The Mind — What can go wrong

Contents —

Functioning of the body
Overview of the Nervous system
Enteric system
Immune system


The human body has evolved to give us what we are. It has many similar features to other mammals on our planet. The structure and its interconnections are complex and, so far, we are unable to understand and adequately explain much of how it functions.

By the 1920’s Psychologists were advised to focus exclusively on Fepimeasurable, observable behaviour.

By the late 20th Century psychologists were once again grappling with the issue of Consciousness. New tools, notably brain scanning techniques and theories of Cognition, offered new approaches to studying Conscious and Unconscious mental activity.

From ref999 — Brain imaging techniques can be used to show brain structures or functions. An old technique, Electroencephalography (the EEG) yields more information now with computer enhancements. PET scans show fluctuations of brain activity in real time as a person thinks or acts.

Another technique, — MRI was originally used to visualize tumours and soft tissue structures of the brain. A variation called functional MRI (fMRI) became the most commonly used brain scanning technique in Cognitive Neuroscience — It can spot small, brief areas of activity.

However, .according to Thomas Scheff, the Emeritus professor of sociology at UC Santa Barbara, intuition could be the catalyst that enables psychology to progress in areas in which it has stagnated — ref374 — The Shame of Psychology

Humans have adapted to living in different climates, regimes, etc – and also to travel — and become adept at making and using tools and weapons, developing a system of communication through symbols and sounds, and developing social, political and economic systems of interaction.

We each compete and commune as we experience life. Our Human Body/Mind is the result of how humans evolved to deal with these opposite demands.

Each generation has to grow from a zygote — the single cell resulting from the fertilization of the female egg cell by the male sperm cell. The basic program for our development is in our individual DNA. — ref861

Evolution has provided us with the means by which a human grows, learns and develops. Our “Apps” include a wide range of the good habits/skills needed to relieve us of having to consciously work through routine daily activities.

But our ability to learn these and further life enhancing Apps also means that we can acquire bad Apps – damage-prone habits and antagonizing attitudes. These may emerge in response to unfortunate experiences such as Toxic Stresses.

Each generation has to grow from a zygote — the single cell resulting from the fertilization

Fig 209
It is now known that Genomes are not identical —  ref 044 06Nov2001.
( From ref 505 — Epigenetics is providing explanations of how our diets, our exposure to toxins, our stress levels at work – even one-off traumatic events – might be subtly altering the genetic legacy we pass on to our children)

The approach used in the following is to select references that —
1. Illustrate the functioning of the Body
2. Focus on what can go wrong
3. Focus on particularly interesting examples, such as Appetite/Nutrition and Alcohol/Addiction


To Start

To Start
The functioning of the Body

Our control systems —
Central Nervous system (including the Limbic system),
Peripheral Nervous system — Autonomic and Somatic Elements
Endocrine (Hormonal) System.
Enteric system.  ref 156

The Senses
Our Nervous System is aware of our Environment, our current Mood. and our Body through a range of Senses. Earlier we use to refer to our five Senses Sight, Hearing, Taste, Smell & Touch. We now recognise a fuller list (21 items in a recent count): Thirst, Hunger, Ability to sense heat and cold, Pain, Balance, etc. — ref 079

As we experience life, our Senses, Needs, and our complex of Memories (Conscious and Nonnconscious) contend for Our Attention.

Our Senses evolved to provide data for our complex Nervous Systems partly through our Central Nervous System and partly through our Autonomic Nervous System, in order —

  • To deal with some safety issues and to provide appropriate reflex responses there is a fast response system.
  • To deal with the multi tasking of running a complex organism an automatic, mainly sub conscious system
  • To deal with extracting “meaning” of what is being sensed, and decide what to retain in memory
  • To balance this data with the complex of information and competences from previous experiences, and current attitudes

To Start

Overview of the Nervous system

From  ref 401 — Clinical Overview of the Nervous System
The nervous system is the control centre for your body. It interprets the things your body senses, and it sends information to the muscles and glands, telling them what to do.

It also runs the systems you don’t have to think about, like the digestive and cardiovascular systems.
The nervous system is also responsible for your moods and your thoughts.

The Nervous System

  • Senses your external and internal surroundings
  • Communicates information between your brain and spinal cord and other tissues
  • Coordinates voluntary movements
  • Coordinates and regulates involuntary functions like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.

The brain is the centre of the Nervous System, like the microprocessor in a computer.

The spinal cord and nerves are the connections, like the gates and wires in the computer. Nerves carry electrochemical signals to and from different areas of the nervous system as well as between the nervous system and other tissues and organs.

Nerves are divided into four classes:

1. Cranial nerves connect your sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, mouth) to your brain
2. Central nerves connect areas within the brain and spinal cord
3. Peripheral nerves connect the spinal cord with your limbs
4. Autonomic nerves connect the brain and spinal cord with your organs (heart, stomach, intestines, blood vessels, etc.

The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord, including cranial and central nerves.

The Peripheral Nervous system consists of the peripheral nerves, and the autonomic nervous system is made of autonomic nerves. Fast reflexes, like removing your hand quickly from a heat source, involve peripheral nerves and the spinal cord.

Thought processes and autonomic regulation of your organs involve various parts of the brain and are relayed to the muscles and organs through the spinal cord and peripheral/autonomic nerves.

To Start

Enteric System

From ref 156The second brain in the gut
The Enteric nervous system or intrinsic nervous system consists of a mesh like system of neurons that governs the function of the gastrointestinal tract. It is called the second brain because while it communicates with the brain, it also has the ability to act independently and influence behaviour.

