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. 🙂


AK-47, The Official Assault Weapon of the Mentally Ill

May 4, 2009

Gun Sales: Will The “Loophole” Close?

In an interview with Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes on April 12, 2009, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D) firmly equated mental illness with criminal insanity by repeatedly using the phrase “criminals and the mentally ill.”

If it wasn’t bad enough that she did irreparable damage to the reputations of hundreds of thousands of folks, Sen. Feinstein stated that the AK-47 is the weapon of choice for the mentally ill.

Does the mentally ill community have an official gun? Perhaps they have an endorsement deal with Kalashnikov… “AK-47, The Official Assault Weapon of the Mentally Ill.” Or “Just Do Them.”

AKs [rifles] and other firearms, once forbidden under the ban, now fill entire tables at gun shows; you can buy them from private sellers without a background check.

“These assault weapons are essentially designed and made to kill numbers of people in close combat,” Senator Dianne Feinstein of California told Stahl.

Sen. Feinstein was the author and champion of the assault weapons ban in 1994. “They become the guns of choice of drug cartels, of gangs, of people who are mentally incompetent.”

— 60 Minutes, April 12, 2009
“Gun Sales: Will The “Loophole” Close?”

Et tu, Sen. Feinstein?

Please fill out the complaint form on the CBS site.


The Drug Companies are Writing the Psych Handbook

March 30, 2009

Psychiatry Handbook Linked to Drug Industry – Well Blog – NYTimes.com

More than half of the task force members who will oversee the next edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s most important diagnostic handbook have ties to the drug industry, reports a consumer watchdog group.


The Power of Irrationality

March 27, 2009

If you haven’t read Kay Redfield Jamison’s “<a href="Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament“>Touched With Fire; Manic-Depressive Ilness and the Artistic Temperament” run out and get a copy. She is a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins and is bipolar herself.

“I believe that curiosity, wonder and passion are defining qualities of imaginative minds and great teachers; that restlessness and discontent are vital things; and that intense experience and suffering instruct us in ways that less intense emotions can never do. I believe, in short, that we are equally beholden to heart and mind, and that those who have particularly passionate temperaments and questioning minds leave the world a different place for their having been there. It is important to value intellect and discipline, of course, but it is also important to recognize the power of irrationality, enthusiasm and vast energy. Intensity has its costs, of course — in pain, in hastily and poorly reckoned plans, in impetuousness — but it has its advantages as well.”
Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Author and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University
in “The Benefits of Restlessness and Jagged Edges”
NPR Morning Edition, June 6, 2005

There is a video of a speech she did about Exhuberance on YouTube that was quite inspiring. She wrote a great book about the love of life called Exuberance: The Passion for Life
.


The Neurology of Trauma

March 7, 2009

A few weeks ago there was a vehicle in front of me at the coffeeshop window with a phone number and link to The Evolutionary Brain. I called the number and got the guy in the truck, we waved at each other, and he gave me a DVD of the above video, Dr. Robert Scaer on Brain State Technologies and Trauma.

I had a theory about this 18 years ago when I worked for an EEG company and was getting into brainwave synchronization. Doesn’t it seem obvious that if you can “read” brainwaves, then you can also write them? It would be tricky. We’re not looking for ECT, which is more like an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that wipes the whole thing clean. We just want to defrag the mind.

The main site for the technology, Brain State Technologies™ Brain State Conditioning™.

Imnsho, information like this is an absolute necessity if you don’t want to drown in your own drool. YMMV, of course.


Online list of DSM-IV diagnoses.

September 28, 2008

PSYweb DSM-IV Diagnoses and Codes.

PSYweb has a list of the DSM-IV Diagnosis Codes. Notice that there are a lot of psychiatric diagnoses caused by psych meds. This makes it totally clear that your meds can make you sicker, a good argument for doing the minimum meds to make you functional vs. medicating yourself into oblivion.

The following are a few examples of iatrogenic (physician-caused) psychiatric disorders:

292.84
Opioid-Induced Mood Disorder
Yes, pain meds can make you look like a bipolar.
333.99
Neuroleptic-Induced Acute Akathisia
He’s agitated, let’s give him more neuroleptic. Neuroleptics are old-fashioned antipsychotics such as Haldol.
292.12
Amphetamine-Induced Psychotic Disorder, With Hallucinations
Some of the ADHD meds they give to kids, including Ritalin and Adderall, are amphetamines. Can you imagine turning your kid into a Speed Freak?
292.89
Sedative-, Hypnotic-, or Anxiolytic-Induced Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety from anti-anxiety pills? Some of the benzodiazepines can even induce hypomania, however there doesn’t seem to be a diagnosis code for it. Maybe in the DSM-V. Or maybe not. I hear it’s being written by Big Pharma.

Another cool thing on psyweb is a Mood Disorder Flow Chart that is able to distinguish bipolar disorder from the other mood disorders. A real kick in the head is the question “Symptoms Psychotic in nature, occur at times other then during Manic or Mixed Episodes?”

This seems to imply that bipolars don’t have psychotic depressions, but other mood disorders do. Note that the only the 296 numbers are mood disorders, and only a few of those are called bipolar disorder. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.

A couple of years ago I did a decision tree for the bipolar disorders based on the DSM-III. It’s a little different from the DSM-IV-based version.

Psyweb also has a decision tree for differential diagnosis, and that’s a better choice than the mood disorders tree, even for diagnosed bipolars. This tree helps you figure out whether you have another psych diagnosis masquerading as bipolar, something that a 15-minute psych eval will definately miss. That would be truly disastrous, being treated for life for bipolar instead of dealing with something less severe. Have fun!

I think I’m going to invent Seroquel jimmies for ice cream.


Sleep and Bipolar

June 20, 2008

I found this in my drafts folder. I have no idea where I was going with it or who I was answering.

I hear that they are studying drug-induced coma as a treatment for mania. Granted, sleep is a good prophylactic for bipolar. It’s just too, too creepy. The end game will be to stack comatose mentally ill off in a warehouse somewhere. Didn’t Robin Cook write a chilling medical fiction about something like this?

How much sleep does it take? Are they researching conversion tables to translate hours of coma to days of sleep?

There’s a good section on sleep and bipolar in Dr. Fieve’s latest book, Bipolar II: Enhance Your Highs, Boost Your Creativity, and Escape the Cycles of Recurrent Depression.

There was also a chapter in the first edition of Goodwin and Jamison. Incidentally, Manic-Depressive Illness Second Edition is out.

It’s rather disheartening to hear that the researchers are repeating the same old studies over and over instead of exploring new treatment options that would enable us to go back to work instead of turning us into mental cripples by reducing our IQs and impairing our short-term memory. And then stigmatizing us for having cognitive deficits.

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