|zu zweit, 2011|
the photo is called „zu zweit“ and i took it on a hot day in summer of 2010 on the greek island of kefalonia.
the rating system of the brain
I have already explained a few basics concerning stress, emotional life and controlling the switch of consciousnees in blog 6, 9, 12 and 13.
all signals from our surroundings are administered in the cortex and the limbic system through our five senses (blog 10 and 12) and rated within 500 milliseconds. an inner picture of the world is generated and immediately compared with good or painful previous experiences. the biological axis of stress is immediately deployed if the situation is comparable to a negative previous experience followed by anxiety. interestingly, thoughts and the imagination of a dangerous situation in the future can already activate the axis of stress, which is very important for our struggle for survival (anticipation).
these ratings happen in the “center for emotional intelligence” (limbic system), primarily in the amygdale, in the hippocampus and in the hypothalamus.
the hypothalamus, an important control structure in the limbic system, controls hormonal, immunological and emotional functions and is also responsible for sleep.
there are three types of responses to stress:
1. through the sympathetic nervous system
2. through the endoctrinal (hormonal) system
3. through the immune system
ad 1: general mobilization
production of crh (cortico-releasing-hormone) in the hypothalamus and in the amygdale with stimulation of the locus coeruleus and therefore release of noradrenaline in the brain (see blog 12 – switch of consciousness). this leads to increased attention and motivation.
at the same time, crh stimulates the adrenal medulla through the sympathetic nervous system to release adrenaline and noradrenaline. this stimulates the cardiovascular system and stress symptoms in the brain as well as inflammatory reactions start increasing.
ad 2: the crh produced in the amygdale and the hypothalamus stimulate the pituitary to produce acth (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which stimulates the adrenal cortex to release cortisol. this is how energy is provided. however, cortisol is also a strong immune regulator and anti-inflammatory.
a strong production of cortisol restrains production of crh and acth, which gives vital protection and should prevent stress reactions from getting out of control. constant psychological stress destroys this protection after some time, leading to grave somatic consequences.
ad 3: cortisol blocks the production of cytokines (hormone-like messengers that are part of the unspecific defense), like interleukin 1 and 8 as well as the tumor necrosis factor. sensibility to infection increases, wound healing is slowing and the course of disease in general is influenced negatively.
coronary heart diseases, tumors, asthma, diabetes, skin diseases, the common cold and herpes infections up to multiple sclerosis and the course of many other diseases are negatively influenced or even caused by this.
good stress managament can make these symptoms go away, slowed down by negative feedback mechanisms. the prefrontal and orbitofronal cortex (cognitive centers of rationality) thus dampen the emotional limbic centers with the message: “dont worry, it's not the end of the world”.
if only the amygdale, which reacts even stronger to stress, would listen and play along!