It’s estimated that there are between 400 and 600 million neurons in your gut – You’re not conscious of your gut thinking, but the system produces about 95% of the Serotonin and 50% of the Dopamine found in your body.
Researchers at Monash University have looked at the appetite hormone ghrelin, which is produced in the second brain in your gut and plays a role regulating eating behaviour, weight gain and metabolism. It also helps with building muscle mass, reduces anxiety and enhances memory. Receptors for the hormone are found throughout the body, including in the brain in your head. Ghrelin can produce an anxiety response that goes away when you eat.

To Start

Immunity — Immune System: Diseases, Disorders & Function
From  ref865 and ref864— How the immune system works

Our immune system is essential for our survival. Without an immune system, our bodies would be open to attack from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more. It is our immune system that keeps us healthy as we drift through a sea of pathogens.
The immune system is spread throughout the body and involves many types of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues. Crucially, it can distinguish our tissue from foreign tissue — self from non-self. Dead and faulty cells are also recognized and cleared away by the immune system.
If the immune system encounters a pathogen, for instance, a bacterium, virus, or parasite, it mounts a so-called immune response.

Everyone’s immune system is different but, as a general rule, it becomes stronger during adulthood as, by this time, we have been exposed to more pathogens and developed more immunity.

That is why teens and adults tend to get sick less often than children.
Once an antibody has been produced, a copy remains in the body so that if the same antigen appears again, it can be dealt with more quickly.

The immune system can be broadly sorted into categories: innate immunity and adaptive immunity.

Innate immunity is the immune system you’re born with, and mainly consists of barriers on and in the body that keep foreign threats out.
Components of innate immunity include skin, stomach acid, enzymes found in tears and skin oils, mucus and the cough reflex. There are also chemical components of innate immunity, including a substances called interferon .
Innate immunity is non-specific, meaning it doesn’t protect against any specific threats.

The immune system needs to be able to tell self from non-self. It does this by detecting proteins that are found on the surface of all cells. It learns to ignore its own or self proteins at an early stage.

An antigen is any substance that can spark an immune response.
In many cases, an antigen is a bacterium, fungus, virus, toxin, or foreign body. But it can also be one of our own cells that is faulty or dead. Initially, a range of cell types works together to recognize the antigen as an invader.
This response is more general and non-specific. If the pathogen manages to dodge the innate immune system, adaptive or acquired immunity kicks in.

Adaptive (acquired) immunity

This protect from pathogens develops as we go through life. As we are exposed to diseases or get vaccinated, we build up a library of antibodies to different pathogens. This is sometimes referred to as immunological memory because our immune system remembers previous enemies.

Passive immunity
This type of immunity is “borrowed” from another source, but it does not last indefinitely. For instance, a baby receives antibodies from the mother through the placenta before birth and in breast milk following birth. This passive immunity protects the baby from some infections during the early years of their life.
Immunization introduces antigens or weakened pathogens to a person in such a way that the individual does not become sick but still produces antibodies. Because the body saves copies of the antibodies, it is protected if the threat should reappear later in life.

From ref865 — Immune System: Diseases, Disorders & Function

Major components —
Lymph nodes — Produce and store cells that fight infection. Lymph nodes also contain lymph, the clear fluid that carries those cells to different parts of the body. When the body is fighting infection, lymph nodes can become enlarged and feel sore.
Spleen — Contains white blood cells that fight infection or disease — also helps control the amount of blood in the body and disposes of old or damaged blood cells.
Bone marrow — The yellow tissue in the center of the bones produces white blood cells. Contains immature cells, called stem cells — prized for their flexibility in being able to morph into any human cell.
Lymphocytes: These small white blood cells play a large role in defending the body against disease.
Thymus — Trigger or maintain the production of antibodies that can result in muscle weakness.
Leukocytes: These disease-fighting white blood cells identify and eliminate pathogens and are the second arm of the innate immune system.
Diseases of the immune system
If immune system-related diseases are defined very broadly, then allergic diseases such as allergic rhinitis, asthma and eczema are very common.
Auto-immune diseases such Lupus and rheumatoid Arthritis
Disorders of the immune system can result in autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases and cancer — Lupus and rheumatoid Arthritis
Immunodeficiency occurs when the immune system is not as strong as normal, resulting in recurring and life-threatening infections.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, autoimmunity results from a hyperactive immune system attacking normal tissues as if they were foreign bodies.

To Start

The Limbic System Contents

From ref 448 limbic — “is best thought of”
From ref 579 — Limbic System
From ref 674 — Limbic System-and Motivation
From ref1069  — Limbic-brain-controls-our-mood
From ref1065  — Limbic system an overview
From ref 665 — The limbic system/triune brain
From ref 157 — Triune brain and hemispheres nnn
From ref 667 — Limbic system — Wikpedia
From ref 671 — Limbic system review
From ref 340 — How to have a healthy limbic system
From  ref831 –,How Nerves work
From ref1046 — Neurotransmitters, an explanation
From ref 406 — Emotional Nervous System– Limbic & ANS

How Limbic System Neural Rehabilitation Works
From ref 324 The Limbic System depression understood
From ref 675 — trauma-brain-limbic-system
From ref 668 — limbic-system-injury Limbic system Functions Symptoms may include
From ref334 How Limbic System Hypersensitivity Occurs and Its Effects
From ref341 Limbic system retraining
From ref 470 Re-training the Impaired Limbic system
From  ref 325 Healing your limbic-system – helping depression
From ref 480— EMDR and Limbic Trauma

The Limbic System

The functioning of The Body is most dependant on the so-called Limbic System
From ref 448Limbic_system — Wikipedia
The limbic system itself is best thought of as a component of a larger emotional processing plant, that is essentially responsible for sifting through, organizing, lower order processing, and relaying sensory information to other brain areas for higher order emotional processing.

