Vagus Nerve & the Mind-Body Connection

March 25, 2010

The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve, a honking big nerve that runs from your skull, down your chest and into your abdomen. The punch-in-the-gut feeling of a jolt of adrenalin/the start of an anxiety attack is carried on the vagus nerve.

The usual paradigm for emotions is they start in the brain. Most of the body’s hormones have a dual purpose as a neurotransmitter. The vagus nerve helps coordinate the physical feeling with the emotional feeling – they are one and the same. The mind-body connection.

Most of the body’s serotonin is in the gut. A squirt of serotonin doesn’t just happen in the brain, it happens in the whole body. Ditto adrenaline. The vagus nerve conducts information in both directions. I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to blame anxiety on a brain malfunction.

An interesting treatment for anxiety is “Vagus Nerve Stimulation.” In VNS, a device is implanted that applies current to the vagus nerve is to overwhelm it. It’s kind of like a TENS unit for pain. VNS is a last resort for intractible anxiety.

One implication of this is that if you can control the physical aspects of anxiety – relax your muscles, slow down your breathing & heart rate – then the emotional component will follow. Once the emotions are managed you can work out whatever brought on the anxiety.
Candace Pert, Ph.D. discovered opium (endorphin) receptors in the brain. She wrote an enlightening book Molecules Of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine.

Also check out Timothy Leary. One of his more interesting ideas is that we have receptor sites for chemicals that haven’t been invented yet. Alexander Shulgin was a chemist who formulated a lot of them, but I don’t recommend you try it. 🙂


Bad Alice

September 23, 2007

Any day that starts with an email from someone named “Bad Alice” simply has to be a great day!

Bad Alice is the acoustic duo formed by Suzy Johnston (author of The Naked Bird Watcher – the positive account of developing and learning to manage a serious psychiatric disorder that included depression, psychosis and self-harm)

Leslie interjects: The other half of the duo is Lindsay Robertson. So far as I can tell, she is horribly normal except when she gets a hold of a box of crayons.

The CD by Bad Alice is now available.

Titled ‘Walk in my Shoes’ it is a further positive and reflective message on mental illness, self-harm and the issues that face the young of today.

The CD is available on the Bad Alice website where individual tracks can also be downloaded.

The hope is that the music will help people to feel less isolated and offer reassurance that they can get through this. It is also meant to raise further awareness, understanding and – hey – people might even like the songs!


Bad Alice

Excellent CD. It’s only number two in my 6-disc changer, but Bad Alice would have to play tuned chain saws to get ahead of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters – classic Jazz Fusion c. 1972.

I hope to get to Scotland on my next trip to Liverpool. If luck is with me, Bad Alice will have a gig when I’m there.

Suzy’s mum Jean is a great mum, I’m told, and a very cool lady. She even wrote her own book, To Walk on Eggshells, about her experiences helping her daughter navigate the dire straits of the mental health system in the UK. Family involvement is a big positive in handling bipolar disorder effectively.

The CD costs £6.50 postpaid in the UK. Not sure about the rest of the world, but it’s also available as mp3s. Buy it with PayPal and download it on the spot.


TFTD: Damaged People

May 4, 2007


“I read something recently . . . and this one phrase leapt out at me from the book DAMAGE by Josephine Hart. It says, ‘Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.’ And that kind of sums me up.”
Dusty Springfield

Sending Mentally Ill Soldiers Into Combat

May 14, 2006

From CNN Report: Mentally ill troops forced into combat

The paper reported that some service members who committed [tag]suicide[/tag] in 2004 or 2005 were kept on duty despite clear signs of mental distress, sometimes after being prescribed [tag]antidepressants[/tag] with little or no mental health counseling or monitoring. Those findings conflict with regulations adopted last year by the Army that caution against the use of antidepressants for “extended deployments.”

I believe it’s been like that in most wars. Has our culture stopped evolving? Certainly a large block of Americans, most of whom voted for Bush, fight [tag]evolution[/tag] tooth and nail. I guess fear of change goes very deep in some folks.

