On The Daily Circuit Thursday, we're talking about brains. We've got three pieces of new research looking at how the brain works and how it changes due to life events.
STRESS ON THE BRAIN
A recent study from Yale University shows stress is affecting our health even more drastically than once imagined. Researchers have found that the hormones released during stress cause our brain to shrink.
According to Yale News:
The team conducted magnetic resonance imaging scans of 103 healthy subjects who had been interviewed about traumatic stress and adverse life events, such as the death of a loved one, loss of a home to natural disaster, job loss or divorce. They found that even the brains of subjects who had only recently experienced a stressful life event showed markedly lower gray matter in portions of the medial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that regulates not only emotions and self-control, but physiological functions such as blood pressure and glucose levels.
Dr. Apostolos Georgopoulos, director of the University of Minnesota's VA Brain Science Center, explains that we now know that the brain is constantly changing in size and that a smaller brain may not actually be a bad thing.
Scientists have long known that bees work collectively, but they've just now discovered that every decision in the hive requires a long debate between all the members of the colony - a debate that involves dozens of bees headbutting one another until they reach a consensus.
Even more surprising is that scientists now know our brains work in a similar fashion -shutting down hundreds of possibilities every time we make a decision.
Jason Castro of Scientific American said there is a deep parallel between our brains and bee hives.
"Like a beehive, the brain is made of many different sections," he said. "Each section of the brain represents different kinds of decisions and motives and they work to inhibit one another to come to a final decision. It's universal in any kind of decision making system; there are a lot of elements in play."
Castro joins The Daily Circuit to explain how our hive mind works, and how this explains our decision making process.
Scientists have recently discovered that parts of our DNA -- long thought to be permanently in place -- jump around in our brain, turning on previously dormant genes and triggering new traits and behaviors even in closely related individuals. These jumping genes can help us adapt to new situations, but the randomness of the movement can also have unintended negative side effects.
The findings were published in a Scientific American article last month. Gary Stix, senior editor at Scientific American, said jumping genes occur all the time, primarily in the womb.
"What this paper in Scientific American points out is that we now know it's happening in adults as well - that differentiation allows adaptation to occur over time, even as we age," he said. "What could happen with twins, for instance, is that from a genetic standpoint twins are almost genetically similar, but if they get into different environments that may cause a particular gene to be expressed for one twin and not another."
Stix will join The Daily Circuit to discuss the findings.
Kerri's first guest Apostolos P. Georgopoulos, M.D., Ph.D.
Big life events, like the death of a spouse, do not change the structure of your brain over time.
Gary Wenk, professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at The Ohio State University discusses what happens to our brains as we age. Low doses of marijuana seem to stimulate the brain in positive ways. Coffee acts as another stimulant that is proving helpful and these are some of the best methods to slow down the aging process.
More gray matter is not necessarily better. - Georgopoulos
So, was all that talk about killing off brain cells by drinking or whatever other bad choice was not such a big deal? Putting away the green tea and getting out the gin...
Caller asks about stress from 9/11, Fukushima, etc.
Georgopoulos - They alter the network, they traumatize people and lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. There are tremendous changes to the brain.
Kerri - Are the brains of children particularly vulnerable?
Georgopoulos - They are more sensitive but they are more easy to heal and more easy to adapt.
Brain scans of people with PTSD.
Moving on to the next guest and hive minds.
A retrospective meta-analysis suggests that LSD may aid in the treatment of alcoholism.
I'm a doctoral candidate at UST conducting research about stress in the workplace measuring physical, emotional, and energetic impact of stress intervention techniques using GDV measurements. Thank you for this topic on TCPR - very important topic.
Guest Jason Castro (he is not the American Idol semi-finalist).
A life changing book on the affect of stress on a developing baby's brain in utero and the long term implications is Scattered by Gabor Mate (pronounced Ma-tay)
Bees head butt one another when negotiating where to locate a hive.
"It is a vert slow, deliberative process." Jason Castro on how bees make decisions on where to locate a hive.
So how does that link to humans brains?
The hive in our heads is made up of individual neurons.
Does this apply to all decisions we make? asks Tom.
So in the case of an alarm clock going off. One set of neurons says 'get up." Another set says "stay in bed." Your neurons duke it out by accumulating votes for either side. The mechanism is comparable to bee behavior.
Different groups of cells (neurons) are inhibiting each other just like the bees inhibit one another.
The Hive Mind (or Gaian mind) is what we're calling the entheogenic experience. It's an experience of the living fact of the entelechy of the planet - and without that experience we wander in a desert of bogus ideologies.
But with that experience the compass of the self can be set. The gaian mind is the spiritual connection of the earth to nature. All living things share this connection. At this very moment, nature is calling out to you but you can not hear it. Nature is sending you a feeling but you can not feel it. Entheogens dissolve this boundary. Nature wants you to feel this connection and be a good steward of your environment. This feeling may make you feel as though you are going to save the earth. Entheogenic voyages can go in many different directions. Encountering the gaian mind is a very unique and paradoxically common experience.
One caller points out that our guest, Jason Castro, sounds like David Brooks.
Bee painter - that sounds like a stressful job.
Janie - Do they bees have instant run-off voting? When there are multiple options how do bees determine which are viable?
