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How Your Nervous System Works Part 2 🧠
Neural Communication, Neurotransmitters & Brainwaves (8 mins read)
Last week we learned about the cells that make up our Nervous System, the neuron, and their structure!
This week we are going to be diving into how they communicate with the rest of our body and generate thoughts, feelings & emotions. Let’s dive in!
We ended last week by talking about individual synapses, but what happens at a synapse that allows our neurons to talk to one another?
Two things, the first is electrical and the second is chemical. This is why you hear people say that your brain communicates using an “electrochemical process.”
This is the most advanced portion of how the Nervous System works that we will hit on, so bare with me!
The electric portion of neuron communication starts at the cell body, think about it as an On/Off switch.
Each cell body is either On or Off, if it’s On, it sends an electric pulse down its axon just like the wire to a light bulb!
That is where Neurotransmitters come into play! We are going to cover these at a high level, so don’t worry, you don’t need to be an Organic Chemist to understand how this works.
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that your body can't function without. Their job is to carry chemical signals (“messages”) from one neuron to the next target cell.
The next target cell can be another nerve cell, a muscle cell, or a gland.
These little messengers are how the brain & Nervous System tells all of the structures, regions & cells that make “you” up, actually do things like speaking, breathing, walking, and so much more.
Once the electric pulse from the cell body gets to the end of the axon, neurotransmitters are released into the synapse to go find dendrites to attach to.
Remember, dendrites are attached to the cell body of the neuron!
Depending on the type of Neurotransmitters binding to the dendrite, the cell body turns On or Off again to start the whole change of events again!
This process is extraordinarily more complex than what we’ve covered here, but this is the basic process of neuron communication and it is called an “action potential.”
This electrochemical process is at the root of every single one of our feelings, thoughts & actions.
This process controls your heart rate, your digestion, and the release of hormones into your body, and a synchronized firing of these types of signals is what cause you to love your husband or wife.
That being said, they need to move fast, some estimates clock these signals moving through our nerves at over 520mph!
Sticking with the light bulb analogy, neurotransmitters do 3 main things: excite or turn the light on, inhibit or turn the light off, or modulate, which would mean making the light brighter or dimmer.
There are over 100 different types of neurotransmitters in our Nervous system and we don’t have time to dive into each and every one of them in this blog.
Some of the most important are: Serotonin, GABA, Dopamine, Epinephrine, Acetylcholine, and Norepinephrine.
These are what make up the chemical portion of the electrochemical process our Nervous System uses to communicate.
Now that you understand that the brain uses an electrochemical process to communicate, it will be easier to understand what brainwaves are!
Brainwaves are generated by the synchronized firing of our neurons.
These synchronized firings generate an electromagnetic field around each neuron, and when you aggregate the billions of neurons & trillions of synapses in our Nervous System, that electromagnetic field intensifies.
So much so that it’s measurable, and visible with the correct technology. We have an electromagnetic field that emits from our entire head & body that’s created by our neural activity!
In our course on this topic, we get into some of the quantum principles that support this, and discuss how different brainwaves affect our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors!
Here we will touch on some of the different types of waves and what they mean is happening in our brains.
These waves are measured in Hertz (Hz), just like waves in the ocean rise and fall, electromagnetic waves rise and fall, Hz is a measurement of how fast the rising and falling is happening.
Different levels of awareness are associated with dominant brainwave states or Hz!
Types of Brainwaves
We’ll start at a lower Hz & work our way up, first we have Delta brainwaves (1-3 Hz) these are what we experience when we are asleep.
Next are Theta brainwaves (4-7 Hz) and they are associated with a dreamy, spacey state of mind. Theta brain wave activity is a very relaxed state, representing the twilight zone between waking and sleep.
Continuing along, Alpha brainwaves (8-12 Hz.) are associated with a state of relaxation and represent the brain shifting into an idling gear, waiting to respond when needed, maybe even a little drowsy at times.
Beta brainwaves (13 – 38 Hz) are small, faster brainwaves associated with a state of mental, intellectual activity and outwardly focused concentration. This is our state of alertness and awareness of the things going on around us.
Beta brainwaves on the higher end of the Beta range (26-38 Hz) have been associated with restlessness, anxiety, stress, and/or panic.
The last one we will talk about is Gamma brainwaves (39 – 42 Hz) which are the fastest moving of the waves! Gamma rhythms modulate perception and consciousness.
This is a hallmark of the “Flow State” that everyone wants to experience more of!
Master meditators have been shown to be emitting these waves almost constantly throughout their life after enough practice… Can you imagine living in a flow state constantly?!
Understanding & researching these different brainwaves has allowed some really cool tools/protocols to be developed like Neurofeedback!
This is a protocol that presents your brainwaves to you in real-time and teaches you how to use your conscious mind to shift your brainwaves, which is a way to train your emotional regulation.
I hope you enjoyed this deep dive into the Nervous System, based on how well received this post is, I may write a Part 3 for next week, or write a post about the history of the DSM.
I would love your feedback on this, send me an email or comment on this post with your suggestions!
Have a great rest of the week, and until next time, live heroically! 🧠