Neurotransmitter: The Brains Electro-Chemical Messengers
Neurotransmitters are electro-chemical messengers that transmit signals across neural synapses within the brain to allow for vital communication between neurons. These messengers carry signals to nerve cells by binding to specific neurotransmitter receptors, which act like lock and key mechanisms to ensure accurate activation and communication between nerve cells. Electrical impulses propagate across neural synapses to allow for rapid response to external stimuli, body movement, emotional motivation, learning, memory and behavior. Neurotransmitters are vital for proper brain functions and for boosting and balancing signals between neurons. Neurotransmitter imbalance may lead to mood disorders like depression and anxiety, movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease, and memory disorders like those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Serotonin is the most widely recognized neurotransmitter, responsible for regulating mood, appetite, learning, memory and sleep. An abundance of serotonin in the brain results in feelings of happiness and well-being while serotonin deficiency may lead to feelings of sadness and overall depression.
Dopamine is known as the pleasure and reward seeking neurotransmitter, found in high amounts in sensation seekers and risk takers. The compulsive, drug-seeking behavior that drug users feel is a result of feelings of bliss and euphoria from certain addictive substances, which cause an increase in dopamine in the brain. Basic, autonomous reptilian brain activities like gambling, drug addiction, sex and self-defeating behaviors like the craving of unhealthy foods are linked to the dopamine neurotransmitter, which may lead an individual towards overriding conscious and rational behavior and towards the unhealthy and unconscious primal behaviors of the R-Complex.
Oxytocin (the love hormone) acts as a neurotransmitter and a hormone. It is associated with feelings of trust, love, generosity, empathy, social bonding and sexual reproduction. Women release oxytocin into the bloodstream during labor, while breastfeeding and during the development of the relationship with her child.
The neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, plays a major role in mobilizing body function and movement to prepare for the fight, flight or freeze response during dangerous situations. High amounts of norepinephrine increases arousal, alertness, anxiety and focuses attention. Release of norepinephrine in the body causes adrenaline to build, leading to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
Acetylcholine, one of the most abundant neurotransmitters, plays a role in activating muscles for movement and regulating REM sleep cycles for overall wakefulness and attentiveness; also important in arousal, focus, memory, learning and neuroplasticity (the brains ability to rewire itself to form new neural connections).