From ref 579 Functions of the Limbic System
The limbic system serves a variety of fundamental cognitive and emotional functions.

The hippocampi, which lay on the inside edge of the temporal lobes, is essential to memory formation.

The amygdalae sit on top of the front portion of each hippocampus. Each amygdala is thought to be important in processing emotion. The amygdala communicates closely with the hippocampus, which helps explain why we remember things that are more emotionally important. The amygdala also communicates closely with the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that is responsible for regulating temperature, appetite, and several other basic processes required for life.

Through the hypothalamus, as well as some key areas in the brainstem, the limbic system communicates with our autonomic nervous system (which regulates things like heartbeat and blood pressure), endocrine system, and the viscera (gut).

Nerve cells in the brain are organized in different fashions depending on location.

The cerebral cortex is predominantly neocortical, meaning that cells exist in 6 layers.

This is different from the limbic system, where cells are either arranged in fewer layers (e.g. paleocorticoid), or more jumbled (corticoid) — This less complex organization of the limbic system, as well as the limbic system’s control of fundamental processes of life, has led doctors to believe that the limbic structure is evolutionarily older than the cerebral cortex.

From ref 674Limbic System-and Motivation

Specific functions of these regions are as follows —
• Limbic cortex – regulates autonomic functions, cognitive processing, attention, emotional behaviors, and spatial memory
• Hippocampus – regulates long-term memory formation and retrieval
• Amygdala – is associated mainly with various emotional behaviors, fear conditioning, emotional memory formation, and social recognition
• Hypothalamus – regulates autonomic nervous system by synthesizing and releasing hormones as well as participates in maintaining circadian rhythms of the body

Among the structures of the limbic system, the amygdala plays an important role in controlling motivational behaviors, such as reward-related motivation as well as appetitive and aversive behaviors.

The nucleus accumbens, a brain structure located in the ventral striatum, creates a functional link between the limbic system and motor system and plays a pivotal role in motivational behaviors.

Motivation of choosing one reward over another is important for reducing the possibility of addictive behaviors. Stimulation of neurons in the central nucleus of the amygdala together with receiving a particular reward has been shown to increase the magnitude of reward motivation and reduce the range of reward selection. Stimulation of these neurons also increases the magnitude of effort applied to get that particular reward.

The amygdala also plays an important role in linking spatial and motivational representations in the brain. Evaluation of spatial attention in monkeys presented with reward-predictive cues in different spatial arrangement has shown that the spatial distribution of the cues and magnitude of reward prediction regulate the neural activity of the amygdala in a coordinated manner.

Depression — Also from ref 674
Depression, a mental state associated with lack of motivation, is primarily characterized by inability to experience pleasure. Individuals suffering from depression exhibit a hyperactive amygdala. Negative emotions, such as grief, anxiety, frustration, and fear, activate the amygdala, which in turn activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and increase the production and secretion of stress hormones.

These hormones further activate the amygdala and inhibit the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, resulting in severe depression.
In contrast, there is reduced amygdala activity to emotional stimuli considered positive.

If the magnitude of negative stimuli are controlled, the prefrontal cortex eventually inhibits the amygdala and reduces the state of depression.
Furthermore, limbic structural abnormalities are considered common in adolescent patients with depression. For instance, smaller hippocampal volumes have been compared to healthy controls, which may have been attributed to poor treatment during childhood.

From ref1069 Limbic brain controls our mood

The Limbic system in the core of your brain houses a lot of mood-active structures.

The Amygdala is the centre for emotionally charged memories and persistent negative thoughts. It is active during stress, anxiety, and depression. It sits conveniently beside the Hippocampus, the part of the brain that serves long-term memory.

The Hippocampus is tightly connected to the Hypothalamus, an important area in all sorts of body regulations. When you are stressed, anxious, or depressed, the Hypothalamus tells the pituitary to tell the adrenal gland to produce Cortisol.

This Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is therefore a highway for the stress response as well as for depression and anxiety.

Chronic activation of the adrenal gland has wide ramifications on your body’s health. So, with depression, just as with stress, there is an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, a heart attack, a stroke, immune dysfunction, and obesity.

From ref1065Limbic system an overview (Not a mainstream source but imaginative and informative)

Go to “And I’ll try to keep things simple”

There is a powerful way to re-program your brain that has been largely overlooked. A way to change your relationship with eating, sleep, sex and basic emotions like fear, love and aggression. While cognitive therapies can modify behavior, they are of questionable help in altering these basic drives.

You can attempt to change your behavior by conscious determination and cognitive therapies. But most attempts at intentional change are temporary and are doomed to fail in the long term because they are strongly resisted by powerful homeostatic processes encoded in our limbic brain.

You can think of the massive cortex as merely an elaborate pattern recognition system wrapped around the limbic brain. The cortex’s pattern recognition system has evolved to improve the quality of information being fed to the tiny thermostatic hypothalamus and amygdala. While the cortex gives us a huge advantage over other animals in analyzing our environment, we seem not to exert much real control over basic drives like eating and sleeping. Despite the evolutionary achievement of “rationality”, we humans remain to a large extent at the mercy of our basic animal drives and emotions.

“Things are not so bleak

Located at the center of the brain, perched atop the brainstem, the limbic system includes not only the hypothalamus and amygdala, but other structures such as the hippocampus, cingulate gyrus, pituitary gland.
But particularly note that the amygdala is connected tightly by numerous nerve bundles to the hypothalamus. The amygdala acts directly on the hypothalamus to control hypothalamic drives, and conversely, the hypothalamus “uses” the amygdala (and to some extent the septum) as a window on the world to satisfy its drives by selectively searching out appropriate foods, potential mates, and sleep and exercise opportunities.

