Special Lectures in the United States

Sciences of Mind and Body Correlation, "Knowledge for well-being"

Mari Kusumi, president of University of Human Arts and Sciences, was invited to have special lectures of “Health Sciences of Mind and Body” in the United States. “Health Sciences of Mind and Body” is a new academic discipline which is the compilation of researches and education at our university and graduate school in Japan.

The lectures were held at California State University in Long Beach, Lighthouse of Takuyo Corporation in LA, Kinokuniya Company Ltd. in San Francisco, Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine College in Berkeley during 2012 May 18~21 with total participants of 94. It was a precious opportunity for American people to understand the concept of “Health Sciences of Mind and Body”.

*donation collected in the series of lectures was sent to a high school suffered from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on 2011 March 11 in Japan.

Mari Kusumi, who speaks to participants at California State University, Long Beach.

Kenneth I Millar, California State University, Long Beach.

Participants who came to the special lecture.

President talked to participants after the lecture.

From the aspect of mind, body, and culture

Thank you very much for kind introduction.

I would like to express my gratitude to Donald P. Lauda, Dean Emeritus, Kenneth I. Millar, Dean, Professor Loucine M. Huckabay and Professor Kay Cerny for the opportunity to talk to you students today about the health sciences of mind and body.

Hello, It’s nice to meet everyone. I am Mari Kusumi of the University of Human Arts and Sciences.

At the University of Human Arts and Sciences in Japan, the focus of education is placed on human sciences that investigate the human being in a comprehensive manner from the aspects of the mind, body, and culture. The university offers programs that enable students to become qualified nurses, physical therapists, prosthetists, and nutritionists. These programs are also based on an interdisciplinary and comprehensive view of humans.

At the center of these programs is the health sciences of mind and body, which I am about to discuss. This textbook I have here entitled “Health Sciences of Mind and Body” was created by the university and is now used in all undergraduate and graduate courses. The text was written with “knowledge for better living” as the major theme.

I hope that my talk will give you an insight into the new study of the health sciences of mind and body.

The importance of bonds during disaster

As all of you living in America know, Japan experienced a major natural disaster just about a year ago—the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. Many lives were lost as a result of this disaster. The nuclear power plant accident that occurred in Fukushima immediately after is depleting Japan’s energy even now as it attempts to recover from the disaster.

I felt to see the scenes of this disaster that struck Japan with my own eyes and body, and traveled with my colleagues by train and car to the sites. One of the hardest hit areas was a coastal town called Rikuzen Takata. In the center of this photo is a lone tall pine tree. It was the only tree to miraculously survive the massive tsunami. The local residents are making considerable efforts to preserve this pine tree as a symbol of Japan’s recovery.

I felt almost paralyzed when I witnessed the intensity of the natural threat that attacked Japan. In spite of all this, nature changes from moment to moment, and on the day of our visit, the weather was fine and there were white clouds floating in the blue sky. With virtually everything wiped away from the ground, the sky looked wider, and the ocean could be seen in the far distance.

Here there used to stand a train station. The station building was destroyed by the tsunami. A first-year high school student boy was standing there all by himself with a soccer ball at his feet. As we got out of the car feeling overwhelmed by the massive threat of nature, the boy came up to us and said hello. We had a good conversation while struggling at times to find the right words.

On the day of the earthquake, he was at his house located on a hill. It was spring break after graduation from middle school, and everyone in his family was safe. He told us that he likes soccer, that he was on the school soccer team practicing hard, and that the school he was currently going to was in a temporary building, etc. etc. But his sad eyes told us without words of the loss of many friends and relatives he had suffered.

We said goodbye to the boy, and then drove on past the high school that he was supposed to attend.

These were the people who are trying to raise themselves up while holding back their tears and we in Tokyo are living on the same stretch of land as theirs.

It has been reported that as a result of the earthquake, Japan is now in a period of tremendous confusion. As we consider the fragility and meaning of life, we are struck with sympathy and deep thoughts. What is there that I can do, surely there must be something, and how can I help the affected people? People throughout Japan and around the world experienced these stirring feelings within themselves. When I think of the people living with the effects of this natural disaster even after one year, my heart goes out to them.

