“While nobody has identified any gene for religion, there are certainly some candidate genes that may influence human personality and confer a tendency to religious feelings. Some of the genes likely to be involved are those which control levels of different chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain.”
– The Right Honourable The Lord Robert Winston
FMedSci FRSA FRCP FRCOG FRSB FREng
Religion addiction can be described as when the outward forms and other aspects of religion become life disabling. It is the ill-fitting grasp of the role of religion and God in one’s life and is a disability that can lead to isolation from others because one thinks God is constantly demanding, vengeful and punishing. Others who do not practice religion the same way are believed to be contaminating to the addicted person, and this belief fights the drive to what are considered historic descriptions of authentic religion. When combined with extremist religiopolitical narratives, religion addiction almost always leads to dangerous forms of radicalization. Religion addiction does not produce anything of personal or social value and in fact is often dangerous and destructive.
Religion activates the reward circuits in our brains in a similar way to love, sex, gambling, drugs, junk food and music. These findings have been published in the journal Social Neuroscience.
Numerous studies now show religion has a neurological connection and is linked to the nucleus accumbens also referred to as the ‘reward centre’ which also controls feelings of addiction.
Religious tendencies involve genes relating to the brain’s dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters. Religiosity is linked to dopamine activity in the prefrontal lobes. Changes in brain chemistry, specifically in dopamine levels, can also make people lose their dependence on religious stimuli for dopamine production similar to how addicts can recover from addictions.
A study of people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) showed individuals with PD tend to lose interest in religion. Brain scans show this lack of interest coincides with changes in the prefrontal cortex.
Understanding the brain’s chemistry
Communication is the key to well-running human systems whether the system is a group of family members, or a group of people who work together. Our bodies are no different. Without good communication, our bodies do not function well. Not surprisingly, our brains are responsible for this communication. To understand addiction’s effect on brain chemistry, we must first understand how this communication system works.
Our five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell) gather and transmit information about our environment. Our brains must then process and analyze this information. Although the brain takes in and analyzes an extraordinary amount of information, it relies on a relatively simple electrochemical process for communication.
The brain’s communication system permits specific areas of the brain to rapidly interact with other brain regions. The brain achieves this communication through a vast, interconnected, network of specialized cells called neurons. Our brains have billions of these neuronal connections. These neuronal connections form the foundation for an electro-chemical communication system.
The brain is composed of many different regions (or sections). Each of these regions serves a different function. Therefore, these different regions of the brain must have a way to communicate with each other. In particular, the brain must communicate with, and coordinate, all the body’s life-sustaining systems (respiratory system, digestive system, cardiovascular system, etc.). This is similar to how individual players on a sports team must communicate with other to coordinate their actions together as a team. Thus, the brain’s communication system is essential to our health, well-being, and overall functioning. Conversely, when this communication system is altered, it negatively affects us.
The brain’s communication system is constantly changing and adapting. These qualities allow us to learn, to remember, and to adjust to our changing circumstances. Various drugs (including prescribed medications) have the ability to alter the brain’s communication system. It makes sense that anything that alters the brain’s communication system will alter the way the brain functions. We need to understand how this communication system works so we can understand some of the defining characteristics of addiction. These include cravings, withdrawals, compulsions, and the continued use of addictive substances and activities despite harmful consequences. The neuron is the primary unit of communication within the brain. A single neuron is extremely tiny. Scientists estimate there are over 100 billion neurons in the human brain. You can imagine just how complex and distinct your brain is from the person next to you. As you know, good communication is a two-way street: We both listen (receive information) and we speak (send information). The same is true of the brain’s communication system. Neurons have the ability to both send and receive communication signals. The dendrite is the portion of a neuron that typically receives information (listens). The axon is portion of the neuron that sends out information (speaks).
