A neurologist who specializes in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and dementia explores how we can tap into “the neurology and physiology of our body's innate 'calm' mechanisms” to achieve greater health, happiness and success.
The director of the New York Memory and Healthy Aging services, Devi (What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Alzheimer's Disease, 2004, etc.) unravels the functioning of the core brain, where gut reactions are processed, and explains how we can train ourselves to relax and recharge in order to face the 24/7 pressures of the fast-paced modern world. The author describes the way in which the core brain works by controlling emotions and impulses as we navigate the outside world “and the vast environmental sensor and receptacle that is our body.” Fight-or-flight reactions, as well as our relative sense of well-being or malaise, are mediated there by the vagus nerve, a frequently overlooked neural conduit that bypasses the spinal cord to connect with the body's organs. It provides a constant stream of information that tells the brain when to stress out and when to relax and monitors processes such as blood pressure. The core brain is the seat of the sympathetic nervous system, which releases an adrenaline surge when we perceive danger, and the parasympathetic system, which provides the all-clear signal when it is safe to calm down. Devi provides anecdotal evidence suggesting that meditation and yoga, by releasing bodily tension, cue the brain to relax, and she examines how affectionate gestures and shared laughter provide a similar release.
A welcome alternative approach to overtaxing our brains and then reaching for the pill bottle—should warrant serious attention.