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Irregular Neurotransmitter
November 2002

Q. If a person has an irregular level of neurotransmitters, can that person give off the appearance of being intoxicated? Is this one of the symptoms of a chemical imbalance?

A. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that allow the various parts of the brain to communicate with each other. Over 100 such compounds have been identified and there are likely many more. An analogy would be the many ways you could convey information to a friend who is in another city. Our understanding of all these chemicals is still very limited.

We know, for example, that there is a deficiency of dopamine production in Parkinson's disease and that a particular part of the brain is affected. We do not have easy ways to measure these chemicals, in contrast to our ability to measure blood sugar, cholesterol, hemoglobin, and many other substances which can be accurately measured.

Hopefully our ability in this area will improve through research so that many mental health diseases such as schizophrenia and depression can be better understood when the chemical and biological nature is clearer. New treatment possibilities will come from such understanding. So the term chemical imbalance is a concept but cannot be clearly defined at present.



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