Tag Archives: brain

Could Energy from My Hands Heal My Depressed Brain?

Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up in the morning happy and eager to begin the day? I rarely do. I know that others also do not, and maybe it’s out of reach, but wouldn’t it be nice? If I could start the day without a vague sense of doom, perhaps I’d be more likely to “keep on the sunny side” throughout the day. (And folks, it must be told that when those words popped onto my mind screen, they came with a tune….)

I’m actually doing pretty well right now, but I stopped taking my antidepressant out of concern for its long-term side effects and am borderline terrified that depression will seep its way back into my mind.

When I am afraid of something, I typically seek more information. So I began googling terms like “nighttime depression”—and I found some great stuff.

I have lost the citation for the article about research confirming that people who wake up happy are indeed happier all the time. (Perhaps I figured “big whoop” and didn’t bother to do a save.)

But I did print out an article from Psychology Today titled “Sleep and depression: Cure depression by combatting REM,” by Patrick McNamara, PhD.

McNamara says that in Major Depressive Disorder, there is abnormally high activitiy in paralimbic structures and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and abnormally low activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—the same pattern which occurs during REM sleep. McNamara also says that REM is also associated with “production of negative affect and selective consolidation of negative emotional memories.” Sigh. C’est moi.

He notes that while some antidepressants do suppress REM sleep, it’s probably not something one should strive for since there must be a reason REM exists as part of normal sleep, and we don’t know what it is. He concludes with “more research is needed” and laments the fact that instead, funding for sleep research is being cut.

What most interested me was the notion—maybe new only to me—that the balance between two specific parts of the brain may determine whether you are a “glass half full” or “glass half empty” person. (I have often been told that I am a “glass half empty” person, but while a part of me wants to shriek, “GUYS, DO YOU NOT GET THAT HALF FULL AND HALF EMPTY ARE THE SAME THING???,” I take the point.)

However, it was the very next article I found that sent me over the top. This one was written by Dan Gray and published on July 25, 2017, on the website Healthline. It was titled “Treatment That ‘Rewires’ the Brain Could be Used for Depression.”

That treatment, approved by the Food and Drug Administration for depression in 2009, is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where magnetic energy is sent to specific parts of the brain by  a device outside the head.

The article went on to talk about how many clinics are now doing TMS and how much it costs (a lot, if you don’t have insurance).

But I was particularly struck by the notion of using magnetic stimulation to change the brain and end depression because I do believe that energy healing and also qigong involve manipulation of electromagnetic fields within the body.

Is a transcranial magnetic stimulator akin to the hands of a healer applied to a head—or even to my own hands when I pulse them outside my head and feel a changing density inside? If so, could I learn to use my hands in a more precise manner to combat depression? Could my hands ever be powerful enough, or precise enough?

According to another article, TMS targets the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the region that has abnormally low activity in depression, per the Psychology Today article. I don’t know where that is, but could I learn? Learn in the sense of being able to focus my awareness on that part of my brain?

In some of my advanced qigong classes, we were asked to focus our awareness on the region of the third ventricle, in the center of the brain. I don’t know if I or any of the other students ever actually achieved this, but it was considered that we could.

If I had TMS, I might have a better sense of where the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is than I ever had of where the third ventricle is. Might I be able to “qigong” my way out of depression using a very specific, very direct technique? Traditional Chinese medicine approaches to dealing with depression involve organs in the torso and meridians throughout the body. Would it work to go straight to the brain?

I have asked my health plan to refer me to a contracted TMS provider. If that fails, I may go on my own nickel. I want to know more….

 

 

 

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My Brain Wants Its Mommy

tulips in potWell, I guess I’m ready to write.

Three weeks ago, my “spells” and I met with my qigong teacher, Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun. Five days later, me, my spells and two EEGs had a 45-minute appointment with a second-opinion neurologist.

Dr. Sun said my brain was fine, even healthy. (Wahoo!) He thinks my spells are either a benign aspect of my qigong journey or the consequence of my gall bladder meridians being overloaded, perhaps with anger from someone else, which could cause energy to rise up and get stuck. He suggested a couple of exercises for bringing excess energy down from my head. He also noted that all of the spells I’ve described in the past several posts occurred when I was relaxed, so they were not likely to occur when I was driving. (It appears that perpetually running late and driving stressed has an up side….)

The neurologist said my two EEGs were “unusual”—specifically, they showed some “sharp transients and questionable waveforms”–but that neither they nor my descriptions of my spells were consistent with epilepsy. He doesn’t think I have a seizure disorder or, for that matter, Parkinson’s Disease, which a different neurologist suggested I might have 10 years ago because of a jaw tremor. He said I should, of course, come back if my spells get worse, but that for now I shouldn’t worry so much. (Hah! “Tell this patient not to worry so much” must be written either in my chart or on my forehead, because every doctor does it.)

I should be relieved. Dr. Sun said my brain is “fine,” and this second neurologist, who’s had advanced training in reading EEGs, said I don’t have epilepsy or Parkinson’s. He didn’t even suggest medication, like the first neurologist did.

But the fact remains that I’ve had a number of spontaneous departures from my normal state of consciousness plus two “unusual” EEGs.

Clearly, I “have” something.

