Our Brain and ‘Wireless’ Neural Connections

 

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We use the term wireless to reference cellular communication pathways around the world. Our brains’ neural pathways are similar, including synapses, also known as chemical bridges, for which neural impulses travel. While recently studying sections of brain tissue from the hippocampus of mice, scientists discovered impulses traversing across gaps void of brain tissue or neurotransmitters. Could we possibly have our own natural wireless network in our brains?

Hippocampus

The hippocampus is responsible for memory consolidation and spatial memory. This amazing part of our brain converts short-term memories to  long-term memories. Not only is it responsible for us remembering our home address but also spatial relationships in everyday life. According to researchers, the hippocampus  apparently is working overtime during our sleep.

Slower periodic brain waves occur while we sleep, yet neural connections and rewiring of trillions of nerve cells also take place. This type of brain activity, including wireless connections, were noted in the hippocampus tissue of mice. Is there a possible correlation between slower brain waves and wireless neural connections? Maybe.

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My personal takeaway and food for thought is perhaps we should take a closer look at mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy. I am the most productive when I am relaxed. No wonder I occasionally wake up while sleeping with a fantastic ah-ha moment. How about you?

What if brain scientists are on the verge of discovering the mystery to accessing more of our brain’s processing capabilities, via wireless connections? Just in case, read on for a healthy mind-body exercise.

Mindfulness

Try this mindfulness technique to place yourself in a more relaxed state and slow down your brain waves. Imagine the clutter of today’s stresses as individually labeled envelopes. See yourself categorizing these labeled envelopes into large boxes, labeled as: Facts, Guesses, Judgements, Past Activities, Present Activities, and Possibilities.

Focus on the context of your thoughts and not the content. By categorizing and organizing your thoughts, you can go through your ‘files’ at your leisure. Don’t allow your mind to inundate you with high priority, high stress content. Remember, our brains combine snippets of information that are not necessarily accurate on all accounts. So, “choose wisely.”

Best,

Dr. Doscher

 

 

Top 5 Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)

Picture of a girl covering her face on a dreary cloudy day
Photo by: Alexandre Croussette

The cool crisp air and colorful leaves dancing in the air are welcoming signs of Fall. Yet, our circadian rhythms also recognize this as the beginning of Seasonal Affective Disorder season, which runs through the onset of Spring. Continue reading “Top 5 Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)”

Handwriting Increases Cognition and Coordination

Patient gives thumbs up after wellness checkHandwriting for Brain Health

Start the year off right; focus on improving your mental and physical health, along with occasionally handwriting a note, in cursive or calligraphy. In maintaining our body’s health, our body’s central processing unit (CPU), the brain, is extremely important. Not only does it make conscious and unconscious decisions for you daily but also manipulates incoming and outgoing data.

Therefore, our brains still need neural coaching to remain healthy and active. Like we have heard time and time again, “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” Writing in cursive will do the trick and much better than printing text. Cursive writing requires greater motor skills, eye tracking, concentration, speed, and accuracy. This, in turn, activates areas of the brain, not used when we speak or type messages with our thumbs. Because we collect, process, and retrieve information in snippets, this exercise is especially important.

Handwriting Research

Johns Hopkins University performed a with stroke patients that answered some questions regarding the connection between speaking and writing. The researchers discovered that some of the patients who had trouble writing sentences with correct word endings had no difficulty in speaking the same sentences. In contrast, one patient exhibited no difficulties in handwriting but trouble speaking.Picture of handwriting

The handwriting difficulties  were with word endings, such as -er, ing, and -s (for plurals). The patients used incorrect word endings when writing the same sentences, they spoke without difficulties.

Write Me

Remember, our brains are hunter-gatherers of information and retrieved memories are also snippets that must be pieced back together. So much processing is needed, hence lightening speed neural connections, so what better reason to stay healthy and keep exercising your brains! Send me a handwritten note, PO Box 486, 62864, I would love to read your “cursive” thoughts!

Wishing you much health and happiness,

Michelle Doscher, Ph.D.

What’s in a D.O.S.E. of Happiness?

