The human body naturally reacts the cold. It reacts to the cold unconsciously to preserve heat. The body feels the cold and works to constrict blood flow towards vital areas that need to be kept stable. It also releases hormones, like cortisol and norepinephrine. It induces involuntary muscular shivering and a change in breathing pattern. It’s also painful and people would rather be warm and cruising, than frozen into a popsicle. So, scientists at Wayne State University School of Medicine designed a special suit to make people cold. Not because turning people into popsicles is hillarious But because it’s interesting. They could use this special suit to measure the subjects in a PET scan or fMRI To really understand what happens in the body and brain in cold conditions. Specifically, it was an inquiry on Wim Hof’s ability to withstand the cold. A man with the ability of increasing body temperature at will And survive under extreme cold conditions. The special cold suit had the ability to be infused with water. So, you could run cold or hot water through it and control temperature. All you had to do at this point was slap a few ordinary people in the suit and measure. Over 25 minutes they would measure skin temperature as they cycled water through the suit From neutral to cold and back. Here’s the trend in the control. Nice and wavy between neutral – cold – neutral – cold – neutral Their skin temperature predictably falling as they were exposed to colder temperatures. After a solid control was established They asked Wim to undergo the same experiment without any kind of breathing technique. His response was very similar to that of the control Nice and wavy. They then asked Wim to undergo the same experiment, after priming his body with his own breathing and meditation techniques. The result was a sustained skin temperature of 34 degrees over 25 minutes. This is completely out of the ordinary! It’s as if Wim just shrugged off the cold. This is also the point where scientists see this and out of excited curiosity, stuff Wim into a PET scan and fMRI To see what the hell is happening. Firstly, to see where all this excess heat was coming from in the body, using the PET scan. And secondly, to see what was occurring in the brain, using the fMRI. What was happening in the body, according to the PET scan Was that the intercostal muscles, the muscles between the ribs of the body Were chewing up glucose like mad And pouring heat into the body. Stabilising Wim’s body temperature. Not only that, but it would keep Wim’s average skin temperature At 34 degrees, without any significant deviation Despite cold and neutral conditions. So what was happening in the brain during all this? In many ways, the brain is an important player. Usually, the brain and body would react unconsciously to the cold. However, in this case, there seems to be a wilful subversion of that reaction Instead of the body preserving heat and regressing Skin temperature jumped up to 34 degrees And his body started expending more energy. Let’s crack open the head and find out what’s been going on! Although physically, borrowing and measuring a brain from someone who’s alive is usually illegal We can use an fMRI instead, to see which regions of the brain had activity. It’s safer, makes less of a mess, and is a lot more legal. First, the Insula of the brain. This is a region implicated in self-awareness of the body and emotions. What happened when the controls were exposed to colder temperatures Was a lowering of activity in the Insula. This drop in activity usually signals the onset of hypothermia. It’s a normal reaction. Normal enough that even Wim’s Insula had this drop in activity. Notably, his activity dropped much lower and peaked higher than that of the controls. This makes sense, given Wim’s technique incorporates self-reflective meditation And his trained sensitivity to the cold. The cold, on the other hand, is interpreted by the body as a noxious experience. It causes stress. And engages the sympathetic nervous system to release norepinephrine and cortisol. It prepares the body to survive the noxious experience. However, because Wim primed his body with his breathing technique The sympathetic nervous system was already engaged. The body was physiologically primed and flooded with adrenaline. Because of this and the added stress from the cold A physiological threshold could have been crossed and engage the Periaqueductal – Grey area An area located in the midbrain of the brainstem. This area exploded with activity. The Periaqueductal – Grey area is used for the perception of pain and pain modulation. Pain killing. What was fascinating in Wim was that as activity in the Insula started dipping… Activity in the Periaqueductal – Grey area started spiking. In tandem. This spike of activity would stimulate the release of endogenous opioids and endo-cannabinoids. It would contribute to the high feeling one experiences when doing exercise. And contribute towards a deep sense of well-being. The control group showed no sign of activation in this area. No explosions. Nice and flat. Like pancakes. Or the Netherlands. What’s speculated is that this activity in the brain facilitated a higher level of control Over key components of the brain autonomous system. Control over the parts of the brain that unconsciously regulate the physiological reactions to the cold. Allowing a seasoned practitioner, like Wim To assert control and allow a top-down modulation of his response to the cold. Keeping his vascular system open… Increasing metabolic activity… And heat production in the intercostal muscles. And subsequently, survive in extreme cold environments. We’d like to close this video with a question of “Mind over Matter” We’d like to argue that it’s one in the same. In a way, yes.. Priming and placing yourself in a difficult position Will cause the neurological processes in the brain to beautifully excite with activity Producing the conscious experience of that focused mind. Yet, the counter perspective can also be made. That focus, attention, and diligence Can stir and train activity within the gray matter of the brain And cause a change in experience. It’s reminiscent of an upward spiral That the conscious decision to improve, in turn, creates new connections within the brain And causes a positive feedback loop that produces a new person. From mind, forming the physical brain… And the brain, forming the experience of the mind. It is with this wider perspective that we’d like to view this experiment. Here we have a man capable of overcoming deathly cold environments. Yet, we seldom considered that his neurophysiology was trained over time for such survival. That if he were to behave as a control, the body would react normally to the cold Yet with focus and honing of mind and body He is able to access those deeper layers of his physiology. Producing something truly spectacular. In this way, we leave you with this idea. Change, in any direction… Is possible. It can be incremental, small contributions every day towards what is valued But exponential in the long run. To the point where a person truly renews. This was a brief summary of a study published by Wayne State University School of Medicine. Thank you for watching! And consider… That change, however small… Can gradually transform a life!