Wednesday, June 22, 2011

bipolar condition

Brain or Nervous System Condition?
The hidden neurobiology of the bipolar condition?
Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a medical illness that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. These changes may be subtle or dramatic and typically vary greatly over the course of a person’s life as well as among individuals. Most people generally require some sort of lifelong treatment. While medication is one key element in successful treatment of bipolar disorder, psychotherapy, support, and education about the illness are also essential components of the treatment process. Is bipolar an illness like diabetes or cancer and will specialists find a "mental illness" gene? Or has a more holistic understanding of human development uncovered the biology of the bipolar condition?

The Mind Perceives External Objects - Knowing Itself Objectively?
Inside the Brain - Mind is an Electro-Chemical Process?

A New Shift in Human Perception is Beginning?
As Science Uncovers Our Hidden Reality?

Commonsense perception is based on the observation of objects in the external world, and lacking knowledge of our internal process we assume an object oriented understanding of our Inner Reality? New science insights, made possible by the rise in technology is now combining to produce a deeper understanding of our internal reality. The bipolar condition of mental illness is still grounded in a 20th century understanding of cause and effect objectivity?

The treatment of those who suffer mental anguish problems is still grounded in 20th century objectivity and its unsustainable economics? Neuroscience insights are changing our self awareness for the 21st century and beyond with systems theory shifting perception like Galileo changed the flat earth perception of 17th century commonsense? What Galileo Galilei did for our awareness of external reality, neuroscience research is doing for our awareness of internal reality?

The Polyvagal Theory uncovers hidden pathways to a Bipolar Condition?

"The polyvagal theory" Porges, 1995, 1997, 1998. emphasizes the phylogenetic origins of brain
structures that regulate social and adaptive survival oriented defensive behaviors. The polyvagal theory proposes that the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system provides the neurophysiological substrates for the emotional experiences and affective processes that are major components of social behavior. The theory proposes that physiological state limits the range of behavior and psychological experience.

In this context, the evolution of the nervous system determines the range of emotional expression, quality of communication, and the ability to regulate bodily and behavioral state. The polyvagal theory links the evolution of the autonomic nervous system to affective experience, emotional expression, facial gestures, vocal communication and contingent social behavior. Thus, the theory provides a plausible explanation of social, emotional and communication behaviors and disorders. The theory also provides an explanation of stress-related responses." From: The polyvagal theory: phylogenetic substrates of a social nervous system, Stephen W. Porges

The higher nervous arrangements inhibit (or control.) the lower, and thus, when the 
higher are suddenly rendered functionless, the lower rise in activity. _John Hughlings Jackson

What follows is my understanding of the bipolar condition based on 31 years experience and my reading of Stephen Porges "The Polyvagal Theory" and similar human development neuroscience research. My views carry no endorsement by any of these authors.

With an unconscious perception of threat our (Social Engagement System) is inactive?

When unconscious feedback from the external or internal world signal danger, the two older systems of survival are active below the level of conscious awareness. Despite our best intentions muscular feedback signals will keep us acting in defensive modes of approach or avoidance. Without an unconscious perception of safety from muscular tension feedback, bipolar's cannot spontaneously respond to a social world.

The bipolar condition is a limited bi-phasic activity of the two older nervous system responses for survival. A bipolar condition is the habitual response of only two mechanisms in a three mechanism autonomic nervous system. The third branch of our autonomic nervous system and that which makes us most human, is triggered by feedback signals from the muscles of the head and the face in particular.

The Auto Nervous System is unconscious (blind) it's activity is triggered by our instincts for survival, our instinct for movement? Threat experience unconsciously conditions instinctive muscular reactions below the level of the minds awareness. Habitual muscular tensions maintain a sense of threat and cautious movements, with the bipolar condition created in these unconscious tensions.

Mania had a well documented history of early adult onset prior to our current era of drug therapy in the western world. I believe the first episode of mania is a spontaneous attempt to activate the newer mechanism of the auto nervous system. This highest and newest mechanism of the auto nervous system (auto pilot) works by feedback signals from the muscles of the head and face. When active it triggers relaxed muscle tensions throughout the body and enables rapid facial and body gestures for effective social communication.

Porges discovery of a third branch to the auto nervous system, which is most commonly known for its fight/flight stimulation, brings a holistic view of human behaviors both ordered and disordered. In terms of mental health the theory gives valuable insight into the pathways of all mental processes both ordered and disordered. If we accept that mental anguish sufferers are thrown back onto the two primitive mechanisms of this crucial nervous system, we can see how they are locked out of a social world that is the essence of our sense of humanity.

Test muscle tension, feedback signals yourself?

Relax the muscular tensions of your head and face, your jaw, around your eyes and your tongue. Be mindful of spontaneous shifts in your breathe as your thoughts slow down? Feel this action, don't try to focus thoughts on it and you will feel the spontaneous actions of your auto nervous system. The mind gets in the way of our instinctive nature and interrupts our auto nervous system in its job of maintaining balance. Feel how feedback signals from muscle tensions fire your thoughts? Let go of your minds need to know and your auto nervous system takes over, doing the job millions of years of evolution designed it for? The mind can only observe being, not be the source of it?

In Life eats Life Evolution, Movement Precedes the Mind - Survival Instincts come First?

The bipolar condition is caused by heightened sympathetic nervous system activity which is very costly in metabolic energy terms, with the parasympathetic nervous system forced to increase its activity to maintain a costly balance. For bipolar's its like we are still out on the African Savannah's of evolution, in constant danger of being attacked. Our hidden Auto Pilot stimulates our instincts for survival in muscular tensions that fire the minds activity. Until this golden age of technology we have been lost to our own nature, like a coma patient waking with no memory of a past life?

For whatever reason, be it a traumatic event or a sustained experience of emotional abuse, our (VVC) social engagement system is not working properly. Unaware how our auto nervous system is supposed to work, we keep it from becoming active with habitual (unconscious) muscular tensions.

This new discovery of a third branch to our (unconscious) autonomic nervous system explains why meditation helps calm our troubled mind, and why therapies that focus on close, face to face human contact work better than medication in the long run.

Warm smiling faces trigger the "Social Engagement System" the 3rd branch of our ANS?
The critical (unconscious) perception of safety is achieved within a supportive environment?

From his Polyvagal Theory, Porges has coined the term "neuroception" to explain the unconscious detection of environments as safe or dangerous. He shows us the hidden pathways of disorder, "detection of a person as safe or dangerous triggers neurobiologically determined prosocial or defensive behaviors." He describes just how crucial facial communication is in establishing the support and protection we all receive from close proximity and healthy attachment to others.

The neural regulation of the muscles of the face and head influences how someone perceives the engagement behaviors of others. More specifically, this neural regulation can reduce social distance by allowing humans (including infants) to:

• Make eye contact;
• Vocalize with an appealing inflection and rhythm;
• Display contingent facial expressions; and
• Modulate the middle-ear muscles to distinguish the human voice from background sounds more efficiently.

Alternatively, when the tone of these muscles is reduced, which occurs spontaneously in response to a neuroception of danger or a life threat in the external environment (e.g., a dangerous person or situation) or the internal environment (e.g., fever, pain, or physical illness) environment:

• The eyelids droop;
• The voice loses inflection;
• Positive facial expressions dwindle;
• Awareness of the sound of the human voice becomes less acute; and
• Sensitivity to others’ social engagement behaviors decreases.

It is important to remember that neuroreception of danger or a threat to life can occur with respect to the external environment (e.g., a dangerous person or situation) or the internal environment (e.g., fever, pain, or physical illness). Even flat (rather than angry) facial affect might prompt a neuroception of danger or fear and disrupt the development of normal spontaneous interactive and reciprocal social engagements. For example, the flat affect of a depressed parent or the flat affect of an ill child might trigger a transactional spiral that results in compromised emotional regulation and limited spontaneous social engagement.
Faulty neuroception, that is, an inability to detect accurately whether the environment is safe or another person is trustworthy—might lie at the root of several psychiatric disorders.

Neuroception (instinct) Mirror Neurons and Feedback Systems Theory Combined?

"The motor act is the cradle of the mind - The capacity to anticipate and predict movement, 
is the basis of what consciousness is all about" _Charles Sherington

"We are exquisitely social creatures. Our survival depends on understanding the actions, intentions and emotions of others. Mirror neurons allow us to grasp the minds of others not through conceptual 
reasoning but through direct simulation. By feeling - not by thinking" _Giacomo Rizzolatti

"The essential role of feedback from bodily systems, especially facial and postural, underlies the 
generation of emotion." (P,49) Affect Regulation & the Origin of the Self by Allan N Schore.

“Mirror neurons are a kind of 'neural wi-fi' that monitors what is happening in the other people.
This system tracks their emotions, what movements they're making, what they intend and it activates, in our brains, precisely the same brain areas as are active in the other person.
This puts us on the same wavelength and it does it automatically, instantaneously
and unconsciously. _Daniel Goleman

Instinctual Movement Predates the Mind & Pre-Movement Tensions Fire the Mind?

Accepting this instinctual foundation to mind can resolve mental anguish problems once we understand the unconscious activity of the auto nervous system. Once acknowledged by the mind, we can stop interrupting our own natural order by refusing to feel it. Unfortunately for most of us, fear of our felt sensations has kept us clinging to a life sensed through the mind, in heightened dissociation. Hyper-vigilance is the result of what Stephen Porges has termed "neuroception," with some lapsing into frozen fright, while others adapt into flights of intense focus and intellectual dynamism.

Try the instinctive muscle exercise again? Relax the muscular tensions of your head and face, your jaw, around your eyes and your tongue. Be mindful of spontaneous shifts in your breathe as your thoughts slow down? Feel this action, don't try to focus thoughts on it and you will feel the spontaneous action of your autonomic nervous system, your instincts for survival, your auto pilot?

Practicing a mindful observation of automatic nervous system activity in this way will bring you back into a natural body/brain/mind balance. Over time a new awareness of your inner self can reduce the relience on medications and bring you a holistic sense of wellness.

Allan N Schore, described by some as the Einstein of neurobiology urges a multi-disciplinary approach to the trails, tribulations and joys of being human. His, "Affect Regulation & the Origin of the Self" is a landmark volume that seeks to cross reference all the new knowledge which came from "the decade of the brain." The rise in technology that improved our powers of observation during the 1990's.

Stumbling across a sister volume "Affect Dysregulation & Disorders of The Self" in 2007, set me of on a quest to discover exactly what "affect" is. After a failure to find understanding and support from family, friends and the medical profession, I followed the example of two personal hero's. Joseph Campbell and Murray Bowen both read extensively to find clear insights and deeper understanding, in spiritual terms perhaps Jesus very first lesson for us? Over the past four years I've read, read and re-read, in my own attempt to find clear insight and understanding about my bipolar condition.

Affect is complex and involves systems theory and positive and negative feedback loops, not outdated cause and effect logic. If you are starting to get a sense of your minds feedback fired activity from your bodies muscular tensions, then you may have felt affect?. Perhaps this is the reason why most scientists shy away from trying to explain what "affective disorder" really means, because once you start to think you've lost it.

Affect can only be felt, and like faith and beliefs it cannot be captured in subjective thoughts, only observed, acknowledged and accepted. In coming to understand the crucial role of the face in affective communication, we can also get a sense of generational "affect," and how emotionality is passed down through the family. Neuroscience research into the biology of affective states has gone a long way towards proving a Bowen Theory of Multigenerational Transmission Process, pioneered in the 1950's by the observations of Murray Bowen.

Mood was Movement before the Mind Evolved? was an epiphany moment that finally drove the last spike through my poor dissociated mind, and gave me control over my emotions. Not control by force of will though, not like with positive thinking, but control through clear insight and the ability to let unconscious tensions go. Its amazing just how much tension we can habitually store within the body and not be aware of it. I still get excited a fair bit and can even rev myself up into a mania like state, when I use music for enhanced affect?. Nowadays though I can lay my head on the pillow and relax all my muscular tensions, letting go of mind activity to fall fast asleep.

Specialists view life with a limited perception? Like looking through the kitchen window and assuming you know the whole house? Is Allan Schore's call for a wider view of what exactly constitutes human nature falling on death ears, within a medical profession so protective of rank and status, they don't listen to alternative views? Stress makes us all feel vulnerable, and instinctively our biology becomes a closed system of protective beliefs? Stephen Porges insightful breakthrough is as epoch changing as Galileo's was, lifting the veil of consciousness with the most "inclusive" theory since Darwin and Evolution.

With these new insights my endless objective wants are dissolving into real needs, with my objective perception of an us vs them world collapsing into the reality of WE? Feeling my own instinctual nature beneath my subjective mind I see myself in others, finding myself in their postured e-motorvation? Instinctive muscular tensions fire the synapses of our human mind, and once accepted we will find the evolutionary struggle to master our own nature drawing to a close in this 21st century. Now that we can truly look into the mirror of our inner reality, we can admit ourselves back into the garden of nature, and return to an instinctive paradise lost?

Is Heaven above You? Or is Heaven Within You & all Gods Creatures?