Note —
1. The hypothalamus is purely reactive. The hypothalamus regulates drives, but is almost totally “blind” to the outside world. It is inwardly focused and responds reflexively. It has no memory and acts “in the moment”. According to Joseph, the hypothalamus is the physical embodiment of the Freudian id:
2. The hypothalamus operates through a hierarchy of channels. The hypothalamus receives information about the state of the organism, and in turn sends “commands”, through three main channels:
• The bloodstream. Many signals are exchanged through the relatively porous blood-brain barrier. For example, as discussed in my previous post on obesity, the hypothalamus receives and integrates a range of signals about short term nutrient status (glucose and fatty acids), gut signals (ghrelin, PYY and CCK) and longer term energy storage (hormones like insulin, glucagon, leptin and adiponectin). The blood also carries similar signals regarding body temperature, wakefulness and sleep, and state of readiness for action. And the hypothalamus activates the section of neuroendocrine activators via other glands like the pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands.
• Nerve fibers –“afferents” and “efferents”. Certain communication is done via nerve fibers. For example, appetite cues are provided from the nose via the olfactory bulb and from the gut via the vagus nerve. Body temperature cues are provided from remote thermoreceptors. The sleep-wake cycle is calibrated by neural inputs from the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which responds to dark and light cycles. And conversely, the hypothalamus uses efferent nerves to remotely regulate adrenal glands and digestive organs.
• Higher order inputs. The above chemical and neural inputs can be modulated or overridden by “emotional” interpretation of perceptual and cognitive inputs. This is is where the amygdala comes in.
3. The amygdala is the “handmaiden” of the hypothalamus. It serves as the emotional eyes and ears for the hypothalamus by translating the input of the senses and the great pattern recognition capability of the higher cortex into emotional responses that feed into the hypothalamus. Going beyond the undifferentiated, spur-of-the moment emotional drives of the hypothalamus, the amygdala provides a highly selective response to specific and often complex sensory stimuli.

See also ref 665The limbic system/triune brain
It is important to recognize the emotional unconscious mind has the following key traits —

  • It records the total experience without dealing with details.
  • It experiences in the present tense like it is happening now.
  • It can deal with limitless information.
  • It cannot interpret a negative.
  • Thus it only interprets positive statements.
  • It handles information emotionally.

From ref 157  Triune brain and hemispheres
We have three brains. They work independently of one another and yet they seek a creative balance together.

It was language that gave the two hemispheres of the human brain separate jobs. Language allows us to substitute words for elements of experience. We can deal with things that have happened through language. We can make sense of the past and learn from it. We can also make plans for the future.

We can span space and time. We can integrate our history.
But this left brain ability to think and speak in words brought with it a right brain sense of wonder about how things work. We had to develop a right-brain intuition about how experience is ordered so we could provide for our needs. We also became acutely aware of death.

Our right brain intuition began to seek out the cosmic order. Language made us seek to understand how everything works. We must integrate our history, the whole of history. We need a framework of understanding to invest life with meaning. And creation myths won’t do in a global society.

We need direct intuitive insight into how the cosmic order

There are three dimensions to human experience. Our right-brain is intuitive and holistic. It seeks out integrated meaning and potential.

Our left brain is social. It uses language to formulate a commitment to behaviour. Our old brain is anchored to our evolutionary history. It emotionally assesses our performance.

From ref 667 Limbic system — Wikpedia
It supports a variety of functions including emotion, behaviour, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction.

From ref 671 — Limbic system review used nnn
The basal ganglia, a set of subcortical structures located near the thalamus and hypothalamus, are also included in the limbic system and are involved in intentional movements. It is important to note that inadequate dopamine supply to the basal ganglia may affect posture and movement, leading to the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

The limbic system is closely connected to the prefrontal cortex, and it is this prefrontal–limbic connection that is strengthened when practising Mindfulness. xxx

The functional relevance of the limbic system to psychotherapy is obvious — as affect, memory, sensory processing, time perception, attention, consciousness, autonomic control, motor behaviour, and more are all mediated in and through this collection of structures.

From ref 340 —  How to have a healthy limbic system
The limbic system represents the part of your brain devoted to the most basic survival structures that protect and regulate emotions and reactive states —

Your emotional wellness is contingent upon a healthy limbic system and deterioration in this area of your brain can lead to out-of-control emotions like violence or rage, depression and neurological decline.

Interconnecting pathways link the limbic system, located deep within your brain, to the Hypothalamus, which controls thinking, behavior and hormonal functions.

The main limbic structures include the —
• Hippocampus, or memory center; the
• Amygdala, or anger, anxiety and stress center; and the
• Limbic cortex that interconnects with the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for reasoning and judgment — providing potential for Emotional Intelligence. However, this link can be damaged by stress, etc.

From ref831 —  How Nerves work

Our Nervous System is aware of our Environment, our current mood. and our dody through a range of Senses. Earlier we use to refer to our five Senses Sight, Hearing, Taste, Smell & Touch. We now recognise a fuller list (21 items in a recent count): Thirst, Hunger, Ability to sense heat and cold, Pain, Balance, etc. — Ref79

As we experience life, our Senses, Needs, and our complex of Memories contend for our attention.

