Blog, Chirosecure Live Event November 21, 2020

“Gorilla, Squirrel & Turtle… Dr. B talks Polyvagal Theory and Kiddos!”

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Disclaimer: The following is an actual transcript. We do our best to make sure the transcript is as accurate as possible, however, it may contain spelling or grammatical errors.  

Now here’s today’s host Dr. Monika Buerger.


I am Dr. Monica Berger and I am your host today for this incredible ChiroSecure show. Look to the children. So I want to welcome everybody today and I want to thank ChiroSecure for, um, giving us this platform, this incredible platform to share pearls and wisdom, and to come together as a community for the sake of children and chiropractic. So, um, I use ChiroSecure because I know that they’ve got my back when I’m working with these little fiddle farts and, uh, look, help us to look to the future, to, um, sick, excuse me, secure their health and wellbeing. So I want to present to you today. Um, so first of all, I’m going to start out. Why did the turtle cross the road?

Not just to get to the other side, but to, uh, to get to the squirrel? Aha. Okay, look, it’s end of the year. It’s, uh, the end of 2020, we’ve made it thus far to the middle of November. So let’s dig in and let’s have some fun. So the turtle, the turtle crosses the road to get to the squirrel. And why is that important? Because the squirrel is the, uh, the amid doula or the fearmonger in our world that we’re going to present today. I want to go over today. The bagel ladder are a part of what we call the polyvagal theory. This is off of Stephen Porges, his work, and it’s become very well known that in the last probably decade, I started working with vagal tone or looking into bagel tone and understanding this whole concept and the power of the vagus nerve, uh, about 17 years ago, when it first started becoming a splash in our literature and in the neuroscience literature.

So remember the biggest step I call it the big, bad voodoo daddy nerve. It is the, it is the controller of our immune system of our microbiome, of our heart rate of, um, that which keeps our frontal lobe. Actually, we’re going to learn how it’s connected with the frontal lobe, the prefrontal cortex, um, and how he is. I referred to it as a, he, when I don’t know if I should do that, do refer to it as a male or female context. You guys make the call. You guys let me know. Um, maybe I should refer to it as a she, because women are better at multitasking. Oh, the questions we have this morning. So anyway, vagal tone, bagel tone. We, um, it is something that we, as chiropractors should really understand, and we should understand what that looks like in our practice with regard to our general population base, but especially what is the neuro expressive behavior we might see with our little fiddle farts.

So why did the turtle crossroad to get to the squirrel? We, the reason I use these, uh, the gorilla, the squirrel and the turtle is trying to break down a rather complex, but yet simple, um, theory that we can use in our practice to look at our patients and figure out how well their nervous system may or may not be adapting. We should all be moving smoothly within the gorilla, the squirrel and the turtle, and within this complex every day throughout the day. And, and we just dance within it. That’s part of our neuro adaptability, our ability to adapt to our environment to our world, but it should not tap out our nervous system. We should not be fixed into one of these, either the gorilla, the squirrel or the turtle, because when we, when we’re stuck in one of those modes, that’s when our, um, what we call our Alyse static load.

Our, uh, our ability to adapt is maxed out. We can no longer adapt. So what are we talking about here? All right. Let’s start with the squirrel. The squirrel essentially is I’m gonna get my little pen here. Okay. So squirrel squirrel represents our sympathetic dominant state that represents the gas pedal of our nervous system. Squirrel is on defense mode all the time. You know, the squirrel squirrels always, should I cross the road or should I not cross the road? Um, dogs coming and I got to run up a tree and hide. Um, I’ve got Harbor enough food for the winter. Alright. So squirrel’s always on edge, right? All right. Can’t pay, can’t be focused. Can’t pay attention. Think about our kiddos sitting in school, especially right now that trying to sit and focus and concentrate and get labeled with a label like add or ADHD or oppositional defiant disorder or whatever the label might be.

It could be because they’re pressed too much in the squirrel is squirrel mode. When are our brains can’t distinguish whether a threat is real or not real. Okay. Is it a, is it a perceived threat? Is it a perceived stressor or is it actually real? However, what the brain does? It, it deflects its attention to it threat for survival basis. Thus, we’re like a squirrel always in survival. This puts us in a sympathetic dominant ship. And then there’s a whole dysregulation that happens. We get stuck firing that HPA axis, the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. We start living in adrenal mode and there’s a whole plethora of consequences that happen. Um, hormones, dysregulation, neurotransmitter, dysregulation. This pretty much is the premise of the neurobiology of disease now. And what is so fun. If we look at the neuroscience literature, the neurodevelopmental literature, the sensory modulation literature, the neuropsychiatric literature, just those four categories alone.

What we’re going to talk about today is pretty much the premise that they work in all these different categories with regard to physical and mental wellbeing, especially in the neuropsychiatric realm. So if we live too much in squirrel mode, there’s a doubt domino effect that happens. And this is what’s being recognized. Nice. Now again, with the found date for adds the foundations of dis-ease. So how do we get into squirrel mode? Well, if our percent perception of our environment is dysregulated, we are not safe within our environment. That’s for sure. Always on edge. Okay. And we can’t respond to and appropriately to our environment. So we have our five far census. We talked about this last month, which was October sensory, um, uh, national sensory awareness month. So if you didn’t catch me last month, go back to either my Facebook page, intersect four life educational seminars or Kira Securus.

And there’s a recording of it. So we have our five far senses that come from the outside world. They come from the outside world in, okay, up this, if you want this ladder to kind of represent the spinal column, that’s cool beans. So this information comes up. Cup comes from the outside world up into the CNS. But yeah, we have our internal awareness as well. What we call it? Interoception internal awareness. We have visual sensations. We have sensations for the microbiome, from the immune system. And as chiropractors, we’re particularly interested in proprioceptive and vestibular input. And I put vestibular at the top of the wrong of the, of the ladder, um, because the vestibular system is kind of considered the head honcho the chief regulator of all this incoming sensory input to the CNS. So we have to make sense of our world in order to respond to our world properly.

When this information is coming in dysregulated, we’re unsure of ourselves, we’re living in a stress paradigm. And this, we shift into squirrel because we want to try to maintain safety within our environment. So squirrel gets to kick him. We shipped a sympathetic dominance, what needs to regulate squirrel while it is true, that turtle needs to cross the road to regulate the squirrel, but in an inappropriate manner, neither one of these characters can take over the floor. Okay. We, we there’s times that it’s appropriate for squirrel to be in charge when, when, when there is a true threat, but again, the brain can’t distinguish a true threat from a perceived threat. This is set down. This stage is set down in utero during neuro-development, particularly the end of the second and the third trimester of, um, development, prenatal development. Um, that’s when the ans is its critical window of development, the end of the second and the third trimester, and this is going to be set stage. The stage is going to be set. It’s going to be adopted depending on mom’s stress response mode. So this is cool beans. Cause we can use this graphic to look at our adult population. And especially mom has preconception care and during prenatal care, because this is a lot how babies going to adopt inherit their stress response mechanisms. So, alright, so squirrel, we don’t want to stay here all the time. Only when it’s appropriate.

When we are in red zone in squirrel zone too much, the city and S can just shut down. It’s like, I’m an overload. This is life is too much. And so we can go into turtle mode, turtle, major parasympathetic drive. This is considered when we look at the polyvagal theory of Stephen Porges, this polyvagal theory, this is considered the old or vegetative Vegas it’s. And that’s why we, that’s why I use this turtle as a, uh, demonstrating this arm of the bagel, a bagel ladder. So we look at a three arm to approach, okay. Gorilla squirrel turtle. So turtle that’s our vegetated Vegas. It’s our visceral Vegas is pretty much physiologically. It is from the diaphragm down. Intervates our Besara it’s unmyelinated. It is like the emergency brake of the autonomic nervous system. It’s like a crash pad squirrels out of control. Squirrels taken over turtle is going to put the brakes on the system.

Okay. It is like the little fiddle farts in your office that are, uh, very, very insecure, very scared. It might be that person that’s in a unhealthy relationship, go into their shell. They hide, okay. They’re camouflaging themselves from the world. They don’t want to be seen. Don’t want to be heard because they don’t want to get in trouble. They don’t want to be noticed. They want to stay stealth. But what happens here, this shuts down a lot. It puts us in such a parasympathetic drive that it shuts down a lot of our neurophysiology. This is where we look at little fiddle farts in the ICU units that may be the failure to thrive, or even after we, within the first months of life, those failure to thrive infants, their neurophysiological capacities very much shut down. And it’s because of this dysregulation in the nervous system and um, such sensory dysregulation, they go into a hide mode. So most of our little fiddle farts that are on, especially those on the autism spectrum, bounce back and forth between squirrel and turtle. And you will see that flux. Oftentimes they also get, um, the label of bipolar, right? They’re high, and then they’re low and they’re high. And then they’re low.

The gut wise, they might wax and wane between constipation and diarrhea. When they’re in squirrel mode, GI the microbiome shuts down. We get constipation. We go too far into a parasympathetic drive. We get the loose bowels. So you’ll see these kinds of patterns. Um, if we want to try to heal, it got a regulate poop. We need to look at how they’re, um, bouncing back between these different zones. All right. So this is again, our unmyelinated Vegas from, from diaphragm down, it really just shuts us down. Now we can’t stay here too long. We can’t stay in this deep parasympathetic dive too long because now we’re going to get a suppression of cardiovascular, respiratory rhythm, et cetera, and we can die. So thus in our Nate adaptability, again, the nervous system adapting, this is exactly what this is all about. This is looking at how we adapt, how our nervous system adapts, what it goes through.

So in its innate wisdom, it’ll jump back up and squirrel to increase our vitality. But over time, this physiological burden that happens on the system from continually one end of the spectrum to the other and this physiological adaptation, it can lead to what we call Alice static, overload the wear and tear on our nervous systems. Adaptability finding can’t keep up unless the system bursts, it’s like a spray, it’s like a spring loaded. Okay, how much pressure can you put on a spring? And how much can you load it before it finally busts? And what is the net look like? That looks like the person that gets a label or a diagnosis. Um, whether it’s a neurodevelopmental diagnosis, whether it’s a cancer, whether it’s an auto immune issue, et cetera, et cetera. And so we’re seeing these kiddos get these diagnoses earlier in life that used to be considered old.

People’s older people’s diagnoses, right? Um, auto immune issues, early onset Alzheimer’s we never longer say adults set type two diabetes. We say just type two diabetes. Cause we’re seeing a younger population. This is what it’s looking like in our clinical practices. Okay. So now how are we going to help foster more of a even tone, um, control over this whole bagel system while that’s where gorilla comes in, gorilla higher functioning. This is, um, our, what we consider our smart Vegas or a new ma Vegas. The portion of the Vegas. It is that what’s makes us human. That which gives us a consciousness. This is what we consider our myelinated Vegas or our social engagement arm of this polyvagal theory. This is associated with the prefrontal cortex and for chiropractors. This is what is so darn exciting because so much of our research that we have to date in for neuroscience research is looking at how the chiropractic adjustment affects the prefrontal cortex.

So in other words, how the chiropractic adjustment may affect our gorilla status, our ability for our gorilla to do its work because the, uh, the, uh, the gorilla puts the brakes on the limbic system, our fear-mongering that dang amygdala, which drives us right here to squirrel get it. So they all have to work together in the appropriate time and appropriate context relies on board that our higher conscious wellbeing is onboard our prefrontal cortex. Again, this gives us a conscious, this is what makes us human. This is what helps us feel safe and connected within our world, in our sensory paradigm. It helps us interpret yeah, this world social engagement arm of the vagal system is not just the social engagement. Ida. I contact personal engagement. It helps us to socially be aware of our, our environment to know if we fit in or not, um, how to respond appropriately attired environment.

So we see our individuals, particularly on the, um, Asperger’s level that don’t have great social engagement cues or social engagement mechanisms, um, that they’re this, this gorilla isn’t quite on board in that population group, gorilla acts as the foot brick, the modulator of squirrel. So when times are appropriate, when there’s truly a dog, that’s chasing the squirrel up, the tree gorilla can say, all right, I’m T I’m taking my foot off the brake off my parasympathetic control squirrel. You go to town, you start running. All right, cause there’s a true threat. When that threat, when I can judge my social environment appropriately and that threat is gone. Now, para now gorilla says I can put my brace back on and I got to slow things down a little bit. And again, we do this beautiful. We should be able to do this beautiful dance between gorilla squirrel, internal inappropriate times, this ventral Vegas or the smart mate Vegas bot.

Myelinates the first, during the first 12, six to 12 months of life. Um, and this is really enhanced by social engagement, particularly with mom. And this is why I, I contact, um, verbal engagement with mom and offspring is incredibly important. In fact, they’ve shown that just within the first couple months of life, um, we used to think that the prefrontal cortex really doesn’t come online until later in life. But the, the current neuroscience in neurodevelopmental world is sewing that within the first couple months of life, in fact, first couple of weeks, but definitely within the first couple of months that, that social engagement visual engagement with mom and auditory engagement. So mom, um, what they call infant directed speech, speaking to that little fiddle fart in infantile tone, those two things help the prefrontal cortex. So they’re showing active, they’re actually showing activity of the prefrontal cortex that early in life.

So in other words, gorilla can, um, be fostered that early on in life. So what I like to do is I like to adjust these little fiddle farts, then have moms sit in the room and breastfeed, or do some social engagement right after the adjustment for 15 minutes or so, because with that adjustment, we, we open up that metabolic ability of the brain to reset the tone. So if my, especially if mom’s had a stressful pregnancy, um, and we’re concerned about that autonomic nervous system, not fully developed because of stress at the end of the second third trimester, we can help foster that if we do the adjustment and do some social engagement with mom, cause especially in that first six to 12 months of life. So again, this is, this is where we’re seeing so much of the literature right now in the chiropractic neuroscience world.

Um, and it’s phenomenal. I think that we can help potentially help foster maturation of the gorilla and of the smart Vegas with the adjustment and then with some appropriate social engagement interaction, um, as well on board. So, um, now with that said the imp the neuroscience we have to date, it has been that the research has been done on the adjustment on the adult population. So we can’t necessarily take that in and extrapolate that to the pediatric population, but it lends itself to think that, yes, this is the, the ability we have, um, on human cognition. So, um, hopefully this helps you break down in an easy to understand manner, the importance about bagel tone. Again, we’re going to respond bagel tone is going to respond to how we interpret and perceive our sensory environment. And likewise, the way we are able to modulate our response and interpret our sensory environment is, uh, relied on bagel tone.

So it’s this interactive play. And, um, this is the basis again, of most disorders and diseases that we’re seeing now in, uh, in, uh, in, uh, our physical realm and the mental well, okay, well, if you’re doing heart rate variability in your practices, keep in mind that. So if they’re in squirrel mode, if they’re in squirrel mode, you’re going to see a low heart rate variability, right on your scans and so forth. So that heart rate variability is low. If they’re in, if gorillas on board and doing this job in a mature you’re to see a higher heart rate variability, because this is this PR gorilla particularly, um, is associated with the medial prefrontal cortex and with, um, bagel tone and heart rate variability. So, however, but I want you to keep in mind is the studies we have from, from the, um, sensory modulation world is that we shouldn’t look just at one key factor. Like I eat heart rate variability or cortisol or epidermal responses. We should be looking at a bigger systems wide approach because a person can appear cool, calm and collected and not even perceived stress. You might have adults to say, you know, I feel pretty chill. I, I really don’t feel stressed out. I don’t, I’m pretty good at handling my stress. That’s their subjective finding, but objectively we may see, um, a physiological response. Okay. There may be more physiological like cortisol or heart rate variability or such. So that’s what we need to, um, look at.

Okay. Sorry. I just had to make sure I was, uh, on past care. So we need to see the, we need to look at the physiological manifestations from this inability to adapt within this spacial tone. So don’t rely on subjective complaints. Look at more objective findings. If these, if these, um, if these stressors are, are left as an undertow, the, the symptoms that we see that might be masks, masked org, or, uh, camouflage, or, or the re I should say the manifestations that might be master camouflage are things like high blood pressure, um, gut dysbiosis, and ability to absorb nutrients and break down nutrients, um, be different behaviors. Our kiddos are kiddos that are in squirrel mode are, are add kiddos that can’t sit at circle time or sit in class and pay attention. Well, our kiddos in turtle mode might be that kiddo where you’re constantly going, hello?

Hello, pay attention, get back on task. There’s zoned out. There’s no that in fact, our kiddos in turtle mode might get mislabeled as being, I hate the word, but dumb, um, interested. Un-involved, um, not willing to participate isolated. Okay. Those are some of the labels that we can get if we’re stuck in one of these modes. So what I want you to take back to heart rate variability, what I want you to take into context in your offices when you’re, if you’re measuring heart rate variability, you need to look at, it would be who you to look at your environment. If you’ve got a lot of noise or a lot of light, um, you’ve got stinky smells where you’re, where you’re testing their heart rate variability, especially with the little fiddle farts, because there is such there, they are so sensitive to their sensory environment.

They may be showing up in squirrel mode because they’re naturally in a neuro adaptive phase to their environment. So if they’re, if they’re auditory defensive or, um, light defensive or smell defensive, they may be in an appropriate adaptive mode and showing a lower heart rate variability because their brain is interpreting your environment as a defensive environment and the need to be on defense mode. So thus their heart rate variability is showing low, and you might take that information and extrapolate that to their, um, their total wellbeing to there, to there as, as a constant, when it may not be a constant, it may, that they’re appropriately, they’re adapting to the environment that you’re testing them in, or they just came from school or was it a, or in a fight with their parents or their, whatever that stressor was. And they are behaving in a proper neuro adaptive manner, but you can not take that as again, as their constant state.

Okay. Likewise, they might be in, in a high heart rate variability and a very high parasympathetic internal mode because they are in a shutdown mode trying to adapt to an environment that’s too crazy for them. That’s too overstimulating for them. So please take this in the context, when you’re looking, it would behoove you to look, get a profile of what their behavior might be at home and at school. And in other environments to see, is, are they just in a neuro adaptive response at that particular time that you’re doing the testing? So hopefully this is helpful. I know it’s a lot to consider, but this is really the crux of health and where a bit wellbeing, physical, mental health, and of neuro development. And again, if mom is under too much stress during the prenatal period, this whole Vago ladder is going to be skewed, and they’re going to be in the state, what we call dysmaturation of the autonomic nervous system, autonomic automatic, we should automatically be able to dance within this ladder without a conscious effort.

Um, and if that autonomic nervous system is dysregulated, there’s dysmaturation within that autonomic nervous system, this is going to be difficult for them to do so. I’m going to leave you with all that fun stuff to ponder. Um, and hopefully this helps you break down and make a little bit of sense out of a big sensory issue of a big sensory story of the gorilla, the squirrel and the turtle. So until next month, um, hopefully you guys have an incredible month that go out there, keep doing what you’re doing. Keep changing lives, keep turning the tide because we are, I’m convinced, especially with what we’re going through now that we are setting the tone, be that to be the truth, the light and the hope for generations to come. So keep being amazing again, thank you to ChiroSecure here for giving us this platform and being able to get this incredible information out to the masses, have a great Thanksgiving, everybody. And I’ll see you in December, and you’ll see Dr. Eric Kowalski the first Thursday in December with many more pearls of wisdom that he has to offer. I’ll see you the third Thursday of December.

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