Friday, March 29, 2013
More than 10 years ago, a study regarding narcolepsy not only found that irresistible sleepiness is caused by a loss of brain cells that produce hypocretin, it also found that narcoleptics have very high rates of depression (up to six times the rate of the general population) and the tendency to collapse when overcome with emotion.
Hypocretin is a neurotransmitter that promotes wakefulness. Research showed that hypocretin appears to govern emotion, particularly that of joy and happiness. In addition the study suggested the brain has different arousal systems, one of which driven by hypocretin that functions to keep one awake to experience pleasure.
Dr. Jerome Siegel of the V.A. Greater Los Angeles Healthcare system, the study leader and a psychiatry professor at U.C.L.A, explained that during various animal studies regarding the neurotransmitter, this finding was also true.
"This shows that hypocretin is related to a particular kind of arousal,” Dr. Siegel said. “There is an arousal system in the brain whose function is keeping you awake for pleasure, to get rewards. It is related to positive affect, and in its absence you have a deficit in pleasure seeking. "
For more on the study, visit NYTimes.com’s Well Blog.
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