Hello. Dr. Anita Johnston here. And I am at the MEDA conference. Which stands for Multi Service Eating Disorder Association. I am in Boston, Massachusetts for the conference. I gave a talk here entitled Ancient Wisdom meets Modern Neuroscience and I want to share a little bit with you about some of what I talked about.
It’s so exciting for me when the ancient stories come together with what we’ve discovered with modern neuroscience especially because they have now found the neuro-correlate of metaphor in the brain. It’s right over your right ear. And it’s called the anterior superior temporal gyrus.
What the neuroscientists have discovered is this is where something happens when you get an insight: when you get an understanding of the deeper meaning of what’s really going on with your eating or with your thoughts about eating.
When you get an insight, and an awareness pops in your mind, you go, oh, I got it! I had no idea about this before, but now I can see, there’s a connection between what I’m doing with eating and food and my relationship with my husband. Or my career. Or memories. Or thoughts that I have.
They’ve now been able to measure the brain during those moments when you “get it.” There’s a part of your brain, the anterior superior temporal gyrus, in your right hemisphere. And it sends out a burst of gamma waves. Now, gamma waves are the highest electrical frequency that the brain can generate. They can now measure and see that that’s what’s happening. And they know, before that even happens in your right hemisphere, there’s a hum of alpha waves going on.
Alpha waves are what we experience when we are taking a warm shower. Or maybe when we’re lying in bed, just getting up in the morning — before all those thoughts come into our minds. These alpha waves are what tee up the insight experience. So, the longer you can lie in bed in the morning, or allow yourself to take a warm shower, or maybe meditate, or do some kind of mindfulness activity, you’re generating alpha waves in your brain. And those alpha waves prepare your right hemisphere, they prepare your anterior superior temporal gyrus to shoot out a blast of gamma waves.
It’s these gamma waves that provide the energy for the insight. Neuroscientists have now measured this. So all along, I’ve been telling stories, and using metaphors to explain and to help people really see some connections, and now, we know how to measure it. We know how to measure exactly what’s going on in the brain when that’s happening.
This helps us understand why it’s so important to be in those states where we have more alpha waves, because what those waves do, actually, is they inhibit the part of ourselves that would be more critical or scrutinizing, or counting things. And allow us to connect the dots. They allow us to see connections between things that might seem, on the surface, unrelated.
In the beginning, we typically have no idea that our thoughts about food, or eating and our bodies can actually be connected to other aspects of our lives.
We think that they are just something we have that are independent of anything else that might be going on.
So, when you get those insights, when you get that understanding of how they are connected, then that allows you to disconnect.
That points you towards the skills that you need so that you’re not so caught up in thoughts about food. Or weight. Or fat.
Because you start to see they are like the finger, pointing you towards the moon. They are pointing you towards areas in your life where there are issues that need to be addressed, there are skills that you need to develop. And you start to see that it’s really not about the food or the fat. Or the weight. At all. That is simply what signals you to start looking in that direction — once you understand the connection.
How are your thoughts about food or eating connected in other aspects of your life? Please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what this brings up for you.
Until next time,