The brain is made up of nerve cells, or neurons. Small gaps are between the neurons called as synapses. In order for a message to put across from one neuron to its neighbor the synapse, a chemical messenger usually called as neurotransmitter is released. The pyre synaptic neuron the one that is sending the message produces the neurotransmitter, which moves towards the post synaptic neuron on the receiving end. The neurotransmitter molecule is shaped like a key that fir only a certain lock, called the receptor site, on the post synaptic neuron.
When the key slides into the lock, the messenger has been received and the receptor is either turned on or inhibited, depending on its function. Once this task is completed, it results in returning back of the neurotransmitter molecule into the synapse. It mostly bounces back to the precursor neuron to use it again. Or it might remain in the synapse, where Synapse xt it floats around with other kinds of chemical messengers. The molecule may then continue the cycle by reconnecting with a receptor, or it may be inactivated by an enzyme called mono amine oxidize.
Mood is affected by changes in the relative levels of various neurotransmitters. The question is what causes these variations in neurotransmitter levels and conversely can a change in mood alter the balance of our neurotransmitters? One of the most important neurotransmitters is serotonin. Serotonin influences many physical functions including blood pressure, human digestion and our body temperature, and pain sensation.
It also affects circadian rhythm or the body’s natural response to the cycles of day and night, as well as mood. Low levels of serotonin are mostly connected with obsessive thinking and increased in sensitivity to pain and even lead to sleep disturbance. On the other hand, high levels of serotonin are associated with emotional and social stability. In fact, Prozac is used to treat depression because it can raise serotonin levels. Researches support the connection between high serotonin levels and positive mood. Micheal Raleigh and Micheal McGuire of UCLA studied verve monkeys to explore the relationship between mood and status. They found that at the highest ranking or alpha male in each group had the highest level of serotonin. When these males lost their alpha status their serotonin levels plummeted and they withdrew much like the depressed baby monkey.
There are several factors that affect neurotransmitter levels and mood. One of the factors is diet. Neurotransmitters are made of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Inadequate protein in the diet can reduce the availability of neurotransmitters, thus affecting mood. Neurotransmitter levels can also be affected by the presence of MAO, the neurotransmitter in activator. Another influence involves the sensitivity level of the receptor site to the neurotransmitter.