BRAIN REBOOT - Chapter 3

Here is an overview of the hormones in your brain. Get a copy of my book to learn how you can DOSE them into a positive state for improved performance and wellbeing.




At this point we need to get a bit technical with some basic neurobiology to explain the classification of the different neurotransmitters and hormones. To keep it as simple as possible: neurotransmitters are either excitatory or inhibitory. Our excitatoryneurotransmitters are responsible for stimulatory processes in the brain that give us drive and energy. Inhibitory neurotransmitters have the opposite effect; they calm us and attempt to balance the overfiring neurotransmitters that trigger us into action during acute stress.


The key inhibitory neurotransmitters are serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is inhibitory as it soothes the brain and is required to stabilize our moods. Sugar causes a depletion of serotonin as it also regulates carbohydrate cravings and the natural sleep cycle. If serotonin gets too low, it lowers the immune system.


Dopamine is a very curious neurotransmitter as it is both excitatory and inhibitory. Dopamine helps to combat depression and improves our focus. When dopamine is low, our memory is poor: forgetting where we put our phone, for example, or not being able to stay focused when studying. Dopamine is responsible for our energy and drive to get things done. It is key in motivation.


Epinephrine is an excitatory neurotransmitter that responds to stress. Epinephrine is called norepinephrine when it is released in the brain and called adrenaline when released by the adrenal glands. The adrenaline rush one gets when skydiving or bungee jumping or doing anything else exciting releases epinephrine. This hormone increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which will send blood to your muscles and release glucose for a quick energy boost. Epinephrine is the excitatory neurotransmitter that prepares us to fight or flee in response to stress.


Norepinephrine is also an excitatory neurotransmitter that engages the fight or flight response and results in adrenaline and epinephrine being released. Norepinephrine gets the brain ready for action, pumping its highest levels during stress or danger. In the brain, norepinephrine increases alertness and enhances formation of memory and anxiety. Norepinephrine is similar to epinephrine. A key difference is that norepinephrine is not only a hormone produced in the adrenal gland, it is also a neurotransmitter in the sympathetic nervous system.


Neurotransmitter levels are often depleted and over 80 percent of people function at suboptimal levels caused by stress, genetic predisposition, nutrition, drugs (prescription), alcohol, and too much coffee.


Neurotransmitters are electrical. Hormones are chemical processes; not as quick acting but longer lasting than electrical impulses. A hormone is a class of molecules produced by various organs to help us maintain a state of homeostasis by regulating our neurophysiology and behavior. The term hormone is sometimes extended to include chemicals produced by cells that affect our physiology. Hormones control physiological regulation and behavioral activities such as respiration, sleep, digestion, stress, growth, development, and mood.

The rate of hormone synthesis or production is regulated by a feedback loop in the brain called “the homeostatic negative feedback control mechanism.” A high concentration of hormones won’t trigger the negative feedback mechanism; rather, it is triggered by overproduction of an “effect” of the hormone.


To keep this feedback loop as simple as possible, hormone secretion can be stimulated and inhibited by other hormones, neurons, and our psychological or physical activity. One special group of hormones is cortisol, which is produced in the adrenal glands. It is released in response to stress and low blood glucose levels. Cortisol increases under chronic stress, while serotonin and dopamine increase following relaxation such as massage therapy. Cortisol is produced in response to the overproduction of norepinephrine in order to return the body to homeostasis. It also results in fatty deposits around the waistline.

Another hormone worth mentioning is oxytocin. It is often called the love hormone, the hug hormone, the cuddle chemical, or the moral molecule because of its effects on social behavior and its role in human bonding.


Oxytocin is formed in the hypothalamus. It functions as a hormone and a neurotransmitter, but for true love it needs to be lasting and, therefore, hormonal rather than electric (note: if you find the neuroscience interesting, please see the Glossary of Terms to look up a DOSEof hormones and other details about the brain’s geography and climatography).

Many of my senior executive clients explain how lonely and disconnected they feel. Not that any of them wants or needs to hug it out at work, but they do need to feel valued and connected with their colleagues. Social neuroscience researcher Jamil Zaki at Stanford quotes Kurt Vonnegut here: “If you describe a landscape, or a seascape, or a cityscape, always be sure to include a human figure somewhere in the scene. Why? Because we are human beings, mostly interested in human beings.” Even more so, we try to read their emotion to see if they are friend or foe. Humans are mainly interested in others. We are especially interested in the thoughts of others. This preoccupation is a good thing, because it allows us to accomplish some of life’s central tasks: understanding, communicating, and connecting with others. In his social neuroscience lab at Stanford University, Jamil Zaki and his team use various neuroimaging techniques and behavioral testing to examine the cognitive bases of our social behavior default. I am especially interested in their publications on social norms that can be generalized to empathy in the workplace, the role of top-down modulation of the ventral visual system during social cognition, and the impact of oxytocin on our behavior. In simple terms, being nice on purpose reduces stress and weight and improves cognitive functions, especially in relation to the behavioral choices we make.t this point we need to get a bit technical with some basic neurobiology to explain the classification of the different neurotransmitters and hormones. To keep it as simple as possible: neurotransmitters are either excitatory or inhibitory. Our excitatoryneurotransmitters are responsible for stimulatory processes in the brain that give us drive and energy. Inhibitory neurotransmitters have the opposite effect; they calm us and attempt to balance the overfiring neurotransmitters that trigger us into action during acute stress.

