Endorphins and mood. Pleasure and pain.

Endorphins generate pleasure and soothe pain. These endogenous opioids mutually enhance each other with phasic dopamine, the central neurotransmitter of the reward system. A positive mental focus -plus the reward system- help us to improve mood, endorphins, pleasure, and to soothe the pain. While, with negative thinking endorphins and pleasure are low, pain increases and mood goes down.

We had on the NeuroQuotient® agenda, for a long time, the idea of writing about endorphins and mood, and their relationship with pleasure and pain.

A few words from Marta Ligioiz – a speaker at a meeting of AEDIPE Catalonia on ‘neuroscience applied to people management’ – reminded us of our purpose.

Speaking of endorphins, he said more or less the following: ‘There are days when everything hurts and every time we feel worse. We are not aware that, precisely, we feel pain because our mood is very low. Encouraging us is the way to find ourselves physically better.

And it is that endorphins, pleasure and pain are intimately connected. With the positive mood endorphins are generated.  Endorphins not only produce pleasure, but also soothe the pain. Quite the opposite of the negative vicious circle: ‘I’m not feeling well, everything hurts, I get discouraged more and feel more pain.

Continue reading “Endorphins and mood. Pleasure and pain.”

Being More Assertive with Neuroscience. Threat or Fear System

How can we be more assertive with neuroscience? Assertiveness is in average point between aggressiveness and passivity. The brain’s threat (or fear) System when mismanaged causes us to distance from this balance point. We will see, however, that we have resources in our brain that help us to be more assertive.

We will start with the concept of assertiveness. Then we will approach it from the point of view of the neuroscience. What happens in the brain that hinders us to be assertive? How can we take advantage of the fundamentals of neuroscience that we learn with NeuroQuotient to be more assertive?

Continue reading “Being More Assertive with Neuroscience. Threat or Fear System”

Hebb’s rule with an analogy. Psychology and neuroscience

Hebb’s rule or Hebb’s law or Hebbian theory is fundamental to understand the relationship between psychology and neuroscience. To approach it we will go back to the original work of Donald O. Hebb and, later on, we will explain it through an analogy that will facilitate our understanding.

Linking psychology and neuroscience thanks to Donald O. Hebb

To talk about psychology and neuroscience, with the purpose of explaining behaviour through its cerebral foundations, we need to go back to Donald O. Hebb.

Donald Hebb is the creator of the most mentioned ‘principle’ in psychobiology, or behavioural neuroscience.From the so-called Hebb’s law, or Hebb’s rule of the Hebbian learning (Hebb learning rule).We will see it through an analogy by the end of this post.

Before, it’s worth remembering that with  NeuroQuotient , starting from the cerebral basis of behaviour, we have a tool that makes accessible the relationship between psychology and neuroscience.In this way, we can apply neuroscience to the development of people in a practical and efficient way.

But, practicality, efficiency and accessibility, does not mean superficiality. For this reason, before going into the analogy it is worthwhile to visit the origins. To Donald Olding Hebb. In the same way that, when dealing with the model behind the DISC tool, we went to the original approach of William Moulton Marston.

Donald O. Hebb and his contribution

Donald Olding Hebb (1904-1985) was a Canadian psychologist pioneer of neuropsychology (of the study of the relationship between psychology and neuroscience).

His most important contribution is condensed in the book, The Organization of Behavior: A Neuropsychological Theory , John Willey and Sons (1949).

The book ‘The Organization of Behavior’ gives us a theory about behaviour, based on the physiology of the nervous system. It makes an important attempt to find the common between neurological and psychological conceptions.

Hebb says to us: “One objective of this book is to present a theory of behaviour for the consideration of psychologists. But another objective is to pursue a common basis with anatomists, physiologists and neurologists (now, we could group them as neuroscientists).We show how psychological theory is related to their problems and, at the same time, make them contribute to this theory ”

He adds, too, that “the problem of understanding behaviour is to understand the total action of the nervous system, and vice versa.”

In his purpose to build bridges between psychology and neuroscience (incipient then), in 1944 he came in contact with Rafael Lorente de Nó (a Spanish researcher, a disciple of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, based in the USA).Hebb based part of his theory on the works on the ‘sensory loops of Lorente de Nó’.

The Hebb’s principle or Hebb’s rule

Hebb says that “when the axon of a cell A is close enough to excite a B cell and takes part on its activation in a repetitive and persistent way, some type of growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells, so that increases the efficiency of cell A in the activation of B “.

‘neurons that fire together wire together’

It is customary to be summarized as “neurons that fire together wire together”.That is, the simultaneous activation of nearby neurons leads to an increase in the strength of synaptic connection between them.

It is important to note that the neurons must be previously connected, sufficiently close to one another, so that the synapse can be reinforced.

At early 1970s, LTP (long term potentiation) was discovered, which confirmed Hebb’s theory.It was demonstrated that morphological changes take place, splitting into the receptor dendrites of the hippocampus, which reinforce the synaptic connection.

In short, Hebb’s principle is fundamental for the relationship between psychology and neuroscience, since it provides a general framework for relating learning and behaviour with neural networks.

The analogy. At last!

70 years after the Hebb’s theory, the relationship between psychology and neuroscience is out of the question.It is very clear that behaviour originates in the brain and is based on neural networks or patterns.

Let’s see now how we can explain Hebb’s principle through an analogy.

The grooves on a hill that get deeper as more water flows down them, help us visualize Hebb’s principle and its relation to behaviour.

Imagine a small artificial hill of earth (Fig. 1).

In it there are some small grooves (Fig. 1. left) that would be equivalent to the pre-existing inactive synapses.

