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We Are Addicted to Our Brains, with Ruby Wax
The always-entertaining Ruby Wax explains the structure of the brain and how a natural hormone addiction -- particularly to dopamine -- keeps us in a perpetual state of wanting.
Ruby Wax is an American born, naturalized British comedian and author. She is a classically trained actress, well-known interviewer, and renowned mental health advocate. In battling her own depression, Wax put her career on hold to research the workings of the mind. She earned a master's degree in mindfulness based cognitive therapy from Oxford University in 2013 and has since authored a book, Sane New World.
Ruby Wax: So I think it’s really crucial that we all understand what’s going on under our scalp because this is the mother ship and it would explain a lot of our behavior. For example, we don’t have one brain. We have like three brains all smushed under one scalp. And none of them disappeared, you know. They’re just like Russian dolls one inside of another. It’s like a relative you can’t get rid of. So and they’re always arguing with each other. That’s what I mean about conflict in the brain. For example the oldest brain, the brainstem is about I don’t know, 500 million years old and it’s basic. It just made sure that we eat, kill, and mate, which is really only useful if you’re working at Goldman Sachs. So then on top of that maybe 250 million years ago we started to get this mammalian brain, which meant that we bonded with our young rather than ate them. And then only about 500,000 years ago we got this frontal thing and this is El Capitano. This is the executive brain. It’s in charge of attention, awareness, strategic, logical, rational thought.
So you see why we’re confused. We’ve got three brains all squished in here. So that’s probably why you get women who like to — who read Heideggar, but also want to screw the plumber. It’s a mess. Now there’s nothing we can do, but it’s just kind of understanding who’s in charge. There’s nothing you can do about it because sometimes it’s survival, but sometimes you can switch that thing on in front. We’re going back to mindfulness, which means you can regulate; you can pull the reins gently because you know you’re having a limbic reaction. You know I want to kill you, which is one of my favorite states because I’m addicted to my own adrenalin. This is the thing. Forget about coke. Forget about this other stuff. We’re our own drug addicts, you know. We’re natural-born junkies shooting ourselves up with our own hormones. It’s important again besides the brain to understand how our hormones work because that’s what makes us feel the way we feel and do the — well, like think about sex. It’s okay, I’ll give you a few minutes. See when you think about sex it switches on the hormones and that’s what makes the action happen. If you don’t have any hormones you can think all you want. Ain’t nothing going to happen.
Sometimes the hormones come on and you weren’t even thinking about it. That’s like when you get a stiffy in the elevator. So we have about 100 different hormones and they’re driving us and coming on and off depending on which occasion. For example, well I’m addicted to adrenaline. Sometimes I call a taxi to take me to the airport and when it gets to my house then I start packing. I love that stuff. I get a hit of that one. Serotonin, you know, it’s the feel good chemical. These people are people-pleasers. They don’t have to set their hair on fire to get attention. I have none of that drug. I have to buy it over a counter. So it’s really understanding what mode we’re in, you know. What’s driving us? And then, of course, the real go get 'em. You know makes you strive and drive is dopamine. And the kind of problem – it’s again a backlash from when we used to, you know, back in the bush when we used to hunt for nuts or food and we’d get a mouthful, right. And before we swallowed, we’d get this hit of dopamine, which made us look for reward for nuts for later on. I’ll make it simple.
If I want a pair of shoes, you know, I’m into that. And I find a pair of shoes so I get this huge hit of dopamine. And so before I even put them on, I’m already hunting for other shoe-rich environments. And then I’m so hungry to get shoes. Like I’m just primed with that stuff that if I see a woman with a pair I want, I might gnaw her ankle off. So this thing, this dopamine gets us, you know, it gets us jacked up to get the next thing. And if you leave that switch on too long, and we do because there’s always something else to eat, something else to drive, something else to snort, you know. We’re in a constant state of wanting, wanting. And the thing about dopamine, it won’t just stress you out; it’ll kill you. I mean again we’re doing this to ourselves.
There’s countries being bombarded by war and disease and we, here, who have everything are killing ourselves off with our own thoughts. Can you figure that out? So listen, I’m not saying dopamine’s bad. We need this stuff. You know it also works to make us strive to make fire and made us strive to make tools, and strive to put together a bookshelf from IKEA. It’s made us strive. But again if we’re not conscious of it, it burns you out. So again I was interested. If this chemical, you know, all this is happening, is there a way I can intentionally take the bull by the horns and lower this stuff? In my case, when I get too jacked up, you know, when I start the list — buy turtle, feed dog, write this show, worry about Ebola, buy lamp shades. It’s always garbage, you know, mixed in with what, you know, feed children. I get obsessed. Once I bought 150 blue and white striped cushions. Obsessed. And I was on a nautical website for like five days and then they were much smaller when I got them than the picture. The size of a leaf of toilet paper.
And now my house is full — what am I doing with them? It’s the dopamine took over. So suddenly blue and white striped — when the blue and white striped cushions — I had no more air space anymore. I started with the carpets. That’s the nature of human beings. I can’t whip myself. So I wanted to find some way I could, you know, I could get, first of all, maybe cut out some of those critical thoughts and also learn some way I could pull those chemicals down. So that’s when I was interested in studying mindfulness-based cognitive therapy because that certainly is a way where you don’t need to run to a shrink. Now you’re responsible for your own brain.
The always-entertaining Ruby Wax explains the structure of the brain and how a natural hormone addiction — particularly to dopamine — keeps us in a perpetual state of wanting. Wax is a comedian who also holds a master's degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy from Oxford University.
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Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.
Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.