Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal
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Ask the expert
Development and process

How many neurotransmitters have been identified to date and have we covered them all?

Simply put, neurotrasmitters are chemicals in the brain that send signals between brain cells. Too much or too little of certain neurotransmitters has been hypothesized to be responsible, at least in part, for certain mental illnesses. In the case of these illnesses, the brain has a problem with the reuptake of these neurotransmitters. For example, dopamine is a neurotransmitter whose levels are said to be too high in schizophrenic patients, whereas serotonin is said to be low in depressed patients.

It is difficult to state whether they have all been discovered. In 1936, a very famous neuroscientist by the name of Henry Dale published a paper saying that, in his view, we only needed two neurotransmitters: one to turn the brain on and one to turn the brain off. We’re up to 35 now, which shows that it’s a little bit more complicated than that. And one of those 35, it turns out, is not a liquid, but it’s a gas. So we have gas in our brain.
-Ridha Joober, MD, PhD, Mini-Psych School 2009

Is there a certain time during foetal development that can be associated with dopamine inbalance?

Many researchers at the Douglas are working on this topic. Brain insults very early on and during development affect the dopamine system. We know, for example, if we stress pregnant rats, the pups born from the stressed mothers will have higher levels of dopamine when they grow into adults. There is evidence that the dopamine system is very sensitive to brain stress during development.
-Ridha Joober, MD, PhD, Mini-Psych School 2006

What is your definition of total recovery?

I would say that I have recovered well enough to stand before you and talk to you today. Total recovery would be someone who is 100 percent happy; however, total recovery is hard to achieve. I think recovery includes getting to a point where you are able to enjoy life, enjoy your day, look forward to new challenges, have a strong sense of yourself and a feeling of empowerment, feel like you are able to do things and not be defeated by the negativity around you, be able to take control of your life, and accomplish what you want to accomplish no matter where you’ve been in your past, even if you’ve experienced a great amount of marginalization. If you get beyond that and have a sense of empowerment, I would say you are well on your way to recovery.
-Janina Komaroff, Research Assistant, Douglas Institute, Mini-Psych School 2012

Is it true that a genetic disease isn’t automatically hereditary?

Absolutely. It could be that your father and mother transmitted genes that are normal, but something happened during the early stages of development that causes a chromosome to mutate or become damaged. However, in most cases, the genetic mutation is transmitted from the parents. Spontaneous genetic events are extremely rare.
- Ridha Joober, MD, PhD, Mini-Psych School 2012

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