Interesting Neuroscience: Pain passed on by smell

Mice housed in the same room as one another can pass certain types of pain to each other through smell.

Exposure to inflammatory molecules or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol can cause hyperalgesia, a painful hypersensitivity to touch, heat or chemical irritants. Andrey Ryabinin and his colleagues at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland found that when mice were subjected to these pain-inducing treatments, untreated mice in the same room also acquired hyperalgesia. Moreover, mice in a separate room began displaying this pain sensitivity after exposure to bedding used by the hyperalgesic animals in the first room. The authors conclude that the pain is transmitted by an olfactory cue.

Social transfer of pain could play a part in chronic pain in humans, especially in cases without apparent physiological cause, the authors suggest.

Some thoughts:

Perhaps this is why many traditions around the world use incense, essential oils and fragrances to “clear” a space?  
 
Are body fragrances subconsciously used to camouflage pain and decoy the emotional upset?
 
What other emotions are transmitted through scent? Are chemicals interrupting vital transmissions?
 
How many megabits are transmitted through smell? What is the bandwidth of the nose?

Pelvic Neuroscience

A recent article in the academic journal, Science, reassigns the pelvic autonomic nervous system (ANS). For over a century, Western science said the pelvis was parasympathetic-based. This is contrary to anecdotal evidence suggesting that when we get scared, we get the urge to go to the bathroom.

A couple of quick points from the article:

1: The pelvic region is probably controlled by the sympathetic branch of the ANS.

2: The sympathetic branch of the ANS is controlled by more primitive parts of our neurology. The fight/flight branch is reactionary.

3: The parasympathetic branch is more proactive and controlled by more evolved parts of the brain.

Source: “The sacral autonomic outflow is sympathetic” (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/354/6314/893.long)

 

After Exercise or Stress: Practice Deep Belly Breathing

Exercise and stressful events can increase the cortisol level in the body.  When cortisol is high, we are in a sympathetic mode of the autonomic nervous system. This is “fight vs. flight.”

The below study indicates diaphragmatic breathing (or deep belly breaths) reduces cortisol levels. This reduction of cortisol prepares the body for resting, digesting and repairing.

Practice deep breathing after exercise or stressful events.

Source: Diaphragmatic breathing reduces exercise-induced oxidative stress.

3 Supplements For Your Nervous System

If you want better performance from your nervous system, you may need to take supplements. Do your own research and check with your health care provider to get the right supplements for you.

The Right Electrolytes

Electrolytes are basically salts and other minerals. The right salts provide conductivity for the electrical signals of the nervous system. Minerals also provide the basic building blocks for stuff like neurotransmitters. Minerals like magnesium calm the body, prevent leg cramps and prevent fatigue. 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. My current electrolyte powder of choice is

Ultima (AMZN).

The Right Oil

Your nervous system is literally made up of cells that are similar to wires. These wires carry the electrochemical signals that communicate between the brain and body. In order for the wires to be effective, the wire needs a shielding similar to the plastic coating on electrical cables.  The coating of your nervous system is called the myelin sheath and is made up of good lipids, which are fats. Without good fats, the wires of your nervous system literally short circuit. More stress can cause the myelin sheath to degrade.  So, we need to re-myelineate the nervous system. My current favorite oil for re-myelineation is Krill Oil.  Get this brand on (AMZN).

Human Braking Fluid

Just like cars, high-performance individuals need the ability to stop and rest in a moment’s notice in order to avoid crashing. Science indicates that many people are deficient in the human brake fluid, acetylcholine. Choline is necessary for normal synaptic transmission and brain health and also involved in fatty acid metabolism in the liver. Inositol is also essential for brain and nervous system health. Choline-Inositol supports healthy nerve transmission. I like this brand on (AMZN).

 Hope this helps!

Central Pattern Generators

Central pattern generators are networks of nervous system cells that operate partially without direct control from the brain to produce rhythmic or vibratory movements within the body. Think about boring actions like chewing gum or walking, or more exciting actions like dancing, making love or orgasm.  The natural, rhythmic movement of these actions are driven by these primitive networks of nerves.

So, why should you care about CPGs?  For years, Western science has believed that the nervous system operates mostly as a reaction to outside stimulus. The discovery of CPGs in the 1960s has proven that nervous systems can produce action from within the system and without an external factor. Recent research into primitive nervous systems, like in lobsters, has made CPG discoveries easier.

(As an aside: The same CPG that makes the body tremor during orgasm and facilitates the chewing of gum probably helps the penguin waddle across the ice and a jellyfish pulsate to glide through the ocean.)

