The National Institute of Whole Health (NIWH) | Pioneers of Whole Health Education® and Whole Person Care
August 8, 2017

Did You Know That Love Affects Your Brain?

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

Did You Know That Love Affects Your Brain?
Love affects us in many ways. Much of this is felt more than it is seen, but did you know that love affects your brain in ways that can be observed? I recently read a fascinating article that discussed a study from Stony Brook University in New York. The study examined whether couples can still be very much in love after spending many married years together and whether they experience the same intense romantic feelings as newly formed couples. Continue reading to find out what research has discovered about how love affects your brain over a long period of time.

MRIs Show Brain Regions Stimulated By Love

The scientists took MRIs of long-term married couples who said they still felt very much in love with their spouses after an average of more than 21 years together. These images were compared to images from couples who had recently fallen in love. In this way, scientists were able to compare specific parts of the brain that function and respond to love.

The images were created while the subjects were shown photos of their beloved as well as photos of close friends and strangers. The brain activity was measured while the subject viewed the images. Then, using the same scanning methodology, the researchers compared the imaging results on men and women who reported falling in love in the past year.

Clear Similarities

The scans showed “many very clear similarities between those who were in love long-term and those who had just fallen madly in love,” says Arthur Aron, Ph.D., of Stony Brook’s department of psychology. The scientists were particularly interested in the dopamine region of the brain—the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. “The VTA showed greater response to images of a long-term partner when compared with images of a close friend or any of the other facial images,” Aron says.

The researchers are hoping that the study might be able to provide or demonstrate the details of how some couples can stay in love over long periods of time. This study seems to show both groups have brain activity in the regions that are wired for reward, motivation and desire.

Applying New Knowledge

To apply this research, Aron is looking into the possibility of using the study outcomes to assist soldiers who have returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to save their marriages. There is an unusually high level of divorce among deployed U.S. military. Perhaps this new information can help to improve the strength of their relationships during the stressful time of separation during deployment. In a similar way, nurses and health coaches might apply this information to improve their patients’ experience with loved ones during the stressful time created by chronic illness.

 

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August 1, 2017

Female Hormones Linked To Depression

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

A research review by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explored hormonal dysfunction in women as a potential cause for depression. The focus of the investigators and their subsequent report was on how the female reproductive system interacts with the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, which regulates the body’s stress response.

HPA Disruption Consequences

This mechanism can set up a biochemical environment for psychological disorders in females. It was noted that females are twice as likely as men to experience depression. Through the HP-axis, stress in women impacts the reproductive hormones, which can upset patterns of ovulation. This upset can contribute to the loss of menses and to infertility. If the inter-relationship of stress and female reproductive hormones becomes chronic, behavior and mood disorders and depression can increase significantly.

When oxytocin is suppressed due to excessive stress hormones, fertilized eggs cannot implant into the uterus. This is believed to be a primary cause of infertility in American women, owing to our highly stressful lifestyle. Depression, eating disorders, alcoholism or other addictions may also occur with the estrogen-induced disruption of normal HPA function.

The Stress-Less Cure

The key to preventing or correcting the problem as we find in many physiological conditions is to create a more balanced, less stressful lifestyle. If the body’s stress adaptation system becomes overwhelmed, and cannot appropriately adapt to the environment and demands of everyday life, many disorders and conditions can develop, depression being just one of them.

Post-Partum Problems
Regarding post-partum depression, the investigators identified that chronic hyper secretion of the stress hormone cortisol during a pregnancy creates a temporary suppression of adrenal function following delivery. This coupled with the sudden drop of hormonal levels of estrogen after birth may be a significant factor in post-partum depression or subsequent immune dysfunctions such as post-partum thyroid conditions.

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July 25, 2017

Mighty Muscles and Bones: How Do The Muscular And Skeletal Systems Help Us Work?

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

Our Mighty Muscles And Bones

In the past we have explored the nervous system, brain function, cranial nerves, digestive function, adrenal function, and the immune system. Now let’s take a look at the most glamorized, yet under-appreciated, part of our body—our mighty muscles and bones. So, how do the muscular and skeletal systems help us work?

Muscular Attraction

The muscles get a lot of attention with regard to how they can make us look attractive and sexy to others. Our muscle tone communicates how healthy our body is. The strength of the muscles, the lack of water retention or fat in the muscles, and how flexible we are, all indicate that we may be a good reproductive partner and produce strong, healthy offspring. This is one of the functions we all can relate to, but it is certainly not the most important function of our muscles.

Try to imagine what your life would be like if your muscle tissue could not form the shape of your body. What if it didn’t allow you to physically move around your environment? Without locomotion, thru muscle strength and movement, we would be a lump of humanity, never moving from the spot we found ourselves in.

Mighty Bones

Our bones are so amazing too. Apart from their distinctive and critical role as part of the immune system carrying precious bone marrow, they are the armature upon which our muscles are draped. Bones allow cooperation between the muscles, to physically move, play, exercise, work, eat, sleep and achieve all of the mobility we experience throughout our day.

When we look at people stooped over with distorted posture and their musculature not functioning properly, we immediately associate this with either being ill or not “vital.” Our posture is the number one thing people notice, followed by how we are dressed. Our body language is expressed thru our bone/muscle function. In essence, our personality and how we view the world are all communicated in how we move through the space we inhabit.

Working Together

Our muscles and bones not only share the work load in glucose and immune regulation, body heat production, fat metabolism, mineral storage, and the ability for “fight or flight”—self-preservation. They also communicate to the world what we think about ourselves, others, and the world through the expression of body movement and non-verbal communication. This can be one of the most attractive or frightening aspects about us – depending on how we express our movement and actions.

Keeping your muscles and bones strong thru exercise and a healthy diet is a wise move. Without them, we are literally “going nowhere.”

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