It has been widely reported that many individuals find ASMR helpful to reducing their anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
If there was one neurotransmitter that was known to reduce all three of these disorders then it might be appropriate to theorize the involvement of that neurotransmitter in ASMR.
Well, the neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) may be a terrific candidate.
GABA is a neurotransmitter that is widely released throughout the brain. It is well understood to have an inhibitory effect on most neurons. Another way to view this is that GABA tends to calm, comfort, and soothe other neurons.
Is GABA involved in treating anxiety disorders? Yes. Drugs like Xanax and Valium are benzodiazepines which are anti-anxiety medications. These kind of drugs reduce anxiety by enhancing the effect of the patient’s natural amounts of GABA.
Is GABA involved in treating sleep disorders? Yes. Benzodiazepines are also widely used to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders.
So are benzodiazepines widely used for depression? No. The most common type of medication used to treat depression are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These drugs increase the amount of the patient’s natural amount of serotonin.
So GABA has not been viewed strongly as being involved in the therapeutic role of SSRIs for depression.
But a recent research publication in the journal Science challenges that view.
The researchers in the study gave SSRIs to rodents that were exhibiting depressive symptoms. The researchers measured GABA levels and noted an increase. The rodents also exhibited less depressive behavior after the SSRIs increased the levels of GABA.
This is actually not the first research study to demonstrate that SSRIs increase GABA, it is just an additional study that is contributing to the understanding that serotonin may exert some of its effects by stimulating GABA.
So lets apply this view to the potential neurobiology of ASMR.
In my Origin Theory of ASMR I postulate that the signaling of ASMR begins with the production of endorphins. The endorphins may cause the enjoyable sensation of ASMR and also stimulate oxytocin. The oxytocin may cause some of the comforting sensation of ASMR and also stimulate serotonin. The serotonin may improve the mood in some individuals…and now we can add that serotonin may also be stimulating GABA.
And the potential GABA that is stimulated during ASMR may be further calming, comforting, and soothing neurons in the brains of individuals experiencing ASMR.
Click HERE to read about the recent research published in the journal Science.
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