The brain is an incredible and complex organ that regulates all bodily functions. The brain stem is the gateway for connecting the brain and the rest of the body, commonly viewed as primitive and instinctual. However, new scientific discoveries about the brain stem are revealing its immense significance to our overall health and functioning.
The brain stem plays a crucial role in neuroception. As part of the autonomic nervous system and the origin point for the vagus nerve, the brain stem processes information to maintain balance. The sensory information passes through the brain stem to the central parts of the brain, including the thalamus. The thalamus then sorts the stimuli into two distinct systems: the "high road" and the "low road."
The high road system processes stimuli the brain's unconscious evaluation considers safe. Managed by the brain's outer layer, the cortex, and the prefrontal cortex, it governs reasoning, problem-solving, planning, memory, and emotional regulation. The prefrontal cortex is crucial for executive functioning and plays a significant role in decision-making.
Emotions and feelings provide context and meaning to the world around us. The amygdala creates an emotional context for stimuli in partnership with the hippocampus and brain stem. The high-road emotions play a vital role in motivation and mental health.
The high road system requires tremendous energy, and caring for our brains is vital. If distress builds up, the prefrontal cortex can implement coping skills and maintain executive functioning. If distress overwhelms the coping skills, cortisol and adrenaline hormones are released, impacting body functions, decreasing cognitive and social capacity, and activating the low road, which we will discuss in the next post.
In conclusion, understanding the brain stem's role in neuroception and the high- low road systems can help us manage thoughts and emotions better. We can measure our overall health and functioning through daily HRV tacking while caring for our brains through healthy habits and stress management through HRV biofeedback and mindfulness training.
Optimize your mental and physical health with HRV monitoring. By understanding the role of neuroception in our brains, we can better manage our thoughts and emotions. With optimal HRV, you can help regulate cortisol levels and release positive hormones like adrenaline to improve cognitive functioning so that you can make the most out of life!