This article was originally published on CannabisHealthIndex.com.
In part 1 of this article series (Cannabis is a Gateway Drug! But It’s Not What You’ve Been Told), we looked at the fact that synapses that fire together wire together and in doing so create the very experience we focus on, especially those experiences we repeat.
We examined how the brain or the internal mind-body architecture of a person chronically focusing on fear, worry, or negativity has a very different set of synaptic clefts compared to a person with a tendency for optimism, positivity, and compassion and how this influences our health and well-being.
Now we will look at the higher octave of this natural ability to create our own experiences (good or bad) and explore how and why (its biological bases) it impacts others around you.
But first let’s back up a bit in time to the 1980’s. Neurophysiologists from one of the oldest universities in the world, the University de Parma in Italy, discovered nerve cells called mirror neurons (MN’s). Essentially, MN’s react (fire) in the same place and fashion when we perform an action or just observe the same action performed by another.
MN’s offer a physiological explanation with which to better understand how we are connected to each other and how we constantly impact each other for better or worse. MN’s are the functional basis for empathy (the ability to feel another persons feelings), learning by example, or the capacity to know each other’s intentions.
Let’s say you’re in the movies and are watching a horror flick. You know the actor is stupid to follow the the cat into the depth of darkness. The music builds slowly until that fateful moment (you know what is coming, don’t you?). The lurking monster lashes out from the shadows and grabs the “unsuspecting” victim by the leg. Most everybody in the theatre reacts with shock and recoils. Why?
Your mirror neurons witness the emotion and try them on for size. Your autonomic nervous system does not know the difference between watching a movie or things happening for real. As they fire in a mirror fashion, neurotransmitters of fear (adrenalin), and stress (cortisol) are rapidly ejected from your adrenal glands on top of your kidneys and instantly flood your blood stream. Fight or flight or freeze.
When the scene is over your body realizes you’re still alive it releases serotonin and anandamide and you feel happy. You’re still alive, yay! This is the fun of watching movies. A roller-coaster ride of emotions and molecules. You can learn more about serotonin and the other health effects of neurotransmitters at TheBabbleOut.com.
MN’s also offer an explanation for real life events such as the mob mentality of aggression when hate speech politicians feed verbal red meat to their base or when thousands of soccer fans suddenly become aggressive and act out.
Imagine yourself at a concert and everyone syncs to the groove of a favorite tune and the entire hall experiences a state of collective bliss. The shared sadness at a funeral. The mutual emotion of revulsion when witnessing an injustice. You get the point.
Now, what is true in large groups is also true between small groups or between two people. Have you ever been in love? Do you remember that time where your resonance, the core of your being, was filled with that most precious of all feelings?
Just the memory of being in love can cause your body to generate oxytocin, serotonin, and anandamide for example. And, due to the very nature of MN’s anyone in your field of resonance (or anyone connecting with you) would also begin to generate those neurotransmitters.
Now, think about what happens to those around you when you drop deep into that meditative state, or you enter a properly dosed cannabis-experience? What do you see? What do you notice?
Please let us know so we can share with our readers.
Uwe Blesching is a medical journalist and regular contributor in the fields of cannabinoid science, mind-body medicine, phytopharmacology, and more. Blesching earned his PhD from the Western Institute for Social Research. Much of the information from his most recent book, The Cannabis Health Index, has been made available on Cannabis Reports as well.