When humans communicate with each other, we typically use words and gestures. The different parts of the brain communicate with each other using electrical signals. Neurons use electrical pulses to send their communication signals. These electrical impulses are called action potentials. When a neuron fires, the action potential travels down the neuron’s axon where it ends. At the end of the axon is the axon terminal or pre-synapse. In this area, special chemical messengers called neurotransmitters and neuromodulators lay in wait. These are stored in specialized capsules called vesicles. The action potential causes the release of these chemical messengers into an open space between one neuron’s axon and the next neurons’ dendrites. This open space is the synaptic cleft. At the other side of the synaptic cleft is the post synapse that is formed by the dendrites of connecting neurons. In the post synapse, there are special receptors that receive the neurotransmitters.
Receptors and neurotransmitters function in a way that is similar to a keyhole and key. Receptors are like keyholes and neurotransmitters are like the keys. When neurotransmitters fit into the receptors it is called binding. Once a neurotransmitter is bound to a receptor, the key turns the lock. Once the lock opens, it communicates with the receiving neuron’s dendrites. In the post synapse, there may be many different receptors (many different shaped keyholes). However, a particular neurotransmitter may be able to fit into (bind to) several different receptors types. This is similar to the way a single key can open several different locks. The particular receptor type determines the type of signal that is transmitted. Thus, the receptor type is often more critical to the communication than the particular neurotransmitter.
It may be easiest to visualize this communication as a single chain of events: First, a neuron sends an electrical impulse (action potential) down the axon. Next, the electrical impulse causes chemicals (neurotransmitters and neuromodulators) to be released into the space between two neurons. Then these chemicals can signal the next neuron to send an electrical impulse and so on. This electro-chemical process forms the brain’s communication system
Neurotransmitters and receptors sites associated with addiction
Some neurotransmitters are “excitatory.” This means they activate a neuron and cause it to produce an action potential. Other neurons are considered “inhibitory.” These neurons prevent the next neuron from sending an action potential. The most common excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain is glutamate. The most common inhibitory neurotransmitter is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Both of these play a role in the addiction process. Some other common neurotransmitters that play an important role in addiction are dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Besides neurotransmitters, there are also larger neuromodulators and neuropeptides. These also play a distinct role in the addiction process. Some neuropeptides that are relevant to addiction are: 1) opiates made by the brain itself (called endorphins), 2) stress hormones, and 3) peptides associated with feeding and anxiety. These molecules have their own specific types of receptors.
Some neurotransmitters are sensitive to specific drugs. All drugs in varying degrees affect neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine.
Dopamine is a stimulating neurotransmitter that makes you feel confident and outgoing. Dopamine is important for confidence, creativity, motivation, pleasure and logical thinking.
Early warning signs of low dopamine are loss of energy, fatigue, sluggishness, memory loss, or feelings of despair.
Symptoms of severe deficiency include:
Aggression, anger, carelessness, depression, fear of being observed, guilt, hopelessness, worthlessness, pleasure-seeking behaviour, stress intolerance, social isolation, mood swings, procrastination, self-destructive thoughts.
Serotonin is a calming neurotransmitter that makes you feel great. It has anti-anxiety and anti-depressive effects. Serotonin is important for enjoyment, rest, sleep, adventurousness, calmness, social skills, bodily coordination, and enthusiasm.
Serotonin is produced in great quantities in the occipital lobes and helps create the neurological electricity for sight and rest, and also controls your cravings. The occipital lobes maintain your brain’s overall balance, or synchrony, by regulating the output of all the primary brain waves. The four brain waves appear in varying combinations throughout the day, but at night serotonin allows the brain to recharge and rebalance. If these brain waves are out of sync, the left and right sides of your brain will be out of balance, and you might feel like you are going off the edge; you are overtired, out of control, and unable to get a restful sleep. When serotonin is unbalanced, your brain’s ability to recharge itself is compromised. Serotonin burnout can occur from experiencing too much excitement or not getting enough sleep. When this happens, you simply cannot think clearly. Symptoms of severe deficiency include depersonalization, depression, and impulsiveness, lack of artistic appreciation, lack of common sense, lack of pleasure, social isolation, masochistic tendencies, obsessive compulsive disorder, paranoia, perfectionism, phobias, rage, self-absorption, and shyness.
GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain. GABA is important for consistency, altruism, calmness, staying organized, and emotional well-being.
GABA is produced in the temporal lobes and is associated throughout the brain with calming, rhythmic theta waves – the “idling frequency” of neurons. GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter of the brain, which keeps all of the other biochemicals in check. GABA controls the brains rhythm so that you function mentally and physically at a steady pace. When your rhythm is thrown off by a GABA deficiency, you may begin to feel anxious, nervous, or irritable. Without enough GABA, your brain produces energy in bursts, which impacts your emotional well-being. Symptoms of severe deficiency include problems adjusting to stress, anxiety, depression, feelings of dread, excessive guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, emotional immaturity, manic depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, rage, restlessness, thoughts of suicide, psychosis.
Acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter for learning, cognition, and motor control. Acetylcholine is also important for flexibility, spontaneity, intuition, brain speed, creativity, sociability, and charm.
Acetylcholine controls your brain speed and the rate at which electrical signals are processed, connecting your physical experiences to memories and thoughts. When your brain speed slows with deficient acetylcholine, the brain does not have time to connect all the new stimuli to previously stored information, so it is discarded when the new information pours in. Symptoms of severe deficiency include agitation, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, bipolar disorder, changes in personality and language, hysterical behaviour, mood swings, and rule breaking.
Balancing of these four neurotransmitters is crucial if one desires to live a fulfilling life. Addictions, and destructive behaviour occur when one or more of the neurotransmitters becomes deficient or imbalanced. Alcyone Technology’s ARD helps in achieving this balance.
The Brain Chemistry of Addiction
Addiction can be devastating. Recent scientific advances have shaped our understanding of this common and complex problem. The good news is that there are a number of effective treatments for addiction, including self-help strategies, psychotherapy, medications, rehabilitation programs.
How Addiction Hijacks the Brain
Addiction involves craving for something intensely, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences. Addiction changes the brain, first by subverting the way it registers pleasure and then by corrupting other normal drives such as learning and motivation. Although breaking an addiction is tough, it can be done.
What causes addiction?
The word “addiction” is derived from a Latin term for “enslaved by” or “bound to.” Anyone who has struggled to overcome an addiction—or has tried to help someone else to do so—understands why.
Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences.
For many years, experts believed that only alcohol and powerful drugs could cause addiction. Neuroimaging technologies and more recent research, however, have shown that certain pleasurable activities, such as gambling, shopping, and sex, can also co-opt the brain.
Although a standard U.S. diagnostic manual (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition or DSM-IV) describes multiple addictions, each tied to a specific substance or activity, consensus is emerging that these may represent multiple expressions of a common underlying brain process.
New insights into a common problem
According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter and Overcoming Addiction: Paths toward recovery, a special health report published by Harvard Health Publications:
Nearly 23 million Americans—almost one in 10—are addicted to alcohol or other drugs. More than two-thirds of people with addiction abuse alcohol.
The top three drugs causing addiction are marijuana, opioid (narcotic) pain relievers, and cocaine.
In the 1930s, when researchers first began to investigate what caused addictive behaviour, they believed that people who developed addictions were somehow morally flawed or lacking in willpower. Overcoming addiction, they thought, involved punishing miscreants or, alternately, encouraging them to muster the will to break a habit.
The scientific consensus has changed since then. Today we recognize addiction as a chronic disease that changes both brain structure and function. Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain. This happens as the brain goes through a series of changes, beginning with recognition of pleasure and ending with a drive toward compulsive behaviour.
The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal. In the brain, pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex. Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center.
All drugs of abuse, from nicotine to heroin, cause a particularly powerful surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The likelihood that the use of a drug or participation in a rewarding activity will lead to addiction is directly linked to the speed with which it promotes dopamine release, the intensity of that release, and the reliability of that release.
According to the current theory about addiction, dopamine interacts with another neurotransmitter, glutamate, to take over the brain’s system of reward-related learning. This system has an important role in sustaining life because it links activities needed for human survival (such as eating and sex) with pleasure and reward.
The reward circuit in the brain includes areas involved with motivation and memory as well as with pleasure. Addictive substances and behaviours stimulate the same circuit—and then overload it.
Repeated exposure to an addictive substance or behaviour causes nerve cells in the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain involved in planning and executing tasks) to communicate in a way that couples liking something with wanting it, in turn driving us to go after it. That is, this process motivates us to take action to seek out the source of pleasure.
Development of tolerance
Over time, the brain adapts in a way that actually makes the sought-after substance or activity less pleasurable.
In nature, rewards usually come only with time and effort. Addictive drugs and behaviours provide a shortcut, flooding the brain with dopamine and other neurotransmitters. Our brains do not have an easy way to withstand the onslaught.
Addictive drugs, for example, can release two to 10 times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards do, and they do it more quickly and more reliably. In a person who becomes addicted, brain receptors become overwhelmed. The brain responds by producing less dopamine or eliminating dopamine receptors—an adaptation similar to turning the volume down on a loudspeaker when noise becomes too loud.
As a result of these adaptations, dopamine has less impact on the brain’s reward center. People who develop an addiction typically find that, in time, the desired substance no longer gives them as much pleasure. They have to take more of it to obtain the same dopamine “high” because their brains have adapted—an effect known as tolerance.
Compulsion takes over
At this point, compulsion takes over. The pleasure associated with an addictive drug or behaviour subsides—and yet the memory of the desired effect and the need to recreate it (the wanting) persists. It’s as though the normal machinery of motivation is no longer functioning.
The learning process mentioned earlier also comes into play. The hippocampus and the amygdala store information about environmental cues associated with the desired substance, so that it can be located again. These memories help create a conditioned response—intense craving—whenever the person encounters those environmental cues.
Cravings contribute not only to addiction but threaten relapse after a hard-won sobriety. Conditioned learning helps explain why people who develop an addiction risk relapse even after years of abstinence. Since the nature of the cravings are neurochemical, it can be said, supplementation through Alcyone Technology’s ARD of the neurotransmitters primarily associated with addiction, helps prevent relapse as the Al Sunnah Foundation of Canada program concluded.
Low Dopamine Levels & Addiction
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in many necessary brain functions. It is released when we get rewarded and is linked to feelings of pleasure. The pleasure associated with the release of dopamine is what makes certain behaviours addictive. Any behaviour that induces a sense of pleasure such as: gambling and winning, doing certain drugs, drinking alcohol, having sex, or eating candy – all stimulate the dopaminergic system. According to a study published by Social Neuroscience, religion can have the same effect on the brain as taking drugs.
Unfortunately excessive release of dopamine via certain behaviours can lead to a dopamine sensitivity and/or even a reduction in dopamine levels. Someone who uses amphetamines over a long-term gets an initial “high” or pleasure from the short-term increase in dopamine. Over the long-term, the amount of dopamine becomes depleted, leading the user to require higher doses to experience the same pleasurable effect.
Low dopamine is an inevitable side effect of addictions, but is also a consequence of certain conditions like unexplainable radicalization leading to terrorism related destructive behaviour. Low dopamine or excessively low dopamine, impairs mental performance. Although too much dopamine can create problems, too little dopamine may be even more problematic.
Addiction Associated with Low Dopamine
There are many psychological disorders related to low dopamine production in the brain. While some of them are more related to dopamine dysfunction rather than low extracellular levels, research has also suggested that low dopamine may be more likely among individuals with addictions.
People that are addicts to certain behaviours or stimuli find that they get a temporary boost in dopamine when engaging in the activity. Unfortunately this temporary boost cannot be sustained for a long-term. Sustained engagement in certain addictions may actually lower the endogenous supply of dopamine in the brain; this is seen in those addicted to amphetamines.
The Dopamine Addiction Connection
Addictions work by providing a temporary, unnatural flood of dopamine. Drugs like cocaine and amphetamines cause up to 10 times more dopamine to be released than is normal. (Harvard Mental Health Letter) Addictive behaviours such as religion addiction, internet use, shopping, gambling, pornographic addiction, and power have the same effect.
Brain receptors become overwhelmed and eventually respond by producing less dopamine and reducing the number of receptors. Imaging studies confirm that the brains of substances abusers release less dopamine and have fewer dopamine receptors. (Volkow, N.D. et al. “Imaging Dopamine’s Role in Drug Abuse and Addiction.” Neuropharmacology 56.Suppl 1 (2009): 3–8. PMC. Web. 5 July 2017.)
This is why many former addicts rely on caffeine, sugar, and smoking to increase their energy, focus, and drive. What they are really doing is self-medicating with weaker, legal, dopamine boosting substances.
ARD Boosts Dopamine Production
The neurobiological support aspect of our comprehensive Alcyone Radical Detox – ARD system includes client support through a nootropic supplement stack containing amino acid and vitamin supplements including L-Tyrosine, which boost production of dopamine neurotransmitters and help inhibit depression, and addictive behaviour.
Relationship between L-Tyrosine & Dopamine
Many of the chemicals in your body are created through what is called a biological pathway. A pathway first requires a precursor molecule, usually from the diet. Then it is progressively modified by a series of enzymes until it reaches a final molecule that can be used by living organisms. In this way tyrosine can be changed to become dopamine in your brain.
Features of Tyrosine
Tyrosine is a type of amino acid. There are 20 amino acids total, but about nine of them cannot be manufactured by your body and must be obtained through your diet. These are known as essential amino acids. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, tyrosine is one of the non-essential amino acids. Although it can be found in protein-rich foods such as poultry, seafood, nuts, dairy and seeds, it is also synthesized from the amino acid phenylalanine in your body. It is sometimes called L-tyrosine because amino acids on Earth tend to be “left-handed” rather than facing right, which describes the way the side chain on amino acids face.
Function of Tyrosine
Tyrosine is involved in the synthesis of dopamine, an important neurotransmitter — a chemical that transmits signals between neurons — involved in your motor functions and mood. It is a molecule that aids in attention and learning, activated in response to humour, social interaction and food. Dopamine also affects your ability to feel pleasure and pain. However, it also has a dark side: dopamine levels are increased by drugs such as heroine, alcohol, cocaine, nicotine and amphetamines, according to a report from Florida International University.
Conversion to Dopamine
Tyrosine is metabolized directly to dopamine through a special pathway in the cells. This is accomplished through the enzyme known as tyrosine hydroxylase. An enzyme is a protein that facilitates a chemical reaction. In this case tyrosine hydroxylase is an iron-containing enzyme that transfers oxygen from the air to the tyrosine molecule.
Benefit of L-Dopa
Tyrosine hydroxylase catalyzes the conversion of L-tyrosine to an intermediate molecule known as L-dopa. To accomplish this task, tyrosine hydroxylase needs a cofactor — a non-protein chemical compound that is bound to the protein to facilitate the biological activity. L-dopa is an organic compound similar in composition to tyrosine. It can also be isolated and used in the treatment of various diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.
Significance of Dopamine
Dopamine is finally catalyzed through another enzyme that releases carbon dioxide from L-dopa. Dopamine is a type of catecholamine — essentially, a “fight or flight” hormone released by the adrenal gland in response to stress. Noradrenaline and adrenaline are fellow catecholamine, both of which dopamine can be used to synthesize.
Dopamine Supplement L-Tyrosine & Addiction Recovery
Addiction is a multifactorial disorder that involves a disruption of normal social, behavioural and physiologic processes. Although definitions vary, most experts agree that “addiction” implies a risk of harm to the addicted individual and a need to discontinue the use of an abused substance, even if the addict does not understand the consequences of substance abuse or agree to abstain. Addicts who choose to enter recovery must contend with alterations in neurotransmitter pathways that result from substance abuse.
