New research: scientists detect brain cells that improve learning!

on 12 September 2018
The gatekeeper keeps us safe

While there is an amazing amount of research into finding a cure for dementia and Alzheimer's disease, by default, there are parallel discoveries on the why and how of the way our brain works, but, do you know how yours works . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Do we create our own experience?

While all brains are, more or less, anatomically identical, very clearly they do not work the same way. So the difference, that creates alternative outcomes for two or more people experiencing the same thing, is the unique way each individual brain is wired. And while genetics will always play a part, it is the interpretation of each experience that ultimately shapes the way our life unfolds.

What is interesting about this research, is, that they expected to be able to impair memory and learning (learning, being a component of memory) but what they weren't expecting, was to be able to improve it! So, when it comes to relating this to hypnosis, here's my take on what is happening. The fact that hypnosis-therapy works, is, unquestionable, yet there remain questions! Much in the same way we know we are here yet from time immemorial mankind has asked the question; WHY? 

So, let's start with what we know, and this part has been scientifically proven. When someone is in a hypnotic state, their brain is mostly in a theta brainwave state and theta is where our dreams happen, it is also, while we are in that state, that memory consolidation occurs. And in that context, learning being reliant upon memory, dreaming plays a major role in our development. In this research, they discovered that when they create under-activate gatekeeper cells -  OLM (Oriens-lacunosum moleculare) - memory and learning improved. Such under-activation would likely stimulate the production of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). Essentially we could refer to this as a state of relaxation, which is a known fundamental by-product of hypnosis! In some sense, the more relaxed the brain/mind is, the more open it becomes to change. Learning occurs when we put into memory, things that we can later recall.

It is known that stress hormones impair the way our brain functions, one aspect of that is the inability to recall memories e.g. test anxiety, and relaxation (e.g. the absence of stress hormones) has the opposite effect. Adding to this, is my theory of the role of PGO waves (more here), in explaining hypnotherapy, So, it would seem, the finding of this important, and unknown, function of these gatekeeper cells just adds another piece of the puzzle to the exciting mosaic of life. So, in as much as sleep states are the fundamentals of quality life, in that sleep repairs the brain, mind, and body, as well as consolidating all that we learn into memories (well, maybe not all), then hypnosis is a major adjunct to the way we function.

It is important to understand that hypnosis is a discovery, not an invention. It is merely the name given to the natural phenomenon of trance and like all things human, we are endowed with the ability to enhance and/or embellish it. In the same ways that we are constantly finding new ways to enhance education and training, we are also developing many new and exciting ways to improve the outcomes of hypnotherapy. The important/interesting thing for me, is, that while scientists find it difficult to attain enough consistency in hypnotic trials, to consider it scientific, they are, by default, making some very interesting discoveries that add towards there being a scientific basis to prove the existence and efficacy of hypnosis-therapy!

When it comes to the outcome of hypnotherapy, clients are very often confused as to how these changes occur, nonetheless, they are happy that they do. By way of an explanation, when I put a client into a very deep trance, they often lose most, if not all, (conscious) sense of my voice, yet, despite that, the changes still occur. But that also happens in our everyday lives too! Every day we non-consciously learn to be aware of, and react to, sensory stimuli and very often without the need of being consciously aware. For me, that just proves that when it comes to learning, we do not necessarily need to be consciously aware of that happening. In fact, sometimes being aware, actually works against us and this is a consequence of a form of negative or reverse hypnosis. So, in that context, there is nothing really magical happening during hypnosis, although it really can feel like magic! It’s merely that we have discovered ways to use the mind in a way that replicates how it has been using us!

The objective here is to help people understand how and why hypnotherapy works, as well as how we become illogically trapped into irrational emotional experiences that may actually be happening for reasons different to that which we would imagine! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy can help you; why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here Or, to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research: 

The workings of memory and learning have yet to be clarified, especially at the neural circuitry level. But researchers at Uppsala University have now, jointly with Brazilian collaborators, discovered a specific brain neuron with a central role in learning. This study, published in Neuron, may have a bearing on the potential for counteracting memory loss in Alzheimer's disease.

When a person with dementia forgets having just eaten dinner, it is due to hippocampus damage. In contrast, the same person can describe in vivid detail a fishing trip to Norway 40 years ago. Both cases entail the use of episodic memory, the brain's storage of events in which we have been personally involved. Dementia diseases impair the ability to form new memories, especially of events since the onset of the disease.

Researchers at Uppsala University have now, jointly with Brazilian colleagues, found certain neurons in the brain that play a crucial part in learning. The same research group had previously discovered 'gatekeeper cells' or, in technical parlance, OLM (Oriens-lacunosum moleculare) cells. These are located in the hippocampus, the brain area known to be active in forming new memories. The new findings from Klas Kullander's research group show that OLM cells' activity affects the encoding of memories in the brain.

When the OLM cells were over-activated in experiments on laboratory mice, the mice's memory and learning functions deteriorated. When these cells were inactivated instead, the function of new memory formation improved. This research has enhanced my understanding of how a single component in the memory circuits can affect memory formation.

"We had expected to be able to impair learning since it seemed likely that the effect of our experiment at the cellular level would disturb the normal function of the nervous system. However, we were surprised to find that learning and memory also could be improved," says Klas Kullander.

It also offers hope of being able to counteract the loss of memory formation in Alzheimer's disease and dementia. The first symptoms of Alzheimer's, the most common and familiar dementia disease, are associated with poor memory. Short-term memory is particularly impaired. For those who suffer from dementia symptoms, losing memory functions is a major everyday problem. Unfortunately, there are no curative treatments or medicines that can stop dementia diseases from developing.

"The next step is, therefore, to investigate this more closely, in further experiments on animal subjects comparable to humans. We need more knowledge before experiments can be done to stimulate the OLM cell artificially in humans," Kullander says.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Uppsala UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Samer Siwani, Arthur S.C. França, Sanja Mikulovic, Amilcar Reis, Markus M. Hilscher, Steven J. Edwards, Richardson N. Leão, Adriano B.L. Tort, Klas Kullander. OLMα2 Cells Bidirectionally Modulate LearningNeuron, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.06.022