Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Brain Hurt or Pain

Does the brain know the difference between hurt and pain?

This is a complex question! In the English Language, the words hurt, and pain are not only used as synonyms but also as nouns, verbs, or adjectives. If I use the words as nouns and define hurt as a social injury and pain as a physical injury, then my brain’s opinion is that the brain may know the difference—since it does not process physical and social injuries identically. There is some differentiation in the brain between where pain versus hurt is decoded. However, brain imaging studies have shown that there is also some overlap between the two regions, meaning that a social hurt may be perceived as a physical pain. Social hurt and physical pain both create discomfort. A broken heart may ache as much as a broken bone. 

Monday, January 30, 2023

Waking up

How does your brain know to wake you up in the morning?

Aside from the alarm clock going off? Sleep specialists say that if you develop regular sleep habits, the brain wakes you when it has finished all its housekeeping brain chores and knows you have had enough sleep to keep you alert for your next awake period. That is assuming that the brain is working optimally—the way it was designed to function. The actual waking-up process is very complicated. The Reticular Activating System in the brain stem in the 1st brain layer stimulates the cerebrum or 3rd brain layer into wakefulness. To do this it must over-ride or block the “sleep on” system in the Thalamus gland located in the 2nd brain layer. Irregular sleep habits can wreak havoc with this process, triggering insomnia and other undesirable consequences.

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Friday, January 27, 2023

Amazing Brain

Why are brains so complicated? 

 I really like the way British philosopher, Emerson M. Pugh put it, “If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t.” Brains must be complicated in order to what they do. They have been referred to as the most amazing piece of biological real estate in the known universe. According to Konrad Kording, the human brain produces in 30 seconds as much data as the Hubble Space Telescope has produced in its lifetime. It produces 50,000 thoughts a day. I like the way Joel Havemann put it: What seems astonishing is that a mere three-pound object, made of the same atoms that constitute everything else under the sun, is capable of directing virtually everything that humans have done: flying to the moon and hitting seventy home runs, writing Hamlet and building the Taj Mahal—even unlocking the secrets of the brain itself.

 A new AUDIO podcast is posted every Saturday morning


 A new VIDEO podcast is posted every Saturday morning


Thursday, January 26, 2023

Dragon Communication

How do dragons communicate what they need to their owner?

I laughed outload when I got this question. Fortunately, I have a friend who owns a bearded dragon, and this is what I learned. In the wild, bearded dragons communicate with each other through posturing, color display, head bobbing, arm waving, and vocalizations. They use these signals to tell each other when they are hungry, scared, or happy. Bearded dragons can be trained to recognize their owners voice and touch, and they are usually even-tempered. However, much as with people, it might not apply to all dragons seeing as there may be over 50 species of dragons, each somewhat unique.  According to my friend, his bearded dragon likes to be petted under its chin or on its cheeks. When it is tired of being petted, it bobs its head up and down and puffs out its cheeks—which signals his owner to give it some space—and sooner better than later, especially relative to the size and weight of the dragon. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Sleep Deprivation Consequences

How does lack of sleep over a long period of time impact the brain?

That is a huge topic and well-studied. Here are a few examples.

·       Sleep is independently linked with longevity—the loss of one hour of sleep per night can shorten your life span

·       By 20 hours without sleep, your reaction time is similar to that of a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.08, the legal limit of intoxication in the state of California.

·       Over time, repair to the cells in the hippocampus, your brain’s  search engine, can fall behind, which can negatively impact memory

·       Sleep deprivation can increase your risk for making mistakes and having accidents whether driving or operating machinery. It Increases the risk of ingesting more calories the next day than you need, and is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, diabetes, seizures, asthma, and mental disturbances such as Anxiety disorders, Depressive disorders, and even psychotic behaviors. Bottom line? Lack of adequate sleep is a bad idea all around.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Caffeine & the Brain

How does caffeine impact the brain?

 According to NIH, caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world. In Western society, at least 80 per cent of the adult population consumes caffeine in amounts large enough to have an effect on the brain. It belongs to a class of drugs known as central nervous system (CNS) stimulants, designed to treat fatigue and drowsiness. Caffeine peaks in the blood anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion. Caffeine is able to cross the Blood-Brain barrier—where it can alter brain function. The FDA recommends no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day per adult. Caffeine can interfere with sleep. It’s half-life is typically 5-6 hours. If you ingest 200 mg of caffeine at 2pm, 100 mg is still in your system at 7-8 pm. Oral contraceptives and pregnancy double the half-life. It is longer in children than in adults and may be up to 30 hours in a newborn. Caffeine taken after individuals have ingested alcohol does not sober them up or make them fit to drive. It may make them more alert temporarily, but it does not reverse the poor judgment and other effects associated with alcohol.  

