Genetic & Epigentics factor behind traumatized, chronically stressed and depressed brain.
There are certain genetic factors behind chronic negative emotions such as anxiety depression. They can run in families, and some studies have shown that up to 40% of the risk for developing depression is inherited. This suggests that there are certain genetic variations that may increase a person’s susceptibility to depression.
However Epigenetics refers to changes in gene expression that are not due to changes in the underlying DNA sequence. This can occur in response to environmental influences such as stress, diet, and exposure to toxins. For example, chronic stress has been shown to alter the way genes are expressed, which can contribute to depression.
Vargus Nerves: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Systems
The (vagus) nervous system has two branches: the sympathetic nervous system, which activates the “fight or flight” response during stressful situations, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes the “rest and digest” response during safe and calm situations.
The impact of early year stress and traumatic events on our emotions and mental health is a well-known phenomenon. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated for fight or flight response in early years, when we are not capable of taking care of ourselves, our survival is in real danger, the caretakers need to give us soothing, making our needs met to activate our parasympathetic nervous system to relax and get back to calm.
If the sympathetic nervous system was activated too long, too often, without the parasympathetic nervous system being activated to regulate the system. On-going unbalance development of our nervous system occur.
The vagus nerve plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological functions that are important for physical health. Some of the key functions that are associated with the vagus nerve include:
- Gastrointestinal Function: The vagus nerve is involved in regulating the digestive process, including the movement of food through the digestive tract and the release of digestive enzymes.
- Cardiovascular Function: The vagus nerve is involved in regulating heart rate and blood pressure, which can impact overall cardiovascular health.
- Inflammatory Response: The vagus nerve plays a role in modulating the body’s immune and inflammatory response, which is important for preventing and managing inflammation-related health problems, such as autoimmune disorders and chronic pain.
- Respiratory Function: The vagus nerve is involved in regulating breathing, including the rate and depth of breathing.
- Metabolic Function: The vagus nerve plays a role in regulating metabolism, including the release of insulin and the breakdown of glucose in the body.
- Pain Management: The vagus nerve is involved in modulating pain perception, and stimulation of the vagus nerve has been shown to reduce pain sensitivity in some individuals.
Changes in the brain structure and function – Prefrontal cortex & the Limbic System
This phenomenon can cause changes in the human brain structure and function, affecting not only the brain regions of the brain responsible for executive functions (the prefrontal lobes) but also the part of the brain connected with our basic life functions – the limbic system, aoften refered as the lizard brain.
Trauma and stress can also affect the development of the prefrontal cortex, a brain region involved in executive functioning, decision making, and impulse control. During childhood, the prefrontal cortex continues to develop and mature, and exposure to stress can disrupt this process, leading to long-term impairments in executive functioning.
For example, traumatic experiences can lead to an increase in the size of the amygdala, an area of the brain involved in the processing of fear and anxiety, and a decrease in the size of the hippocampus, an area of the brain n involved in memory formation and recall. These brain changes can result in an overactive stress response, making it more difficult for children to regulate their emotions and cope with stress in the future.
Furthermore, childhood trauma and stress can have an impact on the development of the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, the physiological system responsible for regulating the body’s stress response. Chronic activation of the HPA axis can lead to an increased release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can have negative effects on brain development and contribute to the development of various physical and mental health problems.
Some of the key functions that are associated with the limbic system include:
- Autonomic Nervous System Regulation: The limbic system plays a role in regulating the autonomic nervous system, which controls many of the body’s unconscious physiological processes, such as heart rate, breathing, and digestion.
- Stress Response: The limbic system is responsible for processing and regulating the body’s stress response, and it is thought to play a crucial role in the development of stress-related health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Pain Perception: The limbic system is involved in modulating pain perception, and it is thought to play a role in the development of chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
- Immune Function: The limbic system is involved in regulating the body’s immune response, and it is thought to play a role in the development of autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
- Inflammation: The limbic system is involved in regulating inflammation, which is a key factor in many physical health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
- Hormonal Balance: The limbic system is involved in regulating hormones, such as cortisol, which play a role in various physiological processes, including stress response, metabolism, and immune function.
The Limbic System, Vagus Nerves and our Overral Wellbeing
The limbic system and the vagus nerve are linked in that they both play important roles in regulating the body’s stress response and modulating the experience of emotions. The vagus nerve acts as a bridge between the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (the rest of the body), and it is responsible for transmitting information about the body’s stress response and emotional state to the brain. In turn, the brain uses this information to regulate the body’s stress response and modulate the experience of emotions.
