What are Neurotransmitters?

Neurotransmitters are the natural brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body. They are how nerve cells and brain cells communicate with each other. Each neuron may have thousands of branches that connect it to other neurons. The branches are called dendrites or axons. Dendrites carry messages toward the cell body; axons carry messages away from the cell body to another neuron. Axons extend for as long as four feet in humans. In some animals, axons are even longer.

At first, science thought that axons and dendrites simply ran through the body continuously, like wires. Later, it was discovered that a space was between each axon and dendrite. These spaces are call synaptic gaps, or synapses. The synapse is the space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites of the next neuron in a nerve pathway and is about one-millionth of an inch wide. The natural chemicals that the body produces to facilitate the transmission of messages across the synaptic gaps are the neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters regulate most bodily functions including breathing, heart rate, digestion, and brain function. They affect mood, memory, concentration, glucose/insulin balance, pain perception, sleep and weight. They have a major influence on moods and cognitive function.

Depletion or imbalance of neurotransmitters is very common. Stress, poor diet, toxins, genetics, age, prescription and recreational drugs, alcohol, caffeine are all causes of neurotransmitter disruption.

Testing neurotransmitters

It has only been in recent years that neurotransmitters can be tested using urine samples. This is tremendous tool for ascertaining neurotransmitter levels and comparing them with ideal or target levels. This test is also valuable to assess how effective current medication is. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20696183

There is conflicting evidence about how effective antidepressant drugs actually are for a number of reasons. I believe that one of the reasons is that serotonin, a major neurotransmitter for depression, is often assumed to be low in symptoms of depression. However, in my experience the serotonin levels are frequently shown to be within the normal range. The test often reveals that other neurotransmitter(s) such as dopamine, GABA, glutamate, adrenalin, noradrenalin, or cortisol are the problematic one(s). Testing is often essential for diagnosis and eliminates guess work in the prescription process and is an important tool for measuring progress. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18505564

Extensive Neurotransmitter Profile

The Extensive Neurotransmitter Profile is a urine test, assessing levels of 6 neurotransmitters: serotonin, GABA, dopamine, noradrenaline, adrenaline and glutamate.

These 6 neurotransmitters are the most researched in relation to their effects on mood disorders, hormones, sleep, glucose/insulin balance, pain perception, appetite, and cognitive function.

Adrenocortex Stress Profile is recommended to be performed with the Extensive Neurotransmitter Profile due to the interrelationship of adrenal hormones and the HP axis. This includes 4 salivary assessments of Cortisol and DHEAs levels.

The report format includes a correlation analysis section,written by the clinical department, which relates the patients’ symptoms with their corresponding lab results, as an aide to the practitioner. Low or high levels of neurotransmitters are observed in various mental health disorders, such as depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s disease and panic attacks.

 

HIGH

LOW

Cortisol

Fatigue
Inflammation and Allergies
Anxiety
Poor Sleep
Insulin Resistance
Immune Suppression
Fatigue
Inflammation and Allergies

Dopamine

Developmental
Problems
Schizophrenia
Psychosis
Possible increased testosterone production
Lack of Motivation
Focus
Memory
Addictions and Cravings
Low Libido/ decreased testosterone
Poor motor control/ Tremors

Noradrenaline

Stress and Anxiety
Hyperactivity
Increased
Blood Pressure
Pain
Lack of Focus/Energy/Motivation
Depression with Apathy

Adrenaline

Insomnia
Anxiety
Stress
Blood Sugar Imbalance
Insulin Resistance
Allergic reactions
Poor Methylation
Lack of Focus
Lack of Energy
Poor Blood Sugar Control

Glutamate

Neurotoxicity
Anxiety
Stress
Decreased Mood
Sleep disturbances
Fatigue
Low Brain Function
Poor Memory

Serotonin

Headache, mental confusion
Sweating, shivering
Hypertension, tachycardia
Nausea, vomiting
Muscle twitching, tremor
Depression/Low Mood
Hot
Flashes
Sleep Difficulties/Anxiety
Carbohydrate Cravings
Constipation

GABA

Anxiety
Tingling of extremities
Shortness of breath
Numb feeling around the Mouth
Throbbing heart
Anxiety
Hyperactivity
PMS
Sleep issues
Mood disorders/Anxiety
Depression

Function of Serotonin

Serotonin (5 - hydroxytryptamine) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter synthesised in serotonergic neurons in the central nervous system (CNS) and enterochromaffin cells of the gastrointestinal tract. In the CNS it is believed to play an important role as a neurotransmitter in the regulation of anger, appetite, body temperature, mood, sexuality and sleep. Low levels may be associated with aggression, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, impulsivity, irritability and sleep disorders.

Function of Dopamine, Noradrenaline and Adrenaline

Dopamine is an excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitter synthesized in many areas of the brain. It is a precursor for noradrenaline and adrenaline. Dopamine also acts as a hormone when it is released from the hypotha lamus, inhibiting prolactin production from the pituitary gland. In the CNS dopamine is involved in the regulation of pleasure and reward, memory, motor control, sleep, mood, attention and learning. Dopamine is released by rewarding experiences such as fo od, sex and (some) drugs. Lowered dopamine has been associated with loss of satisfaction, social withdrawal, apathy, reduced motivation and attention. In addition, low dopamine levels can result in impaired motor control, e.g. Parkinson’s disease. High levels of dopamine may result in aggression, Schizophrenia, hyperac tivity and Tourette’s syndrome.

Noradrenaline (norepinephrine) and adrenaline (epinephrine) are excitatory neurotransmitters as well as hormones. They are produced by noradrenergic and adrener gic neurons respectively, as well as by the adrenal medulla. They are most well known for their involvement in the ‘fight and flight’ response, in which they increase heart rate, trigger the release of glucose from energy stores and increase blood flow to skeletal muscle. Low levels contribute to a decrease in mood, energy, focus, motivation and memory. High levels are associated with aggression, anxiety, emotional lability, hyperactivity, mania, stress and suppression of the immune system.

Function of GABA

GABA (gamma - aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid that functions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA is synthesized in the brain from an amino acid, glutamate, an exicitatory neurotransmitter. In the body, GABA is concentrated in the hypoth alamus region of the brain and is known to play a role in the overall functioning of the pituitary gland – which regulates growth hormone synthesis, sleep cycles, and body temperature.

Function of Glutamate

Glutamate is a major mediator of excitatory signa ls in the brain and is involved in most aspects of normal brain function including cognition, memory and learning. Glutamate does not only mediate a lot of information, but also information which regulates brain development and information which determines cellular survival, differentiation and elimination as well as formation and elimination of nerve contacts (synapses). Glutamate exerts its signaling function by binding to glutamate receptor proteins (“glutamate receivers”) and thereby activating these re ceptor proteins. Several subtypes of glutamate receptors have been identified: NMDA, AMPA/kainate and metabotropic receptors (mGluR).

Specimen Collection Requirements

A second morning urine sample (usually 2 - 3 hours after rising) is required using the mon ovettes provided in the kit . Avoid caffeine and exercise prior to collecting sample. Monovettes must be frozen overnight before returning.