I seem to recall an interview with a fellow who was a doctor in WWII. He told about how when soldiers came in [tag]shell-shocked[/tag] (severely traumatized), they’d keep them in the field hospital, dope them into oblivion for a period of time to let the worst of it pass, then take them off the drugs and send them right back out to their unit. I forget how long they kept them, just a few days I think. The doctor was pretty sure that these poor fellows were going to be completely unable to take care of themselves, much less engage in [tag]combat[/tag]. He was pretty sure he was sending them back to die. It seemed that it had been haunting him for the last 50 years. You can bet that this war isn’t going to haunt [tag]Bush[/tag] and Rummy, not even for a minute.
In WWII we were facing an aggressor who had already swept across Europe. He had a face, Hitler’s face. And we didn’t go in until every friend of ours except Britain had fallen. What is our symbol in this war? [tag]Saddam Hussein[/tag]? Hey, we got him. [tag]Osama Bin Laden[/tag]? We aren’t even *looking* for him any more. The World Trade Center and its 3000 deaths? Iraq had nothing to do with that – it was perpetrated by Saudis protesting our continued presence in Saudi Arabia. What the hell *is* this war about?
The aggressor is just beginning to sweep across the Middle East. It’s not clear to our soldiers who they are fighting. Many of them feel as if they are little more than bodyguards for civilian contractors. They drive [tag]Halliburton[/tag] employees and other civilians back and forth from the green zone to the airport through a well-established corridor, like ducks in a shooting gallery. And in between trips they sit in tents in a big maze of Jersey barriers waiting for one of the locals to slip in and set off a bomb.
The word that the suicide rate is high in this war came out a couple of years ago. Every war has suicides. Yes, even The Big One, WWII. But when you are supporting the war, as just about everyone did during WWII, suicides make bad press so you don’t cover them. You want to show newsreels of Axis bombs and dead foreign children, not films of [tag]mentally ill[/tag] American soldiers – hardly more than children themselves – committing suicide.
One interesting difference in this war is that at the beginning of the war, if you check the numbers, the casualties were mostly older people with families and well-paid jobs back home. These are folks whose lives back home are being systematically disassembled by their extended absence. You join the Army Reserves with the understanding that you will serve as a stop-gap until the [tag]military[/tag] can muster and train enough recruits to step in, maybe six months and certainly not two years. You join the National Guard with the understanding that your job is to protect the people here at home in during emergencies. Something got really screwed up here.
Oh, this is a good line. This fellow makes it sound as if every soldier is a time bomb waiting to go off.

“Ritchie insisted the military works hard to prevent suicides, but it is a challenge because every soldier has access to a weapon.”

I lost count. Have we killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein yet?

But I digress… the war in Iraq isn’t a desperate struggle against a madman with intentions of [tag]World Domination[/tag]: quite the contrary. From the beginning we haven’t even attempted to be sure to have enough [tag]men and materiel[/tag] to successfully complete our mission against this most [tag]nebulous enemy[/tag], Terror, either.
Finally, and most importantly, in the 21st century you’d think that our species would be sensitive to each other’s psychological needs. When did we lose our ability to empathize? We have taken huge steps back in so many areas – [tag]environment[/tag], new energy sources, “Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights… it’s all wrong” – and I want to know why this is.
Who are these people who want to ignore the hard lessons of the last 60 years and go back to an idyllic past that never was?
I think it’s time for me to read up on exactly what this [tag]NeoCon[/tag] movement is about.

[Lyric above is from [tag]Gil Scott Heron[/tag]’s excellent invective against Ronald Reagan, B Movie, from his 1981 album Reflections.]

If I Only Had a Brain

May 1, 2006

You’re out of the woods,
You’re out of the dark,
You’re out of the night.
Step into the sun, Step into the light.

Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place
On the Face of the Earth or the sky.
Hold onto your breath, Hold onto your heart, Hold onto your hope.
March up to the gate and bid it open…………….open.

From The Wizard of Oz,
Optimistic Voices,
lyrics by EH Harburg and music by Harold Arlen

Check it out: Dr. Charles K. Bunch PhD, the author of “Soft Bipolar : Vivid Thoughts, Mood Shifts and Swings, Depression, and Anxiety of the Mild Mood Disorders Affecting Millions of Americans” has put out a new book about cinematherapy, how to use the metaphors in popular cinema as a vehicle for healing.

And what more powerful movie than The Wizard of Oz? Admit it, you saw it every year for the first ten years of your life and can recite it from memory. You undoubtedly have at one time or another used the characters in the movies as metaphor. Never mind the man behind the curtain! Well, Dr. Bunch’s new book, The Wizard of Oz: The Symbolic Quest to Find Your Inner Heroes, Face Your Worst Enemy, and Attain Wholeness, will help you use the archetypes present in any movie to understand yourself and the world around you.

I ordered it from Amazon as soon as I heard about it. I’m sure it will be excellent.