Why Our Minds Are So Chaotic and How to Make It Stop
Comedian Ruby Wax explains the brain like no one else.
Comedian Ruby Wax has a confession to make: She’s a dopamine junkie. When she explains how the human brain works, you can hardly blame her.
First off, there’s sort of three brains in there. The oldest is the 500-million-year-old brainstem that sees to our basic Eat-Mate-Kill needs. The mammalian brain joined the party next; its main contribution was to take our own children off the Eat-Kill list. Finally, there’s the frontal cortex that’s involved in awareness, strategy, and rational thought. These three brains don’t really work together so much as at the same time.
Wax also points out we have cranial punchbowl in there of about 100 chemicals—hormones, neurotransmitters—that leave us haplessly trying to make some logical sense of what we want and who we are. Wax feels like she’s addicted to a couple of them.
The adrenaline triggered during angry “I want to kill you” moments by the brain’s limbic system generates one of Wax’s very favorite feelings. It’s an excited, exciting rush Wax actually courts by deliberately creating anxiety-producing situations for herself.
But for drive, Wax says, there’s nothing like dopamine, which she credits as the brain chemical that makes humans strive: To gather food, invent fire, to buy too many blue-and-white pillows, and, unfortunately to desire the things that cause wars.
Dopamine’s a fascinating neurotransmitter that works in different ways in different areas of the brain. A neurotransmitter is a chemical that flows from the vesicles of one neuron across a gap, or “synapse,” to the receptors in another neuron. The type of receptors it comes in contact with—where they are and what they do—is what determines the effect the neurotransmitter has. There are five different receptors that react to dopamine.
For Wax though, there’s a very dangerous downside of dopamine: She says it can leave us in an unending state of wanting, an unsatisfiable, unsustainable state of being.
It was Wax’s desire to find a way to rein in her own three-brain circus and its chemicals that led the comedian to take a breath, put her career on hold, and enroll at Oxford to study mindfulness cognitive therapy as the most promising method for managing an overwhelmed brain.
Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."
- Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
- Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
- Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.
- The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
- Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
- Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.
- Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
- Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
- It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.
- Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
- The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
- The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
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