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The Brain: on love, crying, stress, depression, and dark days.

   Thu, November 15, 2007 - 11:19 AM
BRAIN CHEMISTRY AND YOU: Love, Crying, Stress, Depression, and Dark Days

Since my last blog I have discovered a whole new plethora of information about our brains and the nervous system. I am discovering things that will help promote longer life, and a healthy brain, but also about why we cry, why we love, and why stress is so destructive.

In this blog I will answer a few questions:

Why do we cry?
What is love and how do we bond with others?
Why is sleep is so important and how is connected with stress?
What is stress and why must we avoid it?
Why do we feel depressed during the dark winter months and how can we avoid it?

Also, I want to introduce some very interesting substances that could play a very important role in a healthy brain…. But that will be in the next blog.

WHY DO WE CRY?

There are three types of tears:

1) Basal tears keep our eyes lubricated, dust free, fight bacteria, and provide nutrients for the eye
2) Reflex tears are a reaction to irritants to help flush them out of the eye.
3) Psychic tears (emotional tears) are a reaction to emotional stress, depression or physical pain.

Interestingly, the psychic tears have high levels of protein, the hormone Prolocatin, and Manganese. The body releases these tears during times of stress and it is believed that these tears are a way of detoxifying the body and also adjusting hormonal levels.

PROLACTIN is a peptide hormone (a bond of several amino acids or proteins) that is release during breastfeeding to stimulate production of breast milk, and is similar to the neurotransmitter OXYTOCIN which creates a feeling of bonding with others. Prolactin provides the body with Sexual gratification after orgasm, and represses the effect of dopamine, responsible for sexual arousal. (Note: this is why you might feel sleepy after an orgasm and you have a suddenly low libido).

High levels of Prolactin are responsible for impotence and loss of libido.

Prolactin decreases the normal levels of sex hormones – estrogen in women and testosterone in men.

So… if we cry we are releasing Prolactin which would lead to an increase in Dopamines. This is why we feel so good after a good cry since Dopamines make us feel good, give us confidence and increased motor skills and performance. It would also suggest that releasing prolactin would increase estrogen and testosterone. Crying is only a way to rebalance ourselves…. So if you need to cry, don’t hold back!

LOVE AND BONDING: OXYTOCIN AND PHENYLETHYLAMINE (PEA)

Like Prolactin, Oxytocin is released in by the stimulation of the nipples in women, and with orgasm in both men and women. Oxytocin is involved in social recognition and bonding, and might be involved in the formation of trust between people. It creates the insperable bond between a mother and her child during breastfeeding.

People who are open or more trusting with others or who make bonding friendship more readily are likely to have higher levels of Oxytocin.

It is believed that MDMA also releases Oxytocin and is responsible for the feeling of bonding, empathy, and trust people get with others while on MDMA.

Oxytocin has been known to affect the brain by regulating circadian rhythm such as a person's body temperature, activity level, and wakefulness.

The following is condensed from WIKIPEDIA:

Oxytocin’s hormonal actions:

-Letdown reflex – in lactating (breastfeeding) mothers, oxytocin acts at the mammary glands, causing milk to be 'let down' into a collecting chamber, from where it can be extracted by sucking at the nipple.

-Uterine contraction – important for cervical dilation before birth and causes contractions during the second and third stages of labor.

-Oxytocin is secreted into the blood at orgasm – in both males and females. In males, oxytocin may facilitate sperm transport in ejaculation.

Actions of oxytocin within the brain:

-Sexual arousal. Oxytocin injected into the cerebrospinal fluid causes spontaneous erections in rats, reflecting actions in the hypothalamus and spinal cord.

-Bonding. In the Prairie Vole, oxytocin released into the brain of the female during sexual activity is important for forming a monogamous pair bond with her sexual partner. Vasopressin appears to have a similar effect in males In people, plasma concentrations of oxytocin have been reported to be higher amongst people who claim to be falling in love. Oxytocin has a role in social behaviors in many species, and so it seems likely that it has similar roles in humans.

-Autism. A 1998 study found significantly lower levels of oxytocin in blood plasma of autistic children. A 2003 study found a decrease in autism spectrum repetitive behaviors when oxytocin was administered intravenously. A 2007 study reported that oxytocin helped autistic adults retain the ability to evaluate the emotional significance of speech intonation.

-Maternal behavior. Sheep and rat females given oxytocin antagonists after giving birth do not exhibit typical maternal behavior. By contrast, virgin female sheep show maternal behavior towards foreign lambs upon cerebrospinal fluid infusion of oxytocin, which they would not do otherwise.