Happiness is emotional and physical. Knowing how to hack into the happiness zone may save relationships and your sanity! Knowing how to encourage your body to release these four powerful neurochemicals is key. For easy memory retrieval, use the acronym (DOSE) Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, & Endorphins.

Dopamine motivates you and gives you that boost of pleasure when goals are met. When your body is lacking in dopamine, you tend to procrastinate more and lack enthusiasm about life in general. Self-doubt kicks in and your confidence levels bottom out.

The best way to keep a steady flow of dopamine in your bloodstream is to set daily mini-goals and celebrate each accomplishment. Just a “woohoo” is not celebrating; do something fun; splurge. It may be as small as eating your favorite candy bar or as significant as planning a vacation.

Either way, what goes up, must come down. Ouch, sorry for the downer. However, you can avoid these dopamine hangovers by creating new goals before achieving existing goals.

Oxytocin is released by the posterior pituitary gland (located behind your nose near the underside of your brain) when the hypothalamus, which controls the body’s emotional responses, is excited. Oxytocin encourages a feeling of intimacy, trust, and fidelity. No wonder it is referred to as the “relationship” hormone.

­Serotonin flows through your body when you feel significant or important. Everybody wants to feel needed at one time or another. Without these feelings, loneliness and depression rear their ugly heads.

Did you know that just 20 minutes a day of sunshine will promote vitamin D and serotonin production? Take a lunch break or coffee break outside when possible. Too much U.V. rays can be harmful, so wear a light sunscreen.

Since our brain cannot distinguish fact from fiction, reflect on past achievements and re-live positive experiences. This will trick your brain into producing a dose of serotonin.

Endorphins was a term coined from endogenous (created within the body) + morphine (pain reliever). Endorphins are released in response to pain or stress, and they help alleviate anxiety and depression. Endorphins stimulate the opioid receptors in our brain to act as an analgesic and sedative.

To keep these neurochemicals flowing, consider a daily dose of laughter, or at least the thought or anticipation of laughter. If you are more of a sensory-perception person, keep some dark chocolate nearby or the number for a restaurant serving spicy food. Aromatherapy has also been linked to endorphins production. Lavender and vanilla seem to be the favorites. Looks like our ancestors did their research; many flower gardens and talcum powders contained lavender, and vanilla was a culinary necessity and preferred perfume scent.

A little D.O.S.E. of happiness is as simple as sharing a positive attitude, along with reflecting and planning worthwhile and rewarding tasks. Have a happy day!

~ Dr. Doscher

Profanity is Mindless

That’s right. Curse words are not processed in the same area of the brain as other language. Speaking requires language processing of units of sound, whereas curse words are stored as whole data chunks. Cussing requires less mental processing, and is primarily a function of the amygdala, a part of the brain’s limbic system which processes negative emotions.

The limbic system is in the center depths of the brain and composed of several organs responsible for memory and processing of emotions and behaviors. This area is also responsible for vocalizations in primates and animals. Yep, even animals use profanity, or at least it sounds like it!

Piecing the smallest units of sound (phonemes) together is slower and occurs in the cerebral cortex. This area of higher functioning is home to our abilities to reason and write, in addition to speaking. The formation of non-curse words seems to take longer and involves less spontaneous emotion. The formation of words is not only based on literal meanings but also feelings and emotions the words evoke. Since adult speech perception is somewhat automatic, words with strong negative connotations are easily retrieved and spoken almost spontaneously

Here are a few questions I’ve been asked recently: Why does profanity seem to slip out when our emotions are negative and spontaneous? Why is it so hard to complete a sentence when I’m angry or frustrated?

Since the amygdala is correlated with negative emotional associations; stimulating the amygdala can cause panic attacks and aggressive behaviors, while destroying the amygdala causes unusual calmness or fearlessness. Therefore, it makes sense that the amygdala would be activated in association with unpleasant words such as swear words.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies indicate verbal working memory tasks’ performances increase during positive emotional states but decrease during negative emotional states. Aha! “That’s why we can’t remember ‘sh_t’ when we are upset and frustrated.”

~ Dr. Doscher