Until recently my knowledge of my own brain was very poor. Yes, once upon a time, it was "necessary" (I will return to this "necessary" in the end of the article) to study this topic at the university during the lectures of personality psychology and life safety. But it didn't interest me much at the time. Well, there was this kind of brain, it seemed to be working, something “cooked”, it generated something and created streams of thoughts. Not the worst brain in general I supposed. Why should I pay much attention to it ? :)
Years passed during the intellectual work of an office plankton. Every year the complexity of goals and the multi-vector nature of tasks increased. As well as the time spent at work grew rapidly. At the same time I became increasingly nervous, restless, lacked energy and physical strength. I lived from vacation to vacation. The outlet was in sports activity (swimming and gym) and alcohol. I wanted to reduce the intensity of brain activity (sports helped to distract) or to forget (alcohol helped, but crippled health overall).
I wanted to find a new window through which I could look at the life around me and breathe freely, evenly and fully, while slowing down the pace of the outside world raping of my brain. I heard about yoga several times, but I was suspicious of it for a number of reasons. In principle, they are all described here. I was recommended 3 years ago to visit Ashtanga vinyasa yoga classes (I was very tired of everything that happened at work). After several months of group classes in the morning (before work) and in the evening (after work), it became noticeably easier to relate to the mess that is happening at work. At least the morning classes gave you energy and concentration, and the evening classes helped you relax and sleep comfortably without the galloping "all about everything" thought process.
Why and how did yoga affect my brain, making it more efficient?
I want to try in separate notes to open and adapt in simple language such a complex topic as the structure and principles of the brain, as well as the relationship between the brain and yoga. I want to devote the first note to the main actor" person " who determines our consciousness in the material world.
What is the human brain?
The brain is the main organ of the central nervous system that controls the activity of the entire body through the formation of neurons (cells that generate and transmit complex electrical (nerve) impulses (signals). These signals originate from the central nervous system for the coordination of smooth, skeletal, and cardiac muscles, glandular secretion, and the functioning of internal organs.
The mass of the human brain ranges from 1 kg to more than 2 kg and is about 2% of the total body weight. Scientists have found that there is no direct relationship between the mass of the brain and the mental abilities of a person.
What is the brain made of?
The brain consists of cells that include neurons and glial cells (auxiliary cells of the nervous tissue, whose task is to provide energy resources to neurons and protect them from stress). Communication between neurons occurs through synaptic transmission. Each neuron has a long process called an axon, along which it transmits impulses to other neurons. The axon branches and forms synapses at the point of contact with other neurons (the point of contact of neurons, where the nerve impulse is transmitted from one neuron to another by chemical (via neurotransmitters) or electrical (via ions).
The shape and size of the neurons in the brain are very diverse. So, in each of its departments there are different types of cells. The activity of neurons in some parts of the brain can be formed by hormones (signaling biologically active substances in the blood produced by the cells of the body and affecting the cells of other parts of the body).
What does our brain eat?
The functioning of the brain's neurons requires a significant expenditure of energy to transmit nerve impulses and ensure the brain's own health. Most of the energy in a normal diet, a person receives by converting the carbohydrates entering the body into glucose and decomposing the latter to carbon dioxide and water, which is accompanied by the storage of the energy necessary for us.
Energy is transported to the brain through the blood supply network. The brain is supplied with blood from the basin of three major arteries — the two internal carotid arteries and the main artery.
It is important to note that the brain of an adult (with an average weight) consumes 15 % of the volume of circulating blood, using up to 50 % of all glucose (approximately equivalent to 100 grams of glucose per day) produced by the liver and entering the blood. Pretty selfish guy, huh ? J
By the way, pay attention to the efficiency or "vigor" of your brain after sleep. This fatigue is a clear manifestation of 8 hours (or even more:) fasting into the form of a decrease in the concentration of glucose in the blood.
Is there a connection between the brain and the digestive system?
