Before reading this chapter please start with:
First concepts
WOB is optimal

Imagination is a faculty of the mind with the following characteristics :

Imagination is our way to interpret the senses.
2. A
prerequisite for our understanding.
3. A non verbal thought process.
4. A  prerequisite for intuition and creativity.
5. A channel through which mind  communicates with WOB.

Heraclitus said: “If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail”.  Imagination  draws our attention to the unexpected. Here we shall be concerned with the role of imagination during the communication from mind to WOB.

What's in a soup?

As a starter let's observe what happens to us when perceiving a tasty soup. Already before tasting it, water fills our mouth.  Obviously WOB senses that we intend to eat and prepares the digestive system for this task (cephalic phase). Smell triggers processes involved in food digestion. Among other it activates digestive enzymes, like pepsin, which is stored in gastric epithelia (zymogen granules) as inactive precursor by the name pepsinogen. A special activator enzyme removes part of the pepsinogen molecule and makes it an active pepsin.

This is how biochemists describe this transition. And this  biochemical reaction is activated by smell, which ought to be regarded as an important co-factor of the reaction. Actually, smell informs the activator enzyme when to activate the precursor. Imagine that such an information would be withheld from the gastric epithelia, they would have produced pepsin continually even when it is not needed, like between meals.


Salivation can be activated also by imagining a tasty dish. WOB will activate all processes involved in digestion exactly as if smelling the actual dish. Imagination is a co-factor of biochemical processes in the body.

This scheme highlights the fact that imagination triggers biochemical processes, exactly as enzymes do. The mechanisms may differ, yet the outcome is the same. Imagination is the most important message from our mind to WOB.  Our will is conveyed to WOB by imagination.  You cannot order WOB to salivate, you have to imagine it.

Hand raising

When we decide to raise our hand, in a split-second we imagine raising our hand and only then WOB will support our will and raise the hand.  Most  processes involved in hand raising are involuntary and unconscious, and therefore controlled by WOB. This may be more obvious when learning new tasks, like piano playing when we have to imagine the keyboard and where to lay or fingers. Practice involves imagining our moves and watching the outcome. You order WOB to raise your hand by imagining it.


When we consciously decide to do something, the neural event that initiates the action occurs prior to that conscious volition. Benjamin Libet and colleagues  showed experimentally that the brain starts preparing for a movement before the person concerned has consciously decided to move. This neural event was called by Libet, Readiness Potential (RP). It appears about 550 msec before the person raises his hand.

Two brain areas are connected with motor movements (2): Primary motor area (M1)  and supplementary motor area (SMA). Two brain areas S1, and S2 are connected with movement sensation. All four generate a readiness potential (RP) when an individuals decides to move an extremity. In passive movements, SMA is not activated but M1 is.  SMA is active in movement execution only in volitional movement.

Apparently the RP is the first event associated with volition.  It is perceived consciously as imagination  after about 150 msec.  What happens during these  150 msec?

Somatic reflex arc

Pain receptors in the body transfer their sensation (pain)  through fast conducting neurons to the spinal chord where they are connected with local somatic  neurons and form a somatic reflex arc.  When we burn our finger, pain activates a withdrawal reflex, which removes our finger from the fire even before we become  aware (conscious) of the danger.

The pain conducting nerve fibers transmit their information also to neurons going to the brain, and when it has reached the cortex we become aware of it. When the signals arrive at the limbic system our emotion become involved.

We may thus distinguish between three events, pain, reflective withdrawal, and conscious sensation. The respective time intervals between these events are  u-time: u stands for the time the unconscous pain takes to activate the reflex arc. c-time: c stands for the time it takes the signal to reach our consciousness..  Pain -> u-time ->Action-> c-time -> Awareness.

The nervous system is a hierarchy of reflex arcs. The closer a reflex  arc to the cortex, the sooner will it  be consciously perceived  (the shorter c-time). Being frightened, or startled  is somewhat high in the hierarchy. Suppose that you are frightened by a lion, You take refuge before realizing what frightened you. When the experience reaches the cortex you imagine the threat. Libet’s experiments indicate that our will is first manifested  as a reflex, and after 150 msec (= c-time) it becomes a conscious mental image. 

Imagination is a spectrum of signals that control process. We are aware only of its role in digestion. 

Pavlovian conditioning

In  experiments, done by Pavlov on dogs he investigated  how conditioning activated salivation. Periodically, a tone was sounded, and shortly thereafter the dog was fed with meat powder. Initially, the dog showed little responsiveness to the tone. After repeated training the dog started  salivate at the sounding of the tone alone.

The dog's salivation to meat powder is an unconditional reflex. It is inborn, in that dogs do not have to learn to salivate when food is placed in their mouths. When the dog starts salivating in response to the tone, Pavlovian conditioning has occurred, and the response is a conditioned reflex.  Upon hearing the tone the dog expected to get food.  Did  he actually imagine it? 

Conditioning is a learning process. The dog (its mind) learns to associate between the tone and food ingestion. “Association” is an instinct manifested by all life forms. When an ameba approaching a toxic substance is hurt, the association between damage and a certain condition in the environment teaches it to avoid this condition. Pavlov's experiments are associative conditioning.