I just don’t know what it is, or what it portends. And I’m quite certain that had I had an EEG 20 years ago, before I did qigong and before my brain turned 74, I would not have had an “unusual” EEG. Am I headed towards some sort of enlightenment, or has my brain started down a one-way tube towards the worst fate I can imagine, brain rot? (What? You say there might be some other alternative in between?) Continue reading

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The Draining of My Brain

NOTE: I’ve not written many posts lately. I got sidetracked dealing with other aspects of my life. But also I haven’t been clear enough about what I think to try writing it down. The following post is probably too long, but let’s just say I’m making up for lost time. (Hah! Try telling that to any editor.) (Oh, well….)

Something is happening to my brain, and I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it is good or bad or if it’s the consequence of my qigong practice, of ordinary aging or even of some sort of disease process.

Well, some of it for sure is aging. Anybody who claims that age only matters if you’re a bottle of wine or a wheel of cheese has not sat with a group of people my age—73—who are trying to remember the name of a mutual friend, or a flower, or a movie or a book. We all hate it when that happens….

But there are other things—in particular, my “spells.”

I’ve never thought of myself as the sort of woman who’d have spells, but the word is there, in the report from the neurologist to whom I was sent after I’d had two of them.

They frighten me—but they also intrigue me. I want to know what they are, and what they portend, but I don’t know and haven’t figured out how to find out.

From a western medical point of view, my spells may have been cardiovascular events or, as I think more likely, they may have been neurological events, perhaps some sort of seizure. Neither of these alternatives is cheering.

On the other hand, as you will see when I describe my spells, they were also energy events, because, of course, everything is an energy event, but they were energy events with features akin to what I experience when I practice qigong. My qigong teacher, Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun, has said they indicate progress in my qigong practice, and perhaps he is right. Maybe after a certain amount of energetic development, one’s brain must reboot.

I will start by describing the event that got my attention in a really big way.

It happened on Aug. 15, 2015, at the end of a period of significant stress. I’d felt I was handling everything well, and was enjoying that feeling, but in retrospect, perhaps I was not.

The day before the incident, I’d been working at my computer when I learned that I needed to assemble a group of people to meet in 20 minutes—not a big deal, really, but as soon as I started scurrying around to do what needed to be done, I felt like I was working through some sort of roiling mental and physical fog, and it was difficult to keep focused on what I was saying and doing. It was not a new feeling—for months I’d been experiencing a variety of odd sensations that I wrote off as energy things, or blood sugar things, or balance mechanism things, or digestive things—but it was more extreme and not at all pleasant.

However, the next morning, I felt fine. I went to a friend’s apartment for brunch and ended up staying five hours, talking about issues in the community in which we both live.

By the end of that time, I was sitting on my friend’s sofa, slumped down with my neck arched over the top edge. I was looking up and talking to her when I realized that I was having difficulty expressing myself because I couldn’t call forth names and facts that I knew I should remember. I got up and left, just wanting to go home, and walked through her building and another building feeling just a bit strange. I knew something wasn’t right. I stepped out into the sunlight to cross the parking lot in front of my building, and the back of my neck seized up. Continue reading

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The Plastic Brain

brain bookJust a few decades ago, using the word “neuroplasticity” could get a brain scientist into trouble.

The concept ran counter to the dominant belief that the adult brain was “hard wired,” and that major change did not and could not occur. If you lost a portion of your brain to accident or stroke, you were out of luck: Whatever processes that section of your brain handled were lost to you forever.

Now neuroplasticity is practically a buzz word. A friend of mine recently suffered a small stroke; he says his therapists are all about neuroplasticity and how its principles can be used to train other parts of his brain to take over functions once handled by the damaged area.

In chapter after fascinating chapter of “The Brain That Changes Itself,” Norman Doidge relates how this shift occurred—how pioneering neuroscientists, aided by new technology, broke through the old belief to prove that our brains are constantly remodeling themselves, even as we grow old, and how the right therapeutic techniques can facilitate that process. Continue reading

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Dethronement of the Brain

human brainAncient Egyptians didn’t think much of the brain. When they were preparing to mummify a body, they’d go in through the nose, scoop the brain out of the skull and presumably discard it. The heart, not the brain, was considered to be the body’s most important organ, the seat of one’s essence, one’s mind and emotions; when the torso was opened for removal of the other organs, the heart was left in place.

Of these other organs, the lungs, stomach, liver and intestines were preserved in special jars to be placed with the body in the tomb, or they were wrapped with linen and returned to the body cavity. The kidneys were thrown out along with the brain; apparently the Egyptians didn’t think people would need their kidneys in the afterlife any more than they’d need their brain.

OK, so they tossed the kidneys. But the brain?

What must it have been like to be an ancient Egyptian? Did they physically feel they had a little voice in their hearts, like I feel like I have a little voice in my head, a little voice that is pretty much me? Did their heads feel like dead zones? I can’t even imagine this. Despite my best efforts at bringing my body more fully into my awareness of me by practicing qigong, I still feel like my consciousness is based in my head. And my words, most certainly, are in my head.

This is interesting stuff to contemplate, and I am contemplating it because I just watched the movie “The Living Matrix,” which I learned about at a Yi Ren Qigong seminar. Continue reading

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