If there is one neurotransmitter that has captured the world’s imagination, culture and lifestyle more than any other, it is dopamine. Dopamine’s positive roles include making us work for rewards or a sense of accomplishment, as well as making us happy and elated when we complete tasks or achieve milestones. It is also deeply connected with our experience of any kind of pleasure. As such, dopamine is often called the happiness hormone.
However, dopamine is a double edged sword, as pursuing pleasure without work or efforts also drives its generation. This can lead to a lifestyle and even a culture of instant gratification and addictive habits, that have influenced the way we work, procrastinate or even pursue toxic behaviours to self and others. This in turn has led to theories, strategies and books with titles like dopamine nation, dopamine detox and anti-dopamine parenting.
Over the past several decades, researchers have also been intrigued with dopamine’s role in Parkinson’s disease, a common neurodegenerative lifestyle disease that leads to tremors, slow movement or difficulty in moving, and loss of all serious productivity. Parkinson’s, once developed, is a progressive disease with no effective treatment other than medicines and strategies to slow its progress, and often results in premature death.
Parkinson’s disease has been directly linked to the loss of dopamine neurons in the brain and the central nervous system, and this has led to the use of dopamine and dopamine-precursors as the principal medicines in treating Parkinson’s . Dopamine neurons are those neurons that generate dopamine on anticipating or encountering rewards, their main stimuli. But how the loss of such primarily reward-linked neurons was causing what is essentially an impaired motor response was a mystery for scientists.
Now, a new study into this riddle, led by researchers at Northwestern University in the US, has made some surprising discoveries that will help people to fine tune their dopamine production as well as prevent dopamine-linked diseases like Parkinson’s from developing. Published recently in the noted journal ‘Nature Neuroscience’, the study’s primary finding is that around 30% of dopamine neurons in the brain aren’t fired by rewards at all, but only by movement.
Interestingly, these movement-linked dopamine neurons are predominantly found in a specific area of the midbrain, which is the same area where Parkinson’s-linked neuron loss was found. And even more interestingly, using sophisticated tracking methods, it was found that these neurons generated dopamine only to a specific type of movement, that is, acceleration.
From an exercise angle, acceleration is achieved whenever we start moving from any static state like lying down, sitting or standing, as well as whenever we speed up our movement like when we walk or run faster, or do our repetitions faster. This readily translates to taking frequent breaks from sedentary behaviour in the first case, and switching to moderate to intense activity level sometimes when we are exercising, like it is seen in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
In contrast, the study also found that there are a set of dopamine neurons that are correlated with deceleration or slowing down, and that these neurons are the ones mainly surviving in Parkinson’s disease. This has made the researchers suspect that the relative predominance of these deceleration linked neurons is the primary driver of Parkinson’s.
This study presents some never before opportunities for personalised prevention of Parkinson’s disease. A genetic test like EPLIMO can detect hard-coded risks in the genes for developing Parkinson’s in a person, years or decades before it actually develops. EPLIMO can then suggest lifestyle modifications specifically designed to keep Parkinson’s at bay.
Now, such personalised lifestyle modifications can include acceleration strategies like taking frequent breaks from sedentary state, as well as moderate to intense aerobics like speed walking or running, or even HIIT. EPLIMO can also deliver personalised changes spanning diet, nutrition, supplements, yoga, meditation, breathwork etc that are research validated to ward off Parkinson’s.
What is more, EPLIMO can not only detect and keep Parkinson’s at bay, but do the same for 250+ lifestyle diseases in one test. It works by geno-metabolic assessment and epigenetic lifestyle changes that can override even genetic and metabolic susceptibilities for developing these hundreds of lifestyle diseases.
Virtual lifestyle modification communities like Limoverse can also help in this regard, as it has powerful motivational programs like HealthFi that rewards users with crypto tokens into their wallets for undertaking regular indoor and outdoor exercises that help in battling Parkinson’s and hundreds of such common and rare lifestyle diseases.