The interplay between the limbic system and the vagus nerve is complex and dynamic, and dysregulation of either system can impact the overall regulation of emotions, stress, and wellbeing. For example, traumatic events can result in an overactive stress response and a decreased ability to regulate emotions, and these effects can persist even after the traumatic event has ended. This can lead to the development of mental health problems, such as PTSD, and physical health problems, such as heart disease and chronic pain.
Interventions that target both the limbic system and the vagus nerve, such as trauma-focused therapy, mindfulness practices, and physical exercise, can help to mitigate the negative effects of trauma and improve overall wellbeing by regulating the body’s stress response and promoting adaptive regulation of emotions and behavior.
Perceived Danger in Adulthood activates both Limbic System and Vagus Nerves enhancing negative neural patterns.
In Adulthood, in most cases, we are not in real survival danger. However, our limbic system and the vagus nerves get triggered by perceived danger based on historical dysfunctional family, social constructions. When negative reactive neural pathways are activated in the adult brain, these patterns are reinforced and brain structure changes in a negative direction, leading to what are known as limiting habits and limiting beliefs.
Limitation of logical thinking and talk based personal development
This is why traditional personal development methods that focus mainly on logical thinking (prefrontal lobes) are not always optimal for increasing brain function. Even forms of cognitive training such as therapy, coaching, and mentoring, when done solely through talking, have limitations.
What Is Neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change and reorganize itself in response to experience. This process of change occurs throughout a person’s life and enables the brain to adapt to new situations, learn new information, and recover from brain injury and physical injury.
Neuroplasticity can occur at several levels, including the formation of new connections between neurons (synaptic plasticity), changes in the strength of existing connections between neurons (synaptic strengthening and weakening), and the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis).
Improve brain plasticity to healing trauma, changing negative patterns and disbeliefs
There are several factors that can influence brain plasticity, including experience, learning, stress, and injury. For example, learning a new skill can result in the formation of new connections between neurons in the brain, while chronic stress can lead to changes in the structure and function of brain regions that are involved in the regulation of stress and emotions.
What is Somatic (body) Work?
Somatic neuroplasticity retraining is a form of mental fitness work that can help rewire the brain to reduce stress, increase wellbeing, and improve performance. This type of work uses somatic techniques, such as deep breathing, cold exposure, muscular relaxation, and mindfulness practices, to access the limbic system where difficult emotions are stored and the vagus nervous system which was unbalanced.
These practices fall under the umbrella of neuroplasticity training, but to effectively change initial stressful reactions, they must be performed while accessing early year traumatic events.
By creating new neural pathways in the brain, it is possible to alter and improve the structural and functional of the brain. . Engaging in somatic neuroplasticity retraining allows us to adapt our mental processes, leading to better emotional health, increased performance, and overall wellbeing.
What is the steps of Somatic Neuroplasticity Retraining?
Somatic work for retraining neuroplasticity to release stress, trauma and increase performance typically involves the following steps:
- Mindfulness: Developing mindfulness and self-awareness practices is the first step in somatic work. This helps you become more attuned to your emotions, physical sensations, and thoughts.
- Body Awareness: Becoming aware of your body sensations and learning to listen to your body’s cues can help you identify areas of stress or tension. This step is important in connecting with and accessing the limbic system, where negative emotions and difficult experiences are stored.
- Somatic Techniques: Once you have a good understanding of your body sensations, you can start implementing specific somatic techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness practices, to activate the relaxation response and calm the nervous system.
- Rewiring the Brain: By accessing the limbic system, you can start to rewire the brain and create new neural pathways. This involves replacing negative emotions and thoughts with positive experiences, emotions, and sensations. This can help change the way the brain responds to stress and trauma, reducing the impact of these experiences.
- Skill Development: Engaging in new creative and intellectual activities, such as learning new skills and hobbies, helps to enhance neuroplasticity and boost cognitive functions. This step can further reinforce the new neural pathways and promote a more positive response to stress.
- Reflection and Integration: Regularly reflecting on your experiences, both positive and negative, and integrating the new insights and perspectives you’ve gained can help you continue to progress in your somatic work.
- Sustainability: Sustaining the changes and benefits achieved through somatic work requires ongoing effort and commitment. This can include regular check-ins with a therapist or coach, practicing somatic techniques regularly, and staying connected to the body and emotions through mindfulness practices.