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September 22, 2003
The Chemical Architecture of the Mind
by Tom Ray
Understanding the chemistry of the brain and the mind that emerges from it is one of the remaining great frontiers of science. Developing a fundamental understanding of the chemistry of the mind will provide us with a deeper understanding of ourselves and a theoretical basis for a more rational system for treating mental disorders. Without an *understanding* of the chemistry of the mind, pharmacology remains a trial-and-error "science".
The brain is a chemical organ and our mental states are dramatically altered by chemical shifts. Chemical shifts can be caused by drugs but they also occur naturally. Moods and emotions are likely to have chemical foundations, and even without the influences of drugs, much of our mental life is a chemical dance. Features of the human personality, such as the spectrum between timidity and social confidence, can be influenced by chemistry. A wide variety of serious mental disorders, from depression to schizophrenia, have yielded to effective chemical treatments, suggesting that chemical imbalances may underlie some of these disorders.
Different disorders (see DSM-IV, 2000) yield to different chemical treatments, indicating that each disorder is associated with a specific chemical imbalance. Yet there is currently no rational way to predict which antidepressant is more likely to work than another in a depressed patient or which antipsychotic will work in a specific schizophrenic patient. Furthermore, no single abnormality in any neurotransmitter or in any of its enzymes or receptors has been shown to cause any common psychiatric disorder. It is currently believed that the major mental disorders are the result of an accumulation of factors that together cause the disorder.
| Category: Neuropharma
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