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Mind-Body Connections

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The Power of Thought

'Scientific revolutions are very interesting. The way they happen is that most people deny them and resist them. And then there's more and more of an explosion, and there's a paradigm shift.' Candace Pert, 1986

Pert's landmark work on the biochemical pathways of the brain helped to spark the neuroscience explosion that has led to our understanding that the mind and body are one, with the same chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) found in both. There is now overwhelming evidence that our bodies react to suggestion not to reality and that even a broken leg mends at a rate linked to our attitudes, hopes and fears.

Sleep, thoughts, movement, rage and even a smile reflect neurotransmitter activity which stems from the pleasure centre deep inside the hypothalamus and it drives much of our goal-seeking behaviour for good or ill. In evolutionary terms it was there long before the neo-cortex and often means that we can at times behave out of keeping with our intellect if the feelings are powerful enough. (See Some Key Researchers)

 
 
(University of California Davis University)

 The Hypothalamus is a 'motor' of the limbic system (the 'feeling' system) which controls our biorhythms: emotional response and behaviour, pain and pleasure, heart rate and temperature, sleep cycles, appetite, thirst and hormones. For more brain maps go to http://www.brainexplorer.org/

Positive emotions play such an important part in transferring learning into long-term memory. If students find an experience fun they will remember the facts more readily. Therefore collaboration, group discussion, participation, games and quizzes will create a state of positive emotional arousal releasing a flood of 'pleasure chemicals' that help to 'fix' the learning.

 

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Brain Chemicals

Neurotransmitters are the versatile molecules that chemically connect neurons at the synaptic gaps. Extremely small amounts subtly underlie all our moods from ecstasy to deepest depression. Dopamine, norerepinephrine and serotonin are the primary mood-elevating neurotransmitters. These opiate-like endorphins trigger an increased flow of acetylcholine - the 'lubricant' that allows neural networks to grow and memories to be captured. Listening to a vibrant piece of music, experiencing a breathtaking sunset, sharing a joke with a friend,  stroking an animal, going for a walk on a beautiful day, hugging a loved family member, mastering something new, are events that give us a chemical 'brain bath' which affects the activation threshold of the pleasure centre and account for all the pleasurable sensations that accompany these activities.

 

If our 'feel-good' levels drop we don't like it and seek ways of redressing the balance. Some would argue that more than any species on earth we are addicted to pleasure which explains why emotional appeal is so powerful and compelling. Advertisers exhibit this knowledge day and daily and have turned promoting their products into an art form. You only have to watch TV car adverts, for example, to see how they are about gaining access to beautiful and desirable people at exotic locations and not about gears and engines! It is significant that the limbic system not only controls emotions, but memory also.