Have you ever wondered what makes you happy? Is it power? Money? Getting A from Biol 312? Or like most other things, is it something in your head? According to a group of UCLA scientists, the main key to your happiness is a neurotransmitter called hypocretin. The release of hypocretin increased when the subjects were happy. Its release decreased when the subjects were sad.
This finding can be used for both depression and the study of narcolepsy because depression and the sleep disorder often happen together. The study, from last week’s Nature Communications, looked at the release of two peptides in the brain: melanin-concentrating hormone, or MCH, and hypocretin. Hypocretin levels increased when we were waking up, while MCH levels increased during sleep.
To investigate the relationship between hypocretin, depression and narcolepsy, the researchers followed eight epileptic Ronald Reagan Hospital patients whose brains were already being monitored by implanted electrodes. They measured the release of hypocretin and MCH while they watched television, engaged in social interactions such as talking to physicians, nursing staff or family, ate, and experienced sleep-wake transitions. The patients rated their moods every hour in a questionnaire.
The researchers found that hypocretin levels were not linked to arousal in general. Yet, they were highest during positive emotions, anger, social interactions and awakening. Also, the levels remained much lower during pain or sleep. In contrast, MCH levels were highest when they were falling asleep or just after eating, and lowest when they were experiencing pain or interacting socially.
Some drug companies are developing the usage of hypocretin antagonists in sleeping pills, but this study suggests that that would alter people’s mood as well. Along with previous research, the results “suggest that hypocretin administration will elevate both mood and alertness in humans,” according to senior author Jerome Siegel, a UCLA psychiatry professor who studies sleep.
Posted by Setareh Sepasi (3)