Well the old brain is clicking along today. Somewhat dazed, but the ramblings in my head don’t go away – except maybe when I meditate.
It’s funny we go through life trying to find meaning, to discover an identity for ourselves, and yet try as we might, we, as beings, are kind of hard to define. And if we can’t even define ourselves, then how can we elucidate a purpose for this existence.
As I was listening to a song this morning the lyrics kind of hit home when I heard, “I don’t even need a name anymore, when no one calls it out, it kind of vanishes away.”
Heart, mind, body, spirit – all parts to an amazing whole. But a “whole” what? And if we don’t interact with other “whole” beings, do we even exist?
We now know we are really multi-beings. A combination of symbiotic organisms. We are composed of multiple micro-biomes existing in a world of macro-biomes. Even each of our smallest units of composition, the cells in our bodies, include foreign invaders.
The mitochondria that produce every bit of energy we need are, in fact, interlopers. They just sort of moved in somewhere along the line and pay their rent with ATP – Adenosine Tri-Phosphate. The stuff the entire body-machine runs off of.
So let the brain games begin!
Brain science is ever evolving and trying to keep up with the latest research is a herculean task. But here are some fun tidbits I learned this past week.
Starting your day on the Net damages your brain. Not a physical injury, per se. It doesn’t hit your head with a baseball bat. But apparently when we wake up our brain is in its alpha state and is greatly open to suggestion. So, if we start perusing the Net at first brain-light, we are programing ourselves for distraction for the remainder of the day. Repetition of this on a daily basis creates a habit of distraction.
It’s kind of hard to focus when the dopamine receptors in our brains want junk food. Instantaneous morsels of stimulating non-information. 🙂
Stimulating because the Net’s graphics and push-button phrases provoke feelings, and light up all of our neurotransmitters. But basically, it’s just bullshit. Little in the way of creative insight or meaningful thought. Unless you take the necessary time to ferret something out a little more in-depth than the latest meme on FaceBook.
I also learned the meaning of the term “embodied cognition.” It seems the philosophical concept of “dualism,” or the mind and body being totally separate, is, at best, inaccurate. At worse, simply not true. We are truly a “whole.” What this means is that our cognition is not confined to the cortices of our brains.
Our bodies learn and have memories too, and while bodily sensations may seem more subjective and tangential, they totally impact how we think and feel about things. About everything.
It is an interconnected neural network between brain and body. How else would you explain the feeling of passion? How else did I “feel” the black bear that was approaching behind me on the trail?
So, researchers have shown if you want to ask your boss for a raise, make sure they are holding a warm cup of coffee – the boss will view you as being more personable and sociable. Pleasant weather is a great persuader too, as much as a firm handshake. Touching another human being increases trust and cooperation.
Comfortable chairs and the smell of fresh baked cookies are going to help your sales pitch as much as the words you choose. All of these subjective messages being picked up by our bodies are relayed and intertwined with our cognitive function – our perceptions and interpretations of things and events.
In addition to the brain damaging internet and our bodies having their own cognitive abilities, I learned about psychobiotics. Yes, this gets back to the gut-brain relationship. Something that is becoming more and more clear. For instance, scientists have now discovered that 60% of our brain’s neurotransmitters are manufactured in the gut. Having a healthy gut equates to having a healthy mind.
The gut micro-biome has organisms that not only produce probiotics for proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients, but also psychobiotics, which have a bacterially-mediated impact on the brain itself. This impact is theorized to take place in a number of ways.
To sum up, without getting overly scientific:
Psychobiotics can decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines and increase anti-inflammatory cytokines. Inflammation is a main factor in may disease processes.
Psychobiotics can reduce stress through the regulation of HPA (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis) stress response and by synthesizing neurotransmitters that are typically deficient in individuals suffering from depression.
Psychobiotics produce major alterations in the expressions of GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric Acid) receptors in the brain. Specifically, they increase GABA receptor expression in the hippocampus. Why is this important? Because GABA is said to be the “brain calming” neurotransmitter that can alleviate depressive symptoms.
I read where one scientist remarked that over time, with enough research, all of mental illness would be traced back to autoimmune processes in the physical body. Perhaps that includes disruptions in the gut micro-biome or breakdowns in embodied cognition.
I’ve personally discovered the relationship between chemical sensitivities and the use of GABA to mediate the effects of the neurotoxic reactions that those of us with MCS suffer. Medications that increase the uptake of GABA over other neurotransmitters calm the brain from the hyper-excitable state produced by toxic chemicals.
We are one fascinating multi-biome, chemical-electrical machine, with or without a name, as we struggle to find meaning and purpose.
Photo: When I was out in Az last year, I caught a glimpse of a mountain lion. It seemed unlikely, and more probable that if there was a large cat roaming through that rural, but sparsely populated subdivision, that it would be a Bobcat. But the owners of where I rented just sent me this photo – from the back yard of the cabin I’d been staying in. Sure enough, it was there. I had “sensed” as much from time to time. My embodied cognition at work. We are whole sensory beings emanating our own energy fields, and we feel the other energy fields around us as they collide.
This most beautiful creature was on the hunt – seeking food, or seeking identity and purpose? Who knows? The struggle for survival is the same 🙂
Past Posts on Brain Stuff:
Link Rot: I can never guarantee how long a hyperlink to the Net will be good. Materials tend to disappear over time or URLs get hacked.