Dopamine is a neurotransmitter synthesized by your body from the dietary intake of an amino acid called tyrosine, found in protein-rich foods such as meats and cheeses. Dopamine is also a precursor molecule to two other important body chemicals--epinephrine and norepinephrine, sometimes called adrenaline and noradredaline. The brain and nervous system utilize neurotransmitters to send messages in the form of electrochemical impulses throughout your body and, thus, regulate all of your body's functions.
Dopamine regulates a variety of functions within your brain and body. It helps to regulate blood flow through the arteries, modulates eating habits, contributes to learning and high cognitive functioning, reinforces behavior and regulates motor activity. It is also involved in regulating the secretion of hormones from the pituitary gland and contributes to the function of the autonomic nervous system.
The neurotransmitter serotonin, also known by its chemical name 5-hydoxytryptamine, is released by neurons in the pineal gland of the brain but can affect structures all over the body. Some of the effects of serotonin seem unrelated, making this compound one of the most diverse in the body. The amino acid tryptophan, found in foods such as turkey, milk and bananas, is the building block of serotonin. Exercise, adequate sleep and certain medications can all raise serotonin levels in the body.
Sometimes referred to as the happiness molecule, serotonin has a profound effect on mood. High levels of serotonin lead to a cheerful disposition and the ability to withstand everyday stress. Depression can result from chronically low serotonin levels. Other mental disorders linked to low serotonin include social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia, bulimia, phobias, bipolar disorder and body dysmorphic disorder.
Noradrenaline and adrenaline are catecholamines that play major roles in regulation of the 'inner world' of the body by the brain. Noradrenaline (synonymous with norepinephrine), the main neurotransmitter of the sympathetic nervous system, is responsible for tonic and reflexive changes in cardiovascular tone. Adrenaline is a key determinant of responses to metabolic or global challenges to homeostasis, such as glucoprivation, and of manifestations of emotional distress. In contrast with the view that the sympathetic nervous and adrenomedullary hormonal systems function as a unit (the �sympathoadrenal system�) to maintain homeostasis in emergencies, across a variety of situations adrenaline responses are more closely linked to responses of the hypothalamic‐pituitary‐adrenocortical system than of the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic noradrenergic system is active even when the individual is at rest and maintains tonic levels of cardiovascular performance. Adrenoceptors in the membranes of effector cells determine the physiological and metabolic effects of catecholamines.
GABA is a chemical messenger that is widely distributed in the brain. GABA's natural function is to reduce the activity of the neurons to which it binds. GABA controls the fear or anxiety experienced when neurons are overexcited. When brain experiences an abundance of nervous tension and stress, it can be caused by a surplus of norepinephrine or epinephrine (adrenaline). To neutralize this extra adrenaline, the brain produces neurotransmitters, one of which is GABA, that have inhibitory effects upon the nervous system.
Acetylcholine is one of the brain's natural neurotransmitters. It plays a critical part in the formation of memories, verbal and logical reasoning, and the ability to concentrate. Acetylcholine also offers protective benefits and may limit the neurological decay associated with degenerative diseases.
Glutamate has been linked to increased memory and learning. Our brains require a perfect balance of glutamate levels in the brain to facilitate memory and learning. Overall brain function depends on optimal levels of glutamate and GABA. There should be adequate amounts but not a deficiency or an overabundance.