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The Mind-Body Connection Is Stronger Than You Thought: How Your Brain and Body Functions Influence Each Other



mind-body connection

The connection between the body and mind is obvious. You might be amazed by the how strong this connection is and how our thoughts affect our health, even depression and the links to stress.

Studies show that stress or depression can change us physically, even organ function! Peter L. Strick, PhD, Thomas Detre Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and scientific director of the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute, said,

“Our results turned out to be much more complex and interesting than we imagined before we began this study.”

It’s simpler to understand than you think.

The adrenal medulla, glands that are located above each kidney, are responsible for stress regulation and response. Neural pathways were found which connect this region to the cerebral cortex. This discovery means that the mind can not only influence organ function, but it can be influenced by organ function as well. And that’s not all, there are more than a few of these neural pathways. In fact, scientists were baffled by the number of connections between brain and body functions.

To find these results, Strick and his colleagues conducted experiments using the tracing method and the rabies virus. The results revealed long chains of neural connections, many of which originate from the area of the cerebral cortex which governs motor function, along with cognition – both these areas have frequent connections.

It may not seem like such an important discovery, but it matters more than you think.

Consider being insulted by someone. What would you do? Most people are capable of dishing out a successful comeback or simply ignoring the insult. Without connections in the cognitive areas, the “fight or flight” response may be your only option. With neural connections between the cerebral cortex and the adrenal medulla, you have stable options, without having to run away or start a fight. You are better equipped to respond to situations in everyday life.

As far as the motor areas of the cerebral cortex, the connection means appropriate movement. Being able to dance and exercise makes connections between core body movements and stress relief. This is one reason why Yoga and Pilates are so important for the mind as well as the body – not mentioning the spiritual aspect that is. Dancing and exercises require flexibility, alignment and coordination. Put all this together and the connection is obvious.

The mind-body connection and mental health

Post-traumatic stress studies have shown that these connections are responsible for dealing with conflict and error. For instance, just thinking about negative events and emotions from the past sends distressing signals to the adrenal medulla. Did you ever get that sick feeling at the pit of your stomach? Yeah, that’s proof of influence and connection, which can be seen in those who suffer from post-traumatic distress.

Links between the cerebral cortex and the adrenal medulla have also been seen with bipolar depression. Imagine that.

Dr. Strick says,

“One way of summarizing our results is that we may have uncovered the stress and depression connection.”

So, in a nut shell, we are much more complex creatures that we have ever imagined – stress and depression may not be about broken connections at all, but results of patterns of misunderstood connections. How mind-blowing is that?

I believe this is only the beginning of discovering connections between the body and mind. It even makes you wonder if there’s more to the “soul” idea. We may even start to see mediation in a different light because it leads us into strange terrain and gives us the opportunity to experience enlightenment. We feel the warmth of thought in every fiber of our physical being. So what’s the key to this mysterious existence of ours?

Maybe it’s all about our connections.

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