Aren’t all nervous system cells the same?  Nope. This research shows that neurons have different functions and properties. I guess you could think of CPGs as circuits on a motherboard. Some circuits are meant for smooth rhythmic movements; some come online fast and hard.  

So how many different type of CPGs are present in the body? Perhaps you are thinking there is one for each different type of activity, like dancing, walking, making love and shivering?  Alas, that’s not the case.  These networks of CPGs come together to produce different functions. The same cells connecting and firing with adjacent networks can produce the rumba one moment and the walk to the bar another moment.  We can think of this as a symphony orchestra of vibrations and pulsations.  If we add more coordinated CPGs, we create a richer, more full experience.  And as the orchestra learns new tunes, the CPGs may adapt to produce richer sound.

This has implications for our understanding of neurons and the nervous system as a whole.  Each neuron can create many different behaviors.  At one moment it may play the drums and at another the cymbals.  Neurons may share the same flexibility of CPGs, which would allow a network of neurons to process very complex data-sets and respond with a wide spectrum of actions. This broad ability may empower the nervous system to process, learn and evolve.

Source : http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(00)003675?_returnURL=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0960982200003675%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

Interesting Central Pattern Generators

Central pattern generators (CPGs) are biological neural networks that produce rhythmic patterned outputs without sensory feedback. (RR)
CPGs are involved in:
– breathing
– your heart beat
– walking
– making love
– dancing
Here are a couple interesting examples of CPGs in action:

 

OODA & BOODA Loop

I learned about the OODA loop while working on the DREN, which is the Department of Defense's national supercomputer network.

OODA was developed by a brilliant fighter pilot and military strategist named John Boyd. This OODA loop is now used by business and sports strategists. As Wikipedia describes:

Boyd hypothesized that all intelligent organisms and organizations undergo a continuous cycle of interaction with their environment. Boyd breaks this cycle down to four interrelated and overlapping processes through which one cycles continuously:

Observation: the collection of data by means of the senses

Orientation: the analysis and synthesis of data to form one's current mental perspective

Decision: the determination of a course of action based on one's current mental perspective

Action: the physical playing-out of decisions

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3a/OODA.Boyd.svg

Boyd’s OODA has helped me slow down during fast-paced, intense and important situations.  It helps reduce reactivity and promotes proactive action.

It is a great framework, but I believe it is missing a step that can be helpful to anyone using it:  Breathe.

Breathe. Then observe, orient, decide and act. Breathing puts us in a parasympathetic, or relaxed, state that allows for the most creative solution to appear.

I think John Boyd would dig the addition of the breathe step. He might even be okay with calling it the BOODA Loop.

Vagal Fatigue

I believe vagal fatigue is more important than adrenal fatigue. Unfortunately, vagal fatigue does not get the attention I think it should.

Let’s quickly recap:

The adrenals are responsible for revving up the body. It’s the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system which brings us into a state described as either excitement, anxiety or fight/flight. When the adrenals are active, it’s as if we’re pressing on the gas pedal.

The vagus nerve is responsible for calming and relaxing the body. It’s the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, and brings us into a state described as relaxation, peace or rest-digest-nest. When the vagus is active, it’s as if we’re pressing on the brake pedal.

(Perhaps when we’re neither pressing on the gas or the brakes, we’re in a flow state?)

There’s a lot on the web about “adrenal fatigue,” but “vagal fatigue” does not score high. As of Mar 9, 2017:

“adrenal fatigue” = about 430,000 results
“vagal fatigue” = 702 results
Personally, I don’t think the adrenals fatigue. Give the adrenals gas, and it’ll inject the excitement to propel the body forward. (Perhaps adrenal fatigue means the body is degenerating from an overdrive of the adrenals.)
The braking system does fail, though. If your car is in a lot of “stop and go” traffic, you’ll need to repair the brakes more often. If your body is undergoing a lot of tension, stress and excitement, you’ll need to replenish and strengthen the vagus nerve.

The Lymphatic System

I’m attending a workshop at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas with Dr John Douillard.  John is a teacher of Ayurveda. Here are some notes:

In Sanskrit: “rasa” is the lymph and “rasayana” is the study of longevity.

Lymph is critically important for our immunity and psychological health. The lymphatic system transports nutrients and is the major cellular detoxification matrix of the human body.

If the lymph backs up, it will put a strain on the liver, intestinal tract and gall bladder.

No water, no movement, no drainage. We literally get backed up at the cellular level if we are dehydrated and don’t move.

Some foods and herbs that clear the lymph:

– Anything red: beets, cherries, berries, celery

– Herbs: Manjistha, Cleavers

– Neem is good for bile and blood

More info at: http://lifespa.com/best-herbs-cleanse-lymphatic-system/