Brains on Brains Week 3: Neurotransmitters

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The blog “A Plastic Journey: Introspection of Brains Learning About Brains” delves into the qualia, feelings and thoughts brought forth in the authors’ brains upon learning about the human brain and its functions. The blog will follow loosely the structure of the course “NBE-E4210 – Structure and operation of the human brain.” The blog is written in the form of a fact-filled, loopy and introspective story. [Logo: Oxford University Press (2018).]

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Neurotransmitters function as messengers in the transmission of neural signals over chemical synapses. Hundreds of different chemical messengers have been identified. These neurotransmitters are heavily linked to neural diseases. Schizophrenia is heavily linked to high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Parkinson’s disease is characterized by the opposite – low levels of dopamine. Although the origin of these diseases is not a only a deviation from a normal neurotransmitter levels, the existence of a link between neurotransmitters and diseases that alter the personality, memory and self of a person is clear.

Of neurological diseases, schizophrenia is often seen day-to-day lingo as the pinnacle of losing one’s mind. Schizophrenia comes with variety of symptoms. Schizophrenic people can suffer from anxiety and depression, as is often the case with otherwise healthy adults with low dopamine levels. Moreover, schizophrenic people can have a hard time between determining the line between reality and their own thoughts, seeing hallucinations and hearing voices. Although seeing hallucinations in healthy adults is quite rare, hearing voices, when you come to think of it, is quite common. The self of a person is de facto a constant, almost uninterrupted voice narrating our lives, constantly speaking and churning ideas to “us” (whoever that might be).

One of the fundamental ways our brain functions is something we would often label “schizophrenic” even crazy. But where goes the line between a harmless narrator of one’s life and the first symptoms of a mental disease? Currently, there is no clear way of diagnosing schizophrenia (APA, 2013). Are people with a more commanding, demanding narrator like those extremely driven for a certain cause, even if a good one, in fact a few steps further down the path towards insanity? Are the presidents, the super athletes or the top tier scientists of the world in some regard simply tormented by a more demanding narrator of their lives, much akin to the one that often dominates the lives of schizophrenic people commanding them to follow its every whim?

 

SOURCES

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing. pp. 101–05. ISBN 978-0-89042-555-8.

 

Posted by Free Willy

About Free Willy

The blog "A Plastic Journey: Introspection of Brains Learning About Brains" delves into the qualia, feelings and thoughts brought forth in the authors' brains upon learning about the human brain and its functions. The blog will follow loosely the structure of the course "NBE-E4210 - Structure and operation of the human brain." The blog is written in the form of a fact-filled, loopy and introspective story.
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