Theories of Health and Mental Health at USC notes

Human Behavior
Week 1
No more Nature vs Nurture

“cozolino quote”
Our brains develop in a socio-emotional context. Meaning how your brain is wired between neurons depends on experience
100 billion neurons. The ones not used will atrophy or be pruned. There are natural times for growth and pruning. Growth is huge in the first 3 years.

Nature is the scaffolding & nurture is what is being built.
It is like Thomas Jefferson could have been a great computer programmer but the environment did not require it.

Neurogenesis – creation of new neurons
Neuroplasticity – change of use and learning new tricks
By paul mcclean
The triune brain is a model of the evolution of the vertebrate fore brain and behavior, proposed by the American physician and neuroscience Paul D. MacLean. MacLean originally formulated his model in the 1960s and propounded it at length in his 1990 book The Triune Brain in Evolution. In 3 basic stages

Reptilian brain (Lizard Brain )
Leopard Brain, – the EMOTIONAL BRAIN,
Limbic, emotional, ATTACHMENT, expanded right brain
Neocortex – high functioning
— proof that we have 3 brains, .. “being sexually attracted to someone you KNOW is not good for you.”
Thinking and feeling is related.

Joseph LeDoux on the Amygdala : 

Negative experiences and senses are important.


Orbital Frontal Cortex

is behind your eyes, turns on between 10 and 18 months

has receptors for Seratonin
Hand Model

flipping their lid to understand the emotional communication.


The Executive Brain is in charge of everything.

can not switch gears and manage traffic like an Air Traffic Controller might. someone with Schizophrenia can’t filter out distractions and has problems with the frontal cotex


The Limbic system is primarily in the Right Brain

The Left Brain is primarily words, and likes order ( and all of the  parts of it start with the letter “L”.

Modern Attachment Theory + Neurobiology

  • affect regulation. from the perspective of Neurobiology . “A disregulation of affect”
  • BPD can’t regulate their affect.
  • Affect attunement, to be attuned to and to resonate with the internal state of the client.


AFFECT REGULATION – be be able to change affect “up” or “down”

a good mother can calm a hyper child and enliven a quiet child.

a “good enough other acts  as a ” psycho-biological regulator”

the mother does not have to be perfect, in fact a mother should not be anxious and try to be perfect, because the child will learn that. but a mother who is available “most of the time”

A healthy person can regulate themselves and the outside connection.

“How do you regulate your own affect?” drug use, gambling, drinking, avoidance.  So when someone with PTSD AVOIDS a stimuli they are attempting to self Regulate


“Neurons that fire together,  wire together” – Donald Hebb building(and survive together) neuronetworks 

a kid being told they are loved while being abused will connect abuse to love and have abusive relationships.



  1. 1.
    denoting or having a personality type characterized by emotional aloofness and solitary habits.
  1. 1.
    a schizoid person.
    ATTACHMENT PATTERNS are laid down in the brain as neuro networks
    Quality of Attachment. will my needs be met, am I safe? Can i explore.
    Internal Working Models

a securely attached child PREDICT that someone will come if they need them. This template is overlaid on all future relationships.

Maternal Attachment
Empathy Outcomes in Therapy
Good empathy creates good outcomes no matter what approach is used (DBT, etc)

a baby with a smiling mom will smile back. a baby who sees a frightening mom will have a release of cortisol and very bad feelings.

Mirror Neuron

the part of your brain which is the basis for empathy. your brain responds to the behavior of others. when someone else raises their hand

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