neurotransmitter, brain chemicals, psychonutrient, psycho nutrient,
What is all the buzz about ...Neurotransmitters are  chemicals that are used to transmit nerve signals across a synapse.

They are sprayed from the end of the “upstream” nerve cell and absorbed by receptors in the “downstream” cell.

Brain signals are electrical (Galvani - 1791, Rolando - 1809)

Candace Pert describes it this way in her provocative  book Molecules of Emotion a neuroscientist whose extraordinary career began with her 1972 discovery of the opiate receptor. "If the cell is the engine that drives all life, then the receptors are the buttons on the control panel of that engine, and a specific peptide  is the finger that pushes the button and gets things started."

Her pioneering research on how the chemicals inside our bodies form a dynamic information network, linking mind and body, is not only provocative, it is revolutionary. By establishing the biomolecular basis for our emotions and explaining these new scientific developments in a clear and accessible way, Pert empowers us to understand ourselves, our feelings, and the connection between our minds and our bodies -- or bodyminds and explains the scientific basis of phenomena such as "gut feelings". Pert's concludes it is our emotions and their biological components that  links mind and body not to repudiate modern medicine's gains, but to complement existing techniques by understanding the power of mind and feelings to affect health and well-being.

Galvani ( 'galvanize') discovered that electrically shocking frog nerves made their muscles move. Rolando used this same method to stimulate cortex in the brain.

  • The latest "wow-factored" new technology has always explained brain function.
  • The 19th century brain was symobolised as an electrical device
  • Then a telegraph with communicator (neurons) and wires (axons).
  • A telephone network, with switchboards acting to control the flow of information.
  • A computer
  • Currently compared to internet architecture; a complex network distribution,

Our mind is implemented in an electrical device-like organ.

Although each metaphor is premature and quickly outdated, the analogous symbol expands our  insights .
What parallel advancement in technology will correlate our next understanding of the brain function?

Why are there so many brain neurotransmitters?

Some (glutamate) are excitatory, whereas others (GABA) are mostly inhibitory
Glutamic acid (glutamate) and GABA "workhorse" neurotransmitters of the brain

  • Neurotransmitters chemicals allow neuron signals transmission across the brains synapses.
  • Neurotransmitters chemicals shuttle across the synaptic gap establish inter-neuronal communication at receptor sites
  • neurotransmitter Chemicals are found at axon endings of motor neurons stimulate muscle fibers
  • neurotransmitter are produced by the pituitary and the adrenal glands.

Excitatory and inhibitory

synaptic gap, synapse, neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters, mostly are described as "excitatory" or "inhibitory" in how they activate receptors. Some neurotransmitters (glutamate) have excitatory effects and increase the probability of target cells firing and other neurotransmitters (GABA) have inhibitory effects. Although other receptors produce effects neither excitatory or inhibitory, it is convenient to call glutamate excitatory and GABA inhibitory .

Significant neurotransmitters.

Acetylcholine

  • Acetylcholine (first discovered neurotransmitter) stimulates muscles and the gastro-intestinal system
  • is found in sensory neurons and the autonomic nervous system
  • plays a part in the timing of REM (dream) sleep.
  • Curare and hemlock (poisons) paralyse by blocking the acetylcholine in muscle cells.
  • Botulin (poison) prevents axons releasing acetylcholine, causing paralysis.
  • Botox (derivative botulin) temporarily eliminate wrinkles.
  • Alzheimer's suffering brains have a 90% loss of acetylcholine, establishing a link between acetylcholine and senility .

Norepinephrine

  • Norepinephrine (sympathetic nervous system) helps form memories
  • Brings the nervous systems into "high alert"
  • Increases heart rate and blood pressure via the adrenal glands which release it into the blood stream with adrenalin (epinephrine).
  • Stress depletes adrenalin and exercise increases it.
  • Amphetamines ("speed") release norepinephrine and neurotransmitters; dopamine and seratonin..

Dopamine

  • (inhibitory) (relative of norepinephrine and epinephrine), blocks neurones from firing at receptor sites.
  • Dopamine is the feel-good & rewarding chemical in the brain.
  • Cocaine, opium, heroin, nicotine and alcohol increase the levels of dopamine, as does.
  • An excess of dopamine in the (frontal lobes) brain can mean mental illness like schizophrenia (Dopamine blockers help schizophrenics).
  • A lack of dopamine in brain motor areas cause Parkinson's disease, (uncontrollable muscle tremors)
  • L-dopa (dopamine precursor) elevates some of Parkinson's symptoms
  • Low dopamine could relate to social anxiety

GABA

  • GABA (inhibitory), gamma aminobutyric acid) slows the stimulating neurotransmitters that lead to anxiety.
  • A lack of GABA can mean anxiety disorders
  • Many sedative/tranquilizing drugs act by enhancing the effects of GABA
  • Valium enhances GABA effects.
  • Drugs, alcohol and barbituates influence GABA receptors.
  • Low GABA can result in epilepsy.

Glutamate

  • Glutamate (excitatory) is the commonest neurotransmitter (central nervous system) and a relative of GABA.
  • Glutamate is important to memory.
  • Glutamate is actually toxic to neurons, and can kill them - brain damage or stroke can create excess Glutamate and brain cells death
  • Some scientists seek to minimis glutamate as they believe glutamate it may be responsible for many nervous system diseases
  • Glutamate was first extracted as an acid from seaweed - an offshoot became MSG - monosodium glutamate

Serotonin

  • Serotonin (inhibitory) is involved in emotion and mood.
  • Serotonin regulate appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature, mood, behaviour, muscle contraction, and function of the cardiovascular system and endocrine system.
  • Low serotonin leads to depression and anger problems, obsessive-compulsiveness, suicide, a BIG appetite for carbs and sleeping issues.
  • Serotonin is linked to migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
  • Prozac permits more available seratonin to the synapses by routing an excess of seratonin from the neurons
  • SSRIs ( selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) block the re-uptake of serotonin by presynaptic cells increasing synaptically present serotonin and its duration, potentiating the effect of naturally released serotonin.
  • Serotonin comes from tryptophan (in milk), thus warm milk before bed increases seratonin levels.
  • Perceptually seratonin is affected by hallucinogens such as; LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, and ecstasy work attaching to seratonin receptor sites and blocking transmissions in perceptual pathways.

Endorphin

  • Endorphin (Inhibitory); endogenous morphine, is similar in structure and function to opioids (opium, morphine, heroin) and involved in pain reduction and pleasure
  • Drugs work by attaching to endorphin receptor sites.
  • Endorphin allows bears and other animals to hibernate.

Dr. Candace Pert in her new book; Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d says the way endorphins work is evidence of bliss as an evolutionary necessity. "That's why endorphins are such highly conserved molecules. It's the same in simple one-celled creatures and in humans. In the new book I talk about the evolution of the opiate receptor and how it's in our frontal cortex, the most advanced part of our brains."

"It's like we're designed to make choices around pleasure. The very highest, most intelligent part of our brain is drenched in receptors to make us use pleasure as a criterion for our decisions. So it's okay to feel good - God is good."

While it's clear that the "bliss receptors" are centered in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that makes evaluative and complex decisions, there isn't a clear reason.

"Scientists can never ask why. They can only ask 'what' and 'how.' But we know that the vibration in these receptors mediates, or leads, to the whole organism feeling bliss.

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for complex, evaluative decisions. This part of the brain is loaded with opiate receptors - so structurally, our most sophisticated reasoning is linked to bliss.

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