When it rains with repetition and persistence, some of these grooves become deeper and the water descends mainly through them (Fig. 1. right). Similarly, some pre-existing synaptic connections when activated, with their use, become stronger. The assembly of several strongly connected neurons becomes the basis of a learning or habit.

psychology and neuroscience
Fig1 Some of the small furrows on the left, with rain, with use, become large furrows where the water goes down.

In the Neuroquotient context, we call neuro-behaviours to the habits, learnings or, better, behaviour patterns: brain connections that give rise to a complex behavior (doing, thinking and feeling) that is repeated more likely and easier.

When we conduct ourselves (thinking, doing, feeling) in a certain way, the underlying neuronal connections are activated and reinforced.   In this way, the frequency and intensity of the corresponding behaviour increases.

Thus, the behaviour is based on some powerful neuronal connections, for this reason it is difficult to change it.Coming back to the analogy, the deeper the grooves are, the more likely it is that water descends through them.

If the neuro-behaviours bring us little or no satisfaction, if they limit us, it is worth changing them

It is very good of having brain patterns that guide our complex behaviour; our way of thinking and feeling.Without them we would have to start from scratch every day.

But, is it, always, ok?Well, it depends on the results (satisfaction) that are derived from our behaviour. It depends on where it goes to stop the water from the grooves.

Remember that the neuroquotient tool helps us to become aware of when it is worthwhile to insist on the groove, or if it is worth changing. We become more aware of our Efficiencies (neuro-behaviours with satisfactory results) and Limitations (patterns that do not contribute to our satisfaction).

And yes, of course, when a neuro behaviour is limiting us, then it is worth changing it

Is it possible to do it?  And if is it possible, how?

But, this we will deal with in some post in the future.

Happiness and neuroscience. Flow, being in the Zone.

We write about the neuroscience of happiness. Specifically, about what happens in the brain in the states of flow, when ‘we are in the zone’. An important source of happiness. From the idea of flow, being in the zone, we come into the neuroscience of happiness, with the help of NeuroQuotient. We take this opportunity to introduce some important concepts about the NeuroQuotient model.

What is happiness?

To accomplish our purpose, we must first be clear what it is happiness. We have found One definition of happiness that we agree more or less.

“Happiness is an emotional state… characterized by the feeling of well-being and fulfillment that we experience when we reach our goals, desires and purposes; It is a lasting moment of satisfaction, where there are no needs that press, or sufferings that torment.

Happiness is a subjective and relative condition. As such, there are no objective requirements to be happy: two people do not have to be happy for the same reasons or under the same conditions and circumstances”

We totally agree that it is about …

… a feeling of subjective well-being (the perception of each one of the facts and objective situations is crucial) and relative (we are happy in contrast to the moments of unhappiness) and as lasting as possible.

Personal fulfillment is also important. That is, happiness must have a broad sense, not a short-term satisfaction purpose. The search for immediate well-being is related to difficulties in postponing the reward, the trap of false happiness. We saw it in previous posts about impulsivity and fasting dopamine.

But, we do not agree so much that happiness is directly related to the achievement of goals. The satisfaction of achieving goals can be short in time, not lasting. Probably, the achievement of goals has more to do with success than with happiness. In addition, the goal approach is associated with the future, while happiness must be, we believe, in the present.

In short, we highlight three fundamental aspects of happiness: subjectivity, lasting and in the present.

Flow. A mental state source of happiness

We treat about happiness in terms of subjectivity in the post on meditation and resilience. Now we will focus on a source of happiness, and its explanation from neuroscience, which we do not remember so much: Flow, be in the zone.

It is very worth considering the idea of flow, because it is related to lasting happiness and in the present. The more we are in this state of mind, the more time we are happy in the present.

The concept Flow, flow, be in the zone, was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly (1934-, of Hungarian origin, professor of psychology at several American universities, Chicago, Claremont, …).

Csikszentmihalyi considers flow as a source of human happiness. His book about flow has this title: Flow `a psychology of happiness’

He defines flow, being in the zone, as the ‘mental state in which a person, carrying out an activity, is completely absorbed in what he is doing, with great focus, energized, while enjoying the activity’s own process.

What characterizes the experiences and activities associated with the mental states of flow?

To better understand the idea of flow, and before moving on to the neuroscience of happiness, we can remember some personal flow experience.

For this we can think of some experience that we enjoy while we carry it out in a productive way. Being fully focused on the activity, while time goes by without realizing it.

From this experience that we have located in our memory, we can see what comes next.

Csikszentmihaly says that “the activities that lead to flow require skills and energy for carrying them out, while motivation and reward are embedded in the course of the experience itself, in the present.”

These activities are autotelic experiences (auto: in itself; telic: purpose), intrinsically rewarding. They are not carry out by the desire for a future benefit, but because the reward is in ‘doing’ itself. The motivation is totally internal and is in the experience itself.

These are challenging activities that require appropriate skills, with a balance between the level of the challenge and the skills themselves. If the skills are higher than the challenge, we get bored, if the challenge exceeds the ability, then we feel anxiety. (Fig. 1)

Neuroscience of happiness
Fig 1. Flow implies a balance between the skills and level of challenge that the activity requires.

Actually, we are talking about a source of happiness related to the action. Not of happiness associated with tranquility, with rest. Although, during its realization we feel in control of the situation, with calm and without fear of failure.

In its course the mind is completely concentrated, in the present, it does not wandering. The activity becomes spontaneous. There is no mental space left to pay attention to other things, or to oneself. The ego disappears. While time seems to pass without noticing it.

In what kind of situations do each one usually flow? NeuroQuotient® helps us to understand the neuroscience of happiness related to flow.

We have said in other articles that the NeuroQuotient® model distinguishes two types of neuro behaviors (brain patterns of behavior): Efficiencies and limitations. The former provide satisfaction, they are a source of happiness, the latter quite the opposite.

