Archive for September, 2008

Use your brain to over-ride the pattern of “shock, fear and dread” in 2008

September 23, 2008

The Platform: The State of U.S. Affairs, 2008

The Twitter: Shock, Fear and Dread in the U.S. (and abroad)

The Big Idea: There are no hopeless situations; only those who grow hopeless about them (George Greenstein, M.D., 1920-2005)

I’ve been receiving emails (and have sent a few myself) regarding the “shock” and “dread” from which people are reeling in light of the bail out crisis and media popularization of the Palin effect. So please allow me today to use this blog to address the neuroscience of “fear” and offer ways to change the neural setting in our brain to recognize the signals of creative problem-solving and hope.

There is no mistake that Barack Obama uses the term Hope, and more precisely, “the audacity of hope” in his attempt to reconnect American citizens to the core principles that shape a vibrant democracy, a politically and economically solvent society.

Obama’s cunning rhetorical move highlights the path of resistance to the Bush/Cheney SHOCK DOCTRINE that has waylaid many voices of contest and innovation, especially over the last eight years. What is the Shock Doctrine? Here I am drawing your attention to Naomi Klein’s THE SHOCK DOCTRINE: THE RISE OF DISASTER CAPITALISM, a thick, powerful study of the methods of shock used by students of Milton Friedman (e.g. Dick Cheney) to exploit the psychological and economic circumstances of crises and disasters.

My point is not to unpack Klein’s argument but to indicate a human and cultural pattern of response that we learn from reading Klein: When disaster strikes, shock takes over all body responses — breathing contracts, sweating begins, rational thinking becomes confused… for many, reason exits quickly out the door! An old and trust-worthy mammalian pattern has just set in: FEAR! For those who wish to take advantage, fear offers ideal conditions for exploitation. (Consider the logic: Fear responds to help.)

Turning to neuroscientists, we learn more about the neural conditions that create and perpetuate fear: Writing for Newsweek (Sept 15, 08) Dr. Michael Craig Miller, explains:

“Two deep brain structures called the amygdalae manage the important task of learning and remembering what you should be afraid of.”

The amygdalae, it appears, function like good mental health turbo-networkers, rapidly collecting info that mobilizes the brain/body forces: heart rate, blood pressure, the capacity to reason. The two little clusters of neural networking also interface and connect with networks generating MEMORY.

“The fear system is extraordinarily efficient. It is so efficient that you don’t need to consciously register what is happening for the brain to kick off a response. If a car swerves into your lane of traffic, you will feel the fear before you understand it. Signals travel between the amygdala and your crisis system before the visual part of your brain has a chance to “see.” Organisms with slower responses probably did not get the opportunity to pass their genetic material along.”

Now the important paragraph that points to the generating pattern of collective shock and hysteria:

“Fear is contagious because the amygdala helps people not only recognize fear in the faces of others, but also to automatically scan for it. People or animals with damage to the amygdala lose these skills. Not only is the world more dangerous for them, the texture of life is ironed out; the world seems less compelling to them because their “excitement” anatomy is impaired.” (my emphasis)

Miller’s clarifying essay is just one of many to come down the pike, pointing out the DRAMATIC neuro consequences of being shocked by economic fallout and horrified of the short and long range possibilities of McCain/Palin in office.

So let’s connect the dots and do our simple brain math:

Frying in our own rage and gripped by the mighty handles of fear, our culture, our bodies, our speech, our minds entrain our brains into the rituals of fear: Fight or Flight.

Yet we are not mere mammals. Thanks to our highly evolved brain and thus the scientists, monks, somatic therapists who use their refined aptitude and skills to understand the brain/mind/body connection, we have learned a very important neural lesson that has large historical ramifications:

Fear is a response in the brain/body/mind. Change the brain and we change our body, our mind! Change our mind, our body and we change our brain!

To that end, and in service of offering a slice of whole-brain, somatic sanity to those hungering for a more judicious and delicious cultural pie, the following SpaceSuit Yoga tips for transforming Fear into Calm, Dread into Hope:

1) Practice a BIG IDEA: There are no hopeless situations, only those who grow hopeless about them.

2) Changing our brain begins with changing our breath.

Breath, after all, is the beginning and end of all human life.

