The human body is like a super sensitive apparatus. It is undoubtedly the most uniquely designed bio-computer, where millions of processes take place. These processes are called biochemical processes. This article is devoted to neurotransmitters.
Any disturbance in the biochemistry of our organism influences our mood, our health, and our sleeping routine. The consequences of the misbalance can vary and be surprisingly unexpected. And, unfortunately, very often when the health problem occurs it is the consequences that we treat, and not what causes them. As a result, we treat but don’t cure the illness completely. Don’t hope that your doctor will know every single thing of your condition, because they know what you tell them. And to know what is extremely important and what the right thing to tell is, you need to educate yourself, at least a little bit.
What are neurotransmitters?
Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that transfer various kinds of information between the nerve cells known as neurons. They can also be found at the axon endings of motor neurons. There their function is to encourage muscle fibers stimulation. These brain chemicals are secreted by the pituitary and the adrenal glands.
Neurotransmitters are in charge of main functions of our bodies, including motor function, emotional response and the ability to sense the pleasure and pain on the physical level. The most well-known neurotransmitters that regulate our mood are serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, acetylcholine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (commonly known as GABA).
There are lots of ways to exhaust neurotransmitter levels. Actually, it is proved and estimated that 86% of Americans have not enough neurotransmitters. Stress, poor diet, neurotoxins, genetic predisposition, drugs (prescription and recreational), alcohol and caffeine usage can trigger levels reduction.
Neurotransmitters affect our mental well-being in the following way:
- They influence our mood and mental processes.
- They control our abilities to concentrate and learn and remember things.
- They control our center of appetite that is situated in the brain.
- They regulate our sleeping routine.
Types of neurotransmitters
For convenience, all neurotransmitters can be divided into excitatory and inhibitory. Though, some neurotransmitters can function as members of both groups mentioned above.
Excitatory neurotransmitters can be described as “top switches” of the neural system. They improve the chance of the excitatory signal to be transmitted. Their mechanism is similar to that of the auto gas pedal – you step on it and the number of the revs increases.
Excitatory neurotransmitters govern the most important functions of the organism: thinking and reasoning, reaction to fight or to escape and motor functions. Along with excitatory function, these neurotransmitters are responsible for natural brain stimulation, making us lively, energetic and active. But if it wasn’t for the inhibitory system, which is a complete opposite, we would lose control of our bodies.
Inhibitory neurotransmitters can be described as “cutoff switches” of our nervous system, lowering the chances of the excitatory signal to be transmitted. There should be a balance of excitation and inhibition in the brain. If the excitation level is too high, it leads to anxiety, irritation, insomnia and even seizures. Inhibitory neurotransmitters regulate the activity of excitatory neurotransmitters, resembling the work of auto brakes. Inhibitory system slows the processes down. On the physiological level, they do the job of natural body tranquilizers by causing sleepiness, contributing to calmness and cutting down aggression.
List of neurotransmitters
- dopamine – is responsible mainly for a sexual drive, mood, liveliness, and motion;
- noradrenaline (norepinephrine) and adrenaline (epinephrine) – influence liveliness, mood, and excitement;
- acetylcholine – improves memory and contributes to learning things.
- GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) – helps to relax and to calm down;
- dopamine – is responsible mainly for a sexual drive, mood, liveliness, and motion;
- serotonin – influences mood, appetite, emotional stability, motivation;
- acetylcholine – improves memory and contributes to learning things;
Dopamine is is a special neurotransmitter that can function as an excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitter. It helps to beat depression and stay focused. In the brain it works by elevating the mood, helping us to feel satisfaction from eating and sex. It also makes us feel motivation.
Whether dopamine levels are elevated or low – we can experience problems with focusing, remembering simple everyday things, or simply staying on task. To improve that focus, stimulants and caffeine push dopamine into the synapse. But if you stimulate dopamine consistently, it can cause a depletion of dopamine over time.
After the synthesis dopamine can be transformed into noradrenaline and adrenaline.
Noradrenaline (norepinephrine) is an excitatory neurotransmitter that stimulates various processes in the body and increases concentration. This is the chemical that makes us chose to fight or escape in dangerous situations. Norepinephrine helps to release other hormones from a limbic segment of the brain, passing the signal to the hormones of stress. Noradrenaline often causes anxiety and the feeling of fear at elevated excretion levels, but sometimes it makes us feel insomnia and irritation. Low levels of norepinephrine mean low energy, decreased focus ability and problems with sleeping routine.
Adrenaline (epinephrine) is an excitatory neurotransmitter that depends on the stress. It is often elevated when you experience some symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is made from noradrenaline and is secreted together with it as a reaction to fear or anger. Adrenaline regulates metabolism, attention, cognitive processes, sexual arousal and concentration. It is used in medicine as a stimulator when the heart stops beating and as a tool of vasoconstriction in the case of a shock. High levels of epinephrine cause anxiety, fear, sleep problems, stress, increased heart rate and blood pressure. Low levels lower the sexual interest, concentration and contribute to the weight gain and tiredness.
Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is ought to regulate learning abilities and memory. Glutamate molecule is one of the major for cellular metabolism. It is the major component that creates food taste. High levels of glutamate cause various neurologic disorders, including schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and strokes. Low levels are responsible for memory worsening.
Acetylcholine can also function as an excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitter. It plays important roles for our nervous system. But its main function is to stimulate the musculoskeletal system. It helps us to contract and relax the muscles. In the brain, it affects memory and ability to study. Lower levels of acetylcholine in some areas of the brain cause Alzheimer’s disease.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is also called “nature’s valium-like substance”. When GABA levels are of high or low excretion values, it means that an excitatory neurotransmitter is firing too often in the brain. GABA will be sent out to help to balance this stimulating over-firing. It helps the brain to filter “unwanted sounds”, improves concentration and calms the nerves. High levels of GABA cause problems with reaction.
Taurine is another inhibitory neurotransmitter. It increases the effect of GABA, thus, it is a very important neuromodulator for fear and anxiety suppression.
Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It is It is vital for a stable mood and for keeping all excessive stimulating neurotransmitters balanced. If you use stimulant medications or caffeine, in time it can lower serotonin levels. Serotonin also regulates our thirst, sleeping routine, pain control and appropriate digestion. Low serotonin levels damage our immune systems. High levels can bring the feeling of euphoria and close unity with a universe, but it is fraught with serotonin syndrome.
The variety of neurotransmitters and differences of their functions, including both similarities and differences, contributes to the functioning of the most complex system of our bodies – central nervous system, to the connection of separate neurons in the brains and to the successful performance of its diverse and vital functions.
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