-Increasing trust and reducing fear. In a risky investment game, experimental subjects given nasally administered oxytocin displayed "the highest level of trust" twice as often as the control group. Subjects who were told that they were interacting with a computer showed no such reaction, leading to the conclusion that oxytocin was not merely affecting risk-aversion. Nasally administered oxytocin has also been reported to reduce fear, possibly by inhibiting the amygdala (which is thought to be responsible for fear responses). There is no conclusive evidence for access of oxytocin to the brain through intranasal administration, however.

-According to some studies in animals, oxytocin inhibits the development of tolerance to various addictive drugs (opiates, cocaine, alcohol) and reduces withdrawal symptoms.

-Certain learning and memory functions are impaired by centrally administered oxytocin.

-The illicit party drug MDMA (ecstasy) may increase feelings of love, empathy and connection to others by stimulating oxytocin activity via activation of serotonin 5HT1A receptors, if initial studies in animals apply to humans.

-end of Wikipedia extraction-

My own thoughts… is there a connection between Oxytocin and Prolactin which are both released with breastfeeding and orgasm? Is Prolactin somehow connected with feelings of love and empathy?

It is interesting that Prolactin and Dopamines are in balance. If these levels are higher then this would mean our dopamine levels would be lower. If we are in love, and we feel our hearts are “open”, is this why we feel less secure, since Dopamines are related to confidence and strength?

Estrogen breaks down Dopamines. This would mean that women would have higher levels of Prolactin and possibly Oxytocin. Is this why women, in general, are more empathic and caring? If men have more dopamines, is this where the “male” characterisic of strength and confidence comes in? Since Men have a much greater potential for addiction, is this because they have lower levels of Oxytocin which inhibits development of tolerance to addictive drugs?

It is this balance between Prolactin/Oxytocin and Dopamines where we see the balance between the Ying and the Yang, the Male and the Female.

Ultimately we are striving for balance, to feel strong and confident, yet emotional and caring.

When we cry, perhaps our body is trying to find balance. If women have higher levels of Prolactin, then they would be prone to crying more often than men. Since Estrogen breaks down Dopamines, this would potentially lead to the hormonal imbalance women get during menstruation and pre-menstruation.

Before I can conclude this, I need to find out what the connection is between Prolactin and Oxytocin. If anyone wants to do some research and get back to me, that would be great.

PHENETHYLAMINE (PEA) – WHY LOVE CAN MAKE YOU CRAZY.

To know more about PEA read Alexander and Ann Shulgin's "The Phenthylamines I've Known and Loved: a chemical love story"

I recommend reading an excellent article, which I linked to below, on the pathology of love and its connection with PEA. Here are some excerpts and you can read the whole:

“The unpalatable truth is that falling in love is, in some ways, indistinguishable from a severe pathology. Behavior changes are reminiscent of psychosis and, biochemically speaking, passionate love closely imitates substance abuse. Appearing in the BBC series Body Hits on December 4, 2002 Dr. John Marsden, the head of the British National Addiction Center, said that love is addictive, akin to cocaine and speed. Sex is a "booby trap", intended to bind the partners long enough to bond.

The BBC summed it up succinctly and sensationally: "Events occurring in the brain when we are in love have similarities with mental illness".
Falling in love involves the enhanced secretion of b-Phenylethylamine (PEA, or the "love chemical") in the first 2 to 4 years of the relationship. (Note from Erik: I have heard other studies that show PEA lasts for 6 months to 3 years in a new relationship)
This natural drug creates a euphoric high and helps obscure the failings and shortcomings of the potential mate. Such oblivion - perceiving only the spouse's good sides while discarding their bad ones - is pathology akin to the primitive psychological defense mechanism known as "splitting".
The activity of a host of neurotransmitters - such as Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Serotonin - is heightened (or in the case of Serotonin, lowered) in both paramours. Yet, such irregularities are also associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and depression.”
samvak.tripod.com/lovepathology.html

Chocolate has very high levels of PEA, but it is broken down in the stomach by Monoamine Oxidase B (MAO-B). If one were to consume a MAO-B inhibitor such as Deprenyl (which I will talk about later), chocolate would become psychoactive.

WHY IS SLEEP SO IMPORTANT? CIRCADIAN RHYTHM AND MOOD

Melatonin is what makes us sleepy. It’s onset usually comes as the sky darkens. The retina picks up light/dark patterns and sends a signal to our pineal gland to start producing Melatonin.

Melatonin is created by converting Serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of well-being and happiness. The darker it is, the more Serotonin is converted into Melotonin. Thus, in the winter months when we have less light, more Serotonin is converted into Melatonin which makes us feel depressed and sluggish…. This is SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). On a bright, sunny day, this is why you can feel happy.

