Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fascinating Brain Facts

I love to read but tend to plow through books so quickly I miss half of the story. The good side of doing that is I can read the same book several times and continue to learn new things. I am currently rereading the book: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog. I read it several years ago and it was all Greek to me. I obviously learned a few things over the years because I found it very fascinating....so much so I stayed up until 11:00 last night reading. Following are a few things I learned....to those of you who understand the brain this is probably old news but for those of us who are still learning it is amazing!
-Our brain filters out the ordinary, common facts. This is why you can drive to work every day and not remember it because your brain relies on previous memories of driving such as which turns you need to brake for, the distance between you and other vehicles etc. If our brains wouldn't filter out the common experiences we would most likely be so distracted we would crash. Your brain is constantly checking for previous memories and only storing those that are new. If there was a large tree lying across the road your brain would process that because it is out of the ordinary. 
At birth your childs brain doesn't have stored memories so every interaction gets recorded. If your child is loved and cared for he will view people as safe. If he is neglected and experiences hunger or fear, his brain will form a template that says no one will help me, I must take care of myself. The more times the child experiences love n care/neglect or abuse the more entrenched that memory will be in his brain. The child will act upon what his brain tells him is the appropriate action for every situation.
- we become either sensitized or tolerant of traumatic experiences. When the brain becomes sensitized a pattern of stimulus leads to increased sensitivity to future similar stimulus. When the brain becomes sensitized even small stressors can provoke large responses. When the brain becomes tolerant it mutes ones response to experience over time. Both factors are important for the functioning  of memory; if we didn't get tolerant to similar experiences, they would always appear new and potentially overwhelming. The brain would probably run out of storage capacity, like an old computer. Similarly, if we didn't become increasingly sensitized to certain scary situations, we would not be able to improve how to respond to them.
-fear quite literally makes us dumber, a property that allows faster reactions in short periods of time and helps immediate survival. But fear can become maladaptive if it is sustained; the threat system becomes sensitized to keep us in the state constantly. We call this hyper-arousal. When a child is hyper aroused his pupils dilate, breathing increases and he will know exactly what is happening around him. Our brains/bodies were not created to sustain this state of mind for extended periods of time. Unfortunately many children live in just such a state and the damage to their developing brains is extensive. Our brain has ways of protecting itself when the body is in a state of hyper-arousal for extended periods of time, it is called dissociation. For young children and infants who are unable to escape or fight, dissociation is often their response. We saw this in most of our children at one time or another, although Braden was by far the worst. Sometimes you could walk up to him and his eyes would be blank, he didn't even know anyone was around. Those vacant eyes were scary. 
- when faced with a frightening situation our brains shut down our highest cortical regions first. We lose the capacity to plan, or feel hunger, because neither are necessary for our immediate survival. Often we lose the ability to think or speak in such a situation. We just react. With prolonged fear there can be chronic and near permanent damage to the brain.

That is only a brief run down of the first couple chapters and I hope I portrayed the information correctly as I had to reword some of it because it just wasn't practical to copy the whole book.

Lia made a snack mix for our foster/adopt playgroup tomorrow. I set out all the ingredients and told her to put a handful of each thing in the dish and keep going that way until I say she has enough. 

Look what I made!

She was only to happy to dump the drink out of the bottles. I bought a flat of drinks yesterday at our local discount store.... my children wouldn't drink it so rather than "cry over spilled milk" We dumped it out, fed it to the dogs and refilled the containers 3/4 full of juice and put them in the freezer for lunches. 

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