Three ways studying organic chemistry changes the brain
on 11 March 2019
Hippocampus the secret learning system

The hippocampus has long been known to be involved in the creation, storage and retrieval of memory, scientists have now added a little more evidence to help understand how that happens . . . 

On par with Hypnosis!

I found this research both interesting and intriguing, simply because, it kind of mirrors the way I developed my hypnotherapy method, which is brain-based (neuroscience). In this sense, I explain what is happening in the brain and how we are unaware that many of the things we think are "us" as a person are actually just a result of neurochemical brain processes. Much of the anxiety that people experience is a consequence of this chemical reaction, albeit that in an anxiety disorder, the chemical response is off-kilter, as in, not working normally. It could be likened to a stuck throttle cable of a car, where the engine is actually OK, merely that a small part of it is unable to return to its resting state of idle. This is what happens to us when the stress response dysregulates and we become chronically stressed. When this occurs we become hyper-aroused and the sympathetic nervous system is overstimulated, making us edgy, cranky and quick to anger or snap at other people. In essence, our response mechanism is overactive. Anxiety is another way of saying we are in the stress response. There are two major ways the stress response is activated are, 1) the presence of real danger, elicit the awareness of the feeling we know as fear and 2) the anticipation of danger, e.g. thoughts of the plane you will travel on next week crashing. It's not happening but you thinking it will, creates anxiety, which is a fearful experience.

It is important for us to know that the stress/fear response occurs outside of our conscious awareness and that means that the feelings we associate with fear or anxiety, are actually created in separate systems within the human brain. Scientists believe, evidentially, that animals do not experience what we know as the subjective feelings of fear. It is this aspect of our neurochemistry that forms part of my hypnotherapeutic technique and this research may just allude to why I have had so much success with my method?

Essentially the health of our brain and mind equates to the quality of our life and while we can do much to keep our brain in good health, via air (breathing properly), water (hydration) and food (carbs, proteins (amino acids), fats), we are less able to manage the way our mind processes information and experience, which mostly determines our behaviour. Much of the learning, that causes mental and emotional issues, happens while we are children and we are usually blissfully unaware of what is happening or why we are encoding our experience and environmental information in any particular way. Essentially, in this context, we are stimulus-response mechanisms and the mind develops ways to allow life to make sense and, keep us safe in the process.

Ordinarily, if children develop normally, life moves on fairly well but occasionally they fail to develop normally and the brain and mind maladapt to situations over the course of their lives. This is a little like still believing in Santa Claus when you are an adult! While it is relatively easy to understand how ridiculous it would be for a 30-year-old to still believe in Santa Claus. But some of the ways the mind maladapts, are not so easily recognised, that is, until they are challenged or stresses etc. It is then that this childlike strategy becomes more obvious and a grown-up, mature and responsible adult, begins to act like a child.

This is where a therapeutic intervention, like hypnosis, can be particularly effective and my, anecdotal, brain-based (neuro-scientific) method seems to help promote a more normal adaption towards a more functional life. That said, there are many ways in which a level of functionality (a hypnosis type effect) occurs when the brain reaches a particular state (trance states) and change occurs as a consequence of that!

Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is, especially in its ability to promote clear thinking and good states of mental wellness. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of too much stress, too little sleep and too little by way of clarity! So, to get or take back control of your mind and your life, it makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious mind's role in perpetuating negative, vague and ambiguous states of mind. Hypnosis helps us to create calm relaxing states of mind that make life work better! If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want to make your life feel better,  then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life! 

The objective here is to help people understand how and why 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:

Academic learning is about gaining new knowledge and skill, but only recently has it been possible to see new knowledge appear in a human brain.

A new study from Carnegie Mellon University researchers using multiple imaging modalities shows that learning scientific information results in changes in the actual structure of memory-related areas of the brain, changes due to the encoding of the new information in these memory-related brain areas, and changes in the coordination among the network nodes that jointly contain the new information.

"These new discoveries about the neuroscience of learning open the possibility of informing and enhancing instructional methods in science," said Marcel Just, the D.O. Hebb University Professor of Psychology at CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

For the study, Just and co-author Timothy Keller, adjunct professor of psychology, taught college students who were not chemistry majors the names and molecular structure of nine organic compounds, including ethanol, while the students were in an MRI scanner.

Using three different types of brain imaging, the researchers found evidence of the three types of changes in the brain, all occurring in exactly the same brain location.

One of the methods measured the movement of water molecules in the brain. Previous histological studies of rodent brains have used this diffusion-based imaging method. As rats learned the layout of a maze, researchers detected decreases in water molecule movement in the left hippocampus.

When this method was applied to human participants learning the names and structures of organic compounds, it revealed a decrease in water diffusivity primarily in the CA (Cornu Ammonis) portion of the left hemisphere hippocampus.

"The hippocampus is a brain structure that is critical for learning new knowledge, and that is precisely where the water molecules slowed down, indicating that the tissues in these students' brains were changing, probably due to synaptic changes," Keller said.

The second method made use of the fact that individual concepts have unique representations or neural signatures in the brain that can be identified using functional MRI (fMRI). This approach uses machine learning to detect these representations based on the person's brain activation pattern. The researchers used this method to identify which of the nine compounds a participant was thinking about, based on the associated brain activation pattern. The researchers found they could identify the neural signatures by looking precisely at that part of the hippocampus where the water molecule motion indicating tissue changes had occurred. The two types of changes occurred in the same 1.3 cubic cm of the hippocampus.

The third type of change reflected the development of a brain network that contained the full brain signature of the organic compounds. Not only was the hippocampus involved in these representations, but so were other brain regions, most prominently a region known to support visualization of 3-D structures, the intraparietal sulcus (IPS). The third brain change was an increase in the synchronization of the activity in that very same region of the hippocampus and the IPS, indicating that a network of brain areas showed increased coordination to collectively represent the multiple facets of the concepts.

These three different types of measures -- MR (Magnetic Resonance)-diffusion measures of diffusivity change, fMRI measures of the location of the newly acquired concepts and fMRI-based measures of synchronization -- showed evidence of microstructural, informational and network change in the left hippocampus during the learning of the organic compounds.

The findings hold promise for improving the effectiveness of teaching and learning science.

"For example, a new student's neural representations of a set of key concepts could be compared to those of a successful advanced student to determine whether neural similarity to an expert is an accurate predictor of academic mastery of the concepts," Just said.

The study, "Converging measures of neural change at the microstructural, informational, and cortical network levels in the hippocampus during the learning of the structure of organic compounds," has been published in the journal Brain Structure and Function.

Story Source:

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

Journal Reference:

  1. Marcel Adam Just, Timothy A. Keller. Converging measures of neural change at the microstructural, informational, and cortical network levels in the hippocampus during the learning of the structure of organic compoundsBrain Structure and Function, 2019; DOI: 10.1007/s00429-019-01838-4

Cite This Page:

Carnegie Mellon University. "Three ways studying organic chemistry changes the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2019. <>.