Neuro-scientists explain how the mind affects the bodyBy Jaime Licauco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The autonomic nervous system, which controls such bodily processes as heart rate, breathing and blood flow, operates on its own without any direct influence by the brain.
There is also no connection between the central nervous system and the immune system.”
Are the above statements true or false? Traditional mainstream medical science will say, “That’s true.” But apparently not anymore.
“There is now a great deal of evidence,” according to Dr. Kenneth Pelletier of Stanford University School of Medicine, “for direct connections between the central nervous and the immune system, parts of the body that had long been thought to be independent.”
In 1961, Neal Miller, who at that time headed a research laboratory at Yale University and his team of researchers, trained a group of rats to “increase the blood flow in a designated ear” and the rats succeeded in doing so. Later he moved on to human subjects. He successfully trained a 31-year-old man whose spinal column had been severed by a gunshot several years earlier, to increase or decrease his blood pressure.
These scientific experiments remind me of a story I read a long time ago about an Indian Yogi who demonstrated before a large group his incredible control over his bodily processes by completely stopping the flow of blood from his wrist which he deliberately cut with a knife.
Mind over body
But how exactly does the mind affect the physiological functions of the body? What is its mechanism? For a long time, medical researchers were at a loss how to answer this all important question until Dr. Candace Pert and her colleagues came along with their discovery of neuropeptides and their receptors.
Dr. Deepak Chopra described neuropeptides as “chemicals produced by the brain when it thinks.” Each neuropeptide must have its own receptor to complete the transfer of information from one cell to another. Although neuropeptides initially were thought of to be found in the brain alone, it was later discovered that they can be found all over the body including in the immune system. So far about 60 neuropeptides have been identified. They can be found in the stomach and the sexual region, among other places. That’s how the brain talks to the body. “Neuropeptides and their receptors” according to Dr. Pert, “are the biochemical correlates of emotions.”
Endorphins (or endogenous morphines) produced by the brain is one type of neuropeptide. “Emotional states,” according to Dr. Pert, “are created by the release of the endorphins.” Or it can be the other way around. Positive emotions release endorphins or endogenous morphine, which suppress pain and make one feel good.
Still the best medicine
Neuroscientists discovered that, when we enjoy our job or at least when we are happy, our body produces two types of chemicals, one is endorphins and the other is interferon. Interferon has been used successfully in certain forms of cancer and is reportedly very expensive. Our body produces this chemical for free when we laugh.
And this is probably one of the reasons how Norman Cousins, editor of Saturday Review in New York, was mysteriously healed of a fatal and incurable disease called “ankelosing spondylitis” after he spent a whole month laughing by himself every day while watching comedy films and reading joke books.
All these researches and unexpected discoveries showing the correlation between the mind, the nervous system and the immune system, have given rise to a new field of medical specialization with the jaw-breaking name of “psycho-neuro-immunology” (PNI).
First line of defense
The immune system, as almost everybody knows, is the body’s means of defense against infectious disease and cancer. It has two primary tasks, to distinguish between “self” and “non-self,” and then to destroy, inactivate or eliminate substances that are identified as non-self or not naturally part of the body.”
Dr. Carl Simonton, a cancer specialist and researcher obtained remarkable success in helping cancer patients by simply teaching them a form of visualization where white cells represented by a concrete physical object fight the cancer cells represented by another physical object of the patients choice. When the imagery is particularly vivid and strong, the cancer cells are subsequently destroyed.
Although not accepted by mainstream medical science as a valid form of therapy, others have embraced it as a harmless means of freeing patients from cancer, again demonstrating the power of mind over body.
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