February 27, 2023
Our ancient brains evolved the perfect way to keep us safe by controlling the chemicals in our mind to moderate our behavior.
When two neurons meet, a very small gap (synapse) exists between them. The electrical impulse traveling along the axon of the neuron must convert into a chemical signal to bridge this gap. The chemicals that do this are called neurotransmitters. These so-called chemical messengers are involved in our different responses to situations.
Your emotions depend on fluctuating levels of neurotransmitters, which cause the activation of different parts of the brain responsible for different moods like anger issues, conflict management and stress, or activate parts of the brains that trigger the stimulation of the autonomic nervous system.
Adrenaline: These hormones are released by adrenal glands that sit on top of each kidney, adrenaline increases the flow of blood to our muscles, raises our heart rate and dilates our pupils. It is crucial in our fight or flight survival responses.
Noradrenaline: Similar to adrenaline, the release of this chemical can result in increased level of alertness, helping to prime us for actions, if needed. It also increases our blood pressure and widens our air passages.
Dopamine: This is the addictive reward chemical that your brain craves. It serves to motivate you to seek out the things you need for your survival. We can sometimes find ourselves enslaved by this ancient reward mechanism.
Oxytocin: Also known as cuddle hormone, oxytocin is released when you are closed to another person. It is essential for making strong social bonds, and it is also a key part of why we want to trust people.
GABA: Responsible for regulating muscle tone, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) also regulates the communication between brain cells. It can calm us down by reducing the rate at which our neurons fire.
Acetylcholine: This is the main neurotransmitter in the parasympathetic nervous system that slows our heart rate, contacts smooth muscles, dilates blood vessels, and increases bodily secretions.
Glutamate: The most abundant neurotransmitter in the vertebrate nervous system, glutamate is used by nerve cells to transmit signals to other cells. Too much of it can cause cognitive impairment.