Our Senses evolved to provide data for our complex Nervous Systems partly through our Central Nervous System and partly through our Autonomic Nervous System, in order —

  • To deal with some safety issues and to provide appropriate reflex responses there is a fast response system
  • To deal with the multi tasking of running a complex organism an automatic, mainly Non-conscious system
  • To deal with extracting “meaning” of what is being sensed, and decide what to retain in memory
  • To balance this data with the complex of information and competences from previous experiences, and current attitudes

The Brain is the controller of the Nervous System.

The spinal cord and nerves are the connections.

Nerves carry electrochemical signals to and from different areas of the nervous system as well as between the nervous system and other tissues and organs.

Nerves are divided into four classes:
1. Cranial nerves connect your sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, mouth) to your brain
2. Central nerves connect areas within the brain and spinal cord
3. Peripheral nerves connect the spinal cord with your limbs
4. Autonomic nerves connect the brain and spinal cord with your organs (heart, stomach, intestines, blood vessels, etc.)

See ref343Limbic System — Science Daily — good references

From ref1046 — Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the Nervous system.. Their job is to transmit signals from nerve cells to target cells. These target cells may be in muscles, glands, or other nerves.
The brain needs neurotransmitters to regulate many necessary functions, including:
• heart rate
• breathing
• sleep cycles
• digestion
• mood
• concentration
• appetite
• muscle movement

The nervous system controls the body’s organs, psychological functions, and physical functions. Nerve cells, also known as neurons, and their neurotransmitters play important roles in this system.

Nerve cells fire nerve impulses. They do this by releasing neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that carry signals to other cells.

Neurotransmitters relay their messages by traveling between cells and attaching to specific receptors on target cells.

Each neurotransmitter attaches to a different receptor — for example, dopamine molecules attach to dopamine receptors. When they attach, this triggers action in the target cells.

After neurotransmitters deliver their messages, the body breaks down or recycles them. xxx

Key types of neurotransmitter

Many bodily functions need neurotransmitters to help communicate with the brain.

Experts have identified more than 100 neurotransmitters to date.

Neurotransmitters have different types of action:
• Excitatory neurotransmitters encourage a target cell to take action.
• Inhibitory neurotransmitters decrease the chances of the target cell taking action. In some cases, these neurotransmitters have a relaxation-like effect.
• Modulatory neurotransmitters can send messages to many neurons at the same time. They also communicate with other neurotransmitters.

Some neurotransmitters can carry out various functions, depending on the type of receptor that they are connecting to.

From ref 406– “Emotional Nervous System” Limbic & ANS

The two parts of the nervous system that are especially significant are the limbic system and the autonomic nervous system.

The Limbic system (comprises —
• Thalamus:– A “relay station” for sensory input – then being directed to other parts of the brain — extracts critical data requiring a quick response
• Amygdala:– Governs things like fear, anxiety, anger, and violence; sometimes referred to as the aggression centre — identifies its nature of the “threat”
• Hippocampus:– Helps create short-term memories and turn them into long-term memories — tucks away anything that might be of interest
• Hypothalamus:– Regulates the autonomic nervous system by releasing stress hormones like adrenaline — this is where the fight/flight response originates — deals with any action that is required

The autonomic nervous system is composed of two parts, which function primarily in opposition to each other. The first is the sympathetic nervous system, which starts in the spinal cord and travels to a variety of areas of the body. Its function appears to be preparing the body for the kinds of vigorous activities associated with “fight or flight,” that is, with running from danger or with preparing for violence.

• Activation of the sympathetic nervous system has the following effects:
• dilates the pupils
• opens the eyelids
• stimulates the sweat glands
• dilates the blood vessels in large muscles
• constricts the blood vessels in the rest of the body
• increases the heart rate
• opens up the bronchial tubes of the lungs
• inhibits the secretions in the digestive system

Fig 212 ref 692  xxx

One of its most important effects is causing the adrenal glands (which sit on top of the kidneys) to release epinephrine (aka adrenalin) into the blood stream. Epinephrine is a powerful hormone that causes various parts of the body to respond in much the same way as the sympathetic nervous system. Being in the blood stream, it takes a bit longer to stop its effects.

This is why, when you get upset, it sometimes takes a while before you can calm yourself down again!

The sympathetic nervous system also takes in information concerning pain from internal organs. Because the nerves that carry information about organ pain often travel along the same paths that carry information about pain from more surface areas of the body, the information sometimes get confused.

This is called referred pain, and the best known example is the pain some people feel in the left shoulder and arm when they are having a heart attack.

The other part of the autonomic nervous system is called the parasympathetic nervous system. It has its roots in the brainstem and in the spinal cord of the lower back. Its function is to bring the body back from the emergency status that the sympathetic nervous system puts it into.

Some of the details of parasympathetic arousal include —
• pupil constriction
• activation of the salivary glands
• stimulating the secretions of the stomach
• stimulating the activity of the intestines
• stimulating secretions in the lungs
• constricting the bronchial tubes
• decreasing heart rate

The parasympathetic nervous system also has some sensory abilities: It receives information about blood pressure, levels of carbon dioxide in the blood, and so on.

There is actually one more part of the autonomic nervous system that we don’t mention too often: The enteric nervous system. This is a complex of nerves that regulate the activity of the stomach. When you get sick to your stomach or feel butterflies when you get nervous, you can blame the enteric nervous system.

What can go wrong

From ref 337How Limbic System Neural Rehabilitation Works

Unfortunately, the fight-or-flight response can become locked in the on position after an initial physical or emotional trauma or set of traumas. The trauma(s) now recorded in the neural circuits in the nervous system can reduce and even prevent normal functioning of other systems of the body, including the immune, endocrine, and digestive systems (ie. all systems). The dysfunction will continue so long as the faulty circuitry is not rewired
From ref 324 The Limbic System depression understood

In depression, when the limbic system is pushed beyond its limits, the system goes into malfunction and much the same way as a leg will break if it has been damaged enough the system becomes fractured.
Neurotransmitters are subsequently greatly reduced which results in the system failing and the appearance of depression symptoms such as poor concentration, appetite changes, loss of energy, confidence and enjoyment in life.

