Supermolecules

Everything is chemistry. Everything contains chemistry. Is everything just chemistry? Some say it is.

It seems that the complexity of life processes could be explained by the grace of a few molecules’ superpowers: SEROTONIN, DOPAMINE, ENDORPHINS, ADRENALINE…

OXYTOCIN is popular now, the “love molecule” of stable relationships, fidelity, monogamy, serenity, embrace.

OXYTOCIN is a nanopeptide, ie, a peptide, a molecule formed by the union of 9 (nona) amino-acids, those too formed by the union of…(…) those too formed by the union of atoms… those too formed by the union of particles… Everything is made of particles.

This particular stream of particles of the atoms of the 9 amino acids, OXYTOCIN, is the one that can turn (by injecting it into specific brain areas) a promiscuous mountain vole, only occupied in fertilizing voles and not caring about offspring nor love relationships once its duty has been fulfilled, into a caring lover and responsible parent, monogamous, just like the OXYTOCIN ordered.

The mountain vole has a relative, the  prairie vole, that is a pleasure to see. Monogamous, cuddly, tender, paternal, friendly, quiet … The only difference with the promiscuous cousin of the mountains is in the density of OXYTOCIN receptors in his brain. The one of the mountains isn’t a bad guy. OXYTOCIN fails him. He’s sick. They give him OXYTOCIN and he improves. He returns to the fold.

OXYTOCIN establishes the social glue of the groups. Every hug and every romantic encounter reinforces the bonds within a group… and walls within a group.

OXYTOCIN is friends with another supermolecule, the DOPAMINE, responsible for memorizing behaviors judged as appropriate or obnoxious. OXYTOCIN promotes the memorization of everything that is desirable for the group cohesion and its sidekick, DOPAMINE, is responsible for moving (motivating) the individual in a properly labeled behaviour, every time the relevant context shows up.

Actually all the supermolecules do is transmit orders to cells: “do it!”. They don’t even know the content of what they are ordering, let alone why or what for. They are simple fingers that activate buttons in the corresponding cell receptors. Once the powerful OXYTOCIN finger has pressed the button of its receptor’s complex molecule (a protein, also a “simple” sequence of amino acids, but much longer than the nine of the nanopeptide) a complex chain of intracellular reactions is set in motion, making the individual want to hug his lover.

The chemistry that strengthens the bonds within a group (couple, family, pack) strengthens the avoidance and fear behaviors of the extra-groupal. OXYTOCIN promotes hugging the partner, but also encourages to defend the relationship of other potential suitors. “You are only mine…”

Supermolecules are capricious, contradictory. They can do one thing one day and the opposite the next day. It depends. They depend on when, why and for what they are said to do the run-go-and-tell the cells to do what they know.

The “Open Sesame!” doesn’t have the power to open any door without a voice reader (receptor of “open sesame!”) that initiates the process of opening the door. Oxytocin is one of the many messages circulating in the organisms, communicating decisions of complicated circuits of memory-prediction.

The changing with the times promotes the hope of providing supermolecules to solve any inconvenience. Maybe we can’t get the provision of supermolecules on demand, but that doesn’t solve the big issues:

When, how much, where, why, what for … What will they think of me?

The neural network is evolving to solve the difficult problem of decision making, facing oneself and others. The brain may have serious supermolecule supply problems, maybe we go around with a low level of endorphins and oxytocins and it all gets solved with the decision of replacing them with injections, nasal sprays or genetic engineering, on demand. Maybe. In schizophrenia and autism oxytocin is low and maybe just a little external help is enough… Maybe…

OXYTOCIN?

A molecule for love. A molecule for lobbies.

Relax…

 

Voluntary movements don’t exist. Through will, we can only formulate purposes of interaction with objects (including our own body). The individual suggests objectives and the brain organizes the appropriate motor programs. If possible, economic, functional and without risk of structural damage. It’s achieved through learning. The first day of driving, the application to navigate the vehicle activates a program with too many muscles. This program is expensive and inefficient and stresses the structure. With practice, the brain gains cost-effectiveness.

Sometimes, unnecessary and parasite muscular contractions show up in our actions. They generate muscular tension, wasted effort … pain. They ease the appearance of trigger points. The individual isn’t aware of it, but with a minimum of concentration he can self-project the advice: “relax …” and eliminate that unproductive mechanical burden.

Muscular consistency can be influenced by the involuntary bonus of contraction ordered by neuronal stimulation, product of an excessive psychological stress over all types of uncertainties in the execution of the action.

The uncertainty that generates unnecessary muscular tension can refer, from the perspective of the individual, to the result of the execution (exams, reports, musical performance, sports …) or, from the perspective of the organism, to the consequences that the execution of the task may do to an structure classified as vulnerable, worn, arthritic …

Every action requires a proper technique, a program that saves resources and optimizes results. This involves motivation without excesses or defects, a touch of anxiety and concentration in order to comply, removing any poorly founded theoretical uncertainty about failure or physical cost.

You can be sitting in front of the computer for hours without it leading necessarily to pain and mechanical stress but, if psychological conditions of anxious uncertainty are attached, it will have the unproductive company of unecessarily contracted muscles… that end up generating a nociceptive signal for surpassing the limit of its metabolic resistance or for activating myofascial points due to this mixed state contraction that’s held on alert.

– If I work on the computer my neck hurts a lot. I’ve already been told that my spine is a mess, that it has multiple hernias … contractures, lumps … I shouldn’t abuse, but my job requires it…

The patterns of “I need …” but “it’s not good for me” are especially “harmful”. In these cases, it’s essential to avoid unnecessary muscle contraction, have economy and judgement on the motor circuits.

The routine, the everyday activity must have automated programs that enhance the non-contractile viscoelastic factors and small fixes of the small and precise spinal muscles. Postural hygiene is not about starching a pattern referred to as ideal and maintaining it at all costs. That only creates problems. It’s more complicated. Is a technique with mechanical and psychological components.

I have already referred several times to my activity as a musical performer and the role of my teacher.

– I don’t know if you’re playing the cello or not. What I can assure you is that it won’t hurt you. Sit well, relax… more… think… concentrate… feel…

Throughout the classes a more economic and efficient (better sound) program  was being automated. I think that activity was good for the structure… provided the technique was correct.

– The neck is very contracted… you have to learn how to look…

 

Pay attention…

 

It’s assumed that the sufferer goes to the doctor’s office with many questions to ask, eager for quality responses.

The patient exposes his symptoms, condition, disability, the way in which pain is marking his anguish.

It seems that the presentation is over and it’s time for the professional to give explanations.

– Tell me, doctor …

– Let’s see…

One has to be paying attention to capture the lack of attention. The sufferer may still be entangled in his story looking for more and more details.

– You’re not listening to me …

– Yes doctor. How wouldn’t I listen to you…!

– Well, what was I saying?

The patient has retained some sounds and repeats them, but has not grasped the concept that one wants to expose. He wasn’t paying attention to what he had to.

Without attention, the brain catches a few unconnected words over which later it reconstructs a story from its expectations and beliefs.

– I’ve been to a neurologist. He told me that…

If one hasn’t paid attention, what is said to have been said, in fact, corresponds with what one says to oneself about what another one is supposed to be saying. We are slaves of our narrative. In it, we put the characters with their dialogues…

– I told him, he told me…

It’s advisable to make a minimum of checks.

– Let’s see. What basic idea have you caught?

In many cases you’ll get the surprise that none has been recorded or, even worse, you have managed to record right the opposite of what one was trying to explain.

– The brain … hurts because I want it to hurt … it’s psychological … I get obsessed … I’ll just forget that it hurts…

The commitment of active listening is required. The attention should be focused on what the professional is attempting to communicate, free of preconceptions, pre-meditated interpretations.

– Pay attention. Switch yourself off and listen. If you disagree or don’t grasp the content, let me know. Ask.

The office is, sometimes, a classroom. Sufferer and professional take turns in the roles of teacher and student.

– Listen to me, pay attention. I’ll explain my pain to you.

– Now you listen to me. I’ll explain the biology of pain …

I vaguely remember an extraordinary book about muscle diseases. As time went by I’m only left with the thought I started the prologue with:

“Listen carefully to the patient. He’s trying desperately to tell you what’ss happening …”

Absolutely agree, but it should be complemented with another similar thought for the sufferer:

“Listen carefully to the professional. He’s trying to patiently explain the reason of what’s happening …”

Well, let’s suppose this is true, at least in some cases. Don’t miss them.

Neurovigilance

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The brain exists because it has helped us survive as individuals and as a species. The massive brain of the sapiens (ma non troppo) is there because it proved its value as a navigator through the uncertain world of evolution.


The sapiens (m.n.t.) brain was born with many circuits but with a lot to learn. The programs’ modulation is pending: the what, when, how, where, why and for what of almost everything.


Before there were neurons, the immune system cells used to detect proteins-signals of danger (germs, cancer cells, uncertain cells, cell corpses). They would only respond in the presence of those signals. Often, too late.


Neurons provided the possibility of establishing a correlation between physicochemical signals of all types and potential danger before the harmfulness contacted the organism. Neurons had the ability to convert the internal and external variables into appetitive reflex actions (food, family) or aversive (predators, fire, traumas). Distant smoke that gives away the fire. Smell, sight, hearing, touch, taste, attributed value to the environment promoting adapted behaviours of rejection or getting closer. All this with time and space between them. Warnings, premonitions …


Immunovigilance analyzes the danger of the agent by feeling its molecular signals of identity with the receptors of the vigilant cells’ membrane. The neurovigilance feels the agents through physicochemical variables that they generate in the environment: reflected light, mechanical vibrations, volatile substances. Neurons see, hear and smell the danger before it shows up.


In many cases, the dangerous agent appears docked to harmless states and agents. The neurons take notes of the scenario in which there may be something relevant, positive or negative and register all types of signals that coincide in time and space with it. If immediately after the sound of a bell the food arrives, hearing the bell will be enough to make the salivary glands to start salivating. If we associate the sound of a bell with an electric shock, hearing the bell will be enough to run away. Hearing bells is both for activating the salivary glands and activating the fight-flight response.


Neuronal preventive capacity gained from own experience was expanded through distant observation and covered from the adversity of others. Neurons learned how to sense the harm in others’ events. It’s an emotional, empathetic feeling. Otherwise it wouldn’t be useful.


For the sapiens (mnt) brain, all those features of the conditioned reflexes (bells, saliva and electric shock) and empathy with the exciting events of others weren’t enough. We are a fragile and vulnerable species, without armor, claws, poison or speed. We need more security.


Living things associate when they feel threatened. They turn into multi-individual organisms, societies, following informational signals that express stress, adversity that is unbeatable on their own.


Then, sapiens organized in bands that increased and/or reduced capacities. Something to share was, undoubtedly, information. The sapiens (mnt) brain became compulsively gossipy, nosy, story teller, plus imitative and empathic. Now not only could it sense others’ events by seeing and hearing them from a distance. The story inside the group appeared, in the heat, in the place of the events and and in the cold, in the den. Gestures, shouting … and finally, language.


The sapiens (mnt) brain needed time and rest to process all that huge amount of uncertain signals about danger. Sensations, observations and stories … Too much uncertainty … It promoted space-times of ruminant reflection of all that material, all that the conscious and alert individual let free. Dreaming, sleepiness, mental wandering are universes in which the brain seeks order, regularity, analogies, associations, causes, probabilities.


The representation of the world in a virtual, dreamed, imagined environment, generated new hypotheses that proposed a theory of events, their causes and remedies. Some individuals were born touched by the ability to sense, guess, interpret, predict, advise.


Their imagination created doctrine.


Expert and/or illuminated information provided certainty and uncertainty to the network.


The vigilant brain integrates all those evolutive levels of knowledge (own experience, observation of others’ events, stories, doctrines) and turns on perceptions, emotions and actions while all that complex imaginative world assesses at each space-time the probability of an event.


The neurovigilance needs rest to order so much information, but maybe it needs, above all, a criterion to filter incredible knowledge.


