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Fibromyalgia and Neurotransmission

Neurotransmission is the method by which nerves “speak” to each other so impulses can be sent from one part of your body to the brain and back. For example, when you touch a hot plate by accident, it doesn’t take long before you quickly let go of the plate. The reason you let go quickly is because of neurotransmission. Certain types of neurons or nerves (called afferents) bring information to the central nervous system where the information is processed and then signals are transferred back to the target site (such as your hand touching the hot plate) by different nerves (called efferents) telling you to immediately let go of that hot object.

It’s like the flow of traffic into a city during rush hour. People work all day and then drive in the opposite direction on their way home (afferents in the morning going in the city or “brain” and efferents in the evening bringing new information home). This “give and take” process of information coming in, being processed and going out helps coordinate our bodily functions. This allows us to constantly adapt to surrounding changes in temperature, stress, noise, and so on.

Each neuron has as many as 1500 connections from other neurons, but they don’t actually touch one another. Rather, there are “synapses” where nerve impulses stimulate the release of calcium and neurotransmitters, which either inhibit or excite another neuron and each neuron may be connected to many other neurons. If the total excitatory stimuli are greater than the inhibitory stimuli, that neuron will “fire” and create a new connection resulting in an action (like dropping the hot plate).

Okay, sorry for the enthusiastic description and details of neurotransmission. More importantly, how does all this relate to fibromyalgia? A new study (published May 14, 2012 in NATURE by scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College) discovered that a single protein (alpha 2 delta), “…exerts a spigot-like function controlling the volume of neurotransmitters and other chemicals that flow between the synapses of brain neurons.” This study shows how brain cells “talk to each other” through these synapses relaying feelings, thoughts, and actions and how this powerful protein plays a crucial role in regulating effective communication in the brain. They found that if they added or decreased this single protein (alpha 2 delta), then the speed of neurotransmission increased or decreased by opening or closing the calcium channels that trigger neurotransmission release.

The relationship between calcium and neurotransmission has been known for 50 years, but how to “turn on or off” the volume is a new discovery. They hope this finding will help in the design of new medications that will help regulate the neurotransmission in the brain, thus help reduce the increased pain perception found in people suffering from fibromyalgia.

Our aim in sharing this information with you is to keep you informed with what is on the cutting edge of research as we’ve said many times before, a “team” of health care provision is the BEST way to manage FM including chiropractic and primary care!