The Connection Between Brain Function, Behavior, And Your Emotions

There are three parts of the human brain, referred to as the "triune brain." Paul D.MacLean, an early research director for the National Institute of Mental Health, postulated the Triune Brain Theory. It states that the human brain is a product of three stages of evolution and is actually three separate brains that have evolved into one brain over long periods of time.

Three Parts

The first section [the lowest portion of the brain] is comprised of the top part of the spinal cord, the medulla oblongata, the pons, and the cerebellum. MacClean calls this “the reptilian brain.” As he stated, “at its base [the human brain] was a variation in the elaboration of the reptilian brain."

The limbic system [located in the mid-portion of the brain] states MacClean, "was an elaboration of the new mammalian brain from the Jurassic period". He termed it the "mid-brain" or the neo-mammalian brain (new mammal).

The upper most and largest part of the human brain, the cerebral cortex, encompasses our logic centers, our "intellect." MacClean termed this portion "the neo-cortex" (new cortex).

Fundamental Behavior

The Reptilian or "vegetable brain" [recall the autonomic nervous system functions], is fundamentally concerned with homeostasis, which is involved in regulating all of the body functions that allow each of us to be human, get up every day, and live our lives. If you do not have a well-functioning lower brain, if you have a tumor, if you have a trauma, if you’re in an accident, if something happens to your brainstem, you may no longer have the capacity to control the day to day homeostatic functions to maintain your life.

Interpreting Information

Embedded inside the Limbic System is a structure identified as the Reticular Activating System, which has pathways as well as neurons traveling throughout the lower brain, up through the medulla oblongata, across the Limbic System, and into the Neo-Cortex or the "thinking brain".

The Limbic System and Reticular Activating System interpret sensory motor messages that are "incoming" from the person's environment. It is in this portion of the brain that we not only interpret the "incoming stimuli and information," but we also select methods for survival and adaptation.

Here is where it gets exciting to put the anatomy and physiology of brain function and the psychology of personality together!

Putting It All Together To Survive

We know the neo-cortex is our thinking, intellectual brain – our "smart brain" – and most of us know individuals who are brilliant academically or intellectually yet they are emotionally dysfunctional in the extreme. Our thinking brain would presume that being "smart" or intellectually capable would exercise dominion over one's emotions, however, the missing piece of information here is that our emotions actually are a survival adaptation mechanism that each of us individually develops as we process our early environment and social conditioning. Nothing is more powerful in the human being than its drive to survive! Hence, our emotions win the day in the battle between thinking and feeling.

It is critically important for each of us to understand that our emotions represent how we learned to adapt in our surroundings and environment, especially during the first 0-5 years of our development. Our familial "input" taught us, as did Pavlov with his dogs, how to respond to the stimuli we received as infants and toddlers.

Your Brain And Relationships

This embedded neurological conditioning is not overcome by the thought process, as the thought process for humans is the "newest" component to our primordial brain. It is in the adaptive portion of our brain where we form our "personality" and where we become conditioned to create and interact within relationships.

When we understand the possibility that the interpersonal issues that frustrate us may come not from "being difficult" or having "bad intent" but rather from our drive to survive and our interpretation of the stimulation and environment we were conditioned by, then we can begin to be "kinder and gentler" towards ourselves and others.

In summary, our emotions are the way we learn to live and survive in our world. We cannot "think them" into changing, but we can step back and appreciate the service and challenge they offer us in our daily lives.

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Tylenol for a Broken Heart?

Here is a very interesting bit of research. Although I have shared this information on a national blog I write for, the information was so interesting that I wanted to share it again, here with you.

Last year there was a study conducted at the University of Kentucky, College of Arts and Sciences, that was examining the connection and possible overlap between physical pain and emotional pain. This particular study had 62 participants who were filling out the “Hurt Feeling Scale”, a self-assessment tool which measures an individual’s reaction to distressing experiences. In addition, the study was using doses of the active ingredient in Tylenol, acetaminophen, as art of its protocol. 

The researchers separated the study volunteers into two groups. The first group, after filling out their self-assessment tools, were given 1,000 mg of the acetaminophen. This is a dose that is equal to one Extra Strength Tylenol. The control group however, received a placebo  instead of the acetaminophen.