As I have already noted above, the brain completely controls all other organs in the human body through neural signals. The communication of the intestine with the brain occurs through the vagus nerve. So, scientists have found that 90 % of neurosigns are transmitted along the vagus nerve from the intestine to the brain. What is more exciting that only 10% is the feedback from the brain to the intestine. The gut sends signals to the brain about how it feels, especially after eating. For example, if an infection enters the intestine, the brain, after processing this encoded information, will start the body's cleansing processes. The intestine sends reports about its state of health to the brain, and the brain, having perceived it, instructs other organs to produce substances. Our consciousness in the form of the limbic brain (I will give more details about limbic brain later) reflects in the form of emotions, feelings and mental states. Thus, the intestine directly affects the decision-making process, especially with regard to the general mental background and the selection of food. It is necessary to understand that people with bowel defects are most susceptible to bad mood, anxiety and "food slavery".
A few words about this "food slavery". In the intestine, about 50% of dopamine (the hormone that regulates the feeling of satisfaction and is responsible for our motivation) and 95% of serotonin (the hormone of joy and well-being) are synthesized. The brain produces itself 50% dopamine and only 5 % serotonin. So, dopamine motivates, and serotonin regulates mood. Think of sweet cakes, chocolate, cheese and sweets. What are the feelings? What memories come up to the mind? Or, for example, think about alcohol and drugs. All this leads to an increased content of serotonin in the body. The most interesting thing is that most of the neurotransmitters of pleasure are found in sweet or fatty foods. The more they are produced, the faster a person falls into "food slavery".
For example, in Australia, an experiment was conducted on a rat that was first fed sweet sugar water for a while and then cocaine. When the rat was given a simultaneous choice between sugar water and cocaine, it immediately chose sugar water.
And one more thing. Depression, bad mood and lack of sleep make our digestive system weaker due to the shrinking of production of dopamine and serotonin. The weaker we are the more amplified we become with the food slavery to recover the previous level of hormones.
What is the structure of the brain?
In the brain, it is customary to distinguish three structural elements:
* The cerebral hemispheres (e.g., logical thinking and creativity) + the prefrontal cortex (e.g., processing signals from the sensory organs)
* Cerebellum (main function-reflex coordination of movements and distribution of muscle tone)
• brainstem (extension of the spinal cord, reflex centers (for example, taking a comfortable position or maintaining balance when the body changes in space) and redistribution of muscle tone
Let's focus on the main parts of the brain. The segmentation is based on the concept of the triune brain, proposed by the American physician and neurophysiologist P. D. McLean in the 1960s. According to this concept, the brain consists of three parts, formed one into another (as in a “matryoshka doll”) due to evolution:
I. Ancient brain (reticular or reptilian brain): instincts, reflexes
II. Midbrain (limbic system or mammalian brain): emotions and feelings
III. Neocortex (the cerebral cortex): thoughts, analysis, creativity
III. 1. Prefrontal cortex
Let's take a closer look at each of the divisions.
I. Reptilian brain.
It exists for more than 100 million years and is the oldest. It occupies 5% of the mass of the entire brain, and its main task is to respond to environmental stimuli. It is believed that it was developed in the same form in animals millions of years ago.
The reptilian brain is responsible for performing the simplest basic daily and every-second functions: breathing, sleep, blood circulation, muscle contraction in response to external stimulation. All these functions are preserved even when consciousness is turned off, for example, during sleep or during anesthesia. It is in this part of the brain that the strategy of "run or fight" behavior is formed.
The reptilian brain is responsible for the species ' typical instinctive behaviors’ and is associated with:
aggression, domination, protection of territories, the desire to possess and control everything, the use of templates, the struggle for power, the desire to hierarchize everything, as well as ritual manifestations. It allows individuals to survive in whole groups for further reproduction and controls the unconscious part of the brain functions.
The basic instincts trapped in the reptilian brain are:
1) Survival. Responsible for security. At the same time, it creates fears and makes you strive to take a higher place in the social ladder (it's safer there upstairs).