Many people in Japan took concrete actions including participating in volunteer restoration support programs and donating money. Generous support was also received from overseas. One program that gave us courage was Operation Tomodachi conducted by the U.S. military. Tomodachi means a friend in Japanese. Immediately after the earthquake, the U.S. military in Japan conducted rescue operations and continuously delivered relief supplies and food to the disaster areas. Many people who live in Japan were moved by and grateful for Operation Tomodachi. We will never forget the warm and reassuring support provided by the U.S. military to people in the disaster areas.

It was during this time of crisis that many Japanese people felt the importance of the bonds with their friends and family that they normally take for granted. This slide shows the results of a survey conducted in June of last year. It shows that following the earthquake, people prayed for the safety of their family and friends, felt concern and worried about their well-being, and experienced a resurgence of awareness concerning the importance of their presence. As you can see from the slide, the respondents placed the largest importance on their parents, followed by their spouses and children and then their siblings. They felt the importance of bonds with family, and also with friends. One point that concerned me, however, is the difference in the ranking of importance of their spouse between men and women. In fact, when I showed the results to my own husband, he looked very discouraged.

Desire to live, grow, and have relationship

Our human ancestors, groups of Homo sapiens, left Africa while facing various natural threats, lived for a long time as hunter-gatherers, and eventually spread throughout the world. After suffering hardship for thousands of years, they started engaging in agriculture. People created systems for division of labor, and as technological advances were made, cities were created and cultures developed.

During the 200,000-year evolution of humankind, people gained the ability to walk upright on two feet, their brain size increased, and as they engaged in communal life, they developed self-awareness, understanding of others, and the ability to empathize. During the process of evolution, we learned how to cooperate and share, which is what our human heart is all about. I believe that this unprecedented disaster revealed the human nature that lies dormant within us.

I will discuss this further later on, but through various selection processes including natural disasters ever since the creation of the earth and life, our minds and bodies acquired a mechanism to overcome stress and evolved into modern humans. Critical situations stimulate the mechanism embedded in the human DNA. The force that stimulates this mechanism is instinct, and the feelings that come to our mind may be summarized into the three desires shown in this slide.

The first of the three desires is the desire to live and exist even in a difficult environment.

The second is the desire for a relationship formed by creating connections with others. This desire is thought to be essential for the existence of humans as social animals.

The third is the desire to grow and to change oneself. Our environment is constantly changing and unpredictable.

Humans have changed their conduct in order to respond flexibly to new environments. I believe that the internal desire supporting this action, which is known as learning, is the desire to grow, that is, the desire to change oneself. If we go back to the origins, from the birth of humans in Africa until the present, the various instincts acquired strategically for survival came to be linked to the brain’s reward system in the form of pleasure and happiness to prevent life from extinction. Traces of this mechanism are embedded in our DNA so that we are able to feel the joy of living, the joy of connecting and sharing with friends, and the joy of change and growth.

This slide is a summary of three different theories; the theory on brain structure from the perspective of evolution by Professor Toshihiko Tokizane, the theory on desires that give meaning to life by Professor Mieko Kamiya, and the theory of Professor Maslow, an American psychologist who proposed five stages of human desires. All three of these academics were active about 40 years ago and were pioneers in establishing the theoretical foundations of modern neuroscience, developmental psychology, and “instinct and meaning in life.”

The theories propounded by these three served as the driving force for me to establish the University of Human Arts and Sciences. The framework of the university’s educational principles consolidates the ideas of these three academics and attempts to create an educational system for a comprehensive understanding of human beings. That is to say, humans are viewed as a comprehensive whole from the aspects of the mind, body and culture, and the foundations were established for a new academic field known as the health sciences of mind and body that pursues the dynamic relationship between mind and body.

Please look at the ideas of Professor Tokizane and Professor Maslow presented in this slide. All living organisms including humans and primitive animals such as reptiles have the desire to live, which originates from the brainstem. Feelings of love and the desire for community, that is, the desire to connect and to love felt by mammals, are located in a limbic system known as the palaeocortex. The desires unique to humans, to be recognized by others and to express oneself come from the neocortex on the outermost layer.