The key inhibitory neurotransmitters are serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is inhibitory as it soothes the brain and is required to stabilize our moods. Sugar causes a depletion of serotonin as it also regulates carbohydrate cravings and the natural sleep cycle. If serotonin gets too low, it lowers the immune system.


Dopamine is a very curious neurotransmitter as it is both excitatory and inhibitory. Dopamine helps to combat depression and improves our focus. When dopamine is low, our memory is poor: forgetting where we put our phone, for example, or not being able to stay focused when studying. Dopamine is responsible for our energy and drive to get things done. It is key in motivation.


Epinephrine is an excitatory neurotransmitter that responds to stress. Epinephrine is called norepinephrine when it is released in the brain and called adrenaline when released by the adrenal glands. The adrenaline rush one gets when skydiving or bungee jumping or doing anything else exciting releases epinephrine. This hormone increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which will send blood to your muscles and release glucose for a quick energy boost. Epinephrine is the excitatory neurotransmitter that prepares us to fight or flee in response to stress.


Norepinephrine is also an excitatory neurotransmitter that engages the fight or flight response and results in adrenaline and epinephrine being released. Norepinephrine gets the brain ready for action, pumping its highest levels during stress or danger. In the brain, norepinephrine increases alertness and enhances formation of memory and anxiety. Norepinephrine is similar to epinephrine. A key difference is that norepinephrine is not only a hormone produced in the adrenal gland, it is also a neurotransmitter in the sympathetic nervous system.

Neurotransmitter levels are often depleted and over 80 percent of people function at suboptimal levels caused by stress, genetic predisposition, nutrition, drugs (prescription), alcohol, and too much coffee.


Neurotransmitters are electrical. Hormones are chemical processes; not as quick acting but longer lasting than electrical impulses. A hormone is a class of molecules produced by various organs to help us maintain a state of homeostasis by regulating our neurophysiology and behavior. The term hormone is sometimes extended to include chemicals produced by cells that affect our physiology. Hormones control physiological regulation and behavioral activities such as respiration, sleep, digestion, stress, growth, development, and mood.

The rate of hormone synthesis or production is regulated by a feedback loop in the brain called “the homeostatic negative feedback control mechanism.” A high concentration of hormones won’t trigger the negative feedback mechanism; rather, it is triggered by overproduction of an “effect” of the hormone.


To keep this feedback loop as simple as possible, hormone secretion can be stimulated and inhibited by other hormones, neurons, and our psychological or physical activity. One special group of hormones is cortisol, which is produced in the adrenal glands. It is released in response to stress and low blood glucose levels. Cortisol increases under chronic stress, while serotonin and dopamine increase following relaxation such as massage therapy. Cortisol is produced in response to the overproduction of norepinephrine in order to return the body to homeostasis. It also results in fatty deposits around the waistline.

Another hormone worth mentioning is oxytocin. It is often called the love hormone, the hug hormone, the cuddle chemical, or the moral molecule because of its effects on social behavior and its role in human bonding.


Oxytocin is formed in the hypothalamus. It functions as a hormone and a neurotransmitter, but for true love it needs to be lasting and, therefore, hormonal rather than electric (note: if you find the neuroscience interesting, please see the Glossary of Terms to look up a DOSEof hormones and other details about the brain’s geography and climatography).


Many of my senior executive clients explain how lonely and disconnected they feel. Not that any of them wants or needs to hug it out at work, but they do need to feel valued and connected with their colleagues. Social neuroscience researcher Jamil Zaki at Stanford quotes Kurt Vonnegut here: “If you describe a landscape, or a seascape, or a cityscape, always be sure to include a human figure somewhere in the scene. Why? Because we are human beings, mostly interested in human beings.” Even more so, we try to read their emotion to see if they are friend or foe. Humans are mainly interested in others. We are especially interested in the thoughts of others. This preoccupation is a good thing, because it allows us to accomplish some of life’s central tasks: understanding, communicating, and connecting with others. In his social neuroscience lab at Stanford University, Jamil Zaki and his team use various neuroimaging techniques and behavioral testing to examine the cognitive bases of our social behavior default. I am especially interested in their publications on social norms that can be generalized to empathy in the workplace, the role of top-down modulation of the ventral visual system during social cognition, and the impact of oxytocin on our behavior. In simple terms, being nice on purpose reduces stress and weight and improves cognitive functions, especially in relation to the behavioral choices we make.


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