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Think You're In Control of Your Brain?
Think Again

or: Your brain is far more powerful than you think, but your mind is not your brain

Original Article 'Your Mind Does Not Care What Your Brain Thinks' by Billi Gordon Ph.D. published in psychologytoday.com

Read my 'take' on the subject of Brain versus Mind here

The brain and mind are both involved in consciousness and the terms are often used interchangeably but the brain and the mind are not the same. The brain is a tangible organ in the body that controls all vital human function.  Conversely, the mind permeates every cell of the human body[1] and consults with non-human cells such as the gut bacteria, which comprise nine tenths of the cells in our bodies.[2] More importantly, the mind ultimately has dominion over the brain.[3-5]  

The Brain

If the brain were a company, its mission statement would be: “promoting the highest quality of individual life by regulating stress to maintain homeostasis (balance).” To achieve this, the brain reconciles stimuli from our five senses with our internal milieu, i.e. observes the outside world and responds to it internally.[6]

The thalamus is the clearinghouse for all such sensory information except smell. Once sensory information is sorted in the thalamus it is dispatched to the hippocampus and the amygdala. Smell, however, goes directly to the hippocampus and amygdala.[7]

The hippocampus is the seat of learning and memory and compares the sensory information from the outside world with its perception of how the world should be[8], like a quality controller checks products to ensure they meet industry standards. The hippocampus reports any discrepancies or problems (e.g. I see a lion at my door) to the amygdala, which sends and receives information from every part of the brain and body.[9-11] In the case of an unexpected lion at the door the information would travel to the necessary places to prepare for the eventuality of fight or flight  - with the smart money being on the latter. 

Hormones and Neurotransmitters

The endocrine system uses hormones and the nervous system uses neurotransmitters to communicate between the body and the brain.  Hormones are released by endocrine glands into the blood stream and carry information to and from various parts of the body and communicate with the brain by acting on neurons via receptors,[12-14] somewhat like voice and text messages between the department heads and the corporate executives in a company. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that allow nerve cells to communicate with each other and are like inner departmental emails.  In this case, the department being the nervous system.

Communication between the brain and the body, via hormones and neurotransmitters, report interoceptive awareness[15, 16] (how you feel what you feel); this determines why you do what you do. It is similar to how the integrity of the work environment affects worker morale, loyalty and pride, which in turn influences workmanship and productivity. 

Stress

Any intrusion on the homeostasis or balance of the organism is stress. Note: not all stress is distress, but all distress is stress. The brain's job is to regulate all stress and return balance to the internal milieu.  Protective mechanisms, such as increases in blood pressure and serum glucose levels that prepare us for the eventuality of fight-or-flight, deconstruct health when they are overused and devolve into hypertension, cardiac disease and diabetes.[17-19] This process is similar to riding the brakes on your car until the pads are worn down to where it is metal on metal. Suddenly, your brakes, which are designed to keep you safe, become a liability placing you in danger.  Chronic over usage results in allostatic load and negatively affects the quality of life the same way bad equipment and unsafe conditions creates a hostile work environment. 

Hormones are vital to the brain for protection and adaptation. Unfortunately, stress and stress hormones, e.g. cortisol, can alter important brain functions such as learning.  Thus severe and sustained stress can be as detrimental to the brain as a well-organised employee theft ring or embezzler can be to a company’s profits.

The Mind

As Candace Pert said, your body is your subconscious mind, i.e. the binding status of neuropeptides with receptors on the surface of cells, subsequent intracellular processes, the dispatch of informational substances, within the context of nature and nurture.[6] To imagine the influence of the mind over the brain, picture executives gathering in a boardroom to direct corporate strategy and determine company policy. The board members represent various demographics and agendas (belief systems, social influences, thought processes, education, innate intelligence, microbiome influences on mood, and information about all aspects of the company etc.)[20]

Comprehensively, the board members individual variables, in tandem with the group’s dynamics determine the efficacy of the board. For example, gut bacteria releasing metabolites into the blood stream and influence hormone and neurotransmitters and ultimately mood and emotion.[21-26] Mood and emotion change everything from perspective to presentation. Metaphorically, every unforeseen intangible variable that the people in the boardroom bring to the table individually and collectively is the mind in cohort with the influence of the microbiome. The way those variables, interactions and distractions affect their work is how the mind affects the efficacy of the brain. If the signalling of informational substances is compromised in the body, the brain is affected. [27-31]  So, in summation, your mind is the sum of the wisdom of your neuropeptides, and other informational substances, under the advisement of your gut-bacteria (which is like your personal google).  

The busy brain, consolidates, simplifies and anticipates.[32, 33] This promotes efficiency, but at the risk of vulnerability. For example, your brain will interpret the muscles you use to smile as a sign of happiness, even if you are sad.  Thus, you can trick the brain into thinking you are happy by placing a pencil in your mouth and biting down on it, because you use the same muscles.  Likewise, cortisol levels that habituate slowly are misread as the continuing presence of threat, even though the threat does not exist. This is problematic for the brain, which has not evolved much; it is not problematic for the mind, which constantly changes. [1]

The even better news is that you can promote the evolvement your mind with meditation, yoga, and healthy eating [34-42]. In turn, this will have a positive affects on your brain and body function because the mind is corporate management and the brain and the body are organised labour. In a perfect world, management and labor share the same goals, communicate well and compliment each other.  In a healthy individual, the mind, brain, and body, interact to enhance functionality in individuals.  Remain fabulous and phenomenal.   

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/obesely-speaking/201403/your-mind-does-not-care-what-your-brain-thinks  (includes all references)


References

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2. Schwartz, S., et al., A metagenomic study of diet-dependent interaction between gut microbiota and host in infants reveals differences in immune response. Genome Biol, 2012. 13(4): p. r32.

3. Paller, K.A. and S. Suzuki, The source of consciousness. Trends Cogn Sci, 2014. 18(8): p. 387-9.

4. Paquette, V., et al., "Change the mind and you change the brain": effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy on the neural correlates of spider phobia. Neuroimage, 2003. 18(2): p. 401-9.

5. Paulson, S., et al., The thinking ape: the enigma of human consciousness. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2013. 1303: p. 4-23; discussion 24.

6. Pert, C., Molecules of Emotion. 1997, New York, New York: Scribner.

7. Jellinger, K.A., [Functional pathophysiology of consciousness]. Neuropsychiatr, 2009. 23(2): p. 115.

8. McEwen, B.S. and P.J. Gianaros, Central role of the brain in stress and adaptation: links to socioeconomic status, health, and disease. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2010. 1186: p. 190-222.

9. Cromwell, H.C. and R.M. Atchley, Influence of emotional states on inhibitory gating: animals models to clinical neurophysiology. Behav Brain Res, 2015. 276: p. 67-75.

10. Shu, S.Y., et al., Interactions among memory-related centers in the brain. J Neurosci Res, 2003. 71(5): p. 609-16.

11. Wittmann, B.C., et al., Mesolimbic interaction of emotional valence and reward improves memory formation. Neuropsychologia, 2008. 46(4): p. 1000-8.

12. Koibuchi, N., Hormonal regulation of cerebellar development and plasticity. Cerebellum, 2008. 7(1): p. 1-3.

13. Kropiunigg, U., Basics in psychoneuroimmunology. Ann Med, 1993. 25(5): p. 473-9.

14. McEwen, B.S., Early life influences on life-long patterns of behavior and health. Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev, 2003. 9(3): p. 149-54.

15. Khalsa, S.S., et al., Interoceptive awareness in experienced meditators. Psychophysiology, 2008. 45(4): p. 671-7.

16. Sedeno, L., et al., How do you feel when you can't feel your body? Interoception, functional connectivity and emotional processing in depersonalization-derealization disorder. PLoS One, 2014. 9(6): p. e98769.

17. Kyrou, I. and C. Tsigos, Stress hormones: physiological stress and regulation of metabolism. Curr Opin Pharmacol, 2009. 9(6): p. 787-93.

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19. McEwen, B.S., Allostasis and allostatic load: implications for neuropsychopharmacology. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2000. 22(2): p. 108-24.

20. Alberi, L., et al., Notch signaling in the brain: in good and bad times. Ageing Res Rev, 2013. 12(3): p. 801-14.

21. Borre, Y.E., et al., The impact of microbiota on brain and behavior: mechanisms & therapeutic potential. Adv Exp Med Biol, 2014. 817: p. 373-403.

22. Bravo, J.A., et al., Communication between gastrointestinal bacteria and the nervous system. Curr Opin Pharmacol, 2012. 12(6): p. 667-72.

23. Cluny, N.L., R.A. Reimer, and K.A. Sharkey, Cannabinoid signalling regulates inflammation and energy balance: the importance of the brain-gut axis. Brain Behav Immun, 2012. 26(5): p. 691-8.

24. Farmer, A.D., H.A. Randall, and Q. Aziz, It's a gut feeling: how the gut microbiota affects the state of mind. J Physiol, 2014. 592(Pt 14): p. 2981-8.

25. Mayer, E.A., T. Savidge, and R.J. Shulman, Brain-gut microbiome interactions and functional bowel disorders. Gastroenterology, 2014. 146(6): p. 1500-12.

26. Moloney, R.D., et al., The microbiome: stress, health and disease. Mamm Genome, 2014. 25(1-2): p. 49-74.

27. Barth, C., A. Villringer, and J. Sacher, Sex hormones affect neurotransmitters and shape the adult female brain during hormonal transition periods. Front Neurosci, 2015. 9: p. 37.

28. Bockaert, J., et al., GPCR interacting proteins (GIPs) in the nervous system: Roles in physiology and pathologies. Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol, 2010. 50: p. 89-109.

29. Holzer, P. and A. Farzi, Neuropeptides and the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Adv Exp Med Biol, 2014. 817: p. 195-219.

30. McEwen, B.S., The neurobiology of stress: from serendipity to clinical relevance. Brain Res, 2000. 886(1-2): p. 172-189.

31. Vitetta, L., et al., Mind-body medicine: stress and its impact on overall health and longevity. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2005. 1057: p. 492-505.

32. Abraham, A.D., K.A. Neve, and K.M. Lattal, Dopamine and extinction: a convergence of theory with fear and reward circuitry. Neurobiol Learn Mem, 2014. 108: p. 65-77.

33. Abrous, D.N., M. Koehl, and M. Le Moal, Adult neurogenesis: from precursors to network and physiology. Physiol Rev, 2005. 85(2): p. 523-69.

34. Baerentsen, K.B., et al., An investigation of brain processes supporting meditation. Cogn Process, 2010. 11(1): p. 57-84.

35. Bonilla, E., [Mind-body connection, parapsychological phenomena and spiritual healing. A review]. Invest Clin, 2010. 51(2): p. 209-38.

36. Bowden, D.E., D. McLennan, and J. Gruzelier, A randomised controlled trial of the effects of Brain Wave Vibration training on mood and well-being. J Complement Integr Med, 2014. 11(3): p. 223-32.

37. Brewer, J.A. and K.A. Garrison, The posterior cingulate cortex as a plausible mechanistic target of meditation: findings from neuroimaging. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2014. 1307: p. 19-27.

38. Cahn, B.R., A. Delorme, and J. Polich, Event-related delta, theta, alpha and gamma correlates to auditory oddball processing during Vipassana meditation. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci, 2013. 8(1): p. 100-11.

39. Cohen, D.L., et al., Cerebral blood flow effects of yoga training: preliminary evaluation of 4 cases. J Altern Complement Med, 2009. 15(1): p. 9-14.

40. Konturek, P.C., T. Brzozowski, and S.J. Konturek, Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. J Physiol Pharmacol, 2011. 62(6): p. 591-9.

