What do you visualize when you read the phrase Gut-Brain Axis? Or Brain-Gut Connection?
I picture very active brains communicating with very active intestines. Or is it the other way around? Both. It’s a two-way, busy connect especially when you consider the wandering nerve, aka, the vagus nerve. Think: 2-way, information highway. The vagus nerves are paired cranial nerves (CN X) and happen to be my favorite of all the nerves. Because it is the longest nerve in the body it moves alongside heart and lungs and goes through all the organs of the digestive tract, connecting brain to gut.
I enjoy the challenge of capturing Veronica’s likeness while I work her profile. I organize and sketch in the brain. The small area of my drawing is detailed into a collaged map of El Paso,TX, where my cousin lives.
I have fun with the photo ↑ and strategically place color pencils to direct attention to the brainstem, the area of the brain I am working to understand. I imagine the space to be like a facility loaded with chemicals and chemical messengers / hormones and neurotransmitters. Think: Food intake. Signals and controls. Many and complex. (FYI – purple pencil points to vagus nerve start.)
Some of the hormones involved include adipoectin (a protein hormone that modulates glucose regulation and fatty acid oxidation), and leptin (made by fat cells and decreases appetite).
Veronica, during our initial conversation, noted ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite. If I understand correctly, it is primarily released in the stomach and signals hunger to the brain. It also plays a role in determining how quickly hunger returns after a meal. And it promotes fat storage. After my surgery, she says, no more ghrelin. No more! What does this mean? Forever? I ask. I don’t know, she answers. And now you eat because??
I must live! Ah…survival!
Side note: The hormones that play a role in obesity, do they also play a role in anorexia?
I haven’t brought the microbiome in yet. But I will. Now when I hear gut-brain, I also think of microbes. FYI…they can influence hunger and satiety.
Anyway…I’m still laying ground work…which is both complicated to figure out and complicated to draw. Both my brain and my hands are keeping busy.
One more thing…
In early posts I highlight the brown adipose tissue (BAT) and the white adipose tissue (WAT). Now I study and set in subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) located under the skin and visceral adipose tissue (VAT).
In the image above, ↑ I enhance (darker area) the greater omentum (cool name! for an organ) , an example of VAT. It looks like lace, doesn’t it? This apron of fatty tissue, connective tissue and lymphatics, comes down from the stomach and stretches over the intestines. The greater omentum, aka, Policeman of the abdomen, might just be the first line of defense against toxins or infections (microbes).
BTW…yes, there is also a lesser omentum…
Meanwhile… drawing circles/making connections.
Keeping a note:
Amylin is a hormone, co-stored and co-secreted with insulin in response to nutrients. It promotes satiety by mediating brain function, including appetite inhibition.
Amylin also plays a role in neural regeneration. It helps regulate glucose metabolism and modulates inflammation. I pull it aside and note it here because of a possible link to Alzheimer’s Disease (Type II Diabetes).