From ref 675Trauma limbic system

Trauma that is so pervasive and severe can cause extensive damage to young people to the extent that it can literally change their physiology. These are often categorised as ‘Adverse Childhood experiences’.
Verbal abuse of young children can often result in intrinsic abuse that in turn releases harmful chemicals into the brain. This is turn can often result in a lack of growth in the part of their brain that tells good from bad, controls impulse control and a heck of a lot more; known as the Prefrontal Cortex.

For example if a child witnesses domestic violence or any act resulting in trauma, their brain goes into a high state of alert which cannot always be verbalised. This means that often they replay the trauma over and over again and actually feels the same physical effects.

Our bodies have a stress response system that governs our ‘fight or flight response’. If we are under threat our stress response system will often send messages to our adrenal gland (responsible for the production of adrenaline) which in turn releases stress hormones into the body. This effectively arms our body for combat – making our hearts beat quicker, airways open up and our pupils dilate. This happens to most of us when we are under threat and need to defend ourselves. And I’m sure you will agree that this is quite a handy defence system to have. Especially if we were under attack from another person. The issue for young people affected by trauma is that their bodies are constantly in this state of alert. And so a preventative and safety state actually becomes a problem.

The most significant neurological impact of trauma is seen in the hippocampus. PTSD patients show a considerable reduction in the volume of the hippocampus. This region of the brain is responsible for memory functions. It helps an individual to record new memories and retrieve them later in response to specific and relevant environmental stimuli. The hippocampus also helps us distinguish between past and present memories.

PTSD patients with reduced hippocampal volumes lose the ability to discriminate between past and present experiences or interpret environmental contexts correctly. Their particular neural mechanisms trigger extreme stress responses when confronted with environmental situations that only remotely resemble something from their traumatic past.

Effect of trauma on the amygdala
Trauma appears to increase activity in the amygdala. This region of the brain helps us process emotions and is also linked to fear responses. PTSD patients exhibit hyperactivity in the amygdala in response to stimuli that are somehow connected to their traumatic experiences. They exhibit anxiety, panic, and extreme stress when they are shown photographs or presented with narratives of trauma victims whose experiences match theirs; or made to listen to sounds or words related to their traumatic encounters.

What is interesting is that the amygdala in PTSD patients may be so hyperactive that these people exhibit fear and stress responses even when they are confronted with stimuli not associated with their trauma, such as when they are simply shown photographs of people exhibiting fear.

The hippocampus, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and the amygdala complete the neural circuitry of stress. The hippocampus facilitates appropriate responses to environmental stimuli, so the amygdala does not go into stress mode. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex regulates emotional responses by controlling the functions of the amygdala. It is thus not surprising that when the hypoactive hippocampus and the functionally-challenged ventromedial prefrontal cortex stop pulling the chains, the amygdala gets into a tizzy.

Hyperactivity of the amygdala is positively related to the severity of PTSD symptoms. The aforementioned developments explain the tell-tale signs of PTSD—startle responses to the most harmless of stimuli and frequent flashbacks or intrusive recollections.

From ref 668 limbic-system-injury

Besides the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala, there are other areas in the structures near to the limbic system that are intimately connected to it —
• The cingulate gyrus is the part of the cerebrum that lies closest to the limbic system, just above the corpus collosum. It provides a pathway from the thalamus to the hippocampus, seems to be responsible for focusing attention on emotionally significant events, and for associating memories to smells and to pain.
• The ventral tegmental area of the brain stem (just below the thalamus) consists of dopamine pathways that seem to be responsible for pleasure. People with damage here tend to have difficulty getting pleasure in life, and often turn to alcohol, drugs, sweets, and gambling.
• The basal ganglia (including the caudate nucleus, the putamen, the globus pallidus, and the substantia nigra) lie over and to the sides of the limbic system, and are tightly connected with the cortex above them. They are responsible for repetitive behaviors, reward experiences, and focusing attention.
• The prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the frontal lobe which lies in front of the motor area, is also closely linked to the limbic system. Besides apparently being involved in thinking about the future, making plans, and taking action, it also appears to be involved in the same dopamine pathways as the ventral tegmental area, and plays a part in pleasure and addiction.

Limbic system Functions

The limbic system in our brains serves as an organizer of information presented from sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. In fact, all of the information presented to the brain either sensory, imaginative, verbal, motor, invisible (electromagnetic, trace chemicals, etc.), internal from hormones, chemicals, etc. and external is processed at some point through the limbic system. It is a pathway between the thinking and acting part of your brain (cortex) and the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus in turn regulates water balance, hunger, thirst, body temperature, circadian rhythms, and hormone production by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland in turn influences the thyroid, adrenal, testes and ovaries. One can describe it as a communications network between that which is automatic (unconscious or autonomic) and that which becomes physical or emotional behavior.

An injury to the limbic system might cause an abnormal communication of information to higher centers and cause an inappropriate response. xxx

The limbic system can be injured by trauma such as a fall, auto accident, an object striking the head, concussion, etc —
• It may also be injured by a transient lack of oxygen that might occur during surgery, a stroke, overexertion at high altitude, a seizure, childbirth, etc.
• The limbic system may also be injured during an infection either in the brain or near the brain such as meningitis, encephalitis, a severe ear or deep sinus infection, etc.
• It can be surprising the number of possible initiating or exacerbating events identified with a careful review of your own delivery, childhood, adult life, etc.
• Many may have seemed minor at the time and taken for granted. Stress, lack of sleep, intake of certain foods, and weather changes seem to make the limbic system more susceptible to improper functioning. Because the nose allows chemicals to enter the brain directly (olfactory center), chemical sensitivity can develop through a process described as “kindling” and cause the limbic system to send messages making you feel ill. Very low levels of chemicals can thus influence the way we feel.

