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  • The Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll of Neurotransmitters (and the Main Issue in Parkinson’s Disease)

    July 5th, 2016 by

    Dopamine

    I have a favorite neurotransmitter, and chances are, it’s your favorite, too. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that relay signals between nerve cells, and dopamine, in addition to (importantly) regulating movement, activates the reward and pleasure pathways in the brain. Party!!

    Let’s go on a dopamine reward journey similar to one I’m sure you’ve taken. You log into Facebook to see what your friends have been doing. Scroll down and see a Buzzfeed video about puppies try to catch bubbles. Adorable. That reminds you of the bubbles you used to play with as a child. Do they still make them? A quick google search says yes! Actually, here’s a Pinterest article on how you can make your own bubble wands with pipe cleaners! You just need to get some pipe cleaners. Surely, the sell them on Amazon, so you head over there to pick some up, and realize that the book by Claire North you wanted to read is still in your basket. What was the other book she wrote? Google her up to find out… You know who would be GREAT at playing the main character in a movie? Tom Hardy. Hmmmm…. What was the last movie he was in? IMDB would know.

    Where did the last two hours of your life go? They disappeared in a natural dopamine rush. You see, dopamine motivates us, and it gets boosted when you follow information – looking for new things at every turn. It used to be necessary when we lived as hunter gatherers. 

    In addition to activating the pleasure centers of the brain, dopamine is crucial for movement. In Parkinson’s diseases (there are several types), dopamine production is reduced, and movement is impaired. Without enough dopamine, people can literally become frozen, a condition called bradykinesia.

    The good news for Parkinson’s sufferers is that it is possible to boost dopamine naturally, extending the time that a person may remain medication-free, and reducing the amount of medication a person would need to take. One of the best ways to do that? Exercise. Yep, exercise is a natural way to boost the production of dopamine. Adding novelty to exercise boosts it even more, and more dopamine can lead to greater neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to change (often very positively for persons with neurological disease).

    Instead of getting sucked into an internet vortex, might I suggest more exercise? It’s the healthiest way to boost dopamine and feel great.

    In health,
    Mariska

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