Usually, people who actively seek out the best supplements are those who understand just how vital these compounds can be to living a healthier, better life. But, before you decide to use even tested and trusted nootropics to influence brain health, you need to know just what they’re affecting. In this case, that’s brain chemicals.
So, just what are brain chemicals?
As the powerhouse and ultimate controller of the body, the brain is home to various natural chemicals that do everything from influencing brain waves to producing physical activity.
These compounds are also primarily responsible for providing pain relief, making you feel more happy or positive, and alleviating chronic depression symptoms.
Considering how crucial these primary chemicals are to the relationship between brain and body, it’s hard to understate the importance of knowing about them as much as possible.
With that in mind, here’s all you need to know about these substances and how they affect brain function.
What Are Brain Chemicals?
Medically known as neurotransmitters, there are different chemicals in the brain environment. These chemicals facilitate everyday brain communication by telling healthy neurons what to do.
Each neurotransmitter possesses its own unique set of characteristics and functions.
Optimal neurotransmitter levels often accompany good mental health, and healthy people rarely think about these chemicals. However, failure to retain optimal neurotransmitter levels often comes with severe consequences for someone’s mental health.
When abnormal levels of brain chemicals occur, sometimes called a chemical imbalance, proper communication between neurons in the brain becomes difficult. This results in various mental health conditions like depressive symptoms and anxiety disorders.
At this point, our discussion leads to the chemical imbalance theory.
What Is The Chemical Imbalance Theory?
Simply put, the chemical imbalance theory is a term that medical professionals have coined to indicate that abnormal levels of brain chemicals are always, in one way or another, responsible for mental health conditions.
Although the chemical imbalance theory was officially debunked recently, research has confirmed that a sharp increase or decrease in brain chemicals like the neurotransmitter dopamine can trigger health issues. In other words, the overall problem of chemical imbalances is more complicated than a simplistic theory.
What’s more, some neurotransmitters have actively been implicated as a contributing cause of certain mental illnesses. This seeming contradiction indicates that the complex interplay between neurotransmitter levels and sustaining the optimal body and brain functions are not fully understood.
However, healthcare professionals and researchers worldwide have successfully identified some of the most important neurotransmitters for optimal human brain health.
Before delving into some of these, let’s look at how these brain compounds work.
How Neurotransmitters Work
After being synthesized in healthy neurons, neurotransmitters are first stored at the end of the axon (a bundle of nerve fibers) in one of the brain regions called the synaptic bulb. The synaptic bulb is where synaptic vesicles, the structures necessary for transporting neurotransmitters, are housed. Then, when needed, brain chemicals are released through the exocytose (bulk transport) process into the brain’s blood vessels.
The ability of neurotransmitters to come in contact with and influence nerve cells is what makes them so important. This is because it’s through this that brain chemicals can affect everything from how the body moves to emotional states and the body’s ability to regulate temperature.
With this in mind, here are some crucial chemicals in the brain and what they do.
A member of the catecholamine family, the importance of the neurotransmitter dopamine can’t be overemphasized. This is because it’s one of the significant feel-good brain chemicals and is strongly associated with pleasurable activities and positive feelings.
Dopamine levels in the body noticeably increase when you’re expecting a reward.
As you can imagine, there are several benefits to maintaining optimal levels of this brain chemical. For instance, it’s been known to encourage strong feelings of happiness, concentration, and alertness.
Beyond this, the similarity in structure allows it to be sometimes used like adrenaline. This is one of the reasons why dopamine agonists are also used to treat medical conditions like low blood pressure and low heart rate.
It’s also proven to be very potent for treating poor coordination.
Finally, extreme surges of dopamine levels due to conditions like presynaptic cell body reuptake can also contribute to medical conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Synthesized at the end of the presynaptic cell, acetylcholine is obtained from the coenzyme acetic acid and choline. A primary ingredient in almost every “smart drug,” this neurotransmitter does everything from optimizing brain functions to alleviating memory loss and enhancing thinking.
The impact of this neurotransmitter on the brain is so significant that when inadequate, studies have shown that this can trigger an array of mental illnesses, from learning impairments to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
While this compound can’t be ingested directly as a dietary supplement, there are several drugs you can take to boost acetylcholine levels in the brain significantly.
Keeping your acetylcholine levels in check is essential because of its established impact on memory-related diseases and because it also proves critical in supporting mental health, alleviating anxiety, and relieving depressive symptoms.
It can also reduce the risk of liver disease and may have the same effect on cardiovascular diseases.
No answer to what brain chemicals are can be fully answered without mentioning serotonin.
This particular neurotransmitter is synthesized in two parts of the body; the serotonergic neurons located in the central nervous system and the enterochromaffin cell bodies, which are found along the digestive tract.
Thanks to this, serotonin affects every primary body function, from mental health and emotions to motor skills and even digestion.
It bears mentioning that the two types of serotonin produced in the body do not mix, even though they share numerous similarities in terms of chemical structure.
The serotonin levels produced in the CNS can enhance mental health, thanks to its ability to properly link your feelings to your thoughts. Additionally, optimal serotonin levels in the body also help regulate anxiety and stress emotions.
Serotonin molecules in blood vessels have also been a powerful blood-clotting agent. This is because serotonin can cause tiny arteries to narrow, stemming blood flow to injured areas.
However, it should be noted that its effect on sexual function is much more complicated. This is because, depending on the serotonin levels in the blood, libido can be very high or plummet drastically.
Short for gamma-aminobutyric acid, GABA isn’t just another powerful chemical messenger in the brain. Instead, it’s an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and, as such, its primary function is to control the level of neuron excitability in the CNS.
While extensive research has been conducted into how this neurotransmitter functions, scientists still have a lot to learn. Because of how easily it responds to various stressors, GABA can’t be considered an utterly beneficial brain chemical.
Factors like alcohol, substance abuse, and even taking GABA-modulating drugs in excess can quickly lead you to see some of the health hazards of this neurotransmitter imbalance.
In addition, some studies conducted with individuals with autism spectrum disorder show that a lack of interest in social bonding or difficulty with social interaction may be caused by an imbalance level of GABA in their brains.
Its impact on physical well-being is also quite considerable, as low levels of GABA have been connected to medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease and Epilepsy.
One of the reasons why the effects of this neurotransmitter may seem even more pronounced may be that an imbalance in GABA levels triggers a similar imbalance with various other brain chemicals.
This brain chemical is considerably different from all the others we’ve mentioned so far. There are two significant reasons for this.
The first is that it works a lot more slowly than all. The second reason is that there are more variations than most other neurotransmitters. At the moment, more than 30 peptides have been identified as active brain chemicals. What’s more, the chances are high that future studies will discover even types of this neurotransmitter.
Perhaps since there are so many types of neuropeptides, their impact on the brain and body is also vast.
Some of these peptides have been known to influence locomotion and limb movement. They also have a proven impact on animals’ mating status and arousal. Finally, there is now an established relationship between this neurotransmitter and poor sleep patterns, the timing of sleep, and the various stages of sleep.
So, just what are brain chemicals?
These are beneficial compounds essential for leading a healthy and happy life.
While much of these neurotransmitters can be synthesized within the body, supplementation may be necessary to ensure that you can maintain optimal neurotransmitter levels.