Endorphins perform several functions, but their best-known one is acting as a painkiller and a reward, causing a feeling of euphoria. Endorphins lock onto cells called opioid receptors, blocking the transmission of pain signals. Everyone has different triggers for endorphins, but common stimuli are pain, food and sex.
John A. Popp, MD
Location and Office HoursStanford Medical Center
Stanford, CA 94305
- BlueCross BlueShield of Massachusetts
- Brigham & Women's Hospital
- What do endorphins do?
What is dopamine?
Kathleen Hall, Preventive Medicine, answeredThe brain produces a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine affects your brain processes that control movement of your body, emotional response, and your ability to experience pain and pleasure. Dopamine also plays an essential role in your mental and physical health. Dopamine works by attaching itself to specific proteins called receptors, and the binding of dopamine molecule with a receptor initiates a cascade of biochemical events inside the cell. It helps in the effective transmission of messages from one nerve cell to the next. It helps one cell talk to the next. Individuals with Parkinson's disease have decreased amounts of dopamine in two structures deep in the brain, the basal ganglia and substantia nigra. This becomes important as dopamine coordinates our movements, both balance and walking.
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How can the deep brain stimulation electrode help?
Because Parkinson's disease disrupts the electrical flow of brain activity throughout the basal ganglia, implanting a deep brain stimulation (DBS) electrode can allow electrical pulses to be delivered that counteract the abnormal brain activity. The alteration achieved by the DBS implant can decrease disease symptoms.
The electrode does its work by targeting one of several structures in the basal ganglia.
For Parkinson's disease, the target is most commonly the subthalamic nucleus (STN).
When a deep brain stimulation electrode is implanted in the STN, it sends out pulses of electricity, which modifies its behavior. By changing the behavior of the STN, the electrode ultimately alters all of the brain activity normally affected by the STN. As a result, the DBS electrode is very influential because the STN is one of several structures that all work together in the basal ganglia.
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