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Neurotransmitters Although the cerebrum produces many neurotransmitters, and they all must be present throughout the entire nervous system, each of the four is of particular importance to one of the cerebral lobes. The frontal lobe, which controls our movement and response to messages that it receives from the sense organs via the hypothalamus, is associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine and beta brain waves. Thinking and action are the domain of the parietal lobe. It produces alpha waves and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a building block for the myelin sheath and therefore relates to the speed at which our brain functions and so determines our effective brain age. Memory and language are governed by the temporal lobe, that sits just below the frontal and parietal lobes and balances their operation. It produces theta brain waves and the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma amino butyric acid). The occipital lobe is at the back of our head. It controls our visual function, regulates our rest, and synchronizes all the cerebral lobes. It produces delta brain waves and the neurotransmitter serotonin.
These nuerotransmitters must be present in a balanced fashion in order for us to attain a state of well being. If any of the cerebral lobes are deficient or if there is an excess of its associated neurotransmitter our health will suffer. Our brain and its neurotransmitters affects us in four ways:
1. Attention Attention is a physiological function that concerns our ability to learn and to remember. Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD) are not just a problem of the very young for they tend to increase as we age. They vary from mild conditions all the way to Alzheimer's syndrome. There are four types of attention disorders that relate to the four neurotransmitter. Inconsistent attention indicates a deficiency of dopamine, whereas if we are careless and have trouble misplacing things, acetylcholine deficiency is indicated. A lack of attention and impulsive actions are a product of insufficient GABA. If we are low in serotonin we will lose our ability to grasp concepts quickly.
2. Memory Likewise there are four types of memory deficits, each associated with a deficiency of one of the four primary neurotransmitters. Lapses in memory are not an inevitable result of aging, but they do indicate an imbalance in one or more of these neurotransmitters. These conditions are reversable. Although acetylcholine is primarily associated with memory, each of the cerebral lobes and their primary neurotransmitter affects a particular memory function.
These four memory categories are called working memory, immediate memory, verbal memory and visual memory.
Working Memory Working memory is our ability to absorb and retain new information and correlate it with older memories. If we are deficient in dopamine in our frontal lobe, our working memory will be overloaded and we will dump older memories.
Immediate Memory Immediate memory depends on acetylcholine in the parietal lobe. A deficiency here will affect our learning capacity and our basic alertness. It must transfer visual and auditory signals to long term memory within 30 seconds of receiving them.
Verbal Memory Verbal memory is associated with our temporal lobe. If we have insufficient GABA, we will have difficulty in producinig and understanding sounds, words, sentences and stories.
Visual memory is our ability to remember faces, colors, shapes, designs, surroundings, pictures and symbols. It is a function of our occipital lobe and the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Your personality is affected in several ways by excess and deficiency of the four major neurotransmitters. Dr. Eric Braverman in his fascinating book, The Edge Effect, describes how your personality is modified by four factors that depend on these neurotransmitter levels. He terms them voltage, speed, rhythm and synchrony. Although dopamine is the primary determinant of your temperament, each of the other neurotransmitters affects your personality as well.
Voltage Voltage is a measure of brain energy and depends on your dopamine level. It is a measure of the intensity with which your brain responds to cognitive and physical stimuli. As your voltage decreases your metabolism also decreases in all your states of consciousness from wide awake to deep sleep and you literally slow down.
Speed Speed is a measure of how fast your brain processes electrical signals. By increasing your brain speed you will improve your memory, attention, IQ and your behavior. This is primarily a measure of your acetylcholine level. Normal brain processing speed is around 300 milliseconds. If it slows to 400 msec, you are already senile. As your brain slows, which begins about the age of forty, all your body functions begin to suffer. Learning disabilities and neuropsychiatric problems appear and diseases throughout your body begin to take over.
Rhythm Rhythm describes how smoothly your brain electricity flows. This is regulated by the neurotransmitter GABA, which keeps you calm. When this neurotransmitter is in low supply, your rhythm is not smooth but flows in bursts. This state is called arrhythmia or dysrhythmia. Your ability to handle stress will decrease and you will become anxious, nervous and irritable.
