2.28.2013

Visualize This: When Neutrophils Attack!

A million years ago, when I was at Washington State University, one of the many jobs I held to pay my way through was working in the counseling psychology department editing grants and research papers for the researchers there. It was a great way to be exposed to all kinds of interesting research.

One of the papers that caught my imagination was by Arreed Barabasz - a researcher who is an expert in hypnosis for medical problems. At the time, he was also using sensory deprivation tanks. He didn't call them sensory deprivation tanks, they were Restricted Enviroment Sensory Tank since Altered States and LSD users had given them a bad rap. Anyway, Barabazs' idea was that floating in this darkened tank of body temperature salt water would provide a better environment for self hypnosis.

The paper I was editing was all about using self hypnosis to increase white blood cell counts. The visualization used while in the tank was to imagine white blood cells multiplying and ganging up on the invading bacteria or virus. The idea was to think of sharks chasing them down and devouring them.

This idea of self-hypnosis and visualization allowing one to have a positive increase on one's own cell count really got my mind going. I even wrote a research proposal for one of my classes based on his research. I've told lots of people about this research when they were facing illness, hoping the visualization would help and encourage them. I figured, it couldn't hurt. I've even tried it myself, but it has always been hard to describe what white blood cells look like when they are hunting their prey.

Then I came across this:

The footage is old, but it is a classic. Watch that neutrophil track down that bad guy and eat him. Love it. This will be my new mental movie the next time I get a runny nose.

As for the research, it was 20 years ago and I haven't heard much about it since. My guess is the initial positive results didn't pan out, or they were confounded by the fact that REST environment greatly reduced stress, which helps immune response. If you want to learn more about how the immune system works, you can check out this video:


If you need me, I'll be in my sensory deprivation tank.

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