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. 🙂


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
.


Positive Deception

March 15, 2009

Positive deception is when you change the parameters so that you don’t have to lie.

Throwing the ball easy to a little kid so that he succeeds and develops a good attitude toward the game.
Giving every kid a trophy so they don’t get discouraged.
Putting everyone in the school on the Honor Roll so that they all feel good about themselves.

Unfortunately, this instills the kids with total lack of concern for quality.


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.


TFTD: Self-reflection

June 24, 2008

Byron Katie Newsletter: June 2008

The following quote is exactly what I have been going on about, the need to have an objective observer, one who pushes the ego out of the way and takes a good long look at who we are. The first step to healing is to know what has to be healed.

Byron Katie’s “The Work” is an interesting tool for examining how much misery we cause ourselves by forgetting that what is, is.

Stop by The Work web page to read and listen to the freebies.

I want to go to one of the 5-day events.

“To question that things might not be as they seem can shake the very foundation of habitual clinging. This questioning spirit is the starting point for self-reflection. Could it be that this tightly-knit sense of self is not what it seems? Do we really need to hold everything together, and can we? Is there life beyond self-importance? These kinds of questions open the door to investigating the cause of our suffering.

“The actual practice of self-reflection requires us to step back, examine our experience, and not succumb to the momentum of habitual mind. This allows us to look without judgment at whatever arises, and this goes directly against the grain of our self-importance.

“Self-reflection is the common thread that runs through all traditions and lineages of Buddhist practice. It also takes us beyond the boundaries of formal practice. We can bring the questioning spirit of self-reflection to any situation, at any time. Self-reflection is an attitude, an approach, and a practice. In nutshell, it is a way to make practice come alive for us personally.”

— Aryadeva, Buddhist teacher.


How to Identify Mania

May 6, 2008

How to identify mania:

One way is to make a rough calculation of the percentage of support list email that is yours. Is half the email yours? That’s the support list equivalent of being at a party and running around in a frenzy trying to keep tabs on every conversation.

My personal favorite way to tell is to read my own posts and count how many times I begin a paragraph with the word “I”. If I write a post and every goddam sentence is about me, me, me, then I know that I should be talking to a therapist instead of taking energy from people whose boundaries are too soft for them to say or even think “no” or “you are a boring, self-involved twit.” When folks talk talk talk, it’s because there’s something that they want to say. Not the mush that comes tumbling out in idle chit-chat, but something important and maybe life-changing. OMFG, no, keep talking loud and fast so that you can’t hear it.

In case you aren’t aware of yourself enough to gauge when your thoughts are racing, you are emotionally labile, or you are feeling overly optimistic, grandiose, charitable, attractive, psychotic or whatever else might be part of your mania, then you have to focus on your behavior. Or more specifically to others’ reactions to your behavior.

I realize that gaining some awareness is the first step in being able to reduce your meds, get out and make new friends, do volunteer work or maybe even get job training, and eventually even stop hating yourself and your bipolar disorder. In a way, allowing yourself to be competent and independent is like sawing off the branch you’re sitting on if your continued access to medical care requires that you be sick enough to qualify for it.

Can you imagine being paid to stay sick?


Majnoon or Jinn?

April 8, 2008

Today I learned that the Arabic word for mental illness has the same etymology as the Arabic word for evil spirits. This has an unfortunate effect on how the mentally ill are perceived in the Middle East.

Language is an odd thing. It enables you to express your innermost thoughts and feelings. BUT it almost guarantees that the thoughts and feelings you express have been totally shaped by the language itself. In the words of comedian Lenny Bruce,

“Believe me, I’m not profound, this is something that I assume someone must have laid on me, because I do not have an original thought. I am screwed. I speak English. That’s it. I was not born in a vacuum. Every thought I have belongs to somebody else.”
— Lenny Bruce, quoted on Rakes Progress: Lenny Bruce is not afraid

So what’s happening is that as long as the doctors use that old-fashioned word to describe mental illness, demon-possessed the mentally ill will remain.

Arabs don’t have a monopoly on superstition though. The following TinyUrl will take you to a google search for “mental illness exorcism.”
http://tinyurl.com/5gwe4p