The Physiology of JOY - Part Three

There is a light that shines above all things on earth. Above us all. Above the heavens; the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart. Upanishads

The Physiology of Joy 

Joy, like all emotions, is a physiological event. The limbic system is THE relay station in the brain. All incoming sensory signals pass through the limbic system to other parts of the brain, for processing. 

The cognitive functions of the cerebral cortex depend on the sensory and emotional information supplied by the limbic system; cognition depends on the acquisition and retention of memories, in which the limbic system is involved. 

Emotions are relayed to the organs of the endocrine system and the immune system through a shared link: the autonomic nervous system. As a result, emotions can affect the internal organs that control the immune system. A positive mental attitude (Basic Health Habit No. 6) has the ability to boost body functions and the resistance to disease. 

The Physiology of Joy

A healthy brain is 65% fat and 75% water. The brain monitors and regulates all of the body's actions and reactions. Your experiences and how you think, dream, reason, and act, affect brain structure and develops neurological pathways. In a healthy body, it takes about 45 days for a daily habit to create a new neural pathway. Basic Health Habits are essential for healthy brain structure and function; healthy habit formation, and healthy emotion.

Two neurons talking

Nerve Cells
The brain, spinal cord and nerves consist of more than 100 billion nerve cells, called neurons. Each neuron is connected to other neurons by as many as 40,000 synapses. A piece of brain tissue the size of a grain of sand contains 100,000 neurons and 1 billion synapses, all talking to each other.

The nervous system functions as a communication system, transmitting messages along neural pathways. There are 5 trillion chemical operations every second. Information travels at about 268 miles per hour in a healthy brain.

Neurons gather and transmit electrochemical signals. They have the same characteristics and parts as other cells, but the electrochemical aspect lets them transmit signals over long distances and pass messages to each other. 

Action Potential
The ionic activity of the Na+/K+-ATPase (sodium-potassium pump), which is an essential part of the action potential (and the resting potential) of neurons, requires a reliable supply and stable balance of electrolytes throughout the body.

Neurons receive and send messages with the action of neurotransmitters in a one-way direction across a synapse. Many neurotransmitters are endogenous chemical messengers with an inhibitory or excitatory influence and are synthesized from plentiful and simple precursors such as amino acids, which are readily available from the diet and only require a small number of biosynthetic steps to convert them. Some neurotransmitters may be the size of larger proteins or peptides. 

Some neurotransmitters are hormones. A hormone behaves differently than a neurotransmitter which has its activity limited to a neuronal synapse. A hormone  is a class of signaling molecule produced by glands, transported by the circulatory system to target and communicate between organs and tissues - to regulate physiological and behavioural activities, such as digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function, sensory perception, sleep, excretion, lactation, stress, growth and development, movement, reproduction, and mood. The chemical structure of hormones includes fatty acids, steroids, amino acids, peptides, and proteins.

Neurotransmitter Imbalance
Neurotransmitter imbalances have been connected to the cause of many conditions and diseases, including Parkinsons, depression, insomnia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, memory loss, dramatic changes in weight, and addictions. 

All imbalances involve amino acids, which form neurotransmitters. The acids are made up of protein and without a sufficient amount the cells are not structured properly; therefore not functioning properly. Neglect of basic health habits, compounded by chronic stress, are the primary contributors to neurotransmitter imbalance. We can reduce the risks and impact of chronic stress by taking care of our Basic Health Habits.

In a reduction to the smallest part, and to the simplest function, a positive feedback loop exists between physiological structure and function, basic health habits, and emotion

Even though the brain and nerves are a highly specialized  system, in the end these specialized tissues are composed of the same basic chemical elements, and require the same basic care as every other part of the body.

The brain, nervous system, internal organs, chemical neurotransmitters, hormones, and all of it connected to immune and digestive systems; is a complementary, co-dependent, and cooperative ecosystem, dependent on your basic health habits

Neglect of basic health habits leads to physical deterioration, malfunction, a cascade effect of health complications; including an adverse effect on emotion. 

Health = Joy


coloured SEM of neurons (brown) and glia cells (blue)

Glia cells or Neuroglia regulates homeostasis of the brain,  form myelin, surround and support neurons and hold them in place, supply nutrients and oxygen to neurons, insulate neurons from each other, destroy pathogens and remove dead neurons.

