Dr Caroline Leaf – Serious questions, few answers (Part 1)

Caroline Leaf. The name is popping up more and more around Christian circles. I was curious to hear her speak, since as a Christian and a (family) physician, I like to know how people integrate science and spirituality. So I took the opportunity to drive down to Kings Christian Church on the Gold Coast to hear what she had to say.

I left with more questions than answers.  And some serious concerns.

The following blog posts are a discussion on some of the points that she raised. I simply don’t have the time to go through all of them, although I’m seriously considering whether to do a formal review and response to her teaching.

I had to divide up the original post into three parts to make it more manageable. Here’s part 1, in which I review her academic qualifications, her link of thoughts and illness, our innate wiring, and the myth of the mini-brain.

Part 2 of this post will look further at the pecking order of the mind and brain, some miscellaneous issues, and her ‘professional’ opinion on ADHD.

Part 3 will examine her claim that “Toxic thoughts are sin” and why such a statement is incongruent with the Christian faith.

IS SHE A COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENTIST?

For a start, she was introduced as a cognitive neuroscientist. Her CV lists her degrees as a Bachelor of Science, Masters in Speech Therapy and Audiology, and a PhD in Communication Pathology. She did not advise where she has tenure or does her research. Her CV lists guest lectures at a few Universities (Wits, University of Pretoria, University of Cape Town, University of Western Cape Annual Education Conference, SASHLA, Rotary Foundation), but no tenure.

Admittedly, the definition of a cognitive neuroscientist is somewhat vague (http://careersinpsychology.org/becoming-a-cognitive-neuroscientist/) but the term ‘cognitive neuroscientist’ confers the idea that one is actively involved in cognitive neuroscientific research, or at least in the recent past.

So the question remains: is she really a cognitive neuroscientist, or is she just a woman with a PhD that reads a lot?

THE CORRELATION OF ILLNESS AND THOUGHT

The next thing to grab my attention was her statement: “75 to 98% of ALL illness is related to our thought life.” Somehow I doubt that. The influence of stress is high.  But I am a GP – I see sick people everyday, on the coal face, before they are collected in subspecialist clinics, or improve spontaneously. It’s a real stretch to ascribe stress to more than 30%. Looking at her book ‘Who Switched Off My Brain’ (Leaf 2009, p15), she says that 80% of all diseases are the result of our thought lives. So her own figures are conflicting. (The other thing is that, for a PhD recipient, she has poorly referenced her book!)

Besides, stress causes illness, but I’m not yet satisfied she’s proven that ‘negative’ thought and stress are the same thing.

THE MINI-BRAIN

She also claimed that the brain and the heart connect to every cell in your body. Again, it’s a bit of a stretch. Every cell needs to be bathed in nutrients from the blood which in turn is connected to the heart, and nerves are every where.  But there are many cells that are not innervated directly.

The only way that the brain or the heart are connected to every cell is simply because, technically, every cell is connected to every other cell. Like if everyone in a church stood up and held hands, the man in the front row would be “connected” to the woman in the back.

But she went further on her theory, by claiming that the heart has a mini-brain that directly influences the real brain – by making moral decisions on its own, and that it is part of our conscience. She justified her statement by saying that the heart has 40,000 interconnected nerve cells, and the heart is directly connected to the brain. But on that same logic, my rectum could be a mini-brain and be part of my conscience.

She alluded to the effect of ANF, atrial natriuretic factor. There are actually three natriuretic peptides. ANF, produced by the top two chambers of the heart, actually regulates blood pressure (http://www.cvphysiology.com/Blood%20Pressure/BP017.htm). If it has an effect on thought, it is secondary, not primary.

WIRED FOR OPTIMISM?

She also states that we are wired for optimism, and that emotions like fear are learned. That doesn’t make sense since I have seen research that shows a newborn baby is wired for pleasure and emotions like disgust. These pathways are developed and refined during childhood, but we are born with built-in templates for basic emotion.

I will have more in the next 24 hours, including her statement on the pecking order of the mind and brain, some miscellaneous issues, and her ‘professional’ opinion on ADHD.

REFERENCES

Leaf, C. (2009). Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling toxic thoughts and emotions. Southlake, TX, USA, Inprov, Ltd.

2 thoughts on “Dr Caroline Leaf – Serious questions, few answers (Part 1)

  1. Hi Dr C. Pit,

    It is a pity you did not seek to clarify the comments you have posted above with us before you posted them. We hope you allow our comments to be displayed so that your readers can make informed decisions and not to judge Dr Leaf as you have done without getting accurate information. By your comments it is obvious that you have not kept up to date with the latest Scientific research.

