Category Archives: the brain

Dopamine Fasting Is Really A Thing

Thanks to co-morbid mental health concerns, I am a person with considerable dopamine issues. So when I saw a headline in the Inverse Daily newsletter about dopamine fasting, my interest was absolutely piqued.

“A dopamine fast? Clue me in, Inverse!” I said out loud to no one. (Did you know cats have the ability to roll their eyes?)

According to the article, it only takes a single day of abstinence from, well, most everything you’re used to flooding your senses. We’re talking social media, advertisements, entertainment, conversation, podcasts, audio books, video games, pretty much anything on the computer. No board games, no poker, no hate-watching reality TV, no re-writing librettos to make them pornographic – you see where this is going. And of course: no drinking, no drugs, no smoking, no sex. No junk food, no dessert. No gossip, no schadenfreude if you happen to witness your grumpy neighbor stepping in dog poop. Basically, nothing from which you derive some sort of pleasure or gratification, especially the immediate kind. Anything that makes your receptors fire off that sweet, sweet dopamine is off-limits.

Illustration of the Dopamine Pathway

Image: Inverse Daily

Presumably you can do stuff like wash dishes,  get a root canal, or build a pyramid. (But don’t take my word for it – Read more about exactly what they mean by “dopamine fasting” here.)

My imaginatory vagueness led me to come away with the idea that this fasting period sounds a lot like the idea of stillness, put forth by the Stoics and recently highlighted by Ryan Holiday in his new book, Stillness is the Key, which – oops – I haven’t read, because it’s a new book, and I’m a Poor – but I do get his daily newsletter, and I’m down with the concept, as the amount of information, disinformation, static, sound, and noise that is pelted at me daily is overwhelming. I’m a delicate flower, also known as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

(If you are also one of these HSPs, please don’t be offended. It’s good to be a delicate flower. There are just some drawbacks, like getting Stressed The Fuck Out™.)

Hear tell, there was once a time where a person was not reachable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter where on Earth they were. Hear tell, there once was a time when folks were lucky if the person they were trying to reach had one of those fancy new-fangled answering machines. You had to wait for the beep, is my understanding. And there was something called a “busy signal”. If you can imagine. Don’t even get me started on those party lines and “Emergency Break-throughs”.

iron lungs in the polio wardYeah. People also used to get polio and chill in iron lungs. And while I’m sure those were very good times – times that apparently anti-vaxxers, among others, are nostalgic for – this is the Modern Age. Remember to please tip your stagecoach driver!

So we need to actively seek out stillness. Because in this high-speed society, we no longer idle at Idle.

As far as my stress-addled brain can tell, dopamine fasting has a lot in common with stillness, insofar as shutting out the excess, the chatter, the constant flow of non-stop unnecessary information.

Do I REALLY need to know that Khloe Kardashian thinks it’s super-important that she puts herself first? Aside from this tidbit’s glaring, nauseating self-evidence, it doesn’t seem particularly useful to anyone except Khloe – and, I suppose, Kris Jenner, the most ‘extra’ stage mother since Rose Hovick. Furthermore, this (can I really call it) information is taking up room in my brain that could house something more important, an example of which I cannot cite, probably because I know the names of at least three Kardashian babies. And I do not even LIKE these people or watch their frickin’ show.

What sort of growth do I find in knowing the particulars of the latest Online Outrage War? Which feeds my soul more: letting my inner gestalt consist of the changing-by-the-microsecond Tilt-A-Whirl thoughts and obsessions of others as I swipe through my Twitter feed, or sitting with my own brain and choosing, very precisely, with care and consideration and intent, what material goes into it?

Whether it’s a dopamine fast, the path to stillness via Ryan’s book, or the wisdom of Aurelius and other Stoic philosophers, putting the brakes on overstimulation seems like a pretty good idea to me. At best, you may find some peace and some clarity. At worst, you may learn a few tips for life that you would not have otherwise, AND you will probably get higher than giraffe genitalia once your dopamine fasting is through, because tolerance is a thing (and the struggle is real).



Mental Illness and fMRIs

Here is yet another study where fMRIs are used to determine particulars about the conditions of the brain in certain mental illnesses and disorders.

I recall a doctor – though I forget her name – who LAUGHED at me when I suggested an fMRI would be due diligence regarding my mental illness. She thought it was a ridiculous notion to scan someone’s brain for such a reason.

Clearly she was not taking advantage of Continuing Education. Also, she was a straight-up bitch.


Titles Are Hard: A Round-Up (Or, Lighter Fare: Kind Of Not Really Maybe A Little Bit)

Science Daily reports that a recent study found early stress confers lifelong vulnerability causing alterations in a specific brain region. So like, lucky me. I haven’t read this article yet. I have to build up to it because FEELINGS.  I mean, I knew this already, that childhood stress and trauma change the growing brain. Having the confirmation of it is a heavy feeling, though. Like, what kind of brain might I have had otherwise? It’s a painful question. I may not want to know the answer.

