Unified System of Mental Health – Part 2 – Nervous Systems

The Nervous System

Technically there is one nervous system and it appears to be broken up to different ways depending on your interpretation. This is a crude overview of the nervous system.

The Main Division

The two main divisions are:

  • Central Nervous System (CNS) The main set of nerves that encompass the spine, and your brain – the central (duh!) part of the nervous system. It acts as a messaging and response system (according to Western science).
  • Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) – Then all of the nerves that link off the Central Nervous System.

The Peripheral Nervous System in detail

The CNS is made up of cranial and spinal nerves – these main nerves are the communication lines between the central nervous system and the rest of the body. The PNS both sends and receives impulses to the CNS.

The sub divisions of this system are still debated a lot – and there are multiple systems that seem to work together – these are the divisions I have found most useful for understanding it:

  • Motor Division (efferent – meaning carrying impulses away from the CNS and PNS) – This is made up of motor nerve fibers – it takes impulses from the CNS to effectors (muscles and glands). This is made up of two separate divisions also:
    • Autonomic Nervous System (visceral motor) – This is the involuntary part, no “conscious” action is usually involved here. Here impulses are conducted to cardiac muscles (heart), smooth muscles (myocytes – found in the stomach, intestines, urinary bladder, uterus, walls of passageways such as arteries, veins, and the tracts of the respiratory, urinary, and reproductive systems. Also the eyes and skin have smooth muscle cells). This is made up of two separate divisions also:
      • Sympathetic division – Mobilizes “fight or flight” systems during activity
      • Parasympathetic division – Conserves energy and does housekeeping functions (heartbeat, breath etc when not conscious of it)
    • Somatic Nervous System (somatic motor) – impulses conducted to the skeletal muscles
  • Sensory (afferent – meaning carrying impulses to the PNS and CNS) shapes reality and allows for the experience of the world

Why is this important?

For so long we’ve been led to believe that there is a mind-body duality. That the mind is something that can be fixed with medication alone, separate from our body. It turns out our body and our mind are inseparable.

Examples of this in action:

  • Touch (sensory) generates Oxytocin (CNS)
  • Anxiety (CNS) affects heart, muscles, urge to urinate, lungs (CNS->PNS->ANS->Sympathetic)
  • Depression (CNS) affects intestines, heart, sensory (PNS->ANS, lower Somatic input->ANS->PNS->CNS)
  • Stress (CNS) affects Motor Division, both Autonomic and Somatic, heightens awareness of Somatic system.

The mediating factor here is the brain. The brain contains a lot of different neuropeptide generation pathways. I will dive deeper into this when I talk about neuropeptides/neurotransmitters in another post.

The issue is that our minds and bodies are not disconnected. There’s emerging proof of the existence of psychosomatic illnesses. Trauma not only seems to affect the structure of the brain, but this change in structure seems to affect the body. While there is a genetic component for a lot of autoimmune disorders – they present at higher rates in people with anxiety issues or early childhood trauma.

Atomization of science and medicine has been causing some massive issues – a lot of Western medicine is based on evidence that has lots of issues with the methodology. The serotonin theory of depression appears to have little substantial evidence – while serotonin is important for wellbeing – the mechanism by which SSRIs work is still under investigation.

The more interesting developments about the nervous system in recent years have been around alternative treatments for some significant illnesses – of most interest is the developments in Vagus Nerve Stimulation.

The Vagus Nerve

I have written about the Vagus Nerve specifically in regards to the neuropeptide vasopressin here. I do however think after further reading that isolation of the single neuropeptide vasopressin is again falling into the same trap of SSRI medication. Until we have a testable hypothesis that is replicated beyond a population of 20% efficacy vs placebo – I would be careful talking about the efficacy of any mental health medicine – given some of the severe side effects.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Vagus nerve stimulation is an emerging therapy (in modern* Western cultures) that seems to help a lot with a number of mental health conditions, and autoimmune diseases.

In this review, we provide an overview of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved clinical uses of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) as well as information about the ongoing studies and preclinical research to expand the use of VNS to additional applications. VNS is currently FDA approved for therapeutic use in patients aged >12 years with drug-resistant epilepsy and depression. Recent studies of VNS in in vivo systems have shown that it has anti-inflammatory properties which has led to more preclinical research aimed at expanding VNS treatment across a wider range of inflammatory disorders. Although the signaling pathway and mechanism by which VNS affects inflammation remain unknown, VNS has shown promising results in treating chronic inflammatory disorders such as sepsis, lung injury, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and diabetes. It is also being used to control pain in fibromyalgia and migraines. This new preclinical research shows that VNS bears the promise of being applied to a wider range of therapeutic applications.

A review of vagus nerve stimulation as a therapeutic intervention

Stimulation of the nerve with low intensity electricity seems to work – there are now also ways to do this without surgery simply by stimulating the outer ear.

So I want to talk a bit about other ways that the vagus nerve can be stimulated – it seems to be responsible for mediating the Oxytocin/Vasopressin pathway among other things.

Here are some ways you can stimulate the vagus nerve:

You might be noticing some common themes here in all except the first one – cold temperatures. They are generally social activities.

This is my main hypothesis – we are a social species – we are wired for being social. I will cover the importance of social interaction in another post. But so much evidence is pointing to the fact that the way we live is actually making us sicker.

What is important to know is that the lack of judgement is a mediating factor in the success of each therapy – the more a person feels judged either internally or externally the less successful the therapy.

What if what we seek is harmony, but we’ve been made to compete…

People do all these things all the time – religious services, Indigenous celebrations, dance parties, concerts, comedy venues. Most of the time these activities cause vibrations that stimulate the nervous system.

People stop doing these things when they feel judged – we are isolating people from their human experience through stigmatisation.

In conclusion (with some common phrases):

There is definitely evidence for needing “good vibes”.

There is definite evidence for having a “gut feel”.

Laughter can be a medicine (not necessarily the best).

Our body and our mind is the same thing – we cannot separate one from the other and disconnecting them for so long in science through atomization has put us miles behind.

Maybe, just maybe, we could start listening to Indigenous people and Eastern cultures – they’ve been doing this for years, and been saying this also. Everything is connected.

Published by roryreckons

I am an ADHD/Autism Coach as well as ADHD/Autism/OCD/CPTSD advocate and independent ADHD/Autism researcher. I am an ADHD/Autism Coach who trained through the ADD Coaching Academy. I write mainly about ADHD/Autism/OCD/Mental health issues, but will also discuss morality, abolition, and current affairs occasionally.

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