The change of seasons will also affect our circadian rhythm which is essential for human health.

While levels of Melatonin (the most powerful anti-oxidant) are high while we are sleeping, the levels of Cortisol are very low.

CORTISOL

Cortisol is a corticosteroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex (in the adrenal gland). It is a vital hormone that is often referred to as the "stress hormone" as it is involved in the response to stress. It increases blood pressure, blood sugar levels and has an immunosuppressive action

Cortisol is activated with sunlight and is at its highest levels in the early morning. It is Cortisol that gets us up and moving.
Cortisol is also released during times of stress which has been observed in connection with clinical depression, psychological stress, and such physiological stressors as hypoglycemia, illness, fever, trauma, surgery, fear, pain, physical exertion or extremes of temperature.
Effects of prolonged Cortisol release (from Wikipedia):
-Prolonged cortisol secretion causes hyperglycemia.
-It can weaken the activity of the immune system . Cortisol prevents proliferation of T-cells.
-It lowers bone formation thus favoring development of osteoporosis in the long term. Cortisol moves potassium into cells in exchange for an equal number of sodium ions. This can cause a major problem with the hyperkalemia of metabolic shock from surgery.
-It may help to create memories when exposure is short-term; this is the proposed mechanism for storage of flash bulb memories. However, long-term exposure to cortisol results in damage to cells in the hippocampus. This damage results in impaired learning.
-It increases blood pressure by increasing the sensitivity of the vasculature to epinephrine and norepinephrine. In the absence of cortisol, widespread vasodilation occurs.
-It increases the effectiveness of Dopamines, Norepinephrine, and Epinephrine.
-It has anti-inflammatory effects by reducing histamine secretion and stabilizing lysosomal membranes. The stabilization of lysosomal membranes prevents their rupture, thereby preventing damage to healthy tissues.
-Reduces Serotonin levels in the brain by inducing the breakdown of Serotonin’s precursor Typtophan.
-Reduces GABA levels (anti-anxiety neurotransmitter) by inducing the breakdown of GABA’s precursor Glutamate.
-Increased Cortisol levels are the leading factor in Insomnia.

So… if you don’t get enough sleep you don’t produce enough Melatonin which is a powerful anti-oxidant. You also end up producing more Cortisol which causes immune deficiency and results in Insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

CONCLUSION:

-Try to get regular hours of sleep.
-Try Melatonin supplements to help you get back to your regular sleep patterns.
-Avoid stressful activity: try to avoid stressful work, try not to worry so much, think positively (Don’t Worry, Be Happy).
-During the winter months, use a full spectrum lamp during the day and extend it’s use for 12 hours.
-At night before bed, dim the lights to allow for the onset of Melatonin.
-Make sure you sleep with no presence of light…in a darkened room or using a mask.


IN THE NEXT EDITION OF BRAIN CHEMISTRY AND YOUR MOOD: Nootropics that will help extend your life, make you stay younger, and improve brain functioning!!



6 Comments

add a comment
Thu, November 15, 2007 - 11:31 AM
this is awesome eric! thank you for the download, and keep them coming. fascinating stuff...
Thu, November 15, 2007 - 3:17 PM
Thanks for the latest update
I guess that explains why that one friendship didn't work out -- not enough prolactin. And everyone said a cross-species thing with a Prairie Vole in a clinical trial was doomed to fail anyway. ;)

Interesting stuff. I've been reading a lot about mind states in that book by Jeff Warren "the Head Trip". You should check it out.

C
Thu, November 15, 2007 - 6:49 PM
merci beacoup
thank you so much for this!
very much needed as we enter into darkest hour in coldest Montreal ...
xoxoxo
Kelli
Mon, November 19, 2007 - 6:02 PM
I have to read that book... sounds great.

I'm also trying to track down a 6 part BBC doc series called "Brain Story" which sounds amazing - covers everything from brain chemistry to brain injuries, to consciousness and spirituality.

Its a cold night here...I might go snuggle up with my prairie vole.

BTW - for folks suffering from lack of sun depression... I found my mood elevated when I walked around outside looking UP at the sky. I figured if the Serotonin/Melotonin balance is triggered by bright light, I should get as much light in my retina as possible whenever possible. I find myself usually looking down when I walk around in the city... at the dark pavement. I noticed a rather immediate lifting of my spirits as I looked to the sky...even though it was cloudy.
Wed, October 21, 2009 - 3:16 AM
endichronology
thanks for this article. It was very informative. Endichronology is one of my favorite subjects when it comes to human biology.
Tue, October 28, 2014 - 9:31 PM
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