Understanding the body’s response to psychological Trauma- Part 1

 The human system op­erates on sequential, randomised and dynamic systemic programming. It takes quantum volumes of energy and time to thorough­ly explain the brain in its entirety.

Today, I will explain certain parts of the human brain most relevant to its essential flexible perfor­mance capabilities-under­standing of trauma: the Cortex –the thinking centre of the human brain and the Limbic system –the emotion­al, existential survival and the existential intelligence command centre of the brain).

The Cortex

Among other functions, the cortex is the location of conscious thought and awareness. Maintaining attention to our external environment -what we see, hear, as well as our inter­nal environment -thoughts, body sensations and emo­tions require activity in the cortex.

Thinking, including the recall of facts, description of procedures, recognition of time, understanding, and so on. Though it varies from individual to individual, low levels of increased stress with the accompanying increase in adrenaline levels will actually improve aware­ness, clear thinking, and memory.

However, past a certain (individually determined) level, increased adrenaline will degrade, that is, have the opposite effect on those same processes. A recog­nisable example is seen on television quiz programmes.

More often than not, contestants eliminated by a wrong answer will assert that when watching the pro­gramme at home, they nev­er missed an answer. Why then were they stumped when on TV?

Most likely, their stress levels rose beyond the helpful low-adrenaline kick and succumbed to overload that dampened their ability to access information that was easily available under calmer circumstances.

The same thing can happen with trauma. Though many survivors report a sharpening of perception and thought, those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) usually have a differ­ent experience.

In such cases, their brains became overloaded with adrenaline and they were no longer able to think clearly as they ran, fought, or—most likely—froze in response to the traumatic threat.

Understanding the inter­action of the cortex with the limbic system during low and high stress will help to make this loss of cortex ability clearer.

The Limbic System

Located in the middle part of the brain between the brain stem and cortex, the limbic system is respon­sible for our survival. It pro­tects us from danger in ma­jor part by recognising and utilising sensory information and then setting in motion the protective responses of flight, fight, and freeze.

The limbic system assess­es the states of both inter­nal and external environ­ments via sensory input and transfers the data to other brain structures.

The amygdala is the limbic structure that assigns the sensory information, an emotional interpretation and instructs the body as to how to respond accordingly.

For instance, while wait­ing for your friend to arrive, you might already be smiling as your amygdala identifies her familiar posture and gait from a distance. In nervous system time, your smil­ing response appears long before you have consciously recognised her face as she approaches.

Robert Ekow-Grimmond Thompson

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