To address a pattern of fear that has paralyzed one’s embodied brain and mind, go back to a daily practice of conscious, contemplative breathing. This blogsite offers tips on how to engage a simple practice of easy restorative breathing practices. (See the parent GGI website for links to other helpful meditation sites.

3) Breathing supports Initiation (Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen): To start any activity in your day, remember to notice what breathing actually feels like, what parts of the body are moved or involved in the process of breathing. Sturdy Breath enables A Sturdy Mind.

4) Mental Practice. With a calm and sturdy body/brain/mind, use your powers of Mental Practice to imagine a liberated landscape, a liberated body, an open space of movement and possibility. Picture hope, picture success.

"Sunny Sideways with Oxygen," work by the U.S. artist Terri Friedman, www.terrifriedman.com

“Sunny Sideways with Oxygen,” work by U.S. artist Terri Friedman, http://www.terrifriedman.com

For the “how to’s” and the “go to’s” for stress reduction, breathing meditation and mental practice, please leave a comment or contact me by way of the GGI contact link.

May the Breath Be with you through this trying times!

Dr. G.

P.S. Check out the following sites that address or infer the neuro effects on the 2008 election:

1) http://dir.salon.com/topics/robert_burton/

2) google Newsweek and and search for Michael Craig Miller’s Newsweek essay noted above, entitled Sad Brain, Happy Brain) or go to http://samharris.org and search for the Miller piece.

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Hemisphere Haven: Jill Bolte Taylor on Oprah postponed

September 21, 2008

Quick Notice of Schedule change:

I just received word from Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, noting her taped interview on the upcoming Sept 23 Oprah show is being postponed. No future date has been given.

As soon as I have word, I will be sure to share the updated news with all you somanauts!

In the meantime, it’s reassuring to know that Dr. Taylor’s message has traveled wide and far as MY STROKE OF INSIGHT has been translated into 20 different languages! This is really important as translation brings to greater public awareness, the role contemporary neuroscience, and a personal commitment to healing plays in turning a tragedy into an inspiring story that uplifts and transforms other people’s lives.

Great week ahead! Stay Whole-Brained, Stay Hydrated and remember to Breath!

Dr. G.

P.S. Those interested in personal or corporate training in whole-brain health or neuro-leadership practices, please leave a comment or contact me through The George Greenstein Institute link (in the right hand column of this blog.

Neuro Neuro On the Wall: How do I change my brain?

September 18, 2008

The Platform:  Anti-Aging Programs for the Brain

The Twitter:    Pssst: Fluid Movement Rocks!  (Indeed!)

The Big Idea:   Movement changes the our brain and the brain changes our movement!

In this year of the brain, the term “neuro”  has now entered the lexicon of leadership training, conflict resolution training, literacy training, the aesthetic education of musicians, visual artists and designers and as I have mentioned in this blog, the performance training of Olympic athletes. No longer curtailed to the hinterlands of scientific research or the once culturally detached province of brain-injury, the message of “neuro”, especially, “neuro-plasticity” is making its way through all dimensions of global urban life.

 

 As I have noted on this site, the news of neuro-plasticity brings with it messages galore of how to update and change our brains. A casual survey of brain fitness programs reveals a trend:  Exercise and Nutrition change the body and the embodied brain! 

Now in the case of anti-aging advice, the brain/exercise connection is particularly dominant: Notice the examples that are given: aerobic exercise (for endurance and blood flow) and weight training (for balance and muscle strength).  

But let’s put the neuro-mirror on the wall and connect the dots: What neuro-kinesthetic image of movement is being fed to the anti-aging public?  A bouncing, muscle building body — one that ignores the change in joint fluids and over all sensory awareness of moving in space.  One that ignores the neurally encoded body map and cognitive possibilities of expanding one’s range of movement!

bodiesinspace.com along with other sites dedicated to brain health and wellness have noted the need to debunk the myths of the unchanging brain.   If exercise is going to be put forward as one of the ways to increase healthy brain tissue, I would encourage a rethinking of anti-aging and other brain fitness programs:  Speak to the advantages of using fluid movement to increase joint and neuro-muscular tonicity and balance.

What is fluid movement?  Think Tai Chi, Picture Belly Dancing, Imagine yourself on your “board” or floating on your back rocked by the waves of the ocean.