Symptoms may include —
• Disturbance of auditory sensation and perception.
• Disturbance of selective attention of auditory and visual input.
• Disorders of visual perception.
• Impaired organization and categorization of verbal material.
• Disturbance of language comprehension.
• Impaired long-term memory.
• Altered personality and affective behavior.
• Altered sexual behavior.
• Gastrointestinal disorders.
• Insomnia.
• Being overly emotional.
• Poor sleep.

From ref334How Limbic System Hypersensitivity Occurs and Its Effects

If the limbic system becomes too sensitive and begins to react to stimuli that it would usually disregard as not representing a danger to the body, the result is inappropriate activation of the ANS, endocrine system and immune system that it is proposed results in the bodily dysfunction and multitude of varied symptoms seen in invisible illnesses8.

Limbic system hypersensitivity (or “kindling” in medical terminology) can result from exposure of neurons of the limbic system to any chemical or electrical stimuli, either chronically or as a single acute exposure8.

Many people suffering from invisible illnesses report that their illness was preceded by events including toxic chemical exposures (e.g. pesticides), viral infection, physical trauma, electromagnetic radiation (living near high voltage power lines or cell towers) and prolonged or severe psychological distress (e.g. stressful job, emotional abuse). All of these and more have the potential to trigger limbic system hypersensitivity and initiate a cascade of physiological changes in the body that result in a downward spiral into chronic suffering with invisible illnesses.

Since the limbic system is tasked with maintaining homeostasis within the body, if it is being inappropriately activated on a chronic basis the effects are disasterous for the individual affected. The “sustained arousal” associated with limbic system hypersensitivity explains why people with invisible illnesses are so often sensitive to so many things from light, sound and gentle touch, through to environmental chemicals, foods, drugs/nutritional supplements and even electromagnetic radiation given off by electronic appliances and gadgets.

Luckily the field of neuroscience has made some groundbreaking discoveries over the past decade or so that provide an opportunity to tackle invisible illnesses at their root – limbic hypersensitivity. Through a recently discovered property of the brain known as neuroplasticity, brain retraining programs aim to restore a normal level of sensitivity to the limbic system and thus eliminate the myriad symptoms and illnesses that hypersensitivity can generate. nnn

From ref341 —  Limbic system retraining

Go to “For nearly two years, I had … “

In our brain we have toxin receptors, called xenosensors. Toxins of all kinds; pesticides, cologne, laundry soap, bacteria, lyme, yeast, heavy metals, etc. are able to cross the blood brain barrier, which then triggers these receptors. These receptors have one of two roles. One, they trigger the locus ceruleus in the brain stem that a threat exists (the toxin) and the locus ceruleus releases norepinephrine to ignite the fight/flight system otherwise known as the sympathetic nervous system. Norepinephrine is an excitatory neurotransmitter and although crucial for survival, it is toxic to the brain in excess.

Once norepinephrine is released, then it stimulates the amygdala into action, which triggers emotions like fear, anxiety or anger, and the hypothalamus which triggers the pituitary to release ACTH to stimulate the adrenal glands to release cortisol and then preganglion sympathetic neurons stimulate the adrenal medulla to release epinephrine.

It is the locus ceruleus that sets off the stress response system. The amygdala fires off in response to messages from the locus ceruleus via norepinephrine.

This is called the stress response system and it is activated anytime we are under stress of any kind. Environmental toxins are one kind of stress that we are all exposed to on a daily basis, this is called toxic stress. The more toxins you are exposed to, the more often your sympathetic nervous system is called into action.

Once we escaped the tiger, then the fight or flight system would return to its normal pre-stress state, known as the parasympathetic state. Now, in our modern day life we don’t typically face any “real” tigers while walking down the street, however we are surrounded by many different types of “tigers” like pesticides, heavy metals, air pollution, poor diet, cell towers, financial difficulties, working two jobs, traffic jams, raising a family etc.

These are all types of stress that trigger our stress response system.

When the sympathetic nervous system is dominant, ie we are in fight or flight mode, digestion and circulation are impaired, pupils dilate, blood pressure and heart rate rise, cognitive abilities and memory may be impaired, we are hyper alert and given a boost of energy, blood sugar rises, hormones are disrupted, sleep and the detoxification system are impaired, there’s a decline in immune function, neurotransmitters are used up, all of our senses, (particularly our sense of smell, taste and sound) are heightened and there are high levels of fear and anxiety.

All of this occurs so that we are capable of coping with the threat or stressor at hand. The sole purpose of the fight or flight system is to prepare our body for a violent confrontation or to run.

Once the threat (stressor or toxin) is over, then the parasympathetic nervous system restores the body to normal. Heart rate, digestion, circulation, blood pressure, senses etc. are restored to normal. We are in a state of rest and relaxation. The body prefers to be in the parasympathetic state. It is our normal state.

When we are consistently in the sympathetic state, this puts excessive stress on the adrenal glands. At first this causes high levels of cortisol and if this continues for a long period of time, then eventually cortisol levels become depleted and can no longer meet the demands of stress. Cortisol is critical in supporting the body during times of stress. If you don’t have sufficient levels of cortisol, then you aren’t going to be coping well with stress. This is when adrenal fatigue develops.

