Stargirl: "You have to find your own way. Sometimes I try to erase myself. I imagine a big pink soft soap erase, and it's going back and forth, back and forth, and it starts down at my toes, back and forth, back and forth, and there they go -- POOF! -- my toes are gone. And then my feet. And then my ankles. But that's the easy part. The hard part is erasing my senses -- my eyes, my ears, my nose, my tongue. And last to go is MY BRAIN. My thoughts, memories, all the voices inside my head. That's the hardest, erasing my thoughts... And then, if I've done a good job, I'm erased. I'm gone. I'm nothing. And then the world is free to flow into me like water into an empty bowl."
Stargirl: "And...I see. I hear. But not with eyes and ears. I'm not outside my world anymore,a nd I'm not really inside it either. The thing is, there's no difference anymore between me and the universe. The boundary is gone. I am it and it is me. I am a stone, a cactus thorn. I am rain..."
Leo: (...something did happen. A small thing. I was aware of stepping over a line, of taking one step into territory new to me. It was a territory of peace, of slience. I had never experienced such utter silence before, such stillness. The compmotion withint me went on, but at a lower volume, as if someone had turned down my dial. And an eerie thing happened. While I never did totally lose awareness of myself, I believe I did, so to speak, lose Cinnamon [Stargirl's pet rat he is cradling]. I no longer felt his pulse, his presence, in my hands. It seemed we were no longer separate, but were one.)
--From Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (sequel:
Love (comma) Stargirl) which NYT reports
it is a 'poetic allegorical tale about the magnificence and rarity
of true nonconformity.' The books are
young adult fiction from my
kids (versus O-L-D-*-S-S adult...)
Dr. Michel de Lorgeril
The French physician who has busted Big Pharma myths synthesized regarding statins, dietary fat and cholesterol, Dr. Michel de Lorgeril has a new published article on the Okinawa ancestral lifestyle. He spent a few weeks living in Okinawa and observing this unique island culture known for one of the highest density of centenarians on earth.
- The Okinawan diet: a modern view of an ancestral healthy lifestyle. One-page preview.
Salen P, de Lorgeril M.
World Rev Nutr Diet. 2011;102:114-23.
De Lorgeril is really cool. I discussed him earlier HERE (JUPITER=FAIL). Like Peter at Hyperlipid, he's been blogging about disease and health misconceptions for years (archives back to 2008). Also, recall Pedro Bastos, Loren Cordain et al, he wrote a critical re-appraisal for the benefits of dietary saturated fats for heart disease prevention. I added his English/French blog to the animal pharm blogroll (BLOG-ASM) along with several other highly noteworthy resources such as Healthy Guts (by the gorgeous Ms. Consuela Werner who blogs also at RobbWolf.com) and GAPS practitioners + guides.
Benefits of Compassion
Why does chill-axing bring perspective, calm and serenity? Are humans meant to attain higher levels of cerebral functioning for maximal health, longevity and community contributions?
What can be learned from the Okinawans and also our respective ancestors?
De Lorgeril and Salen report 'Besides the traditional diet, three important aspects of the Okinawan lifestyle are physical fitness, the social support network and the spirits of Okinawa. These are all interconnected since keeping physically fit is part of the spiritual belief system of Okinawa, and physical activity can be as simple as ‘kitchen gardening, where plants and herbs are considered imbued with spiritual energy’ . However, physical activity may be a more structured activity such as ‘traditional dance which is meditative and celebrates myths of ancient times’ , or it may be an ‘invigorating martial art like karate which demands a harmonious blend of mind and body’ ." Emphasizing the strong ties to ancestors and the social network present in their community, Okinwans celebrate frequently with feasting and festivities and memorials for deceased ancestors. In the same spirit, 'Yuimaru is a typically Okinawan concept, and means that everyone must share and help each other' writes Salen and de Lorgeril.
I discussed traditional Okinawa lifestyles and diet HERE which was high saturated fat and high protein compared to mainland Japan. They are fishermen, farmers and pastoralists enjoying many fermented foods, bitter and sour greens and vegetables, raw goat sashimi, raw goat milk and other traditional pork-centered meals.
This is somewhat unrelated but yet maybe. Watch this TED video by Paul Zak 'Trust, morality -- Oxytocin'.
Where do you get your hits of Oxytocin?
I love e-hugs and hugs from the people I hang with; I think it gives me hits of Oxy-T.
Our little kitten 'Angel' that we fostered for about ~1 month shot up my Oxytocin briefly whilst she tagged around me all day, letting me cuddle and love her and as I watched my daughters care deeply for her like their own baby. After I had to sent her back to the petstore for an opportunity for adoption, the Oxytocin drain out like a dead battery. [BTW she was quickly adopted within 10 days, and we're grateful.]
Oxytocin. Neat hormone.
I'm not sure I'd agree to call it a morality hormone like some scientists. Like a rage or hits of 'E', (not that I'd know) it appears to me to ellicit deep empathy and facilitate connections; imbibing concreteness to emotions which are typically positive (though not always, for instance when baby is crying/shrieking). Scoping and feeling out your family, friends, coworkers (or enemies), businessmen and connecting to what they're experiencing brings understanding that transcends differences no matter how epic. It promotes GAME. Got your game on?
Campbell and Garcia reported in an article Neuroanthropology: Evolution and Emotional Embodiment that 'For instance, among male Arrial pastoralists from northern Kenya, self-reported quality of life, which may be thought of as a measure of well-being, is predicted by the number of male supporters as well as amount of body fat (Campbell unpublished data).' I thought was weird but it makes sense... success in the hunt or herding is tied to cooperation, empathy with your co-patriots and co-herders and effective communication. Better GAME.
Evolution, Oxytocin, Sociality, and the Primate Brain
Researchers Campbell and Garcia also write:
The social brain hypothesis holds that it is the demands of complex social interactions in groups that have spurred the adaptive increase in brain size across the biological order Primates (Dunbar, 1998, 2009), a relationship not found in other mammalian orders (Shultz and Dunbar, 2007). The importance of bonding among primates would explain why affiliation through physical touch initiates a neurochemical cascade, involving oxytocin and opiates, that is positively reinforcing and fundamental to effective social cohesion (Dunbar, 2010). While such neuroendocrine mechanisms remain important in human social interaction, they do not appear sufficient to explain group cohesion among humans for whom language and technology form the foundation for greatly expanded spheres of social interaction.
Social, Complexity, Cortex, and The Behavioral Regulation of the Internal Milieu
Reading more on evolution, the brain and oxytocin, I'm blown away by Schulkin who wrote Social Allostasis: Anticipatory Regulation of the Internal Milieu. 'Most primates are highly social except for the solitary orangutan, with the exception, of course, of a long relationship between the mother and her offspring, present in all primates, including the orangutan (Robson and Wood, 2008; see Figure Figure22). Core features in the origins of the genus Homo consist of some of the following (Stringer and Andrews, 1988; Robson and Wood, 2008): longer gestational period, long life spans, forward locomotion with heel and hind limb dominance, dominance of stereoscopic vision and forward movement of the eyes, and expanding use of the hands... hysiological cognitive systems are oriented to the social milieu. Their evolution and expression underlie the diverse forms of complicated social assessments; group size, for instance, is correlated with cortical expansion (Dunbar and Shultz, 2007). Consider the complex social relationships of primates, the hierarchy, and the distribution of food resources, shelter protection, dominance, and comfort through co-alliances. Such systems are quite varied and all involve cephalic innervations and expression.' The side figure depict an 'endocast of the frontal region of a putative Homo around two million years ago and a representation of (a) chimpanzee, (b) orangutan, (c) gorilla, and (d) human frontal plane (Falk, 1983).' In Table 3 the EQ (encephalization quotient) of each hominid is estimated in evolutionary time. I am not sure how accurate the Homo Neanderthal EQ is presented here; I thought I had read that the cranial volume was larger than Hss but need to dig that out. Hormone pathways, infrastructure and neurons (Von Economo neurons (VENs)) supporting the fabric of hominid social interconnectedness (cortisol, CRH, oxytocin, vasopressin, etc) are located in the frontal cortex of great apes and humans.
Many of the prosocial behaviors and the evaluative processes in cephalic systems are anticipatory and not only reactive to events. Information molecules such as CRH (or oxytocin or vasopressin) underlie diverse forms of anticipatory behaviors. The concept of “allostasis” is in part to take account of anticipatory control (Sterling and Eyer, 1988) amidst diverse forms of adaptation underlying this regulatory adaptation that supports social contact and internal milieu (Schulkin, 2003). Importantly, feedforward and social regulation of neuropeptide expression is an important factor.Social contact is at the heart of ontogenetic development, a long noted piece of epistemological history differently expressed across diverse cultures. Family and group structure through meaningful contact is essential for our mental health. Supportive social contact is not an absolute prophylactic but a helpful ameliorative in combating disease and breakdown (Steptoe et al., 2002), along with predictive abilities (Miller, 1957, 1959); intermittent unpredictable aversive events are a long known production of pathology (e.g., gastric Weiss, 1970), increasing allostatic load (e.g., Schulkin et al., 1998; Tannenbaum et al., 2002).Unremitting social distress, high cortisol when cumulative, decreases social competence process (e.g., brain morphology and decreases in memory function (Sapolsky, 1992, 1995), and increases the allostatic load (McEwen and Stellar, 1993; Johnston-Brooks et al., 1998; McEwen, 1998; Seeman et al., 2001). Allostatic load is one predictive factor in aging (Karlamangla et al., 2002; Hellhammer et al., 2004); age, health, and economic disparities are all functionally related to allostatic overload (Crimmins et al., 2003; von Kanel et
al., 2003; Carlson and Chamberlain, 2005; Szanton et al., 2005).
What is really freaky is that Schulkin points out the epigenetic data on cortisol and oxytocin. 'Interestingly, oxytocin and CRH are also altered by maternal care across generations of offspring. Cross-fostering studies in rodents have shown that variation in maternal care is transmitted in both genomic and non-genomic mechanisms; individual differences in maternal behavior are transmitted from one generation to another (Francis et al., 1999; Meaney, 2001; Champagne, 2003).One example is the link between maternal licking and grooming (high or low) which is consistently transmitted to female offspring; moreover, decreased social comforting contact has long-term implications for most mammals studied (e.g., Levine, 1975; Meaney et al., 1996; Liu et al., 1997). There is wide variation in this phenomenon that has long-term implications on cephalic systems; those rat pups comforted by social contact have greater regulatory capacity as adults on diverse systems in the brain, including neuropeptide and neurotransmitter systems (dopamine, serotonin, CRH).' So yeah. Some people may be able to blame their mothers! Grandmothers! And Great-Grandmothers! The lack of licking, caring and grooming does affect perceptions and confidence. [reminds me... need to hug/s-mother my kids more]
Here is a diagram of cortisol release relative to brain structures. Cortisol is great for short term adaptation to situations. Detriment occurs with long-term cortisol disruption of proper signalling: (See Table 4)
• Disruption of immune response
• Protein loss
• Growth and reproductive disruption
• Bone loss
• Brain deterioration
In PTSD (post-tramautic stress syndrome), cortisol and CRH (cortisol releasing hormone) are dysregulated. Low production and inappropriate release of cortisol are common. Prozac deficiency? No. It is an evolutionary programming system with a major bug in it. Gold et al discusses some research done in military Special Forces in high stress circumstances with 2 intereresting findings. Positive correlation was been found between DHEA/Cortisol ratio and better performance. DHEA and Allopregenolone supplemention provided 'resilience to stress by helping terminate HPA activation and preventing harmful effect of glucocorticoids.'
Get ur GAME on... Keep cortisol in check... And don't forget oxytocin, it's not just for boobs (e.g. breastmilk-let downs).
Maybe this is the one of secrets of Okinawan and African Arrial pastoralists...
- Oxytocin may mediate the benefits of positive social interaction and emotions.
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- Short-Term Compassion Training Increases Prosocial Behavior in a Newly Developed Prosocial Game. Susanne Leiberg, Olga Klimecki, Tania SingerPLoS One. 2011; 6(3): e17798.
- Integrated metabolic regulation during acute rest states [TCM-like states] in man, similarity to fasting: a biochemical hypothesis.
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- Long-term endocrinologic changes in subjects practicing the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program.
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- Compassion: An Evolutionary Analysis and Empirical Review
Jennifer L. Goetz, Dacher Keltner, Emiliana Simon-Thomas
Psychol Bull. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 May 1.
Published in final edited form as: Psychol Bull. 2010 May; 136(3): 351–374.
- Neuroanthropology: Evolution and Emotional Embodiment
Benjamin C. Campbell, Justin R. Garcia
Front Evol Neurosci. 2009; 1: 4. Prepublished online 2009 July 24.
- Top-Down and Bottom-Up Mechanisms in Mind-Body Medicine: Development of an Integrative Framework for Psychophysiological Research
Ann Gill Taylor, Lisa E. Goehler, Daniel I. Galper, Kim E. Innes, Cheryl Bourguignon
Explore (NY) Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 January 1.
Published in final edited form as: Explore (NY). 2010 January; 6(1): 29.
- Social Allostasis: Anticipatory Regulation of the Internal Milieu
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- The Neuroendocrine System and Stress, Emotions, Thoughts and Feelings
George E. Vaillant
Mens Sana Monogr. 2011 Jan-Dec; 9(1): 113–128.
- Adrenocortical activity during meditation. [Testosterone -- same 3 groups, Cortisol --no change in controls, slightly lowered after 3-4 mos TCM practice, significantly lowered and for long time after by long-term TCM practitioners]
Jevning R, Wilson AF, Davidson JM.
Horm Behav. 1978 Feb;10(1):54-60.
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Curr Neuropharmacol. 2010 December; 8(4): 335–358.
- Social vocalizations can release oxytocin in humans.
Seltzer LJ, Ziegler TE, Pollak SD.
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- The Okinawan diet: a modern view of an ancestral healthy lifestyle.
Salen P, de Lorgeril M.
World Rev Nutr Diet. 2011;102:114-23.