From Scientific American:
As Olympians go for the gold in Vancouver, even the steeliest are likely to experience that familiar feeling of “butterflies” in the stomach. Underlying this sensation is an often-overlooked network of neurons lining our guts that is so extensive some scientists have nicknamed it our “second brain”.
A deeper understanding of this mass of neural tissue, filled with important neurotransmitters, is revealing that it does much more than merely handle digestion or inflict the occasional nervous pang. The little brain in our innards, in connection with the big one in our skulls, partly determines our mental state and plays key roles in certain diseases throughout the body.
One of the goals of my class is that actors learn how to allow every moment of their performance to originate in an impulse from the gut, so that their acting has a viscerally compelling dimension.
scientists were shocked to learn that about 90 percent of the fibers in the primary visceral nerve, the vagus, carry information from the gut to the brain and not the other way around.
The gut can guide the brain, if the brain allows itself to be guided. In some sense, all of the work we do with the Who-am-I and the underlying objective work in class is about aligning the brain so that it can be led by the gut in the way the script requires it to be. That way, the words and actions of the character become something that the actor allows to happen rather than decides to have happen.
And then there’s this:
The second brain informs our state of mind in other more obscure ways, as well. “A big part of our emotions are probably influenced by the nerves in our gut,” Mayer says. Butterflies in the stomach—signaling in the gut as part of our physiological stress response, Gershon says—is but one example. Although gastrointestinal (GI) turmoil can sour one’s moods, everyday emotional well-being may rely on messages from the brain below to the brain above. For example, electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve—a useful treatment for depression—may mimic these signals, Gershon says.
Given the two brains’ commonalities, other depression treatments that target the mind can unintentionally impact the gut. The enteric nervous system uses more than 30 neurotransmitters, just like the brain, and in fact 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is found in the bowels.
There’s a reason why it feels good to shake your groove thing! 90% of our happy juice lives in the gut.
I love the smell of vindication in the morning.
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