    Dr Leaf can call herself a Cognitive Neuroscientist because of her field research (published in peer evaluated Journals) …see the Science articles in the media/downloads section at drleaf.com. If you require, we can also send letters from her peers in the field of Neuroscience

    She also developed the Geodesic Information Processing model theory.

    Yes she does read a lot as the field of Neuroscience is constantly evolving and one has to be as informed as possible.

    Some research links re the correlation between illness and thought are presented in Dr Leaf’s November the 30th blog at drleaf.com…blog. There are many more statistic correlation research links.

    Dr Leaf has listed references differently in the different books and has a full list of references in the ‘thought life’ section at drleaf.com. The references were listed simply in that book for the lay person. This is an accepted literary format for the lay person. Subsequent books have fuller references.

    The mini brain in the heart research can be found at Heartmath.org

    Heartmath and Dr Don Colbert both reference the effect of ANF

    The wired for optimism bias research has been evidenced by various scientific researchers
    For easy access to this research please see the Google links to TED talks and Time Magazine’s article.

    Please send us your E-mail address so that we can send you further documentation.

    BELOW IS A LETTER OF REFERENCE FROM A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL ENDORSING DR CAROLINE LEAF
    My name is Dr Peter Amua-Quarshie and I am presently a full-time Adjunct Professor (lecturer) at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Wisconsin. I have a B.Sc (Hons) in Medical Sciences (specializing in Neuropathology) and a Masters of Public Health (MPH), both degrees from the University of Leeds (UK). Additionally I have a medical degree (MB ChB) from the University of Ghana Medical School, Accra, Ghana, and a Master’s of Science (MS) in Behavioral and Neural Sciences from Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey. I started teaching anatomy in the University of Leeds Medical School in 1996. I have taught Neurochemistry to graduate students and Neuroscience to undergraduates at Delaware State University and the University of Wisconsin respectively. I have known Dr. Caroline Leaf since 2006 and have worked closely with her since 2008 on various projects in the field of cognitive neuroscience.
    Caroline Leaf received her training in Communication Pathology (BSC Logopaedics) at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. The University of Cape Town has produced many outstanding graduates, including Max Theiler, a Nobel Prize laureate in Physiology or Medicine and Christaan Barnard, the first person to successfully transplant a human heart. Caroline Leaf was a contemporary to the eminent neuroscientist Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project and the new one billion Euro European Union Flagship Project, the Human Brain Project. As well having to study the cognition, she had to endure the rigor of the first 2 years of the medical course, in which she had to study neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. Dr. Leaf also holds a Master’s degree and PhD in Communication Pathology from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. In her Master’s degree her dissertation concentrated on cognitive neuroscience of Traumatic Brain Injury (Closed Head Injury). In developing her groundbreaking Geodesic Learning™ Theory (brain-compatible learning) in her ground breaking PhD thesis, she examined cognition and neurobiology of thinking. The Geodesic Learning™ Theory has been implemented among approximately 100,000 students in South Africa with great success. I have personally helped implement her Geodesic Learning™ Theory in a School District in the USA and was able to demonstrate quantitative improvement in scholastics across the board among the students. She is widely published in journal, book, DVD, television and the internet in the field of cognitive neuroscience in South Africa, USA and other parts of the world.
    I have discussed neuroscientific subjects with her for multiple hours many times and have been thoroughly impressed with her knowledge and insight in neurobiology. However what really thrills me is revelation God gives her about the brain. She is an example to me of a neuroscientist who glorifies God in her pursuit of understanding the brain, and who is able to demonstrate that we are truly fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

    DR LEAF’s BIOGRAPHY

    Since 1985, Dr Caroline Leaf, a Communication Pathologist and Audiologist, has worked in the area of Cognitive Neuroscience. She holds a Bsc Logopaedics with focus on in Neuroscience, Neuronanatomy and anatomy, Communication Pathology, Psychology, linguistics and audiology) , Masters in Communication Pathology She specialized in Traumatic Brain Injury and PhD in Communication Pathology (TBI) and Learning Disabilities focusing specifically on the Science and neuroscience of Thought as it pertains to thinking and learning. She developed a Cognitive Neuroscientific theory called the Geodesic Information Processing Theory for her PhD research and did some of the initial research back in the 1990’s showing how using non-traditional techniques, based on neuroscientific principles of neuroplasticity and neuropsychological principles, that the mind can change the brain and can effect behavioural change as seen academically, behaviorally and emotionally. A large part of her research in recent years has been to link scientific principles with scripture showing how science is catching up with the bible.

