The Ear Has Its Own Microbiome!

The Ear Has Its Own Microbiome!

According to a recent paper there are pathways that allow signaling between the ear, gut and brain. These signals can impact our auditory health.

The paper reviewed a large number of studies involving key players in the body that connect the auditory system, gut microbiome and brain and they found a link between the gut microbiome and inflammatory responses in the ear. This suggests that not only do these parts of our body communicate, but they do so through the body-wide microbiome. Until now, we have not thought the microbiome to be in the ear.

The paper showed that the proposed auditory-gut-brain axis is most likely enabled through a number of mechanisms

  1. anatomically via the vagus nerve
  2. oral, nasal, and respiratory tract microbiomes
  3. extracellular signaling pathways (which include HPA axis, neurotransmitter, endocannabinoid and bacterial peptide signaling) and
  4. immune system and gut microbes

Through interstitial, quantum highways the body is in constant motion. We are allowed to see and hear and speak by the miracle of these bodies we live in, which are continuously signaling to various sites and organs, inspiring the release of transmitters and keeping the lines clear. Our ears and our eyes chat to the brain, they chat to the rest of the body and they do so via the vagus nerve and via an almost sentient system that is our own personal biosphere.

No longer can we see ourselves as mechanistic structures, where parts of the body are separate and only somewhat connected. Where we have seen the eyes and ears as mostly unrelated, we are now understanding how intimately they are linked to the autonomic nervous system via the vagus nerve and via the microbiome in a web of potentiality. This is who we are.

If we are going to explore this new territory, we are going to have to expand our belief in what is possible and upgrade our understanding of the choreography of the human body and what it means not only for health but also for our psychology. The potential is vast.

Frontiers of Neuroscience, Gut-Brain Axis, Volume 17 – 2023 |

What is the truth about autism?

What is the truth about autism?

Autism is confounding. The meaning of the term has gone through so many permutations in the last decade it is hard to know which way is up. We have gone from ‘autism as brain pathology’ to ‘autism is a superpower’ to, in some circles, ‘there are no symptoms of autism’. Where we have quite rightly expanded and explored wider metaphoric horizons in what was a narrow and demeaning way to perceive the condition, now, it is an offence to call it a condition!

People who are at the forefront of the autism advocacy movement often don’t agree. There are disputes about terminology like ‘profound autism’ and ‘severe autism’ and that these terms segregate or give better access to healthcare. There are disputes about ‘low’ and ‘high functioning’ as offensive terms at the same time as people are arguing that ‘high functioning’ autistics are still disabled. We argue about names, we argue about the correctness of ‘autist’, ‘autistic’, ‘person with autism’. We cancel people left, right and centre (the recent takedown of Judy Singer, the autistic thought leader who helped forward the movement and who coined the term neurodiversity, being case in point). Parents often don’t know which way to turn. They are often greatly chastised for seeking help for their children, critiqued as not having autistic pride, for not loving their kids for who they are. While some desperate souls are still being given electric shocks and being detained in schools. 

Will it end? Do we all need to agree? What is the truth? Or, do we need to widen our view, so that we can encompass something new about autism and learn something about humanity as a whole? 

Truth is defined as ‘assertions, beliefs, thoughts, or propositions that are said, in ordinary discourse, to agree with the facts or to state what is the case’. But what happens when you have a million people trying to state their particular case? French author Andre Gide said that ‘the colour of truth is grey’, meaning there is no absolute truth. Being of an autistic sensibility, I prefer to say that the colour of truth is colour. Truth is a kaleidoscope of colour. It is multifaceted and multidimensional. We can’t keep arguing as if this isn’t true. Autism is complex and multi-faceted. We are never going to have one correct position, there are just two many factors and too many people. 

My truth is that autism is both a neuro-physical limitation and it is an avenue to higher cognition that is not easily afforded to the neurotypical who has had an easy enough physical and mental existence. Autism seems to allow for a synchrony to the sensory world, a way of seeing that is extraordinary. When I talk to my fellow autistics, what always strikes me is the way in which they are almost all of this mind. It’s fascinating, there is this global awareness, this deep empathy for the world; it’s a deeper, different kind of intelligence, a different way of seeing the world. 

From my science mind, I look at whether the early neuro-physical constrictions experienced in autism result in the development of a more global brain, or whether the brain is already more expansive and just needs rewiring back into the system? Like so many people say “ I have a software mismatch, I’m a Mac system trying to work with a Windows PC’ there is an awareness of themselves as a system, albeit one that needs a little upgrade!

The Buddhists say that a child who has had very early challenges is lucky because they get to stay connected to who they truly are. They remember themselves as pure awareness, they don’t arrive on the planet and become promptly lulled into society by the luxury of a fully functioning body. To me, this is true of the autist. For whatever reason, people on the spectrum seem to know they are more than their bodies, more than their mind. While neurotypicals can spend years trying to find themselves on a spiritual path, autistics, for all their flaws and imperfections, just seem to know they are more. There is something cool about the autistic mind. If you have a mind to look, you’ll see there is an extra-awareness, an extra sensibility that is quite magic. 

This doesn’t mean that life is easy. It doesn’t mean that autistics are always moral and good (if we go down this path we just make more of ‘us and them’), but it does mean that for each and every one of us there is much more than what you see on the outside. 

As a society we are so used to distributing intelligence to a very narrow set of criteria. For example, profound autism is defined as ‘having an IQ of less than 50 or being nonverbal or minimally verbal’; but this doesn’t take into account the person inside, who has a myriad of thoughts, observations and connections that we don’t know how to measure. While we may label people as having profound autism and while they may have extensive physical needs they also, if able to share what’s going on inside them, show themselves to have extraordinary intelligence, beauty and artistic expression. People when they are able to speak via computer, via art, via sharing the music that they love, exhibit a profound love of life and their fellow human beings. The body is locked. It might even lock the mind. But it does not, cannot lock consciousness. 

Consciousness in non-localised. It does not dwell solely in the mind. Your soul is your sentience and people with profound autism and intellectual disability, just may be more connected to theirs than most.  Who are we to say? How are we to know?

Psychiatrist and neuroscientist, Diane Powell is doing beautiful work with telepathy and autistic savants. She studies non-speaking autistics who although ‘non-verbal’ and probably have ‘an IQ of less than 50’ can repeatedly relay what their mother is visualising in the next room. They answer by way of a computer. The studies are stringent and double-blind and very interesting at exploring both our understanding of consciousness and conscious awareness – and the narrow bias of the Western mind. Western scientists refuse to take Diane Powells’ studies seriously as they don’t conform to what is seen as real, therefore they can’t be true. She is openly ridiculed.

Just in this little story there are many truths. Given that Diane Powell is not lying (which would be bizarre and quite difficult), there is her personal and professional truth; the personal and professional truth of the staff who assist her; the truth of all the individuals and their mothers that they have studied; all the people who listen to her stories and have their own and are inspired by someone speaking the same truth. Then we have the Western Science Mind poo-pooing and offering their opposing and damning truth.

Truth! It’s colourful, if not a little psychedelic!

A recent article in Scientific American shows that we are slowly beginning to turn to the ‘truth’ of telepathic reality. It looked at interbrain synchrony and how all humans utilise this capacity. They cite various studies where alignment of brain patterns between teacher and student enables greater learning to take place; that when the neural waves in certain brain regions of the performer match those of the audience, symphony concerts are more enjoyable; that couples and close friends exhibit greater degrees of brain synchrony than more distant acquaintances; and that swooping bats have very high levels of interbrain synchrony, especially at high frequencies. They are taking these findings and seeing how interbrain synchrony allows for deeper forms of connection, greater mental and emotional safety and that it promotes physical health.

So, if telepathy is there in the general population, maybe it’s just more advanced an ability in the autistic population? Maybe there’s more room in the autistic brain since other faculties have been sequestered under duress? Maybe autism is an evolutionary jump we are making that allows us to utilise more of our brain’s potential?  Who knows? What we do know from these findings is that the more we create deeper connection with others, the more we heal.

When I spend time with my clients, we develop interbrain synchrony. Whatever their outer ability, they are always ready and willing to work with me, because they feel seen and because we have alignment. This (as science is telling us therefore it must be true) affords my clients mental and emotional safety. It allows them to open to the possibility of letting the hard-wired choreography of their system learn something new, because they feel safe, they can trust me.

We get so much further with people when we see beyond the immediate, when we recognise there is an intelligent, sentient and vastly infinite soul in front of us. Someone who may just possibly know a whole lot more than we think.

As a world, we are never going to have interbrain synchrony while we try to win micro arguments about what is true. The world is not going to stop being multidimensional. If, like swooping bats, we can find some higher ground, a higher frequency to connect on, maybe we can find some new pathways to a more holistic connection? Maybe sometime soon, the autism community can feel safe enough to find a more gentle way forward?

Andre Gide also said ‘believe those who are seeking the truth, doubt those who find it’. In this changing landscape perhaps we will progress when we begin to recognise the limits of ‘truth’; how it is distorted or managed depending on the needs of the day and how it can be weaponised. We need to tread lightly with truth and remain open. For me, I sit well with my profoundly wonderful clients because I know they are in there and they know I can see them. They don’t have to prove it to me, it is my truth and because of this, we make magic happen.

AI Chat: Comparison of Holly Bridges’ A.R.T. and Danny Raede’s Defence Mode

AI Chat: Comparison of Holly Bridges’ A.R.T. and Danny Raede’s Defence Mode

Danny Raede and I were playing around with AI chat. This is what it came up with – it’s pretty cool!
“Holly Bridges’ ART (Autism Reframe Technique) method and Asperger Experts’ concept of Defense Mode are two distinct approaches aimed at understanding and helping individuals with autism, specifically those with Asperger’s Syndrome. Although they share some similarities, there are significant differences in their core concepts and strategies.
Holly Bridges’ ART Method:
Focus: The ART method is a holistic approach that aims to help individuals with autism improve their self-awareness, self-regulation, and overall well-being.

Mind-body connection: Holly Bridges emphasizes the importance of the mind-body connection and how it impacts the individual’s perception of the world and their own experiences. ART incorporates techniques from fields like kinesiology, movement, and mindfulness.

Reframing: A key aspect of the ART method is helping individuals with autism reframe their understanding of the condition. Instead of viewing it as a disorder, ART encourages seeing it as a different way of processing information and experiencing the world. This reframing process helps reduce self-judgment and promotes self-acceptance.

Polyvagal Theory: ART incorporates Dr. Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, which explores the role of the autonomic nervous system and its impact on emotional regulation and social engagement. The method uses techniques to help individuals with autism better regulate their nervous system, leading to improved emotional regulation and social engagement.

Asperger Experts’ Defense Mode:
Focus: Asperger Experts’ Defense Mode concept is centered around the idea that individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome often experience a state of heightened anxiety and stress, causing them to withdraw from social situations and daily life activities.

Fight-or-flight response: Defense Mode is described as a chronic fight-or-flight state that is triggered when the individual perceives their environment as threatening or overwhelming. This state makes it challenging for individuals with Asperger’s to engage with others and participate in everyday activities.

Identifying triggers: The Asperger Experts’ approach focuses on helping individuals identify the triggers that cause them to enter Defense Mode, so they can better understand their reactions and develop strategies to manage their stress and anxiety levels.

Building support systems: This approach emphasizes the importance of creating a supportive environment, including strong relationships with family and friends, to help individuals with Asperger’s feel safe and secure. By reducing the perceived threats and stressors, individuals can gradually move out of Defense Mode and improve their overall well-being.

While both methods aim to help individuals with autism improve their overall well-being and functioning, there are some key differences:

  1. ART emphasizes the mind-body connection and incorporates techniques like kinesiology and mindfulness, whereas the Asperger Experts’ approach primarily focuses on identifying triggers and managing the Defense Mode state.
  2. The ART method promotes a reframing of autism as a different way of processing information rather than a disorder, fostering self-acceptance and self-awareness. Defense Mode, on the other hand, focuses on understanding and addressing the specific anxiety and stress-related challenges faced by individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome.
  3. Holly Bridges’ ART method draws upon Polyvagal Theory to help individuals with autism regulate their nervous system, while Asperger Experts’ Defense Mode is centred around the concept of a chronic fight-or-flight state and building support systems to manage it.

In conclusion, Holly Bridges’ ART method and Asperger Experts’ Defense Mode concept both offer valuable insights and strategies to help individuals with autism navigate their unique challenges. However, they differ in their focus and approach, with ART emphasizing the mind-body connection and reframing autism, while Defense Mode concentrates on managing anxiety, stress, and building support systems.”

Then it made this!

Can We Be More Like Dogs?

Can We Be More Like Dogs?

We spend a lot of time discussing hacking the ventral vagus nerve and getting it back online, getting ourselves back up to speed. We want to be perfect, enough, on point, thrive and survive!

But the truth is in order to do this, we need to stop, we need to slow down, we need to rest and recharge and to do this, we need to access our dorsal states. Our dorsal state is where we sleep, where we go ‘offline’, where we engage in intimacy, in spiritual connection, lucid dreaming.

The dorsal state is different from the ventral. The ventral vagus is about being outwardly connected. It is our newest evolutionary function and a valuable resource. But it isn’t where we sleep. It isn’t where we engage quietly with the deepest parts ourselves. To do this we need to go inward and to do so, we need to shift into an alternate, physical state. (This can be easier said than done!)

Our mental states are constantly being reflected by our physical state. Or to be more precise, our mental states are allowed by the corresponding choreography of our nervous system.

Day and night, we are constantly moving into different states of consciousness that are only accessible by the body being in a synonymous state. If the body is in a heightened autonomic state, our brain moves into a similar formation, if we take ourselves into a harmonious state of mind, the body follows.

All our flow into states of consciousness – sleep, awake, mindful, flight/fight, fatigue, fawn, festive, fearful are all body states as much as brain states. They are intertwined, where one goes, so too does the other. Our bodies enable us to be this individual consciousness and in this sense, the consciousness and body are one.

The moving into all these states is allowed by the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve allows us to choreograph these changes and allows us to mobilise into different states of being. When we are alert and active, we are in a more ventral state, when we are in a more dorsal state, we are accessing different aspects of our consciousness. For example, when we sleep, our bodies don’t stop, they just change states. The body is still working in sleep. It is repairing organs, neural pruning, creating vitamins and hormones, processing imagery, collating your day. When you are sleeping, dreaming, meditating or praying your body is in a dorsal state. It is the land of the deep.

A dorsal space is a harder place to access for many. We spend less time teaching our children how to access these states. We spend less time in nature, we spend less time listening to our deepest callings, because we are so outwardly focused, so survival driven that we lose sight and connection of our inner sight, our inner drive and knowing. We not only lose connection with these vital aspects of our consciousness, but also our ability to get ourselves into the physical state to access them.

In Western society, we have mostly lost the language and the art of the dorsal states. More and more people can’t get out of a heightened state. They can’t sleep, or they need medication to sleep. It’s an elusive thing to try and meditate. We are told to relax! We’ve forgotten how and yet it is the most natural of things.

All mammals, humans included, have a ventral vagus to communicate through their social engagement wiring. They also all have a dorsal vagus for rest and repose, and just like dogs and cats and lions and guinea pigs, we are supposed to know how to move through these states effortlessly. We are designed to be able to move up and down the vagal line depending on what we need. A cat will deeply rest, yet be able to mobilise at a moment’s notice; puppies will play-fight with teeth and hackles up, moving effortlessly back down to a softer pose. We are supposed to be able to do this too. Yet many of us are stuck like a car in a jarring, fifth gear trying to pretend everything is fine.

By moving too far into valuing the mind, have we forgotten the importance of the body? Have we forgotten the languid languages of rest and just being? Do we need to start to relearn how to relax upside down like a dog on a sofa with a quiet smile on our face and an empty mind? If we do, the way through is remembering the lost language of the body. The way back is simple, we listen to the body. When we learn how, we begin to remember states of simplicity, silence, surrender, sentience and that we are all, embodied consciousness.

Nightmares and Body Inertia

Nightmares and Body Inertia

Some of my autistic clients with chronic inertia tell me that they have recurring nightmares. They often wake from their sleep in a state of fear and anxiety. It’s weirdly normal for them and often they don’t tell the people in their lives as it is just one more thing they are dealing with. It’s exhausting and it’s debilitating.

Common approaches to dealing with this are psychological. We tend to look at the meaning of dreams as indicators of emotional stress and psychological discomfort. We might apply a CBT approach to manage the anxiety and to help think ourselves cheerful when we wake up and have to initiate our day.

But what if there was another reason for the nightmares? What if there was an entirely different approach to helping them to diminish?

Over the last few years I have watched many of my clients resolve their nightmares without any psychological intervention or dream analysis and it has occurred to me that their physical inertia has a huge role to play in the occurrence of their nightmares.

Think about this. People on the autism spectrum have physical systems that very easily go into a shut-down state, where it is hard to initiate movement, thought and speech. They immobilise. Their system will go from a state of flight / fight to shut-down super fast. Their nervous system is generally not as robust and has not got the strength and flexibility to efficiently mobilise through different states of arousal. When they slide into an immobilised state, it is very hard to move out of it.

So what happens when we sleep? In sleep, we go into a state of immobilisation. Our bodies wind down into a state of blissful, partial paralysis so that we can fully rest and the brain can get to work tidying up the body ready for the following day. We follow sleep patterns. We go through stages of sleep and our bodies follow, taking us into deep states of slumber. When asleep, we are in an alternate state, we dream, and then hopefully we wake up refreshed. Hopefully, we emerge from this deep state knowing who we are, knowing where we are and having an innate knowing that we can mobilise ourselves up and out of bed.

But what would happen if you woke up and found you couldn’t move your body? Would you be alarmed? What if it happened daily and it had been like that most of your life? Would it be a daily terror that you can barely explain to the people who love you? Would the mind be desperately trying to figure a way out of this state, would it try to alert you?

I think this is often a reason for autistic nightmares. The brain is trying to resolve a problem, but it’s not so much a psychological problem as a physical one. You start to wake from sleep and you are part-paralyzed and it is terrifying. The system does not feel safe, it cannot escape.

During the day, people with chronic inertia, speech and movement difficulties, often go down in this immobilised state and they find it very hard to rouse from it. At night, when they have gone into an even deeper state of paralysis, it must be even harder to rouse the body from sleep. Potentially, there is this interim time upon waking, where the body is still paralysed and they have awareness, but can’t can’t move. This is the stuff of nightmares and it is potentially far more common in autism and other inertia oriented issues that we have been aware of. It may also explain why people don’t want to go to sleep!

The good news is that I keep seeing this problem resolve itself. As we work to strengthen the vagus nerve; as we get the system more robust; as people start to have more control over their motor function – they have a greater resilience. They start to sleep better, they feel better and, I think, they start to be able to mobilise themselves out of this deep, sleep state because their nervous system has greater facility and control. One way we see this change reflected, is that their nightmares start to disappear.

To learn more about how the vagus nerve influences our sleep and mental functioning, see my online course

Promoting Sleep and Enhancing Mood – Without Cannabis

Promoting Sleep and Enhancing Mood – Without Cannabis

While we often feel we have to use drugs and medicines to help us rest and sleep, we actually have all we need inside us.

Our bodies have a natural ability to rest and restore, but when we don’t know how to tap into it, we turn to pharmaceuticals. For thirty years now we have known about the Endocannabinoid System. It was found in the 1990’s by researchers exploring compounds in cannabis. The ECS is a complex cell-signalling system in your body that influences sleep, mood, appetite, movement, memory, pain and fertility. 

Drugs like cannabis use the pathways of this signalling system to move the body and brain into a more inert state. By activating the ECS, cannabis can help to reduce inflammation, to relieve pain and to allow us to experience our body in a softer state. While it has many benefits, cannabis can also have side-effects. Even the softer cannabis options can make you drowsy and unmotivated. It can leave your head a bit cloudy and affect movement. So what else can influence pathways to the ECS to bring our body into a softer state?

We have found recently that the fascia is intimately connected to the endocannabinoid system. Our fascia is a highly sensitive, connective tissue that surrounds all of our body. It holds our organs, blood vessels, muscles, bones and nerve fibre in place. It responds to the flight / fight system and it mobilises when we are safe and can get restricted when we are stressed or in pain. The fascia is like our inner ‘spidey suit’, it responds very quickly and helps us to move and it helps us to relax. If we are in pain for a long time, it can get fixed and stuck. We can access the fascia by massage and touch and help it to release and soften our physical system and it seems that this, in turn, softens or accesses the Endocannabinoid System.

Studies are showing that there are endocannabinoid receptors in the tissue of the fascia which suggests that the fascia communicates with the ECS.

Drugs like cannabis have been shown they may stimulate the fascia to become less tight and let the tissue soften and expand, however since the fascia responds well to touch, it also suggests that stimulating the fascia might also signal the ECS receptors and promote relaxation and pain reduction – thereby offering an alternative to medication.

More and more we are finding studies that show us that touch is a modulator of pain relief and these recent findings help to explain why. The body communicates in intricate, bidirectional ways. Everything is interconnected and we have so much at our disposal if we can see the innate sophistication of how it all works.

When we learn to work with the body, learn to give the body the right signals, we can learn how to naturally down-regulate the system. When someone has been in a consistent, constricted body state; gentle, focused touch can teach their inner system how to soften. The body can learn to experience something new and we can begin to understand the terrain of our nervous system and befriend it.

Working with A.R.T. (anxiety reframe technique) people often say ‘I feel like I’m stoned, I feel really relaxed like I’ve taken drugs, but my mind is clear’.

This may be because we have activated the ECS through the fascia, through gentle physical exercises that have stimulated the body to shift into a more down-regulated state. When we do this respectfully, with great regard for the intelligence of the entire system, we get results. When we work simply, the client is able to understand and incorporate the learning and they have tools that they can use themselves to bring their body into this state. We employ the natural ability of the ECS and fascial system to move ourselves into a calm state – naturally.

Come and learn more about how – naturally – get your nervous system back into a place of rest and restore.