Glia had long been dismissed as the connective tissue that doesn't contribute to learning and memory, as do neurons. With a  new and popular view of the brain as a functional whole, and new methods of discovery, the developing field of neuroscience now recognizes that glial cells do have some effects on certain physiological processes like breathing, and in assisting neurons to form synaptic connections between each other. Studies of Einstein's brain conducted in the 1980s revealed that Einstein had an unusually large number of glia cells in his cerebral cortex.

Brain imaging indicates that when people learn new skills, from juggling to playing computer games, the structure of specific brain regions change. These changes may be due to the glia's formation of myelin, a fatty insulating substance, around axons (nerve fibers), which speeds the transmission of electrical signals from axons.

Neurogenesis is the production of new nerve cells (neurons). Adult neurogenesis occurs in the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricles and the subgranular zone of the hippocampal dentate gyrus. As detection methods improve, it is likely that other areas of the brain will also be considered neurogenic. Studies have shown that a variety of extrinsic factors stimulate neurogenesis

Endurance exercise activates a protein called brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) which is referred to by scientists as brain cell fertilizer. Hyperthermic conditioning of the body to heat stress through sauna use has also been shown to promote neurogenesis along with increased physical endurance and muscle mass. Phyto-cannabinoids have been proven to increase neurogenesis and to stabilize mood disorders. 

Nerve Growth and Regeneration
When nerves grow, they secrete a substance called nerve growth factor (NGF). NGF attracts other nerves nearby to grow and establish connections. When peripheral nerves become severed, surgeons can place the severed ends near each other and hold them in place. The injured nerve ends will stimulate the growth of axons within the nerves and establish appropriate connections. Scientists don't entirely understand this process.

For unknown reasons, nerve regeneration appears most often in the peripheral and autonomic nervous systems, but seems limited within the central nervous system. However, some regeneration must be able to occur in the central nervous system because some spinal cord and head trauma injuries show some degree of recovery.

Optogenetics is a technology that allows scientists to control brain activity by shining light on neurons, and initially relied on light-sensitive proteins that could suppress or stimulate electrical signals within cells. This technique required a light source to be implanted in the brain, where it could reach the cells to be controlled. 

MIT engineers have now developed the first light-sensitive molecule that enables neurons to be silenced noninvasively, using a light source outside the skull. This makes it possible to do long-term studies without an implanted light source. The protein, known as Jaws, also allows a larger volume of tissue to be influenced at once.

This noninvasive approach could pave the way to using optogenetics in human patients to treat epilepsy and other neurological disorders, although much more testing and development is needed. 
For more information: Optogenetics

Cortical re-Mapping: Every part of the body is connected to a corresponding area in the brain which creates a cortical map. The sensory or motor brain maps, located in the cerebral cortex, are topographical; areas of the body adjacent to one another are adjacent on cortical maps. 

Remapping can occur in the sensory or motor system as a result of amputation or a change in neuronal characteristics. The part of the brain that is in charge of the amputated limb or neuronal change will be dominated by adjacent cortical regions that are still receiving input, thus creating a remapped area.

Next in The Physiology of Joy series:
  • HEALTH COACH TALKS with Olam Qatan Proprietor, and Scholar, Ya'qub ibn Yusuf, in Jerusalem, About Joy
  • Part Four: The Psychology of Joy
  • What is Joy?
  • Neurochemistry: Happy Hormones 
  • Tears of Joy
  • Is Joy an Extraverted Emotion?
  • Vulnerability
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Affective Neuroscience 
  • The Next Evolutionary Stage For Humans Is Already In Progress
  • A Practical Guide to Joy

  • How Storytelling Affects The Brain
  • Daydreaming
  • Mindfulness Meditation
  • Dopaminergic Society
  • And more...

If you keep a green bough in your heart 
then the singing bird will come. 
Chinese Proverb

Apple Woman by Maria Zeldis
Green Bough by Anahata Katkin

@ Pinterest
Pictured: A Neuromuscular Synapse - The acetylcholine-laden vesicles are carrying and releasing the neurotransmitter into the synaptic cleft. A few of the acetylcholine molecules bind to receptors on the muscle cell. The cleft itself is packed with many elongated proteins including laminin, collagen, perlecan and flower-like acetylcholinesterase molecules serving to render inactive the neurotransmitter. Illustrated by David Goodsell, Molecular Artist

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