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The Brain Science Behind Social Conflict and Depression

We’re living in a more divisive time than ever before.

There’s actually a reason this is happening. We’re disconnected.

We’re living in a more divisive time than ever before. I’m not just talking about politics—we’re at aggressive odds over everything from diet (vegan versus Paleo) to sports and we’re even seeing an escalation in road rage.

There’s actually a reason this is happening. We’re disconnected. Social media is actually isolating us; we ignore the importance of sleep and nature; stress is at epidemic proportions. These lifestyle disconnects cause structural and functional disconnects in the brain that lead to more divisive and angry behavior. Our ability to make good decisions pretty much goes out the window.

But it’s not too late to reverse these negative effects. I was so excited to sit down with my good friends Drs. David and Austin Perlmutter on The Doctor’s Farmacy to talk about these modern challenges and how we can detox the brain to restore better decision-making and overall health.

Dr. David Perlmutter is a Board-Certified Neurologist and four-time New York Times bestselling author. He serves on the Board of Directors and is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition. He serves as a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and has published extensively in peer-reviewed scientific journals including Archives of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and The Journal of Applied Nutrition. His books have been published in 34 languages and include the #1 New York Times bestseller Grain Brain, The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs and Sugar, with over 1 million copies in print. Dr. Perlmutter’s new book Brain Wash, co-written with his son Austin Perlmutter, MD, was just released on January 14, 2020.

Dr. Austin Perlmutter is a board-certified internal medicine physician. He received his medical degree from the University of Miami and completed his internal medicine residency at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland Oregon. His academic focus is on understanding the decision-making process, how it is influenced by internal and external factors, and how it changes our health and illness outcomes. He is also interested in methods of improving burnout and poor mental health in the medical field. He writes for Psychology Today and on his blog, The Modern Brain.

We dive into our conversation by gaining a deeper understanding of how stress impacts our ability to make decisions. In all its many forms (overworking, undersleeping, poor food choices, etc.) stress leads to inflammation. Inflammation actually kills the brain cells that help us make good decisions, and it makes those in the fight or flight part of the brain grow. This leads to anger and opposition and supports the negative behavioral changes I mentioned earlier.

There’s also another impact: structural changes of the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, leading to an increased state of “us versus them” thinking.

The really good news is that the things we can do to stop this are mostly free strategies that take us back to our more natural state. Limiting social media and internet time and using them more mindfully. Getting movement and spending time outside. Prioritizing good, deep sleep. Avoiding sugar. And there’s so much more we can do.

Drs. David and Austin Perlmutter walk us through the solutions for modern brain challenges in this week’s episode.  I hope you’ll tune in.

Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD