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Author: Michel Massamba
Dealing with Depression
Depression is a disorder of the brain which negatively impacts mood and affects approximately 3.3 million Americans. Depression causes sluggishness and hinders productivity. Millions of Americans are constantly morbid with acute depression which is a non-chronic version of the disorder. Acute depression is a temporary phase experienced by everyone where various life hurdles produce feelings of frustration and inadequacy. This depressive state only last for one to three days before being able to return to normal life routines.
Chronic depression, on the contrary, is a severe condition which may linger for weeks, months, and sometimes even years. People morbid with chronic depression struggle to perform daily routines such as getting out of bed, cooking on a daily basis, and remaining productive within society.
Individuals currently experiencing depression should seek social support and educational awareness. This endeavor will enable them to understand the underlying causes of the disorder. The first educational fact that every depressed individual should understand is that everyone has a genetic predisposition towards becoming depressed. Depression is a neurological disorder triggered by environmental cues such as emotional abuse, stress, and neglect.
Overcoming depression can be expensive for those who choose to seek help from professional counselors. However, several cheap avenues can be embraced for people who are especially on tight budgets. Overcoming depression by self-medicating is a challenging task which requires research and a profound understanding of various aspects of the disorder. Depression is a neurological disorder caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals also known as neurotransmitters.
Treatments for the disorder are often aimed towards restoring a state of equilibrium among various chemicals of the brain. There are numerous ways to successfully overcome depression by means of self-medication.
(1) Engage in Aerobic Exercise
Intense exercises help to restore brain chemicals towards optimum levels. Depressed individuals highly benefit from this sort of treatment because mental relief can be felt immediately after exercising. Aerobic exercise works by replenishing the brain of dopamine and serotonin transmitters. Depending on the roots of the experienced depression, aerobic exercise may also induce a sense self-acceptance and self-love by modifying physical attributes such as weight, muscle tone, and body mass index.
Aerobic exercise is extremely beneficial when the underlying causes of depression are poor self-image, self-hatred, and self-disapproval.
Depression also causes people to develop distorted perceptions of reality and themselves. This distortion of the world can be kept in check by exercising on a daily basis. The drawbacks towards using exercise as a form of treatment is that relapse is inevitable once the individual quits exercising.
(2) Eat Healthy Foods
The foods we consume highly affect our biochemistry and the way we feel on a daily basis. Junk foods saturated with trans fats have detrimental effects on our moods and perceptions. These foods harm the body by increasing the amounts of free radicals residing in the brain. Free radicals are brain particles which behave as oxidizing agents, thus killing various brain cells. One of the best remedies effective in limiting the toxic effects of free radicals is to consume foods rich in antioxidant properties. Such foods are easily attained from food-stores such as Walmart, Hyvee, and Save-A-Lot. Among numerous foods that fall in this category, those with the greatest supply of antioxidants are goji berries, blueberries, dark chocolate, cranberries, and artichoke. In addition to this list, foods that are abundant in tryptophan properties also alleviate symptoms of depression. Some of the best tryptophan foods include ground seeds, string cheese, turkey, chicken, tuna, and eggs. Consuming foods rich in antioxidant and tryptophan properties may substantially reduce symptoms of depression.
(3) Build Social Networks
Surrounding ourselves with optimistic people helps to alleviate depressive symptoms. Interacting with friends and family members on a personal level creates a sense of hope and optimism in our lives. Positive social interactions have profound benefits on mental health because they inflict drastic changes on our brain chemistry. When we socialize with optimistic people, our brain chemicals restore to a state of balance. Our brain chemicals also balance when we experience laughter and pleasure on a daily basis. Making new friends and becoming a part of a social support group is a great self-remedy towards overcoming depression.
(4) Seeking Professional Help
If you are on a tight budget, receiving professional help should be a last resort. Seeking mental help from a professional counselor is, however, one of the most effective methods of combating depression. Counselors are trained professionals capable of identifying environmental cues responsible for the onset of depression.