2) Procreation. Due to this instinct, preferences and expectations of the choice of certain people are formed in order to create a family in which it is assumed that there will be comfort, pleasure and happiness for all who are in the family.
3) "Being in a flock". Most people are forced to accept public opinion when an individual is not ready to express his personal thoughts. In the past, this instinct was very useful, because it allowed us to organize a community in which each member was ready to help the other. In the modern world, due to the growth of the population and the disunity of groups, most people are guided by the rule: "you need to help only your own", while separating and even destroying those who do not meet the standards and rules of behavior of the community. The work of the human reptilian brain in such a reality shows that the herd instinct does not always work correctly and interferes with human development.
The reptilian brain is characterized by cold-blooded behavior, lack of empathy, and indifference to the consequences of our actions in relation to other people. Its functions are quite simple: "run-fight-freeze". It is very useful for immediate reactions. First-reaction, and only then comprehension. In this sense, it is our "autopilot", which we cannot consciously control. His main task is to protect the body, he is set on defense, he is always on alert and looks out for a threat to the body.
It is also the reptilian brain that first becomes the object of external manipulation in order to introduce you to a constant fear of "not surviving", feeding you information about crises, inflation, wars, catastrophes, violence, painful reforms and many other things: everything that scares us by modern states from the cradle to the grave. He also sometimes confuses an imaginary danger with a real threat. In such situations, the reptilian brain literally takes control of your mind and body.
When the reptilian brain shows dominant activity, the person loses the ability to think at all other higher levels (limbic brain and neocortex).
II. Limbic brain or "emotional brain"
Limbic means "borderline". This department provides mutual information transporting and associative communication between the neocortex and the limbic departments, which allows you correctly interpret, express and communicate your feelings after an emotional reaction.
Its age is 50 million years and it is a "legacy" that man inherited from ancient mammals (approximately 98 % identical to the brain of flying mammals). The limbic system occupies 10% of the total mass of the brain and has a low energy consumption.
The limbic system includes many divisions, but the main part of it is the hypothalamus and its associated structures. The hypothalamus produces regulatory hormones (neurohormones) that enter the pituitary gland and through it affect the activity of the endocrine glands, the so-called endocrine system (adrenal glands, thyroid gland, bone system, urogenital system, etc.). The hypothalamus controls the pituitary gland, regulates the periods of sleep and wakefulness, maintaining water-salt balance, normal body temperature, and food intake. In other words, this is called the autonomic functions of the brain. In addition, it is the center responsible for behavior in extreme situations, manifestations of rage, aggression, feelings of pleasure and pain.
Let’s consider the functions of the limbic brain.
The limbic brain is involved in regulating the functions of the internal organs, the sense of smell, instinctive behavior, maternal care and upbringing, memory, sleep, wakefulness, and, of course, emotions and experiences that determine our subjective perception of the world around us. The emotional brain is considered the main generator of emotions, connects emotional and physical activities. Here fears, fun, and mood swings are born. It is important to note that it is the limbic system that is affected by psychotropic substances. Disturbances in the limbic system can cause unexplained attacks of rage, fear, or sensitivity. We cannot control the processes that take place in the limbic system, except for the most "enlightened" people, but the reciprocal connection between consciousness and emotions exists constantly. Inside the limbic system, emotional intelligence is also formed – the ability to determine the emotions of people around them.
Characteristics of the emotional brain:
* lives in the present time
* communication through sounds and tones
* focus on group survival (family, clan)
• does not know the options. only "yes" and "no", "good-bad", "this or that»
* associativity with certain moments of life: when we think about something, we enter into the image and experience feelings.
The emotional brain gives us "life of feelings". It is important to know that the limbic brain is a "brain of monotony", it loves comfort and routine, strives for safety and constancy. For the emotional brain, safety means doing today what you did yesterday, and tomorrow what you did today. He's responsible for keeping us in our comfort zone. Trying to get out of this zone leads to stress.
When we feel resistance to change, it means that the emotional brain controls our consciousness.
