For neuroplasticity, balance the autonomic nervous system
Posted Oct 11 2011 8:48am
Connecting the dots...
I have been giving a lot of thought to the interaction of the autonomic nervous system with the brain’s “wiring” lately, reaching some conclusions that I’ve noticed from my own life. I’ll have more to say about this later, but my hands are getting pretty tired from typing so much, lately. I also have to leave for work, soon, so I’ll write more later.
But the bottom line — if I may start there — is that when it comes to creating and maintaining new connections in the brain and making the most of our neuroplasticity, it’s very, very important to balance the autonomic nervous system. If you get too fight-flight (sympathetic nervous system), your brain literally shuts out vital information that you need to expand your synaptic connections. If you get too rest-digest (parasympathetic nervous system), you lose a lot in terms of attention and general levels of wakefulness.
Both extremes are not good. You need to have the capacity for complexity in your brain, and you have to have the resources to make the most of that capacity, create new connections, get neurons to fire together, so they wire together.
And when I look back at the past several years, one of the things that made my continued recovery possible, I believe, was a combination of exercise and a focus on calming my ANS — first, through the approaches of my neuropsych, then by my own dawning awareness that this was something I needed to do… and then my increased awareness that (whether or not they were planning it that way), balancing fight-flight with rest-digest was exactly what my neuropsych was achieving.