Counselors may also identify social avenues which can be used to overcome depressive episodes. Additionally, counselors do an excellent job identifying positive elements in the lives of clients. After receiving professional help, clients experience a sense of confidence, optimism and hope for the future.
Discovering Inner Peace
(1) Adopting Forgiveness
Discovering true inner peace is a task which requires personal forgiveness. We must learn to forgive people who have wronged us in the past, along with events which have caused harm to our mental health. Without the ability to forgive wrongs inflicted towards us, events of the past will unceasingly disrupt and affect our personal lives. With forgiveness comes the perk of psychological freedom and internal peace. The first step towards finding true inner peace is therefore to identify which emotions linger within our subconscious minds. Emotions such as anger, shame, and guilt are capable of disturbing social relationships within our personal lives. After identifying caustic emotions that persist in our subconscious minds, we must realize that such emotions negatively affect our social interactions and relationships by presenting themselves in our social environments. For example, whenever we feel angry or upset we unintentionally send negative vibes to the people we communicate with. Our emotions automatically display themselves in our speeches, actions, and especially our facial expressions. Attaining a state of inner peace is a journey towards mental freedom which requires letting go of old grudges, and embracing newly and authentic perspectives of the future.
(2) Eating Healthy Foods
The foods we consume affect the psychological conditions of our minds. French fries, pizzas, and processed hamburgers contribute to a state psychological chaos. Such foods are agents which cause brain damage and internal oxidation. Green vegetables, on the contrary, induce inner peace and psychological well-being.
Whenever we consume foods such as broccoli, spinach, and kale we feel much better and optimistic about the future. In addition, eating healthy foods improve thinking patters and increase the brain's mental energy to enable us to successfully take on new life challenges.
(3) Reading Healthy Books
The threads we read on the internet affect the way we perceive others and ourselves. By reading tweets on social media about the lives of rich and extravagantly successful celebrities, we become very critical and arrow minded about our own accomplishments. Likewise, when we read partisan news which pertains to racial hate and propaganda, we become hateful and divided. The choice, whether to consume toxic or fruitful information on the internet is entirely ours.
Unraveling what Lies
Within the Cerebrum
What is the Cerebrum?
"Cerebrum" and "brain" are two terms interchangeably used to describe the human brain. The cerebrum is a structure comprised of four different regions known as the frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes. Numerous structures within the lobes of the brain perform a wide variety of functions. Examples of these structures are: the hippocampus (a region in the brain responsible for enabling memory formation), the basal ganglia (a region in the brain responsible for enabling procedural learning and movement production),the amygdala (a region in the brain responsible for enabling emotional sensations and memory formation), and the thalamus (a region in the brain responsible for receiving and relaying sensory information throughout the brain).
The cerebrum has copious amounts of intrinsic structures and is often grouped into five subdivisions known as the myelencephalon, metencephalon, mesencephalon, diencephalon, and telencephalon. These different parts of the brain are comprised of various brain structures which produce a wide variety of effects in the body. On this website, we will begin our analysis of the brain by studying various components of the myelencephalon. We will then analyze other aspects of the metencephalon, and diencephalon.
The myelencephalon is a subdivision of the brain comprised of a small brain region, near the brain stem, known as the medulla oblongata. The medulla is responsible for regulating homeostasis activity in the body and supporting autonomic life functions. Some of the functions performed by the medulla range from regulating breathing, digestion, sneezing, vomiting, and pulse.
The medulla serves another purpose which is to protect the brain from toxic chemicals present in the environment. Such chemicals range from alcohol, carbon monoxide, and THC derived from smoking marijuana. The medulla actively protects the brain by scanning and identifying poisonous chemicals absorbed in the body, and inducing autonomic responses such as sneezing, vomiting, and autonomic changes in body temperature.
For example, after consuming more alcohol than recommended limits, it is very possible to experience alcohol poisoning. This mental disturbance constitutes feeling dizzy, light headed, experiencing nausea and sometimes even vomiting. The occurrence of such symptoms is nothing more than a defensive mechanism triggered by the medulla to protect the brain from chemical and toxic damage.
The metencephalon is a subdivision of the brain which houses a small and round-like structure known as the pons. The pons (singular) is responsible for inducing soporific effects in the body and influencing the release of brain chemicals such as tryptophan and serotonin which in turn sedate and relax muscles of the body. Similar to the functions of the medulla, the pons plays an important role in regulating breathing, pulse, blood pressure, and a wide variety of autonomic functions in the body.
The diencephalon is a subdivision of the brain comprised of several brain structures which are members of the limbic system. The limbic system is a conglomerate of brain structures which induce feelings of arousal, emotional sensations, and facilitate learning new information by enabling memorization. Some of the brain structures classified as part of the limbic system include the hypothalamus, thalamus, amygdala, basal ganglia, pineal gland, cingulate gyrus, and the hippocampus.
Numerous brain structures in the diencephalon cause and influence the release of hormones within the bloodstream. The thalamus, for example, coordinates auditory, sensory, visual, and thermal stimuli in the brain.
The process of sensory transmission
The thalamus first and foremost receives sensory information originating in different receptors of the body.
Secondly, the thalamus relays sensory stimuli to their appropriate destinations in the brain.
Tertiary, the pineal gland triggers the release of hormones into the bloodstream.
There are other brain structures, besides the thalamus, which influence the release of hormones. The hypothalamus, for instance, is located beneath the thalamus and causes hormonal changes in the body. Due to its geographical position in the brain (being located near the pineal gland), the thalamus is able to induce rapid changes and dictate hormonal levels. The hypothalamus essentially receives and relays sensory information from the thalamus to the pituitary gland (this is also known as the HPA axis of sensory information). This course of events causes hormonal changes which cause a wide variety of changes in the body. Examples of such changes range from breast milk production, sexual maturation, and motivation.
Hormones Secreted By the Pineal Gland
The pineal gland secretes several hormones to cause mental and physical changes in the body. Some of these hormones are: Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (THS) (a hormone responsible for regulating metabolism), Vasopresin (a hormone responsible for regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels in the body), Prolactin (a hormone responsible for regulating breast milk production in females), and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) (a hormone responsible for regulating the onset of puberty and sexual maturation). The pineal gland secretes other hormones such as s cortisol (a stress hormone); melatonin (a hormone which causes drowsiness and sleep); and oxytocin (a hormone which influences sexual maturation).
The process of hormonal release
A stimulus first and foremost travels from its receptor to the thalamus.
Secondly, the stimulus is conveyed and transmitted to the hypothalamus.
Tertiary, the stimulus is relayed and received by the pineal gland.
Lastly, hormones are released in the bloodstream.
The Limbic System and the Hippocampus
The limbic system is an intricate system of nerves and brain structures which regulate basic human drives and emotions. The hippocampus, being an important member of the limbic system, serves a unique function related to learning new chunks of information. While processing new information, neurons present in the hippocampus become activated and facilitate the conversion of short-term memory into long-term memory. This metamorphosis of stored knowledge is also known as long-term potentiation (or the strengthening of synaptic junctions between brain cells).
The amygdala is a key component of the limbic system responsible for regulating emotions and storing emotional memories. Due to its role in housing emotional memories, damage to the amygdala often times results in paranoia, hallucinations, and a brain condition known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The Frontal Lobe and its Impact on Personality
The frontal lobe is the front-most region of the brain which holds psychological traits with regards to personality, intelligence, and locus of control. While deciphering between life decisions, neurons in the frontal lobe become activated and fire at excessively rapid rates. People with frontal lobe abnormalities suffer from a lack of neuronal frontal lobe activity, and as a result make poor assumptions and decisions. It is very typical for people with damaged frontal lobes to inadvertently display aberrant behaviors contrary to those deemed appropriate by society.
