What Is Brain Chemistry And How Does It Control Physical And Mental Health?

Brain Chemistry 101

For as long as I can remember, I've been hearing, "it's just their chemistry", particularly in reference to alcoholics. After my son struggled with addictions, I delved in deep to try to understand what chemistry means. Is it hereditary-in your genes? Is it in your blood-your brain? What happens to it and why can't it be fixed. Little did I know just how important it is to each of us and that we each have imbalances in varying degrees that affect our mental and physical make-up. The larger the imbalances, the more dramatic the effects are to our mental and physical stability.

The following is my interpretation of chemistry. I've read many books, which together provided me with a bigger picture. They included: The Biology of Belief, The Brain that Changes Itself, Deep Survival, Virus of the Mind, The Mood Cure, Depression Free Naturally, Making a Good Brain Great, and Sobriety in Seven Weeks. The following information is primarily from The Edge Effect by Eric Braverman, M.D.

Braverman is the founder of PATH Medical Services and Research Foundation in New York City and Philedelphia. His hope was to combine Eastern philosophy and Western Technology, merge internal medicine and neuropsychology in treating the whole person. The brain health checkups described in his book will help you to evaluate your own chemical imbalances in order to restore health or prevent disease.

The human brain is exceedingly complicated and yet very simple. It is the greatest generator of electricity within the body. The electricity is measured as voltage (metabolism), speed (how quickly signals are processed) and rhythm (being off causes feelings of edginess, anxiety and irritability). When not synchronized, our mind wanders, our sleep is restless and our personality may be out of control. Our brain coordinates our movements, controls our breathing and lets us feel hunger, pain, sadness and happiness.

The brain communicates with the body through the spinal cord that makes up the Central Nervous System. It’s billions of connections transmit energy via electrical impulses, evoking a sense of self that is capable of admiring the beauty of a rainbow or feeling uncontrollable rage. Problems begin when the brain’s signals aren’t able to be passed along their given path.

If you are able to enhance your brain chemistry, you can reach optimum efficiency, which in turn creates optimum mental and physical health. “The Edge Effect can actually lead you into a state of physical and emotional bliss, where you reach a peaceful Zen mind, a power zone in your body and a spiritual pinnacle for your soul.” (1) A balanced brain allows us to love others, remain calm and reach our optimal intelligence.

“Our human genome sequence is more than 99.9% the same in all people.” (1) Your individual traits such as height and intelligence are because of the .1% difference. Our DNA’s transport system relies on electricity. The brain becomes active upon receiving a thought or stimulus from any of our five senses. The electricity in the brain is processed through Neurotransmitters. The four primary Neurotransmitters which define each of us and give us our individuality are Dopamine, Gaba, Acetylcholine and Serotonin. Each of these creates unique electrical patterns or brain waves.

Your brain chemistry can become unbalanced when your brain is unable to process the electrical impulses correctly. When that happens the Neurotransmitters may become deficient, leading to decreased physical and mental health. To heal the body or prevent disease you should address these brain chemistry imbalances. The physical effects of imbalances are predictable and responsible for all disease including depression, addictions, heart disease, MS, ADD, and Diabetes. For example, there is only one hundred milliseconds of brain speed between a competent mind and senility. From the age of forty, most people are losing approximately ten milliseconds of brain speed per decade.

How the Central Nervous System works:

  • The smallest component of the nervous system is a special cell or Neuron. You are born with 100 billion Neurons and continue to produce them;
  • The Neuron carries genetic material in its nucleus and transmits information in the form of electrical current;
  • Dendrites are branch like extensions of each cell that receives messages by connecting to other Neurons. These Neurons are extremely close but don’t touch;
  • The Axon is a long extension that carries nerve impulses away from the body of the cell in the form of electric current;
  • The space between the Dendrites and Axons is a synaptic gap and we have 100 trillion of these.
  • The Axon uses neuro-chemicals (Neurotransmitters) to cross these synapses and connect with the Dendrites of another Neuron.
Certain pathways wire together as they are used more frequently. When communication breaks down in the body it may be caused by too many Neurotransmitters which flood the synapses. The signals can’t wade through to their next connection, the next Neuron. If there is a Neurotransmitter deficiency, on the other hand, there is nothing for the signal to travel on across the synaptic gap. These imbalances will cause certain parts of the brain to become overworked, which may result in symptoms such as worry, negative thought loops, compulsive obsessive thoughts or anxiety. It may cause parts of the brain to shut down, leading to physical illness and or mental instability. Restoring balance can revitalize organs that are prematurely aging causing such varied conditions as diabetes, gastro intestinal issues, sexual dysfunction and hypertension.

Your body reacts to many illnesses with a domino effect. One small imbalance can affect the entire body. It’s important to recognize that our diets, in general, and such substances as coffee, nicotine, prescription and illegal drugs, and sugar play havoc with our chemistry.

This is an example that Dr. Braverman provided for the Dominos effect with regard to brain chemistry. Let’s say you are deficient in Dopamine, which may cause feelings of anger. This stress acts upon your cardiac muscles and blood pressure causing you to begin using more Serotonin to sooth your stress. When Serotonin becomes low, you experience insomnia and begin to crave carbohydrates. Any resulting weight gain places stress on your kidneys, enlarges your heart, and your liver becomes fatty; leading you down the path to having a stroke, heart attack or even cancer.

How Brain Chemistry Imbalances Apply To Add And Addiction

The brain’s cerebrum consists of four pairs of lobes separated by two identical hemispheres – each lobe is dominated by one of the four Neurotransmitters. For example, ADD is typically most symptomatic of a Dopamine deficiency. Dopamine is the bio-chemical that runs the Frontal Cortex (FC) and works like a natural amphetamine. It controls energy, excitement about new ideas, and motivation. The FC controls bodily functions relating to power, intelligence, abstract thought, goal setting, long term planning and personality.

If you or someone you know is ADD, you'll probably notice that these brain functions are not your strongest traits. Dopamine’s by-product is adrenaline. When you lose your Dopamine edge, your brain profile can mean ADD, ADHD, addictive disorders, obesity, severe fatigue and Parkinson’s Disease.

References:

(1) Book: The Edge Effect by Eric R. Braverman, M.D.

Note: Braverman followed the work of Dr. Llinas, M.D., PhD who was a world renowned researcher of brain function responsible for articulating a blue print for the brain-mind-body connection. He showed that brain bio-chemical imbalances could cause disease and called his concept the Edge Effect. Today we know that good health requires that for any given body, all four neurotransmitters must be processed in a specific order and in precise amounts.

Dr. Carl Pfeiffer, was the Founder of Princeton Brain Bio Center. He was a pioneer in his conviction that most psychiatric problems were caused not by emotional factors but by brain chemicals. He proved that toxic metals would drastically affect the brain chemistry causing mental and physical illness.