Neuroplasticity, change and addiction disorders?

The cerebral cortex of the Macaque monkey is very similar to humans, each part of the brain is responsible for a behavior, in a healthy brain these parts work together coherently to enable us to execute behaviors. Engaging in some activities more than others shapes our brains and results in us having more white matter in the areas that are utilized regularly.


Under or over use of certain parts of the brain can cause problems in later life. An FMRI scan will show you where you have more white matter, more neuronal connections and more activity, it’s easier to do something that your brain has been conditioned to do, rehearsal leads to more connections and this creates emotional addictions, be they positive or negative, your cells will adapt to crave the lifestyle and behaviors that you repeat over a period of time. So it’s easier to change a child or a teenager, many experts say that adults over the age of 25-35 cannot change because their brain is set in their old patterns. This is not true; the brain creates 700 new neurons every single day through a process known as neurogenesis. Your hippocampus creates these new neurons.


You can help your hippocampus to grow by regularly engaging in a variety of activities that will help your cortical areas to remain balanced. Remember that there is a lot of overlapping that occurs as you perform activities or imagine that you’re performing activities, but some brain regions are absolutely essential for certain types of activities, your hippocampal region stores memories and the dentate gyrus in the hippocampus forms new brain cells constantly. So no amount of overlapping will cause the primary motor cortex to create new brain cells, but the overlapping that occurs is essential for the brain to work efficiently, this has been proven by many studies, researchers know that the entire brain needs to work as a coherent whole otherwise many functions are compromised.


Neuropeptides are chemical messengers that are synthesized and released by neurons; they are in the heart, the lungs, in the lining of your gut, even in your white cells. They are made of small chains of amino acids. They usually bind to G protein receptors to modulate neural activity and other tissues like the gut, muscles and heart.


Once Neuropeptides are secreted into the bloodstream they go into the cells of the body & create a physical state. So for example if you’re happy your blood will be carrying happy neuropeptides, these chemicals are distributed throughout the body and they change your emotional state. If you’re sad the same thing happens. The chemical substance that is in your blood when you’re happy is different to the chemical substance that is in your blood when you’re sad.


Neuropeptides are produced in response to an emotion, so when someone says that they are overcome with emotion, they really are. Thoughts can also cause neuropeptide release, so the emotions of fear and excitement will have their own neuropeptides. This is why they say thoughts can make you sick, a neuropeptide is a chemical substance, you can see it, and it’s a physical substance. That is why some doctors say that thoughts create physical matter.


Engaging in an unfamiliar environment or an unfamiliar behavior rewires the brain. Joe Dispenza talks about chemical attachment, we become addicted to emotions that we experience regularly. Much like a drug addict experiences withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking a drug. What separates us from other species is the ratio of our frontal lobe to the rest of the brain; our species is superior when it comes to self-regulation. Change can be hard because sometimes people have associations that are self-defeating, and they release negative neuropeptides as soon as they think of love, or the possibility of doing work that they love, or travel, or surfing.


If we keep accessing the same emotions then we keep releasing the same chemicals and our cells become addicted to that. The hypothalamus assembles & releases certain chemicals that match certain emotions that we experience, those chemicals are called peptides, and they are small chain amino acid sequences. The body makes about 20 different amino acids all together to formulate its physical structure. In the hypothalamus we take small chain proteins called peptides, and we assemble them into certain neuropeptides that match the emotional states that we experience on a daily basis. There are chemicals for every emotional state that we experience. When we tap into a familiar emotion the hypothalamus will immediately assemble the peptide that matches that emotional state it then releases it through the pituitary into the bloodstream. As soon as it enters the bloodstream it makes its way to different centers and parts of the body. Every single cell on the body has these receptors on the outside. One cell can have thousands of receptors studding its surface. When a peptide docks on a cell it's like a key going into a lock. It sits on the receptor's surface and attaches to it and sends a signal into the cell.


The peptides that the hypothalamus creates are strong chemicals. Whilst these peptides are they happy or sad are attached to the cell they are changing the cell. These sets off a whole cascade of biochemical events, some of these events change the nucleus of the cell. Cells know whether they are about to divide or in a program to stop dividing. According to Dr. Candace B Pert each cell has a consciousness and knows where it is, where it’s going, and what proteins its making. She says that the cell is the smallest unit of consciousness in the body. Joe Dispenza says that cells will start sending impressions in the form of images to the brain so it can start to formulate imagery, he goes on to say that this will sound like voices in our head to think of a reason why we should engage in a behavior that our cells are addicted to, be that depression, confusion, excitement or joy. Then he says that the body will tell the brain that it’s not getting its chemical needs met. Then the brain will activate and go into our past situations and flash pictures to our frontal lobe to stimulate us to engage in the old behavior. This is where frontal cortical control comes in handy; meditation is one method that can be used to enable us to have more self-control. He defines addiction as something that you can’t stop. We bring to ourselves situations that will fulfill the biochemical craving of the cells of our body, by creating situations that meet our chemical needs. He ends by saying if you can’t control your emotional state you must be addicted to it.

Author(s): Eliza Mc Namara

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