By Dr. Michael Brandon
Jumping on a trampoline, swinging in the park, running in circles, and rolling down hills may sound like a day's summer schedule for a child, but what about as a way to help combat depression, anxiety, and memory deficits in us all.
Our body's vestibular system is what helps us with our balance and equilibrium and allows us to do things like walking and standing upright, standing on one leg, walk across a tight rope etc. The majority of this system is small structures buried within our ears which works with our eyes and specific regions of our brain. It gets strengthened via body and head movements like rolling, jumping, spinning, and so forth. We rarely think about it unless there's an issue like becoming dizzy or losing balance, but clearly this system is important for us. Could you imagine trying to go through a day without being able to walk 10 feet without falling to the side?
Science has found however that having a healthy balancing system may also help with stress, anxiety and depression. It appears that having vestibular dysfunction, like dizziness or vertigo, can cause increased anxiety and stress, and even the reverse with having excess stress or anxiety disorders could cause dizziness or vertigo. So clearly they are related, but why does that matter?
There was a study that took college students and gave them “swing time” every day, meaning they literally went to a park, sat on a swing and swung back and forth for a while. This caused all participants to have a positive change on their emotional state with depression, stress, and anxiety.
This led me to think about children and the importance of recess. Its been over the news the past few years when it was shown that increased play time increased academic performance. This could be a big part as to why. Children's brains are still developing, so having kids “just be kids” and run, roll, and jump, is quite important so they have a better chance at staying happy and coping with the stress that inevitably arises in life. Currently, kids don't play as much as they used to due to tv, video games, and similar activities, so their vestibular system which is linked to strong emotional control and satisfaction may not get fully developed.
Add to that then how most of us as adults live rather sedentary lives and sit most of the day, so we aren't strengthening our equilibrium and balance systems either. The good news is, that it appears that even as adults we can help ourselves by “just being a kid”.
So maybe I wouldn't advice grandpa to go hop on a merry-go-round or start doing flips on the trampoline, but gently rocking in a chair or standing on a wobble board for a while may help his occasional panic attacks or make him smile a bit more. It shouldn't be surprising then that most people enjoy things such as swinging and spinning. Everybody wants to stay young, and though we have yet to biohack a secret for that, there's clearly benefits by following a child's example in this case. So go make yourself a little dizzy, a little happy, and as always, BioHack on!
Dalton, S. (2016, May 11). Youth Fitness: Exercise Helps Children Excel in School. Retrieved June 16, 2017, from http://www.healthline.com/health/youth-fitness-exercise-helps-children-excel-school#5
Eisenbarth, C. A. (2013). Influence of Optimism on Appraised Stress, Depression, and Anxiety Among College Students. Journal of Psychology Research, 3(6), 295-297. doi:10.17265/2159-5542/2013.06.003
Gurvich C., Maller J. J., Lithgow B., Haghgooie S., Kulkarni J. (2013, in press). Vestibular insights into cognition and psychiatry. Brain Res. [Epub ahead of print]. 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.08.058
Halberstadt A. L., Balaban C. D. (2006). Serotonergic and nonserotonergic neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus send collateralized projections to both the vestibular nuclei and the central amygdaloid nucleus. Neuroscience 140, 1067–1077 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2006.02.053
Mukkadan, J., Rajagopalan, A., Jinu, K., Sailesh, K., Mishra, S., & Reddy, U. (2017). Understanding the links between vestibular and limbic systems regulating emotions. Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, 8(1), 11. doi:10.4103/0976-9668.198350
Smith, P. F., & Darlington, C. L. (2013). Personality changes in patients with vestibular dysfunction. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00678
Your Donation May be Tax Deductible As BioHackers Inc is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
The BioHackers are a 501c3 non-profit group organized to scientifically understand and develop ideas and methods to advance human performance.