Can Heaven Help Us? The Nun Study Afterlife“I donated my brain, so when the time comes, they can make a study of it. The fact that I have not had any of this Alzheimer’s disease, or even an inclination so far is something they would naturally want to study.”
– Sister M. Celine Koktan, 97 years old in March 2009

“We’ve received over 500 brains.”
– Dr. Karen Santa Cruz, neuropathologist.

Can you imagine being asked to be part of a study where the researcher asks if you not only would be willing to take part, but would mind terribly donating your brain to be dissected after you’re gone?

That is exactly what was asked of the nuns participating. Of the 678 sisters in the original study about four dozen are still living. But researchers already have begun analyzing the more than 500 brains saved to dissect and study.

The nun study is one of the most dynamic and powerful studies on the impact of positive emotions and thoughts in the history of positive psychology. Researchers Danner, Snowdon, and Friesen (2001) from the University of Kentucky sampled the nuns, perfect subjects for a study because of the profound similarities around their physical health. They have similar, regularized diets, live together in similar surroundings, do not have children, and do not smoke or drink to excess. In other words, their physical backgrounds and conditions are about as controlled for as any group of human beings might be.

5 Comments to
Proof Positive: Can Heaven Help Us? The Nun Study – Afterlife

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  1. As an energy healer, I see this in my practice every day. A positive attitude is essential to good health.

  2. It is why Christiann Science works for many. That cheerful positive outlook has a positive result.

  3. Thank you Dan Tomasulo. Your work is always so professional, easy to read and understandable. It was personally timely since my neurologist just diagnosed me as neurologically sound. I think I just may want to go to a workshop with you.

  4. Just to be clear. This argument is not in favor of faith, religion, or prayer. It could have been done with any group of people living very similar lifestyles.

  5. Since the Nuns who lived longer seemed to start out with a positive temperment, I wonder if someone who’s temperment is mostly negitive would also experiance a longer life and less disease if they learned to take a more positive outlook or, does it only work with people who’ve had that positive outlook all along.

    Anybody know if there is any sort of research on that, or have any ideas on the subject?
    I have always been a mostly negitive person but have recently been trying to learn to stop dwelling on the negitive and trying to find the positive in things.

  6. I read the nun study about 10 years ago when my mother was dying of Alzheimer’s. One idea about the plaques in the brain that has arisen, I thought, is that they may be protective reactions rather than the reason for the appearance of symptoms. Many nuns who had lots of plaques did not demonstrate disease, and some with very little, did. I’m not sure any correlations were made between positive emotions etc at the time the book was written. I just know that the person doing the dissections was not told ahead of time how symptomatic the person was, and often guessed wrong, due to plaque presence of lack of it.

    Many factors surely interact. My mother suffered from an anxiety disorder but was mostly a positive person. She loved to paint, loved beautiful things, kept a beautiful house filled with refinished antiques,won many art awards, taught a class of paper mache for 17 years, until her disease overcame her in her late 70′s. She died at 80.
    My aunt, her sister, is 87. Unlike my mother, she never smoked, but tends to be depressed and depressive, lived alone after her husband’s death, for 45 years. She does not have symptoms of Alzheimer’s though her memory is certainly failing her. She does drink her “cocktails” every day. Is that what has protected her? Both my grandmother’s and my mother had the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Only one smoked. None of them drank much than an occasional glass of sherry. None of them exercises very much, but neither did my Aunt. There is a lot of learn about this devastating disease.

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