Sunday, April 24, 2016


When trying to get a more informed understanding of molecular feedback loops in the body, the first thing I had to learn was not to call them “feedback loops.”  It took a while to discover that the information I was looking for was indexed under “axis.”  That’s what they call what I call “feedback loops.”  They are key to the homeostasis self-regulation and self-development that guide survival, keep the body alive.

And it was confusing to read about “tropic hormones” when I was trying to find out which molecule did what, not where the warm climates are.  The specialized medical jargon means “tropic hormones” are those that impact other endocrine glands by secreting molecules into the blood and interstitial spaces.  Here’s a list with links:

And two diagrams as examples:

Why would I care?

1.  I discover that my (mild) psoriasis/arthritis symptoms are probably affected by these loops.  (Eyes, hands)  I’m trying to understand inflammation which seems so central to current research.  Also, auto-immunity.

2.  So many lay people thinking about neurology are considering connections among neurons, which relates to muscle responses and designated sensory code in organs, while ignoring the unconscious saturations of molecules that govern organs and the autonomic nerve/endocrine connections that underlie our emotions.  

The arts reach into people, activating all sorts of axises.  (The literature seems to only consider one axis at a time.  But I’ve only begun to search.)  And, of course, people wrestling with diabetes know how much impact both glucose and insulin have on our systems.  Ignorance and denial can kill you.

3.  Drug use (ingesting of molecules, manmade, some as meds and sometimes for the sake of the physical senses and brain integration:  “feeling”, consciousness) is jumping off a bridge, not knowing how the deep the water is or even whether you can swim.  The doctors are often guessing.

4.  Sex is such a preoccupation of today’s culture, so twisted and exalted and generally misunderstood — as well as being entwined with violence and torture (kink) — that the relationships among what is hormonal, what is nervous, and what is beliefs or habits, keep imploding and exploding people’s lives.  It’s impossible to account for some of this without knowing about these “axes.”  And how do we tell sex from love?

8 years old

5.  Another subject that absorbs me is the transitions in development that define the adrenarche, the years from 8 or 9 until the adrenals kick off the pubertal, possibly steep, onset of sexuality.  See sex above.  Children of this age are often abused, maybe because of separation from nurturers and the ability to defy authority, and maybe because they somehow trigger sexual desire in some people, which is easier to understand when they become adolescent, semi-adult.  Interference with children during adrenarche really messes up their physical and emotional systems.  These are the years of identity formation, but the sexual component is not there yet.  The body is not ready yet.

I have questions about spanking as discipline and how it becomes so erotic for British and German schoolboys who have been caned.

6.  Soft-heartedness (feeding) has earned me a colony of feral cats.  They’re more fun than lab white mice, even when I can’t tame them.  The feral/domestic “axis” is a phenomenon that has interested me a long time.  It has become relevant in human terms.  Research on voles reveals a genetic connection determining sexual faithfulness vs. hit-and-run mating, so the feral/domesticated contrast seems to me relevant to the formation of families.

My Sister, My Womb-mate.

I have one pair of tame cats who were "wombmates" in an old mother cat.  Both are altered females, over a dozen years old now.  One is the color of chicken gravy and has about the same personality.  The other is tortoiseshell and spicy as a Senorita on Saturday night.  Is this an axis result?  Temperament in cats seems to be linked to coat color.

Today I ran across an article about the endocrine levels of cortisol and oxytocin in bummer lambs.  The little creatures attach intensely to caregivers which means they fight to be in proximity.  If they're loose, they can drive you crazy by constant bleating and crowding.  The two hormones (cortisol indicating stress and oxytocin relating to nurturing) rise when the lambs are penned.  Dunno what it means, but it’s intriguing that anyone would study it.  $40 to get the results.


7.  Exceptional individuals — much on our minds with the death of Prince — raise a lot of questions about what I suppose I could call the “individual vs. community” axis, though it's not directly about hormones.  How much did we create Prince and how much did he create us?  Is it all just spontaneous and experiential or is there a genetic dimension?  (Both parents were musicians).  Usually the answer is “both.”  

8.  And, of course, it goes back to sex again.  How could a person so androgenous be so intensely sexual?  There are more than a few like him who are successful in sexwork — even without music.  What is “fluid sexuality”?   What does it mean to leave behind the binaries of male-and-female that have been so confining, but also give structure to a world where manmade polymer molecules intended for plastic packaging can interfere with human metabolism and destroy the digestive systems of whales who never enter supermarkets?

The Hypothalamus.

“All vertebrate brains contain a hypothalamus. In humans, it is the size of an almond.”  It’s the area just under the thalamus if that tells you anything except how it got its name.  All vertebrates have a hypothalamus, so it’s part of that unconscious-but-vital homeostasis limbic system that controls our emotions no matter how many grad degrees we have.  It links the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland.

“The hypothalamus is responsible for certain metabolic processes and other activities of the autonomic nervous system. It synthesizes and secretes certain neurohormones, called releasing hormones or hypothalamic hormones, and these in turn stimulate or inhibit the secretion of pituitary hormones. The hypothalamus controls body temperature, hunger, important aspects of parenting and attachment behaviors, thirst, fatigue, sleep, and circadian rhythms.   This links to a chart of all the hypothalamic nuclei.  They're like a keyboard for composing a body narrative.  (It’s not the same as the working platform of concepts that neurologists talk about, which can only handle a half-dozen projects at once.) Most of the information is descriptive, including descriptions of what can go wrong if one of the nuclei doesn’t work properly.  

In addition to all these nuclei pumping away, there are neural connections leading to specific other areas.  We’re told most of these neurons are two-way so they must be interpreting the code they get in order to respond with secretion and electrochemical impulse. 

The anonymous source in Wikipedia says:

"Several hypothalamic nuclei are sexually dimorphic; i.e., there are clear differences in both structure and function between males and females.

Elephant sea lions

Some differences are apparent even in gross neuroanatomy: most notable is the sexually dimorphic nucleus within the preoptic area. However most of the differences are subtle changes in the connectivity and chemical sensitivity of particular sets of neurons.

The importance of these changes can be recognised by functional differences between males and females. For instance, males of most species prefer the odor and appearance of females over males, which is instrumental in stimulating male sexual behavior. If the sexually dimorphic nucleus is lesioned, this preference for females by males diminishes. Also, the pattern of secretion of growth hormone is sexually dimorphic, and this is one reason why in many species, adult males are much larger than females.

If you want to know more about this dimorphic subject, be careful.  It lost the president of Harvard his job because some feminists were offended by him saying there was a difference between men and women.  In fact, much of all this information is "hot" and emotion-ridden, which is probably why people know so little about it.  We're still back at the taxonomy of anatomy in many ways, afraid of what we mind find out.

No comments: