Neuroscience of wellbeing. Part I

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Neuroscience: scientific recipes for well-being. Part 1 How does meditation and breathing affect our brain? does our body posture affect our memory and decision-making process? do we have 7 senses? where does consciousness reside? why are we unhappy when we feel lonely? In recent years, one of the disciplines that is making the most progress is neuroscience. From the hand of Nazareth Castellanos, doctor of medicine and director of the first chair in Meditation in Spain, we will learn about new and interesting studies that will make us rethink many concepts.

It is possible that our body is able to know long before our brain does

What we eat can affect our emotions Can the body posture affect our memory or our decision making process It is true that at a neurological level we have at least seven senses To what extent does our heart or our blinking affect our perceptions? We can know where consciousness resides Why we are unhappy when we feel lonely Meet Neuroscience scientific recipes for wellness [Sound] The progress of neuroscience in the last few years is such a And in some cases pink concepts from fields such as theoretical physics or philosophy

"I don't cry because I am sad, I am sad because I cry

" Curiously, many of the new discoveries corroborate the ancestral approaches

From philosophical, spiritual or medical disciplines

Like yoga or ayurveda Sufi medicine or traditional Chinese medicine Let's get closer to the world of neuroscience with Nazareth Castellanos

Graduate in theoretical physics and PhD in Neuroscience from the Faculty of Medicine of the Autonomous University of Madrid

Who has oriented a large part of her professional life to understanding the brain and its interrelationships

[Sound] The dream of perception [Sound] Each of us live in sleep The dream of our own perception This perception was believed to be highly conditioned by a supposedly static memory

By feelings That we believed objectives and above all why we believed that it only depended on our brain [Sound] But things are much more complex than they appear to be and as the science advances, our fiction of knowing is fading away

Every act of our life such as eating, thinking or sleeping is a consequence of thousands of interactions of the whole body inside and outside

We don't know how all these interactions take place But we do know that there are profound relationships between the brain, the gut, the the heart, the breath, the bacteria, the muscles, and even the position of the body

[Sound] A different perception [Sound] When we think about the information that the brain processes we usually think that we have only 5 senses

So what are the objective stereo senses, meaning those that come from sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing

But in reality it is said that we have seven senses and the objective stereo That is to say the ones that come from the senses of the receivers are not the priority ones

The priority sense that our brain has is the interoception

That is the information that the brain receives from inside the body

The signals sent by the intestine, the stomach, the heart, the respiration, All of this information is constantly processed by our brain and that's the priority sense

The second sense that our brain has is the proprioception

Some people consider it part of the Interoception, but there are people that researchers who think that proprioception is a separate sense

And proprioception is the sense that accounts for how our body is doing I mean if I'm bent down, if I'm straight, how are my shoulders, how are my shoulders, how are my arms, how is my structure, my skeleton, how is our body architecture

And that information that well many times it's been thought that it's good that the brain knows how to is our body, but the passive information is already there

The brain needs to know in which posture we are But nowadays what we are seeing is that information about posture is key for our brain

That is to say that our brain interprets how our body is in our body

And that information that it has, it takes it, it interprets it, it uses it to make different decisions

That is to say that it is a binding information For example proprioception is so important that it is said that it has been recently discovered that it is one of the senses that people with Alzheimer's disease never lose

I mean their brain continues to know how their body is doing and this has given rise to the consideration of many techniques based on on body movement in order to try to reduce the associated cognitive deficits

to neurodegenerative diseases [Sound] When we go a little deeper We soon realize that reality does not have much to do with what we think it is

What is The Jewish mystic said That we do not see things as they are but as we are [Sound] What happens is that the brain generates an internal representation of the external world

To adjust it to our needs And above all to adjust it to our idea of the world The brain always compares our model Our hypothesis with what it perceives And he is afraid that they don't match [Sound] In simpler words The physical world as we know it is a very large phantom whole Collected and organized by the senses [Sound] The sense of sight gives us the dimensions Shapes, colors, the sense of hearing gives us the ability to communicate and interact

With the world but if instead of these senses we would have other senses that will allow us to perceive Other qualities of the matter like the electromagnetic waves or temperature Our brain would give us a fiction of a totally different reality To the one we currently believe exists In short What we perceive Speaks mainly about ourselves To understand more clearly this phenomenon We must understand the effect of change blindness A concept used by magicians and illusionists

Why the brain doesn't notice certain changes When other sensory stimuli predominate

The brain It only processes where the attention is placed Let's pay attention to counting the number of passes made with the basketball in the following scene [Sound] How many countries have you counted Most of the people Do not visualize the gorilla entering the scene

