All of us have had times when we have had painful thoughts that we want to get rid of but just can not. Where to go? You can try physical activity, yoga, mindfulness. Sometimes one of these will help, sometimes not.
Does neuroscience have any answers. Not yet but there is hope around the corner.
New research by neuroscientist Michael Anderson of the University of Cambridge and Taylor Schmitz now at McGill University suggests that having painful thoughts that do not relent stems from a faulty brain mechanism that is responsible for blocking thoughts but is somehow not working well.
They also found that the level of a chemical GABA, a substance that inhibits signals in the brain, predicted the ability of an individual to suppress thoughts. “If you have more GABA to work with, you’re better at controlling your thoughts.” Anderson says.
His study helps to bridge the gap between molecular neuroscience and human behavior. It also postulates how the process goes awry in disease. The next step will be to do a drug study to determine whether giving people GABA helps them to suppress unwanted thoughts.