The finding from this study showed that the control group without the acetaminphen, after three weeks, did not experience any change in the amount of intensity of "hurt" feeling during the three week period. However, the group that did receive the active ingredient reported a noticeable reduction of "hurt" feelings on a regular, day-today basis.

The outcomes were so interesting that the researchers started a second study cohort group of 25 different volunteers, but this time upped the amount of acetaminophen to 2,000 mg daily and added computer games that were designed to create social rejection and a feeling of isolation in the participants. Also new to the study was MRI scanning which were able to identify when the participants had feelings of social rejection occur.

Now here is the "gold" of this research – the outcomes demonstrated that the area of the brain where emotional discomfort is felt is the same location that the physical pain is experienced in. This would explain why the group that was taking the acetaminophen, while having not physical pain, reported less feelings of hurt and rejection than the group that was not taking the acetaminophen but rather a placebo substance.

Geoff MacDonald, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto who is an expert in romantic relationships, co-authored this study. MacDonald states that our brain pain centers cannot tell the difference between physical pain and emotional pain.
So, while Tylenol is not recommended to be used routinely as it can lead to liver and digestive system disturbances, knowing that it can take away the pain of a broken heart, it may soon be that our therapists as well as our physicians will recommendation that we “take two Tylenol and call me in the morning” for heartache as well as for headache!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/227298.php http://web.psych.utoronto.ca/gmacdonald/Research%20Interests.html

With all good wishes,
Georgianna

Copyright 2011, G. Donadio All Rights Reserved

Infertility and Stress

When a couple desires to have a child together and they are unable to conceive, it can be a time of great stress and upset for both partners. The inability to conceive, and the resulting longing that accompanies it, can be one of the most painful and difficult things a couple can experience together.

A number of years ago, in the New England Journal of Medicine, an article appeared that caught my eye because at that time there were a significant number or couples in my practice who were experiencing infertility. The article stated that often, regardless of the advances in medical technology and the various in-vitro methods available, a woman will ony become pregnant when her body is ready to carry a conception to term.

This wisely suggests that there are a number of reasons a woman may not conceive when she wishes to; and that the body’s innate intelligence knows when the best time and condition for a successful conception and birth of her baby is. The article also went on to say that stress is the number one reason women do not conceive when they wish to.

This is well demonstrated with women who adopt a baby when they cannot conceive, settle into motherhood, only to find that they are pregnant – something they or their doctors did not think would happen. The discussion of why women, in other cultures, become pregnant more easily that women in the US always leads back to our lifestyle and the abundance of stressful living we have in the US.

How does stress actually cause infertility? Here are the facts –

1. When we become stressed for periods of time, our body must make more cortisol, an adrenal hormone that deals with stress adaptation.

2. To provide this additional cortisol, the body diverts the production of sex hormones into the production of cortisol. This reduces fertility. Under stress, sex and reproduction is the first thing the body ignores.

3. Excess levels of cortisol interfere with oxytocin, the hormone required for fertile egg implantation in a woman’s uterus lining.

4. Excess stress over time suppresses the immune function as well as interferes with healthy digestive function that can lead to malnutrition.

If you or someone you know wants to conceive and is having a difficult time, they may greatly benefit from becoming familiar with this information and finding ways to decrease their anxiety about becoming pregnant, or reduce their lifestyle that may be causing high levels of physical stress.

With all good wishes,
Georgianna

Copyright 2011 G. Donadio

Men, Women and Apologies

For most of us it does not come as a surprise that men and women really do think, behave and are in many fundamental ways different from one another. We also know that hormones play a large role in these differences.

Now science is beginning to unravel the specifics on how males and female brains function in large part because of male and female hormones which craft our brain development and orient our behaviors.

Two new studies look at the brain function of men and women and offer some interesting observations regarding the subject. One study is from the University of California in collaboration with the University of New Mexico, led by researcher Richard Haier, a psychology professor at the University of California.

The findings of their study shows that generally men have 6.5 times the amount of gray matter relating to general intelligence compared with women. Women on the other hand have nearly 10 times the amount of white matter related to intelligence compared to men.

“These findings suggest that human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behavior,” said Haier. But apparently these types of intelligent behaviors manifest differently.

Women apologize more often than men do, according to a new study led by researcher Karina Schumann, a doctoral student in social psychology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. It’ appears it not that men are reluctant to admit wrongdoing, they simply have a different perception regarding what they feel rises to the level of requiring an apology.

The research team saw no difference in the number of times men and women acted in ways that elicited apologies, but there was a distinct difference in the male and female perception of what constituted a situation that requires an apology.

“Men aren’t actively resisting apologizing because they think it will make them appear weak or because they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions,” says Schumann. “It seems to be that when they think they’ve done something wrong they [men] do apologize just as frequently as when women think they’ve done something wrong. It’s just that they think they’ve done fewer things wrong.”

“Ladies” – did we really need research to confirm this?

With all good wishes,
G

Copyright 2011 G. Donadio

More than Skin Deep

Any teenager can attest to how distressing a face full of acne is.  Clear, unblemished skin is universally the number one and most important feature in attracting others. This basic law of attraction is because our skin is the largest component to our immune system – and healthy skin reflects a healthy body, which is required for reproducing.

In the US, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent yearly on acne and blemish remedies and cover-ups. Our skin’s appearance is tied to our sex appeal and for most people being attractive to others is important. 

In the 30 years I have been practicing Whole Health nutrition, working with young adolescents to clear up their skin problems and facilitate their sense of self-esteem and well-being, is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my practice. Educating teenagers about where and why acne develops provides them with the ability to make choices that can change the course of their outbreaks.

It all starts with androgens, which are reproductive hormones secreted into the blood stream by the productive organs and our stress adaptation system – our adrenal glands.  Androgens are potent “chemicals” that our liver must deal with by reducing their potency.

The liver detoxifies the blood and when dealing with androgens, the liver produces blood plasma proteins which bind up and inactivate the majority of androgens, so that only a small percent of androgens are free to enter our cells.

During adolescence, the body is going through a huge hormonal change and all parts of the body needs time to adjust to and regulate hormone secretions. Because of the complex functions of hormones,  a young body can become physically and even psychologically overwhelmed by the effect of androgens on the body functions and the brain.

How acne develops is when the androgens enter the cells, a specific enzyme converts the presenting androgens and makes them more active. The active androgens enter the nucleus of the cell and interacts with genetic material. This can lead to highly stimulated oil glands, and it is these highly stimulated oil glands that lead to the formation of acne.

Thee are several factors that determine the degree and amount of acne:

a) amount of androgens entering the cells 

b) how well the liver controls the active androgens

c) the person’s nutrition and liver function

d) the amount of waste and/or toxins being re-absorbed into the liver from the bowel environment and – THIS IS THE KEY –

e) the amount of exercise the adolescent is doing that will utilize the androgens to build and create muscle tissue (rather than acne), thus reducing the amount of androgen that might be absorbed into the cells.

Especially in young males, but this applies to females as well, the fastest and easiest way to clear up adolescent acne, is have the person EXERCISE vigorously. Through the use of androgens by the body to build muscle rather than be available to interact with genetic material in the cell, rather quickly the androgens are re-directed to enhance strength and development rather than creating skin problems. The young patients and their parents think its a miracle, but its actually simple biochemistry.

In addition, healthy eating of lots of vegetables and fruits to keep the bowel clean, drinking plenty of water, skin hygiene and proper amounts of sleep, all help the liver, bowel and adrenals to function properly, which supports an overall healthy body with resultant glowing, attractive skin. 

The expression “it’s more than skin deep” clearly applies to acne and skin blemishes. You may want to share this information with someone having acne issues because if they use it – they will see a difference. 

With all good wishes,
G

Copyright 2011 G. Donadio All Rights Reserved

Alternative for Dealing with Seasonal Allergies


One of the most important aspects of being able to address a health issue you may have is to understand the cause and effect of how and why you are experiencing your symptoms and what they represent.

Seasonal allergies are for many the down side to the beauty of spring and summer. Itchy, runny eyes and nose, sneezing, coughing, and even wheezing can dictate an individual’s activity choices, where they can go and even what they can eat. None of this is desirable and much of it has been shown to be preventable.

To understand how you can take control of your seasonal allergies, let’s explore where they come from. When foreign proteins found in many airborne substances, such as pollen, dust mites and rag weed.

When mucous membranes that come in contact with these foreign proteins are not immunologically competent enough to break down these proteins, the membrane secrete mucous, fluids and histamine. This causes the itching, swelling, irritation and watery excretions that make seasonal allergies so challenging.

To improve allergy symptoms, steroid or steroid like medications, are often prescribed. These are anti-inflammatory chemicals that reduce the allergic immune reaction to the foreign proteins. By building up our immune and adrenal system we can enable our bodies to be better able to handle these allergens, which cause the allergy reactions.

Our adrenals are located either on top of or within the kidneys and produce cortico-steroids and other natural anti-inflammatory as part of our “national guard” system. Hans Selye, MD, PhD, who spent over 50 years researching the adrenals and immune system, discovered the important nutrition and lifestyle components to keeping this important body system working well: 

  • a diet or supplementation rich in B, C, E,  and A vitamins; unsaturated fatty acids, such as fish oils, adequate protein intake and minerals to aid in the production of natural allergy fighting anti-inflammatory.
  • adequate sleep and rest
  • elimination of infections
  • reduction of emotional stress
  • moderate exercise – avoid over exertion
  • avoidance of traumas, dental and medical surgery
  • elimination of extreme temperatures indoors and out

Seyle’s research demonstrated that by taking good care of our adrenal and immune system, allergies may be greatly reduced, and in some cases eliminated.

Our Pets and Our Health

A 2008 survey published by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) shows that one or more pets live in over 57 percent of U.S. households. While it is clear Americans love our pets, is it also a health benefit to care for them? “Pet ownership is good for your health both physically and psychologically,” says Connecticut psychologist Herbert Nieburg, author of “Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children” (HarperCollins).

When asked why people are so attached to their pets they are likely to say its because of the companionship and unconditional love. This may be why research has identified numerous health benefits experienced by pet owners:

  • reduced stress
  • lower blood pressure
  • for heart attack sufferers, pets increase longevity
  • for Alzheimer’s patients pets can increase appetite
  • relax body tension
  • create purpose
  • provide security
  • create opportunity for exercise
  • increase social interaction with other pet owners
  • provides routine and purposeful care of another
  • prevent loneliness

In addition to this long list of benefits from pet ownership, one of the most important psychological benefits is that our animals cause us to focus our attention outside ourselves rather than being overly self-concerned or self-absorbed. By caring for and loving our pets, we become better people, more responsible and caring when we must commit ourselves to their needs and schedules.

Last year pet owners spent 52 billion dollars on dogs and cat alone with billions more spent on horses, birds and farm pets. Our pet can also making up for the sense of alienation many feel living in high population cities and in the intensely competitive culture we have developed over the past 25 years.

If you are thinking about getting pet, read up on the type of pet you are considering, know what their special wants and needs are, and be sure the care commitment is compatible with your lifestyle and schedule. While pets are wonderful to share our lives with, just like with starting a family they require a big commitment both emotionally and financially.

With all good wishes,
Georgianna
Copyright 2011 G. Donadio

A New Year – A New Start

 

“Happy New Year” is a greeting that fills us with anticipation, excitement and hope. The anticipation is for the new beginning we feel as the ball drops and we say good-bye to the past and look forward to the future. Our excitement is for the many possibilities that may lay ahead in the coming year and the hope is for a better 12 months than those that came before.

What are some simple, positive and productive actions we can take in this New Year that will support our optimistic January resolutions?

  • Start with a clean slate – cleaning and organizing your home space is one of the most positive ways to start the New Year. It has been shown in numerous studies that a clean, organized environment provides a sense of relaxation and calm and also helps us to be more productive because we are more organized and this results in a more efficient work or study outcome.
  • Commit to spending less and saving what you don’t spend – by setting a goal of saving a realistic amount of money each month and achieving that goal by spending that much less each month is an empowering and satisfying way to take more control over your finances and reinforce that you can transform your savings/spending patterns without much stress and strain.
  • Eat less processed foods and more living foods – this is not only a healthy resolution but also a cost saving one as well. We as Americans enjoy an abundant lifestyle and have the highest obesity rate in the world to prove it. By focusing on life giving plant based foods, we nourish our bodies and save a lot of money by not buying high priced processed and often non-nourishing “foods”.
  • Identify an organization, charity or cause that you can either provide a small but heartfelt donation or voluteer time to. Participating in meaningful assistance to others is rewarding on many levels and is good for our health as well as our sense of contribution.

Each New Year is an opportunity for a new beginning…and life, it is often said, is a series of new beginnings ~

With all good wishes,
Georgianna

Copyright 2011 G. Donadio All Rights Reserved

Holistic and Organic Holiday Gifts

There are folks today who prefer to receive green, natural and organic gifts over the more commerial, expensive and sometimes electronically complex ones. My family and friends now expect to receive such gifts and are actually disappointed if I don’t deliver.

In case you have a smiliar group of friends and family, here are some nice presents you can give that are not only green, and healthy but are also not expensive.

Natural gifts to consider giving this season:

  • Home baked natural or sprouted flour breads and cookies – the gluten free variety is so popular that baking a tin of delicious non-allergic cookies or cakes will make you someones favorite Santa.
  • Handmade Quilts – talk about one of the best handmade gifts to receive and a quilt is high on the list. Quilts are so popular that they are used for raffles at fundraisers and bring in huge piles of raffle revenue. Most handmade quilts also sell for hundreds if not thousand of dollars.
  • Live herb plants – wonderful for growing on window sills and to use in cooking. Aloe Vera is a great plant to keep on hand for any kinds of burns or skin irritations. Simply break off a leaf and rub the healing liquid from the leaf on the burn or irritation.
  • Teas, Tea Pots and all thing related to this welcomed and health-filled brew – a wide variety of healing, soothing and delicious herb teas, in beautiful gift baskets can be found in health food and general grocery stores in the produce section.
  • Coffee grinders – this is a truly coveted gift for the coffee lover. Add a pound of organic free trade coffee to make it the perfect gift.
  • Herbal Candles – everyone enjoys the glow and aroma of a herbal or aromomatic candle. They are beautiful, healthy and sensual.
  • Natural facial or massage gift certificate – treat that hard working friend or relative to a full body or facila massge. With so many natural herbs and wraps to choose from they will want to make a day of it.
  • Pedometer – this handy device can let the user know just how far they have walked through the course of their day or exercise period to assist them in staying on top of their fitness.
  • Wellness baskets with nuts, dried fruits, tea, honey, dark chocolates, mustard, spices or salsa, fruits, veggies drinks and anything else you can imagine make beautiful and festive gifts as well. 

Giving the gifts of health can be as fulfilling as receiving them, so think outside the box this season and surprise friends and family with these helpful and healthful presents.

With all good wishes,
Georgianna
Copyright 2010 G. Donadio

Narcissism – is it the New Normal?

                                                                                

The subject of Narcissism and its current epidemic in our self-celebrated society is getting plenty of press and finding it way into numerous books.  Drs. Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell wrote in their book, “The Narcissism Epidemic,”:

“Personality does not exist in isolation.  The increase of narcissism in individuals is, we believe, just an outcome of a massive shift in culture toward a greater focus on self-admiration.  Narcissism has spread through the generations”.

A recent article published in the December 19th Huffing ton Post also deserves reading on the subject, so here it is in its entirety.

Narcissism – the New Normal
The Huffington Post
December 19, 2010
by Judith Acosta, LISW, CHT

The other day a patient sent me an email with a link to a New York Times article that reported that the upcoming revision of the psychiatric diagnostic standards manual, the DSM-V, has removed the narcissistic personality disorder from its roster.

She asked me, “Are they crazy?”

I wrote back, “I think so.” Then, I thought, maybe the lunatics really are running the asylum.

“Removed” in this case appears to mean two things: 1) that the syndrome as they have hitherto described it is not, in their opinions, clear enough to be described as a character pathology; and 2) that it will no longer be an acceptable diagnosis for reimbursement. Insurance companies, hospitals, treatment facilities and protocols will no longer recognize it or use it to direct treatment.

Should that give us hope or terrify us? Does that mean narcissism is slowly going the way of the Dodo, or does it mean that it has become so pervasive that it’s no longer thought of as pathological?

My experience personally and professionally has me leaning in the direction of the latter, that it has become so much a part of our culture, particularly our parenting, that narcissistic traits are considered normal — so much so that if we don’t have a reality show named after us, we use our own phones or video up-links to transmit our private lives to anyone from Alaska to Antarctica who will watch.

Our culture, the media-infused air we breathe, has itself become both a breeding ground and a reflecting pool for narcissists.
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Makes you think about how we all got to be so self-centered, doesn’t it?

With all good wishes,
Georgianna