Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Neurotransmitters and parts of a vehicle -- Part II

In the previous post, a brief summary of three key neurotransmitters, dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine were discussed. The analogy to parts of a car were a small (and to me, risky) step outside the realm of science into any form of metaphoric creativity. In this post we will have a quick look at three other neurotransmitters, some of their key roles, some of the disorders associated with them, and of course, the parts of a vehicle that they could be. Those three neurotransmitters are acetylcholine, histamine, and serotonin.



Acetylcholine

  • Acetylcholine, or ACh, is the most critical neurotransmitter directly associated with learning and memory. It is the only neurotransmitter that plays a role in what is called synaptic plasticity: the ability to change the electrical strength of of synaptic charge.
  • Consistant changes to electrical strength to a familiar neural pathway ultimately results in focus. Students who suffer from ADHD may have a lack of ACh playing a role in such a lack of focus.
  • ACh is made in the nerve cells, and requires choline. Choline is a chemical we take in via what we eat, it is primarily found in eggs, proteins, and dairy. 
  • ACh receptors on the surface of all skeletal muscles react to ACh by causing a contraction of the muscle. Oddly enough, the opposite it true of the cardiac muscles that make up the heart--ACh causes them to relax.
  • Students who struggle with focus and memory may have a shortage in ACh. Increased amount of sleep, and a healthy diet are two means by which this level can be increased.
  • In modern vehicles, electricity plays such a critical role in operating so many components of a vehicle. While the nerves are the electrical wiring, the electricity (electrons) are the ACh chemicals. (Notably if you have one of those dashcams remembering all of your  driving for you.)
Histamine
  • Histamine, contrary to what all people with allergies may believe, is a critical neurotransmitter that does more than cause allergies. Many antihistamine drugs are now built to act upon histamines outside of the brain and surrounding CSF membrane, as that is where their allergy exists, and the antihistamines in the brain can be problematic because.... 
  • Histamine acts upon areas of the brain to release cortisol. Cortisol causes alertness and anxiety, and is ultimately what keeps us awake. As a result, antihistamines significantly reduce our cortisol levels in our body resulting in drowsiness. A lack of histamines results in a lack of alertness.
  • Histamine-levels in individuals with schizophrenia are much higher than average; as a result those with schizophrenia can often have a comorbidity with insomnia. 
  • There is currently research being done that is beginning to prove that a possible delay in the progression of multiple sclerosis in an individual can be avoided with in increase of histamine levels.
  • Histamine could be compared to a vehicle's stereo: perhaps not as critical as some other components, but certainly keeps the driver awake and engaged in their driving, instead of allowing the mind to wonder. Also, stereos play a critical role in our lives in areas outside of the vehicle (brain).
Serotonin
  • Serotonin is chemically formed by a reaction with tryptophan, which is a chemical that we find in foods that can make us drowsy. 
  • Roughly 90% of all serotonin in your body is in the small and large intestine.
  • Though it is a neurotransmitter, serotonin is also found in the plant and fungi kingdoms.
  • Serotonin plays a critical role upon such factors as our mood, happiness, appetite, aptitude, and ability to prepare for sleep.
  • Basically all antidepressants, to one extent or another, cause a reduction in which serotonin is metabolized (broken down), and thereby cause an increase in the concentration of serotonin to the brain. 
  • Our serotonin used for neural purposes is produced in the pineal gland, named after the fact it is said to represent the shape of a pine cone.
  • Hallucinogens and psychedelic drugs are chemicals that contain serotonin attached to another chemical; their metabolism in the brain results in the sensations felt by the person.
  • Serotonin is the heater of the vehicle. Its level can go above average (high temperature) without seeing any long-term negative effects--you can roll down a window. If its level is too low, a lack of serotonin can result in many difficulties associated with mood, happiness, and positive behaviour as a whole. 

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