brain Archives - Unhinged

Square Peg, Round Hole (or How Not to Have Friends and Alienate People)

Square Peg, Round Hole (or How Not to Have Friends and Alienate People)

Hi there! Let’s have a quick show of hands to indicate all the lost and lonely people out there. Don’t worry, this will stay just between us, okay?!? Anyway, one of my biggest personal obstacles is that I have a really hard time building fulfilling, long-lasting interpersonal relationships. At best I’ve only ever managed to sustain one friendship at a time, and that can lead to an excessive amount of introspection and self-condemnation. Having Asperger’s Syndrome has greatly hindered my ability to make these vital connections, in part because I’m not very good at successfully comprehending and interpreting non-verbal forms of communication, i.e., body language. So many of our daily interactions with other people are centred around these wordless transactions, and quite often I feel like a visitor from another world in this regard. Not for nothing, but Asperger’s is sometimes referred to as the “Oops, Wrong Planet Syndrome!!”

As a child I struggled endlessly to fit in and make friends with the other children, but usually this was to no avail. It didn’t help that I was at least 30 years away from a proper diagnosis at that point!! Healthy early socialization is very important in laying the groundwork for future success with one’s peers. As I did not enter the regular public school system until grade two, I was already at a most unfortunate disadvantage (one from which I’ve probably never fully recovered). What seemed to come so naturally to most of the other kids was an infinite crash course in humiliating futility for your not-so-humble author!! Endless social worker sessions, specialized play groups and the like only seemed to make matters worse. Looking back I guess it was a pretty good thing that I enjoyed reading in solitary so much, as I sure had a lot of spare time on my hands to freely indulge my unabashed bookworm ways!

I wish that I could inform you all that things took a turn for the better in my prime teenage/early adulthood years, but to do so would make me a bold-faced liar! The older I grew the more difficulties I had connecting with other people (and PLEASE, don’t get me started on my myriad of insecurities revolving around the FAIRER sex!) Not that I fared any better when it came to relating to everyone else!! The older you get the harder it is to meet new people, let alone to form long-lasting relationships with them as well. Plus, as a card-carrying, life-long social misfit living on the extreme outskirts of the downtrodden fringe, I don’t tend to find myself hobnobbing with the social elite!! All self-deprecating witticisms aside, due to a tragic series of unfortunate events largely beyond my control (yeah, fer sure, that’s what they all say!) I have never even come close to having a peer group of any sort. A lot of my so-called cohorts (in age, I mean) are simply too busy (and most rightfully so!!) pursuing their careers, raising families and enjoying a lot of the ‘normal’ activities’ that regular folks enjoy doing.

By the time I hit my mid-thirties, I decided to renew my previously feeble attempts at interacting with the hoi polloi (but hopefully with improved results!). So what did I do? I entered the conflicting/confusing world of group therapy. Ten years of on/off attendance later, I can’t honestly say that I’m any better for having done so! Yes, I did manage to meet the One True Love of My Life (Hi, Special K!!), and I have also become good friends with Doug (of Unhinged infamy, LOL!) but all other efforts to meet like-minded people have proven to be fruitless (to date, insert sigh here!!). Today I’m currently in the midst of a rather lengthy break from that whole scene, and trying to carefully figure out my next moves on the social scene front. Perhaps I will expand on this topic further in my as yet unwritten/unpublished door-stopper of a book entitled “Book Smart/People Stupid!!” (Trademark forthcoming, by the way. Not!)

P.S., I would strongly advise any lonely hearts from ever calling “867-5309”, no matter how disconnected you might find yourself. There’s not much chance that Jenny will answer, and even if she were to, she’d certainly be in late middle age by now (the song did originally come out way back in 1981, after all!!).

And now, here are five of my favourite songs based on the subject of friendship:

#1. “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” (War)
#2. “Bobby Jean” (Bruce Springsteen)
#3. “Whenever I Call You Friend” (Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks)
#4. “You’re My Best Friend” (Queen)
#5. “With A Little Help From My Friends” (Joe Cocker)

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This is My Brain on Music – ‘Broken Record Machine!’

This is My Brain on Music – ‘Broken Record Machine!’

For as long as I can remember music has been my most constant companion. In fact, several weeks before I was born, my parents went to see a horrible musical adaptation of the 1933 book “Lost Horizon.” Apparently I might have been the only one to enjoy this dog’s breakfast of a flick (whilst still in utero, LOL!!) Not that I can actually remember any of this from nearly 45 years ago, but my mother told me many times throughout her life that ‘I was really kicking up a storm on that fateful evening!’ Both of my parents were immense music lovers, although my father’s musical tastes oddly lent themselves more to his parents’ generation. As my mother’s musical leanings were slightly more hip, as a toddler we spent countless hours together listening to her records. We also spent an inordinate amount of time perfecting our very anachronistic versions of Elaine Benes’ classic dry heave-inducing dance moves!!

As I grew older and my various issues moved to the foreground, music quickly became the one thing that I could truly rely on. I received a transistor radio for my seventh birthday, and this is when I first began to build my unbreakable bond with Rock and Roll. Artists such as Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Queen and Elton John were some of my early favourites. As the years passed i gradually moved on to tape recorders, ghetto blasters, Walkmans, and Discmans; as the technology steadily evolved, so too did my musical evolution. As a teenager I became fascinated with Jazz-Fusion, Progressive Rock and Heavy Metal, all vastly UNDERRATED genres as far as I’m concerned!!! I think that I gravitated towards these genres the most because of their complexity and often interesting time signatures. Return To Forever, Jean-Luc Ponty, Allan Holdsworth and Herbie Hancock are among my preferences in this heady musical realm.

Throughout my twenties and thirties life presented me with a relentless series of difficult challenges (sick parents, stressful living conditions, unfulfilled self-expectations and an overall sense of general malaise.) During these emotionally-stressful times, building my musical collection became my primary goal/coping mechanism. While this might seem petty and pointless to many, FOR ME, it provided an essential reason to carry on living. To date my musical archive probably numbers close to 10,000 pieces, likely split evenly between cassettes and compact discs. As much as I enjoyed seeking out and collecting this TREASURE TROVE, the downside is the amount of physical space it takes up and the exorbitant storage fees which occur as a result!! Yes, I could perhaps make the switch to streaming and the like, but I am far too attached to the tactile physicality of my collection to ever even surrender an inch!! I guess we all have our own particular version of a sin tax! Mine won’t kill me, but I just might eventually be found one day under a towering pile of musty ‘n’ mouldy CD booklets!!!

It’s often said that people on the Spectrum can develop a very strong bond with music. I shudder to even think what my life would have been like if I had not gone down this melodic path. Sadly we seem to be living in a time in which popular music has basically been reduced to an endless AUTO-TUNED parade of Ikea-approved, FACELESS zeroes and ones!! Hopefully I will live long enough to see a return to a greater appreciation of/for legitimate musical talent, and that REAL/TRUE ARTISTS will receive both their Artistic and Commercial Due(s).

In closing, here are my 5 favorite songs about music:

  1. “I Love Music” by the O’Jays
  2. “Let There Be Rock” by AC/DC
  3. “Long Live Rock” by The Who
  4. “Magic Power” by Triumph
  5. “Keep Playin’ that Rock & Roll” by Edgar Winter’s White Trash

 

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World Suicide Prevention Day -September 10, 2017

by Doug 0 Comments

Join in on World Suicide Prevention Day

2017 marks the 15th World Suicide Prevention Day. The day was first recognized in 2003, as an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention and endorsed by the World Health Organization. World Suicide Prevention Day takes place each year on September 10.

On September 10, join with others around the world who are working towards the common goal of preventing suicide. Show your support by taking part in our Cycle Around the Globe campaign aimed at raising awareness through community action. Find out what local activities have been scheduled as well – or initiate one yourself!

Finally, if there is anyone you are concerned about, take a minute to check in with them. It could change their life.

Ride with us! World Suicide Prevention Day – Cycle Around the Globe: https://goo.gl/DFZCE3

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Coming of Age -Mental Health

by Doug 0 Comments
Coming of Age -Mental Health

Unhinged Facebook Page Post 
Published by Doug Warren · Yesterday at 7:19pm

Our discoveries and advances in understanding the brain – we are making real strides right now.

We need to treat & refer to serious Mental Illnesses, including Schizophrenia, Bipolar & Depression, not as behavioral or mental disorders, but as brain disorders; Neuropsychiatric disorders.

*Don’t miss Show #41 on March 7th as Ed Caggiani and I will be discussing at length about the magic of Music and its effects on the brain, but we will also elaborate some more on brain functioning as it relates to mental illnesses. I believe this is crucial in order to focus on issues like diagnosis, early detection and treatment, above perception and stigma. Stigma will die at the hands of Science & Progress!

~Doug Warren
Unhinged Podcast-Talking Mental

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Unhinged Episode #037: Food For Thought

by Ed 0 Comments
Unhinged Episode #037: Food For Thought

We continue the discussion about “Having” vs. “Being”, but this time we welcome special guest Mitchell Drew (rocket scientist, idealist, avid concert-goer) and ask his thoughts on the subject. Are we losing out on experiences in real life when we interact with our mobile devices? Or are those virtual social interactions just as valid? Are we sacrificing a full real-life experience for the ability to record the experience on video to preserve the memory?

