Sunday, April 5, 2015

Entering the Matrix – the Neuromatrix!

I really enjoyed reading Elyse Fitzpatrick’s, “Idols of the Heart: Learning toLong for God Alone.”  In it she does a really good job of explaining, in very understandable language, what the Bible means when it uses the word “heart.”  That is a word that we tend to use a good deal and you may have even heard people teach about it at church.

The idea is that the word heart in the Bible has an incredibly rich meaning that I can only touch on here.  Please see the book for a more in depth treatment.  Basically the heart refers to our non material self and is loosely described as having:
·       Intellect
·       Affections
·       Will

The intellect refers to what we think – and we are always thinking.  We are constantly told in scripture that thinking is very important.  Look at these well known verses:

(Rom 12:2)  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of     your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

(Php 4:8)  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things

As you can see – the Bible teaches that what we think is incredibly important.  What we think tends to show up in our speech and life.  It is not only biblical – it makes sense as well.

Not only do we have thoughts – we have Affections as well.  The term does not refer to nice thoughts as much as it does to our deeply seated emotions and emotional attachments to things and ideas.  We can love the world the flesh and the devil (Eph 2:1-3) in the sense that we have a deep attachment to them.  We can also love the LORD our God with all our heart, mind, and strength (Dt 6:5).

There is always the ever present will.  We always make a decision to do or not to do.  This is perhaps most famously demonstrated in the decision of Adam and Eve in the garden when they partook of the “fruit.”  We see a radically different one made by Jesus when he was tempted by the Devil in Luke 4.  Joshua commanded the people to “Choose this day.”

Compare this with the following picture of the Neuromatrix.  It is the attempt of psychology and pain science to explain the phenomena of pain.  On the left side it shows the input to the neuromatrix.  They use this word to describe the brain.  On the right side they show the output of the brain which is based on the input on the left side.

The left side of the diagram show input from our:
·       Cognitive-related brain areas
·       Sensory Signaling Systems
·       “Emotion-related brain areas.” 

The way this works is that each of these 3 types of input go into the brain/neuromatrix.  Let’s see how this works from this perspective.

The first input mentioned comes from our thoughts.  What we think has a huge effect on what we are going to experience in the realm of pain.  If we are told that a particular tissue is responsible for what we are feeling we get that idea firmly planted in our thinking.  If we saw horrible things happen to someone having a pain like ours we are likely to link that idea in our mind to our own situation.  This goes into the neuromatrix mixing bowl.

The second area on the left input to the neuromatrix is the actual sensory input carried by nerves from our tissues.  There may be inflammation or lack of blood and oxygen to a particular area.  The nerves transmit this information to our brain/neuromatrix – the mixing bowl.

The third input to the neuromatrix comes from our Emotion-related brain areas.  They call this the Limbic System.  Let’s say you saw aunt Sally fall from a ladder and hurt her back. 

She was bed ridden for some time and could only get around in a wheel chair.  When you now fall you remember that feeling – in fact now feel the same way after your fall.  This is a potent addition to the neuromatrix mixing bowl. 

This is all mixed and baked in the brain and the individual ingredients now serve in this mixture to give an output from your brain’s oven of a pain experience.  You may also have an output of movement and stress related chemical soup.

I have read a good deal about the neuromatrix theory from some real sharp atheists.  I don’t know what the developers of the concept thought about the existence of our common Creator.  What I do know is that we all live in the same created universe and that as we look at the same material we are bound to get a few things right.  I believe that the concept of the neuromatrix is in essential agreement with scripture and can be adapted easily to our purposes for pain relief.

The Cognitive concept certainly fits well with the intellectual information that the biblical concept has.  The actual input from our tissue via nerves is in no way disagreed with in scripture.  It is certainly clear from scripture that we have deeply rooted affections.  Jonathan Edwards actually wrote a great book entitled Religious Affections.  It is available at the time of this writing for .99 in a kindle edition and is well worth the read.

The purpose of this post is to give you an understanding of what leads to pain.  In other articles we will discuss what can actually be done for it. We will utilize this information in those posts.  I hope you will seek out the books mentioned here and look forward to the more that is to come!

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