The Whole View, Season 3, Episode 72: Brain Science and Mental Wellness w/ Dr. Ginger Campbell

Welcome physician, podcast host, and author Dr. Ginger Campbell to The Whole View! Stacy and Dr. Campbell discuss the amygdala, how our brain creates everything we experience, and why “where” in the brain is often the wrong question.

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Key Takeaways

Introductions

  • Dr. Campbell spent over 20 years as an emergency physician; in 2014 she began a fellowship in Palliative Medicine, which is what she now practices at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Birmingham, AL. She enjoys both patient care and teaching residents, fellows, and medical students.
  • She is best know for her science-oriented podcasts: Books and Ideas and Brain Science. Dr. Campbell also recently launched Graying Rainbows, a podcast about coming out later in life.
  • Furthermore, her book, Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty is based on episodes of the Brain Science podcast. It explores the implications of the surprising discovery that most of what our brain does is hidden from our awareness.

The Amygdala

  • When you hear about the brain, there is a lot of emphasis on “where” something is happening, and Dr. Campbell believes that’s an oversimplified view of what’s going on.
  • Stacy and Dr. Campbell spend time discussing the amygdala, as Stacy noted that it comes up often in the trauma trainings she has taken.
  • The amygdala is commonly thought to form the core of a neural system for processing fearful and threatening stimuli, including detection of threat and activation of appropriate fear-related behaviors in response to threatening or dangerous stimuli. Thus, it is a natural candidate for a neural structure that could modulate the emotional responsiveness of face processing areas in the brain (source). Dr Campbell says the reason why our amygdala does what it does is so that we make sure we pay attention right away.

Brain Health & Mental Wellness

  • Our brain creates our experience, and that means our experiences are different. One of the things that our brain does unconsciously that we don’t know, is we don’t really choose what we believe. You can justify what you believe. But what you believe has really been processed by your brain taking everything together and coming together with “aha, this is where I am now”.
  • Dr. Campbell also says the advantage of realizing that each of us has a perspective that in some ways is equally valid and in some ways equally wrong. We can all be wrong. So the hope is that it would make us more tolerant.
  • Stacy notes that the more would she’s done with youth with PTSD, the more she’s realized everyone has their own trauma. And it doesn’t mean their family didn’t love them or any of the preconceived notions – but it definitely forms who we are. Further, Dr. Campbell says she sees this in her work – expecting a person in a severe stressful position either facing a life-threatening illness or thinking that they are, you have to try to meet them where they are. So, for her, the first point is always trying to figure out what is the thing that they are afraid of that I can address. And trying to anticipate what they would want to ask even if they’re not asking it.
  • Cognitive Behavorial Therapy (CBT) can teach people the idea of reframing, even with deeply learned patterns. The science does not say you are hard-wired, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, just not impossible.
  • Ultimately, memory is unreliable. When you start talking to other people you start to incorporate their experiences into your own memory.

Studies, References & Products

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Note: Stacy and her guests are not medical professionals. This podcast is for general educational purposes and NOT intended to diagnose, advise, or treat any physical or mental illness. We always recommend you consult a licensed service provider.

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