Chong Caruso
ESL 91
Fall, 2000

Project Topic: Research one or more neurotransmitters in the brain. Explain how the neurotransmitter works and what its function is in the body. Be sure to concentrate on how the neurotransmitter affects behavior. What happens when something goes wrong on the system? What treatments are there?

INTRODUCTION

Our brain is involved in many different areas, even the smallest muscular movement. Our muscular movement is worked by neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers in our brain that move between nerve cells to other cells, through the synapse. This is how the brain communicates with other body muscles and translates into motion.

WHAT IS A NEUROTRANSMITTER?

The nervous system receives and relays information about activities within the body, monitoring and responding to internal and external changes. Neurons are specialized cells that carry electrical signals or impulses. A neuron has three basic parts; the cell body, the axon, and the dendrites. Dendrites receive impulses from the axons of other neurons. Along the axon is a myelin coating with nodes in between each myelin sheath, Synapses, or small gaps, exist between dendrites and axons. Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that transmit nerve impulse across synapses. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers in our body (Kasper, 1998).

WHAT IS DOPAMINE?

Dopamine is a specific neurotransmitter released by neurons in the brain. Dopamine is very important neurotransmitter both physically and psychologically in our brain. Dopamine is stored in vesicles on the outer membrane of the neuron. Dopamine is the one of the major neurotransmitters known as catechamines, which help the body respond to stress and prepare for the fight or flight responses (Kalat, 1986).

This neurotransmitter helps us when we are walking, sitting and doing other movements. Normal levels of dopamine in the brain allow the usual freedom of movement that we ordinarily experience. In the other hand, dopamine can disrupt the balance when dopamine level is low.

Low levels of dopamine neurotransmitters cause slowness of body movement, stiffness in the limbs and overall posture, and problems walking and keeping balance. Low levels of dopamine are related to Parkinson's disease. People with Parkinson's disease lose balance of body movements. Generally, Parkinson's disease affects elderly people. However, young people also could get Parkinson's diagnose before the age of 30.

WHAT IS PARKINSON'S DISEASE?

Parkinson's disease is a slowly progressive disorder that affects body movement, muscular control, and balance. The main cause is loss of dopamine level. Parkinson's disease occurs when cells are destroyed in certain parts of the brain stem, particulary the corpus stratia. This causes problems in the nerves and muscles controlling movement and coordination, resulting in the major symptoms characteristic of Parkinson's disease (Kalat, 1986).

SYMPTOMS

The first sign of Parkinson's may be as slight as a tremor in one finger. Overtime, the movement disorder may grow more pronounced, involving the hand and then the arms, usually on just one side of the body. As the illness progresses, walking may become slow and the balance may become unsteady. Depression is common along those who have this illness (CNN.com, 1999).

TREATMENT

Treatment is flexible and varies according to the stages of the disease. If a patient is in the early stages, the doctor may suggest a program of exercise and diet before drugs are prescribed. The medication most commonly used is Levodopa or L-dopa, a drug that is converted to dopamine in the brain. In the late stages of the disease, if drug therapy no longer works, several kinds of brain stimulation may also be an option, through these methods are not a cure and are considered a last resort. (Kibuik, 2000)

MY RESPONSE

For this project I read a lot of interesting information and I also read different articles about Parkinson's disease. One article I read was about a young girl who was a Parkinson's patient when she was 21. Her name is Bremer and now she is 30. Bremer was diagnosed with the disease at 24. She had the characteristic tremors since age 21. Bremer started to notice shaking in her left hand. She never expected to have Parkinson's disease.

I also read about another case of a young man with Parkinson's disease. In 1999, Michael J. Fox revealed that he had had Parkinson's disease for the past seven years. His illness was diagnosed in 1999 after he noticed a " twitch" in his finger. He had a test for the illness and the results came back as the early stages of Parkinson's disease. Then he had brain surgery in March 1999 to lessen the tremors caused by illness.

 

I learned that Parkinson's disease is recently more frequent among both older and younger people. The National Parkinson's Foundation reported that two young patients had Parkinson's diagnosed when they were age 13. I had thought that Parkinson's disease is only for older people. In fact, I found out that Parkinson's disease occurs in young people too. Parkinson's disease is very hard to define, and it is hard to solve the problems that cause it.

Unfortunately, we haven't found a specific medication for this disease because the causes of Parkinson's disease are still unknown. All doctors and researchers are trying to find what can be helpful for the individuals suffering from this terrible illness. The National Parkinson's Disease Organization has found new drugs that are effective in the early stages of Parkinson's disease. However, these drugs are not cures. Recently, researchers are working more on Parkinson's disease and trying to develop protective therapies to safeguard the chemical dopamine in the brain. I hope that they will find the medications for Parkinson's disease in the future.

I learned so much important information about the neurotransmitters. Dopamine is a chemical in our brain that helps us in our body movements and balance. Without dopamine, we will have big problems in our body movement and balance. After I did this research, I really appreciated that I could walk, sit and do other movements. I also learned that dopamine level is very important for everyone. Normal levels of dopamine in the brain help us to have the freedom of movement that we normally experience. The presence of dopamine in the brain allows for movement. Dopamine controls our emotions and feelings, perception, and energy. Thus, dopamine also has to do with depression, anger management, problem resolution, and hyperactivity.

CONCLUSION

Dopamine is very important because dopamine plays a crucial role in our mental and physical health. This chemical in our brain is one of the major neurotransmitters. This chemical messenger, dopamine, affects brain processes that control movement, emotional response, and the ability to experience pleasure and pain. Parkinson's disease is caused by too little dopamine in the brain. Parkinson's disease is a terrible illness for older and younger people.

BIBLOGRAPHY

ABCnews.com. (12/04/1999). "Exclusive Television Interview with Michael J. Fox " [Online]. http://abcnews.go.com/onair/2020/special/2020-MJFox981204.html

ABCnews.com. (01/15/2000). "Too young for Parkinson's? " [Online]. http://abcnews.go.com/sections/living/dailynews/parkinsons.html

CNN.com. (11/25/1999) "Michael J. Fox reveals he has Parkinson's disease" [Online]. http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBITZ/TV/9811/25/fox.parkinsons

Kalat, James W. (1986). Introduction to Psychology, Second Edition. pp. 73-74, 121-122.

Kasper, Loretta F. (1998). Interdisplinary English. New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 161-163.

Kibuik, Lydia. (11/03/2000). "Parkinson's and Dopamine." [Online]. http://www.sfn.org/bnefings/parkinsons.htm

MSN.com. (09/25/2000). "Parkinson's" [Online]. http://content.health.msn.com/newly-diagnosed?doi=prk

MSN.com. (10/19/2000). "Parkinson's disease" [Online]. http://content.health.msn.com/content/dmk/dmk-article-40066

Parkinsonsinfo.com. (02/09/2000). "How our brain controls our movement and all about Parkinson's disease." [Online]. http://www.parkinsonsinfo.com/about-parkinsons/brain.html

UTEXAS.edu (11/05/2000). "A Sample Neurotransmitter" [Online]. http://www.utexas.edu/research/asrec/dopamine.html