“Serotonin” (5-HT) is more than just a buzzword tossed around by Gen Z and Millennials when something benign boosts their mood.
The beloved hormone has an array of functions throughout the body, with seven types of receptors nestled in your brain and peripheral organs. Each of these receptors has subtypes with labels A through D, as well.
But there’s one serotonin receptor that’s often shrouded in mystery and intrigue — the 5-HT2A receptor. This is the serotonin receptor infamous for its role in the psychedelic experience.
But there’s hardly any discussion of its functions beyond its role in tripping your face off and how that’s tied to your mental health.
As sunflowers put on a show for us this month, it’s also important to pay homage to another black and yellow marvel of nature: bees.
September is National Honey Month, a time in which we honor the byproduct of the five-eyed, six-legged, insects that have soared through our skies at 20mph for the last 30 million years.
Bee pollination adds approximately 14 billion dollars to improved crop yield and quality annually in the United States, according to NASA. And while we all know the “BEES ARE DYING,” which will inevitably wreak havoc on agricultural output, did you know that honey may have played a critical role in human evolution?
Ah, neuroscience, the study of the squishy, slimy, three-pound computer that rests between our ears. Although the brain is the most complex organ in the body (or as a Trends in Cognitive Sciences Journal review aptly put it, “one of the most complex multicellular structures in biology”), neuroscience itself is only a mere 55 years old.
That’s right — the study of the brain, this omnipotent, protein and fat blob of soft tissue, is probably much younger than your grandparents.
Pulling all-nighters to finish your homework, finals, work presentations. We’ve all been there – and we’re usually not alone during these late-night escapades. You’re probably accompanied by a good ol’ cup of coffee. Or perhaps some tea, a soda, an energy drink. Pick your poison.
After all, there’s nothing quite like a caffeine buzz. It’s notorious for getting you through long nights, Monday mornings, and hangovers.
But there’s a point at which too much caffeine begins having a paradoxical effect. Rather than a surge of productivity coursing through veins as you down yet another cup of coffee, research shows it may actually decrease your productivity.
Our bodies are essentially an apartment complex for 100 trillion micro bacteria that have found a home within our intestines.
Before you start writing up an eviction notice, it’s worth noting just how much we – and every other organism with a digestive system – depend on gut microbiota.
Recent research shows gut microbiota influence our mood, behavior, and neurodevelopment. While it may seem these microscopic critters run our lives, the gut microbiome is largely influenced by environmental factors including diet, stress, geography, and age, among others.
Instead of accusing your gut microbiota of being bad tenants, ask yourself: “Have I been a good landlord? What are they trying to tell me?”
Social distancing has stripped us of our face-to-face interactions and recreational forms of cultural enrichment. As we’re all adjusting to the new norm, we’ve had to find alternative sources to fill this void of extracurricular education.
In lieu of visiting a museum, you may be scrolling through photos of the last time you visited the Renwick Gallery or Philadelphia Museum of Art, wishing their were a more hands-on way to relive the experiences.
Consider your wish granted. Cuseum has recently announced the release of their augmented reality technology that allows users to engage with famous artwork and virtually display it in their own humble abode.
It only takes a few milligrams of a naturally occurring compound – or even a just few micrograms on a sliver of paper – to open your mind to a vibrant swirl of creativity and long-lasting personality changes.
While psychedelics have shown efficacy in treating various mental health conditions including anxiety, treatment-resistant depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, they also carry the potential to help researchers further understand the interplay between various brain networks, says a 2018 Medical Hypothesis study.
By now, it’s no secret the brain and gut are in constant communication – and yet, there’s still an air of mystery shrowding the gut-brain axis.
So far, we know serotonin is central to gut-brain signaling. In fact, 90 percent of serotonin is synthesized in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, according to a 2016 Nutrients journal review.
Psychedelics, including psilocybin (a.k.a ‘shrooms’), LSD (a.k.a. ‘acid’), and DMT are serotonergic drugs that bind to the 5-HT2A receptor, says a 2018 World Psychiatric article. This is central to triggering the “psychedelic experience.”
Although research on psychedelics in mood, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders has been and currently is being heavily investigated, with a particular focus on serotonin, the impact of psychedelics on gut health remains largely untapped and under-researched.
Using neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy as her compass, Annaka Harris guides the reader through the mystery of consciousness in “Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind.”
Keeping the journey short, sweet, and digestible, Harris manages to present the big question in just a little over 100 pages – an impressive feat, considering the debate has spanned over multiple centuries.