Biologist Brian Goodwin explains to SPTNK how health cannot be measured by a thermometer, health is a quality of feeling.
Archive for the ‘C is for Coherence’ Category
Photo via flickr by -RobW-
Academics say they are close to developing the first vaccine for stress. After 30 years of research into cures for stress, Dr Robert Sapolsky, professor of neuroscience at Stanford University in California, believes it is possible to alter brain chemistry to create a state of ‘focused calm’.
Professor Sapolsky claims he is on the path to a genetically engineered formula that would remove the need for relaxation therapies or prescription drugs.
Chronic stress, as opposed to everyday worries, is linked to illnesses ranging from diabetes to heart attacks. Professor Sapolsky, who first observed the damage caused by stress on animals in Kenya, has been studying hormones called glucocorticoids, which are part of the body’s immune system and help fight cancer and inflammation.
All mammals produce these hormones, which help them deal with a threat - often by running away.
But Professor Sapolsky has observed that, while a zebra will turn off the stress chemicals after escaping from a lion, modern man not only produces too many glucocorticoids in response to everyday alarms but cannot turn them off afterwards.
He says the hormone becomes toxic both biologically, by destroying brain cells and weakening the immune system, and socially, when people continue to snap at their friends or family hours after the original cause of tension has vanished.
After early setbacks, the Stanford team has adapted a herpes virus to carry engineered ‘neuroprotective’ genes deep into the brain to neutralise the rogue hormones before they can cause damage. The virus is now shown to work on rats.
He warned that human trials are years away, but added: “We have proved that it’s possible. We can reduce the neural damage caused by stress.”
Last week, a Stanford University colleague, who called the potential vaccine ‘the Sapolsky shot’, said: “In humans this engineered virus would short-circuit the neural feedback caused by stress, that lingering feeling of tension after a crisis has passed. It would leave you fresher and ready to deal with another threat, so you can maintain your drive, but with more focused calm rather than bad temper and digestion.”
“This could change society.” Professor Sapolsky’s preparatory work was published last October by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
via Daily Mail
Photo via flickr by Leo™
University of Michigan mathematicians and their British colleagues say they have identified the signal that the brain sends to the rest of the body to control biological rhythms, a finding that overturns a long-held theory about our internal clock.
The body’s main time-keeper resides in a region of the central brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei, or SCN. For decades, researchers have believed that it is the rate at which SCN cells fire electrical pulses—fast during the day and slow at night—that controls time-keeping throughout the body.
The true signaling mechanism is very different: The timing signal sent from the SCN is encoded in a complex firing pattern that had previously been overlooked, the researchers concluded.
The SCN contains both clock cells (which express a gene call per1) and non-clock cells. For years, circadian-biology researchers have been recording electrical signals from a mix of both types of cells. That led to a misleading picture of the clock’s inner workings.
But the researchers at the University of Manchester in England were able to separate clock cells from non-clock cells by zeroing in on the ones that expressed the per1 gene. Then they recorded electrical signals produced exclusively by those clock cells. The pattern that emerged bolstered the audacious new theory.
The researchers found that during the day, SCN cells expressing per1 sustain an electrically excited state but do not fire. They fire for a brief period around dusk, then remain quiet throughout the night before releasing another burst of activity around dawn. This firing pattern is the signal, or code, the brain sends to the rest of the body so it can keep time.
Understanding how the human biological clock works is an essential step toward correcting sleep problems like insomnia and jet lag. New insights about the body’s central pacemaker might also, someday, advance efforts to treat diseases influenced by the internal clock, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and mood disorders.
“This work also raises important questions about whether the brain acts in an analog or a digital way,” said Dr. Mino Belle of University of Manchester.
via Science Daily
There is a new understanding of what it means to be healthy. To feel healthy means to feel “coherent.” Coherence is a special kind of “wholeness” in which every part of the body is intercommunicating with every other part. And when all systems are in coherent organization, interacting harmoniously with each other, you have the experience of health or well-being. Viewing health as an emergent property of a complex dynamic system means that health is no longer about homeostasis, but rather a healthy body is always on the move, constantly changing, constantly adaptable. This understanding that health is communication is the basis of mind-body medicine and is currently revolutionizing health care. For instance, neuroscientist Candace Pert has concluded that neuropeptides, the tiny bits of protein that consists of strings of amino acids, are responsible for our emotions, and that these “molecules of emotions” are the nexus between body and mind. At the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Esther Sternberg explains that the science of the mind-body connection, based on her discoveries in brain-immune reactions, proves that stress can make you sick and believing, or the placebo effect, can make you well. Then there’s Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, who unites feeling and thinking with her theory that the body is a “liquid crystalline matrix,” which suggests that the water in our bodies is linked together by a hydrogen-bonded daisy chain able to conduct electricity and transmit weak signals of information, serving as the body’s communication network. Overall, the new metaphor is that biology is a dance, or as Dr. Ho specifies, quantum jazz, with the body being quantum coherent from microcosm to macrocosm, as each molecule plays and improvises together, spontaneously and free yet required to keep in-step and in-tune with the “whole.”