Neurotransmitters are chemical messenger molecules, such as dopamine or serotonin, which your brain uses to relay impulses throughout your nervous system. Neurotransmitters are released at the end of one nerve cell, or neuron, and are picked up by receptors on the surface of the next neuron in line. This propagates the impulse from one neuron to the next. Most substances that cause addictive behaviour either deplete neurotransmitters in vital brain centers or upset the balance between neurotransmitters and their receptors.
Dopamine is synthesized from the amino acid L-tyrosine at several sites in your body, including your brain. The nearly ubiquitous presence of dopamine receptors in a variety of organs and tissues attests to the importance of this neurotransmitter. Because dopamine plays a vital role in the pleasure centers of your brain, substances that evoke pleasure or euphoria, such as cocaine or methamphetamine, typically cause derangements in dopamine pathways. Dopamine’s actions also influence your moods, emotional responses, sleep cycles, ability to sense pain and motor function, or movement.
Disruption of normal sleep cycles is common in addiction, and much of this disturbance is driven by changes in neurotransmitter levels or in the receptors that respond to them. A 2001 article in “The Journal of Neuroscience” outlines dopamine’s role in the maintenance of normal sleep cycles and the regulation of various levels of sleep. Aside from its direct effects on sleep architecture, stimulation of dopamine receptors appears to affect alertness, focusing ability and motivation.
Depression and other mood disturbances are frequently experienced by addicted individuals. Such disorders are often the direct result of substance abuse, rather than being a part of the addict’s underlying personality. In fact, a diagnosis of depression cannot be made until an addict has been “clean” for some time. Several studies have investigated dopamine’s under-appreciated role in depression, including a 2007 review, published in the German journal “Der Nervenarzt.”
Recovering addicts must discover ways to overcome the cravings that can thwart their therapeutic efforts. A 2008 study published in “Neuron” demonstrated that some substances, such as methamphetamine, can alter dopamine dynamics in the brain for many months, particularly in brain centers that control cravings and habituation. Replenishing dopamine in these centers and re-establishing normal receptor activity could help to alleviate cravings in recovering addicts.
L-Tyrosine for Cognitive Improvement
There is some evidence to suggest that L-Tyrosine supplementation may lead to cognitive improvements. It reduces the effects of both stress and fatigue on cognitive task performance, making it easier to stay focused when studying or working for long hours.
Another study found that L-Tyrosine supplementation may sustain working memory when competing requirements (to perform other tasks at the same time) would otherwise degrade performance. Tyrosine can be used to maintain mental performance when mild to severe distractions are well-anticipated.
In other words, it can help you focus and boost intelligence and acuity even if you are in a distracting environment. Many user reviews also claim that the effects of L-Tyrosine make it an ideal study pill or smart drug with some saying it helps them to naturally overcome ADHD.
L-Tyrosine supplementation can be particularly helpful in a number of processes within the body, including influencing the production of a number of neurotransmitters.
Tyrosine is a building block, or precursor, to a number of important neurotransmitters within the brain. These neurochemicals are used by your neurons to communicate with each other and generate electrical signals.
By increasing levels of the neurotransmitters Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, and Dopamine, Tyrosine is able to influence a wide range of processes and functions within the body. In particular, these chemicals are involved in functions related to alertness, attention and focus in the brain.
A study by the Department of Clinical Neuropsychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands found Tyrosine improves cognitive performance and reduces blood pressure in cadets after combat training. The study concluded supplementation with tyrosine may, under operational circumstances characterized by psychosocial and physical stress, reduce the effects of stress and fatigue on cognitive task performance.
Owasoyo JO, Neri DF, Lamberth JG concluded the administration of tyrosine may minimize or reverse stress-induced performance decrement by increasing depleted brain norepinephrine levels in soldiers. Salter found dietary tyrosine as an aid to stress resistance among troops and that tyrosine supplementation might help to prevent and treat stress casualties in combat.
