Neuroscience and Neurobiology
My interest in neuroscience and neurobiology was seeded in graduate school upon learning of biofeedback. Biofeedback involves a treatment modality based on our ability to learn to regulate an aspect of our own physiology (ones brain waves or their heart rate variability) by the use of a sensor and real-time feedback about it. Biofeedback always had a deep resonance with me, and drove me through years long certification process of the international in neurofeedback. Though not against treatment with medications, I feel that identifying biomarkers of mental wellness and training them in a data-focused way (results are clearly measurable) is a very compelling approach to support mental wellness for many people.
I have spent years honing in and making changes to my own diet to find one that is healthy and supportive of my energy, digestive health, and wellbeing. I noticed a strong connection between eating junk food versus healthy food with my own mood, energy, and ability to focus. It is clear that for many people, there is little to no connection between what they are struggling with and their digestion, but it is important to note that for many this can be an important and less recognized aspect of mental health to consider. After researching it more, I found that the enteric nervous system has many very strong connections with our brain. Did you know that most of the serotonin that your body produces is created in the gut? Harvard and researchers at other organizations have recognized by that “The gut-brain connection…can link anxiety to stomach problems and vice versa.” Researchers at John’s Hopkins have found that “These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety.”
Also I began taking college classes in biology and neuroscience and better understanding the powerful effects that a healthy lifestyle including exercise, human connection, and a healthy diet do to keep positive neurotransmitter levels high, stress hormones down, and support a positive mood and healthy brain.
My interest in Mindfulness has also many interconnections with my interest in neuroscience. There have been countless research showing the pivotal effects that regular mindful practice can have on improving not only our mental health but our brains. One way is that of reducing anxiety through affecting the size of the amygdala (the stress center in our brains) and changing the default mode activation network. There are countless other articles that document the ability of mindful practices to cause very real changes in our brains. Another article in the Harvard Gazette discusses how mindfulness can specifically change the brains of depressed patients. Biofeedback such as heart rate variability has very significant connections with changes in amygdala function, and brain imaging studies on stress and health.
Better State of Mind assessments and treatment plan’s take into account how ones lifestyle, physical health, and mental health are interconnected. We can recommend to clients ways that they can support their mental health through neuroscience-guided approach related to modalities as biofeedback, neurofeedback, exercise, or mindful practices.