The best demonstration of this opposite impact on the happiness of efficient and limiting neuro behaviors is that people want to increase the frequency and intensity of the former and decrease those of the latter (Figure 2).

Neuroscience of happiness
Fig 2. We want to intensify the efficient neuro behaviors and weaken the limitations. The first ones give us satisfaction, happiness.

Logically, the flow, being in the zone, will have to do with efficiencies and actions aimed at satisfying some internal need. In the NeuroQuotient® model, and from bottom to top in all four dimensions, the ‘action / need couples are as follows:

• I2, Help, empathize with others to create harmony in the environment and receive recognition.
• I1, Study and anticipate, to generate knowledge, learning and resources to face future uncertainty.
• A2, Doing, for the achievement of challenges (although the enjoyment is in the action itself, in the present).
• A1, Explore (internally, from the brain itself, or outward) to imagine/create and/or enjoy the present environment.

Each person can have deep-rooted one or several (even all) of these brain patterns of motivation and action. The strongest brain pathways are the patterns that facilitate the flow in each one. Those that lead to enjoyment, to a reward that is a source of happiness while  acting in the present.

What type or types do you identify with? (I2, I1, A2, A1?)

And in the brain what happens? What is the brain process of the neuroscience of happiness in the flow?

Continuous cycles of reward (enjoyment), approach motivation (wanting) and action that drive the next cycle.

We see the brain process of the mental state of flow as small continuous cycles in time, where one drive the next. As a ferris wheel that has been launched and will not need more external energy to continue moving.

Let’s look at Figure 3. It is instantaneous enjoyment (1), the source of happiness, that brings motivation and energy. The one that gives rise to the chemical reward in the brain.

Neuroscience of happiness
Figura 3. Brain process when we flow or we are in the zone. Continuous cycles of reward, motivation and action.

The reward produces more motivation, more unconscious wanting (2) to continue. Motivation drives the doing that leads to more action – from which it derives more enjoyment and reward (in the present) that energizes the new cycle. A continuum, without stopping.

And what are the brain systems underlying this neuroscience of happiness?

The whole brain is involved, but with greater preponderance of the reward system. In addition, in the body there is balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic autonomic nervous system.

Let’s see now what brain centers and pathways are behind the flow, of being in the zone. More specifically where the neuroscience of happiness is grounded.

We believe that all brain systems are involved: reward, stress, threats or fear, prefrontal cortex. But to a greater extent the first two.

The reward system is the most important in the flow. It is the mesolimbic dopamine that is driving the internal motivation and the mesocortical dopamine that helps to keep the attention in the present. Motivation of approach and attention have the same neurotransmitter involved, dopamine. We saw it in the post about ADD.

Dopamine is also involved in the expanded reward system, which strengthens habits. Keeping the ferris wheel running requires learning, a habit.

Logically, the result of the action, enjoyment, pleasure, the source of happiness, will have to do with endorphins.

Although in memory, at the beginning of the first cycle, on the first impulse, there may be the search for tranquility in the face of future uncertainty. The unconscious memory of the amygdala calmed by GABA or oxytocin (in collaborative experiences). Or, even, quite the opposite, the search for an adrenaline ‘rush’.

Clearly involved is also the stress system. With balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic autonomous nervous system. Do you know Heartmath, heart coherence? Cardiac coherence refers precisely to this parasympathetic sympathetic balance that we achieve when we are flowing and in the zone. A source of happiness, with focus and calm, less anxiety, less fatigue and less tendency to depression.

Finally, is there any risk with the flow, with this neuroscience of happiness?

Be careful an efficiency taken to the extreme can connect with the limitation! Chasing always a feeling of flow we can find the opposite result (anxiety, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, low self-esteem, etc). Indeed, there are risks. But it may be enough to become aware of it to avoid them.

According to the Hebb principle, the more we conduct ourselves in a certain way, the more underlying neuronal connections are reinforced.  As a result of that we behave more in this way and the brain pathways become stronger.

Great! We are reinforcing the neuroscience patterns of happiness. Where is the problem? Well, in that unconsciously or consciously we could start these neuro behaviors when it is counterproductive.

Because, efficiencies and limitations of the same level, are like both sides of a coin. When we have a great tendency to an efficiency (very powerful brain patterns) there is a risk of encountering on the side of limitation.

For example, going back to the motivations described above. It could be difficult to Say No when we have a great trend to focus on other’s needs (I2. Or that wanting to know everything and have everything planned (I1) we could start fear and stress. Or, perhaps, that we want to achieve results (A2) at the cost of treating others with arrogance. Even, with so much imagination (A1) we could find it difficult to concentrate and / or appreciate serious risks, evident to others.

Mindfulness, neuroscience and resilience. Improve resilience and measure it with NeuroQuotient®.

We connect mindfulness, neuroscience and resilience. Also, meditation, neuroscience and resilience. The practice of mindfulness has positive effects on the brain. One of them is that resilience improves by practicing mindfulness and meditation. We introduce the resilience indices of NeuroQuotient®.The book Altered Traits. Science Reveals how Meditation Changes your Mind, Brain and Body by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson was very helpful to explain the connection.

Introduction.

NeuroQuotient® is a model and a tool that helps us understand the neuroscience of behavior. In this case it will be useful to see the relationship between mindfulness, neuroscience and resilience (and meditation, neuroscience and resilience). Specifically to see the effect that mindfulness practice has on the brain and how it favors resilience.

Behind our behavior there are patterns that are sustained by brain structures (centers and neuronal pathways). In another post we explain how these patterns are created and reinforced through the principle of Donald Hebb.

When the patterns are very marked, they can become ‘behavior’ traits, (even personality traits) that are very characteristic of each person.

Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson, in their book:Altered Traits. Science Reveals how Meditation Changes your Mind, Brain and Body’, they tell us that the practice of meditation helps us modify some of these ‘traits’.

From NeuroQuotient®, we believe that, the practice of mindfulness and meditation helps us, indeed, to modify brain patterns. In addition, we are convinced that the main ‘traits’ that are modified contribute to improved resilience. NeuroQuotient® allows us to measure progress in these traits through, as we will see, the resilience indices.

We will connect, then, mindfulness, neuroscience and resilience, through NeuroQuotient® and its resilience indices. The ideas of the book by Goleman and Davidson will be useful to confirm how is this connection between mindfulness, neuroscience and resilience.

Let’s start by briefly describing what we mean by some concepts such as resilience, meditation, mindfulness and neuroscience. And a little more about NeuroQuotient®.

Resilience

Resilience at work means: pressure tolerance, fatigue resistance, ability to concentrate, etc. It has more to do with the person himself than with the events and inputs of the environment.

Resilience refers, in general, to the ability of human beings to adapt successfully to adverse situations. But, at the day-to-day level at work we don’t need to look for great adversities. We can talk about ‘pressure tolerance’, ‘fatigue resistance’, ‘ability to stay focused and keeping the attention span, etc. Additionally, high resilience corresponds to a good level of self-leadership, of self-management.

In all these cases, it is the person himself, rather than the signals and stressors of the environment, that has the greatest influence. It’s about how you perceive, react and feel in different situations.

Meditation, mindfulness and neuroscience.

With meditation we refer to the ancient Eastern tradition. With Mindfulness (full awareness of the present moment) we refer to the practical adaptation of meditation to the Western world, and with its application on a daily basis and at work.

From now on, although Goleman and Davidson refer more to meditation, we will remain with mindfulness and neuroscience. Above all, for the practical vocation that mindfulness has. In today’s fast and demanding world, few people have time for a deep practice of meditation. However, it is accessible to incorporate informal mindfulness exercises on a day-to-day basis that result in improved resilience.

So far, we have talked about mindfulness and neuroscience, and meditation and neuroscience, interchangeably. From here, we will stay with mindfulness, neuroscience and resilience.

A little more about NeuroQuotient®

As we have said, in NeuroQuotient® we deal with the behavior and the brain patterns on which it is based. We call them neuro behaviors.

With NeuroQuotient®, after answering a questionnaire, we have a snapshot of a time in the person’s life (current state) regarding their most frequent neuro behaviors. We differentiate between efficient neuro behaviors (in color in the graph) and limiting neuro behaviors (in gray). The effective ones bring satisfaction to the person. The limiters do not provide good emotional results.

The higher the efficiencies and the lower the limitations are, the higher the level of self-leadership. We measure the level of self-leadership with the NQ index.

The NQ index correlates very well with the scale Self-Directedness of the TCI-R model of Dr. Robert Cloninger.

Mindfulness, neuroscience and resilience
Fig 1. We want to intensify the efficient patterns (neuro behaviors) and weaken the limiting ones, to increase our satisfaction (emotional results).

With mindfulness practice, neuro behaviors are modified, and people’s satisfaction and resilience improve. The connection between mindfulness, neuroscience and resilience is actual and effective.

From the beginning we observed that development efforts were worth it. The most evolved people, with better self-leadership, told us: ‘Some time ago (one, two, three, years) I would not have answered in the same way; my limitations would have been much higher.

And this answer was independent of the development method used. From simple awareness, or coaching, or psychotherapy, or meditation, etc. Meditation and mindfulness were one of the paths. The most effective, we believe.

In short, with the development process, there had been a change in the neuro behaviors, in the brain patterns, of the person.

And, of course, when these new behavior patterns persist beyond the old ones that limited the person’s satisfaction, we can talk about modified traits, as a result of the development process.

NeuroQuotient® Resilience Indices

The dimensions of resilience in NeuroQuotient® are the reverse of the limitations. Low limitation means a high dimension of resilience.

And how do we connect NeuroQuotient® with resilience?

In a very simple way. When the limitations in NeuroQuotient® are low, the ability to respond to adverse situations (or perceived as such) is better. Also, very important! Greater is the ability not to amplify the adverse environmental signals. That is, with low limitations, the greater the resilience.

Hence the reverse of the limitations are the dimensions of resilience. We named them this way:
rA1 – management of attention and impulsiveness.
rA2 – management of anger (and empathy).
rI1 – management of stress.
rI2 – management of self-thinking (and self-esteem).

In Fig 2 are the graphs for two real cases with different levels of resilience according to NeuroQuotient®.

Let’s describe these resilience indices. At same time we will refer to some of the ´Altered Traits´ the result of the practice of meditation and mindfulness, as Goleman and Davidson tell us. In this way, we can connect mindfulness, neuroscience and resilience.

Mindfulness, neuroscience and resilience
Fig 2. Values of the resilience dimensions according to NeuroQuotient® for two real cases. Left. Low resilience (current state Fig1). Right. Remarkable level of resilience. The 3 corresponds to the average. From 0 to 6, – / + 3 standard deviations
rA1 – management of attention and impulsiveness.

Modified traits related to improved concentration and attention span, and with the resilience dimension rA1.

Some of the altered traits, according to Goleman and Davidson, refer to a better attention, to a greater focus, to decrease the tendency of the mind to wander, to control the response to external distraction signals (blinks), to potentiation of working memory, etc.

That is, they are related to the resilience dimension rA1. Although in rA1 we also include other neuro behaviors. Brain patterns that have to do with low impulsivity, with not being carried away by the illusion of the moment and / or by the search for immediate reward. Also, with not creating one-self unrealistic expectations.

