balanced brain

With a balanced brain we feel joyous, energetic, confident, and optimistic. We tend to be creative and our ideas flow more freely.

When our brain is out of balance however, we may feel depressed, anxious, sluggish, irritable, stuck and unmotivated.  Many people have never achieved an extended period where their brain is balanced and are used to functioning within the restrictions of an unbalanced brain.  The line between mood and identity gets so blurred that they begin to identify too closely with how they feel rather than with who they are.

That’s the problem.  Too often we have accepted our negative mood as ‘the way we are’ like it’s a part of our personality.  The truth is that our moods are more often a function of an unbalanced brain than anything else.  We all have imbalances in varying degrees that affect our mental and physical make-up. The larger the imbalances, the more dramatic the effects are to our mental and physical stability.

If fact when there are easily detected physical symptoms like when someone suddenly cannot move his left arm, hand or leg anymore and walking can become virtually impossible or their speech has become slurry, unarticulated, incomprehensible, and slow we call this brain damage. Usually such obvious brain injury symptoms happen suddenly, immediately after some form of severe brain injury like a stroke (infarction or bleeding in the brain) or a traumatic brain injury (e.g. after a serious fall from a building or after a high speed car accident).

However when the symptoms are more subtle we may refer to the condition as simply a brain imbalance. So exactly and when does science say it is brain injury? In fact you have two definitions of brain injury: one is based on the idea of tissue damage or disturbed chemical processes in the brain, the other is more indirect, subjective and based on mental dysfunction.

A Balanced Brain – Hemispheric Symmetry

Many scientific studies have described the significance of balance between the left and right sides of the brain, or hemispheric symmetry, for health and well-being.

Evidence suggests that patterns of asymmetry of the frontal lobes are related to emotional style. For example, the neuroscientist Richard Davidson reported many years ago that left frontal lobe activation is generally related to approach, and positive emotions.  That is, left frontal lobe activation may indicate a sense of greater well-being, when we feel the confidence to approach situations or people.

In contrast, right frontal lobe activation tends to be related to emotions for withdrawal and may indicate a vulnerability to feeling sadness or anxiety.

Furthermore, there is a difference between left and right sides of the brain for managing the autonomic nervous system.  The autonomic nervous system coordinates the energetic functioning of our organ systems.

The sympathetic division activates the “fight-flight” response, associated with sweaty palms, faster heart rate, or arousal generally.

Conversely, the parasympathetic division manages the “rest-digest” response, associated with slowing of the heart rate, digestive activities, or energy conservation.

autonomicEvidence suggests that the right side of the brain is the main manager of the sympathetic nervous system, and the left side is the main manager of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Developmentally, the right hemisphere of the human brain – including its competency to manage the emotions through regulation of the sympathetic nervous system – undergoes critical maturational processes in early infancy, through strong parental bonding [1]. Inadequacy of early bonding may thus lead to the inability of an individual to competently activate and manage their sympathetic nervous system, putting them at risk for emotional disturbance. Because of the inadequacy of sympathetic nervous system regulation, parasympathetic nervous system compensation (and eventually dominance) may ensue.

Thus effective regulation of the right hemisphere is important especially for early child development and parent-infant bonding, to set the child on a path for greater resilience and emotional well-being.

Dominance of the parasympathetic nervous system (managed by the left hemisphere), due to inadequacy of the right hemisphere, thus mediates production of a freeze response. Again, a key physiological characteristic of the freeze response is low arousal, which for instance may manifest as low resting heart rate. Low arousal is closely related to the emotional numbing or disengagement that characterizes antisocial behaviour. This parasympathetic nervous system dominant, low-arousal state may then become a driver for the acting out of antisocial behaviour. Inappropriate stimulus-seeking (including substance abuse, violent tendencies, or anti-sociality) may be a manifestation of the brain’s attempt to self-correct an excessively low-arousal state [2].

In the course of a pilot study to investigate whether Brainwave Optimisation could facilitate improved self-regulation of subjects incarcerated in a medium-security-correctional facility [3]. Five subjects underwent the procedure. All five had initial assessments that showed marked dominance (more than 250 percent difference in amplitude) of the left temporal lobe over the right, suggesting PNS dominance.

After approximately 25 sessions each, these five subjects experienced major shifts in their behaviour and well-being. They became dramatically more cooperative and less hostile. There were stark improvements in the degree of T3/T4 EEG balance (reduced to approximately 10 percent difference in amplitude). The quality of the improvements in the subjects’ behaviour, as observed by the correctional facility staff and administrators, was considered to be well beyond that achieved with other interventions encountered during an extensive career in corrections administration. Brainwave Optimisation thus includes a model of balance between EEG activity at the right and left temporal lobes. This balance is postulated to reflect the degree of balance in the autonomic nervous system and theoretically can explain emotional and cognitive tendencies, physical health traits, and possibly even behavioural tendencies, especially for individuals who have experienced trauma that infringes or overwhelms.

Another consequence of the left-right difference in autonomic nervous system management is that some forms of traumatic stress can leave the brain in a state of over-activation on the right side.

Bibliography:

  1. Effects of a Secure Attachment Relationship on Right Brain Development, Affect Regulation, and Infant Mental Health by Allan N Schore – Infant Mental Health Journal, Vol. 22(1–2), 7–66 (2001)
  2. The Possibilities of a Balanced Brain – Limitless You by Lee Gerdes 2011
  3. Pilot Study Southern Nevada Correctional Centre by Gerdes et al, 2007