Boosting brain function…Jul 29, 2022
Can you related to any of the following:
- Short temper; aggression
- Depression, anxiety
- Mood swings
- Energy slumps
- Poor memory, lacking mental clarity
- Feelings of lethargy
- Inability to multitask
- Wandering thoughts, easily distracted
- Blood sugar fluctuations
- Desire to eat sweet foods
- Need to eat regularly
- Hanger - angry when hungry
- Feeling off exhaustion in environments of loud sounds and bright lights
- Regularly losing items such as your phone
If any of these things sounds like you it is highly likely that your brain is not functioning as efficiently as it can or should be! Fortunately there are many simple changes that you can make to ensure that your brain has the potential to work to its greatest ability.
Let’s breakdown the functions of the brain so you can better understand why it is that certain cognitive functions start to deteriorate when we are stress, tired or not properly prioritising our health.
While the Truine (3 in 1) brain model is no longer very credible in the science world because it suggests that there are 3 separate systems in the brain, modern neurosciences shows this not to be the case and in actual fact the 3 levels work together as one continuously. However for those of us trying to better understand our brain and body I think it is an easy way to breakdown and prioritise the functions of our brain.
This model based on the evolution of animal brains, from prehistoric reptilians to the modern day Homosapien (Human Being). Let’s explore the suggested 3 levels of the brain
- The reptilian brain (brainstem and cerebellum)
- The mammalian brain (limbic system)
- The human brain (neo or prefrontal cortex)
The Reptilian Brain
The reptilian brain is considered the most primitive part of our brain. It consists of the brainstem and the cerebellum and is responsible for the fundamental functions that keep us alive. These things include like:
- Biological rhythms (circadian rhythm)
- Heart beat
- Thermoregulation (temperature control)
The reptilian brain sits at the top hierarchy for energy demand, because if we do not provide our brain sufficient energy for these functions simply put we will not survive.
The Mammalian Brain
Dave Asprey describes this part of the brain as the Labrador brain, which I love because it fits perfectly! This part of your brain is responsible for the drive and function of our survival both individually and as a species. It is our stress response, our feeding and reproductive behaviours, it also incorporates our emotions which are tightly interconnected with these things!
Our mammalian brain is constantly scanning our external environment, and like a Labrador its attention is jumping from one thing to another trying to determine if it is a threat, can I eat it or if not either of those can I hump it!!! This part of your brain can be easily distracted, creating considerable inefficiencies in your overall brain function by using excess energy.
The stress response sits in high priority for the mammalian brain, analysing threats and determining whether you should stand up and fight, freeze and play dead or run for your life! But being easily distracted this part of your brain has a tendency to change course before the threat has been eliminated.. We've all seen a Labrador sprint away from something only to stop seconds later to smell something it thinks it can eat.. they really aren’t very intelligent!! It’s also not able to determine the difference between a real threat and a perceived threat.. picture the Labrador going crazy thinking the vacuum cleaner is going to eat it!
The Labrador within us also loves to eat.. whether it's good for us or not!! Food drives so much of the subconscious behaviour that stems from our mammalian brain. If you find your eating mindlessly you know you're letting your inner Labrador run wild!
Our emotions also arise as a result of the incoming sensory input, so your emotions also sit under the control of the, if your finding that you are a little all over the place, regularly stresses, eating or trying to find ways to suppress the emotions that come with this you might need to consider training your inner Labrador and giving some focus to stabilising the functions of your mammalian brain.
The Human Brain
As brains in the animal world evolved we were fortunate enough to develop the neocortex or more specifically the prefrontal cortex that allows us to use logic, rational and intellect to control the scattered fluctuations in our mammalian brain.
The prefrontal cortex is essentially the CEO of our brain, doing its best to guide, direct and maintain efficiencies across all systems in our body.
The prefrontal cortex controls our cognitive functions - our ability to make decisions and speak or communicate, also our processing speed, reaction time and explicit memories. It is our self-awareness and self control, which enables us to override the natural tendencies of our mammalian brain to make better more conscious decisions.
You need your human brain working at its highest level to learn, grow and create sustainable change.
Our lifestyles today have introduced so much stimulation that our brains are in overdrive trying to filter what is relevant and what is not, it is also unable to determine between a real or a perceived threat so we are spending a lot of time in a stress response even though it is not essential to our survival.
As i mentioned earlier these 3 levels of our brain are not separate but always contributing, however our brain requires significant amount of energy to function. It actually consumes up to 20% of our daily expenditure, far more than any other organ in our body. Like you need to create a budget to distribute your finances your body needs to ensure that it is allocating sufficient resources to certain parts of the body to function properly.
When it comes to the energy priorities in the brain supplies are firstly directed to the reptilian brain then the mammalian brain and lastly the prefrontal cortex. Therefore when energy supply is limited it is the prefrontal cortex and your self awareness and logic that is suppressed to ensure sufficient energy goes towards the vital functions of the reptilian and mammalian brains. This can occur in times when you are tired, when you are highly stressed at work, when your kidneys and liver are in overdrive removing toxins that you consume in your diet…
You can see how it is so easy to get swept into a series of poor choices.. you go out for a night with your friends and decide to have a couple of drinks, nothing wrong with that; everything in moderation right! But because you’ve had such a busy week at work, you're already tired and energy deprived, your body has to start redirecting energy away from your human brain towards your liver and kidneys to filter out the toxins you consume. This leaves your Labrador brain dominating your brain activity…you know those nights where you are having the best time, eating whatever, loving on everyone.. and not at all phased by the decisions you make!! Welcome to the world of the loving Lab!
The same can occur in highly stressful work environments, but instead of those elevated emotions of happiness and having the time of your life, stress anxiety and fear take control as your inner Labrador is chaotically trying to either run away from these threats by putting these task on the bottom of the pile rather than dealing with them, or it causes you to freeze, shutting down your prefrontal cortex and not allowing you to use the intellect or logic that is required to eliminate it…
All of this can be better managed or eliminated if you can just ensure that you are providing continual quality energy to your brain and body! Every system in your body plays an integrated role in your health… you can not influence one without influencing everything!
To learn more about how to improve your health but utilising your physiological functions check out my new online program…Creating Healthy Habits.
Join my mailing list to receive the latest journal posts and updates from Move.with.EmmaG.
I hate SPAM. I will never sell your information, for any reason.