Thursday, October 29, 2009

Anxiety and Our Brains- Part 6: The Cortex

The thinking part of the brain is a thick covering called the Cortex. It deals with social information: thinking about thinking and emotions, as well as thinking about what others are thinking and feeling.The following parts of the cortex are good to know about in relation to anxiety:
  • The anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG), the filter and amplifier of information
  • The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the place where working memory is held
  • The prefrontal cortex (PFC), the CEO where all information is ultimately received, analyzed, and responded to

The Anterior Cingulate Gyrus (ACG)

This area of the cortex organizes information. It gathers data from the limbic system and the hippocampus and puts it into a contex that your Prefrontal cortex can understand and analyze. 

"When the ACG does not have a good balance of neurotransmitters, it can get stuck on negative feelings and be unable to shift them forward, thereby making it less efficient at sending analysis back onto the amygdala. If your ACG gets stuck, qualities you may see and feel are worry and rumination on negative thoughts, oppositional behavior, or inflexibility about trying new options or responses to situations." -The Ten Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques


The Orbitofrontal Cortex (OFC)

This area commands the process called working memory, or short term storage. It holds pieces of information just long enough to complete tasks of everyday mental functioning. When this part of the cortex is working properly, people have good impulse control, making decisions based on information. 

When the neurotransmitters in the OFC are in balance, you feel optimistic and hopeful. This is important so that you can control your fears with optimistic, problem solving activity.

The Prefrontal Cortex (PFC)

This part of the brain is where all of the information from your body and other parts of your brain is ultimately received and responsive decisions are made based on that information. It creates solutions to problems. When the neurotransmitters in this area are out of balance, the thinking is impaired.

The most interesting part of this section of the book that I found is the following:

"Anxiety management techniques aim to control your anxious symptoms primarily through the left brain, using words, analysis, and decision making to control the rest of your brain and your body.Psychotherapy methods that activate other parts of the brain are certainly available, and neccesarily so, because difficult problems such as resolving long-standing trauma, changing the impact of childhood experiences, or altering dark moods such as despair, require different work than just anxiety management techniques. If your anxiety stems from a history of trauma, than you will likely need psychotherapy to to release the impact of that trauma. Your anxiety may be hard to diminish or it may repeatedly return if deeper therapeutic work is not done." -The Ten Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques

I hope you have all been learning as much as I have with this monthly challenge. Keep sharing on the forum! The November challenge will be announced on Sunday, along with a new discussion thread. I am really excited for it!

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This post is information paraphrased from The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques which is my monthly challenge book.

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