Frontal lobe abnormalities may cause emotional damage and mental health disturbances. Individuals with frontal lobe damage tend to experience emotional rage, frustration, and anger on a daily basis. A low rate of neuron activity and electrical conduction in the frontal lobe are linked to the absence of psychological traits such as patience, peace, tranquility, and problem solving skills. While playing puzzle games, or solving complex riddles, individuals with brains that exhibit high neuronal activities in the frontal lobe are more likely to persevere and peacefully seek solutions and answers to the riddles. Individuals with brain that exhibit poor neuronal activities in the frontal lobe, on the contrary, are more likely to give-up while feeling discouraged and exhibiting frustration.
The Frontal Lobe
and Coordination of Movements
The frontal lobe coordinates sensory information relevant to movement production in the body. The movements of all body structures, including all organelles of the body, originate in the premotor cortex of the frontal lobe. The premotor cortex conveys and translates stimuli originating in the primary motor cortex.
The process of motor coordination
First and foremost, the supplementary motor area receives motor stimuli originating in the premotor cortex.
Secondly, the stimuli are conveyed and translated to the primary motor cortex.
Tertiary, the stimuli travel to the thalamus and are translated by thalami nuclei.
Furthermore, the thalamus conveys and translates the stimuli down the spinal chord.
Lastly, the stimuli activate various muscles of the body to produce movement.
Matter in the Neocortex
White matter is a fat-like substance, found throughout the neocortex, which adheres to different regions of the brain. White matter nourishes the brain with a great supply of glucose (which is later on stored in the form of glycogen). While chemically structured as oligodendrocytes, white matter protect neurons of the central nervous system from chemical deterioration. Similarly, when structured as Schwann cells, white matter protects neurons located in the peripheral nervous system.
Oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells produce similar functions in the body, but they differ with respects to their locations in the brain. Both cell-types coat and protect axons belonging to unipolar, bipolar, and multipolar neurons. By coating the axons of neurons, white matter accelerates and speeds-up electrical conduction.
Oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system protect the brain by fighting toxic agents which cause disorders of the brain associated with memory loss. Such disorders range from amnesia, multiple sclerosis (MS), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Incorporating white matter as part of a healthy diet can have beneficial outcomes when trying to self-medicate to prevent the onset of neuro-degenerative disorders. White matter is manly derived by consuming avocados, beets, blueberries, broccoli, walnuts, and salmon.
the Role of Dopamine
in the Brain
The Effects of Dopamine In the Body
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that induces pleasure and euphoria. Dopamine is responsible for the pleasureful sensations experienced while eating sweet foods, smoking cigarettes, and fornicating. Drug addiction is also a result of high dopamine activity in the brain, where dopamine gushes across synaptic clefts.
The movements of cellular organelles such as ribosomes, lysosomes, and cilium are also highly dependent on dopamine activities. Consequently, dopamine deficiencies can have severe and detrimental effects on the movements of cells and negatively impact balance and muscle control.
A common neurological disorder among people with low levels of dopamine in the brain is Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's is a brain disorder characterized by muscle tremors, poor balance, and poor muscle control. Parkinson's disease also causes negative changes in mood, behavior, and causes people to suffer from a lack of enthusiasm and optimism in life.
Dopamine and its Euphoric Properties
High amounts of dopamine in the brain cause feelings of pleasure and euphoria. How much dopamine is secreted in the brain is typically genetic-based, and such hereditary factors often times predispose some people to experience addiction while engaging in substance abuse. People with a genetic predisposition to low dopamine levels in the brain find it easier to control urges and cravings related to substance abuse, foods, and sexual tendencies. Such individuals are less likely to become addicted to gambling or substance abuse. On the contrary, people with a genetic disposition to high dopamine levels in brain struggle to refrain from enjoying too much of certain foods, substance abuse, and are highly addicted to pleasure and euphoria.
Because of its profound affects on mood and behavior, dopamine levels highly impact and shape our personalities. Individuals with brains that secret copious amounts of dopamine develop natural and inherent tendencies to seek fun through social interactions. Such individuals often times engage in activities such as skying, surfing, and riding roller-coasters. On the contrary, people with low dopamine levels in the brain develop traits pertaining social seclusion. serenity, and introvertedness.
the Role of
Serotonin in the Brain
Serotonin as a Regulatory Agent
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which regulates mood by balancing dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine levels in the bloodstream. When serotonin levels reach optimum levels in the brain, mental health conditions improve and people start to feel much better about themselves. Serotonin acts as a stress-reducing agent, and has been given the nickname "policeman" of the central nervous system. Serotonin is the only hormone in the brain that regulates and influences the volume and activities of other neurotransmitters.
Serotonin Levels in the Brain
Modifying serotonin levels in the brain is one of the best ways to self-medicate and improve mental function. Serotonin levels can be adjusted by consuming foods that are rich in tryptophan and serotonin. Such foods work to combat depression, anxiety, and paranoia. Examples of such foods are egg yolks, cheese, pineapples, salmon, seeds, and turkey.
Electrolytes in the Brain
Marathoners, sprinters, football players, basketball players, soccer players, and baseball players are often advised to consume copious amounts of electrolytes. This recommendation is based on the premises that electrolytes are charged species which support cardiac activity and muscle function. Consuming electrolytes, however, should not merely be encouraged among athletes. High school and college students should likewise encouraged to monitor electrolyte levels in the brain.
Sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, and calcium serve the purpose of strengthening synaptic junctions within the central nervous system. These electrolytes also facilitate learning and long-term potentiation (the conversion of information from short-term memory to long-term memory). Consuming electrolytes is also an excellent way to self-medicate against depression, anxiety, and social paranoia. Although electrolytes are mainly advertised to have beneficial effects among professional athletes, these charged species may also enhance cognitive performance among students.
Electrolytes and Thyroid Activity
People morbid with hyperthyroidism are often advised to consume copious amounts of electrolytes. This recommendation is based on the premises that sodium, potassium, and magnesium are rapidly excreted from their bodies via urination. It is also based on the premises that people with hyperthyroidism experience urinary urges more frequently, and therefore discard more vitamins and minerals. While urinating, hormones, proteins, vitamins and minerals are continually excreted from the body. Replenishing the body's supply of electrolytes serves the primary purposes of keeping the body hydrated and also maintaining high cognitive function.
Tectum, Tegmentum, and Substancia Nigra
The tectum is a structure of the brain located in the mesoncephalon division, and is responsible for producing acoustic and visual perceptions. The tectum can be divided into two separate parts known as the inferior colliculus and the superior colliculus.
The two different colliculi of the tectum serve different purposes in the brain. The inferior colliculus relays auditory information from ear receptors to the primary auditory cortex located in the temporal lobe. The superior colliculus, in comparison, relays visual information from rod and cone receptors of the eye to the primary visual cortex located in the occipital lobe. Together, the two colliculi of the tectum enable people to experience visual and auditory perceptions.
The tegmentum is a cerebral structure located in the mesencephalon brain division, and is responsible for hindering stimuli transmission. The tegmentum becomes activated during night time, and serves the purpose of relaying sensory information to the thalamus in order to regulate eye movement and disable motor stimuli during deep sleep.
The substancia nigra is a cerebral structure found in the basal ganglia located in themesencephalon division of the brain. The basal ganglia is a brain structure responsible for enabling autonomic reflexes and also procedural learning. The substancia nigra is a micro-structure found within the basal ganglia, and is responsible for producing and distributing dopamine molecules in the brain.
Because it is the primary region where dopamine is produced, deficiencies in this region of the brain result in a massive reduction of dopamine production and distribution. Brain deficiencies in the substancia nigra cause symptoms of Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease. These two neurological disorders are characterized by motor tremors perpetuated by an insufficient amount of dopamine circulation in the basal ganglia.
Differences Among the Hemispheres of the Brain
The Left and Right
Hemispheres of the Brain
The human brain is comprised right and left hemispheres which contain different brain regions responsible for disparate functions. The left hemisphere, for instance, contains two brain loci responsible for speech production and language comprehension. These brain regions are known as Broca's and Wernicke's areas.
Broca's area is located within the dominant hemisphere (which tends to be the left hemisphere), and enables speech production and speech adequacy.
Wernicke's area, also located in the left hemisphere, enables understanding of verbal and written language.
Differences among the right and left hemispheres of the brain can be attributed to the theory of lateralization which claims the right and left hemispheres of the brain exhibit different functions due to anatomical differences. This theory also presumes that various cognitive processes are more dominant on one side of the brain. According to the theory of lateralization, neurons in the dominant hemisphere are primarily responsible for the speech production and language comprehension. Consequently, people suffering from brain injuries of the dominant hemisphere are expected to exhibit symptoms of Broca's and Wernicke's aphasia.
The theory of lateralization also presumes that the non-dominant hemisphere coordinates phonological components of spoken language (also known as intonation). According to the theory of lateralization, the ability to differentiate between questions and statements is a result of neuronal activity taking place in the non-dominant hemisphere.
Understanding the Roles
of Epinephrine and
Norepinephrine in the Brain
Norepinephrine is a chemical in the brain that is activated and released as a response to stress. Norepinephrine is also a precursor for the neurological synthesis of epinephrine (adrenaline). The role of norepinephrine in the brain resembles that of adrenaline.
Adrenaline is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands which stimulates flight or fight responses in the body. Adrenaline is activated and released in the bloodstream when motivation is required to conquer various life challenges. Adrenaline is mainly present in the peripheral nervous system, and must be converted to norepinephrine to thrive and become effective in the central nervous system.
Both epinephrine and norepinephrine are responsible for causing vasoconstriction and hypertension within the blood vessels of the body. Epinephrine and norepinephrine elevate blood pressure, respiration, and make it possible to cope with environmental stressors which may pose a threat to human life. Although these two hormones are nearly identical in their chemical compositions, slight differences exist and pertain to site of action. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that is primarily released within synaptic junctions of the brain. Epinephrine, in comparison, is found throughout the peripheral nervous system, and is much quicker to arouse the body.
the Role of Acetylcholine
in the Brain
Acetylcholine and Muscle Contraction
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter in the brain which activates muscles of the body, and serves the purpose of enabling movements within the body. Consequently, when acetylcholine levels in the brain plummet it becomes exceedingly difficult to contract muscles. Low levels of acetylcholine in the brain leads to a neurological condition known as myasthenia gravis - characterized by muscle atrophy and the inability to contract muscles of the body.
On the contrary, high levels of acetylcholine, in the brain, cause involuntary muscle spasms.
Acetylcholine - and
the Formation of New Memories
Acetylcholine enables the formation of new memories in the hippocampus. This neurotransmitter also enables the occurrence of long term potentiation. When performing tasks that require learning new information, acetylcholine is abundantly released in the hippocampus and enables brain synapses to form stronger connections.
Understanding the Ventral Tegmental Area of the Brain
The Ventral Tegmental Area
The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is a brain region responsible for producing dopamine. Dopamine that is produced in the VTA differs in volume from the dopamine produced in the substancia nigra. The VTA is also responsible for transferring dopamine molecules from the mesencephalon brain division to the prefrontal cortex to cause pleasure and euphoria. This molecular pathway of dopamine chemicals is also aided by the nuclues accumbens. Together, the VTA and nuclues accumbens coordinate the flow and direction of dopamine from the midbrain to the prefrontal cortex.
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