In episode 6 of An Essential Guide to Your Body and Brain, we will talk about the Unconscious and Emotional Brain. We will talk about what happens when we sleep, dream, love and much more.
Disclaimer: Please note that AI transcription services were used to create this transcript, so the accuracy is up to 95%, and there may be some mistakes in the transcript.
asleep or awake, the brain is always active. It works in times of razor sharp alertness, in the chaos of dreams and at levels below self awareness. Even when the body rests deeply in a coma beyond the reach of sensation and thought the brain works to pump blood move air into and out of the lungs and digest food. At the other extreme of mental activity. drugs may push the brain into alerted states of hyper activity, or distorted perception for good or for ill. Humans are the only animals capable of thinking about thinking, and when they do, they focus much of their attention on how the brain perceives the world and processes information to reach the state of awareness we call cognition. Yet research shows us that the supposedly unconscious mind can register sensations and store memories. Where is the dividing line between the unconscious and the alert, conscious brain. If you want to find out about that, join me in this new episode from our series, an essential guide to your body and brain. And today we’re going to talk about two exciting aspects of the brain, the unconscious brain, and then we will continue on to talk about the emotional brain. This is your host, Danny and this is English plus podcast.
Before we start, let me remind you that you can find a transcript of this episode on my website English plus podcast.com. The link is in the show notes, you can follow the link. And while you’re on the website, you can check out the other content on the website that is both educational and entertaining. And if you want to unlock access to everything on the website, you can become a patron on Patreon. And by doing this, you will not only be getting a lot of benefits and patron only content, but you will also be supporting this podcast supporting me as a content creator helping me and the show go on. And for those of you who don’t know what Patreon is, while Patreon is a platform, it’s a very safe platform. Don’t worry about that where you can support your favorite content creators to help them continue doing what they’re doing. And it’s completely up to you as for how long and how much you would like to put for support and you can cancel your support anytime so there’s no risk whatsoever. And now without further ado, let’s start talking about the unconscious brain. And next we’re going to talk about being aware and unaware. Remember, we’re talking about the unconscious brain that’s coming next. So don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.
Although the brain acts mechanically, it is nothing like a motor or a lightbulb. except in the most extreme circumstances, it doesn’t simply turn on and off. Consider anesthesia for example, until 1964 doctors who gave patient anesthesia before surgery assumed they would be unable to perceive anything while unconscious. However, in that year, a University of California at San Francisco physician who’s called DB cheek discovered that after the patients woke up, they could sometimes recall word for word under the influence of hypnosis, what their doctors had said while they were supposedly insensate. Such studies underscore the difficulty of making black and white distinctions about states of the brain. In a typical day, every person goes through two obvious states waking and sleeping. But each of these has sub levels of awareness based upon controlled and automatic mental processes. In a conscious state, the brain turns its attention to one thing after another, like a spotlight swinging through a dark night. The unconscious mind takes in information at the edge of the light and sometimes even in the darkness. Intriguing, isn’t it? Well, it’s not intriguing enough, because next we’re going to talk about those cycles. So don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.
So we talked about the cycles, what are they? Well, neurons in your brain constantly communicate with one another even if they are not performing specific tasks, you must sleep but a healthy brain never totally does. Waking or at times while sleeping all regions of the cerebral cortex hum with a background electrical energy of 40 cycles per second, or Hertz. The background pattern is one of many bands of brain waves which are rhythmic electrical pulses created by actions in various brain regions. patterns tend to be relatively stable
for individuals and reveal underlying brain states, as measured by an electroencephalogram, or EEG for short, they range from slow to rapid cycles per second, with each band assigned a Greek letter for identification. These are delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma. Each set of brain waves has been associated with different states of mind. And with different functions. delta waves which range from 0.1 to four hertz, for instance, occur most commonly during sleep dreamless sleep when you’re unconscious, and in the brains of newborn babies, beta waves which range from 12 to 13, to about 30 hertz are present when the brain is actively engaged in problem solving, decision making and analytical thinking. You probably have heard of circadian rhythms but what are they exactly? Well, let me tell you about that. Your mental states also go through daily cycles. The sleep wake cycle or circadian rhythm governs our daily routine, from the most subdued moments of brain activity to the most hyper active mountaintop experiences where thoughts flow lucidly and creatively to the deepest, darkest sleep where dreams cease to play in our minds. But yes, these are the cycles and the circadian rhythms and cycles and everything. But let’s talk about something that we are all interested in. And that is the mystery of sleep. And for those of you who listened to my great mystery series, that was one of the mysteries in the series. And that was why do we sleep? Now of course, we just talked about it for a second there. And here, we will talk a lot more about sleep. It is actually the mystery of sleep, because until now, we still don’t know exactly why we sleep. And even Yes, we came up with some explanations or some reasons why we sleep or at least we know that it is important for us. If we don’t sleep, we know what may happen. But we still don’t know everything that happens in our brains. While we are asleep. The mystery of sleep is coming next. So don’t go anywhere, stick around, I’ll be right back.
