The Nervous System

is responsible for consciousness. Consciousness [arousal and cognition] is a result of teamwork. Teamwork involving the whole body, linked and commanded by nervous tissue of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. ….

still working on this idea]

A major function of the nervous system is to control the relative constancy of the internal environment of the organism: that is, to provide the correct chemical environment for living processes to take place. This control of the internal environment is called homeostasis. Any disturbances in the internal environment are monitored by sense organs: for example, chemoreceptors sensitive to the partial pressure of oxygen in the arterial blood, mechanoreceptors sensitive to blood pressure, and chemoreceptors within the central nervous system (CNS) itself sensitive to hydrogen ion concentration or to various hormones. The information from the sense organs is sent to the CNS where it is processed and appropriate outputs sent to the effectors — muscle (striated, smooth and cardiac) and glands — to counteract the disturbance. Such a function is essentially the same as that carried out by a physical servosystem, like a governor on a steam engine or a central heating control system that measures room temperature and keeps it within certain limits by regulating the output of the heating unit (Fig. 15.1). Nerve Cells and Nervous Systems pp 197-213| The Nervous System and the Internal and External Environments — Homeostasis and Interactions A. G. Brown 2001

All nervous tissue, from the brain to the spinal cord to the furthest nerve branch, includes cells called neurons.

Neurons are charged cells: they conduct electrical signals to pass information through the body.

THE BRAIN In some ways, the human brain resembles a computer. But in addition to logical processing, it is capable of complex development, learning, self- awareness, emotion, and creativity. Every second, millions of chemical and electrical signals pass around the brain and the body’s intricate nerve network. ………. But nervous tissue is delicate and needs physical protection and a reliable blood supply.

The Hypothalamus Manages Sensory Impulses, Controls Emotions, and Regulates Internal Functions.

It helps to process sensory impulses of smell, taste, and vision and manages emotions such as pain and pleasure, aggression and amusement. The hypothalamus is also our visceral control center, regulating the endocrine system and internal functions that sustain the body day to day. It translates nervous system signals into activating or inhibiting hormones that it sends to the pituitary gland. These hormones can activate or inhibit the release of pituitary hormones that target specific glands and tissues in the body.

Meanwhile, the hypothalamus manages the autonomic nervous system, devoted to involuntary internal functions. It signals sleep cycles and other circadian rhythms, regulates food consumption, and monitors and adjusts body chemistry and temperature.


If you consider the role of all nervous tissue all over the body and the role of the brain in managing our “internal physical and chemical and electrical condition, you will immediately see the wisdom of “reading” the state of the nervous system, and the glands and the muscles and the circulation of blood during periods of health [including mental health] and during periods of disability and illness [including states of depression with psychomotor retardation and mania with psychomotor excitement, to start].

It is clear that in all conditions of ill health, emotions, arousal [alertness], cognition, and locomotor activity and speed are affected, meaning that the nervous systems of the brain and the spinal cord and many other peripheral systems reliant on functioning nervous tissue in order to are involved.

And the nervous system, not necessarily the frontal lobes, knows when something is not working, but has no words to tell us, but it can “show us” if we learn to look. And look we must , if we hope to learn anything about what the nervous system is dealing with and why it is not succeeding.

And the language of the nervous system involves muscles and glands- not words ; skeletal muscle, smooth muscle and cardiac muscle and of course other mechanisms due to glands affecting bodily functions. The nervous system spends most of its time regulating our acid base ratio and thermoregulation in order for chemical processes to work correctly. It does this in the face of continually changing external conditions and internal conditions [eg feeding, digestion, waste removal, resting, moving, lifting loads, wakefulness, sleep, etc]. The correct chemical conditions and ratio’s inside and outside cells will also allow partial consciousness of our internal state, adding the processes of thought and emotion as part of being able to handle external conditions and challenges so we can be more successful in extending the range of the nervous system through our hands and feet. The nervous system and the brain may be all wise in knowing our chemistry and maintaining it so we stay alive but it needs glands, organs, and muscles in order to add the necessary resources which must be continually

The simplest step is to measure the vital signs to see if they are within the normal range; respiratory rate at rest, blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. All involve muscle of some kind and will be under the command of the brain, depending on the circumstances.

The pattern of the vital signs is important and worth noting, especially if they don’t make sense. This points to a problem that needs to be figured out so a solution can be found.

Kraepelin, over 100 years ago and Paula and I found similar patterns, patterns that are unusual and do to seem to make sense.

The breathing rate stays slow despite sympathetic activation in depressed bipolar patients. Vasoconstriction and mildly lower than normal body temperature and cold pale extremities accompany decrease movement and activity. Perhaps this pattern is triggered by abnormal breathing at rest, perhaps the brain is trying to cope with increasing carbon dioxide, perhaps breathing is insufficient. Hypercapnia is supposed to trigger high blood pressure and faster heart rate and even palpitations and arrhythmia and Paula had this too when depressed. She also had cognitive and memory loss and discomfort breathing although she did not recognize either enough to tell anyone. Mostly she was dazed, mentally confused and internally distressed.

Without carefully measuring vital signs to detect possible internal stressors, all that is evident are the external stressors. And while Paula had this attack there were plenty of external stressors. She looked and behaved in a strange way, was most unlike her usually self and was failing basic tasks at work and at home and felt very very bad about letting people down.

It wasn’t until I thought to emulate Kraepelin and study what was going on with Paula’s body that I understood that her external problems were likely a consequence of insufficient breathing even though she showed no outward signs of breathing difficulty.

Paula was aware of being physically unwell but she was unable to communicate this and she had no idea that someone needed to check her vital signs.

What a catch 22.

And Kraepelin seemed to find different abnormal patterns of vital signs in mania and there is a chance that breathing is ineffective here too, although fast. Heart rate fell intermittently [bradycardia] and locomotor activity was wrong, reflexes too fast, reactions too fast, words spilling out too fast, making sense or not so much. Memory loss now included retrospective memory loss and no one realized this unless there was a witness who knew what memories were missing.

All of this could be due to a ventilatory defect and the brain trying to manage pH and carbon dioxide/oxygen ratio’s with a breathing rate that could not respond to rising CO2 .

to be continued……..

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