Saturday, May 28, 2011

Biology of Crying

In the WSJ article, Dr. Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist from the University of California, San Francisco  says that the brain’s amygdale or the emotional brain fires up the signals when we experience physical pain or emotional sadness.  If the stimulus is great enough, the energy can travel from the emotional area into the front motor strip.  That is the point where response of breathing can devolve into sobbing.  Dr. Louann Brizendine is the author of the book, The Female Brain, available on Amazon.

Tears contain protein, salt and hormones.  Emotional tears have more proteins.  One hormone found in tears is prolactin which not only helps produce tears but it is responsible for producing milk.  Women, of course, have more prolactin than men.

Tears or lacrimal fluid are continually produced in small quantities in the tear glands also known as the lacrimal glands.  Tear glands are located on the outer side of each eye, slightly above the eye and underneath the eye lid according to  Lysozyme is an important component of tears because it inhibits bacterial growth on the eye.  Some of the tears evaporate, but the rest drain into the nose through the tear duct. 

After the tears are produced, they are stored in the tear duct.  When the brain senses a need for tears, the lacrimal glands excrete the tears into the upper eyelid area.  Gravity or capillary action draw the tears onto the surface of the eye where it lubricates the eye, washes away irritants or pools at the base of the lower eyelid.

There are three kinds of tears.  These include basal tears which continuously lubricate our eyes, reflex or infant tears which occur in situations such as chopping onions.  The final type of tear is emotional tears.

Further Reading:
1)  Men And Women Cry Differently
2)  When Is Crying Okay?
3)  Newborns And Crying Babies
4)  Stress Relief and Crying

Sources Of Information:
1)  Read It And Weep, Crybabies - Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2011
2)  The Science Of Tears -

Blog Post & Images (c) 5/24/11 Don Shetterly - use by permission only

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