By Sarah LoBisco, ND
Have you ever heard of the saying “too much of something is never enough?”
Sounds a little addictive, doesn’t it?
However, it seems to be the current philosophy in this technological information overloaded society. Today, many people seem to have grown a “fifth limb” via their connection to their cell phones, iPad, and computers. In fact, seeing someone go for a 30 minute span without a smart phone check is a rarity.
This means that we are constantly being bombarded with information and entertaining media, resulting in brain overload. This chronic over-stimulation can create imbalances in various portions in the brain. For example, it can overstimulate the limbic portion of the brain regulating emotional tone. The frontal lobe, executive of tasks and focus regulation can also be affected.
In other words, consider these scenarios:
- Ever notice the more you play video games, the more emotional you get OR less likely to reach out to real people?
- Does too much information from smart phones or spending too long on the computer make you feel unfocused and overwhelmed?
Dr. Amen, a best-selling author and double board certified psychiatrist, studies how the brain functions with SPECT scans. He uses integrative techniques vs. simply prescribing medications for symptoms. Dr. Amen has published many articles on brain function and how activity in various parts of the brain modulates someone’s behavior and psychiatric function.
Dr. Amen discusses this connection:
Video games are a threat to the brain’s pleasure centers. Brain imaging has shown that video games work in the same area of the brain as cocaine and methamphetamine.
Video games increase the amount of dopamine being released in the brain, so when kids play video games, they really like it! And when you try to take those games away from them, they get really upset. In fact, some even go through withdrawal symptoms when they aren’t allowed to play.
The problem with video games is that they release so much dopamine that there isn’t enough of the chemical available for the little things in life. Other activities and relationships that would normally make your children happy leave them feeling nothing at all.
Short term, more dopamine and brain activity can sharpen focus, but long term can have negative and addictive impacts.
Furthermore, chronic stimulation can lead to biological consequences of using up nutrients to flame the fight and flight response vs. toward utilization for healing and restoration. This will also shift hormonal patterns and change neurotransmitter patterns.
Constant access to technology can lead to decreased sleeping time, impacting immune function and mood.
According to a recent article in NDNR, Dr. Bush describes how a chronic stressor, excitatory stimulation, or sympathetic overdrive can cause higher levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Furthermore, it will lower stress-relaxing signals, and create cortisol resistance. Excess cortisol in itself will cause a shift in sleep-wake cycle. This can create immune issues with elevated glutamate exciting the brain even more and leading to inflammation.
Dr. Bongiorno further discussed the connection that exists between mood and sleep. He concluded that exposure to bright light late at night disrupts sleep patterns. It can cause a syndrome known as the delaying sleep-phase syndrome (DSPS) which is related to late secretion of melatonin. The result is an imbalanced circadian rhythm that creates a vicious cycle.
He discussed the science behind how the shifts in sleep schedule more profoundly affect those with depression. In those with depression, elevated metabolic activity in the frontoparietal regions and thalamic areas of the brain occur more frequently during transitional sleep patterns from wakefulness to non-REM sleep than in controls.
According to Dr. Bongiorno, DSPS, or loss of sleep in general depletes natural killer cells and increases signaling molecules, such as interleukin 2, which exacerbate inflammation and affect immunity.
(There is also the effect of electromagnetic frequencies on our bodies’ immune, brain, and neurological health (see more below).)
What’s the solution?
An individualized approach to calm one’s brain and focusing on teaching people that relaxation is therapeutic, healing, and necessary.
Dr. Bush discussed this in his article, how different supplements and medicines can work on different receptors in the brain relating to using individualized testing even if symptoms appear similar. Furthermore, genetic polymorphisms in the brain receptors can create imbalances in neurotransmitters and additional support for the precursors may be needed (including amino acids from protein, minerals, and vitamins).
I find a combination of individualized testing as well using a brain symptom checklist from Dr. Amen, are really powerful tools in my clinic for helping people have healthier, happier, less technology addicted brain effects.
As a final note…for our children
Exercise and Children’s Response to Stress
Some of the negative effects could be mitigated by having them step away from the computer and step into movement. NY times reports a recent study:
Those results indicate a more positive physiological response to stress by children who were more active, the researchers said in a study that was published this week in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. The children who were least active had the highest levels.
“This study shows that children who are more active throughout their day have a better hormonal response to an acute stressful situation,” said Disa Hatfield, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Rhode Island, who was not involved in the study.
Dr. Hatfield noted that the study did not control for sugar intake, which has also been associated with higher levels of cortisol. And as the researchers themselves noted, the wrist-born accelerometers could not accurately measure certain activities like bicycling or swimming.
For more information on the benefits of exercise, read my recent blog on Saratoga.com.
For a fun 45 minutes, listen to Dr. Raj interview Dr. Amen on this week’s HayHouse radio show (available until 3/26/13):
Unleash the Power of the Female Brain
Dr. Fab and Dr Daniel Amen, Brain Expert and New York Times Bestseller, will discuss the world’s largest imaging study of male and female brains. This show will help you understand the strengths and vulnerabilities of the female brain and gives important clues on how to optimize it, including hormones, diet, and natural supplements.
Amen, D. How video games are like cocaine. Amen Clinics: Dr. Amen’s Blog. June 7, 2010. http://www.amenclinics.com/?p=3500&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=204.
Bongiorno, P. Depression and Sleep. NDNR: Anxiety/Depression/Insomnia. March 2013.
Bush, Bradley. Approaches to Anxiety Disorders. NDNR: Anxiety/Depression/Insomnia. March 2013.
Lewy, A., Miller, Sack R., Miller, J, Hoban, T. Antidepressants and Circadian Phase Shifting in Bright Lights. Science. Vol. 235. 1987. http://chronotherapeutics.org/docs/other/Lewy%201987.pdf
Dr. Fabrizio Mancinni. Unleash the Power of the Female Brain. March 21, 2013. HayHouse Radio Podcast.
Hoffman, J. Exercise May Help Protect Children From Stress. NY Times: Well. March 8, 2013. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/08/exercise-may-help-protect-children-from-stress/
Links on EMFs:
Greenburg, E. Practical Solutions for Autism. Explore for Professionals. July 2007.
Links by Dr. Sarah:
How to Prevent Losing Your Mind: http://dr-lobisco.com/how-to-prevent-losing-your-mind/. 11/9/12.
Supporting Your Mental Health for the Holidays: http://www.saratoga.com/living-well/2010/12/supporting-your-mental-health-for-the-holidays.html. 12/2/10.
Staying On Good Ground-Hidden Dirty Energy. http://www.saratoga.com/living-well/2010/10/staying-on-good-ground-hidden-dirty-energy.html10/20/2010.
Whole Food, Whole Body, Whole Mind Stress Busting Tips. http://dr-lobisco.com/whole-food-whole-body-whole-mind-stress-busting-tips/. 9/11/12.