Why can’t science be fun?
I mean, sure – I’d love to see cancer cures, and schizophrenia cures and even more on the promising telomeric theory of living forever. But sometimes, we learn a lot of things that seem – if not useless, then inconsequential –and they prove invaluable later on in ways we can never predict.
Would you like to know in advance if a pop song is going to be a big hit? I’m sure some people would. Believe it or not, that has been the topic of recent research. Okay, so it is a small study. Who would fund further research on this one? There is a certain part of the tender adolescent brain (remember, our brains don’t get completely myelinated until age 28. That means we do not have all the fatty-insulation around the nerves to conduct impulses) that reacts in a very interesting way to music. Based mostly on animal studies, the ventral striatum seems to be associated with emotions that generate behavior. This differentiates it from the dorsal striatum, which has mostly sensorimotor control. Makes sense. Although they are similar, these two different types of behavior are slightly different. Sometimes we decide what we want to do by what we feel physically. If it is too cold, we go for a jacket. The sensory input probably goes through at least a couple of brain centers, like thermoregulation. Read more on Using Science To Predict Pop Music Hits…
If I had to pick a favorite neurotransmitter, I would have to pick acetylcholine (ACh). As a matter of fact, I did. I ordered a custom-made necklace featuring my three favorite neurotransmitters – and ACh was the first in line.
The others? Well, since you are interested — dopamine and serotonin. And I always wear this necklace, these days.
Some ancient cultures have worshipped the herb rosemary as a symbol of memory. Me, I much prefer the molecule at my neck which, in addition to its well-known role at the neuromuscular end plate, where it translates neural impulses into motor contraction, is also essential for memory.
That teensy little nucleus basalis of Meynert, which looked kind of blue-gray when last I saw it on the front of a cadaver’s brainstem – and pretty faded when Alzheimer’s is present– has gone and given up a few of its secrets.
Let’s go to an epidemiologic mess, such as Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and all of its subtypes and such, most of which I think are artifacts and do not exist — although (mostly untrained) adults often attribute them to children who annoy them.
A lot of these kids have anticholinerases (read: organophosphates ), originally meant for insecticides and Nazi nerve gases, inside them. Same with people with Alzheimer’s.
So I’m not just some “know-it-all” – I’m a one-woman ACh fan club. And this I swear on whatever Holy document you wish – I even dressed up as a Choline molecule TWICE for Halloween. Once before I met my husband, and then again – because he wanted to see how cuddly a molecule could look –- again a few years ago. He called me his “Choline Cutie.”
Of course, I was not built to scale – being somewhere near 300 lbs. when I dressed that way. But the placement of the atoms was absolutely perfect.
ACh was the first neurotransmitter discovered – back in the 1920s — so I think it is about time it got recognition.
Anyone want to join the fan club?
I looked at her, better dressed than most of the folks at the clinic where she was seen, with an open mouth. I had to take a few extra minutes to figure out what I was going to say next. In case you have not guessed, that is pretty far from my usual state.
“I have a chemical imbalance,” she said. She looked a little like Sharon Osbourne, hip and trendy but expensively dressed. ”He gave me some medicines that really helped, like Xanax and Ativan, and either of those would be just fine.”
I freely admit that psychiatric diagnosis and treatment have a long way to go to meet either the organic precision of the surgical specialties or the subjective enthusiasm of the non-prescribing mental health professionals, such as psychologists or psychotherapists. But there are practitioners out there who are either so indifferent or so pressured that they rattle off words without meaning and give prescriptions that hinder more than help.