Every decision we're going to make goes through its filter: "Is this good for me? Is it safe for my family? Is there a threat in this?". And if something threatens, we reject this choice. In other words, when the emotional brain makes decisions, it is based on what is close to us and familiar.
In addition, the peculiarity of the emotional brain is that, unlike the reptilian brain, it does not require physical contact with someone, it is enough just to be somewhere nearby. This superstructure in the form of an emotional mind appeared, apparently, in order to read the emotional state of another person at a distance, and this is its value.
Another distinguishing feature of the emotional brain is that it cannot distinguish between threats to our body and threats to our ego. Therefore we begin to defend ourselves without even understanding the essence of the situation.
The reptilian and emotional systems of the brain have been cooperating together for 50 million years and interact very well with each other. Therefore, it is so important to understand that these two tightly coupled systems can often take control of the mind and body. So, for example, for the reptilian brain, the threat can be physical, for the emotional – emotional (loss of love, fear of the unknown, or changes occurring in a person's life).
III. The neocortex (or visual brain) is the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It is also called the "thinking" brain.
The new crust was formed about 1.5-2.5 million years ago. This part of the brain is found only in higher mammals. The visual brain is responsible for higher nervous mental activity. The neocortex occupies a large part of the cerebral cortex (80% of the total mass of brain matter), has high energy consumption (we feed it mainly with glucose) and a limited metabolic rate (you need more rest time to recover).
The new cortex of the major hemispheres is a cluster of nerve cells that form a complex gray matter. Anatomically, there are 4 types of cortex, depending on its location – parietal, occipital, frontal, and temporal.
The neocortex consists of 3 functional zones:
* The sensory zone is responsible for the higher processing of the received external stimuli. So, for example, we are burned when information about a high temperature enters the parietal region. On the finger, the burn will not appear immediately, but immediately there is only an electric pulse.
* The associative zone is responsible for the information connection between the motor cortex and the sensory cortex.
* The motor zone forms all conscious movements. Responsible for planning, controlling, and executing movements.
It is considered as an extreme (but not the last one)!) a step in the evolution of the mammalian brain, providing us with the ability of language communication, planning and intelligent perception, abstraction and creativity.
In general, it can be said that the new cortex is responsible for higher nervous activity and is the highest center of mental activity and intellectual work. It is the neocortex that should determine our consciousness. We can say that in this part of the brain, our "I" is formed.
The neocortex is the only part of the brain that we can consciously track. Here our reason is formed, namely, reflections, conclusions, analytical abilities.
In addition, the visual brain has spatial thinking, here there are visual images, focus on the future, its research and analysis. With it, we can imagine anything we want.
The thinking brain can determine:
* what actions do you need to take
* sets goals and plan
* discusses your goals and dreams
* inspires you and cause you to act for a short period of time
* logically accepts or rejects ideas and goals.
It is important to remember that the thinking brain is not responsible for actions on a long-term basis. Today, neuroscience has proven that the conscious brain is only 2% responsible for long-term goals. The remaining 98% is the responsibility of our subconscious (inspired attitudes and states, including dream science, intuition, affect, panic, hypnosis, faith, phobias, fears, hysteria, spontaneous anxiety, anticipation of joy, etc.).
A close connection is formed between the neocortex and the limbic system. Thanks to this configuration, these two parts form the mental basis of a person: they connect the mental component with the emotional one. Thus, the visual brain acts as the" manager " of our emotional and feelings outburst. Before performing any action (or inaction) that is spontaneously triggered by emotions, human thought, as a rule, goes through a number of cultural and moral assessments. In addition to controlling emotions, the neocortex has an auxiliary effect. The feeling of thirst appears in the limbic system, and the neocortex, which regulates behavior, plans and implements a plan to search for water.
Another point that I would like to focus on when talking about the neocortex is the trend of its development, and, in general, the development of the human brain.
The neocortex is called the sixth (intuitive) sense organ. Its development activates the so – called intuitive intelligence, which allows you to feel the subtle vibrations of the universe, the DNA molecules, the thoughts of other people, the choice of the right, but not a template, path-to perceive all unconscious processes, to be aware, and, consequently, to control them.