  

Fluid movement emphasizes curvilinear, serpentine or floating patterns in space.

Fluid movements “juice up” (i.e., lubricate) the joints — neck, spine, elbow, wrists, hip, knees and ankles.

Fluid movements stimulate the right brain, emphasizing spatial awareness.

Fluid movements make contact with the oldest, “pre-spinal” remnants of our bipedal evolution.  

Fluid Movement, in other words, invites the brain to learn and recognize another aesthetic pattern of movement…. another pattern that allows us to adapt to and enjoy the world.

SpaceSuit Yoga Tip 1:   Take a moment to observe things that move in a fluid manner.   Now imagine yourself moving in the same way.   

SpaceSuit Yoga Tip 2:  Noted Somatic Pioneers of Fluid Movement:  Emilie Conrad, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Gabrielle Roth

SpaceSuit Yoga Tip 3:  Check out the National Institute of Health, Alternative Medicine Research site for verifiable studies on the physiological effects of Tai Chi 

http://health.nih.gov/topic/AlternativeMedicine   (enter Tai Chi into the search area and click on the PDF)

So Connect the Dots:  Fluid Bodies, Fluid Brains!

From the rolling shores of the great Pacific — May the Breath Be With  You!

Dr. G.

Beyond Frankenstein: Breaking News on Neural Stimulation

September 13, 2008

The Platform:  www.physorg.com

The Twitter: Neural Stimulation rocks the Brain!

The Big Idea:  Brain Stimulation Therapy pinpoints and stimulates change in areas of the brain damaged by disease and injury.

 

 

 

Remember the brain stim scenes in FRANKENSTEIN and in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST?

Well brain-frying may soon become a thing of the past with the progressive improvements made in neural-stimulation.  A case in point: Breaking news from physorg.com reveals the ways in which “deep” neural stimulation is advancing the field of treating neurological disorders that have stumped the research community for years: Parkinsons, Alzheimers, TBI, and Chronic Depression.  With increased knowledge of knowing where and how to pinpoint areas of our “neural landscape,” the possibilities of treatment are opened up considerably.

Here’s the link to the article:http://www.physorg.com/news140412075.html

As a child who watched her grandmother waste away from early 20th century “shock” treatments for what was then called “manic-depression,”  the future of neural stimulation will no doubt change family lives as well as movie scripts!

Here’s to the good efforts of scientific research!

May the Breath and Brain be with You!

Dr. G.

Detox Tips: More on the effects of stress and “Neural Wreckage”

September 10, 2008

The Platform: The Culture of Stress

The Twitter: Stress travels throught the body!

The Big IDEA: Stress the Mind, you stress the brain. Stress the Brain you stress your vital organs!!!!


Remember the body song we use to sing as kids?: “The thigh bone is connected to the knee bone and the knee bone is connected to the shin bone….” Well kids often know best and today, we have learned from traditional Western, Chinese, and Indian Auryvedic medicine that like life, the body is a complex system of interdependent systems. Stress in one is bound to affect the others.

A lesson I learned well in the acupuncturist’s office as I lay on the table needled so my “shin” would calm down.   A visit to my brilliant Chinese Medical Doc, always reminds me of the effects of mental stress and anguish on on our kidneys and adrenals, on the connective tissue that wraps every fiber of our neuro-muscular being.   And now, centuries later, research from contemporary neuro-science enriches the Chinese picture of human anatomy and illness.  The brain — which connects through the central nervous system — to all other systems in the body, takes the hit from stress– what in this blog has been previously noted as the condition of “Neural Wreckage.”

In other words, new travels fast! The mounting tension from handling work, family, economic strife, the shift in global warming and the endless political battles of our day all adds up to one tight, drained, exhausted body/mind!!!!!!! I’ve spoken before of “technological time outs.” Now as we face the change of seasons and tough world issues, please ask yourself: How can I find a way, now and then, to “unplug from the culture of stress?

This blog will continue to offer ways to think about and avoid increasing Neural Wreckage along with other SpaceSuit Yoga detox tips.

May the Breath Be With You,

Dr. G.

Ways to Stay Inspired and Empowered: Jill Bolte Taylor on Oprah

September 9, 2008

Good morning Somanauts and Neuronauts!

SpaceSuit Yoga news:

I just heard from Dr. Jill BolteTaylor who said ” Hello friends, My Stroke of Insight is being translated into 20 different languages and I am currently scheduled to be on Oprah on Sept 23rd.”

Taylor’s appearance comes at a great time as the heat has been turned up from the ensuing political battle in the U.S., bringing everyone’s brain to a full boil!!! As our friends who have suffered the tragic results of brain-injury can tell you, a boiling brain leads to an uncertain if not a dehabilitating future. Taylor’s story speaks to the challenges and the blessings that await those attacked by stress and stroke.

In those moments of feeling like one is either in a world or country going mad, or inside a brain with the signals completely crosswired, tune into Taylor’s upcoming Oprah talk or tap into her TED 2008 talk (discussed on on this blogsite. See TED.com) Or read a page from Taylor’s book, MY STROKE OF INSIGHT.

This truly is a the season calling for brain cooling, inspiration and empowerment and asking the fundamental question, as Dr. Taylor asks,

Look for the compassionate, the insightful leaders in your community, on the internet, and in mainstream media. Please Vote using embodied, whole brain intelligence!!!!!!

May the Breath Be With You!

Dr. G.

A

Heat Wave!: Brain Cooling Tips for Election Countdown

September 7, 2008

The Platform: Post Olympic Blues — The 2008 Election Season

The Twitter: Stress Deteriorates the Brain!

The Big Idea: Save Neural Real Estate This Election Year; Cool Your Brain with Meditation or Mental Practice!                                                                                                                                                    

Sigh… the Olympics are over and now in the U.S., on to prime time political battles. Just when we were enjoying the soaring feelings of watching Phelps win his 8 golds, or drooling at the double men’s diving (when did that sport enter the fray?), our brains are already beginning to fry! Regardless of your party affiliation, the stress that mounts by witnessing the battle at home, will clearly not contribute to “neurogenesis” — what neuroscientists regards as the creation of new synaptic connections in the brain. (One has to wonder how many brain cell connections have been burned over the rise and rhetoric of the new “lipstick pitbull” — Sarah Palin.

So if you want keep your neural “real estate” intact, then I suggest the following SpaceSuit Yoga brain tip for this electoral season: Brain Cooling.

1 ) One of the most well known and empirically tested brain cooling meditative techniques is Zen Meditation. A recent post in LiveScience.com noted an Emory University study that has validated Zen’s effectiveness in quieting the brain’s tendency to be distracted by spontaneous outbursts or a barrage of information flow just as we might find in diagnoses of ADD or OCD behavior. Breath, posture, the ritual of repetition. It’s all there:  As Sharon Begley reminds us, ‘we must train the mind in order to change the brain.’

If not Zen, then start a mental practice of cooling the brain with an image of deep relaxation and restoration, supported by gentle breathing.  Whether it’s a picture of hanging out on Australia’s Gold Coast or laying down on soft green grass by a radiant blue lake in Tahoe; visualize a place where you feel most calm, a place you can easily imagine in your mind’s eye.  Bring your awareness of breathing into the space of that picture and enjoy the deep sense of relaxation that comes with every breath.

(For training in meditation and mental practice, scroll through this blog for tips or contact me for links to meditation training centers in the US and abroad.)

Other mind clearing/brain cooling options: 

3) Take a strong whiff of grapefruit or peppermint oil and let the freshness fill your awareness.

4) Try a  hot, hot, hot steam-bath, a long run, or a focused round of poker or pool.

Brain cooling, in other words, is a mindful method of training the brain to move into a zone that allows for neutrality (what the Mahayana Buddhist’s call “empty space” or a zone of positive thinking. As Alvaro Fernandez, in review of the L. A. Times special on learning and memory, points out: positive thoughts and experience lift our spirits and contribute to “neurogenesis.”  (For a brief and to the point commentary on the neural effects of stress, see Sharpbrains.com — search for “Neural Wreckage”  Feb 8, 2008 blog entry.)

Independents, Green Party Animals, Dems and GOP take note.

MAY THE BREATH BE WITH YOU AS WE APPROACH NOVEMBER 4TH!

Dr.  G.