In general, it is an optimal management of the reward system in its prefrontal (attention, concentration) and limbic (motivation) pathways. We believe that the practice of mindfulness is positive for both aspects. A key element in the relationship mindfulness, neuroscience and resilience.

When dealing about attention and focus, Goleman and Davidson talk about multitasking. For them the multitasking brain does not exist, but it is connecting, and disconnecting quickly from one task to another. With this premise, it is obvious that people with a tendency to multitasking are more easily distracted.

Attention is essential in all functions of the prefrontal cortex, for this reason, mindfulness also improves working memory.

rI1- management of stress and rA2 – management of anger (and empathy).

Modified traits related to reduced activation of the amygdala (threat system, fear) and stress. Also, with the ability to manage fear and the amygdala with the PFC (prefrontal cortex). Resilience dimensions rI1 and rI2.

Other modified features, according to Goleman and Davidson have to do with a lower reactivity of the amygdala (threat system center in the brain) to stress and a greater ability to manage it from the PFC (prefrontal cortex).

From there we are going to the resilience dimensions rA2 and rI1. Behind them is, indeed, the system of threats or fear, with the amygdala as the fundamental brain center. After the amygdala of an animal is activated, in response to a threat of the environment, the stress (adrenaline) is switch on (in the version ‘fight’ or ‘flight’).

But, humans, we can amplify these signals. We can even imagine them only with our thoughts. But, also, we can stop them with the same PFC (prefrontal cortex). When we dealt about stress we saw the prefrontal connection with the intercalated GABA cells (CIT) that calm down the amygdala.

If we are able to manage our internal stress, and not increase it by worrying, the resilience index rI1 will be high.

If we manage the externalization of stress, curbing our anger and aggressiveness, the rA2 resilience index will also be high.

In addition, with respect to rA2, there is another modified feature. From meditation and mindfulness, there is a better connectivity of the empathy circuit.

We are more prepared to feel the negative effect on others when we expel our stress towards them. In addition, in this case it is the oxytocin that calms the amygdala by acting on the interspersed GABA neurons.

rI2 – management of self-thinking (and self-esteem).

With meditation and mindfulness, the default network related to rumination and depression, and the tendency to think negative about oneself, also becomes less active. The resilience dimension rI2 is increased.

Finally, but very important, is the rI2 resilience dimension.

When it is low, it includes a high tendency to ‘rumination’. To stay blocked by turning to negative thoughts about ourselves and to blame ourselves.

This neuro behavior can be a symptom of major depression. In a depressive state there is absence of motivation, energy is very low and self-esteem is negatively affected. Resilience is zero. The high rI2 dimension means the opposite: motivation, energy and self-esteem.

It is well described that the circuit default network ’brain circuit is involved in rumination.

Well, Goleman and Davidson, tell us that with meditation the dorsolateral prefrontal connection that inhibits the default network is reinforced. Another key relationship between mindfulness, neuroscience and resilience.

Persist in practice!

With meditation and mindfulness, the altered traits appear soon, but it is necessary to persist in practice so that they consolidate and endure. With NeuroQuotient® we measure progress!

Finally, keep in mind that, as Goleman and Davidson say, the altered traits arise with little need for practice, but it is necessary to persist in it to last.

It is necessary to consolidate the new neuronal pathways to prevail over the previous ones. This tells us the Hebb principle we quoted at the beginning. Simple, but very important to understand the connection between mindfulness, neuroscience and resilience.

It is necessary to persist in practicing mindfulness. If we abandon, the previous patterns will reappear as stronger than the new ones created, and reinforced, with the practice of mindfulness.

On the other hand, with NeuroQuotient® we can track to measure progress in resilience indices.

The DISC personality test and NeuroQuotient. Similarities and differences.

It is likely that we are here looking for information about the DISC personality test. But, how we are attracted by innovation, we can also take the opportunity to learn about NeuroQuotient. The neuro tool that allows to apply neuroscience to coaching and people development in a practical and efficient way.

Anyway, if your interest does not go beyond the DISC personality test, you will find more information in this same blog – ” DISC model and DISC personality assessment tools for development (tools 5)”

In the current post we compare NeuroQuotient with the DISC personality test. So, we can see the most outstanding features of both tools.

Although, the best way to know NeuroQuotient, is to sign up for one of the free online workshops. And to continue with the Certification to be able to use the neuro tool to its full potential.

But, now, let’s follow another approach. We will take as reference the DISC personality test and we will compare it with NeuroQuotient in certain relevant aspects, seeing similarities and differences. The DISC personality test is the most widely used coaching and leadership development tool. We have already seen it in this blog.

Continue reading “The DISC personality test and NeuroQuotient. Similarities and differences.”

Stress management. Learn how not to increase stress from the neuroscience

Stress management. Learn how not to increase stress from the neuroscience

In this post we will see strategies from the neuroscience for stress management. Depending on how we focus our thought and attention from the prefrontal cortex, PFC, we may increase our stress. We will understand in what situations it happens. But, the GABA neurons in the amygdala can help us to calm the fear and the consequent stress. We will learn to take advantage of it to improve our quality of life.

In the previous article, we started to see the neuroscience of stress. After that, we have little doubt that it is better not to increase stress than just trying to decrease it.

High stress negatively affects our quality of life. But, often, we become aware of the need to manage stress when it is already very high and has become distress, chronic stress or anxiety. Or when it is difficult to reduce it and/or when there are other collateral damages such as gastric ulcers, heart problems, etc.

In this post we will first go deeper into the neuroscience of stress seen from NeuroQuotient®. This will allow us to design strategies for stress management, especially to avoid increasing it. We will also see things that, in general, we are not aware we can do better about.

Stress, seen from neuroscience, is the response to cues of threat or fear. But, in humans, these threats may be only in our mind or intensified with it.

