Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Perception Beyond Physiology

I decided to post something different from the visual cortex posts that will amass this blog soon enough. I knew most people would be dealing with the basic physiology of of sight and I decided to go a step further in relating it to something less specific and less dry. Yes, we use our eyes to perceive our world first and foremost.(At least for those of us that have eyesight) And yes, our course outline moves through the 5 senses in great detail over their biology but to me perception is so much more than basic physiology. I chose to talk about how our perception effects our states of being and how the brain translates those perceptions. Enjoy.

Happiness is probably one of the most overused words in popular media today but what really is happiness? Princeton online dictionary says it is state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. This holds in mind a large range of possibilities to reach happiness within oneself but the one defining characteristic that stands true for everyone is that happiness, amongst other emotions, is mainly determined by our perception of the world. All input we receive in life is influenced by our past experiences, our desires, our beliefs, our emotions, and many other things effecting our metal processes and emotional state. More importantly, the way we process input through our senses is how we perceive our world. These perceptions can be manipulated either by our efforts or the efforts of things outside of ourselves. Have you ever walked out of a movie and felt exhilarated? That is one way our perception was influences by someone else and the experience of that particular stimuli. So what is it that is really happening inside our brains when we experience happiness? The brain's acitivity is mostly dictated by our neurons. 180 billion of which fire electrical pulses at a constant speed no matter the distance they travel. When experiencing an emotional state like happiness, the neurotransmitters that are released are serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Tryptophan is a type of amino acid that also aids in the feeling of well being and it is part of the production of serotonin. The body also releases endorphins which are considered to be more powerful than morphine at killing pain. Not only do these things create a sense of well being but they also help relieve anxiety and depression and help maintain an healthy circadian rhythm. The release of dopamine has been linked to making people more sociable as well. Norepinephrine is known to increase awareness, pleasure, and motivation. The effects of all these neurotransmitters working in tandem with the amino acids in our brains are controlled by our diets, sleep schedule, and personal mental health and well being. For some, these chemicals are constantly out of balance through the biology of a genetic disorder or predisposition to inadequate hormone production. This can be caused by many different types of disorders which could range from reproductive issues to actual degenerative disorders in the brain like the loss of milan of the axon of the neuron causing the loss of an electrical pulse. For those of us not having to deal with these problems and some cases even for those you do, maintaining healthy habits will help you get the best possible combination of these neurotransmissions. Meditation, healthy diet, exercise, not sitting too much, adequate sleep, and verbal and physical relationships are the keystones to happiness. It all starts with a choice and from that choice we perceive our world and from that perception our brains turn into manual chemists and that cycle continues. Outside our control and inside our control, how we perceive the world really does turn out to be that what we reap is what we sow.

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