Who can put a price on a good night’s sleep. Without it humans have trouble remembering what they’ve learned. They experience emotional upheavals and make poor decisions. They may also suffer health problems, including increased risks of diabetes and obesity. Despite evidence about the importance of sleep science is only beginning to scratch the surface of why humans and other creatures need sleep and how the brain regulates sleeping and wakefulness. So let’s talk a little bit about the evolution of sleep. Some animals such as the bullfrog, and salamander never really sleep. Instead, these animals which were among the first to evolve as land creatures alternate between long periods of rest and short periods of motion. Among reptiles and other lower vertebrates, sleep induces a slow, rhythmic pattern of brainwaves somewhat like the slow wave EEG is recorded when humans enjoy deep stages of sleep. As evolution created a more complex brain in birds and mammals sleep stages expanded to include patterns that appear to resemble wakeful stages. Human sleep occurs in five stages. After transitioning through all five the cycle repeats itself. Stage one is light sleep. In stage two, which is about half of the adult sleep cycle, brainwave activity decreases and eye movements stop. Stage three and four form a very deep layer of sleep in which it is difficult to awaken sleepers. Stage five or REM sleep is marked by rapid eye movement and vivid dreaming, but what is the sleeps purpose, it is believed that sleep allows the brain to consolidate memories data you learn over the course of a day are collected, sorted and dispersed by the hippocampus. Gradually, in a process not fully understood. The data in those memories are redirected to long term storage in various brain regions. In the 1990s. Researchers at Israel Weizmann Institute noted that when they awaken test subjects 60 times a night during REM sleep, the subjects lost the ability to learn new information. Similar interruptions during non REM sleep had no such effect, suggesting that REM sleep plays a key role in organizing information and forming lasting memories. But make no mistake about that. These are still researches and nothing is like 100% Sure, all we know about sleep is our best educated guesses based on research.
As and of course, these neuroscientists are doing a great job. But what I’m saying is that we still don’t know for sure. And you can imagine that we call ourselves advanced creatures. And we still don’t understand what’s happening inside our own brains. But anyway, let’s talk about a case that is related to sleep, and that’s called narcolepsy. Now, for those of you who don’t know what narcolepsy is, stay tuned because that’s what I’m going to talk about next. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.
So what is narcolepsy? Narcolepsy affects about 135,000 Americans, even those who typically get a good night’s rest in daytime attacks lasting from a few seconds to a half hour, they may experience sudden muscle weakness, drowsiness, hallucinations and periods of sudden sleep. The disorder appears to cause symptoms of REM sleep to break through during periods of wakefulness. Working with dogs in 1999, Stanford University researchers, including William C. DeMint, and lead researchers, Emmanuel Mineo discovered a gene that causes narcolepsy. It leads to severe lack or even absence of hypo Cretan which is a neurotransmitter that promotes wakefulness Mineo studies the neurons that create hypo critten, which die in people with narcolepsy and late stage Parkinson’s disease. He believes that the research will expand what science knows about how and why people sleep. But this is definitely such an unfortunate and uncomfortable state for people who have narcolepsy and for late stage Parkinson’s people, and since we talked about sleep, I know that you’re all wondering about whether we’re going to talk about dreaming or not. Of course we are, we’re going to talk about the dreaming brain next, so don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.
