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Body shit : Vagus nerve and oxytocin

April 22, 2010

Vagus nerve and Oxytocin: Hopefully..more on this later.For me , emotions are socialized body states , i.e body states that  when socialized ,  help the individual / group to survive.So a large component of emotions are just simply body states rather than a composite of CNS ( central nervous system ..limbic system modulates and socializes those states )  activity but the currency of emotions is  the body itself…Liver , Heart , Diaphragm , Stomach and the ENS ( enteric nervous system ..a parallel nervous system for the digestive tract ) is the foreman .

KELTNER: The vagus nerve is a bundle of nerves that originates in the top of the spinal cord. It activates different organs throughout the body (such as the heart, lungs, liver and digestive organs). When active, it is likely to produce that feeling of warm expansion in the chest—for example, when we are moved by someone’s goodness or when we appreciate a beautiful piece of music. Neuroscientist Stephen W. Porges of the University of Illinois at Chicago long ago argued that the vagus nerve is [the nerve of compassion] (of course, it serves many other functions as well). Several reasons justify this claim. The vagus nerve is thought to stimulate certain muscles in the vocal chamber, enabling communication. It reduces heart rate. Very new science suggests that it may be closely connected to receptor networks for oxytocin, a neurotransmitter involved in trust and maternal bonding.

Our research and that of other scientists suggest that activation of the vagus nerve is associated with feelings of caretaking and the ethical intuition that humans from different social groups (even adversarial ones) share a common humanity. People who have high vagus nerve activation in a resting state, we have found, are prone to feeling emotions that promote altruism—compassion, gratitude, love and happiness. Arizona State University psychologist Nancy Eisenberg has found that children with high-baseline vagus nerve activity are more cooperative and likely to give. This area of study is the beginning of a fascinating new argument about altruism: that a branch of our nervous system evolved to support such behavior.

The disgust felt towards the body is just the evolution of the a CNS based , left hemispheric , based society that believes that Hell is a place lower down ( we are perceived to exist , accurately , in the lower field of our vision …Hell is a metaphor for the Body )  

“The stomach is lowest and has a hidden place in the body because of its uncleanness, as though nature had spared the principal members and had relegated the stomach or bowels farther away from the site of reason and of the mind and fenced it off with the diaphragm in order not to disturb the rational part of the mind with its importunity.  These members serve the higher ones.  Some of them concoct the food into juice, others digest it into various humors, others expel the superfluity.” — Alessandro Benedetti, 1497

I can’t find the name of the man who had his stomach left open to view , as his injury healed with a skin flap that allowed a visual check up ( sometime in the 19th century I think ) , but I remember the observation  quite clearly …how his stomach  would experience an immediate vascular blush when he experienced an emotion.An almost instantaneous reaction.


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  1. Guess I missed the news about Oxytocin & Vagal association. Great stuff and makes sense. At least that is my gut feeling!

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