My dopamine is awack (my non-scientific term). I know its so because every medication I’ve tried for fibromyalgia that impacts the dopamine system has affected my feelings and actions.
Many years ago I tried a medication that enhanced dopamine receptors and thought I’d found the holy grail. For the first time in decades I remembered what I had felt like BF (before fibro) . . . It was wonderful for a few years until I developed insatiable cravings for sweets, especially cinnamon rolls. I MEAN CRAVING which I was hard pressed to control for more than a few days at a time. I periodically told colleagues and doctors that something was wrong – my obsessional craving for all things sweet checked off all the boxes on the classic addition list (including hiding my sweet loot).
Everyone either dismissed my “confessions” or told me to eat more protein. It’s a long, long story but I started Googling, and finally discovered research showing the medication I was on created addictive behavior in 25% of people taking it. I stopped the meds, my cravings vanished and my fibromyalgia symptoms reappeared.
I’m now on another dopamine enhancer and am on alert for when I start hiding ice cream under the mattress or moving to Mexico where churros are considered patriotic.
This research got my attention . . . obviously . . . .
UC Berkeley researchers have discovered that the brain neurotransmitter dopamine has a yin-yang personality, mediating both pleasure and pain. Credit: Christine Liu.
“For decades, psychologists have viewed the neurotransmitter dopamine as a double-edged sword: released in the brain as a reward to train us to seek out pleasurable experiences, but also a “drug” the constant pursuit of which leads to addiction.”
“According to a new study from UC Berkeley, that’s only one face of dopamine. The flip side is that dopamine is also released in response to unpleasurable experiences, such as touching a hot tea kettle, presumably training the brain to avoid them in the future.”
“The yin-yang nature of dopamine could have implications for treatment of addiction and other mental disorders. In illnesses such as schizophrenia, for example, dopamine levels in different areas of the brain become abnormal, possibly because of an imbalance between the reward and avoidance circuits in the brain. Addiction, too, may result from an imbalance in reactions to pleasure and pain.”
Cinnamon rolls? Can you cook me up a batch?
“Although some neuroscientists have long speculated about dopamine’s potential role in the signaling of aversive events, its dual personality remained hidden until recently because the neurons in the brain that release dopamine in response to rewards are embedded in a different subcircuit than the neurons that release dopamine in response to aversive stimuli.”
“”Having separate neuronal correlates for appetitive and aversive behavior in our brain may explain why we are striving for ever-greater rewards while simultaneously minimizing threats and dangers. Such balanced behavior of approach-and-avoidance learning is surely helpful for surviving competition in a constantly changing environment.”
Dopamine changes neural circuits and trains the brain – for better or worse – to pursue the pleasurable and avoid the unpleasurable.
Researchers used “fiber photometry which involves threading thin, flexible fiber optic wires into the brain and recording fluorescent signals given off by neurons and their axons that release dopamine. The fluorescent markers are inserted into the neurons via a virus that targets only these cells.”
“To their surprise, axons in the medial area released dopamine in response to an aversive stimulus – a mild electrical shock to the foot – while those in the lateral area released dopamine only after positive stimuli.”
There are “. . . two different subtypes of dopamine cells: one population mediates attraction and one mediates aversion, and they are anatomically separated”
The hope is these findings can be confirmed in monkeys and humans, and lead to new approaches to understanding and treating addiction and other brain maladies.
Dear EVERYONE, particularly those who love me enough to follow me on both my blogs Curious to the MAX and here,
Peggy and Judy have put my health at risk. I’ve had to keep the BIGGEST secret ever about this blog. My consultant -Dr. Allen Towfigh, a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Cornell Medical Center explained that keeping secrets is not healthy:
“Sleep may be disturbed, which could lead to emotional mood swings and a propensity to be ill-tempered or lose your cool. (Luckily, I can sleep all night and most of the day, consequently, nothing, including my mood, swings.) You may also have difficulty with memory and learning.”
“And the excess release of cortisol will cause a host of other ailments, including possible increase or loss of appetite and disruption of metabolism.” (Thank goodness I haven’t lost my appetite but who knows about my metabolism.)
Spiking cortisol levels have also been linked to:
- weakened immune system
- Increased blood pressure and . . .
- a loss of collagen in the skin, which can lead to deeper wrinkles and a loss of elasticity. (I have noticed that Peggy and Judy have more wrinkles which is divine justice for making me keep this secret)
“Neuroscientists now believe it’s biologically better for us to confess our secrets, or better, just to refuse to be party to someone else’s. The reason: holding on to them puts the brain in an awkward, compromised position. The cingulate cortex, essential to our emotional responses, is wired to tell the truth. This “logical lobe” signals other regions of the brain to share information so it can move on to more important functions, like learning. But when you keep a secret locked inside, you don’t allow the cingulate to perform its natural functions. Instead, the cortex becomes stressed.”
Catnip is now . . .
Finally! No more secret. My cingulate cortex can tell the truth!
Maui is still the “muse” but thankfully they renamed the blog to better reflect its mission, though I still think it should be named FREDDIE and the MIND:
The focus on both blogs is still the same:
MAX your MIND (formerly known as CATNip) – Tips, tools and techniques for health & wellness based on neuroscience and current scientific research.
CURIOUS to the MAX – Stuff that makes us smile, learn and gives expression to our more personal & “creative” sides.
For those of you who subscribe to both blogs (YEA YOU!) there will still be fresh content on each.
Here’s to a HEALTHY New Year!
Freddie Parker, No Secrets, Westerfield
It’s coming . . . it’s in the works . . . it’s a new . . .
. . . can’t tell you more as I’m sworn to secrecy. So I’m learning the art of the “tease” which is hard for us canines since we are rather a shoot straight from the tail breed.
I’m swearing YOU to secrecy even though it’s causing me “EMOTIONAL BURDEN”: Don’t tell anyone . . . Peggy & Judy are creating a new blog banner, a new blog URL, a new blog concept . . . a new name for this blog.
During the past two years Peggy, Judy and I have been blogging partners. Peggy draws, schedules, writes and keeps Judy on track. Judy writes, draws and gets off track. As the fan favorite I maintain relationships, editorial rights and INSPIRE you.
We are now Bi-Bloggers – revamping, revitalizing and combining forces on both this blog and Curious to the Max*.
Peggy and Judy originally named this blog CatNip in tribute to Maui, Peggy’s real life cat, who regained the use of his paralized back legs by repatterning his brain. I’ve always thought it a bit unfair that Curious to the Max is dedicated to another dog (Max), this blog to a cat and there are no blogs dedicated to me.
Maui is still the muse but FINALLY Peggy and Judy are renaming it. I’m voting for FREDDIE and the MIND.
Remember! It’s our secret . . .
*P.S. Curious to the Max will continue to focus on the “creative”, the “curious” and lotsa stuff that make Peggy & Judy learn and laugh. (I don’t think they care if you laugh, as long as they are having fun . . .don’t tell them I told you . . . it’s our secret).
There is an ever-increasing body of research evidence that shows that meditation decreases stress, depression, and anxiety, reduces pain and insomnia, and increases quality of life.
One study looked at long-term meditators (seven to nine years of experience) versus a control group. “The results showed that those with a strong meditation background had increased gray matter in several areas of the brain, including the auditory and sensory cortex, as well as insula and sensory regions.”
“This makes sense, since mindfulness meditation has you slow down and become aware of the present moment, including physical sensations such as your breathing and the sounds around you.”
Neuroscientists also found that the meditators had more gray matter in the brain region, linked to decision-making and working memory: the frontal cortex. In fact, while most people see their cortexes shrink as they age, 50-year-old meditators in the study had the same amount of gray matter as those half their age.
Just to make sure this wasn’t because the long-term meditators had more gray matter to begin with, a second study was conducted in which they put people with no experience with meditation into an eight-week mindfulness program.
“Even just eight weeks of meditation changed people’s brains for the better. There was thickening in several regions of the brain, including the left hippocampus (involved in learning, memory, and emotional regulation); the TPJ (involved in empathy and the ability to take multiple perspectives); and a part of the brainstem called the pons (where regulatory neurotransmitters are generated).”
“Plus, the brains of the new meditators saw shrinkage of the amygdala, a region of the brain associated with fear, anxiety, and aggression. This reduction in size of the amygdala correlated to reduced stress levels in those participants.”
How long do you have to meditate to see such results?
“The study participants were told to meditate for 40 minutes a day, but the average ended up being 27 minutes a day. Several other studies suggest that you can see significant positive changes in just 15 to 20 minutes a day”
In 8 weeks my brain will look and act half its age . . . .if only meditating could do the same for my body . . .
Peggy & Judy were working on their book Hack Your Way to Happiness, based on neuroscience and decided to make a 2019 calendar with 12 of the book’s 22 Happiness Hacks. (They aren’t quite done with the book . . . they get diverted very easily . . . I have a hard time keeping them on track.)
If I needed a calendar, which I don’t since I prefer to live in the moment, I would get their calendar. HOWEVER, the calendar has pictures of the Curious Critters but not ONE picture of me so I wouldn’t pay full price and would buy it with a 60% off Zazzle coupon, which is often available.
Here’s one of the Happiness Hacks from the book . . . don’t tell them I’m sharing it with you for free.
There are two sides to a coin, two sides to a pancake and two sides to every thought you have. When a negative thought bothers you, flip the thought to the positive side:
Imagine the opposite – something better, pleasurable, anything POSITIVE – is true and how you would feel.
Positive thoughts signal your brain to release “happy” neurochemicals.
To see all 12 Hacks, Click HERE
Freddie Parker Westerfield
NOT a Hack