The science of dreams, like the mechanics of sleep is a vast jungle that science has only begun to explore. Although dreams and their interpretations have carved out a huge space in human history, religion and literature. Modern research is believed dreams arise from basic brain functions. Harvard University researchers Jay Allen Hopson and Robert McCarley developed the activation synthesis theory of dreams in 1977. It says dreams aren’t stories with symbolic meaning, but rather the brain attempting to impose order on the static caused by the random firing of neural networks connecting the bonds and the cerebral cortex. Some researchers believe dreams rehash fragments of daily life in a process known as incorporation. In a 1978 experiment, test subjects fitted with red goggles for several days began to see more and more red tinted objects in their dreams. However, if dreams incorporate bits and pieces of everyday life, they pick up on stress and anxiety in disproportionate amounts. In the 1940s researcher Calvinists host of Case Western Reserve University cataloged the content of more than 1000 test subjects dreams, anxiety ranked as the most common emotion of those dreams and negative content out numbered positive content. Out of all the dreams we dream, many, if not, most, are forgotten quickly, only the ones that by chance seem to correctly predict the future become the stuff of legend. But again, I know, you might say that I’m pretty sure that I dream of real things that are going to happen in the future. And I got this crystal ball in my dream that tells me what’s going to happen tomorrow, and it might work. But science still has to know about this puzzle. And until now, they don’t really agree with what Freud for example, said in his interpretation of dreams, but who knows, he might be right about a couple of things he said in there because even modern science cannot say for sure what the origins of dreams are, how they happen, what they mean, etcetera. So now that we’ve talked about dreams, let’s talk next about altered states and talk about the brain on drugs that’s coming next. Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.
altered states of consciousness arise from conditions that push the brain into something other than the normal waking state. Problems. processing information may arise from internal causes such as schizophrenia, or from external stimuli, including substances such as medications, illegal drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. And here let’s talk a little bit more about the brain on drugs. Most mind altering substances change the functioning of neurotransmitters. Some mimic the work of the brain’s neurotransmitters, whereas others prevent them from doing their jobs. imbalances in a class of neurotic
transmitters called mono Amiens, including dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline play key roles in disorders such as depression, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and irregular sleep patterns. Prozac, which is commonly prescribed for depression prevents serotonin in the synaptic cleft from being reabsorbed by neighboring neurons. As a result, serotonin molecules are able to forward electro chemical communications for longer periods of time. The street drug ecstasy works the same way except almost immediately, some drugs become habit forming, exerting powerful influence on the neural networks associated with rewards. The similarity of the reward response to drugs and to natural environmental stimuli such as food and sex makes it difficult to treat addictions. However, research has found several genetic markers associated with addiction. Future research might be able to identify prime candidates for addiction and find ways to modify genes or block addictive behavior. Hopefully, we will have that sometime in the future. And with that, we talked about the unconscious brain. And for those of you who are listening to this episode as like the first time and you haven’t listened to any other episodes from this series, and Essential Guide to your body and brain, you can always go back for the earlier episodes to learn more about your body and brain. And of course, you can check out the other series and the new series that are coming up. They’re always new series to replace the old ones. They’re always exciting series. But let’s stay in our series and Essential Guide to your body and brain. We talked about the unconscious brain. Let’s talk next about the emotional brain that’s coming next. Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.
There’s motion inside the word emotion. And for good reason. Emotions not only bring on highs and lows, but they also communicate via gesture and expression. These physical manifestations provide the crucial distinction separating emotion from other behaviors. Emotions manifests themselves outwardly invisible changes to the body, such as muscle contractions, blood vessel, dilations, and facial expressions. powerful emotions can deeply carve events into memory, alter behavior and physical health contribute to good or bad decision making, and even cause a person to be literally scared to death. Scientists are only beginning to understand their importance. Aristotle classified more than a dozen emotions, including envy and pity. Today, most scientists recognize fear, anger, sadness, and joy. While some add surprise and disgust referring to the complete list of six as primary or universal emotions. Many casual observers would add love to the list, but researchers are divided over classifying it as a motion or drive. It’s interesting to learn about your emotional brain, we’re going to talk about a couple of things that are going to add to your knowledge about your own brain. Think about it. This is so essential, before we try to understand the outside world, why don’t we start with ourselves, when we really understand what’s happening within ourselves, we will be able to understand what’s happening around us a lot better, and we will be more balanced about it. And trust me, some people might think that we do this because we want to control ourselves. Well, that’s not a bad thing. Of course, you need to control yourself, because we cannot always just act on our instincts. But this is not the point. The more important thing you get when you really know what’s happening within yourself is not controlling yourself is understanding yourself. When you get a step closer to understanding who you are, why you feel this way, why this is happening to you, you will be able to live in harmony with everything that is around you without having this need that everybody around you keep telling you that you should control yourself, you should control yourself. It’s not about controlling yourself. It’s about understanding yourself. And what’s better to talk about in this area than emotions. And that’s what we’re talking about in this episode. And right now, we’re talking about the emotional brain. And next we’re going to talk about mapping emotion. So stick around, don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.
Emotions appeared to be processed in complex ways, there is no single emotion circuit. Instead, a number of brain regions induce emotions, which then are processed by a variety of neural networks. Given their ancient evolutionary history, it is not surprising that most of the significant emotional centers lie below the cerebral cortex which separates humans from all other animals. These subcortical mo
motional regions include the brainstem, the hypothalamus and the basal forebrain. PET scans reveal that the brain processes sadness, for example, mainly in the brainstem and hypothalamus, as well as the cortical region known as the ventral medial prefrontal cortex. So what about the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere? are emotions distributed evenly to the right and left hemispheres? Or is there something else happening there? Well, although emotions are not encoded in particular neurons, brain scans have led researchers to generally assign negative emotions such as sadness to the right hemisphere and positive emotions such as joy to the left hemisphere. For at least a century, neuroscientists have noted a link between damage to the brains the left hemisphere and negative moods, including depression and uncontrollable crying. Damage to the right however, has been associated with a broad array of positive emotions. In the past two decades, University of Wisconsin researcher Richard Davidson has seen similarities in healthy, undamaged brains, patients with more general activity in the left hemisphere tend to be happier than people with a more active right hemisphere. So that was about mapping emotion. What about seeing emotions, that’s coming next? Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.
humans communicate emotions through facial gestures. Control of these expressions lies in the brainstem and amygdala beyond consciousness. Evidence for this conclusion comes from patients who have pseudobulbar palsy, which is a disease that impairs voluntary control in the motor cortex. Such patients cannot control the muscles of their face. However, they still laugh and cry and show features of true emotions when moved by involuntary responses. So what about mimicking emotion? Do we do that? Well, we begin to recognize emotions in others at an early age and copy what we see imitation helps create the parent child bond during the first months of a child’s life. This urge to mimic the emotional behavior of others called emotional contagion continues throughout life. When you look at another facial expression, you often take on aspects of that expression yourself, the brain perceives an emotion in the face of another and automatically signals its own emotional circuits. Many people with autism struggle with decoding the emotional content of faces, bodies and sounds. Their inability to see things from another’s perspective makes it hard for them to recognize sarcasm or deceit. Autopsies have found correlations between autism and cellular anomalies in the cerebellum, hippocampus and amygdala as well as shrinkage of the cerebral Vermis. Other findings indicate that autism may result from disorders in the portions of the brain that specialize in imitation, so called mirror neurons are less active in children with autism than in control groups of people without autism asked to imitate or merely observe facial expressions. So that was about seeing emotion and next we’re going to look on the bright side, so don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.
Of all the positive pleasurable states none has commanded so much attention as love in the laboratory. Love has gone under the microscope to be dissected into categories and probed for possible clockwork mechanisms. Helen Fisher, a Rutgers University anthropologist, charts three kinds of physiological and emotional love, lust, attraction, and attachment all arose through evolution to promote the continuation of the species through mating and parental bonding. Fisher claims each type of love has its own purpose and chemistry. Lust sends people out into the world looking for a mate. It’s associated with hormones, estrogen and androgen attraction focuses that physical energy on one person instead of spreading it too thin. The desire for emotional connections is believed to be associated with serotonin. Attachment keeps mom and dad together for the evolutionary advantage of having two parents. The neurotransmitters that keep two people together have been harder to find, but experiments with animals have turned up neuro chemicals that promote pair bonding. So what about this chemical romance? Brain scans of people in love show activation in the Cody nucleus boot him in an insula along with the anterior cingulate and the cerebellum. On the other hand, brain regions associated
With sadness, anxiety and other negative emotions are suppressed in love Lauren people maternal love may share some of the same neural circuits as romantic love the neuromodulator oxytocin is released during childbirth and breastfeeding to promote Mother Child bonding. So we talked about love but what about happiness, happiness or joy? One of the universally recognized emotions seems to be more nature than nurture. Neuroscientists have determined that more than 60% of an individual’s tendency to have a character dominated by positive emotions comes from his or her genetic makeup. The rest is learned through experiences, emotions and thoughts. Research has targeted some of the regions for happiness. They include the hypothalamus, along with the nucleus, accumbens and septum, each pleasure region releases neurotransmitters and endorphins as well as dopamine, which has gained the most attention as an inducer of positive emotions. So we talked about love, we talked about happiness. We talked about the bright side. What about the dark side? We’ll talk about that next. So don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.
The human brain exhibits what psychologists called a negativity bias. Bad news sticks longer in memory than good news and unpleasant encounters affect the brain more powerfully than pleasant once the rain super sensitivity to negative emotions emerged at the dawn of the human species, fear, anxiety and anger prepared the body for fight or flight. So let’s talk about fear and anger. The physical manifestations of fear are well known. Fear activates the autonomic system and releases stress hormones, including adrenaline. The amygdala and thalamus mobilize the body by increasing heart rate and blood pressure, as well as by sharpening the focus of the senses. Meanwhile, slower sensory signals move from the thalamus to the frontal cortex to identify and reassess the source of fear signal. The fast response of the amygdala has the evolutionary advantage of preparing the body for a worst case scenario, while the slow response of the cortex keeps the body from running away from every shadow. Anger, like fear manifests itself through a variety of pathways. Starting with the limbic system. Anger releases cortisol in the brain, which promotes feelings of stress and frustration. Habitually angry people appear to have reduced neural activity in their frontal lobes, which communicate with the amygdala as the mind seeks a balance between reason and emotion. High and low levels of serotonin and high testosterone levels also contribute to aggressive behavior through mechanisms that are not entirely understood not yet, so that it was about fear and anger. But what about feeling down and depression. While the emotions of sadness and grief serve practical purposes, they may have evolved to let the brain slow down and recognize the impact of loss and the effect of negative behaviors. Brain scans associate sadness with increased activity in the left hemisphere of the amygdala and the right hemisphere of the frontal cortex and decreased activity in the right hemisphere of the amygdala and the left hemisphere of the frontal cortex. long bouts of sadness may inhibit neurotransmitters in the frontal lobe and amygdala leading to a numb and empty form of depression. So here we come to depression. Symptoms of depression, as opposed to sadness include persistent sad or empty moods, a chronic drop in energy, loss of pleasure in things that usually bring enjoyment, guilty and helpless feelings and a general feeling of not being one’s usual self. Research suggests depression arises from imbalances of neurotransmitters. It involves many regions of the brain, including the cerebral cortex, amygdala, hypothalamus, and other regions. People with depression exhibit shrinkage in the hippocampus, which is a brain region that regulates stress. Antidepressants, such as Prozac can start to reset the balance among these regions of the brain. But as we said earlier, unfortunately, this leads to addiction. So we talked about the bright side and the dark side of emotions. And that leaves me with one last thing I want to talk about in today’s episode, and that has to do with emotions and decisions. What is this relationship between emotions and decisions? Let’s find out about that next. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.
The mind needs both unconscious intuition and reason judgment. Intuition reaches quick conclusions about things being good
Good or bad, it’s a fast and easy pathway for decisions. Many intuitive decisions are also logically sound because the brain assesses emotional memories from similar situations in the past, and applies them to a snap decision. In the present. However, many people assume that their decisions are made as part of a conscious and logical process, when in fact, they stem from deeper emotional needs. And that brings me to the illusion of control that we all have. For instance, imagine that your office has a lottery, all 200 tickets sell for $1 apiece. At the end of two weeks, a drawing will determine the $200 winner, you buy a ticket and choose the number 65 for the day that you were married June the fifth? Now imagine that a co worker asks you to trade tickets because she likes that number better than her 23. Would you trade even Stephen? If not, what would you consider a fair deal? If you’re like most people, you’d be reluctant to trade your ticket for another one. Although each has exactly one chance in 200 of winning. By selecting the number and purchasing your ticket, you likely consider it your ticket. Furthermore, your freedom of choice endowed the selection with what Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer calls the illusion of control, it reflects the brain’s preference for controlling situations, even the uncontrollable once so the next time you think that you make all your decisions consciously, and you have control over every single decision you make? Well think again, because your emotions play a big role in every single decision you make. Well, that doesn’t make you an impulsive person. Of course, while being impulsive is good sometimes, and you have to cut yourself some slack and live a little be impulsive for a little bit. Not all the time. Of course, you know how to balance this thing out. But even when you think that you have full control over every single decision you make your emotions play a big part in every single decision you make. And with that, we come to the end of today’s episode, I hope you liked the information I shared with you. We talked about the unconscious brain and the emotional brain, two very interesting aspects of your brain. And we still have one last episode in the series coming up next week, so don’t miss it, because we’re going to talk about the aging body and brain. Now for one more time, I would like to remind you that you can find a transcript of this episode on my website English plus podcast.com. The link is in the show notes. You will also find a link to Patreon you can go to Patreon and become a patron to support me support the show because the show must go on and by doing that you’re not only supporting me, you’re also getting all the benefits related to becoming a patron. You can see for yourself the link is also in the show notes. With that being said this is your host that I would like to thank you very much for listening to another episode from English plus podcast. I will see you next time.