The Mind-Body Connection
Many of the sensory-perceptual languages of the mind (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic information, etc.) are encoded like a map over the cortex of the brain. All these languages of human experience can be transformed into one another via the "cross-modal association areas" of the limbic system. This means, for example, that I can visually imagine a scene and convert it into words.
For the purposes of explaining mind-body connection, we could define consciousness as a process of self-reflective information transformation. Self-reflection involves processes of recursive information transformation between the different modalities or languages of mind. This suggests that we can conceptualize our methods of ideodynamic healing as recursively facilitating the evolution of insight and the creation of new meaning as we access and reframe the experiential sources of psychological problems.
Consciousness presumably evolved because there was survival value in all the modalities and languages of mind being able to converse together. This suggests that consciousness becomes more complex and effective as a healing agent as it gains more experience and skill in self-reflecting all the modalities and languages of mind. Everyone experiences these processes of self-reflective information transformation with different degrees of control. Our personalities and "points of view" are expressions of our individual proclivities and talents for using many of the processes of information transduction that take place in the cortical-limbic system pathways of the brain.
We can generalize this point of view to conceptualize all methods of mind-body healing as means of facilitating skills in utilizing the many languages of self-reflective information transduction. All processes of meditation, hypnosis, imagery, active imagination, the systems approaches to therapeutic communication, and even the placebo response can be understood as means of exploring, accessing, and using the many modalities and languages of mind-brain communication.
The Brain-Body Connection
The most familiar examples of information transduction come from the area of sensory-perceptual psychology. Information in the form of light is transformed into chemical information when it is encoded by the molecules of rhodopsin in the retina of the eye. The phytochemistry of rhodopsin transduces this chemical information into neural information via the "bipolar" and ganglion cells within the retina, which, in turn, transmit the neural information through the optic nerve to the visual association cortex of the brain. All sensory-perceptual systems operate by an analogous process of information transduction.
Information transduction at this level of mind-body communication has been used to update Hans Selye's theory of stress and the General Adaptation Syndrome as the basis of psychosomatic medicine. Selye's life work demonstrated that there were three routes, channels, or systems by which mental stress was transmitted into the body's "psycho-somatic" responses: the autonomic, endocrine, and immune systems. We now know that the limbic hypothalamic-pituitary system of the brain plays the major integrative role in the mind modulation of all three of these major systems. That is, the limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary system is the major mind-body information transducer; it is the major translator between the languages of mind (in the forms of sensation, imagery, verbal language, etc.) and the languages of the body (information substances such as neuropeptides, hormones, immunotransmitters, etc.)
It has been proposed that the state-dependent memory, learning, and behavior system that encodes many mind-body problems functions as an "experiential filter" modulating the activity of the limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary system. This leads us to conclude that information transduction and state-dependent memory and learning are the two fundamental processes that bridge the so-called "mysterious gap" between mind and body; they are the two basic channels of mind-body communication and healing.
The Cellular-Genetic Connection
All the cells of the body are now known to have numerous receptors on their surfaces that can regulate their internal activities. The information substances of the autonomic, endocrine, immune, and neuropeptide systems signal these cell receptors to "turn on" and modulate the metabolic machinery within the protoplasm and even the expression of genes within the nucleus of the cell. Complete channels of information transduction between mind, the limbic-hypothalamic system, and the gene regulation of the metabolism of each cell of the body are thus theoretically possible.
Selye found that severe stress involves a tree-part psychosomatic response. There was (1) an activation of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, leading to dysfunctions of the gastrointestinal tract (e.g. ulcers); (2) an activation of the pituitary-adrenal axis of the endocrine system leading to a hyperthrophy of the adrenals, and (3) a suppression of the thymus and immune system.
Mental stress at the cortical-limbic-hypothalamic level leads to the formation and release of a series of hormonal information substances that ultimately modulate gene expression at the cellular level. Stress experienced as languages of mind (sensation, perception, words, images) in the cortical-limbic system is transduced into information substances in the hypothalamus. One of these hypothalamic information substances, corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH), travels via the hypothalamic-pituitary portal blood vessels to the anterior portion of the pituitary. CRH, in turn, leads to the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which is the well-known modulator of the stress response in the body, where it travels via the bloodstream to the cortex of the adrenal glands to release cortisol. Cortisol in turn communicates with other tissues and organs of the body modulated by the autonomic and immune systems.
Under the impact of stress, the adrenal cortex also releases hormones such as aldosterone, which modulates sodium reabsorption in the kidneys at the cellular-genetic level. All the endocrine glands of the body operate by an analogous response to regulate a wide variety of functions, basal metabolism, growth, sexuality, and so forth.
The ultimate goal of all mind-body healing methods is to learn how to consciously facilitate these processes for psychosomatic healing.
From the book: "Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing"
Rossi brings together extensive new evidence from psychoneuroimmunology, neuroendocrinology, molecular genetics, and neurobiology to show that there is no mysterious gap between mind and body. This book identifies what the medical profession calls "pathways", that is, the way attitudes or emotions are processed by the body in creating physiological or biochemical change. Rossi documents and illustrates how these pathways coordinate all the "messenger molecules" of mind-body communication via the autonomic, endocrine, immune, and neuropeptide systems.