The biology of a brain in crisis
The brain in crisis
The limbic system has a significant part to play when it comes to the stress as well as emotional responses. The parts of the limbic system that most interest me in the exploratory research to a person in crisis, as it relates to Maslow’s needs of survival and security and its effects on motivational and emotional behaviors are the amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus and the thalamus (Kalat, 2009).
In addition to the limbic system, the interest also extends to the autonomic nervous systems effects, in the context of motivation and behavior as well as the sympathetic nervous system with the parasympathetic nervous system. The interests in these specific areas are important because they are the primary parts of the brain that affect stress and anxiety when it comes to motivational behavior and emotions (Kalat, 2009).
also, analysis of the leading hormones that affect emotion, behaviors, and motivation are the primary interest of the exploratory research. Hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine aka noradrenaline and epinephrine are explored within this context and importance. For the positive hormones, I will examine endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, GABA gamma-aminobutyric as it relates to aiding or hurting an individual’s survival and security behaviors.
Amygdala in stress. The amygdala, located at the inner tip area of the temporal lobe, gets its information input from the eyes and ears as well as other sensors and takes in potential threat stimulus from the outside world. The sensor then sends the information to the amygdala for emotional processing. The amygdala interprets the situation and stimulus by observing that there is danger present, it sends the alarm to the hypothalamus (Plotnik & Kouyoumjian, 2011).
In addition, the stimulation of the amygdala is not only activated by actual threats but also by memories of past dangerous and emotional events (Plotnik & Kouyoumjian, 2011). The activation of the amygdala will even have an impact on motivation, behavior, and emotions that lead to survival and security.
Within the amygdala, there are specialized neurons called the fear neurons that respond to an emotional situation that presents fear. Also, the amygdala is the place where the processing of emotions such as fear connected to memories thereby becoming stimulated when the memory of a fearful event is recalled (Plotnik & Kouyoumjian, 2011).
Hippocampus in stress. The hippocampus is located under the cortex in the temporal lobe. Its purpose is to transfer short-term memory to the long-term memory, such as words, personal experiences and motor skills. While the hippocampus involves memories but does not involve emotional feeling connected to those memories (Plotnik & Kouyoumjian, 2011).
Hypothalamus in stress. The hypothalamus is located near the bottom middle area of the brain and is the command center that sends signals to the rest of the body through the autonomic nervous system, which controls the involuntary body functions. Automatic body functions such as blood pressure, heartbeat, breathing, blood vessel contraction or expansion as well as the small airways in the lungs called bronchioles. The hypothalamus is a master controller and regulates much of the person’s motivational and emotional behaviors (Plotnik & Kouyoumjian, 2011).
In addition, the hypothalamus also controls the autonomic nervous system such as internal temperature, regulation of apatite and thirst. It also manages behaviors associated with survival such as fighting, eating, fleeing, and mating as well as emotions such as pleasure, pain, and reaction to stress (Sternberg & Mio, 2009).
Thalamus in stress. The thalamus is part of the limbic located in the middle of the forebrain. The thalamus receives sensory information from the senses and processes them followed by sending the processed information to the areas of the cortex. These include the somatosensory, primary auditory as well as the primary visual cortexes. In addition, the thalamus helps to initiate movements of the legs and arms for example addition to all parts of the body (Plotnik & Kouyoumjian, 2011).
Cerebral cortex in stress. The Cerebral cortex controls much of the processes that go into thought and information processing. This highly developed part of the brain is responsible for a person’s thinking abilities, perceiving situations and understanding language (Sternberg & Mio, 2009). During emotionally stressful situations, the limbic system within the cerebral cortex is responsible for the higher cognitive functions as well as controlling the autonomic nervous system (Plotnik & Kouyoumjian, 2011).
Autonomic nervous in stress. The autonomic nervous system has two parts, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system (Ramachandran, 2002). The sympathetic nervous system is like accelerator within a car, and the excitability triggers the fight or flight response, which in turn initiates a burst of energy so it can take action in a dangerous situation as well as controlling body’s stress response to take measures immediately (Brannon, Feist, Updrgraff, 2014).
The parasympathetic nervous system is like a bicycle brake and slows the brain and body down by putting it into a more relaxed state after a threat has passed (Brannon, Feist, Updrgraff, 2014).
Stress response and hormones
The stress response
What did the group members experience when they were under stress? The person under stress has two systems within the brain that responds to stress. The first is the sympathetic-adrenal medullary system, and the second is the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. The Sympathetic adrenal medullary (SAM) is easy to trigger when under stress, while the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) becomes triggered in more extreme stress situations (Abraham, Conner, Jones, O’Connor, 2016).
The Sympathetic adrenal medullary (SAM) is initiated from an instantaneous startle like being shocked into fright by seeing a snake at your foot and sends a message to the adrenal glands to rapidly distributes noradrenalin which then initiates the organs within the body to respond to the stress (Abraham et al., 2016).
At the same time adrenal medulla releases adrenalin that rapidly gets dispersed throughout the bloodstream making the person that experiences it to be in an instant state of alertness, and this state of readiness is called the fight or flight response (Abraham et al., 2016).
At the same time, the Sympathetic adrenal medullary (SAM) response kicks in the hypothalamus activating the release of the chemical called corticotrophin-releasing factor CRF into the bloodstream down to the pituitary gland and starts the initiation of the adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH). As the hormone gets released and travels through the system to the adrenal cortex, it initiates the production and releases glucocorticoid cortisol (Abraham et al., 2016).
Cortisol response. One of the primary jobs of the cortisol is to give the body access to the storage of extra energy fats and proteins, as well as to decrease any inflammation within the body. The energy that the body now has after the cortisol release gets stored in the muscles and the liver as glycogen. Glycogen is broken down into glucose and is used for the body as well as the brain as energy under stress (Abraham et al., 2016).
Adrenalin, norepinephrine and epinephrine response. Adrenal glands are located at the top ends of the kidneys. Within the center of the adrenal gland are the adrenal medulla, and they release the hormone called adrenaline as well as noradrenaline. This hormone influences the visceral organs like the neurons that act on the nervous system. They do this by increasing the heartbeat, pump glucose into the blood, get the blood to muscles, and improve energy levels. In addition, epinephrine also aids in breathing more comfortably and helps a person to become responsive (Abraham et al., 2016).
In addition to adverse responses due to stress that affected motivation, behavior, and emotions there were positive responses to the rewards that the group attained such as shelter, water, and food. These positive hormones and neurotransmitters were endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin.
Endorphins response. Endorphins play a role in pain relief by reducing the level of pain. In addition, it affects mood by reducing anxiety and raising the level of feeling pleasure giving a person a feeling such as when someone describes the sense of a “runners high” (Starratt, 2016).
Dopamine response. Dopamine plays a part when it comes to the enjoyment of play, and activities such as playing stimulate many parts of the brain. In the expression of play, dopamine flows to the brain and helps in dealing with stress that is generated by a stressful environment as well as essential to deal with stress. In addition to feeling good during play, dopamine has positive connections to learning and creativity. (In Wilson & In keil, 2001)
Serotonin response. Low levels of serotonin change mood and effects aggression, increases depression, controls impulsive behavior although not a specific aggression initiator. High levels of serotonin inhibit a variety of human desires and motivations including the impulse for violence in some cases. Decreases sexual arousal and blocks dopamine (Kalat, 2009).
Part 3. The Crisis. Continued next post...