Let’s first to review some concepts of stress neuroscience that we have already discussed in the previous post. It is convenient that we keep them in mind so that we can better understand the stress management strategies.

First. Behind the stress is, mainly, the threat or fear system.

In this system work together perception (through the senses), the amygdala (limbic center of fear) and memory (hippocampus). If the memory indicates that the perceived cue is a danger, then it time to flight (if the threat is too great) or fighting (if it is possible to cope it successfully). If exposure to the threat lasts for a certain time (mora than 10 min), cortisol begins to act, which can have significant negative side effects.

But, human animals, with the PFC (prefrontal cortex), we can direct attention, imagine or remember. So the threat signals do not necessarily have to come from a direct perception of the senses. Obviously, depending on how we use the PFC, the result regarding stress management can be very different. That is, in the neuroscience of stress, the PFC is fundamental.

From NeuroQuotient® we use to say that sometimes we imagine lions where there are none and, probably, never there will be. Or that, in our mind, we turn mice into lions.

NeuroQuotient® turns neuroscience into something practical, in this case the neuroscience of stress.

But, also, with our thought, from the PFC, we can modify the meaning of the threat cues and, thanks to the GABA neurons, stop the activation of the amygdala and stress.

But, in the previous post we left pending the key of the neuroscience of stress to avoid increasing it. The prefrontal cortex also intervenes in it.

We said, that between the basolateral amygdala (the one that receives the danger signal) and the central amygdala (the one that triggers the fight or flight), there are cells (neurons) interspersed (CIT).

These CITs are neurons of the GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitter. With its activation they slow down the central amygdala and stress is not started, since GABA is the main modulating neurotransmitter.

How are they activated? Well, with a message from the PFC saying, this signal, which seemed a danger, is a false alarm.

These days, post summer solstice days, some children still have firecrackers left. It is common to walk down the street and get scared. The hard noise triggers the amygdala, but soon we slow it down thinking something like:

‘Wow, it was just a firecracker’. That’s how we calm down.

Another quite common way to stop the amygdala and the consequent stress is to use tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Normally benzodiazepines. Diazepam (valium), alprazolam (tranquimazin), lorazepam (orfidal), etc. The benzodiazepines are ‘agonists’ of GABA, that is, they act in the same way in the receptors of the central amygdala.

We do not consider it advisable. Benzodiazepines create addiction. In addition, there are also GABA cells in the reward system, so they not only inhibit fear, but also the will to live.

Caffeine acts like noradrenaline (norepinephrine), helps wake up, but also activates the stress system.

Nor did we see in the previous post that norepinephrine intervenes in the start-up of stress. In connection with the amygdala – and from the locus coeruleus – noradrenaline activates the sympathetic nervous system and slows the parasympathetic nervous system.

Prior to adrenaline (epinephrine), which acts primarily in the body, noradrenaline is activated in the brain. An excess of noradrenaline involves brain stress.

In this review of stress neuroscience, we point it out now for two reasons:

First, because it is very important to maintain the balance between the two branches (sympathetic and parasympathetic) of the autonomic nervous system. We’ll see when we talk about how to reduce stress.

And second, even more pertinent, because in the noradrenaline receptors, and in the same way as she does, one of the most daily ‘wake-up’ acts: caffeine.

I remember a person who, to activate himself in the morning, and during the day, use to take several coffees. Then, to brake at night, he resorted to sleeping pills. Well, each one is responsible for himself. Maybe if this person had read this post he would have changed his stress management strategy.

Let’s see now what the main internal sources of stress are. Do you identify with any of these neuro behaviors?

Then, what can we do not increase stress, so as not to self-stress?

The first step is to become aware of how we activate or intensify the brain system of fear or threat. In many cases it has to do with how we use and focus our thinking, the PFC. We can ask ourselves the following questions:

1. Do you tend to worry (to pay attention in the future in a not positive way, paying too much attention to supposed threats)?
2. Do you have a trend to perfectionism (do you need everything to work out well)?
3. Do you want to encompass it, control it, everything, with a high level of self-demand?
4. Impatient; it’s hard to wait; Do you want it now?
5. Do you tend to see others as a threat to your interests?
6. Do you tend to ‘listen’ in negative to your bodily sensations of stress?
7. How is your daily dose of coffee?
8. How is your relationship with benzodiazepines?

By the way, if we find it difficult to identify these sources that make stress management difficult, with the NeuroQuotient® tool, we’ll find it out in 15 minutes.

Once identified our points of improvement, it is about finding alternative neuro-behaviors for these situations. Strategies arising from the understanding of the neuroscience of stress.

We have already realized that, in most cases, it is about avoiding or intensifying the signs of fear (not turning them into lions) that push the threat system to fight or flee, without it being necessary.

Once identified some neuro behaviors that make stress management difficult, let’s see some ideas on how to avoid increasing the stress.

Here there are some specific ideas for most of the previous points. They are referenced in the same way.

To ask ourselves, ‘what is really important’? is at the base of many of these ideas.

1. Instead of worrying, let’s decide what is important and, then take action. Don’t keep thinking about it. Excessive reflection with worry kills the action. Let’s take advantage of the energy directing it towards action to achieve what is important.

By worrying we also unleash energy, but we waste it; and we can end up somatizing stress.

And let’s try to change the focus in positive. It is as easy to think about what we are going to achieve than to imagine the opposite.

2. Perfectionism? Again, let’s decide what is important. Let’s forget the irrelevant details. Not everything needs the same level of precision. Prioritize. There are many things in which, if we fail, absolutely nothing happens. There are others, not so many, more important than it’s worth not to fail.

3. When we want to have everything under control, with high self-demand. We must bear in mind that not everything is possible at the same time. We have limited time resources, especially if we have to do it alone.

Then, once again, prioritize. Let’s organize ourselves to make better use of time. Let’s write down in the schedule when we are going to do something. Do not try to have everything in mind; in this way, we will only stress our PFC.

When we know what is important, we can deal with it and, at the same time, we stop worrying about what is not relevant.

On the other hand, regarding the non-important, we can send from the PFC (the thought and the focus) a message of tranquility to the amygdala. ‘I’m taking care of the important things. There is no reason for alarm ‘

And we continue with ideas to avoid increasing stress, following the items on the list for awareness

4. Impatience, in general, has to do with worry. We focus on the future and in a negative way. ‘The train does not come. I’ll be late’. Is it a matter of life or death that you arrive on time? If it’s so important, let’s get busy on it, let’s find an alternative to get it. If we can’t do anything, it does not make sense to worry.

5. Perceiving some other people as a threat. Often the lack of trust in someone makes us perceive them as a threat. Their simple presence or, just thinking about them, triggers our fear or threat system. And how, fortunately, it is not usual to ‘stick with others’, once again energy accumulates as stress within the body.

To avoid this, it is about changing the focus on these people. If they are important to us, of course. If they are not, then, just forget them.

Impatience with others has more to do with ‘the fight’ and with a level of demand, sometimes disproportionate. Watch out! Often, the ‘fight’ with others is also a way to get rid of stress and to avoid somatizing it.

In order not to increase stress when it has to do with the ‘fight’, there is another interesting approach. It has to do with trust and oxytocin, and it’s for more than one article. In some a way we advance it in a previous post: ’empathy to deactivate bullying’ (right at the end of the post).

6. Tendency to pay attention and interpret the body sensations in a negative way. If the symptoms are very intense, if it is serious, better go to the doctor. If not, we can pay attention to them, but without trying to interpret them or control them. And let them evolve by themselves. Our body is wise and by itself it will reach balance. This idea is partly related to the TIPI technique.

Attention! TIPI is much more than this (for more information you can inform yourself directly from its creator, Luc Nicon).

Finally, the exogenous elements. Drugs more or less

7. Regarding coffee, there is little to say. Do not abuse! Mainly, if our body is especially sensitive to caffeine.

8. If we need to take benzodiazepines, this mean that our stress level is already very high. Do not increase it, at least. And, please, not with caffeine.

Relaxing drugs cause drowsiness, counteracting it with caffeine is quite absurd. As an alternative to sleeping pills we can try something more natural, like valerian. As it smells very badly, there is no risk of addiction.

In general, for situations that are repeated and that start the amygdala and stress, it is important to change the focus and the meaning to trigger the CIT neurons as soon as possible.

Finally, please, remember that the NeuroQuotient® tool helps us understand the neuroscience of behavior. In this case the neuroscience of stress. And above all, with it we can see how our neuro behaviors help our satisfaction and well-being.

Reducing stress or not increasing stress?

In this article we inquire ourselves about which option is better: reducing stress or not increasing it. Stress, or rather distress (when it is very high and persistent) is an evil of our time. Understanding its neurological fundations we will see that many times we exaggeratedly increase it with our own perception and interpretation of situations. Understanding the neuroscience of behavior we become aware that sometimes we are limiting ourselves. The NeuroQuotient® helps us to do it.

Frequently, we want to lower our stress

A few days ago, when preparing a coaching session, we saw that a person asked us to discuss about more techniques and exercises to reduce stress.

He said something like this: ‘I practice sports and meditation, but I’m not able to reduce my stress to an acceptable level. Quite the opposite, I think it is increasing ‘.

It’s clear that we are talking about ‘distress’, excessive stress, almost chronic stress. The one that manifests itself in a series of unpleasant bodily sensations and in difficulty to concentrate and rest. Either it is hard for us to sleep or we fall exhausted and after two or three hours we are with our eyes wide open.

Often the main source of stress is oneself

How do we cause or cause stress to increase?

Shortly after starting the session we asked to the person who wanted to reduce the stress: How do you do it to increase your stress?

We can measure the sensation of stress on a scale of 1 to 10. We consider 1 to 5 adequate, above 5 to 7 worrying and 8 to 10 serious. The 0 does not make sense, it is not a reasonable level, the day we achieve it we will not be at all.

Someone in a constant sense of stress of 8 or 9, doing regular coping exercises, it seems clear that they have an internal source of stress.

It is logical that in a fire, in an earthquake, in a terrorist attack, in the face of a loss, etc. we feel stressed. But the person of the example, neither the present, nor in the past, had any similar situation.

There was not present, what we used to call, a relevant external stressors. It just happened, as in many cases, that the main source of stress was internal. An external trigger could exist, but the own perception was very much important.

 What are the neurological bases of stress?

The brain system of threat or fear

To understand it better, let’s see what happens in the brain, and in the body, with stress.

Stress is born in the system of fear or threat. With animals we prefer to talk about threat and in humans of fear. Fear is an emotion, the result of the interpretation of the situations and the corresponding sensations.

Let’s start with the animals and quite the same will be valid for the human animal.

What is the purpose of the threat system?

Simply, the species survival based on minimizing damage and pain.

When the animal perceives with its senses a signal that, its species memory, indicates that it is a threat, it can respond in different ways: Fighting, if it can cope with it or flighting, if the threat is greater than its possibilities.

We leave aside a third option here: standing still, freezing, which we have already seen earlier, more associated with depression in humans.

At the center of the threat system are the amygdalae. The sensory signal reaches the basolateral zone of the amygdala and, from there, goes to the central zone that connects with the autonomic nervous system, activating the sympathetic branch and braking the parasympathetic branch.

The animal is ready to attack or flee! So much goes for both. Depends on what the memory indicates, the amygdalae are the same and what comes next, too.

The fast and slow pathways of stress. The autonomic nervous system and cortisol

The sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system secretes adrenaline (epinephrine) in the core of the adrenal glands. The adrenaline passes into the blood, increasing the heart rate, increasing blood pressure, dilatating the pupils, opening the bronchi, etc. This is the fast, immediate path of stress. The one that facilitates fighting or the flighting.

After about 10 minutes, the slow path of stress begins to work. That of glucocorticoids (cortisol in humans). Cortisol is secreted in the cortex of the adrenal glands. Mainly it serves to generate energy from the reserves of the body (fats and proteins)

The slow way replaces the lack of activity of the parasympathetic branch, whose function is to favor the recovery of energy with rest and digestion: lowering the heart rate, contracting the bronchi, closing the pupils, promoting salivation, etc.

We usually talk about sympathetic activation and we forget parasympathetic deactivation. But symptoms like dry mouth, difficulty breathing, digestive problems, eyes open at night, etc., are very frequent, right? These symptoms lead us to think that we need to lower our stress.

On the other hand, the slow pathway has few opportunities for activity in animals. At 10 minutes the gazelle or has fled the lion, or very bad for the gazelle. If only it were wounded and hidden, then corticosteroids would go into action to facilitate its recovery.

It is important to point out that between the basolateral and the central amygdala there are neurons interspersed with the neurotransmitter GABA that can stop the activation of the central amygdala. In the next article we will discuss methods of coping with stress “Stress management. Learn not to increase stress from neuroscience “, we will talk deeply about it.

And in the most human part? How do we influence the fear system?

What has been seen so far is valid for humans also. We have already introduced it when talking about the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system.

The difference is in the higher prevalence of the prefrontal cortex (PFC). With which we think and direct attention. The one that differentiates us in more or less extention from the other mammals.

Thanks to the PFC, humans do not distinguish between what we perceive, what we imagine or remember. That is, the signals that reach the amygdala often have internal origin or, at least, are interpreted by the PFC.

With high worry, self-demand and perfectionism (when all details are very important), with the interpretation of situations, we can focus on exaggerated dangers, which are only in our mind. We self-generate fear and start the ‘flighting’ side of the threat system. On the other hand, wanting to achieve very high and short-term results, we see obstacles in the way and put ourselves in a position of ‘fighting’ towards others.

Then, with attention and thought we may activate the central amygdala and the sympathetic nervous system and brake the parasympathetic one.

Also, when we put ourselves in ‘flighting’ mode we do not run away. Why run? There is no a lion by there.

And stress appears. Tachycardia and dilated pupils, in a continuous state of alertness (very active sympathetic system) and feelings of suffocation, dry mouth, difficulty sleeping, digestive problems (parasympathetic system slow down).

When stress is persistent, long-lasting, anxiety appears. With the fast and slow pathways (cortisol) permanently working.

By putting ourselves in a fighting position, we do release energy. This is why sport works to reduce stress.

Some humans with great tendency to ‘fight’, do not accumulate stress because they expel all of it. Great for them and worse for the people nearby.

But it is not usual. After all, the fight and flight brain pathways are the same.

What is our specific case? Do we need to reduce stress because we tend to increase it ourselves?

We imagine that now there is little doubt as to how stress is generated and that, in many cases, the main source may be internal. And that, in general, for good management rather than thinking about reducing stress, it is more efficient to try not to increase it.

It is important to emphasize that not all brains and human bodies are equally sensitive to stress. Consequently, not everyone has the same need to manage it, because we do not feel it with the same intensity. Some people are more resilient and are less affected by external stressors.

In those who do feel stress intensely, often an important error happens: We try to manage it with thought, with the PFC. And, then, being so aware of the body sensations and by worrying, the result is the opposite to the desired one.

Well, considering the neurological basis of stress, in the next article we will look for ideas to manage it. To not increase stress or to reduce stress.

But, always the first step is awareness. With NeuroQuotient it is easy to detect the greater or lesser level of stress, the greater or lesser resilience, the tendency to fight or to flight and find ways, new neuro behaviors, to manage stress. It is about developing self-leadership.

 

 

Serotonin and depression. Is it always good to boost serotonin?

Serotonin and depression are very associated in the collective imagination. It is said that in depression there is a deficit of the neurotransmitter serotonin. In NeuroQuotient® we are clear that this is not always the case. To explain it, we will discuss serotonin reuptake – where the most commonly used drugs act – and we will see the serotonin paradox.

Let us remember that NeuroQuotient® is a tool, based on neuroscience, to facilitate development processes. In the certification to use it we deal with the fundamental issues in the relationship between neuroscience, and behavior and people’s well-being. In this learning process, in some cases, it is necessary to question certain ‘myths’. Let’s see an example.

Serotonin is fashionable. Everyone talks about the wonders of the neurotransmitter serotonin. If we don’t have a good serotonin level, we are lost. Fatal. To all this it helps that, in addition, we associate lack of serotonin and depression.

Is all of this correct? Won’t this be excessive?

Continue reading “Serotonin and depression. Is it always good to boost serotonin?”

MBTI Indicator. Myers-Briggs Psychological Types (tools 7)

The Myers-Briggs personality types indicator it’s a good issue to restart the series about the tools used in coaching and psychology. We’ll review the origins and structure of the MBTI personality model. We can learn about the Myers-Briggs indicator to identify which MBTI personality type is the nearest to each one of us. Also, we will soon compare it with NeuroQuotient , as we have done with the DISC personality model.

Introduction to the MBTI indicator

The MBTI indicator it is the one that most clearly represents a ‘personality type’ model.

Continue reading “MBTI Indicator. Myers-Briggs Psychological Types (tools 7)”