The Importance of Balance, and Why We “Black Out”

 The human brain is the pinnacle of efficiency. That 3lbs piece of white and grey matter has enough energy flowing through it to power a 10 watt light bulb. That’s enough energy to make Uncle Fester jealous. Now to begin to understand the brain we need to understand how it uses its energy. For the brain to remain highly efficient and functioning properly it relies on being in a balanced state. That means the brain needs both positive and negative processes working at the same time to create a balance.  If your brain falls out of balance some weird stuff can go down. To best illustrate this let’s look at a favorite college past time, “blacking out.”  Keep in mind this is going to be a very rudimentary explanation.

Why We Black Out

As I mentioned before the brain has both positive and negative processes. The fuel or energy for these processes is called Glutamate and GABA. Glutamate is the neurotransmitter that fuels your brain’s positive processes.  GABA is the neurotransmitter that fuels your brain’s negative processes. The plus/minus processes of Glutamate and GABA create the balance your brain needs.

But it’s Friday, and you’re thirsty. So you strap on your toga and you hit the town. Next thing you know you’re throwing back shots, cranking out keg stands that will whip a party into a frenzy and what the hell, you even shotgun a beer or eight. You see the funny thing about alcohol is that it potentiates GABA. So with a little added help from booze GABA becomes more abundant in your brain, and that offsets the balance your brain needs to function properly.

The area of your brain that is associated with short-term memory is called the hippocampus, and is normally fueled by the positive neurotransmitter Glutamate… but not tonight. Since GABA is in excess it overrides some of the functions of your hippocampus, affecting your ability to process memory. So when you wake up on a futon, naked, with a bunch of strangers you can blame it on your brain for not being balanced. No worries though, by the time you wake up and shake off your moral hangover your brain’s activity should have balanced itself back out.

 

 If you’re confused just remember your dashboard.

 

 That’s right, think of your dashboard and dials, specifically your temperature gauge. Think aboBalance is good! Don't over heat and don't get cold.ut it, you always want your temperature to be right in the middle of that gauge. If the pin moves too far towards The H (Heat) your car would over heat and not work. If the pin moves too far towards The C (Cold) your engine isn’t going to work properly either. You want that pin right in the middle, balanced.  So how does this relate back to social intelligence?

 

 

This idea of balance is important because it can be applied to your desired emotional state. It’s proven that the higher your emotions run, the more difficult it is to perform basic functions. Similarly if you don’t have enough emotional stimulation you can’t perform a task optimally either.  You want your emotions to be like the heat gauge on your car, in the middle range – not too hot and not too cold.  People who are emotionally and socially intelligent can control the flow of their emotions by thinking and priming their emotional state for what has happened and what might happen. Thw higher your emotions run the more difficult it is to control your impulses and that could lead to you doing something you might regret.  So next time you begin to feel your emotions starting to get the best of you take time to think and find your emotional balance. The lesson of balance is essential to the success and development of your emotional and social intelligence.

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One thought on “The Importance of Balance, and Why We “Black Out”

  1. So thats what happens. Does “blacking out”lead to any long term problems on your memory or brain’s abilities?

    -Mark

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