Neuropeptides and Near Misses


Saturday morning, Monday morning, whatever. You know the drill. You’re driving to a meeting or work or to drop off the kids, just like you’ve done every week for the last two hundred. Missed that light but you’re first in line for the next one. It flashes green and you’re in no hurry ‘cause you’re a little ahead of schedule. No farewell to your wife—not at this hour.

The next light is green for you and four blocks clear before the next one. Twenty-five mph zone, you’re okay, next block … You wonder if you’d be as pressed for time if you were back in Elijah’s day. Approaching second block … A blur of chrome and blue appears from nowhere on your left—!!

It’s going too fast to stop! He’s not slowing! You mash the brakes/crunch the steering right/lay on the horn and slide sideways toward impact point………….! You see his head swivel toward you … cannot ID the driver, even though his machine flashes scant feet away.

But there is no impact. He’s now a half-block away—musta been doing 45-50 mph in a 25 mph zone! Jump on it! The Outback revs after him.

Traffic island ahead of him, dead-center in the intersection. He sees you barreling behind him and pulls over. A new Mazda CX9 …

Yes, that was me—today. So early; I didn’t say good-bye to my wife … I coulda been on a slab—T-boned by a guy with his mind on … what? Though I had every right to read him the riot act, God calmed me. Actually, God saved me by holding me back from that intersection that half-second. Because of that, I am alive.

And since I’m alive, I would go home this day, and speak to my beloved about the things of this life, of this day.

I would say, “The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system in my brain was activated this morning. Moreover, the HPA triggered the production and release of steroid hormones, including the primary stress hormone cortisol.”

She’d look up endearingly and say. “Cortisol? Well, of course, all because of the HPA, which, as you know, must have released the neurotransmitters called catecholamines dopamine , norepinephrine , and epinephrine, which I call adrenaline. That surely activated the area inside your skull called the amygdala, which appeared to trigger an emotional response to that stressful event that you were about to tell me about.”

Glad that I have an understanding wife, I would snatch my seventh cup of coffee from the tureen (without spilling a drop), sit nicely at our counter/table, and we’d have a lovely discussion about the release of the neuropeptide S, which modulated my stress by decreasing sleep and increasing my alertness and sense of anxiety. Yeah, did it ever.

So I’d say, “During those nanoseconds when I was certain that I would momentarily be seeing Jesus and Elijah, I should mention that the catecholamines were suppressing activity in the frontal areas of my brain concerned with short-term memory, concentration, inhibition, and rational thought.” I’d see how she takes that and continue, “You know what that means, don’t you? For all the good that that entire sequence of mental events activated, like enabling a guy my age to react so quickly; well, there’s a downside. It interfered with my ability to handle difficult social and intellectual tasks and behaviors. It might even be impossible for me to accompany you to the Davidson’s open house this afternoon.”

Knowing her, she would say, “Your neurotransmitters signaled the hippocampus to store your emotionally loaded experience in long-term memory.” Then she would gesture emphatically and say, “So let it go for now, because you’re not going to forget that whole escapade for a long time. You can go back and emote on the crazy guy with the new Mazda whenever you please. Today, you’re going with me to the Davidsons.”

She’d be right, of course. But I wouldn’t stop there. “I haven’t even begun to discuss how the entire heart-stopping experience affected my heart, lungs, and circulation. My spleen spewed red and white blood cells like crazy, allowing my blood (which could have been splattered all over Grant School) to transport 300 – 400% more oxygen throughout my body!”

To which she might reply, “Is that any reason to get all gassed up?”

“No,” I’d say. “But for seventy-one nanoseconds, I thought I was going to lay some heavy questions on Elijah today. It would’ve been great to see Jesus—anytime.

“For the next time sequence—however long it is—I’ll be right proud to spend with you.”

I think she knows I mean that. So thank you, Jesus, for leaving me here … a little bit longer.

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About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
This entry was posted in The Reality of God and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Neuropeptides and Near Misses

  1. I checked out after the phrase, “I am alive.” For me intellectualizing a ‘close call’ isn’t as meaningful as other reflections you could have taken away from that nano-second experience. Sorry!

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks for your comments, DJ. Agreed, I could have done more with that. Two things: When I wrote my post, I was still processing my emotions and taking a jocular approach helped me deal with what could have happened. Also, I’m considering writing another post about my conversation with the guy who almost creamed me. If I get time to do it, that is.

  2. Doug Bolton says:

    Wow! That was close. Sam you are such a good writer. I wish more people could see your posts. I am telling others about you, but people have to take that next step and sign-up. Good job, my friend.

  3. Helen Haidle says:

    Glad you are still around to bless all of us, Sam!

    • samuelehall says:

      Helen & David–
      We miss you in Oregon! Thanks for your comment. Maybe we’ll get another chance to work together in the future. I hope the southern hospitality is as advertised.
      Have a great Christmas!
      Sam

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