Tag Archives: brain

THE BRAIN

Previously I have talked about how we react to scents and how essential oils can interact with us through the limbic system of the brain. We constantly program our brains (subconscious) with different information; the more emotional the information is, the stronger the programming. Every time we are subjected to an impulse we immediately go to our archives and do a rapid search to find a correlation. Once some kind of correlation is found, we judge the latest impulse from this.  By doing this we are re-acting on impulses instead of acting upon them as something new and unknown, which hinders us from learning and experiencing. Another result from this is that we stop being in the present which lowers our ability to learn because the mind is associating to a known past or unknown future. Children are amazingly good at being in the present,  learning and remembering continuously.

Children learn better than adults on average not because they have better brains, but because they are still using their brains in the way they were designed to be used, and have not yet taken on board so many incorrect formulas” Tony Buzan

I have looked at the work of Tony Buzan and I like the simple way he structures thought and learning. By doing the mind-map work you stay in the present and by working creatively you enhance the memory. The mind-map is nothing new, I have done this off and on in my life, and I am sure plenty of you have done too, especially when you were kids!

Here is an interesting page where Tony Buzan tells his story, it’s well worth a read.

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SMELL YOURSELF WELL

The Independent

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Smell yourself well

If smell improves our mood, could it also be an effective treatment for everything from obesity to sleeping problems? The answer is right under our noses, says Hugh Wilson

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The nose has it: The most underrated human sense could be used to treat a range of complaints, according to research
Getty

The nose has it: The most underrated human sense could be used to treat a range of complaints, according to research

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It’s the too-good-to-be-true weight loss ‘system’ that’s taking America by storm, and its manufacturers hope to launch it here in the next few months. Sensa lets you eat exactly what you want, when you want it, and in the quantities you desire. And it still claims to help you shed around 5lb every month.

It achieves the impossible – its makers say – by making sure the quantities you desire are not very great. Sensa comes as granules that are added to every meal and snack you eat. Put simply, the Sensa “sprinkles” are designed to enhance the sensory experience of eating, stimulating taste and smell to an extent that fools the brain into thinking you’ve eaten more than you have. Users have reported the novel experience of happily leaving food untouched on their plates.

Depending on which expert you talk to, taste is between 75 and 90 per cent about smell, and Sensa is not the only new product on the market in the States that claims to exploit the apparent connection between strong smells and smaller appetites. SlimScents are pens filled with fruity or minty smells, sniffed before meals. Aroma Patch is vanilla scented and worn permanently, like a nicotine patch. All boast scientific validity.

A limited number of studies have been done. Dr Alan Hirsch, the scientist behind Sensa, conducted his own research in 2005 on what would later become Sensa granules. The study followed over 1,400 subjects over a six-month period, and recorded an average weight loss of 30.5lb, and a five-point drop in Body Mass Index.

Kimberly Tobman, a spokeswoman for Sensa, says those results have since been duplicated in a smaller study carried out by an independent laboratory.

And last year Dr Bryan Raudenbush, an associate professor of psychology at the Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, conducted a small study which found that subjects who regularly sniffed a peppermint aroma consumed, on average, 1,800 calories fewer over the course of a week than normal.

Raudenbush is not convinced by the miraculous claims of Sensa and others, and suggests we take them “with a grain of salt and cautiousness”. But he does think something is going on.

“From what we have found in other studies, peppermint scent can distract you from painful stimulation,” he says. In one of them, participants held their hands in cold water for prolonged periods. “Participants who were administered peppermint scent held their hand in the water for a longer period of time and rated the pain as less severe.”

He believes that something similar may be at work in the appetite experiments: strong smells are distracting participants from physical discomfort, whether that means pain or hunger.

Professor Tim Jacob, an expert in smell and taste at Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, is more sceptical of the connection between strong scents and weight loss, not least because we tend to get habituated to smells very quickly. But he thinks the idea that scents can distract us from pain or allow us to endure more of it is valid.

“The olfactory (sense of smell) system and pain share some brain networks and it’s thought that the positive consequences of experiencing pleasant or familiar odours offsets pain to a measurable extent,” he says.

In fact, there’s increasing excitement in the scientific community about the power of our sense of smell, and what consequences this may have for psychological and physiological health. Though much of the research is in its infancy, various studies have shown that scents like peppermint, vanilla and coffee may have therapeutic effects.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, for example, researchers at the University of Tokyo found that inhaling Linalool, a natural chemical found in flowers and spices, significantly reduced stress levels in rats. And a study at Tubingen University in Germany showed that vanilla fragrance reduced the startle reflex, making us calmer.

Scientists involved in this research are keen to distance themselves from what many see as the quack principles of aromatherapy – the complimentary therapy that recommends administering pleasant smells for anything from cancer to the common cold – which Professor Jacob calls “nonsense”.

But Jacob and others in the field of olfactory research believe the connection between smell and memory – and the associative power of odour – represents a hugely promising avenue of investigation.

“Using conditioned association we could use smell therapeutically, to treat sleep problems, anxiety, blood pressure, etc; and even clinically, possibly for immune system pathologies, intractable medical conditions, for example lower back pain; and use it for drug rehabilitation,” says Jacob. “Smell, once conditioned, can re-evoke a psychophysiological state. It relies upon the association of smell and memory.”

And, as Professor Jacob suggests, it may be possible to programme smell associations for particular therapeutic tasks. In the most famous study of this kind, healthy male volunteers were injected with insulin every day for four days and their blood sugar fell. At the same time, they were exposed to a smell. On the fifth day they were just given the smell, and their blood sugar still fell.

Such findings hold out the promise of some pretty mind- boggling medical advances, from diabetics with inhalers instead of injections, to insomniacs cured by a smell they associate with sleepiness. We’re not quite there yet, but as Jacob says, “watch this space”.

ESSENTIAL OILS AS MOOD-ENHANCERS

EssentialOils

One of the most useful aspects of essential oils is the mood-enhancing properties. Every oil will create some kind of feeling in you.  To realize why this happens you need to know a bit about how the essential oils work through our olfactory system: (Following is taken from Wikipedia – text & picture; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olfactory_system)

<<In mammals, the main olfactory system detects odorants that are inhaled through the nose, where they contact the main olfactory epithelium, which contains various olfactory receptors. These can distinguish a new odor from the background environmental odors and determine the concentration of the odor.

These olfactory receptors are connected to bipolar olfactory receptor neurons in the olfactory epithelium, which transduce receptoractivation into electrical signals in neurons. The signals travel along the olfactory nerve, which belongs to the peripheral nervous system. This nerve terminates in the olfactory bulb, which belongs to the central nervous system.>>

Olfactory_system

1: Olfactory bulb 2: Mitral cells 3: Bone 4: Nasal Epithelium 5: Glomerulus 6: Olfactory receptor cells

You might say that the olfactory receptors in the nose is the only place where the brain sticks out from the skull. In the olfactory bulb (1) there is a series of key-holes which accommodate different molecules. It’s a little like the round peg in the round hole. If the odor molecule doesn’t fit in the key-hole the odor will stay only in the nose, being analyzed by the brain and that’s it, most odors fall into this category. If, however, the odor molecule fits into one of the key-holes it will enter the limbic system of the brain, also called the reptile brain. )Following text & picture is taken from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limbic_system)

In addition, these structures are sometimes also considered to be part of the limbic system:

As you can see the limbic system is situated in the middle of the brain – as if it was the heart of the brain.

The molecular structure of essential oils fit in this key-hole system, so the essential oils do enter the limbic system. The essential oils also transgress the blood-brain-barrier and therefore enters the limbic system through the blood as well. Since many of the molecules in essential oils mimic our own hormones, they can, among other things, help to regulate our hormone-system. Some essential oils are very valuable for mental clarity, help with mood-swings, facilitating sleep and much much more.

In my next post I will tell you a little about the different oils and how you can use them as mood-enhancers.  I will also give you dosages and how-to-use tips. Stay tuned!