Musings from a Retired Neurologist
From Gordon Burch: Musings from a retired neurologist
II Timothy 2:15
A few thoughts from neuroscience in the matter of dealing with anxiety, fear, and despondency.
A few essential truths should be stated up front. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of our Creator. Study of the Word, prayer, and worship are foundational in living to the glory of God. Finally we are called to be anxious for nothing.
The seat of our emotions is found in the lambic system, including structures with odd names like amygdala, fornix, and hippocampus. The same anatomy is the substrate of memory. When we face situations that are anxiety and fear provoking, like the current pandemic, the lambic system goes into overdrive leading to unpleasant negative emotions and associated physical effects. The latter include rapid breathing, increased heart rate, sweating, and disruption of memory. These are defensive responses for our protection but can be disruptive when persisting.
When other regions of the brain are activated (such as the prefrontal cortex) the activity in the lambic system is mitigated and this reduces negative emotionality. Motor and mental exercise (walking, gentle aerobics, doing puzzles, and even housecleaning) can have the same dampening effect on the lambic system. Singing and listening to music (right temporal brain) can allay anxiety. Meditation, especially on the Scriptures, and reading fiction and poetry to engage the imagination are also very helpful in resetting the lambic system. (I am not sure where imagination is located in the brain).
I hope these musings have been helpful. God be praised that we are so wonderfully made.