Intimidating Words

February 26, 2008

The hypothalamus transforms emotions into physical responses, which are communicated throughout the body in the form of neuropeptides…

Did you get all that? I have to admit, my eyes glazed over before I was halfway through the sentence. I’m doing some research for a book on “vision boards” for John Assaraf, and sometimes find myself wading into the deep end of the scientific swimming pool. I need my water wings.

Do you get intimidated by terms like “hypothalamus” and “neuropeptides”? Most people do. For some reason, scientists love to use multisyllabic Greek and Latin terms for the things they study—but there’s nearly always a simple meaning behind them.

Just watch:

Neuro means have to do with nerves, the tiny threads in our bodies that transmit thoughts and feelings. A peptide (which is Greek for “little digestible thing”) is a tiny fragment of protein. (Protein, by the way, comes from the Greek word proteios, which means “primary,” which comes from the Greek word protos or “first.” In other words, protein means “a very important thing,” or, “the thing we’re mainly made of.” Got the sophistication of that definition?)

Voilà: a “neuropeptide” is simply your thoughts and feelings, transformed into digestible little bits of the stuff you’re mainly made out of.

And what about that pesky hypothalamus? It’s a lump of tissue located right under your thalamus, another lump of tissue that sits deep in the middle of your brain. Thalamos is Greek for “inner chamber,” and hypo means “under.”

Presto: “hypothalamus” means the lump of tissue that sits right under that deep inside part there.

Now, put it all together: “That lump of tissue that sits right under that deep inside part there, turns your feelings into digestible little bits of the stuff you’re made of, so they can spread the word.”

Ahh, that’s better. See how simple those complicated terms are?


  1. what kind of book about vision boards are you working on?

  2. Nice post!

    And I find that reducing thoughts and feelings simply to neuropeptides is a tad reductionist. They are in the mind as well as in the brain, don’t you think?

  3. Justin — more on this book soon. I wrote a larger book called “The Answer,” coming out in May, for John and his business partner Murray Smith, which has some extensive explanation of Law of Attraction and related topics. But this one is a little book, focused specifically on Vision Boards. Once I know release dates, I’ll post them here!

  4. Stephanie — Yep. And since every speck of matter is imbued with consciousness, it’s all of one piece!

  5. Yes, I agree.

    On the other hand, the materialist/reductionist school of neuroscience sees the mind as something the brain does, a notion with which I do not agree. So I always get a bit concerned when I see the kind of reductionist approach that feelings and thoughts are mere chemical reactions.

    Congratulations on the Business Week ranking!

  6. Yes — I see it being just the other way around: the brain is something the mind does. A refrain I use several times in the book: “everything starts as an idea.” And another, saying the same thing only with different words: “The image always comes first.” — JDM


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *