The Science of Healing

The Science of Healing

Sun, 11/29/2009 - 12:30pm

Pictured: A device that measures the man's brain activity for stress response to certain architectural designs.

Follow Dr. Esther Sternberg as she addresses some critcal questions about the brain's role in the healing process.
 
THE SCIENCE OF HEALING WITH DR. ESTHER STERNBERG follows author and medical researcher Dr. Esther Sternberg to a village in Greece, where her experiences there inspired her research into the role the brain plays in healing — a role the ancient Greeks understood.
 
THE SCIENCE OF HEALING, airing Sunday, November 29 at 12:30 p.m.on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable1011/cable11), addresses some critical questions: What is healing? Is there a mind/body connection? What happens in the brain when healing occurs? What role does emotion play?
 
Dr. Sternberg, a physician as well as a noted researcher, uses her own story of illness and recovery as a parallel to her investigation of what scientists are learning about the mind/body connection. She travels to ruins of ancient Greek temples as well as cutting-edge science labs to uncover the roots of her own cure. In the course of her journey, viewers learn more about the mind-body connection and the role of environment and emotion in the healing process.
 
The first segment of THE SCIENCE OF HEALING relates Dr. Sternberg’s debilitating case of rheumatoid arthritis and her remarkable recovery while visiting Lentas, a small village on the island of Crete and the site of one of the temples to Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. As a researcher, Dr. Sternberg wanted to know if this visit had any impact on her healing: Could Crete’s beautiful and relaxing views have aided her convalescence? Did the ancient Greeks knowthat environment can help?
 
Using advanced brain-imaging technology, THE SCIENCE OF HEALING looks into the roles of light, vision and environment in restoring health. Dr. Sternberg presents the discoveries made by Dr. Roger Ulrich, who found that natural views outside hospital windows speed up healing and shorten hospital stays. The segment also includes commentary by Dr. Irving Beiderman, who studies the way vision affects the release of opioids on the brain, and a discussion with Eve Edelstein at the “cave,” a virtual environment used to test the stress response triggered by various architectural and building designs.
 
The second segment reveals how food and exercise affect the human stress response and the immune system. At Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center, Dr. Sternberg learns that the nose can identify more than 10,000 different smells, and what we smell can have a profound effect on mood, stress and the immune system. She also learns why the Mediterranean diet may be effective in recuperation
 
While she was on Crete, Dr. Sternberg swam in the Mediterranean every day and walked the hilly landscape to the ruins of the temple to Asclepius, becoming stronger and stronger in her routine. Professor of Physiology Moni Fleshner of the University of Colorado researches the effects of exercise on the immune function, emotions and healing.
 
The third segment of THE SCIENCE OF HEALING opens as Dr. Sternberg dances to Greek music with local Cretans. In the lab, musician-turned-psychologist Dr. Julian Thayer studies the impact of music on the brain. Using measurements of heart-rate variability, he documents music’s beneficial effects on health. At the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Richie Davidson, using MRI scanning, finds thatmeditation significantly improves the immune system’s response to the flu virus. And at Columbia University, Dr. Tor Wager researches the placebo effect, revealing that expectation and belief have a provable bearing on healing.
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