    She applied the findings of her statistically proven research in clinical practice for nearly 20 years and now lectures and preaches around the world on these topics. She is a prolific author of many books, articles and scientific articles. She has been a featured guest of Enjoying Everyday Life with Joyce Meyer, and LIFE TODAY with James and Betty Robison, Marilyn Hickey, Sid Roth and TBN Doctor to Doctor, amongst many others. She has her own show on TBN called Switch on Your Brain.

    Her passion is to help people see the link between science and scripture as a tangible way of controlling their thoughts and emotions, learning how to think and learn and finding their sense of purpose in life.

    Caroline and her husband, Mac, live in Dallas, Texas with their four children.

    Dr Leaf’s Qualifications

    Web page: http://www.drleaf.com has my full qualifications and links to the Universities where I studied

    Dr Leaf’s Reference list

    1. Leaf, C.M. 1985. “Mind Mapping as a Therapeutic Intervention Technique”. Unpublished workshop manual.

    2. Leaf, C.M. 1989. “Mind Mapping as a Therapeutic Technique” in Communiphon, South African Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 296, pp. 11-15.

    3. Leaf, C.M. 1990. “Teaching Children to Make the Most of Their Minds: Mind Mapping” in Journal for Technical and Vocational Education in South Africa, 121, pp. 11-13.

    4. Leaf, C.M. 1990. “Mind Mapping: A Therapeutic Technique for Closed Head Injury”. Masters Dissertation, University of Pretoria.

    5. Leaf, C.M. 1992. “Evaluation and Remediation of High School Children’s Problems Using the Mind Mapping Therapeutic Approach” in Remedial Teaching, Unisa, 7/8, September 1992.

    6. Leaf, C.M., Uys, I.C. and Louw, B. 1992. “The Mind Mapping Approach(MMA): A Culture and Language-Free Technique” in The South African Journal of Communication Disorders, Vol. 40, pp. 35-43.

    7. Leaf, C.M. 1993. “The Mind Mapping Approach (MMA): Open the Door to Your Brain Power; Learn How to Learn” in Transvaal Association of Educators Journal (TAT).

    8. Leaf, C.M. 1997. “The Mind Mapping Approach: A Model and Framework for Geodesic Learning”. Unpublished D.Phil Dissertation, University of Pretoria.

    9. Leaf, C.M. 1997. “The Development of a Model for Geodesic Learning: The Geodesic Information Processing Model” in The South African Journal of Communication Disorders, Vol. 44, pp. 53-70.

    10. Leaf, C.M. 1997. “The Move from Institution Based Rehabilitation (IBR) to Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR): A Paradigm Shift” in Therapy Africa, 1 (1) August 1997, p. 4.

    11. Leaf, C.M. 1997. ‘”An Altered Perception of Learning: Geodesic Learning” in Therapy Africa, 1 (2), October 1997, p. 7.

    12. Leaf, C.M., Uys, I. and Louw. B., 1997. “The Development of a Model for Geodesic Learning: the Geodesic Information Processing Model” in The South African Journal For Communication Disorders, 44.

    13. Leaf, C.M. 1998. “An Altered Perception of Learning: Geodesic Learning: Part 2” in Therapy Africa, 2 (1), January/February 1998, p. 4.

    14. Leaf, C.M., Uys, I.C. and Louw, B. 1998. “An Alternative Non-Traditional Approach to Learning: The Metacognitive-Mapping Approach” in The South African Journal of Communication Disorders, 45, pp. 87-102.

    15. Leaf. C.M. 2002. Switch on Your Brain with the Metacognitive-Mapping Approach. Truth Publishing.

    16. Leaf, C.M. 2005. Switch on Your Brain. Understand Your Unique Intelligence Profile and Maximize Your Potential. Tafelberg, Cape Town, SA

    17. Leaf, C.M. 2008. Switch on Your Brain 5 Step Learning Process. Switch on Your Brain USA, Dallas.

    18. Leaf, C.M. 2007. Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions. Switch on Your Brain USA, Dallas.

    19. Leaf, C.M. 2007. “Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions”. DVD series. Switch on Your Brain, Johannesburg, SA.

    20. Leaf, C.M., Copeland M. & Maccaro, J. 2007. “Your Body His temple. God’s Plan for Achieving Emotional Wholeness”. DVD series. Life Outreach International, Dallas.

  2. Pingback: A Health Mind is a Healthy Body | Medivizor

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