Even when we remove ourselves from the toxin or stressor, our autonomic nervous system continues to believe that smaller and smaller levels of toxins and stress are “a threat to our survival.” When the brain thinks there is a “threat to survival” then it remains in the sympathetic fight or flight state.

From ref1063 ANS dis-function

The sympathetic state is degenerative when we remain in it for a prolonged period of time because it breaks us down

From ref1064Neurotransmitters and your health

When you are under stress of any kind, be it toxic stress or emotional stress, neurotransmitters in the frontal lobes of the brain like dopamine, serotonin, GABA, endorphins/enkephalins, endocannabinoids histamine are released to modulate the stress response system. Each of these neurotransmitters oppose norepinephrine and therefore turn off the fight or flight system. If there are not adequate neurotransmitters in the brain, then the fight or flight system will not be modulated properly. The sympathetic nervous system will remain dominant — ref1064

Neurotransmitters cannot be formed if there is not sufficient meat protein in the diet to provide the essential amino acids and fatty acids needed for formation. Neurotransmitters also cannot be formed or function adequately if the body is lacking in crucial minerals like iron and magnesium and vitamins like B6 and pantethine.

Certain foods like sugar, caffeine, wheat and other grains, food additives and preservatives, artificial sweeteners and flavorings all trigger the sympathetic nervous system and deplete neurotransmitters.
The author continues to detail and review re-training programs — very important.

Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS) is a Limbic System Neural rehabilitation protocol developed by Annie Hopper, an expert in limbic system related illnesses.–ref 337 — limbic-system-neuro-rehabilitation

From ref 325 —  Healing your limbic-system – helping depression

Depression is primarily a result of poor communication between the brain’s thinking prefrontal cortex and limbic system. Together, they make up the fronto-limbic system, which regulates your emotional state. When not functioning optimally, depression can result.

Anxiety and the Amygdala
The amygdala primarily mediates anxiety and fear. Studies have shown that people with depression have higher amygdala reactivity and their amygdala stays active longer than people without depression. This means that a depressed brain reacts stronger and fixates longer on emotionally charged information making it harder to remain calm (harder to remain calm and rational). A calmer amygdala means a calmer, happier you.

Memory and the Hippocampus
The primary job of the hippocampus is to turn short-term memories into long-term ones. It’s like your brain’s “save” button. A depressed brain often can’t recall happy memories but doesn’t have any trouble remembering every little detail of the bad stuff, which can be blamed on the hippocampus. In depression, research has found that the hippocampus tends to have abnormal activity and reduced size.

Attention and the Cingulate Cortex

Difficulty concentrating and hyper-focusing on the negative, both symptoms of depression, are controlled by the cingulate cortex. The front, the anterior cingulate cortex, acts as a gateway between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex, playing a big role in depression. The anterior cingulate cortex notices all of your mistakes, dwells on everything that’s wrong, and is a central part of the pain circuit. Alex Korb likens it to the screen on your computer. Even though there’s lots of data on your computer, the screen shows only the open tab, impacting what you do and how you feel.

From ref 480EMDR and Limbic Trauma
Trauma may be stuck in your brain’s limbic system, also known as “the emotional brain.” But thanks to a unique form of therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), you can get it unstuck.

Here’s how all of this connects:

First, let’s talk about the limbic system. Here are its main components, along with basic descriptions of their roles in regulating emotions, as summarized by Jeffrey Walsh at Khan Academy —
• Thalamus: A “relay station” of sorts for sensory input, which passes through the thalamus before being directed to other parts of the brain.
• Amygdala: Governs things like fear, anxiety, anger, and violence; sometimes referred to as the aggression center.
• Hippocampus: Helps create short-term memories and turn them into long-term memories.
• Hypothalamus: Regulates the autonomic nervous system by releasing hormones like adrenaline; this is where the fight/flight response originates.

Now, the limbic system is a complex animal with other roles to play, but you can probably see why people call it the emotional brain. Your senses, behaviors, memories, and hormones – all closely tied to emotion – are processed here.

Trauma routes directly to the limbic system. Thus, mental healing is blocked if trauma is poorly processed. Furthermore, long-term emotional distress (and often physical pain) are triggered by the events of everyday life. In addition, unresolved trauma often manifests in these disorders —
• Post-traumatic stress disorder (both single-event and complex forms)
• Test/performance anxiety
• General anxiety/depression
• Panic attacks
• Addiction
• Eating disorders
• Chronic physical pain

Francine Shapiro, developer of EMDR and founder of The EMDR Institute, connects the dots to EMDR on The EMDR Institute’s website:
“EMDR therapy facilitates the accessing of the traumatic memory network so that information processing is enhanced, with new associations forged between the traumatic memory and more adaptive memories or information. These new associations are thought to result in complete information processing, new learning, elimination of emotional distress, and development of cognitive insights.”

To simplify, let’s look at how EMDR therapy operates both on the outside and on the inside.

On the outside, the EMDR therapist 1) guides the client through brief episodes of recalling distress, and 2) simultaneously introduces new sensory input in the form of bilateral stimulation. This input usually involves rhythmic eye movements (thus EMDR’s name), but it can also be tactile (tapping the hand) or auditory (making sounds).

So, what’s happening on the inside? The limbic system is gaining new sensory information and new associations that allow it to process and/or replace the trauma and undo the blockage. Moreover, you might call it a clever trick that takes advantage of how the emotional brain receives and handles data.

Whatever you call it, research shows EMDR to be highly effective and often really fast. Some single-event trauma victims find relief in as few as three 90-minute sessions.