Apparently, we are in a national anxiety season! Mary was talking with a client last week who has a clinical psychology practice. She wondered if we were busy with the increased attention being paid to immune support. Mary replied that our staff was working long hours to try to keep up. Mary asked our client if she was busy with the extra emotional demands of our current threat of disease and subsequent lockdown. She commented that she had never been so busy in her life. The increase in anxiety has been profound. Even people who usually don’t have panic attacks are having them.  

Looking at things through neurotransmitters.

So what can we do during these coming weeks?  We look at things from a neurotransmitter point of view. This doesn’t negate the help that people get from working with your psychologist or psychiatrist or from your yoga, going for a run or your meditation sessions. 

We refer to some of the work done by Eric Kandel who wrote the book on neuroscience. The basic concept is that if a motor neuron fires to another motor neuron and then to a muscle or to the emotional center of the brain you will get a maximum response from that end organ. That is to say the if we are thinking of your biceps in your arm, you would get either maximum contraction or no contraction. Without some sort of signal modulation you would get a hard on or off response. If we are talking emotions as the end organ of the neuron response, you would either be amazingly calm or maybe maxed out with anger.

Serotonin a key modulator

One of the purposes of serotonin is to be a key component of a modulation circuit that runs along side the previously described pathway. So when you activate a neuron that is going to that biceps muscle, that serotonin circuit is always activated as well. This way you can get a controlled contraction of your biceps appropriate for the task instead of an all or none response. Speaking of an emotion as the end organ of the response, if your serotonin circuit is working and someone does something driving that you don’t like, you just shrug it off and go back to thinking about that podcast or listening to that song on Sirius. Without a good serotonin system, you get irate and start reaching for something to throw. This is what we mean by an all or none response. Not very useful in most situations.

Serotonin and melatonin

Serotonin then helps modulate your daily actions both physical and emotional. You can now see why an incident might lead to anxiety or a panic attack if your serotonin levels are low. 

Some people will also experience low serotonin as some level of insomnia. One reason is that serotonin readily converted into melatonin at night. Melatonin is fundamental to sleep and helps to switch parts of the brain into sleep mode. So if you’re having trouble making serotonin, you can expect to have lower than ideal melatonin levels. Too. 

Our standard serotonin boost formula for the last couple of decades is NeuroScience Travacor. We have also used NeuroScience Serene in some cases but typically we start with Travacor. Travacor has a few more ingredients to make sure your body has the cofactors necessary to use the serotonin. Serene is more of a simple 5-HTP formula. 5-HTP is readily converted to serotonin in most cases.