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November 4

The chemicals that we seek in our brain

We can rob our brain from these natural chemicals of moods, motivation & happiness. Then we start seeking unhealthy alternatives. You do chronically activities knowingly or unknowingly to rob yourself of dopamine, serotonin, noradrenalin & other chemicals – you become stressed, feel anxiety & remain depressed. We also opt for addictions to get those chemicals replenished externally at the cost of your precious health by means of smoking, alcohol etc. Compulsive browsing of social media and e-commerce websites also linked to the seeking of these internal brain chemicals from unhealthy ways. These activities are creating more cases of anxiety & depression than ever. Remember you have only one body & one mind to smoothly sail through your life, there is no replacement here.

Let us have a short discussion on our chemical brain. These are – Dopamine, Serotonin, Nor-adrenaline, GABA, Glutamate, Cannabinoids & Endorphins (endogenous morphine). 

a. Dopamine- This chemical is related to happiness, reward and motivation. Every substance that creates addiction, lead to temporary release of dopamine and promote the substance abuse by a spiralling up need for the same earlier response. There are many states of mind & actions at which the dopamine gets released in our brain without any external substance i.e. new thoughts of curiosity, new activities of curiosity, happy in now, exercise, positive visualisation etc. We feel motivated & happy at this state of our brain. Did you feel motivated and happy travelling to new places or learning some new skills of your curiosity or gaining some new knowledge at your subject of interest? The answer here is probably “YES”. Remember dopamine. You can rob yourself also from dopamine by sub-consciously running negative & unproductive neural net about you & others (place, person & time). Remember dopamine is the fuel and you are born motivated. Without it being active sub-consciously, you may indulge into wrong activities of dopamine release i.e. over eating, becoming a shopaholic, all night irrational Facebook /WhatsApp or other e-commerce website searching for novelty. And the worse response of all when we rob our dopamine is obviously those addictions that release dopamine but having dangerous health consequences.  

b. Serotonin – Big effects on mood. If you are sad and negative about the world your serotonin level deceases and vice versa. And the effect is bi-lateral – your elevated mood release serotonin and the level of serotonin will keep your mood elevated. More recent research confirms this. Hostility and negativity are associated not only with the development of heart disease but also with poorer survival in heart patients. The constitution of the WHO states “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This may sound exaggerated but positive mood within the normal range is an important predictor of health and longevity. In a classic study, those in the lowest quartile for positive emotions, rated from autobiographies written at a mean age of 22 years, died on average 10 years earlier than those in the highest quartile. We can release the serotonin at will with self-induced positive mood, self-induced positive outlook about the world, exposure to bright light, exercise, meditation and food rich in tryptophan. 

c. Nor-adrenaline – The neurotransmitter is one of the important chemicals for focus. It increases alertness, arousal and decrease reaction time. The synthesis of norepinephrine depends on the presence of tyrosine, an amino acid found in proteins such as meat, nuts, and eggs. Dairy products such as cheese also contain high amounts of tyrosine (the amino acid is named for “tyros,” the Greek word for cheese). Tyrosine is the precursor to dopamine, which is in itself a precursor of epinephrine and norepinephrine. Banana peels contain significant amounts of norepinephrine and dopamine. So, the way we can increase the level of dopamine in brain, we increase the level of nor-adrenaline and thus ability to do focus and to be agile at work. The level of nor-epinephrine is reduced in our brain in depression. In Alzheimer patient 70% of nor-epinephrine receptors are lost. So, we should be doing activities to promote nor-epinephrine and dopamine to keep ourselves healthy.

d. Glutamate – It’s an excitatory neurotransmitter which if get released cause other neurons to fire. The neuro chemicals are dopamine, serotonin, nor-adrenaline etc.

e. GABA – It slows things down; it inhibits and it dampens neural activity in brain. The alcohol actually positively affects the GABA receptors in brain to slow down brain activity and at the same time increases dopamine. That’s bring the pleasure without inhibitions but of course with harmful health consequences.

f. Acetylcholine – A neuro transmitter important for nerve conduction and play an important role in learning and memory.

g. Cannabinoids – Once these are activated, a number of pathways are activated, resulting in a diverse array of effects, from reduced experience of pain to movement of the digestive tract, as well as having an effect on mood. In the hippocampus they influence learning and memory; in the basal ganglia they modulate locomotor activity and reward pathways; in the hypothalamus they have a role in the control of appetite. Cannabinoids may also be protective against neuro-degeneration and brain damage and exhibit anticonvulsant activity & analgesic effects.

h. Opioids- Commonly used today for the treatment of severe pain is morphine (after the name of Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams). The natural partners to the opioid receptors are the endorphins, released during certain activities, such as running (they’re thought to be responsible for the ‘runner’s high’), regular exercise (75 to 150 min per week moderate exercise), massage, chocolate consumption, chilli pepper consumption, sexual activity & pain. Other activities that releases endorphins (endogenous morphine – morphine that is present in the body) are volunteering, donating, helping others, yoga & meditation.

Opioids & Cannabinoids do most of its action through dopamine activation. Remember the chemicals in your brain are not your goals to achieve; they are the essential fuels to achieve your goals in life. Thus, the happiness, the motivation, the positive mood, the focus in now etc that those chemicals induce are your biological need for your brain to produce a healthy & productive mind. 

Note that exercise, positive mood, proper food, helping others and meditation are the most common scientifically proven factors for proper balance of brain chemicals to promote a healthy mind & thus a healthy body.  


Tags

Brain, Chemical


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Dr. Biprajit Parbat