Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Neural Integration

I wanted to introduce to you some "brainy" ideas from Dr. Daniel Segal.  Most informative! : )

Neuro scientists now suspect that trauma impairs the orbitofrontal region of the brain.  This is the part responsible for the integration of the information received from the other three parts of the brain.  The orbitofrontal cortex integrates all the material and comes up with various options for responding.
  • "If  this region is impaired in some way or temporarily shut down, the individual my experience a sense of disconnection from others, and a break-down in the reflected sense of self, while exhibiting knee-jerk responses rather than flexibility of response."
Key word: Response
Do you find that your responses are not so very fitting?  My responses are often delayed. I'm stumped!  I just can't come up with an appropriate response, so I just go "huh?" inside my head while trying to figure out what my face is supposed to be saying.

Key word: Flexibility
Have you ever noticed you are a stick in the mud? Unable to change plans, shift from one emotion to another? Trauma interferes with the integration of information, which means we are often unable to get a sense of the overall situation or sense the need to change plans.

Key word: Integration
Do you sense a disconnection from others and even from yourself?  The orbitofrontal cortex plays a major role in human emotion and emotionally attuned interpersonal communication.
Does your "biography" make any sense to you at all? Integration is what holds it all together! and I mean ALL. Thoughts, feelings, experiences, sense of self, view of the world, pieces of history, perceptions, emotions, motivation, the sense of family and community. It holds us together inside our own beings.  In our brains it is the process of seeing the big picture.

When I speak of neural integration, I am speaking of brain functions having to do with the processing of certain stimuli, experiences and information.  Essentially, the sending of info from one place in the brain to the other where it can be worked on and assimilated into your REALITY, your biography.  Trauma seems to get stuck in the lower portion of our brains. This is what causes knee-jerk responses.  Integration is the work of moving that info from there to the orbitofrontal cortex.  As this info/experience is integrated, the pieces of my biography have began to make more sense.   My responses to recent stimuli have become less "knee-jerk".

 Most importantly, my physical symptoms are beginning to subside. Physical symptoms? Generally my symptoms can be explained as an "emotional flash-back."  This categorization has proved immensely helpful to me.  Before I knew what to call it, I thought it was just plain craziness.  A general feeling of fear, shakiness, the feeling of having been through war.  I knew I was safe now, but I couldn't make my body believe it.   Anxiety would come over anything really, but especially over something too exciting and fun!   If I'd had too much fun(even good clean fun), may brain would just kind of freeze up. Some days, lots of days, it was all I could do to pour a bowl of cereal for my child.  Wow! those days were dark! I have learned to have much compassion on myself. . . the frightened guilt ridden teenager.  But now when I look back on the zombie mommy I was just two years ago, I want to weep for her even more. .  there was just nothing but mush upstairs!    And there were so many needs to be met. Life became very simple.  Eat -sleep -wash. And we made it through, missing so many details!  But here we are!  And we all still love each other!  And that is truly what matters.

Back to neural integration. . .it is both the problem and the answer!  Integration has been found fundamental to emotional recovery from traumatic events.  But trauma has been found to impare the orbitofrontal cortex's ability to integrate. Does this appear to you a bleak state of affairs? The thing I most need for recovery from trauma, has been impaired by trauma.  The article from which I am getting my info. .  "The Brain in the Palm of your Hand," by Dr. Daniel Siegle, published in Psychotherapy Networker, Sept.2002,  . . .the article stops short.  That's it.  Point made!  Well, it was written for psychotherapists, not your run -of- the-mill trauma patient!

I have read more of Dr. Siegle's writings and the thing I find most amazing, and encouraging, is the discovery that, in fact, we can use our minds to change our brains!  Finding help to do such a thing is crucial.    And really,  it is all about integration. It is both obstacle and goal.