The Cholinergic System

The cholinergic system is the network of acetylcholine receptors clustered within certain brain regions which the activation of or inhibition of in total affects most of our actions.

More specifically negatively effecting the cholinergic system might cause symptoms of “dry mouth, tachycardia or bradycardia, drowsiness, sedation, and short-term memory loss,” – all potential symptoms that may occur with varying doses of THC, the euphoria causing cannabinoid found in marijuana. (1) Tachycardia is a very rapid heart rate and bradycardia is a very slow rate. Olanzapine, one of the anti-cholinergic medications mentioned in the last post, causes cannabinoid receptors in the prefrontal cortex to be overactive which would cause a similar effect to that of taking a large dose of THC – a cannabinoid that activates cannabinoid receptors in the prefrontal cortex.

What else does the cholinergic system do?

Acetylcholine has been found to have a large role in memory consolidation – forming memories. Low levels can cause memories to be retrieved (possibly significant in Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI, 3) and high levels facilitate the formation of new memories. Low acetylcholine levels might cause symptoms of perseveration, continuing an action repetitively, not being able to stop an action at the typical time. Damage to the medial septum/vertical limb of the diagonal band (MS/VDB) portion of the cholinergic nerve pathways might also cause perseverative behavior. (2)

Acetylcholine levels are involved in the processing of information for considering uncertainty, possibly for helping with decision making.. The new sensory information is compared to past memories, comparing incoming sensory data to stored memory data , (2) for the purpose of identifying danger or dinner – is the shape seen in the distance more like a tiger to run away from or a gazelle to pursue?

Movement involves a couple neurotransmitters for different aspects of an action. The ability to move requires acetylcholine and the motivation to move involves dopamine. (4) Dopamine is known as the reward neurotransmitter while acetylcholine is more of an action one. Should I start running towards the distant figure or away? Is it a dopamine rewarding delicious dinner of gazelle or a fear inducing tiger? Creeping slowly close enough to be able to tell without startling a gazelle or alerting a tiger would be a dopamine motivated and courageous action to take, acetylecholine would be involved in the decision to take the risk and move closer. Noradrenaline, another neurotransmitter, might also be involved in a decision involving the tradeoff between danger and reward. The neurotransmitters work as a team, see the excerpt included later. (2)

The ability to decide to move closer and to do so would be negatively effected by problems with acetylcholine, noradrenaline, or with dopamine.

What does the Dopaminergic System do? – Parkinson’s Disease & Dopamine.

Parkinson’s Disease is a degenerative disease that may involve epigentic changes in DNA, (4) – some are turned on or off with the removal or addition of methyl groups along the length of the DNA molecule.

  • Methyl groups are small, an oxygen and a hydrogen atom, and might also be thought of as a key blocking a door lock so that no other keys can be used to open the door- to activate the DNA for replication into RNA and protein molecules.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease include muscle tremors and difficulty controlling or initiating movements. Walking can be slow and jerky, and hand writing very shaky. The primary degeneration within the brain involves an area that produces dopamine which may then activate dopamine receptors elsewhere in the brain along a dopaminergic network. (2) As the cells that would typically produce dopamine are damaged the body becomes less able to send the dopaminergic nerve signals that would motivate motion. The ‘fight/flight/freeze’ fear response may also be involved, becoming overactive with chronic stress and eventually leaving the body in the ‘freeze’ response. (4)

The problem from having the fight/flight/freeze response in a chronic state of ‘on’ is that it shifts the body into more inflammatory chemical pathways and turns off more restorative toxin removal and growth chemical pathways. One theory about a cause of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) suggests this overactive fear response and resulting underactive detoxification pathways leaves the body with too much of a toxic waste product from dopamine breakdown called dopal, an aldehyde. (4)

PD may result from protective negative feedback loops – the body purposely inhibiting the dopamine producing cells in the brain involved in Parkinson’s Disease in order to stop the increased levels of dopal – or the increasing levels of dopal build up most in the dopamine producing cells and cause their damage or death sooner than in other cells throughout the rest of the body. (4)

Current treatments for Parkinson’s Disease are focused on increasing dopamine levels rather than trying to break down levels of dopal – which may be worsening the degenerative problem overall. (Eckert, thesis 2012, 4) Pesticides may also be a causative factor in PD by causing malfunction of the enzyme (aldehyde dehydrogenase , ALDH) that in normal health would quickly breakdown the toxic dopal aldehyde into less toxic metabolites of the chemical. Some people with Parkinson’s Disease may have a genetic difference making them unable to make a functional form of the enzyme ALDH, so their levels of the aldehyde dopal would be chronically elevated. (4)