Monday, January 23, 2023

Different Thoughts

Why does everyone have different thoughts, and what causes the strength of the thoughts to differ?

The simple answer to the first question is that every brain on Planet Earth is different, even the brains of identical twins or triplets (so called). In addition, every brain lives in a slightly different environment depending on what is happening in the family system or living situation. Every thought you think changes the very structure of your brain and the neuron highways along which thoughts run. That is believed the reason that brains become more different as they grow older. The strength of your thoughts depends on your response or reaction to them. If something happens that is clearly a surprise, the emotional motivator of surprise will strengthen the thought be it happy, angry, fearful, or sad. Strength can also be influenced by the weight or importance you assign to each thought.

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Friday, January 20, 2023

A New Dream

What happens when you dream, and you tell yourself a joke that you never heard before and laugh?

Studies suggest that the subconscious mind absorbs 10,000 bits of sensory data per second—far more than your brain can consciously decode and recall. You may have heard a similar joke in passing without consciously retaining it in your memory. The belief is that while you are asleep, your hippocampus, your brain’s search engine, replays for your frontal lobes what has happened during the previous 24 hours or so. It's much like a movie editor who reviews the takes and decides what to discard and what to keep, the frontal lobes decide what to discard and what to send to long-term memory. Some of the information it may replay for you in dreams, especially if the brain thinks it is important to you.

 A new AUDIO podcast is posted every Saturday morning


 A new VIDEO podcast is posted every Saturday morning


Thursday, January 19, 2023

Déjà vu

What happens when you have a Déjà vu?

Déjà vu” is French expression roughly translated to mean “already seen.” It describes that uncanny sensation that you’ve already experienced something, even when you can’t recall ever having done so. Estimates are that 60-80% of the population may experience this phenomenon, more commonly occurring in young adults. No one single cause has been identified. It can occur in conjunction with a brief electrical malfunction similar to what happens during a temporal lobe seizure. General consensus is that it relates to memory in some way. You might have experienced a similar event before and just can’t remember it. Or according to Epigenetics, since you may have cellular memory from the past several generations of biological ancestors, one of them might have experienced a similar event that leads you to feel like it happened to you previously. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Rejection Hurts

When a group of individuals are rejected, do their levels of emotional pain differ?

Since every brain is different, different individuals can have differing levels of emotional pain. However, they can also have differing levels of physical pain. That’s because studies have shown that rejection can be physically painful on top of the emotional pain. The brain locations for processing physical pain and social-emotional pain somewhat overlap. fMRI studies have shown that the brain processes rejection much as it does pain from a physical injury. The brain releases its natural opiate, endorphins, to ease the pain and help you recover. Interestingly, the brains of study participants who were depressed or already hurting from rejection did not release as much natural opiate. That means those depressed individuals did not receive the level of endorphins that others can experience.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Brain & Rejection

 I am terrified of rejection. It may have begun when my dad left the family suddenly when I was five years old, and we never saw or heard from him again. I felt like I must have contributed to his leaving. Now, I can’t even ask a girlfriend to lunch for fear she’ll say no. What can I do? 

It is unrealistic for a five-year-old child to be responsible for an adult bailing from parental responsibilities—although it often happens, as the judgement and analysis portion of the pre-frontal lobes are not anywhere close to being developed and matured. If a trusted adult had been available to help you realize that it was your dad’s choice alone, you might have been able to let go of that perception much earlier. If you are willing to work through that perception with a counselor now, and let it go, it can be very helpful to you for the rest of our adult life. You are under no obligation to accept every invitation you receive. This means that others have the same right for any number of reasons that might not include any actual rejection. I would guess that you have not accepted every invitation in your life for any number of reasons. More tomorrow.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Improving Sleep

What can I do to improve my sleep?

