the science of thinking

The science of thinking and how to support brain health.

How do we think?

In this blog post, we will simplify the science of thinking and how to support brain health

The brain is an incredible, complex organ.

As a result,it is the seat of human intelligence and, correspondingly, the controller of behavior. The brain controls thought, emotions, memory, motor skills, breathing, and other processes that regulate our bodies and keep us alive.All this in an organ that weighs about 3 pounds in the average adult.

Learning more about this fascinating organ helps us understand how we think and how we can support our brain
health and cognitive abilities.

What is the science of thinking?

So, how exactly do our brains work?

The brain, which is part of the nervous system, is made up of many different types of cells, but one type
—called neurons—is responsible for signal transmission.

A human brain has about 86 billion neurons.

Each neuron has a multitude of synaptic connections with other neurons,creating an incredibly intricate network to transmit all our thoughts and actions. All thoughts, movements, memories, sensations, and feelings are the results of nerve signals that pass through neurons.

Neurons receive signals at their dendrites and pass the signal through the cell body and down the axon.

At a junction called a synapse, the axon-terminal releases neurotransmitters that travel through a small gap to receptors embedded in the next neuron’s dendrites, triggering the continuation of the nerve signal.
The nervous system uses neurotransmitters to control the body, including vital functions like muscle movement, breathing, heartbeat,
hormone regulation, sleep, and more.

Role of Neurotransmitters in the science of thinking

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that send and receive signals from a vast network of nerves throughout the brain and body.

There are, however,at least 100 different neurotransmitters that have a variety of functions. Neurotransmitters can transmit one of three different messages, depending on the specific neurotransmitter and type of receptor it binds to.

Different types of neurotransmitters

There are different types of neurotransmitters for example

Excitatory: “excites” the next neuron and pass signals on to the next cell. Glutamate and acetylcholine are both
important excitatory neurotransmitters.

Inhibitory: Prevents or blocks the signal from passing to the next cell further. Gammaaminobutyric acid (GABA) is the most common inhibitory neurotransmitter, others include serotonin and beta-endorphin.

the science of thinking
the science of thinking

Modulatory: Affects a larger number of neurons at once, influences the effect of other chemical messengers to adjust how cells communicate at the synapse. Many neurotransmitters, like serotonin, acetylcholine, and dopamine can have modulatory effects in addition to excitatory
and/or inhibitory effects.
Some neurotransmitters can have either excitatory or inhibitory effects based on the specific receptor it binds to.

Dopamine is one such neurotransmitter, it provides intense feelings of pleasure and reward and affects learning and memory and also has modulatory effects.

Proper neurotransmitter transmission is critical for proper brain and nervous system functioning, so it’s important to produce just the right amount of each neurotransmitter.

Neurotransmitter Involved in Potential Effect on Behavior
Acetylcholine Muscle action, memory Increased arousal, enhanced cognition
Beta-endorphin Pain, pleasure Decreased anxiety, decreased tension
Dopamine Mood, sleep, learning Increased pleasure, suppressed appetite
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Brain function, sleep Decreased anxiety, decreased tension
Glutamate: Memory, learning Improved learning, enhanced memory
Norepinephrine Heart, intestines, alertness Increase arousal,suppresses appetite
Serotonin , Mood, sleep, Modulated mood, suppressed appetite

Brain health and disease.

Brains are energy intensive; the average adult brain makes up only 2% of the body’s weight, but it uses about 20% of the energy derived from glucose. Aging brains may start to suffer from impaired glucose metabolism,which lowers the amount of energy available.

Aging also causes changes to the brain and neurotransmitter activity. The brain undergoes
physical changes as we age, with its volume shrinking at around 5% per decade after the age of 40.
Often, cognitive changes also occur with increasing age.

Memory is most times the cognitive skill most frequently affected.

Neurotransmitter production and activity can also change with age.
Dopamine and serotonin are two of the most
common ones that decline with age. After early adulthood, dopamine levels decline around 10% each decade, and this
reduction according to research is associated with diminishing cognitive and motor performance.

Neurotransmitters balance and brain disease.

Understanding the science of thinking and the roles of neurotransmitters ,can help understand onset of brain disease.

Issues with neurotransmitter balance or receptors has a relationship with various brain disorders and diseases. Acetylcholine is an
important neurotransmitter that plays key roles in memory and learning as well as muscle control.
Research has shown that Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia that progressively causes a decline in memory,
thinking, and behavior, is due to deficiency of acetylcholine in the brain.

neurotransmitters and brain health
neurotransmitters and brain health

Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes the loss of muscle coordination, affecting balance and movement, with some
patients experiencing uncontrollable tremors.
Many symptoms of Parkinson’s appear with the death of neurons that produce dopamine in the substantia nigra, a region of the brain
that controls movement.

Another instance of neurotransmitter imbalance is with depression, where there is reduction in serotonin and norepinephrine .
Serotonin is “the happy molecule” because of its part in regulating mood, sleep, appetite, sexual drive, and more.
In addition to depression, low serotonin levels can lead to sleep disturbances and headaches.

An overabundance of serotonin or glutamate can lead to seizures. Drugs that increase the level of GABA have
been used to treat seizures because GABA’s inhibitory action helps balance out the over excitatory effect of too much glutamate.

We require healthy neurons and certain balances of neurotransmitters in order to properly transmit signals used to control the brain and body

Brain health and nutrition ,Science of thinking

Time after time, the Mediterranean diet has been recognized for its myriad of health benefits, including better cognition in older populations, lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and certain
types of cancer, and supporting a healthy body weight and blood sugar.

The Mediterranean diet is an abundance of vegetables and fruit, whole grains, nuts,
healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil; moderate amounts of omega-3 rich seafood and wine,
with very limited amounts of red meat, sugar, saturated fats, and processed foods.

Variations of the Mediterranean diet, namely the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet have been developed in recent
decades to target specific issues.
The MIND diet is designed to protect brain health and prevent cognitive decline.

The MIND diet calls for increased amounts of leafy green vegetables and berries specifically (rather than vegetables and fruits in general) because they are rich sources of neuroprotective nutrients shown to lower risk of cognitive impairment.

A multi-year study scoring the diet of almost a thousand participants of the Memory and Aging Project found that closer adherence to the MIND diet was associated with slower decline in global cognitive performance.

Conclusion for the science of thinking.

As our entire sense of self—oour thoughts, actions, and feelings—ooriginate from the brain and actions of neurons, it’s clearly important to do what we can to support a healthy brain and normal neurotransmitter function. One crucial component for maintaining cognitive health, as well as overall healthy aging, is a well-balanced and diverse diet.

That’s my take on the science of thinking and how to improve brain health.Please drop your comments and questions below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *