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Working with the Brain; Article #1. Introduction.

Dec 09, 2021

Today we will be be looking at the Human Brain and how we can work with it effectively and safely. However, this will come in a series of discussions, starting with this introduction and eventually ending on a specific point. This introduction will be an extremely limited overview of the brain and the various parts and just what those parts contributes to the overall operation of the human body. I would like to make sure that that you know the brain is a very complex thing and it is impossible to give specific details to understand each part. So we will just give an overview and general idea with the first part of this discussion and then we will eventually narrow the discussion to some specifics and how we can work with those specifics within a self help arena. Basically, we will be driving towards how reasonable, so called normal people, can help themselves.

The human brain contains over 100 Trillion neurons. Neurons are nerve cells that are capable of communicating with each other through little connections called synapses. This means of communication is electrically driven in a clear, saline solution. The Brain has a number of different compartments. It is not just a big blob of grey matter with a number of different elements just going ever which way in a chaotic manner. When working normal, it is a very organized and well orchestrated and well organized machine. There are many different parts that makes the communication between cells work, but in general some event or reaction or some stimulus on a receptor will stimulate an action or sequences of a messages, refereed to as a pulse of electricity, traveling through several neurons and across just as many synapses until it reaches it's target cell. This pulse is called an Action Potential. Overall the Brain exerts a centralized control, if you will, over the whole body. One of the main drivers of this whole communication is by the use of chemicals, in general, and a strict sense, specifically, Hormones. Yes, there are many other things, such as various acids, fats, minerals and the list goes on and on. Plus a lot of the heavy lifting and actual work is carried out in various parts of the body. But the direction and control is in and from the brain. Anyway, we are talking about narrowing things down so that we can focus on our goal. One must also keep in mind that the brain does not consist of individual, whole memories. It stores bits and pieces of memories by the use of relationships or connections. More on that whole deal in another discussion.

What is that goal? Maybe if you can think in terms of something like a computer. There are two parts to a computer, in general. You have the hardware, which is the physical part and then you have the software. The software is the part that you can't really see, that is what makes the computer actually work. Generally, unless noted, we are talking mostly about the software, which is what is operating within our physical brain. So as we move along this pathway of discussion, just keep in mind that we are moving toward a more specific part of the brain function and that is a chemical software of sorts called Hormones. But other stuff before we get to that part.

The people that studies the brain have it divided up into 3 major areas/parts.. Those areas/parts are identified as the Hind Brain, which sets on top of the Spinal Cord. Then you have the Mid-Brain and lastly the Fore-brain. Within these areas/parts we have regions. The regions are divided up into the following; (I will list the regions and briefly note the role they play), The Medulla; Sensory/involuntary motor function such as heart rate, vomiting and digestive. Then the Pons; Voluntary actions- sleep, bladder function, equilibrium, eye movement and posture. The Hypothalamus; Which is located at the base area of the brain and it controls eating, drinking, the sleep/wake cycles and additional voluntary/involuntary action roles and lastly the release of Hormones. The Hypothalamus is the first major part that we are going examine real closely. If you were to compare the brain to an airport and the planes, then you would say that the Hypothalamus might just very well be the control tower and it's operations to the whole air travel deal. Then we have the Thalamus; Which is a separate, yet closely associated part with the Hypothalamus; It is associated because of some related actions. However, it functions in the arena of eating, drinking but with the additions of defecation and copulation. This part has a direct concern with the area above and below the belt line/waist area. Then we have the Cerebellum; This is related to the motor and thought related actions, and muscle control. This part consists of about 10% of the brain's volume and about 50% of all neurons. Remember earlier we made mention of the brain, as a whole, consisting of about 100 Trillion neurons. So a lot of action going on in this area. Then we have the Optictectum which is also known as the Superior Colliculus. This has everything to do with all things visual. Interestingly here is that very little of the whole visual thing is handled outside of this part of the brain. It is found in the Mid-Brain and is the largest part of the brain. Next we have the Pallium. This is where the Grey Matter is found. It is also known as the Cerebral Cortex. It has many functions, such as smell and spatial memory, IE; Recording and recovery of events, objects, etc. This is a factor in why people looks up and/or to the sides when trying to recall memories. They are actually doing a physical search of sorts for that memory and accessing/using the Optictectum in that quest. Generally, it is thought that a big portion of this region, the Prefrontal Cortex part, is not fully developed until a person is at least 25 years old. The next one is the Basal Ganglia. It's primary function is with Action Selection. This part is interesting as it is found only in mammals. Next is the Olfactory Bulb. This obvious as it processes the all things related to Olfactory signaling and then processes those signals and then relays that processed information on to the Pallium. This part of the brain is somewhat reduced as compared to any other animal when compared to a human. It is believed that it is because we as humans, do most of our processing by sight than by smell. I also want to include this secondary part, the Amygdala, which is found within the Cerebrum because it plays a big role in Aromatherapy. It processes memory, decision making and emotional responses. As a note, I mention specifically the role of certain parts or regions of the brain because we will be looking at these areas and their roles and how it applies to Aromatherapy. Also, we will look at why you have to know this stuff, at least in general terms, when you are going to be doing specific, clinical blending of oils or even the application of single oils. Herbs also should be considered in this light.

Before we close out this part of the discussion and move to the next discussion, I want to make mention of some notable aspects for you to keep in mind. You have heard of the Blood-Brain-Barrier, right??? This is always coming up in Aromatherapy, and perhaps more so than in any of the other areas when discussing the human body and the various modalities used to work with the human body. Anyway, this is a barrier of sorts that allows for Metabolism. This allows for Metabolism inside of the brain to function separately and differently than Metabolism outside of the brain. This whole deal of metabolism inside of the brain is interesting and complex.

When it comes to the immune system, 80% of it is in the gut and the other 20% is found within the Cerebral Spinal Fluid, This CSF is what feeds the brain, so this is very important to consider the metabolism inside of the brain when considering the overall nutrition in general. It is somewhat controversial when you get into some discussions as to what controls what. IE; does the gut control the brain or does the brain control the gut?   When studying the brain it becomes obvious that it can be controversial because based on our understanding it can be argued either way. The secret here is that both sides are right. They work together. This is so important from my perspective anyway, that I have developed a series of Essential Oil blends for this very purpose. So we can discuss the basis of this area in another discussion at a later time. Anyway, I go back and forth on this issue. The Agriculture/animal side of me and my learning and experience sees the gut doing the driving. The Psychology side of my learning and experience says it is the Brain doing the driving. So I set in the corner and druel and twitch with regards to the immune system when considering which drives what here. 

Most of the energy consumed by the brain is used for the sustaining of the electrical charge of the neurons. It takes an enormous amount of energy to keep the brain charged and ready for action potential. One might think that this would be less when sleeping, but that is far from the truth. The brain is active 24/7. It is pretty much accepted that the figure of 25 to 40% of the energy consumed by the human body on a daily basis is used by the brain. The brain generally consists of about 6% of the total body weight of an average person. So think of 6% of the people using 40% of the energy being consumed. So the brain is a very costly part of the body in terms of energy used by the human body as a whole. Another aspect of the brain is that it has total priority over all other needs of the body. It has priority over nutrients, across the board. So if a deficiency is only showing up in the physical body, outside of the brain, then that can usually be fixed within reason, easily. But when that related deficiency is showing up in the brain, some serious stuff is going on. So when the metabolism within the brain isn't working, it becomes a serious matter to get that aspect up and running again. Many times, it is almost hopeless. I say almost hopeless, but not without hope. 

The difference here is when a person has a serious issue with the brain, such as mental illness, which is a very serious issue. This issue(s) can be fixed, for the most part. Aromatherapy can be a very useful tool if used properly when it comes to mental illness (think software malfunctioning) issues.  So this is why we have to keep this aspect in the forefront of our minds. But the largest challenge here is proper diagnosis, setting up a protocol and this is a critical part, the selection of the proper E.O. or blend of E.O.'s to work with the issue. Same can be said of the herbs and even other modalities.

So with this being said, lets bring this discussion to a close. I hope you will mull this stuff around as this is sort of the foundation of our next discussions. The next discussion will be centered around the Hypothalamus and the role hormones play. This is of the utmost importance in Aromatherapy.

End of Discussion. KK


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