The human brain developed in the course of evolution, and fundamental instincts necessary for survival depended on the spinal cord and the brain stem. Next, emotions and memory required for enduring hardships developed in the old cerebral limbic system. Later, the neocortex was formed to use integrated capabilities, that is, knowledge and intellect necessary for better living, a unique characteristic of humans.

In this way, the human brain evolved and developed in stages from “a brain to be alive” into “a brain to remain alive” and further into “a brain to live better”. Looking at the psychological development of a single person, once the fundamental needs for safety, food, and sleep are met during childhood, the individual enters the emotional domain of wanting to be loved and to belong , and eventually acquires psychic functions to operate socially and internally as an adult .

It is not shown in the slide, but the late Professor Gen Matsumoto, a Japanese neuroscientist, wrote in his book, “A new brain circuit is formed when we make an effort to find a solution every time we confront difficulties and hardships. In addition, humans grow when we discover the steps for overcoming those hardships. The courage to face hardship without evasion is created only from love. Love is the source of human growth and is the energy that activates the mind.” From the perspectives of embryology, evolution, and developmental psychology, our desires are progressively completed in stages. You will be able to understand just how important it is to live every moment to the fullest. From the perspective of a person’s life cycle, there are different features and issues in each period, and the success at overcoming them determines that person’s well-being.

A perception that is extremely important to understand our human emotions and actions has been highlighted by the latest field of science. This slide shows a comparison in the size of a part of the brain of humans and apes known as the amygdala, the seat for emotion and trust. This is based on a research reported by the University of California in 2007.

The amygdala of primates including humans contributes to assessment of the social environment surrounding the individual, that is, social awareness functions. The amygdala is the location of generation for emotion, recognition of facial expressions, the degree to which other individuals can be trusted, and other assessments and recognition.

Please look at this slide. The horizontal axis shows the size of the brain of primates such as chimpanzees and orangutans. The vertical axis shows the size of the amygdala within the brain. The diagonal bold line in the slide shows a statistical estimation of the approximate size of the amygdala determined from the size of the brain. The size of the amygdala of primates is generally on this line. The red asterisk, however, shows the actual size of the human amygdala. As you can see, it is considerably larger than the predicted value. It shows that in the course of evolution humans developed brain structures equipped with the important ability to form communities, live in large groups and to cooperate with others for skillful living.

Recently, it has become commonplace to view how the living human brain is at work using PET and fMRI scanners. This slide entitled “brain activity during self-sacrificial altruistic conduct,” was produced from the results of an experiment conducted by the American National Institutes of Health in 2006. The study investigated the workings of the brain when an individual decides to make a monetary donation to a charitable organization. The individuals, who cooperated with the experiment and made the decision to donate money, actually sent the money to a charitable organization.

Looking at the results, we learn that when altruistic behavior or conduct is performed even at one’s own expense, a ventral striatum known as the reward system of the brain is activated. In other words, by sharing pleasure with another person even at one’s own expense, the reward system of the brain receives pleasure.

The experiment also reported that in addition to the brain’s reward system, the hypothalamus adjustment system is activated and the part of the brain that adjusts secretion of oxytocin is activated. Oxytocin was originally discovered as a hormone that is secreted within a mother’s body when nursing a baby and promotes lactation. This hormone is also known to strengthen the bond between mother and child. In addition, oxytocin is secreted by both males and females when the kind of altruistic action shown in the slide is conducted, and is believed to contribute to strengthening social bonds and social cooperation among people. In other words, the experiment results show that self-sacrificial conduct, whereby an individual behaves in a way for the benefit of another without compensation and causing a burden to oneself, works to strengthen the social bond between individuals. The mechanism is embedded in our DNA as the circuitry or workings of the human brain and furthermore, is linked to and expressed by the emotion of happiness in the brain.

I used the expression “circuitry of the brain,” but for the workings of the brain are supported by networks of 100 billion nerve cells. When nerve cells are placed in a laboratory dish, the cells extend tentacles among themselves as if they had a will in an attempt to connect with other cells. The networks formed in this way are culled through environmental action, leaving the inter-cellular networks that are really necessary for life.

