Hormones And The Brain

Hormones And The Brain

It is a well-known fact that the various parts of the brain, along with neurotransmitters and secreted hormones, work in unison and brain pathways are established along active neuronal connections which form systems that support our behavioural, emotional and sensory as well as the cognitive functions. Nevertheless, till date, the brain remains the most confounding organ of the body.

The Different Brain Hormones

With regard to brain hormones, the hypothalamus (or the ‘command centre’) and the pituitary gland (known as the ‘master gland’) are central to secretion and regulation of various hormones that control organ functions. Chiefly, the anterior pituitary secretes six hormones namely. Adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), Growth hormone (GH), Luteinizing hormone (LH), Follicle Stimulating hormone (FSH) and Prolactin and Thyroid Stimulating hormone (TSH), while the posterior pituitary secretes Antidiuretic hormone (ADH) and Oxytocin. Additionally, the pineal gland regulates the circadian rhythm and ‘internal clock’ by secreting the hormone melatonin.

The pituitary senses the needs of the body and sends signals to the organs and glands, thus maintaining homeostasis. The hormones secreted, transmit information from the pituitary to target cells, thereby regulating their activity. Also, these hormones act on the thyroid, adrenals, and ovaries, which in turn produce other hormones. Hormones control metabolism, growth, sexual maturation, blood pressure, and other vital physical functions and processes.

Hormonal Dysregulation

In the context of hormones affecting the brain, mood changes, depression, anxiety, difficulty in concentrating and memory loss are common signs and symptoms of dysregulation. On a physiological level, ageing involves hormonal changes characterized by an imbalance between stable catabolic hormones and a decreasing level of anabolic hormones. Hence, it is common to notice cognitive and behavioural changes in elderly individuals due to slowing down of regulatory mechanisms and hormonal changes.

However, hormonal dysregulation (over or under production) may also be caused due to metabolic disorders, local or systemic malignancy, a sedentary lifestyle and stress which may lead to pathological changes in young individuals as well. For example, the growth hormone dysfunction may be seen in conditions such as acromegaly, pituitary gigantism, and similar conditions.

Apart from the obvious physical manifestations, such individuals may also show complications such as diabetes mellitus, liver, and renal disease which in turn may be associated with neurological symptoms of their own. A few examples can be cognitive deficits (as seen in diabetes), memory issues (as seen in late stage kidney disease).

Homeostatic Mechanisms

In recent times, environmental and lifestyle factors such as poor nutrition use of tobacco, inadequate physical activity and stress have been shown to affect homeostatic mechanisms, predominantly due to their inflammatory and immune-suppressing activities. The deleterious impact of such factors on the brain and nervous system manifest as migraines, mood swings, changes in eating and sleeping habits as well. What is more harmful is maternal hormonal imbalance, due to the above mentioned factors, metabolic disturbances or malignancy that may lead to impaired foetal brain development, epilepsy, and many other factors.

Hormones control metabolism, growth, sexual maturation, blood pressure, and other vital physical functions and processes

Treatment Of Hormonal Imbalance

Conventional treatment of hormonal imbalance is through pharmacological agents that are commonly advised for prolonged periods of time. Although such agents maintain hormone levels within normal ranges, thereby temporarily controlling signs and symptoms, long-term use has been associated with adverse effects. It is therefore imperative to understand the importance of dietary habits and lifestyle regulation in order to prevent or delay the onset of pathological hormonal changes.

For example, anti-inflammatory foods (rich in omega 3 fatty acids), antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, E and foods that supply the recommended daily allowance of minerals and trace elements have been shown to maintain a healthy internal milieu conducive to maintenance of hormonal homeostasis. Similarly, physical activity has been shown to reduce stress levels, improve blood circulation and boost metabolism, thereby maintaining hormones in a ‘happy state.’

4 Brain Chemicals That Influence Mood And Health

This hormone is essential in regulating both sleep and depression. It also turns out to be an essential factor in the body’s essential functions like mood and appetite. Many antidepressant medicines target this hormone receptors, to change the mood and reduce depression.

It controls lots of functions which includes cognition, behaviour, and emotion. It also helps in motivation for working to achieve rewards. Besides, dopamine can also contribute to the addiction of drugs and alcohol. Low levels of this hormone are linked to Parkinson’s disease.

This excitatory neurotransmitter can be found throughout the spinal cord and the brain. It has many vital functions such as brain development in early stages, memory, cognition, and learning.

Also known as noradrenaline, this chemical can sometimes act similar to a hormone. This works with adrenaline, a hormone, to create stress or fear in people. Norepinephrine can help in raising or maintaining blood pressure when used as a drug, in cases of certain illnesses.

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