Key Terms

Acetylcholine: A neurotransmitter which plays a key role in the parasympathetic nervous system’s activity to help us calm down (lowers the heart rate) and return to normal after stressful event. Acetylcholine also supports sustained attention.

Adrenaline: Also known as epinephrine, adrenaline is a hormone, secreted by the adrenal medulla as part of the fight or flight response to stress.

Allostatic Overload: A state that occurs when a person is overstressed to the point where demands on the homeostatic system are so great that recovery mechanisms are overstretched and become compromised.

Arousal Regulation: The way the nervous system facilitates our transitions between different states of arousal; based on the functioning of the complementary forces of the sympathetic nervous system (which makes us more aroused) and the parasympathetic nervous system (which facilitates calming and recovery).

Authoritarian Parenting: A punitive and less nurturing style of parenting based on power and strict parenting authority.

Authoritative Parenting: A non-punitive parenting style characterized by high levels of support and responsiveness combine with reasonable expectations and limits. Self-Reg strategies would fit into this parenting style.

Bliss Point: The maximum release of opioids; euphoric satisfaction.  In food science, the combination of fat, sugar, salt that maximizes opioid release and contributes to cravings.

Body Reading: The ability to observe and “read” someone else’s mood, intentions and level of arousal by observing facial expression, posture, movements, eye contact and other aspects of body language.

Cortisol: A hormone released by the adrenal gland in response to stress. Cortisol regulates and influences many changes that occur in the body when the stress response system is activated.

Deprived Environment: A growing child’s environment characterized by lack of support, nurturing and stimulation.

Dopamine: A neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres.

Down-Regulate: To reduce another person’s level of arousal (or your own) through behaviour, words, body language, tone of voice, movement, facial expression and other social or emotional cues, sometimes as a function of the Interbrain.

Dyad: In child development, a parent (or caregiver) and child interacting together and influencing each other.

Dysregulation: A disruption of self-regulation which occurs when a child’s stress levels are so high that various systems for thinking and metabolic recovery are compromised. The signs of dysregulation can show up in a child’s behaviour, mood, attention or physical well-being.

Ego Depletion (Energy Depletion): A state of reduced willpower or self-control and impaired cognitive ability caused by the expenditure of large amounts of energy due to excess stress.

Embodied: Stress and other aspects of functioning in the different domains of self-regulation which are felt, experienced or influenced in the body or which have physiological manifestations.

Emotional Sticking Point: The point where a person’s actions, thinking and decision-making are overly influenced by emotions or where a strong emotion interferes unduly with cognitive or social functioning.

Endorphins: A type of neurotransmitter known as a feel-good chemical or natural pain reducer; endorphins are triggered by various activities and experiences including, pain, exercise and laughter.

Floor-time: Approach developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan where, in play and interaction, a parent follows a child’s lead, joins in their emotional flow and challenges the child to be creative, curious, and spontaneous. Floor-time is used as an intervention or a general support for healthy child development.  

Genetic Determinism: The idea that children’s physical, emotional, cognitive and social development is determined wholly or mostly by the genes they inherit from their parents.

Homeostasis: The ability of an organism or system to seek and maintain a condition of equilibrium in the face of outside influences. In stress management, the ability of the stress management system to help the body and mind return to normal calm alertness after a stressful event.

HPA Pathway: A metabolic stress pathway by which the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands communicate and interact so that cortisol is released to help the body maintain an adequate supply of blood sugar and increase the amount of oxygenated blood flowing to the muscles in response to stress.

Hypoarousal: A low state of arousal that results in insufficient energy and alertness for the situation or task. It typically involves a relaxed or slumped posture, slow and wandering movements, delayed responses to others, a sad or weak voice, daydreaming stares, flat affect, and little or no eye contact.

Hypothalamus: Located in the midbrain, the hypothalamus is the master control system for many aspects of our response to stress. It also regulates various physiological functions including body temperature, thirst, sleep, sex drive, mood, hunger and thirst.

Interbrain: A sort of “wireless” connection between a caregiver’s brain and a baby’s brain for the purposes of arousal regulation. The higher-order brain regulates the immature brain which cannot yet self-regulate. As children mature the Interbrain’s function changes, but it remains a potent force throughout the lifespan supporting nurturing, mutual understanding, connection and intimacy.

Limbic System: A subcortical complex in the brain, sometimes referred to as the emotional brain. It is the source of strong urges and emotions and plays a key role in the formation of memories. The limbic system’s main structures are the amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus and nucleus accumbens.

Micro-environments: In schools, a variety of spaces that meet the diverse needs of different students. This can include different types of desks or seating, calming or quiet spaces, reducing visual or auditory stressors and equipment or objects that help children up-regulate.

Mindfulness: The state of being in and fully attending to the experiences of the present moment. In Self-Reg, mindfulness is about looking non-judgmentally at not only our own mind, but also the mind of another and the feeling of calmness that comes from attending to and experiencing another person’s calmness.

Mindreading: The ability to understand what other people are thinking and feeling through awareness and observation of non-verbal communication and body language.

Misbehaviour: Disappointing, irritating or troubling behaviour of children who are aware of what they are doing, consciously chose to act the way they did and have the capacity to have acted differently.

Moro Reflex: A normal newborn startle reflex in which babies throw their arms out as if falling, arch their back and then close their fists and bring their hands back to their chest.

Neonety: Immaturity of the human brain at birth: a fundamental consequence of secondary altriciality, which illuminates the importance of the interbrain.

Nervous System: Network of nerves, organs and cells that carry messages from the brain and spinal cord to all parts of the body.

  • Autonomic: The part of the nervous system that regulates key involuntary functions such as breathing, heartbeat and digestion
  • Parasympathetic:The part of the nervous system that controls body processes during ordinary situations; rest-and-digest or feed and breed activities; promotes recovery and restoration after stress.
  • Sympathetic: The part of the nervous system that prepares the body for stressful or emergency situations; fight or flight response, promotes arousal in response to stress.

Opioid System: Part of the brain’s reward system that releases chemical compounds that increase energy while creating a feeling of euphoria or very pleasant feelings that reduce physical and emotional pain.

Probabilistic Epigenesis: Gilbert Gottlieb’s theory that the development of an organism is dependent on the bidirectional influences and interactions of genetic and environmental factors.

Proprioceptive Stimulation: A process of tactile stimulation by which the brain is stimulated to automatically adjust the body’s posture.

Reframing: Seeing and understanding the reasons for a child (or adult’s) behaviour in a different way. In Self-Reg, reframing is the second step of the Shanker Method®, allowing us to see that a troubling or irritating behaviour is stress behaviour rather than misbehaviour.

Regulated: Being aware of one’s arousal state and being able to attain and maintain the appropriate state for the situation at hand.

Secondary Altriciality: A uniquely human long period of dependency necessitated by the immaturity of the human brain at birth and the considerable amount of brain growth that takes place after birth.

Self-Reg: Dr. Stuart Shanker’s powerful method for understanding stress and managing energy flow in order to promote self-regulation. Self-Reg includes Dr. Shanker’s five-domain framework and The Shanker Method®, his five-step method for recognizing, reducing and recovering from stress.

Self-Reg Framework: Refers to Dr. Shanker’s five-domain model of self-regulation: the biological domain, emotion domain, cognitive domain, social domain and prosocial domain.

Self-Regulating: Being able to practice effective self-regulation (see self-regulation).

Self-Regulation: How people manage energy expenditure, recovery and restoration in order to enhance growth. Effective self-regulation requires learning to recognize and respond to stress in all its many facets, positive as well as negative, hidden as well as overt, minor as well as traumatic or toxic.

Sensory Stimuli: Sensory information from the environment that is detected, conveyed to the brain and processed by the brain.

Stress: The nonspecific response of the body to any demand imposed upon it, also the emotional or physical strain and tension associated with demands or adverse circumstances.

Stress Behaviour: Problematic behaviour caused by too high a stress load such that the person is not fully aware of what they are doing and has limited capacity to act differently.

Stressors: Anything that causes a stress response.

Superstimulants: Agents, such as foods, that have been designed to maximize opioid release in order to stimulate dopamine activity, resulting in cravings.

Symbiotic Arousal: Building from Margaret Mahler’s “Theory of Development”, optimal mutual cueing and connection (cuddling, smiling, engaged attention) resulting in synchronous up-regulation and down-regulation and feelings of safety and attachment.

Sympathetic Flooding: A very high state of arousal resulting from the sympathetic nervous system’s strong response to very high levels of stress or stress reactivity.

Synaptic Density: The number of synapses (connections between neurons) per unit of area in different parts of the brain

Synaptic Pruning: The elimination of unused or superfluous connections between neurons in different parts of the brain. Part of the brain’s process of refining complex networks of brain connections during early and middle childhood.

Synaptogenesis: The formation of new connections (synapses) between neurons in the nervous system.

Toxic Stress:  A term used to describe the kinds of prolonged and frequent stress, particularly in childhood, that can affect brain architecture and brain chemistry. Includes experiences such a chronic neglect, physical and emotional abuse, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence and poverty.

Up-regulate: To increase another person’s level of arousal (or your own) through behaviour, words, body language, tone of voice, movement, facial expression and other social or emotional cues, sometimes as a function of the Interbrain.

Ventral Striatum: The part of the brain’s reward system that is associated with the limbic system, which, among other functions, releases dopamine.

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.