Synchrony Synchrony is a measure of how balanced all the brain waves are. Each lobe produces its own brain wave and all are always present. The neurotransmitter serotonin in the occipetal lobe keeps them all in healthy balance, for each provides a level of physical and mental consciousness. Beta waves travel at 12-16 cycles per second and keep you alert. Alpha waves travel at 8-12 cps and make you creative. Theta waves travel from 4-8 cps and make you intuitive and drowsy. Delta waves travel between 1 and 4 beats per second and allow you to rest and sleep. Proper sleep is necessary to balance your brain waves and to allow you to attain the state of wellness.
Temperament Some people are predominantly left brain functioning and some are more right brain functioning. Your basic temperament varies accordingly. We can all be categorized into four basic types: extroverts or introverts; intuitives or sensitives; feeling or thinking; perceiving or judging.
Right Brainers: Extroverts tend to be social and active, outgoing and group oriented.
Intuitives are always looking for new opportunities. They are problem solvers and operate on their hunches. They like change.
Feeling types are nice and have a warm and quick response. They focus on human values rather than goals.
Perceiving types are curious and love to experience new things. They are flexible and adapt quickly. They may start many things, but not finish them.
Left Brainers: Introverts are more aloof and require time for reflection and privacy. They control their thoughts, feelings and needs.
Sensitives are factually oriented and accurate in communication. They prefer the tried and true way of doing things. They live in the present and follow tradition.
Thinking types are logical and fair. They may be cold and blunt. They like to follow rules and may be critical of others who do not
Judging types follow structures, lists and plans. They like closure and organization. They may not be flexible, spontaneous or accept change.
4. Physical Health Since the four major neurotransmitters have such a broad influence on our health and well-being, it is important to keep them in proper balance, if we are to attain and maintain the state of wellness. The slightest deviation in brain activity can be felt in the body and small electrical imbalances can become amplified into bigger health problems. Dr. Rodolfo Llinas called this the Edge Effect. Your brain chemistry can become unbalanced when your brain is unable to process electrical signals correctly, leading to a deficiency in one or more neurotransmitters. "When you are at your physical and mental best, you are experiencing the positive side of the Edge Effect. This sharpness is the mark of a balanced brain that enables us to love others, remain calm, and effectively put our intelligence to its best possible use," say Dr. Eric Braverman in The Edge Effect. Balancing our neurotransmitters is, therefore, the first step to achieving and maintaining a state of wellness and achieving longevity. Much more information is available in The Edge Effect. Tests to determine your basic nature, your excesses and deficiencies are presented. There are also diet and lifestyle suggestions to help you attain and maintain the Edge Effect.
Balancing your neurotransmitters does not necessarily mean they have to be present in equal amounts for we produce one of them in greater amounts than the others. This one governs the other three in us. GABA is dominant in about one-half the population and the rest of us are equally divided between the other three neurotransmitters. Which of the four is dominant in you defines your basic nature and determines what diseases you are likely to encounter, if it is either in excess or deficient. The other three can be excessive or deficient as well, further causing particular diseases for your basic nature.
Many diseases occur in more than one nature, however, because the neurotransmitters are similar in their effects. Thus, both dopamine and acetylcholine are on switches that create energy for power and speed. Whereas, GABA and serotonin are off switches and create electricity for calming the body and helping us sleep. Because their functions are similar, similar symptoms may occur when either is deficient. How a deficiency affects specific organs or systems varies according to our nature. For example, in both dopamine and acetylcholine natures deficiencies produce issues concerning metabolism and food cravings, but a dopamine nature will crave carbohydrates and an acetylcholine nature will crave richer, fattier foods.
As we age, our bodies produce fewer hormones and hormones regulate neurotransmitter production. This throws off the delicate balance and opens us to physical problems. Imbalances are also caused by day to day stress and by the choices we make regarding our diet. Imbalances can be treated by
Medication Medication must be handled through an appropriate health care provider. It is important to match your medication to your dominant nature, as medications are specific for each neurotransmitter. Your health care provider may not be aware of these distinctions.
Hormones Most of our hormones are produced in or regulated by the brain and its glands. Hormones are the brain's messengers, which are sent to all other parts of the body to control the specific functions of cells and organs. Because of stress, our diet, and as we age, our hormone production diminishes and the corresponding parts of the body begin to break down. The brain has to work harder as it tries to compensate for diminished body functions. Hormone replacement therapies should use hormones made from natural sources such as plants, and work by precisely duplicating the body's original hormones. The bonding of a hormone to its receptor is determined by the shape of the hormone molecule, like a key fits in a lock. Synthetic hormone molecules and molecules from different species may differ in their molecular configuration from endogenous hormones, so they may also differ in their activity at the receptor level.
Each of the four primary neurotransmitters has a characteristic hormone associated with it. When a particular neurotransmitter becomes deficient, this hormone comes in to take its place. For example, the body naturally increases production of cortisol when there is a dopamine imbalance. Cortisol regulates blood pressure and cardiovascular function as well as our use of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Cortisol is the backup adrenaline hormone, so that when you are under stress, your cortisol levels increase. Your pulse quickens, you become red faced, and your blood pressure goes up. Physical problems result when the excess hormones are not cleared from our body quickly.
Lifestyle You can affect your neurtranmitter levels by the things you do. Competition increases dopamine; mental activity replenishes acetylcholine; relaxation heightens GABA; and artistic expression will increase serotonin.
Environment The effects of chemical pollution, acid rain, global warming, nuclear wastes, ozone depletion, pesticides, cell phones and microwave ovens all can be dangerous and can have an affect that can damage your mind and body. Lead decreases GABA, cadmium in cigarette smoke decreases dopamine, exposure to the light from florescent bulbs and to the aluminum cookware or drinking water decreases acetylcholine, and pesticides decreased serotonin. On the other hand, soft lighting, soothing music, a relaxing atmosphere, pleasant scents, and the colors you choose to have around you can have a beneficial effect on your neurotransmitter levels.
Diet Amino acids are the precursors to neurotransmitters, and the production of these substances can be directly affected by your diet. By making better dietary choices based on your nature you can maintain a healthier, balanced self, but you won't see changes in a matter of minutes, as you do with medication, or in a matter of days, as is the case with hormones. Adjusting your nature through diet requires more time, but diet is far gentler on your body than medication. A stable and long term balance can be attained by the more natural dietary means.
Supplements To produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, add the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine and the supplements chromium, rhodiola, and thiamine to your diet. To produce acetylcholine add phosphatidylserine, acetyl-L-carnitine, manganese, lipoic acid and huperzine-A. To produce GABA, add glutamine, inositol, B-vitamins, and branched chain amino acids. Vitamin B6, St. John's wort, fish oils and tryptophan are used for serotonin-based therapies.
Electrical Stimulation Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units have long been used to relieve pain and promote localized healing. They apply a tiny amounts of electricity via electrodes that are fixed to specific areas of the body. TENS units stimulate the release of endorphins, which are the body's own pain medication.
Cranial electrical stimulator (CES) electrodes are placed on the left wrist next to the vagal nerve, which connects directly to the midbrain, and on the forehead near the frontal lobes which are the brain's pacemaker. The low voltage administered by the CES increases neurotransmitter levels as it is a catalyst for the amino acid conversions of glutamine into GABA, and tryptophan into serotonin. The CES is FDA approved for treatment of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Research also suggests that the CES device can be used as an antidote to damaging electromagnetic fields from microwaves, television, cell phones, and computers.
Trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TCMS) units utilize magnetism instead of direct electrical current to affect brain waves. Insulated coils generate magnetic fields that in turn generate electrical activity within specific brain lobes depending upon where the unit is applied.