With three guitarists on, there’s no way we’re not going to mention music. We already know how powerful music can be for mental health, but when music makes us cry, the medicine can be painful and quite healing. Also, find out who has a Spotify playlist specifically designed to make them cry. 🙂

We also talk about how healthier foods can mean a healthier brain. Science tells us that certain types of foods can help promote brain health. A few tweaks to your diet can start you down the path to wellness if you know what foods to avoid (aspartame), and which to seek out (omega-3’s). Self-awareness is key… you have to acknowledge yourself to be able to improve yourself.

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Unhinged Episode #014: Texting Truths and Brain Facts

by Ed 1 Comment
Unhinged Episode #014: Texting Truths and Brain Facts

Another month’s end, another situational downward turn. In our 14th episode, we discuss how living under the poverty line puts any mental illness recovery in danger. Doug’s situation is no exception as he struggles to survive for eight days with a zero balance. We re-enact a texting conversation we had in preparation for the show that outlines just how negative, sarcastic, and angry one can get when control over normal, mundane things is lost.

On the lighter side, we present another round of interesting facts about the brain.

Show resources:
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Yawning and the Brain

by Doug 0 Comments

yawning-manJaguar_yawn_1yawning-smiley

 

Yawning is a stereotyped behavior with very ancient origins, for it is found in fish, reptiles, and birds, as well as in humans. Described in ancient times by Hippocrates (who thought it served to evacuate fever), yawning did not become a subject of serious interest until the advances achieved in neuroscience in the 1980’s.

Generally speaking, yawning consists of three phases: first, a long intake of air, then a climax, and finally a rapid exhalation, which may or may not be accompanied by stretching. After yawning, you generally experience a sense of well being and relaxation and feel much more present in and aware of your body than you did before you yawned.

Contrary to what was believed for centuries, yawning does not serve to improve oxygenation in the brain. This myth was first laid to rest when it was discovered that the human fetus can yawn as early as the age of 12 weeks, even though it is surrounded by amniotic fluid in its mother’s belly and so is scarcely likely to get any more oxygen to its brain from this effort.

Second, if yawning really helped to raise the oxygen concentration in the blood, then inhaling pure oxygen would cause yawns to become less frequent, while raising the concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood would make them more frequent. But several studies have shown that neither of these things occurs. Also, yawning is no more common in people with acute or chronic respiratory problems than it is in the general population.

The role of yawning has yet to be fully determined. But because we yawn more often when we first awaken, when we are bored, and when we are trying not to fall asleep, its primary function would appear to be to help make us more alert. Yawning also seems to play a role in non-verbal communication, especially among primates.

Which leads us to something truly singular about yawning: its contagiousness. That is, when we see someone yawn, it makes us yawn. Sometimes simply thinking about a yawn can be enough to trigger one! Obviously, the term “contagiousness” should not be taken literally here, because no germs are being transmitted. More precisely, yawning is a form of involuntary imitation. Some scientists believe that this characteristic of yawning may have developed as a mechanism for promoting social cohesion, for example, by enabling all the people present in a group to have the same level of alertness at the same time.

In the rest of the animal kingdom, yawning is observed among predator and prey species alike. Among predators, its purpose might be to encourage the group to take a restorative nap so that all of its members can be well rested for an attack on their prey later on. Among prey, by encouraging all members of the group to fall asleep at the same time, yawning might reduce the risk that any one individual might be sleeping alone and hence highly vulnerable to attack by a predator.

There is no nerve centre strictly associated with the yawn reflex, but certain brain structures, such as the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the brainstem are essential for its expression. Some scientists have even hypothesized that the strong contractions of the jaw muscles during yawning may stimulate the reticular formation and thereby encourage wakefulness.

Lastly, one interesting linguistic note: the French verb bâiller (to yawn) has a circumflex accent on the “a” and not on the “i” because in Old French, when people pronounced this word, they stretched out the “a” to imitate the sound of someone yawning.

*Courtesy of McGill University -“The Brain, Start to Finish”                                                                                 copyleft

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Unhinged Episode #009: Music and the Brain

by Ed 0 Comments
Unhinged Episode #009: Music and the Brain

In our 9th episode, We talk about how music is what brought us together many years ago and how it became an important part of our friendship. We also disclose what the “blue room” from our previous intro is and how that’s related.

There was another rocky start the morning of this show, and Doug tells us what’s got him down.

Doug explains all about neurotransmitters and their importance in the brain, and how music can help with their production. And finally, we discuss an article from Time about how learning to play an instrument and participating in musical learning leads to better academic performance all around.

Show resources:

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