So far, I have discussed human desires as an instinct of individual humans. The smallest unit of life for any kind of life including humans is the cell. A single cell repeatedly divides and diverges to create 60 trillion to 70 trillion cells that make up the human body. Cells stimulate their neighboring cells, and those activated cells stimulate their neighboring cells. This process of stimulus and response is repeated until the division of roles is spontaneously and autonomously established.

Some of the characteristics of cells and life that are frequently mentioned is self-replication and metabolism. However, the fundamental nature of life to live as an individual with an autonomous will will occur when cells interact to form aggregates, tissue, and organs and become an individual that gives rise to emotion and will, i.e. correlativity. In addition, humans influence their environment through their intentions and conduct and interact with and are linked to the environment. I believe that this is the fundamental nature of life.

In this way, cells are said to engage in essentially communal behavior. Of course, cells do not have a will or the ability to think. When a cell is inserted into tissue, however, it interacts with other cells as a member of the cell community. Through these interactions, the overall cell mass cooperates and acts in harmony like chamber music without a director. This type of autonomous change exhibited by cells occurs with only slight stimulus and is referred to as self-organization. There is strong interest in various fields in elucidating the self-organizing mechanism, and research is being conducted around the world. I believe that it may be possible to extrapolate the features of self-organization on the level of the cell, the smallest unit of life, to interactions and connections on the level of the entire organism or the environment.

Human beings have system necessary to overcome various stress

Earlier, I touched on human instinct from the perspective of evolution, and I believe that evolution can be described as the history of overcoming stress. Humans have overcome harsh environments and adapted to their environment in order to live. They have passed this knowledge to subsequent generations by incorporating it into their DNA. We already have the systems and information necessary to overcome various stressors and survive.

Specifically, we use mechanisms for biodefense such as the nervous system, immune system, and endocrine system, all of which are survival systems for overcoming stressors. These systems are referred to as allostatis mechanisms. Humans are equipped with a pool of information embedded in our genes over hundreds of millions of years together with information acquired from the environment after birth. I believe that the switch for selecting the appropriate information from the massive volume of information to initiate a conduct lies in the fundamental mechanism for responding and adapting to the environment (that is, the external environment) and the mind and body (that is, the internal environment). Powerful thoughts and actions caused, for example, by a powerful stimulus such as a shock, whether it is pain or hunger, or stimulus that excites the mind, play the role of turning the switch on. Looking back on the recent massive earthquake that struck the Japanese archipelago during a time of tranquility, the earthquake served to awaken substantial power in the Japanese people who felt that their lives were at risk.

Up to this point, I have touched briefly on the desires that rise up within us as well as human life and the mechanisms necessary for life.

Approximately thirteen point eight billion years ago, the earth was created from the Big Bang. After that, about three point eight billion years ago, life arose miraculously on the earth as a member of the universe, and that life has come to exist in a variety of forms including humans. When we observe all living things on the earth on a molecular or cellular level, humans, animals, and plants share common mechanisms and have divided systematically along the path of evolution.

Evolution is the history of overcoming and adapting to stress from harsh environments. Humans have developed numerous internal defense mechanisms in order to overcome external stresses. Since humans are small and weak beings, they formed communities, gained cooperative abilities to understand the thoughts of others, and prospered until today without becoming extinct.

This slide shows a five-story pagoda, symbol of Japanese culture, the Sky Tree, skyscrapers, firing of brain neurons to express the emotion of caring, and a woman carefully holding a cell with DNA as evidence of life. The slide depicts the kind of human science of mind and body that we have in mind. It conveys a deep message from people like ourselves who are engaged in the field of education, a wish that this chain of life will continue forever and ever.

Since their appearance on the earth, humans have continuously sought better lives and have overcome various hardships. We seek more comfortable and safer environments, and have used all efforts and academic knowledge over long periods to elucidate the nature of things and solve various problems. As a result, we have created a society with unprecedented material abundance. With the discovery of genes (and DNA), science relating to matter has been applied to elucidating the phenomena of life, and today we enjoy the benefits in many areas including healthcare, diet, and industry. Although we have obtained the material sufficiency that supports our convenient and comfortable lives, at the same time, we are surrounded by sense of vague insecurity concerning the future and a sense of stagnation. It is said that modern society is approaching a stationary status in which economic growth and expansion will come to a stop. In addition, following the experience of the recent earthquake and nuclear power plant incident, people are starting to become aware of the limits to the simplistic formula that the pursuit of a material civilization equals human happiness. In other words, a change is taking place in the standards for what we value.

