a year ago, I wrote an article regarding meditators collapsing quantum systems at a distance, you can read that HERE.

There is no shortage of literature when it comes to Buddhist monks, and monks from all over the world, who possess “supernormal” abilities.

If you’re further interested in this subject, I recommend reading “Supernormal: Science, Yogo, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities” by Dr. Dean Radin, Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

More Research To Support This Conclusion

To be honest, there is a plethora of research to support the conclusion that we can influence our biological systems through the power of thought alone. And our thoughts can influence more than just biological systems; this type of phenomena is also seen in the world of quantum physics.

“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” – Max Planck, theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918

The quantum double slit experiment is a very popular experiment used to examine how consciousness and our physical material world are intertwined. It documents how factors associated with consciousness and our physical material world are connected in some way.

In this experiment, a double-slit optical system was used to test the possible role of consciousness in the collapse of the quantum wave-function. The ratio of the interference pattern’s double slit spectral power to its single slit spectral power was predicted to decrease when attention was focused toward the double slit as compared to away from it. The study found that factors associated with consciousness “significantly” correlated in predicted ways with perturbations in the double slit interference pattern. (source)
Observations not only disturb what has to be measured, they produce it. . . . We compel [the electron] to assume a definite position. . . . We ourselves produce the results of the measurement. (source)
Another great example is the placebo effect, which also suggests that we can change our biology by simply changing our thoughts.

“The placebo effect should be the subject of major, funded research efforts. If medical researchers could figure out how to leverage the placebo effect, they would hand doctors an efficient, energy-based, side effect-free tool to treat disease. Energy healers say they already have such tools, but I am a scientist, and I believe the more we know about the science of the placebo, the better we’ll be able to use it in clinical settings.” – Bruce Lipton, Ph.D

A Baylor School of Medicine study, published in 2002 in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at surgery for patients with severe and debilitating knee pain. Many surgeons know there is no placebo effect in surgery, or so most of them believe. The patients were divided into three groups. The surgeons shaved the damaged cartilage in the knee of one group. For the second group they flushed out the knee joint, removing all of the material believed to be causing inflammation. Both of these processes are the standard surgeries people go through who have severe arthritic knees. The third group received a “fake” surgery; the patients were only sedated and tricked into thinking they had actually had the knee surgery. For the patients not really receiving the surgery, the doctors made the incisions and splashed salt water on the knee as they would in normal surgery. They then sewed up the incisions like the real thing and the process was complete. All three groups went through the same rehab process, and the results were astonishing. The placebo group improved just as much as the other two groups who had surgery. (source)

“My skill as a surgeon had no benefit on these patients. The entire benefit of surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee was the placebo effect.” – Dr. Moseley (surgeon involved in the study)

A 2002 article published in the American Psychological Association’s Prevention & Treatment by University of Connecticut psychology professor Irving Kirsch, titled “The Emperor’s New Drugs,” made some more shocking discoveries. Kirsch found that 80 percent of the effect of antidepressants, as measured in clinical trials, could be attributed to the placebo effect. This professor even had to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get information on the clinical trials of the top antidepressants. (source)(source)

“The difference between the response of the drugs and the response of the placebo was less than two points on average on this clinical scale that goes from fifty to sixty points. That’s a very small difference, that difference is clinically meaningless.” – Professor Kirsch

Researchers all over the world have found that placebo treatments can stimulate real biological and physiological responses — everything from changes in heart rate to blood pressure and even chemical activity in the brain. It’s been effective with a number of different ailments, from arthritis to depression, fatigue, anxiety, Parkinson’s and more.

At the Institute of HeartMath, an internationally recognized nonprofit research and education organization dedicated to helping people reduce stress, self-regulate emotions, and build energy and resilience for healthy, happy lives, scientists have investigated heart and brain interaction. Researchers have examined how the heart and brain communicate with each other and how that affects our consciousness and the way in which we perceive our world. For example, when a person is feeling really positive emotions like gratitude, love, or appreciation, the heart beats out a certain message. Because the heart beats out the largest electromagnetic field produced in the body, researchers are able to gather significant data from it. According to Rolin McCratey, Ph.D, and Director of Research at the Institute:
Emotional information is actually coded and modulated into these fields. By learning to shift our emotions, we are changing the information coded into the magnetic fields that are radiated by the heart, and that can impact those around us.
You can read more about this here.

There are also weird findings that teeter into the realm of parapsychology. Studies in this field deal with precognition, telepathy, distant healing, etc.

“There seems to be a deep concern that the whole field will be tarnished by studying a phenomenon that is tainted by its association with superstition, spiritualism, and magic. Protecting against this possibility sometimes seems more important than encouraging scientific exploration or protecting academic freedom. But this may be changing.” – Cassandra Vieten, PhD and President/CEO at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (source)

For example, a recently published study (meta-analysis) in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience titled “Predicting the unpredictable: critical analysis and practical implications of predictive anticipatory activity” examined a number of experiments regarding this phenomenon that were conducted by several different laboratories.

These experiments indicate that the human body can actually detect randomly delivered stimuli that occur 1-10 seconds in advance. In other words, the human body seems able to know of, and react to, an event that has yet to occur. What occurs in the human body before these events are physiological changes that are measured regarding the cardiopulmonary, the skin, and the nervous systems.

Pretty weird, huh? It just goes to show how little we know about our nervous systems and the factors that can influence it.

More than 40 experiments investigating this phenomenon in humans have been published over the past 36 years (including: Hartwell, 1978; Radin et al., 1995, 2011; Bierman and Radin, 1997; Radin, 1997, 2004;Don et al., 1998; Bierman, 2000; Bierman and Scholte, 2002; McDonough et al., 2002;Spottiswoode and May, 2003;McCraty et al., 2004a,b; Sartori et al., 2004; May et al., 2005;Tressoldi et al., 2005, 2009, 2011; Radin and Borges, 2009; Bradley et al., 2011). This is what promoted the meta-analysis.

The analysis concluded that:
The predictive physiological anticipation of a truly randomly selected and thus unpredictable future event, has been under investigation for more than three decades, and a recent conservative meta-analysis suggests that the phenomenon is real.
For a selected list of downloadable peer-reviewed journal articles reporting studies of psychic phenomena, mostly published in the 21st century, you can click HERE.

Neuroplasticity is another great example of the power of the mind to influence itself and the body. Our brain shapes and reshapes itself given how we perceive the environment around us. This is also seen in Phenotypic plasticity, which is the ability of an organism to change its observable traits, such as morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, and behavior. Above are just a few examples to show that we really do have the ability to influence physical systems, especially our biological systems, but also that there is still a lot to learn. This is particularly interesting because the autonomic nervous system, the one that the ‘Iceman’ can control so well, is regulated by the hypothalamus, which is located in the brain.

“The idea that the brain is plastic in the sense of changeable, adaptable and malleable is the single most important change in our understanding of the human brain in four hundred years. Neuroplasticity is that property of the brain that allows it to change its structure and its function, it’s a response to sensing and perceiving the world, even to thinking and imagining. Human thoughts and learning actually turn on certain genes in our nerve cells which allow those cells to make new connections between them.”Dr. Norman Doidge, taken from his book, The Brain That Changes Itself

The list goes on and on, and I just wanted to provide a small sampling of the research out there which shows the potential just waiting to be harnessed by the power of our thoughts. I always find it interesting to see how science is catching up to ancient philosophy/mysticism.

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