What that “Ah-ha!” Moment Looks Like in Your Brain

“Burning Bush” is a description used to communicate a sudden and profound spiritual experience, usually leading to an awakening or deeper understanding. In early recovery, the recovering brain is still impaired in its cognitive capabilities. Cognitive function is critical to creating knowledge. The ability to grasp big ideas, vague topics, and intangible concepts can be challenging to the recovering brain. Spirituality is unchartered waters to many entering recovery for the first time. Grasping and developing a spiritual manner of living without the ability to grasp and develop spiritual ideas can be frustrating. While others are experiencing mind-blowing “ah-ha” moments, others are struggling to remember what day it is.

Thankfully, as The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous points out in its Appendix titled “Spiritual Experience”, having a sudden and profound realization is not required. Most people’s experiences, the authors explain, “develop slowly over a period of time. Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of the difference long before he is himself. He finally realizes that he has undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life; that such a change could hardly have been brought about by himself alone.”

Much of that change does happen on it’s own in the brain, however stimulated by spiritual experience. Some call profound moments creativity, or “flow”. Spiritually minded people might regard such moments as when we allow our Higher Power to flow freely through us. Catching onto the constant current of the Universe, we witness just a small moment of it’s mystery. Director of Research for the Flow Genome Project, Steve Kotler, says that “flow” happens in a third brain wave state.

Specifically, being in the spiritual flow has to do with neuroelectricity. A daydream-like state is considered being “alpha”. Hanging between daydreaming and sleeping is “theta”. Alpha and theta refer to the oscillation of brain waves. Kotler found that in between those two states is the “gamma” state where flow and profound realizations happen.

In a gamma state, the brain is producing brainwaves at the fastest rate it possibly can, between 38 to 42 times per second. Staying in gamma all the time is unsustainable. That is why our “burning bush” moments are short-lasting. The brain can only connect in short bursts. Since the quick spike is so powerful, that is why spiritual experiences and profound moments feel so profound. At the climax of that moment, the brain is working at it’s highest possible capacity.

Enlightened Solutions sees the transformational power of the spiritual experience occur in our patients. Utilizing twelve step philosophy with spiritual practices and evidence-based treatment brings our patients to heightened states. Transcending the clutches of drugs and alcohol, along with co-occurring disorders, they learn to live new lives. For more information on our programs of treatment for addiction, alcoholism, and dual-diagnosis, call 833-801-5483.


Can You “Switch Off” Your Tolerance to Alcohol?

There is a curious dividing line which separates the alcoholic from the normal drinker. Even a drinker who, on regular occasion, drinks excessively, will not develop alcoholism. Tolerance is part of the disease of alcoholism. In alcoholics, the tolerance threshold for alcohol continues to get higher. Meaning, that overtime more and more alcohol needs to be consumed in order to achieve an equal or greater state of intoxication than before. That is why many alcoholics find themselves frightened when suddenly multiple bottles do not get them drunk.

For nonalcoholics, however, their tolerance level remains unchanged. Additionally, their tolerance level seems to communicate tolerance. In the alcoholic, tolerance is always surpassed as a challenge and obsessive craving desire to acquire more. Nonalcoholics do not have the compulsive need to consume more. They are able to decipher when they’ve had enough. Most importantly, nonalcoholics are able to stop.

Investigating the neuroscience of alcoholism has become an obsession in the scientific community. Tremendous discoveries have been made, clueing the world in on how exactly alcoholism works in the brain. Ultimately, the goal of such scientific inquiry is to find a “cure” for alcoholism. Recent research has found an interesting lead.

The cerebellum is the part of the brain responsible for motor functioning. Motor control and alcohol do not mix well. Alcohol impairs motor control, which is why drunk people slur, stumble, and fall down. Granule cells are found in the cerebellum which dictate the inhibition of motor functions. If granule cells get “excited”, motor control is inhibited. Alcohol slows down the cerebellum and slows down motor functions. It does so by interacting with the GABA protein. GABA is being recognized as a key player in alcoholism. Many people in treatment are being prescribed medications such as GABApentin to help reproduce this essential brain protein.

Essentially, the new research shows that by stimulating the right GABA receptors, test subjects (mice) stopped wanting alcohol. They also didn’t display many of the motor malfunctions from intoxication. What this means for the future of alcoholism treatment is that GABA stimulation can change the way a person craves and tolerates alcohol. Being able to turn that off in a person’s brain could reduce relapse timelines, cravings, and provide early intervention to alcoholism.

Enlightened Solutions supports the discovery of new treatments for alcoholism. We feel confident in our proven methods of combining evidence based treatment with twelve step philosophy and holistic healing. Our treatment facility offers partial care, intensive outpatient, and outpatient treatment levels to men and women seeking recovery. For more information call 833-801-5483.


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Understanding Addiction in the Brain: Pleasure

Addiction is a deeply misunderstood occurrence in the mind. Societal norms and cultural standards sadly contribute to the prevalence of stigma and shame surrounding addiction. Until recent years, addiction has been viewed through a lens of immorality. Addicts are people who have lost their way due to the consequence of their own choices. Partially, this is true. However, the progression and development of addiction in the brain is largely the consequence of neurobiology. Understanding how addiction works in the brain through the scope of neuroscience can help us to put aside our manufactured beliefs and open our hearts. Addiction is, if nothing else, and experience of suffering. Though largely based in pleasure, addiction is a carousel ride of up’s and down’s, that never stops spinning.

It starts with a substance. Drugs are chemicals that interact and interfere with the brain’s normal functions, which is largely run on certain chemicals. Specifically, the brain works off of neurons and neurotransmitters, as well as receptors and synapses. Drugs create chemical reactions in the brain that stimulate the production of certain neurotransmitters, block receptors, and change what is communicated between synapses. Primarily, it is the message of pleasure that throws the system off balance.

Pleasure and Addiction in the Brain

Pleasure is the primary purpose of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine lives in the reward center of the brain. The reward center is a small circuit that communicates what feels good, motivation,  to the rest of the brain. When drugs in the bloodstream reach the brain, they produce a copious amount of dopamine, overwhelming the reward center. Too much dopamine creates a mega-pleasure: euphoria. Euphoria feels extremely good to the brain, motivating it to feel euphoria again and again. Associating the action of taking drugs with euphoric sensations, the brain records this event for future reference. Each time the brain finds itself needing to be motivated, it is going to think about drugs.

This is where the ride stops being fun. Pleasure from drugs only lasts so long. The brain quickly develops tolerance. It needs more of the drug to feel as euphoric as it did before. More drugs creates more memories of euphoria. As the brain learns to associate euphoria and motivation, it becomes the only motivation. Eventually, the drugs hardly work, but the brain is convinced of their necessity. Trapped in a cycle of demand, the body fails to sustain the brain’s demands, resulting in symptoms of withdrawal.

 

Enlightened Solutions understands the struggle in breaking free from the endless cycle of suffering in drug addiction and alcoholism. We offer a program rooted in twelve step philosophy and holistic healing as a solution for mind, body, and spirit.

For more information please call us today at 833-801-5483.