ARD Boosts Serotonin Production
The neurobiological support aspect of our comprehensive Alcyone Radical Detox – ARD system includes client support through a nootropic supplement stack containing amino acid and vitamin supplements including L-Tryptophan, which boosts production of serotonin neurotransmitters. ARD neurobiological support system helps inhibit aggression, violence, suicidal thoughts, mood swings, depression, leading to addictive behaviour in candidates.
Reducing Aggression and Violence: The Serotonin Connection
Serotonin is crucial in reducing aggression and violence.
Serotonin deficiency causes an increased tendency toward anxiety, depression, out-of-control disinhibition, and violence. Conversely, enhancing the activity of the serotonin system may have exactly the opposite effects in many people.
Low levels of serotonin in the brain have been associated with an increased susceptibility to impulsive behaviour, aggression, overeating, depression, alcohol abuse, and violent suicide. Moreover, all these behaviours seem to be linked, so that the presence of one markedly increases the risk for any of the others.
In his best-selling book, Listening to Prozac,psychiatrist Peter D. Kramer, M.D., has argued that taking Prozac – or similar agents that enhance serotonergic activity – may actually help some people reconfigure their personality.
Nerve cells synthesize 5-HT by a two-step process that begins with the essential amino acid tryptophan, which must come from dietary sources. Once taken up into a nerve cell, tryptophan is converted into 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) with the help of the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH). 5-HTP is converted in turn to 5-HT (serotonin). Studies show that taking supplements of tryptophan or 5-HTP will increase the amount of serotonin available for use by neurons.
The first hints that serotonin played an important role in regulating aggressive behaviours came in the mid-1970s when researchers doing postmortem examinations on suicide victims noticed that these people had reduced levels of a major metabolite of serotonin called 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) in their cerebrospinal fluid. Subsequent studies found lower levels of 5-HIAA in people who had attempted suicide, had severe depression, or had shown tendencies to harm themselves or others.
Serotonin’s influence over aggressive tendencies goes way back in the evolution of life. Studies over a wide range of species, from crustaceans to fish to lizards to hamsters to mice to dogs to nonhuman primates to human beings, have all demonstrated essentially the same results: reducing serotonergic activity leads to increases in aggressive behaviour, and enhancing serotonergic function decreases aggressive behaviour.
This relationship can have some interesting ramifications. For example, animals that have been selected for domesticity (i.e., reduced aggression) may have higher brain levels of serotonin than their wild counterparts. Russian researchers studying silver foxes, for example, found that those selected for more than 30 years for tame behaviour and no defensive reactions to humans had higher levels of both serotonin and 5-HIAA in various regions of the brain, compared with wild silver foxes bred in captivity. They also found higher levels of tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH, the primary enzyme involved in the production of serotonin) and lower levels of monoamine oxidase (MAO, the enzyme that removes serotonin from the synapse) in the domesticated animals.
So sensitive is this serotonergic system that natural variations in serotonin levels among animals on a normal diet can affect their behaviour in profound ways, possibly even spelling the difference between life and death.
When it comes to the need for serotonin, human beings appear to be no different. Too little tryptophan causes impulsive, depressive, aggressive, and violent behaviour among humans while, enough tryptophan or 5-HTP cause these traits to diminish or disappear.
Researchers at the University of Texas, Houston Health Science Center gave a low-tryptophan formula (25 gm or 100 gm) to 10 healthy men in a controlled laboratory setting following a 24-hr low-tryptophan diet. They then observed the men’s behaviour and noted any aggressive tendencies. The men taking the 100-gm formula (lower tryptophan) showed a significant increase in aggressive responding (compared with baseline) within only 5 hours. The 25-gm formula took 6 hours to produce the same effect.
How does serotonin modulate these responses? Researchers Robert O. Pihl and colleagues at McGill University speculate that serotonin modifies the response to threat. In people with normal serotonin function, anxiety (the emotional response to threat) inhibits socially inappropriate responses, such as aggression. In people with depleted serotonin, however, anxiety loses its inhibitory effect while retaining its emotional intensity. As a result of this imbalance, a person might become aggressive despite the intense anxiety induced by the threat of punishment.
Pihl et al state that people with low serotonin are likely “to appear depressed and aggressive, more driven by appetites (more motivated by food, water, sex, and drugs of abuse), and more impulsive (less able to control behavior) in the face of threat.” They may also be more likely to use aggression to achieve rewards or deter punishment, and they may be less sensitive to social control of such behavior.
Reversing Serotonin Deficiency
Low serotonergic function can lead to aggressive and violent behavior, similarly reversing a serotonin deficiency restore more normal behavior. Serotonergic function can be enhanced in two basic ways: by providing the metabolic precursors for serotonin or by preventing the inactivation of serotonin that is released into the synapse.
The growing body of literature on the adverse effects of reduced serotonin function, enables us to look at the potential benefits of enhancing serotonergic function, especially by taking serotonin precursors such as tryptophan.
Dopamine, Serotonin, GABA and Acetylcholine Balance: The Brain is the Driver of Human Behavior
Dr. Eric Braverman in his book “The Edge Effect” combines the best of recent modern thinking and research to come up with a model of the ideal brain which summarizes what is known to be important in sustaining good health.
Similar to how DNA is made up of four sub-units which, combined, provide the entire genetic blueprint for all of life on Earth, Braverman describes the brain in terms of the actions of four neurotransmitters, describes the symptoms of imbalances of each hormone so they can be recognised, and states what can be done to correct these by directing readers to further fine tuning.
The difference in mental processing between a resourceful mind and senility is one tenth of a second. Individuals normally generate a reaction within three-tenths of a second. If this becomes four-tenths of a second, they can no longer process logical thought. Brain-function is the most sensitive indicator of body biochemistry – which means, once the brain is working well, there is not much wrong with the biochemistry!
Individuals are a mix of the above mentioned neurotransmitters, and it is attention to all areas which gives optimal results.
Neuroscience and religiopolitical radicalization
Religiopolitical radicalization is a neurochemical phenomenon which can be inhibited with natural supplementation to treat neurotransmitter deficiency, when accompanied with psycho-social intervention and a counter-narrative program.
Alcyone Technology’s comprehensive ARD system includes a natural supplement stack which boosts the balance of dopamine, serotonin, GABA and acetylcholine neurotransmitters in candidates to help find a state in which they can be more productive and content members of society.
Religious thoughts trigger reward systems like love, drugs
Addicted: Why Do People Get Hooked? – TIME
Understanding Addiction How Addiction Hijacks the Brain
Reducing Aggression and Violence The Serotonin Connection By Lane Lenard, Ph.D.
The Brain is the Driver of your Car – Dr Sarah Myhill
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REWARD, SALIENCE, AND ATTENTIONAL NETWORKS ARE ACTIVATED BY RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE IN DEVOUT MORMONS
HARVARD MENTAL HEALTH LETTER: HOW ADDICTION HACKS THE BRAIN
AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR AND THREE NEUROTRANSMITTERS: DOPAMINE, GABA, AND SEROTONIN—A REVIEW OF THE LAST 10 YEARS
TYROSINE IMPROVES COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE AND REDUCES BLOOD PRESSURE IN CADETS AFTER ONE WEEK OF A COMBAT TRAINING COURSE
A tryptophan hydroxylase gene marker for suicidality and alcoholism.
How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs
Imaging dopamine’s role in drug abuse and addiction.
Effect of tyrosine supplementation on clinical and healthy populations under stress or cognitive demands–A review.
Oxytocin, motivation and the role of dopamine.
The Neuroscience of Happiness and Pleasure
Tyrosine, the Addiction and Depression Amino Acid
The cerebrospinal fluid provides a proliferative niche for neural progenitor cells.
Electrical stimulation of a small brain area reversibly disrupts consciousness
What is the function of the claustrum?
What the Heck Is a Claustrum?
Is the key to consciousness in the claustrum?
Consciousness on-off switch discovered deep in brain
What is the function of the claustrum?
Neurobiology of Spirituality https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3190564/#!po=18.7500