The Brain: Facts and Fiction (1)
We live in an age where we are constantly barraged by information from dozens of television channels, daily newspapers, weekly and monthly magazines, and the endless data posted on the internet, just as you’re reading now at this very moment.
Even the young and healthy are overwhelmed trying to keep up with this accelerated rate of informationoverload. The modern world seems to require too much effort from our mental abilities.
If you’re reading this article, it’s apparent that you have a significant interest in finding natural ways to improve your mental performance or to train your brain for better performance or even to treat a particular neurological condition. In order to achieve these goals more reliably, it helps a lot to have a basic knowledge of the structure of the brain and how this incredible complex organ works. Here I like to explain in short the function of brain cells and discuss in brief changes what occurs in these cells during normal aging. The more we can learn about how the brain works, the better we can improve its potentials.
Everything in our body (muscles, organs, cells , skin and bones) is made of tiny cells. This is also true for the brain.
The brain cells are called neurons. An average brain has about one hundred billions neurons. I hear you thinking my dear what a number and we have been told, that we are using only 5 to 10 % of them. What a waste of cells some will think. But the real challenge will be, train and nourish your brain correct and it will be able to perform better, stronger and faster for you.
But let us go back to the neuron, in addition to neurons, about nine hundred billion glial cells are present in the brain. These glial cells surround and nutritionally support neurons.
Neuron to Neuron Communication
Neurons communicate with each other through electrical impulses and chemicals. These chemical are called neurotrans-mitters. A typical neuron has thousands of connections, called synapses, with neighboring neurons. Every single external stimulation that enters through our five senses (sight, hearing, smell, tough and taste [other senses we can develop we will discuss later]), causes tiny electrical nerve impulses and the release of minute amounts of neurotransmitters. At present about a hundred of so different neurotransmitters have been identified. Some of these include serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and acetylcholine to mention only a few.
Let us get started.
Here I would like to refer to an incredible inspiring book, which I have read some years ago, written by Candace Pert Ph.D. :
Molecules of Emotion: The science behind mind-body medicine.
At www.amazon.com you can find plenty of new and second hand books worth to read and expand your mind.
All right, back to neurotransmitters. Neuro-transmitters, such as serotonin, produce their effects by interacting with appropriate receptors located on “next-door neighbour” neurons. As is the case with some of the neurotransmitters, serotonin is made in brain cells and stored in small enclosures within the cells called vesicles. When a neuron is stimulated, the vesicles open at the edge of the neuron, and serotonin is released outside of the neutron into tiny space near an adjoining neuron. This space is called a synaptic cleft. Thereafter, serotonin will interact with various serotonin receptors located on these adjoining brain cells and influence their function.
After serotonin is released into the synaptic cleft, it can either be taken back into the neuron that originally released it (a process called “reuptake”) or it can be broken down by enzymes located within the synaptic cleft. In general, the most common way that ends serotonin action in the synaptic cleft is its reuptake. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors ( SSRIs), such as Prosac, increase the amount of serotonin in the synaptic cleft by preventing this reuptake. So why all the dry stuff and why serotonin?
Serotonin indeed is a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that releases messages between brain cells (neurons). It is one of the primary mood-regulating neurotransmitters. It is derived from the amino acid tryptophan. Serotonin can also be converted to melatonin. Serotonin is the most widely studied neurotransmitter since it helps regulate a vast range of psychological and biological functions.
Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT) was first identified in 1948, the year I was born. The wide extend of psychological functions regulated by serotonin involves mood, anxiety, arousal, aggression, and thinking abilities.
Other brain chemicals, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, also influence mood and arousal. However, serotonin generally has different effects. For instance, excess amounts of serotonin causes relaxation, sedation and a decrease in sexual drive.
A warning and I mean this seriously, please go not in any adventure to take lots or any amounts of vitamins, food additives or what so ever, because somebody says so.
Please first have a regular check at your health condition. Then decide what is appropriate for you.