Newton gave mechanical order. I’m not really sure of what Einstein said. For many people, he opened the door to free will. Everything is relative, they say he said. Some believe that this authorizes any proposal of truth. Everything is true and false. You choose. Freud warned about the brain basements but opened the door to somatization as a universal explanation. Darwin reminded us that we are shared history.


Perhaps we already need a substantial blow of knowledge in such an important subject as neurovigilance. Perhaps we need to know about the socialized, educated, culturized brain,.


At the moment they speak about evolutionary botch jobs, about proteins that reuptake serotonin, the drug of happiness, thus preventing our good mood. Luckily we have found the necessary antidote, the inhibitor of serotonin reuptake. That way, the serotonin will stay a few more milliseconds in the synapses, blowing sanity and happiness.


Someone suggested more Plato and less Prozac. I’m not sure. I’ll stick with Newton and Darwin. I don’t get Einstein and Freud’s somatization doesn’t convince me.


For now, I’m glad that I have a protein that reuptakes serotonin.


Prozac? No, thanks.

>The first brain of the day

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I’ve already said that there are many brains adapted to each time, place and circumstance. Each brain is a state of connectivity that is deployed by synchronizing the shooting of a group of neuronal junction points (synapses).

The brain of the night, the one of the dreams, is followed by the brain of the start-up, which evaluates the status of the organism in order to start a new day.

After being in a horizontal position and turned off in a minimal space of which we almost never fall, the brain of the start-up turns on the lights of consciousness, opens the way for sensory signals and cognitive flow, for the merged memories of past-present-future, and gives us the perceptive breakfast:

Hunger and urination …

There is a diligent brain that wants to connect us with the world, with the standing position, work, coffee and toast. It competes with the lazy brain that encourages us to continue sleeping, horizontally … The  lazy brain projects dreams, fatigue, pessimism. By the inertia of horizontality it imposes the interpretation that the world is moving when we try to sit up and forces us to stay in bed, motionless, taken aback by dizziness.

The brain of transition from the still and horizontal nocturnal cloister of the bed to the vertical and lively of the day, with joints that rub against each other, vertebrae that pinch nerves, muscles that haven’t rested despite being disconnected, still with the hangover of the catastrophism of the dreamed gives the troubled and just woken up individual fatigue, pain, stiffness, ruminant pessimism …

– I wake up terribly tired, sore, stiff, too weak to face the day. I can’t rest. Maybe the mattress is not adequate. I use a special pillow for the neck but even so …

– The brain …

– I don’t think when I’m asleep. It’s not ME…

– The brain of transition …

Changes, transitions, are sensitive moments in which the brain projects more perceptive, catastrophist errands of alert. It doesn’t matter if the weather, hormones, the year, working days and holidays, jobs, horizontality and verticality, stillness and motion change.


The moment of the turn on of the body’s engine is complicated, not because there is no energy in the muscles, or the joints have rust from the night, or the vertebrae have tightened and compressed the nerves. It’s simply a conflict of interests between the brains that promote action and those that penalize and discourage, the ones that show the result of the debate to the individual, either as an asymptomatic animosity in the transition from night to day or with a served breakfast of pessimism.

We have to start working with brain programs from the very first moment of the day. As soon as the brains turn us on, our task begins: projecting rationality and pushing the network that manages us. The first brain of the day is essential. If we don’t know it’s there projecting its fears, we will be drawn by the appearance that those fears are well founded.

The brain that wakes us up prepares the brain that should turn us off at night. It fears that still and plane place in which the bones and joints suffer and muscles don’t rest, and one feels restless.

– I can’t sleep … and I need to rest …

The daytime and nighttime brains, the ones that turn us on and off, build circular interpretative alliances, fish that eat their own tail and get fatter instead of disappearing…

The start-up brain prefers that we stay in bed, and the one that turns off our lights wants them to stay on and wants us to get up and move (restless legs syndrome…)

The brains of unease take turns and make days and nights, waking up and sleeping, horizontality and verticality, stillness and movement miserable. They leave no breathing space, time, place or circumstances …

– It’s a mysterious disease with no solution … They say it’s the nerves, the years, the past…

The first brain of the day would need a good romp of reality, of constraint.