Patients with Parkinson’s Disease also tend to have gastrointestinal symptoms and dopamine is also produced in the GI tract. Food sensitivities to other aldehydes can also be common for patients with PD. Perfumes and other chemical scents also contain aldehydes and may also increase symptoms of pain, muscle rigidity, and brain fog (a non-scientific term for cognitive symptoms where thinking may feel fuzzy or clouded compared to normal – I would make a decision if I could get the thought from here to there through this feeling that I’m swimming through molasses, but that seems too exhausting, I will just rest here treading molasses instead). (4)

Brain fog is also a common complaint for people with chronic Candida yeast infections which can be in the GI tract or elsewhere in or on the body. Chronic yeast growth may be involved in risk for Parkinson’s Disease as they generate aldehydes during their growth or decomposition an use up nutrients that the human would need to detoxify aldehydes. (4)

The methylated active form of the B vitamin Folate is needed for detoxification of aldehydes. Someone with a genetic variation that prevents normal methylation could have increased risk for degenerative diseases that involve epigenetic changes which require methyl groups to be added or removed from DNA; and/or be at increased risk for degenerative changes caused by toxin buildup. Folic acid is an unmethylated, not bioactive, form of folate that is used in most supplements and fortified foods instead of folate, the form that would be found naturally occurring in folate rich foods such as beans, peas, and asparagus.

Formaldehyde is a neurotoxin found in smog or smoke and in the diet as a metabolite, produced during aging of the product or during digestion.

Formaldehyde is an aldehyde that is a known toxin. It is a common environmental pollutant in smog or smoke, either from a fire, candle flame, or cigarette. Formaldehye also is released during offgassing of volatile chemicals from vinyl plastic products – i.e. ‘new car smell.’ And it can be found in foods. Formaldehyde is produced chemically during the break down of some food products as they age. Older packages of shelf stable juice can contain a significant amount of formaldehyde. It is also created during the breakdown of the artificial sweeteners called aspartame and Neotame. Aspartame (brand names include Nutrasweet TM or Equal TM) is required to be listed on food labels while Neotame, slightly more concentrated form, is not required to be listed on processed food labels, whether ‘conventional’ or ‘organic’. See a previous post for more guidance about avoiding formaldehyde: Formaldehyde: Heath Risks, Environmental and Dietary Sources, (effectiveselfcare.info).

Returning to the cholinergic system – part of the neurotoxic effects of formaldehyde is due to it having an inhibitory effect on acetylcholine activity. Increased formaldehyde levels leads to an increase in levels of the enzyme that breaksdown acetylcholine, resulting in less of the neurotransmitter being available for stimulating the acetylcholine receptors of nerve cells. (5)

Neurotransmitters work together as a team.

The neurotransmitters also work together as a team in many ways, so problems with one are likely to negatively affect the other’s functions too. All of them are involved in attention abilities and novelty seeking, (2) : knowing where to pay attention – to see if the distant figure is a tiger or a gazelle, and being able to follow its motion; and in looking for newness such as changes in the environment – or is it a lion in the distance and another one just joined the first?

Other neurotransmitters, or neuromodulators as they are called in the following excerpt, include serotonin and noradrenaline. There are other neurotransmitters that do not also function as neuromodulators and other chemicals that act as neuromodulators but are not also neurotransmitters. Neuromodulators may increase or decrease the likelihood that the activation of nerve cell receptor wil be enough to send a nerve signal from the cell to other nerve cells. A neurotransmitter can directly interact with a matching nerve cell receptor and if the incoming signal is strong enough then cause the cell to send a nerve signal to other nerve cells.

It is difficult to pinpoint a specific function for each neuromodulator. It has been suggested that dopamine is related to positive value, serotonin to risk aversion, noradrenaline to vigilance, and acetylcholine to attentional effort (Krichmar, 2008). Another theory posits that dopamine is related to reward prediction, while serotonin is related to temporal discounting, and that noradrenaline regulates the exploration/exploitation tradeoff, while acetylcholine controls learning rate (Doya, 20022008).”

(Avery, 2017) (2)
  1. Domino E.E. (1999) Cannabinoids and the Cholinergic System. In: Nahas G.G., Sutin K.M., Harvey D., Agurell S., Pace N., Cancro R. (eds) Marihuana and Medicine. Humana Press, Totowa, NJ https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-59259-710-9_22
  2. Avery MC, Krichmar JL. Neuromodulatory Systems and Their Interactions: A Review of Models, Theories, and Experiments. Front Neural Circuits. 2017;11:108. Published 2017 Dec 22. doi:10.3389/fncir.2017.00108 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5744617/
  3. Sherin JE, Nemeroff CB. Post-traumatic stress disorder: the neurobiological impact of psychological trauma. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2011;13(3):263–278. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3182008/
  4. Dopamine: Aldehyde Poisoning and Parkinson’s Disease, On Thinking Parkinson’s, June 20, 2018, http://www.outthinkingparkinsons.com/articles/dopamine-aldehyde
  5. Zendehdel R, Fazli Z, Mazinani M. Neurotoxicity effect of formaldehyde on occupational exposure and influence of individual susceptibility to some metabolism., Environ Monit Assess. 2016 Nov;188(11):648. Epub 2016 Oct 31. parameters.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27796833

Binaural rhythms

Binaural rhythms have sounds that alternate between the the right and left ears. The rhythm and sound frequencies may help the brain reach a deeper state of relaxed brain waves. It is best experienced with headphones/earbuds or possibly in small car with right and left stereo speakers. An example can be heard online: Remove Mental Blockages & Subconscious Negativity ☯ Dissolve Negative Patterns – Binaural Beats (youtu.be).

Breathing in a steady calm rate can help our brain waves and mood also become more steady and calm. Health benefits may help the cardiovascular system and reduce oxidative stress. (forbes.com/breathing)

Hypnosis, some types of meditation and yoga, and certain very low frequencies played in rhythm similar to the heart beat also may help calm the brain waves and possibly help us reach a different type of consciousness. (FOIA/CIA-Analysis and Assessment of Gateway Process, cia.gov/pdf) Somewhat similar rhythmic sounds are available on music and/or guided meditation CDs by the BrainSync company or others.

Disclaimer: This information is being provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. Please see an individual health care provider for individual health care services.

Fluoridation of drinking water and fluorosis

President Putin of the Russian Federation is banning fluoridation of drinking water. He revealed that during World War II both the Russians and Nazi Germans added sodium fluoride to the prison drinking water supply in order to keep prisoners docile and stupid. He is concerned about the long term health of the human species. See more: Putin Bans Fluoride in Russia, (NewsPunch). (alleged to be disinformation)(rumors about use in Nazi concentration camps stated to be untrue by historian, Russian prison camp rumor not confirmed or denied, PolitiFact)(U.S. rumors about water fluoridation being a communist plot date back to the 40’s and 50’s when it was first being introduced, MotherJones) Whether or not the Putin quote is real, (I haven’t found a credible source yet), this article presents a balanced discussion of the history of fluoridation, conspiracy theories, and real health facts – dental cavities have decreased across Europe whether communities fluoridate their water or not – see:
https://www.vice.com/sv/article/kwz5m3/why-are-governments-putting-fluoride-in-our-water-sheeple

A recent report stated that 65 percent of U.S. children have dental fluorosis at varying levels of severity – dental fluorosis is spotting of the tooth enamel due to elevated levels of fluoride. Skeletal fluorosis can occur with chronic fluoride exposure and cause negative symptoms such as joint pain or stiffness (WHO/fluorosis). The report included previous data and the prevalence and severity of dental fluorosis in U.S. children (age 12-15) was found to have increased significantly from 1986-87 (22% of children with 1.2% having moderate to severe fluorosis) to 2011-12 (65% of children with 30.4% having moderate to severe fluorosis). The level of severity increased the most between 1999-2004 to 2011-12 (3.7% to 30.4%). The rate of prevalence increased more steadily over the time span (22%, 41%, 65% of children with fluorosis) than the sudden increase in rate of more severe symptoms.

“total prevalence increased from 22% to 41% to 65% in the 1986-1987, 1999-2004, and 2011-2012 surveys, respectively. The rate of combined moderate and severe increased the most, from 1.2% to 3.7% to 30.4%.”
 (March 2019 , Journal of Dental Research – Clinical & Transactional Research) (ChildrensHealthDefense/Don’t Eat the Toothpaste)

Fluoride as a dental cavity prevention strategy has been found to be topical, surface rinses could protect children’s teeth from cavities without risking the health of the entire population across the lifespan. Fluoride can accumulate and increase health risks later in life. (a review of research:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3956646/ ) It has been found to be a neurotoxin and seems to reduce cognitive development in children. (
https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/fluoride-childrens-health-grandjean-choi/ )

Fluoride causes diabetes in lab animals and is also associated with increased risk of diabetes in humans. A summary of a review of research on the topic includes a list of other known adverse health effects of chronic fluoride intake/exposure: Fluoride Causes Diabetes.

Having adequate iodine helps energy levels and all of the glands in the body, not just the thyroid. The pancreas is also a gland and needs iodine too. Having plenty of iodine in the diet may help the body remove fluoride as well as providing adequate iodine for the thyroid, pancreas and other glands. Health information and food sources for iodine and selenium: G9. Iodine & Thyroid.

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.