Jason Castro - This study looked at the case of 2 bees. But in the wild, there will be multiple choices. The waggle dance will help eliminate even more than 2 choices.
Does this system seem to yield good choices for bees? Did they check to see if they picked good hives based on their head butting?
Jason Castro - Even though we feel like we are steering a straight path, we are constantly making decisions on what we should be doing and shouldn't be doing.
There has been much research on the effects of trauma and stress on the development of a child's brain, in utero and after birth.
Please, please, do another segment with a neuroscientist who can discuss this knowledgeably, e.g., Dr. Bruce Perry, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Allan Schore, Dr. Daniel Siegel.
This is an area of great interest to parents parenting adopted or otherwise traumatized children and who are seeking and implementing therapies to mitigate the imperfect development and integration of the brain.
Please look at the website for A Chance to Grow here in Mpls. www.actg.org for information about some of these therapies. This week there are free presentations about Neurological Reorganization and demonstrations of neurofeedback and audio-visual entrainment.
Now jumping genes.
So one conservative neurosurgeon says to the other, "Didja hear why liberals have to work so much harder to win at politics?"
"Why, no, I haven't," says the other conservative neurosurgeon.
"Ha! It's because they have to compensate for having smaller amygdalae!" And they both laugh heartily as they stroll down the hospital corridor.
Scientists have recently discovered that parts of our DNA - long thought to be permanently in place - jump around in our brain, turning on previously dormant genes and triggering new traits and behaviors even in closely related individuals.
These jumping genes can help us adapt to new situations, but the randomness of the movement can also have unintended negative side effects.
Scientists at University College London found that "people with conservative views have brains with larger amygdalas, almond shaped areas in the centre of the brain often associated with anxiety and emotions. On the other hand, they have a smaller anterior cingulate, an area at the front of the brain associated with courage and looking on the bright side of life."
Guest Gary Stix: Evolution selects for fitness. So the ability to allow neurons to function better...react more quickly....the ability to adapt is something that may have been preserved for this process of jumping genes.
There are more of these jumping events that occur and allow a brain to adapt to a (new) situation. It seems to provide a benefit during a time of stress.
In the neuron there is a full complement of DNA. And there is a copy and pasting process...a long segment of DNA gets copied and pasted. It happens randomly but happens often enough. It may insert itself into a gene. It may turn on a protein.
The takeaway from Brain Awareness Week for me so far is that everything I thought I knew about the brain is wrong.
The changes made by jumping genes can be positive or negative.
Kerri - this could affect pschiatric problems.
Stix - Yhis problem is random. You are turning on genes all over the place. It can turn on a gene that turns on a circuit that affects the overall functioning of the brain.
Jumping genes may be associated with autism or schizophrenia.
More about autism and jumping genes.
There is a whole set of research based on twins studies. The jumping genes change identical twins' brains in the womb. indentical twins are not identical. - Stix
Jumping? Random? Hmmm...
The neurogenetic circuit kicks into action (seemingly random) when the nervous system begins to receive signals from WITHIN THE INDIVIDUAL NEURON, from the DNA-RNA dialogue. The first to achieve this mutation spoke of "memories of past lives," "reincarnation," "immortality," etc. That these adepts were recording something real is indicated by the fact that many of them (especially Hindu and Sufis) gave marvelously accurately poetic vistas of evolution 1,000 or 2,000 years before Darwin, and foresaw Superhumanity before Nietzsche.
The "akashic records" of Theosophy, the "collective unconscious" of Jung, the "phylogenetic unconscious" of Grof and Ring, are three modern metaphors for this circuit. The visions of past and future evolution described by those who have had "out-of-body" experiences during close-to-death episodes also describes the trans-time neurogenetic circuit tunnel-reality.
Specific exercises to trigger the neurogenetic circuit are not to be found in yogic teaching; it usually happens, if at all, after several years of the kind of advanced rajah yoga that develops circuit VI facility.
The neurogenetic circuit is best considered, in terms of 1977 science, as the genetic archives, activated by anti-histone proteins. The DNA memory coiling back to the dawn of life. A sense of the inevitability of immortality and interspecies symbiosis comes to all neurogenetic circuit mutants; we now see that this, also, is an evolutionary forecast, since WE STAND RIGHT NOW ON THE DOOR-STEP OF EXTENDED LONGEVITY LEADING TO IMMORTALITY.
The exact role of the right-lobe circuits and the reason for their activation in the 1960s cultural revolution now becomes clear. As sociologist F.M. Esfandiary writes in UPWINGERS, "Today when we speak of immortality and of going to another world we no longer mean these in a theological or metaphysical sense. People are now traveling to other worlds. People are now striving for immortality. Transcendence is no longer a metaphysical concept. It has become reality."
The evolutionary function of the seventh circuit and its evolutionary, aeon-spanning tunnel-reality is to prepare us for conscious immortality and interspecies symbiosis.
Amygdalae play a very important (though not crucial) role in the processing of emotions, particularly that of fear. In fact, a smaller amygdala volume tends to be associated with decreased fearfulness and enlarged amygdala volume with increased fearfulness. The study shows that there is a direct relationship between amygdala volume and fearfulness in healthy girls, which is particularly robust in girls who have direct family members who suffered from depression.