“The brain is a tissue. It is a complicated, intricately woven tissue, like nothing else we know of in the universe, but it is composed of cells, as any tissue is. They are, to be sure, highly specialized cells, but they function according to the laws that govern any other cells. Their electrical and chemical signals can be detected, recorded and interpreted and their chemicals can be identified; the connections that constitute the brain’s woven feltwork can be mapped. In short, the brain can be studied, just as the kidney can.”—
Research evidence supports the notion that dopaminergic neurotransmission plays a role in creative thought and behavior. A group of researchers in Sweden investigated the relationship between creativity, as indexed by divergent thinking (the ability to generate many novel ideas by exploring a multitude of options), and dopamine receptor expression in the brain because divergent thinking is known to be influenced by dopaminergic neurotransmission and function.
Even in healthy individuals, many creativity-related measures including divergent thinking have been associated with pathological personality traits like psychoticism, schizotypy, as well as a liability for the schizophrenia spectrum and bipolar disorders. Interestingly enough, the networks relevant to divergent thinking overlap to a great extent with regions and networks affected in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, both of which are known to be influenced by dopaminergic neurotransmission and activity of the D2 receptor. Moreover, aberrations dopaminergic function in brain regions like the thalamus and the striatum have been associated to these psychopathologies and genetic liabilities.
So… Keeping all of this in mind, this research team correlated scores of multiple divergent thinking tests with regional D2 receptor densities (thalamus) and found a negative correlation. Thus, a higher score in “creative thinking” was associated to lower D2 density in the thalamus. The authors suggest that alterations in the D2 system, along with thalamic function, may provide a link between creativity and psychopathology. They end with postulating that: “decreased D2 receptor densities in the thalamus lower thalamic gating thresholds, thus increasing thalamocortical information flow.”
I was wondering about the brain rejuvenation thing you were talking about earlier... My psychiatrist was telling me about how my Cymbalta has something in it the he calls 'miracle grow'. He basically said it will rebuild parts of my brain that have been... deflated. It that the same idea?
Like fluoxetine, the active ingredient in Prozac, Cymbalta (active ingredient is duloxetine) is also a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRI’s are tricky because apart of their common use as antidepressants, they have other functions and side effects. For example, scientists have found that chronic duloxetine treatment normalizes BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in rats that have dysregulated serotonergic systems and neurotrophins (BDNF falls under this category). BDNF is implicated in numerous neural processes including the support for survival of existing neurons, encouragement of neuronal growth. Particularly, BDNF is present in brain areas (hippocampus, cerebral cortex, forebrain) associated with cognitive processes like learning, memory (mostly long-term) and higher thinking.
Your doctor may call it “miracle grow” for simplicity, but this is somewhat inaccurate. Treatment with Cymbalta will not rebuild parts of your brain, but it will help normalize protein/neurotrophin levels in target areas of the brain.
Also, I have to mention that the brain rejuvenation studies have been conducted in rodent animal models in very specific areas of the brain (ex. hippocampus). Even though these are exciting results, they have to be treated carefully because it may not occur the same way or to the same extent in humans.
What's the most astonishing truth you know about neuro-plasticity of the brain ? And why?
I tend to stay away from extremes, but one of the most impressive/amazing things I’ve learned recently is that apparently, so-called critical or sensitive periods in development (that were previously thought of as fixed and unchanging) can be reinstated via administration of various pharmacological agents. Also, that in some of these procedures, neurons actually look like they are regressing to a pre-mature state (they rejuvenate). Think about it, it could change the way we think about development.
Ex. The critical period for visual development and plasticity can be restored by administration of the serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluoxetine.