Neuroscience and the baobab

My baby baobab

My baby baobab

The rain tip-taps on the skylights, soaked leaves dance in the wind.

I have an hour left to churn out three job applications, and zero motivation.

Doubt is seeping through me like a cold drizzle: This is not the life I wanted.

Ha, hang on a second, I can feel a bit of mid-life crisis coming on: Watch this space, as I will probably buy a Hermès bag, and take up wingsuit flying next.

Erm, ok but anyway, what’s that got to do with neuroscience and baobabs ?

Well, for once baobab trees are the symbol of a small Western African country called Senegal, where people are incredibly resourceful and athletic, and baobabs can grow incredibly old and large.

Secondly, I spent what was arguably the best week ever with Mr Nice a year ago in Senegal.

Thirdly, on our last day, I bought a cute baby baobab from a woman who said it would probably struggle to survive in Europe.

A year on, the baobab is flourishing (and will probably outlive us all at this rate), while Mr Nice has turned into someone else, and my anterior cingulate cortex is having a party.

Wow wow wow, hang on a second, your what? Have you also been smoking those baobob leaves?

Hold on, you Heathen, here comes the explanation:

Your anterior cingulate cortex (ACC if you two are close) sits in a part of your brain directly behind your brow – which I can tell is wrinkling up in concentration right now. Good. Bear with me.

Anyway, the ACC is involved in a variety of biological functions such as regulating heart rate and blood pressure, as well as cognitive functions such as consciousness and registering the intensity of physical pain. In fact, its activation is what makes it difficult to do anything when you’re in pain.

And guess what else sends your ACC into a party ? Yup, heartbreak. So there you go, this is why heartbreak feels a bit like simultaneously stubbing your toes, shins and nails on sharp objects. And why my job applications are just not getting done right now.

More on the science of heartbreak :

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4 thoughts on “Neuroscience and the baobab

  1. Of course I didn’t know about that tree but I stared at the photograph with interest. I’m still shaking my head about Mr Nice. Its not easy to understand how things can go so wrong for someone who is clearly one of the nicest of people. I’ve never been to Senegal, but I think I would enjoy it, as long as it wasn’t too hot, I don’t get bad tempered in the heat, but I do start whimpering a bit which isn’t very impressive I know.

  2. Dear Peter, I think you’re better off staying away from Senegal as it can get very, very hot… 😉
    As for Mr Nice, who knows how he could decide on such a drastic life change as the one he’s currently embarked on, but he’s turned into Mr Not-Very-Nice-At-All to be honest. It’s all just mind boggling.
    Thanks for your lovely compliments as usual xx

    • Ha, what an interesting find ! Thanks Perdido. I wish good things finally come your way, after reading about your harrowing story…

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