Why your memory is poor, and what you can do about it.

Hint: It’s probably not Alzheimer’s. 

In February I posted a video on YouTube, “The link between stress and memory!”In this video I discuss why people who suffer from chronic stress tend to have memory problems. In a nutshell, when under stress, the memory center of the brain, called the hippocampus, can’t activate the way it needs to in order to encode memories well. This is because the hippocampus is covered in cortisol receptors, and when we’re under stress our cortisol increases, flooding the hippocampus and making it difficult to activate properly. In the short term the result is that we don’t encode very stressful or traumatic things as well as we otherwise would (hence the controversy behind eye witness testimony). Over the long haul, the chronic stress, which causes ongoing cortisol flooding of the hippocampus, leads to atrophy of the brain’s memory center. This in turn makes it difficult to encode not only traumatic events well, but any memories. Information can seem to “go into one ear and out ther other.”

Thus, for many people memory issues aren’t due to early onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, rather, the culprit is too much stress. So what can we do about it? The good news is that neurogenesis, which is the growing/regeneration of neurons, is possible in the hippocampus. Here are some quick recommendations to help your memory center become healthy and strong! The following have been shown to promote neurogenesis in the hippocampus:

1.     Get moderately-intense exercise: You don’t have to be a marathoner. Just get approximately 30 minutes of moderate exercise about three times per week.

2.     Eat chocolate and blueberries: Hippocampus neurogenesis has can be promoted by eating foods rich in flavonoids, such as cocoa and blueberries. 

3.     Practice mindfulness: Incorporating mindfulness practices, including yoga, meditation, and diaphragmatic breathing is another great way to strengthen the memory center.

4.     Get plenty of Omega-3s: Omega-3 fatty acids are a great way to increase neurogenesis in the memory center of the brain, and may also help manage depression.

Stress, anxiety, and trauma can wreak havoc on the brain. The best thing you can do for yourself if you believe you might be suffering from one of these conditions is to seek professional help from a licensed mental health provider. However, many people find that making small changes (I call them “one degree changes”) can make a large difference in how they feel over time. Think about it like this… If you are traveing in one direction and veer to the right by one degree, it won’t take you far off course in the short term, but 1,000 miles later you’d be in a totally different place. That’s the idea behind one degree changes. Slightly change your habits now, and reap the benefits later!



What is the insula? The important mental health brain structure you've never heard of.

I recently posted a vlog onYouTube about an area of the brain that is extremely important for mental health professionals to know about: The insula. To see the vlog go here! As promised, I wanted to also include a blog here describing this area of the brain, what it does, and why it's important!

The Insula Explained:

The insula, or the “Interoception Center,” is the main site of interoception. Interoception is one’s ability to feel into internal experience and connect with internal sensations. For instance, feeling hungry, warm, or jittery are all examples of interoception. This too-often overlooked area of the brain is extremely important because without a strong and regulated insula, emotion identification and regulation become very difficult. Imagine, for example, that a client suffers from panic disorder. If they cannot feel into the body and be aware of the physical sensations that part of their panic, it would be extremely difficult to treat their panic disorder! This is because the experience of emotion is not simply cognitive; Emotion is always experienced in the body.

When an individual is able to “feel into” the body and connect with internal sensations, those sensations provide critical information about the emotion the individual is experiencing. The ability to do this is often called “felt sense” by trauma expert Peter Levine (2009). In different mental health conditions, however, this can be difficult for clients. In several disorders the insula is underactive, meaning that it is difficult to feel into the body and be aware of emotional experiences. In some other disorders, the insula becomes overactive, leading to a misinterpretation of bodily sensations as dangerous or catastrophic.

Thus, one goal of trauma treatment is to build a strong but regulated insula that gives accurate information about internal states. With a more regulated insula, individuals improve interoception and experience fewer emotional outbursts and dissociative symptoms (including numbing). Additionally, with a strong insula individuals are better able to feel into their own bodies, identify the emotions they are experiencing, and regulate them. 

For two free insula strengthening tools you can start using right away, click HERE

Source: insula