Each brain is believed to need a specific amount of sleep during a 24-hour period. Studies have discovered many tips for how to get a better sleep. Although sleep is independently linked with longevity, in today’s world, many are not excited about following the tips. Here are a few examples (and more are listed on the Sleep Foundation website):

·       Have a regular sleep time, starting preferably 1-2 hours before midnight as sleep before midnight has been found to be more restorative

·       Go to bed the same time on weekends as during the week

·       Avoid the use of electronics for 1 hour prior to bedtime unless you are using blue-light protective glasses

·       Avoid exciting movies or video games just before going to bed to reduce brain stimulation and/or the production of adrenalin

·       Sleep in a cool room that is as dark as possible

·       Keep all electronics out of the bedroom unless you are on call

·       Eat dinner by six pm so food is out of your stomach by bedtime.


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Friday, January 13, 2023

Rejection & IQ

I heard on the news that when a person is rejected their IQ can fall. Is that possible?

Apparently, rejection can temporarily lower a person’s Intelligence Quotient or IQ. No wonder students may temporarily score lower on tests right after perceiving receiving a rejection. Simply being asked to recall a recent rejection experience was enough to cause individuals to score significantly lower on subsequent IQ tests, tests of short-term memory, and tests of decision-making. Indeed, when a person is reeling from a painful rejection, thinking clearly is just not that easy.

 A new AUDIO podcast is posted every Saturday morning


 A new VIDEO podcast is posted every Saturday morning


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Flying Fears

I need to fly overseas and visit my aunt who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and who was as much a mother to me as my own mother. I am so terrified to get into a plane that I fear I cannot go. Is there anything I can do? I dread those air pockets when the plane falls hundreds of feet! I mean, how can air keep thousands of pounds of metal in the air?

Estimates are that about 5% of individuals are terrified of getting into a plane and flying somewhere. Yes, there is a possibility of mechanical failures as with any type of machinery; the occasional bird is sucked into an engine; and there have been mid-air collisions and terrorists acts. They occur infrequently, fortunately. Fear is the emotion that alerts you to actual or potential danger. Unfortunately, the brain-body response to imagined fear is the same as to actual danger. For many, fear of flying is related primarily to imagined fears. Knowledge is power. When individuals learn there is no such phenomenon as “air pockets” (how could a vacuum of no air exist in the midst of air?) and understand more about how air keeps planes aloft, they can learn to manage their fear. The best explanation I’ve ever heard is one by Tom Bunn: an airline captain, licensed therapist, and president and founder of SOAR, Inc. I enjoyed “The Jello Exercise” video and learned a great deal. You might want to check this out.

 Fear of Flying - SOAR - Video Player - The Jello Exercise


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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Prevalence of Narcissism

How common is Narcissism in the United States? Based on news reports that stretch from Politics to Hollywood, is it increasing?

Estimates suggest 0.5 to 1.0 percent of the general population meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the United States. It has been identified in 6.0 percent of the forensic population, 20 percent of the military population, and 17 percent of first-year medical students. About 2.0 to 16.0 percent of those seeking help from a mental health professional will receive a narcissistic personality disorder diagnosis. There is some sense that Personality disorders may be increasing. However, whether that is due to more sophisticated diagnosis abilities, a reflection of current culture and mass social media, or actual increases is as yet of unknown.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Malignant Narcissism

I have heard the term “malignant narcissism”, but I don’t really understand what it means. Can you explain it?

Malignant narcissism is an extreme form of a Narcissistic personality disorder or NPD. According to the dictionary, "malignant" is an adjective with synonyms such as hostile, spiteful, malevolent, malicious, infectious, uncontrollable, and injurious. Words that have been used to describe malignant narcissistic characteristics include: vicious, cruel, and spiteful; anticipates betrayal and seeks punishment for it; ruthless, calculating, and callous; brutal, inhumane, and merciless; jealous, hateful, remorseless; callous, fearless, aggressive, and endlessly revengeful. This involves deliberate attempts to cause harm, suffering, or distress; feeling or showing ill will or hatred; dangerous or harmful in influence or effect. When narcissism becomes malignant, revenge may be exhibited as a life-long retaliation with a determination to discredit and destroy. This type of narcissism can quite easily morph into or become co-morbid with an Antisocial personality disorder. When thwarted in desires or goals, there is a potential for homicidal or suicidal behaviors, perhaps to gain notoriety and sympathy. Malignant narcissism is dangerous.

