This Is Your Brain On Ice Cream
by Stephanie “Teffie” Landmann, COTA/L,
PAC Support Mentor, Coach, and Trainer
A while ago, pre-COVID-19 stay at home orders, I took a trip to one of my favorite ice cream parlors. The sizes are; like it, love it, and gotta have it. Of course, I went for the gotta have it, this is ice cream after all. The size options made me think of a part of our brain. How does ice cream relate to the brain? I am so glad you asked.
In that moment, standing at the counter, my amygdala was saying, I need ice cream! Meeting your needs is one of the functions of the amygdala; I like it, I want it, I need it. Why is this part of the brain so important? We need it for survival. Imagine a hot sunny day working in the yard. After an hour or so you might like some water, but you skip it and keep working. A little bit more time passes now you want some water, and still you skip it. More time passes and now you need water. The amygdala is helping you survive by helping your body meet its needs without actively thinking about it. When is the last time you had to think about breathing or making your heart beat?
So, what happens for someone living with dementia or other brain changes? Interestingly, the amygdala gets more power (glucose) than other parts of the brain. You could say the brain goes into survival mode. It is a good thing too. We need the amygdala to control our breathing, heart rate, and to tell us when to eat or drink. It helps us as care partners as well. Someone with brain change might say, I need coffee. Yet you know they just had their 10th cup of coffee. Their amygdala is giving us a message. Now it is time for your brain to kick in with help. They are saying they need coffee, maybe because they are still holding the empty 10th cup of coffee or could it be a different need, say to eliminate some of the 10 cups of coffee?
Where are you at care partners? Would you like help and support from PAC, do you want help and support from PAC, or do you need help and support from PAC? Wherever your amygdala is at, we are here for you.