41. Selhub, E.M., A.C. Logan, and A.C. Bested, Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry. J Physiol Anthropol, 2014. 33: p. 2.

42. Voreades, N., A. Kozil, and T.L. Weir, Diet and the development of the human intestinal microbiome. Front Microbiol, 2014. 5: p. 494.

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Why what’s ON your Mind is not the same as what’s IN your Mind

A story about your state of mind...


...or rather the state OF your mind and how you think about things, but, before we begin, let’s just explain the physical difference between your mind and your brain, because this won’t make sense to you if you think they are one and the same - they are not. 

Your brain is a physical organ that controls all your vital functions and keeps you operational; it is not your consciousness - you don't need to know what it's doing. Your mind is that ‘aspect’ of your physiology that enables you to ‘communicate’ with other areas of your body to make conscious decisions about your overall activity; to ‘control’ the day-to-day events of your body*.

They say ‘It’s All In Your Mind’ don’t they, but depending on what the issue ‘they’ are talking about is - whether it’s a genuine concern about a perceived threat to our safety or your attitude to a particular issue (e.g. the half-empty or half-full glass) - there are always other ways to think about things. How YOU think about things is often called your mindset, but whilst we may all have a different place on the mindset spectrum (if one can call it that) we all have the same potential when it comes to changing that mindset. That’s because our brains are not set in stone, they are ‘plastic’ - not literally of course. This is just the terminology commonly used to explain that we CAN change our brains because the brain is always capable of adapting to our circumstance and to influences from a range of factors. If you’re one of those people who tells others, ‘that’s just the way I think’ or ‘I’ve always believed that’ then you’ll probably have convinced yourself that your brain IS set in stone and cannot be changed. But, whilst many people are defined as having a ‘fixed’ mindset, this is an error and it may come as a surprise to learn that the earth is not flat. Okay, that’s maybe an extreme example but it’s designed to make you realise that the ‘truth’ as you believe it, may in fact need a second look…. 
YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR MIND - so that you think differently, see things in another way and make decisions as consciously as possible based on a wider range of information. 

The fixed mindset is a self-imposed ‘condition’ rather than an actual ‘state of mind’. If you see yourself as having a fixed mindset, you may believe certain things are fact, when they are just opinions. You may have a low risk attitude to doing things you haven’t tried before. Rather than saying to yourself, ‘That sounds exciting, even if it might be dangerous’ your attitude might be, ‘You wouldn’t get me doing THAT!’ But even this can be changed so that you don’t see the world as scary or unsafe. You can take precautions, like anyone else, but you can still take part fully and enjoy all kinds of life experiences, and why shouldn’t you? It’s all out there and of course HOW you think impacts on all your decisions; the work you choose to do, who you work for, whether to go for that promotion, whether to start your own business and how you interact with your customers, colleagues, competitors and of course your relationships.

Unravelling The Self-limiting View

Changing your mindset begins with looking at the factors that, over time, have caused you to limit your view of the world. We need to know why your attitudes have become your ‘normal’ in order to question them, revisit the fundamental truth around those thought patterns and recognise them as part of your make-up; your mindset. By doing this, you will also understand how limiting these thoughts have been and see the benefits of making the changes that would widen your experiences and provide improved opportunities in all aspects of your life. The aim being to achieve a better work:life balance which positively affects others in your life as well as yourself.

With this information you can then look at where you would like to be at specific points in the future and build a plan that suits your personality and your skills but builds in potential for more opportunities, more personal development and more positive experiences which will help you make the most of your efforts as time goes on.  You will also achieve more fulfilment and renewed purpose.


* There is much more to it than this of course. For more detail take a look at: ‘Your Mind Does Not Care What Your Brain Thinks’

Chris G Day - Mindset Coach and Creative Mentor / The Neurology Layman - helping you change the way you think so you can make better decisions and enjoy a more fulfilling life.
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More articles will appear here from time to time so pop back soon or contact me to let me know what you might be interested in reading about. 
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