Today, the highest manifestation of thought is intuition. It is intuition – the ability of a person to read information from the outside world (not only three-dimensional, but also multidimensional) - that allows you to expand the range of his knowledge.
It is in the neocortex that the limitless possibilities of the process of cognition and their implementation in life are laid down. This area of the brain controls telepathic, linguistic, and psychic abilities. Only through the development of the neocortex can a person creatively realize himself and make evolutionary (and sometimes revolutionary) discoveries.
The development of human consciousness and thinking must sooner or later come to an intuitive perception of the external world. Currently, most people form a logical perception. People with developed logical perception begin to develop the rudiments of intuitive perception. But intuitive perception cannot arise out of nothing at once. Therefore, we can say that as an intermediate ability, some people begin to develop and develop intuitive thinking. Without the intuitive thinking and perception of outstanding people, we would never have seen the greatest discoveries in the field of physics or, for example, geography, astronomy, or the IT industry.
At the same time, the following distinctive features of intuitive thinking can be distinguished:
* Analytics of the widest range of information and parallel processing of several clusters of data at once
* Involuntary thinking process
* Has an unconscious (or little conscious), as well as little controlled character.
* Because of the close contact with the emotional brain, it finds a common language in feelings and emotional images (sometimes physiological reactions are connected – palpitations, tremors of the hands, redness of the skin, "hot flashes", headache, increased sweating)
* Very slow to form and requires regular practice
* Thinking processes with intuitive thinking are very fast
* Quite old from the point of view of evolution, but little used and overlooked.
The development of the brain and intuitive thinking goes only through learning, critical self-awareness and creative application of knowledge in practice. There is no other way: either we strain it, or we lose it. When you "lose" your brain, a person degrades. Learning means only one thing: everyone should know and understand themselves and their body.
III. 1. Prefrontal cortex
In the neocortex, I want to single out the prefrontal cortex, because it helps us to think about what we do and say before we do or say it. The main function of the prefrontal cortex is to make sense of the current situation (including stressful), to focus our attention on the problem. This part of the brain controls, directs and actions. It is responsible for" executive functions " — the ability to manage time, judgment, impulses, planning, organization, and critical thinking.
A well-developed prefrontal cortex can coordinate other parts of the brain to work together for the benefit of the individual, or on the contrary, ignite fear, which will lead to destructive reactions.
The prefrontal cortex is a tool for the successful implementation of the practice and the whole future, if we learn to use its power.
To sum it up I want to say a few words about the fact that it is the three parts of the brain that form our consciousness.
So, the reptilian brain, the emotional and thinking brain (including the prefrontal cortex) completely provide control of the entire human system, but we are aware of ourselves through the same "consciousness". You can imagine it as a room that is captured by instinct, emotion, and reasoning in turn. They compete with each other, or even forming alliances, and struggle for influence.
Thanks to the work of fundamentally different parts of the brain, a person has a duality of consciousness. When an idea occurs, two different thoughts are formed in the brain:
* I want - it is formed by the limbic system and instinct.
* I Need (it is necessary to do) - creates a neocortex and a set of social behavior properties. I spoke about it in the beginning of the article.
Thanks to the choice and the ability to be aware, a person has the opportunity to calibrate and even subordinate to his will some animal instincts, emotions, develop the mind and realize himself as a consciousness of harmony. This process is not influenced by external circumstances or fate. The evolution of the human nervous system depends entirely on the development of self-awareness.
What can help us with this?
Yoga can be your most powerful philosophical and practical tool for the realization of the "self" and the harmonization of consciousness through the filters of perception of reality, which yoga is rich in.
The practice of yoga helps sincere seekers of truth to become aware of instinctive manifestations, to reduce their influence on intelligent processes, to learn to use the subconscious manifestations of the reptilian brain in other ways, allowing them to achieve a high level of evolutionary development.
I will tell you about my observations this in the second article.