Brain Sparks

How do we think?

🧠 Ever wondered how you think, every day? Every moment? 🧠

Let me tell you! 💁🏻‍♀️

Networks. 

There are large group of brain cells working together called networks. We have two really important ones:
1. Central Executive Network. This helps us with goal-directed or external behavior.
2. Default Mode Network. This is more internally focused mental processes we are not necessarily aware of.

The ability to switch between them is due to a third network – Salience Network. When any of these networks are disrupted, or one is more overactive than others, we see psychiatric disorders or dysfunction.

But how do we think? 🤔
Information is received and evaluated *quickly* by the default mode network, after being detected, filtered and emotionally processed by the Salience Network. Then, at a slightly slower pace – the Central Executive guides our decision and appropriate response to stimuli.

But this all happens so quickly, the networks are pretty seamless in making sure we have the right response right away. Each piece of information we take in has been evaluated logically AND emotionally. 🤓 Amazing huh!

So what goes wrong?

In disorders such as depression, the DMN is too active, and the CEN not active enough. It means the brain is ‘stuck’ in the internally focused mode, causing the person to lack goal-directed behaviour. Therefore, they feel depressive symptoms, lethargic, lack interest, decreased (or increased) appetite, and often sleep longer (or less).

Take that one step further; in cases of Bipolar depression, the DMN is kept active for so long – there is reciprocal activation of the CEN but like a rubber band, it slings you too far the other way. Those periods of identified ‘mania’ are too externally focused, where the person is excessively talkative, risk-taking, and permissive.

Sadly, there is another scenario even more difficult to manage. In patients with schizophrenia, the DMN and SN are completely in control. Without the ability to process information via the CEN, the person is unable to ‘reality check’ and therefore their feelings become their reality. They lose sight of what’s ‘normal’ and it can be highly disruptive to their daily lives.

Can it be fixed?

This is the million dollar question. Literally. New pharmacological interventions (drugs) are constantly being developed to try and treat these disorders, but the reality is- nothing has been more effective than anti-psychotics or anti-depressants that remain fairly unchanged from their initial development.

Can you think yourself happy? It’s yet to be decided, but I would say the shortest answer I can give you is – no, not really. If there are structural, neuronal damages at play, you have a limited ability to affect this with crystals in your bra or chanting. However, meditation is hugely beneficial – to everyone for that matter – and has been proven to have many positive affects on mental wellbeing.

 

 

I'm Bec. Neuroscience enthusiast, passionate writer, and novice meditator. Enjoy the blog!