Eye blink conditioning

Animals can be conditioned to blink in  response to a tone.  During training (learning) the tone is played just before air is puffed to the eyelid, which causes the animal to blink. Eventually, the animal blinks in response to the tone alone.

Honeybee conditioning

Honeybees can be trained by conditioning to associate odorants with sucrose (3).   When the bee smells an odor, a drop of sucrose is placed on its  proboscis.  Bees can learn simultaneously to discriminate a reinforced odor from a non-reinforced one.

How to slow down cancer progression?

Our aim is slow down cancer progression.  We  (the mind)  can’t tell WOB to do it since it does not understand plain language. We have to apply
a non verbal thought process, like imagination. We know how to activate digestion with imagination and would like to discover a similar association between imagination and slowing down cancer progression. Yet, what should we imagine to achieve it? 


Biofeedback enables us (the mind) to control some unconscious processes which are usually controlled by WOB.  For example, a person can be trained in a matter of days to cause the temperature of one hand to rise five to ten degrees higher than that of the other hand, while not contracting the hand muscles. Using a special machine and sensors to record muscle contractions and skin temperature, one can learn to control normally involuntary processes such as heart rate and blood pressure that increase under stress.  The following machines are applied: Electromyogram (EMG), Temperature Biofeedback, and Electroencephalogram (EEG).

When a person is connected to an EEG, which monitors brain wave activity, the electrodes are attached to a machine which converts the electrical information into an easily observable form, such as a light or a buzzing noise.  The person is asked to raise his alpha waves. Which he obviously fails to do. In order to train him the task has to be associated with a signal which he knows how to handle, like light or sound.

The person is  then told to extinguish the buzz or the light. Since he has no idea what to do, he or she will start experimenting to stop the annoying sound. If he tenses his muscles, for example, he will find that the noise is getting louder.  The person now will start putting himself in various frames of mind that he believes will do the trick.   He imagines different scenes. Then, quite suddenly, he discovers that the sound is no longer there. He will start mentally examine what he did to get to silence the tone. In practice, he will recall it and keep it up.

Once the person figures out how to do it with the help of machine, he can accomplish relaxation without the help of the machine by doing what he had to do as learned from the biofeedback techniques. How then to design a biofeedback training that might slow down cancer progression? This issue waits to be explored.


We are endowed  with certain  innate instincts, e.g., imitation, the language instinct, an ability to enjoy music, or the shaman instinct. Imitation is an instinct which assists the child during its development. It is innate and the mechanism is phylogenetically old.   Imitation activates inborn  faculties (stored representation), and  is a faster and more efficient form of acquiring new behaviors than  conditioning and reinforcement learning.

The baby has an innate representation of its body  which it associates with the body of its parents. When it sees its parents standing around him, it attempts to imitate them, and by trial and error succeeds. In the same way it learns walking and talking.


The yogi suffix  signifies people capable of living with their disease in harmony, and slow down disease progression (v. Cancer-Yogi). The secret of these experienced  patients can be learned by imitation. The cancer novice joins a group of Cancer-Yogis, lives with them and imitates their behavior.  Ultimately she will succeed. She is  endowed  also with the Shaman instinct , which makes learning by imitation effective.  Imitation is an unconscious communication from WOB to WOB. Yet living with Cancer-Yogis is more than that. It heals!

Shaman instinct

Shamanism is an inborn faculty of our body like animal behavior. It enables communication between different WOB. It underlies an unconscious  interaction between healer and sufferer (patient), and is not mediated by the mind. Not all of us have the skill of a shaman, nevertheless we may exert our unconscious heeling capacity on others.  A hug of a Cancer-Yogi heals!

Mind disease

Our will is conveyed to WOB as an image. Messages from mind to WOB have to be imagined first, whereupon WOB executes our will. Whenever WOB ‘dislikes’ our will, it objects, by sending to the mind unpleasant signals. One day we decide to improve our fitness and start lifting weights. WOB objects and sends back signals of pain and fatigue as if saying: ”stop it!”  Mind  and WOB are in conflict with each other, a situation which is called here mind disease. It can be relieved (cured) either by stopping weight lifting, or by forcing WOB to increase the muscle mass (training). Why call it a disease? Any suffering (dis-ease) experienced by us (the mind) is called a disease.

Many norms of our society which are conveyed by the mind to WOB initiate mind diseases. Like its attitude to cancer. A young woman is told that the miniscule lump in her breast is a cancer. Before being told she felt healthy (WOB did not complain). Now she is terrified, and suffers. She got mind cancer.  She is advised therefore to join a group of cancer-yogis.


1. Libet, B., Gleason, C. A., Wright, E. W., & Pearl, D. K. (1983). Time of conscious intention to act in relation to onset of cerebral activity (readiness-potential): The unconscious initiation of a freely voluntary act. Brain, 106, 623-642.

2. Green, JB et al. Bereitschaft (readiness potential) and supplemental motor area interaction in movement generation: Spinal injury and normal subjects.

3. Sandoz JC, Galizia CG, Menzel R.  Side-specific olfactory conditioning leads to more specific odor representation between sides but not within sides in the honeybee antennal lobes. Neuroscience. 2003;120(4):1137-48.

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