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Friday, January 6, 2023

Treatment for NPD & APD

There is no known cure for Narcissistic personality disorder. Treatment and therapy can help people manage their moods, change their disruptive behaviors, and treat comorbid problems such as anxiety disorders and depressive disorders. Success is dependent upon whether the individual is willing to acknowledge his or her problems and work with a therapist. Psychotherapy is the first line of treatment. Medications may be prescribed to manage some of the symptoms.

Antisocial: There is no known cure for Antisocial personality disorder, and it is difficult to treat. Because this disorder tends to have social, legal, and financial implications, multiple treatment options must be considered. Treatment and therapy may help individuals manage their moods, change disruptive behaviors, and treat comorbid problems, such as anxiety and depression. Because of the risk of manipulative behaviors, therapists need to use caution, being fair, and setting limits.

 A new AUDIO podcast is posted every Saturday morning


 A new VIDEO podcast is posted every Saturday morning


Thursday, January 5, 2023

Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD)

This mental illness involves erratic or dramatic behavior and extremely impulsive, theatrical, illegal, and promiscuous actions. It is characterized by an enduring behavior that exhibits a disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others. There appears to be some heritability along with other neurobiological, developmental, and social determinants. Males are up to five times more likely to receive this diagnosis and are responsible for almost 50% of serious criminal behavior. They evidence a disregard for the rights or needs of others, tend to break the law, engage in substance abuse, using others for their own benefit, and typically lack a sense of moral conscience. When they lie, steal, fight, or get angry, they exhibit no remorse for their actions and behaviors. Without empathy, they act indifferent to the outcomes of their hurtful actions, blaming others and rationalizing the reasons for harming or deceiving them. Their impulsive, irritable, inconsistent, and aggressive or dangerous behaviors may lead to frequent job or relationship changes. The non-clinical terms of sociopath or psychopath may be used to describe some characteristics linked with this disorder.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Twin studies have indicated a moderate to high heritability for NPD, along with possible neurobiological factors. These individuals can be charming and charismatic, love-bombing individuals who they believe can benefit them. Exhibited behaviors include an aggressive self-enhanced and self-preoccupied aggrandizement, over-controlling, insensitive, critical, and provocative. They believe themselves more important than anyone else. They exaggerate their achievements and expect to be recognized as superior, feel entitled to special treatment, continual admiration and obedience, and exploit others to achieve personal gain. They are intensely envious. Their sense of grandiosity demands superior treatment from all others. They have an arrogant demeanor, lack of empathy and a persistent victim stance. They blame others for everything and exhibit an enormous hypersensitivity. Constructive criticism to narcissists must be very carefully presented because they tend to interpret any suggestion however small as humiliating, degrading, or shameful and can counterattack. If their agenda is curtailed or criticized in any way, narcissists can become hateful, revengeful, and dangerous—sometimes even moving toward an Antisocial Personality Disorder.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2023

M-5 Cluster B Disorders

Cluster B disorders in the DSM-5 include Narcissistic, Antisocial, Borderline, and Histronic personality disorders. In order to be diagnosed with one of these, the individual must exhibit at least two of four typical defining characteristics in thoughts, feelings, interpersonal relationships, and impulse control. Their patterns of behavior are pervasive, inflexible, deviate markedly from cultural norms and expectations, are stable over time, and lead to distress or impairment. Those with one of these diagnoses struggle with distorted thinking patterns, problematic emotional responses, over- or under-regulated impulse control, and interpersonal difficulties. They find it difficult to regulate their emotions, tend to exhibit overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or interactions with others. Their behaviors are often considered threatening or disturbing. These personality disorders may share some atypical brain features, some of which affect the amygdalae, two tiny brain organs that are involved in regulating emotion and alerting to potential danger. More tomorrow.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Narcissistic vs Antisocial

I keep hearing so much about Narcissism these days and it is scary—in political as well as social-climbing arenas. Are narcissists similar to sociopaths and psychopaths? 

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Edition 5) lists Narcissistic personality disorders separately from Antisocial personality disorders. The non-clinical terms of sociopath or psychopath may be used to describe characteristics of individuals with an Antisocial personality disorder. All are part of the Cluster B disorders that also include Borderline personality disorders and Histronic personality disorders. You could think of it this way: all individuals with an antisocial personality disorder are narcissistic, but not all individuals with a narcissistic personality disorder are antisocial (sociopath or psychopath). More tomorrow. 

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