It is nearly impossible to type with these fingernails. Mondo frustrationage abounds. Yes, I made that word up. Part of it anyway.

I have to recommend the Zoe Moon astrology podcast. Zoe is an extremely likable and cool gal and her predictions and interpretations are informative, interesting and unique. I look forward to listening to her Thursday evening podcast when I wake up every Friday morning, it’s a favored ritual. Ch-ch-ch-check her podcast out and see what the stars may have in store for you. Oh, she does private readings as well. I want one!

Twin Peaks: The Return is so damn good. (And the coffee is damn good coffee, too. No fish in the percolator!) I think David Lynch has never been better. It’s like all of his past work has over time seasoned and condensed and now he truly hits that flowspace Robert Henri wrote about in The Art Spirit, in his example of the dancer whose every muscle, every micro-movement is perfectly executed and done so with laser-focused purpose. Every move in Lynch’s creation is aligned perfectly with the whole, all parts moving in synchrony toward the same end (whatever that may be). And there is so much subtext in there that sets off new trains of creative and exploratory thought in me. I mean, okay, this takes the scar of INLAND EMPIRE off my myelin sheath. (Now if I could just get FUNNY GAMES and SOUTHLAND TALES to heal over. Good luck.)

Scary looking thing, right? And that shark, too!

Talking over someone and drowning them out does not make your points valid or true, Kellyanne. Come to think of it, though, validity and truth are probably not what you are going for. Nevermind, says Emily Litella.

Skiva’s Bluetooth Shower Speaker makes my life more pleasant. Just sayin’.

Doug Stanhope has a new book coming out. He is also hosting a standup special on Seeso. But for some reason his podcast is out of commission on my podcast app. I am in dire need of a Funhouse fix.

Finally, I was eaten by a shark at a recent showing of WONDER WOMAN (see image). However, I was revived by three in-theater cocktails (Sex on the Beach, appropriately enough), which were decidedly yummy. I am a fan of movie drinking. Oh, yes, yes I am.

Have a most awesome weekend. And check yo’ fridge! (see previous post)





A Long Post About Supplements and Nootropics

I’m trying out some different supplements in an attempt to hack my motivation and mood, and also, my mitochondria. One thing that is good for eradicating the effects of oxidative stress on mitochondria is Indian Gooseberry, more commonly known in herbal circles as Amla or Amalaki. Amla is also incredibly good for your skin and hair, and contains a boatload of Vitamin C, so it also provides immune system support.  It also purifies blood, is anti-inflammatory, and apparently lowers the bad cholesterol, raises the good cholesterol, and evens out blood glucose levels. Amla has deep spiritual roots, and is featured prominently in key Hindu and Buddhist texts, in case you were wondering.

(Continue Reading for information on mitochondrial support and nootropics…)

Continue reading


Camp Hippo Redux, Meditation and Anxiety

According to a report by Science Daily, a decrease in hippocampal volume has been linked to bipolar disorder. You may recall I have posted articles about attempting to rescue or increase hippocampal volume using the supplement Astaxanthin in this very blog.

There is some information about the hippocampus as well on Joe Rogan’s recent podcast with Dr. Rhonda Patrick – and some fascinating information about mitochondia and mitophagy., and what we can do to keep our mitochondria healthy and happy.

In other news, mindfulness meditation has been scientifically proven to physiologically combat anxiety.



Podcast Rec – “Biohacking Your Brain”

“Biohacking Your Brain with Andrew Hill” on The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Click to download.

“Focus is about the ability  to attend at will. And to do so in the presence of distractors. And focus ends up becoming then a balance of continuous resources against transient resources. Transient resources, things where you’re being alerted or oriented to new stimulus in the environment and sort of vigilant as a sustained attention piece where you’re able to laser like focus and also be flexible enough to pull things out of your mind.” – Andrew Hill



Bipolar Blood Toxic To Brain Cells

Ever-changing moods of bipolar patients cause changes in the blood which are toxic to brain cells and impact the connectivity of brain cells. This according to Psychiatry Today‘s podcast from June 2016.  Researchers exposed healthy brain cells to the blood serum of healthy individuals and from bipolar individuals and guess what happened? The blood of the bipolar patients screws up the connectivity of brain cells. And apparently the more episodes (either manic or depressed)  a patient has, the more the cellular components are produced that impair the patient’s ability to deal with stress (which then starts a ripple effect, I’m assuming). So now there is research being done to make some sort of neuroprotective medication to protect bipolar patients from their own blood. Psychiatry Today recommends, “Take your meds!” so as to do harm reduction by lowering the number of manic and depressive episodes.