Against this backdrop of modern conditions, changes are pressing on science and technology, economic systems, political structures, the governing mechanisms of countries, climactic conditions, and even the earth’s crust that forms the continents, leading to numerous unstable factors and the start of a period of transition to the next era.

I also believe, however, that we should not forget that since the creation of the earth, humans have overcome numerous periods of disorder and survived until the present day. What we are seeking are the basic desires that I mentioned earlier—the desire to exist, the desire to create connections with others, and the desire to grow—and it is important to turn our attention to these desires, adapt skillfully to the environment, and to live in accordance with our own will. Our lives have continued under influence from internal instinct and the environment by making ceaseless decisions and determinations while continuously taking action to live.

Health Sciences of Mind and Body was created to respond to needs

The health sciences of mind and body that we advocate is a new academic field that was created to respond to these needs. The objective of this field is to create knowledge for well-being. ”Knowledge for well-being” is the objective of the health sciences of mind and body.

I will introduce some key words for understanding the health sciences of mind and body.

The health sciences of mind and body focuses on the fact that the mind and body are closely connected and inseparable. The health sciences of mind and body is the academic field that scientifically elucidates the relationships between mind and body.

Also, the health sciences of mind and body adopts a holistic approach as an academic method. We conduct interdisciplinary and integrated education and research that transcends the boundaries between academic disciplines without being constrained by existing academic frameworks concerning topics such as life, humans, health, and the mind.

In addition, we apply and practice the scientific knowledge obtained through this process to achieve healthier lives for people. In other words, the health sciences of mind and body is an academic field that contributes to providing meaning and well-being to people.

Now, I will explain the concept of knowledge for well-being. Knowledge for well-being approaches humans from multifaceted perspectives including the physical, psychological, social, cultural, and evolutionary to integrate individual areas of knowledge concerning the question “what is a human?” and then use it as a knowledge for living and action. In addition, by using knowledge for well-being, we can stimulate our wills and become aware of as well as select the purpose of our lives, and as a result, we can improve our environments and achieve autonomous ways of living and self-expression. By directing knowledge for well-being to others including all presences other than humans, affection and love is generated, ideas concerning responsible harmony are formed, and we are able to engage in autonomous conduct towards these objectives.

The center page of the pamphlets that were distributed to you contains the contents that I am now discussing. Please learn about the health sciences of mind and body to gain as much knowledge as possible. The knowledge that you gain will expand your perspectives and change your ways of perceiving the events that occur around you. You will be able to make accurate choices with sense of determination concerning those events, and if you put it into practice, your way of living will change. Through this process, information will become knowledge for living. I hope that all of you develop good life skills, promote life with purpose, and become leading actors in human life.

We have introduced the ideas of health sciences of mind and body in all curricula at the University of Human Arts and Sciences. School education is of course to learn specialized knowledge, but the University is also a place for students to notice much, cultivate their minds, and develop their attitudes towards life without even knowing it. As an educator, it is my constant hope that students will learn self-reliance as well as interdependence with others through the health sciences of mind and body. I define self-reliance as standing on one’s own feet, feeling one’s own mind, thinking and making decisions using one’s own head, and living one’s own life to the fullest. By interdependence, I mean feeling affection for all things in a time of great change, feeling gratitude and restraint, helping one another, and living responsibly.

Please look at this slide once again. The Earth is a planet teeming with life. After the creation of the universe, life developed over an expanse of time the repetition of necessity and coincidence. The life that was created is characterized by diversity and uniqueness, but interdependence is also a fundamental principle of life. The minds and bodies of humans are microcosms created through the process of the evolution of life, and modern science is elucidating these microcosms. Please be kind to the earth, a planet of life. It is also my sincere request that you love your own life. I pray that you will all become masters of human life. Thank you very much for your attention.