[Sound] There is in the cognitive process what is called a fraud of perception

On the one hand there is reality and On the other side is the processed reality Or what reality appears to be [Sound] The knowledge of the brain [Sound] Neuroimaging techniques have advanced so much that it has been possible to decipher a great part of the brain language We know that neurons have their own language In fact they communicate in up to 5 languages We also know that Most of the contents that drive our brain are unconscious

That is to say Most of the brain deals with non-conscious information

And the conscious information is processed by a very thin neuronal layer Called cerebral cortex [Sound] Let's imagine that we are paying attention to something We are not paying attention to what we are Listening for example to the sensations of our breath We will have a lot of activity in this part here which is the prefrontal cortex

It's one of the most important parts of our Brain We are going to talk a lot about it in the neuroscience of wellbeing

The prefrontal cortex is Almost the crown jewel So when we're paying attention to something all these neurons here They're boom, boom Boom Boom boom emitting electrical discharges at the same time They are singing in a choir But it's a choir that is very peculiar Because there's a part of the choir that's speaking in a language Another part that is speaking in another one another one that is speaking Our brain speaks up to almost 5 languages It is said Those five languages allow the brain to communicate with each other So When we perform any task Producing all these electrical discharges for the brain is a huge amount of hemodynamic resources

The brain produces very little energy But it consumes up to 20% of the energy that our body produces which compared to its small volume It is the organ that consumes the most energy To do any task, no matter how simple it may be, is a huge hemodynamic effort for our body

So here we have the frontal cortex Which then as I say is very Involved in processes such as the maintenance of attention the regulation of our behavior Inhibition of our behavior on Designing a strategy this is tremendously important frontal cortex [Sound] The silence of the mind and stress [Sound] We are also When we are not conscious When we think we are not doing anything our brain is doing a lot of things The state of letting the mind drifting is a great consumption of energy for our brain

The more time we spend in this wandering, the worse is our feeling of vital satisfaction

We spend half of the day in a mental state of reverie or autopilot

Half the day we are not where we are we run away from the present moment And that makes us suffer as corroborated by neuroscience In addition The greater the spontaneous activity of the brain Also known as default network The more likely we are to develop Alzheimer's disease That is why it is critical to look for neuronal silence Mental calm Various techniques such as the yoga of the four elements or yoga nidra They try to bring the sustained attention also to these stages To which we normally tend to give very little importance

In such a way that a greater awareness occurs And a more rapid personal transformation [Sound] It's been seen on a scientific level that people who practice meditation on a regular basis their Brains have what we know as that neuronal calmness What this means is that when we're not involved for example in reading in which we doing in our daily life our neurons are More or less silent We don't say that the zero exists, it has some activity but that activity is How could it be A calm sea This is how we are expected to have A brain of a person that is calm and therefore has an adequate level of well-being

But how would be the brain of a person who has a high dose of mental wandering which is also called wandering Mental, because it means that the activity Of the neurons would be a very rough sea with a lot of swell this swell is amount of biochemical and biophysical activity of our brain is related to a feeling of dissatisfaction With a feeling of unhappiness There is a lot of scientific literature and a lot of articles that have demonstrated What he practice of meditation strengthens the prefrontal cortex But what's interesting here or the studies that I've always found most interesting are those that They show that you don't have to be a great meditator or live in a monastery and dedicate yourself To dedicate one's life to meditation spending 5 hours a day sitting Meditating There are studies that show us that only at 8 weeks From the beginning of the practice there are already some changes in our brain Specifically in the prefrontal cortex At 8 weeks our prefrontal cortex is already begins to be trained to maintain The attention on it So obviously if we don't keep on practicing this reorganization Anatomical and functional that we have done of the prefrontal cortex, it is diluting Because our brain has a great capacity for learning, it learns from everything

What is happening learns with the habit More than with discipline and I really like this approach that says that more than discipline is the habit Habit makes neuroplasticity

Procure a reorganization in the brain that makes me able to maintain The attention But if after 8 weeks I stop practicing the meditation The brain returns to its original state i


To a prefrontal cortex that can not maintain attention on something in particular but is instead A bit like a weather vane wandering between different stimuli

[Sound] One of the great concerns that has accompanied us historically Is to know the nature of the mind Neuroscience now invites us to know ourselves And what effects it has on us Certain mental states For example, it is now proving scientifically what many of us had intuited The more stressed we are The more unhappy we are Chronic stress affects very negatively to health generating intestinal alterations Ulcers Cardiovascular problems Neuroinflammation and cognitive impairment [Sound] Sadly nowadays in the western world 75% of the population Consider having chronic stress We are what some call tired societies We have to keep in mind that the brain works by habits Therefore if we generate a habit of stress during years The brain It will ask for more stress In Selye's words The prestigious researcher It's not stress that kills us But how we deal with it [Sound] Other thought-provoking studies How stress affects children's development Well, it's been proven that they can absorb the stress that the parents suffer [Sound] This stress that a neurodeveloping child gets used to live with

Increases the size of the amygdala May have long-term consequences Such as psychotic episodes or alterations that affect their health and above all vital dissatisfaction [Sound] We always think or we resort not to the synonyms that a stress is negative but nevertheless it stresses It has an aspect that is very positive You have to distinguish between stress what is the deustres and eustres The eustress is positive the stress eustress we need it for example we imagine the case of an accident An explosion of something What scares us are the mechanisms that are activated instantaneously In our body so that we can cope with that situation and it's important to say that they are almost automatic that they are instantaneous

Because if our brain didn't have that capability To take control of our consciousness many times we wouldn't get to To decipher the solution to a problem But there is another factor that is negative which is stress and one of the most negative aspects of stress nowadays is not so much stress but that it has become chronic

According to the last study that was published just a few months ago, which is always talking about the statistics of How we perceive our life What percentage of stress I have We have in our life, well, about 75 % of the stress we have in our life Of the population in developed countries They consider themselves to have chronic stress And perhaps the most used phrase is doing everything in a hurry not having time not stopping So this makes societies feel mostly tired but most of all we have to we have to habituate our body to a level of stress As Jackson Briwer himself says and it's one of the most recognized things in neuroscience our brain and our body In general it's a habit system, our body gets used to it

To the regime that we give it we do not It is a being of habit if we accustom it to that level of stress

That's what he's going to end up asking for As a society it would be interesting to study what solutions we can put into practice to mitigate this Big and very topical problem For example Practicing certain breathing techniques Or slow and conscious movements They are fundamental to regulate stress In other cultures Breath control technique It is called pranayama And it allows to be aware of the breath And thus calms the mind and regulate the body The importance of the posture [Sound] One of the experiments Most important that has been done on the decision making and the role of the body In decision making is what is called the ayowa task

Which is so called because at that time the principal investigator the leader of this project that Antonio Damasio was working at the University of Ayowa This experiment gave rise to what is known as the somatic marker theory

Which is the theory that has been defended by Antonio Damasio for more than 30 years

What he has been defending Somatic marker theory The experiment was very simple Imagine they put the people to the experiment volunteers were given four blocks of cards And they were blocks in which you could win a lot of money blocks in which you could win or lose blocks in which you neither win nor lose At the end you had to choose which block of cards was the one you were going to go to Choose which block of cards You will obviously choose the one that will make you the most money

So what you do then is that people are picking up cards

To try to get the rule out the algorithm of each block is making me lose a lot of money

This one has made me win this one neither fu nor fa So I'll take this one here Well, what the investigators saw was That we need to mentally consciously We needed to raise up to 80 cards To know which was the good block After 80 cards you could say This is the good block because it's the one that makes me the most money

But what happens So those researchers put a lot of electrodes in the body of the people

And what they found out is that from letter number 10 onwards That they were lifting The body already knew which was the good block And why did it know because every time the hand approached towards the bad block The heart rate increased, the body posture shrank, the skin conductance increased

When the hand approached the good block without the person being consciously aware that this block Which block was the one he had chosen which block was the good one his body It was already reacting in a favorable way His body posture was changing Increased cardiac variability All this Without the person being aware of it for the moment Which block was the one that was suitable This led Antonio Damasio to say that the body knows what the mind has not yet realized

But among other implications this is where a whole movement has arisen not because of the practical part

Which was leading was to say If we knew how to listen to our body We wouldn't need 80 cards to know which was the good block at the tenth card we could already intuit that I think this is it but I don't know why And this that was taking us because also a little bit the amount the weight not that we put on the thought and the reasoning To the arguments Only then we decide and we are not conscious of deciding on the good block when we have An argument But we don't give any weight to that intuition that tells us I think it's this one although it's not yet I know why And that gives us to think about how important it is

In the sensations of our body increase the proprioception increase it corporal conscience We know that there are indicators in the body that determine our decision making And also our emotions [Sound] Emotion is totally linked to the body And also to decision making That's why Being aware of those previous indicators that our body shows us Helps our emotional regulation And decision making there are certain techniques such as yoga or Chi kung Who give a special importance to this awareness or body listening The bodily stillness developed through the asanas It allows us to put maximum attention on the body So that we can escape from it and from the senses

Entering more easily this way in the silence of the brain with the meditation Also Working these areas of the brain Makes them deteriorate more slowly Perhaps from now on we should consider listening more to our body and learn how to interpret it

For example Through the posture our brain interprets our mental or emotional state In which we are The same thing happens when we see a person whose body posture Is submissive or cowering Even if his words are positive We will give more credibility to what your body is telling us The body posture It also influences our memory capacity And on the bias with which we perceive the world As Antonio Damasio says The body whispers to us and we must know how to listen to it [Sound] conscious television

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