THE NEURON AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
Each neuron is three-dimensional, elastic and amorphous, just waiting for your desired application. Birth. School. Work. Death. A neuron can communicate with thousands of other neurons in a three-dimensional, elastic, and amorphous manner. The neuron is the basic component and the neural network is the brain. The nervous system senses the environment, and then responds appropriately via movement and action, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes involuntarily.This is human learning. The more emotional the life lesson the more brain chemistry happening and the stronger the neuron imprint. The stronger the emotion the stronger the learning experience.
As communication among each neuron escalates, intelligence expands and organisms are able to behave within their environments in ever more advanced and adaptive ways. Human beings have an enormous number of interconnected nerve cells that give our brain both immense size and unsurpassed complexity. Emotions gave us big brains.
Neurotransmitters such as serotonin or dopamine also produce the emotional coloring that flavors our experiences. Serotonin is the reason that sometimes we do an activity and feel happy, while at other times, when we do the same activity, we have a different set of emotions. The brain chemistry we create on a daily basis, by our own thoughts, determines how we feel. We create our brains with our emotions.
On the receiving end of the gap, neurotransmitters cause the release of specific chemicals that influence the activity of the neighboring nerve cell. That, in turn, influences the next receiving neuron, and so on. Not every neuron passes along the messages it receives.
Nerve cells change from a resting state to an excited state via a progression of stimulus. One form of stimulation sometimes may not be enough, but if you can provide enough stimulation to get the nerve cells to the point of excitement, they will become excited and stay that way. Once a nerve cell becomes excited at the postsynaptic terminal, it now changes from a receiver of information to a sender of information. Now the nerve cell will spread its excitement.
Neurotransmitters can stimulate, inhibit, or change the activity of a neuron itself on a cellular level. They can tell a neuron to unhook from its current connection or make a neuron stick better to its present connection. Neurotransmitters can signal neighboring neurons to become excited, or they can send a message to the next neuron down the line that will inhibit or completely stop a nerve impulse. They can even change the message as it is being sent to a neuron, so that it sends a new message to all nerve cells connected to it. Any of these activities can take place in a millisecond.
HOW KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE CHANGE OR EVOLVE THE BRAIN
Both the body and the brain are efficient energy conservers. Common thoughts take no energy. Common thoughts are like an engine in neutral.
PUTTING KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE INTO PRACTICE
The greatest discovery of my generation is that man can alter his life simply by altering his attitude of mind
The “fire together wire together” principle is called Hebbian learning, and the chemical change in the nerve cells and synapses is called long-term potentiation (LTP). Long term potentiation means that nerve cells at the synaptic level develop a long-term relationship. When we are learning new information, we combine different levels of mind to make a new level of mind. It is easier for us to make a new synaptic connection in any part of the brain when other circuits are alive, turned on, and electric. The key is to turn on the brain and those appropriate synaptic connections so that they can go to work attracting and helping to fire the new neurons needed.
One of the reasons episodic memories stay with us for so long is that our senses were intimately involved in their formation. We become aware of all the various stimuli; we tie them together in that elevated moment of awareness, we store this information by identification. The stronger the initial sensory stimuli (and, therefore, emotional components of the experience), the greater the chance we will remember the event and the formation of its memories.
The more novel or new the experience is, the stronger the signal to the brain.All memories include a feeling (or feelings) that is the chemical signature recorded from some past experience. As we willfully, consciously and mindfully activate the memory of the event gone by, the moment we remember, we release the same neurotransmitters within that neural network and, therefore, create the same feelings.
Because our memories of past events are always linked with emotions (emotions are the end product of experience) and are primarily tied to events related to people and things at specific times and places, our episodic memories are filled with the feelings of past associations of known external experiences. We tend to analyze all experiences based on how they feel.The main reason we fall in love with someone is neurochemically based. Our own brain creates the chemistry within us. The other person is merely a reflection of what is already inside us.
There are only two ways that we make Neural Growth Factor in the brain—when we learn and memorize new information, and when we have novel experiences.
Most people spend a great deal of their day consciously or unconsciously feeling and thinking from past memories. They do this because they have hardwired those experiences by repeatedly thinking of them and by associating many other experiences with them. As a consequence of that lack of novelty in their environments and experiences, they have become hardwired to their own worlds. Our everyday thoughts etched in the brain’s neural networks appear as the voices we hear in our own mind that tell us what to say, think, act, feel, emote or respond with. They are all based in our memories in the form of neural networks encoded with the past.
THE CHEMISTRY OF SURVIVAL
If we lack emotional intelligence, whenever survival mode and the resulting stress rises, the human brain switches to autopilot and has an inherent tendency to do more of the same, only harder. Which, more often than not, is precisely the wrong approach in today’s world.
-Robert K. Cooper, Ph.d.
Both the body and the brain are efficient energy conservers. Common thoughts take no effort to engage in—in fact, they are like our car engine at idle. We are sitting in mental “park” or “neutral,” not using very much fuel or engine power, but not going anywhere either.
Behaving habitually or instinctually takes no effort at all and no conscious awareness means no free will need be exerted.
Reprogram Your Neurons in the Morning
In the first half hour of each day, we go through the same experiences as though we are lobotomized. How many people truly take advantage of the kind of autopilot we have, using that time to seek out new experiences and learn new things?
What are the consequences, when not just our behaviors but also our beliefs, values, attitudes, and moods fall into the same unconscious, unthinking, utterly predictable pattern? What happens when the self-imposed box of our own mindset changes from being a comfort zone to a prison or dungeon? How do we escape the trap we’ve set for ourselves, simply by being ourselves?
The very boundaries of the box are our feelings. Our ability to create new emotions is our only limitation. We have to stop our most natural way of thinking and feeling (and feeling and thinking) to repattern the brain. This gets the brain out of its neurological habits of firing and allows it to make new sequences of circuitry—new footprints and patterns. This takes will and mental effort.
Thinking inside the box limits our ability to evolve, progress, or modify our behavior. The larger reason is that this kind of thinking is self-limiting is what happens to the brain in survival mode.
ANCIENT SURVIVAL MODE
Times have changed, and the kinds of threats to our survival have changed in both type and degree. The neural networks of the fight-or-flight response have been fired for hundreds of thousands of years. When a survival response is initiated through the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) it increases heart rate and blood pressure, reduces the amount of blood flow to the internal organs and increases blood to the extremities.The point is that if we are not living in the present moment but in an anticipatory state of mind, we are in a sense, projecting the mentality of survival.
When we are experiencing this protective state of mind, we are essentially prepared to react with a certain set of primitive responses that include doing anything to protect “the self,” which we self-limited to identification as our body.
Survival is really an emotional mode of operating. Fear or aggression tends to be the dominant responses in survival. When we respond with these elements, we are executing our natural animal tendencies.
Therefore, if we are afraid of the adventure of the unknown, chances are that we are living in a state of mind that replicates survival. In survival mode, if we can’t predict how an experience will feel (because we lack any related past memories that have already been experienced as a set of feelings), we will avoid engaging in that experience. How, then, can we ever experience anything truly unknown without fear? Knowledge removes the fear of survival.
MODERN SURVIVAL MODE
With the complicated life of contemporary man, the meaning of survival has been modified. Survival concerns still matter to us; however they have become much more complicated. Presently, survival still means, at its base level, the attraction of the opposite sex (or same sex, for that matter), adjusting to external threats, overcoming pain, attaining social status, having a place to live, providing food and comfort, ensuring a future, protecting and educating our offspring, to name a few.
Taken to its most basic level, tough, when we react to the external world, no matter what the stimulus, we respond in the same way with the same neurological systems. When we are threatened and in survival mode, we react with a set of circuits related to the past habits, behaviors, attitudes and memories that are either genetically wired or are wired by our experiences.
Therefore, our interpretation of external threats or stressors has been changed to meet the demands of our current living situations. However, at the most simplistic level, survival is still survival, and our reaction to external pressures or perils will always be the same.
Survival usually means the following:
Avoidance of pain and predators
Dominance, power and control of the environment for
securing the greatest evolutionary opportunity
With our enlarged neocortex and complicated social mores, we have only modified these three primitive survival responses to dress up basic animal traits. Still, when we modify our behavior to the most basic of human conditions, most of our motives revolve around these factors.
When the brain is being used for survival responses, it is no longer being used for learning or higher thought processes. Living in stress is living in survival—they are one and the same. Some people have an inner and outer peace that can lead us to believe that they have minimized their stress levels. Continually being on high alert or in emergency mode, our body doesn’t have the time or the resources necessary to repair and regenerate itself.
The three categories of stress are:
Physical: injury, overexertion, lack of sleep, shelter, food & water. Lack of mates, predators. Disputes, relationships, deadlines, motor vehicles, finances.
Chemical: toxins, allergens, pollutants.
Emotional/psychological: time, money, career, loss. Much more prevalent in our modern world.
The difference today is that the nonphysical threats we face are more complex. Animals face acute stress, humans tend to live more in chronic stress.
Our state of mind and being during exercise must be non-stressed to enjoy the stress reducing benefits of exercise.
Our cardiovascular system, as remarkable as it is, was never designed for the repeated emotional/psychological stress originally designed for fight-or-flight from man eating predators. If we continually live an intense emotional/psychological survival stress mode, we turn up the body’s thermostat and leave it on a high level all the time. It is like stepping on the gas and the brake at the same time.
The stress response impairs our basic cognition functions. Most people under the influence of stress response do not think clearly. Stress deteriorates the brain and the body. –The Molecules of Emotion, Candace Pert, Ph.D.