Glossary

5-Hydroxytryptophan – (5-HTP) is a naturally-occurring amino acid and chemical precursor as well as metabolic intermediate in the biosynthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. 5-HTP has been studied and shown to be of benefit in the following conditions: depression, anxiety, binge eating associated with obesity, and insomnia.

Addiction – Addiction can be viewed as a continued involvement with a substance or activity despite the negative consequences associated with it. Pleasure and enjoyment would have originally been sought; however, over a period of time involvement with the substance or activity is needed to feel normal.Some psychology professionals and many laymen now mean ‘addiction’ to include abnormal psychological dependency on such things as gambling, food, sex, pornography, computers, internet, work, exercise, idolizing, watching TV or certain types of non-pornographic videos, spiritual obsession, self-injury and shopping.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder – is a (psychological) somatoform disorder in which the affected person is excessively concerned about and preoccupied by a perceived defect in his or her physical features (body image).

Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB) –  is an umbrella name for impulse control behaviors involving compulsively damaging one’s physical appearance or causing physical injury. The main BFRB disorders are:

  • Trichotillomania, compulsive hair pulling
  • Onychophagia, compulsive nail biting
  • Dermatillomania, compulsive skin picking

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is a psychotherapeutic approach, a talking therapy, that aims to solve problems concerning dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic procedure. The title is used in diverse ways to designate behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and to refer to therapy based upon a combination of basic behavioral and cognitive research.

Decarboxylation – is a chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide (CO2). Usually, decarboxylation refers to a reaction of carboxylic acids, removing a carbon atom from a carbon chain.

Dermatillomania – (also known as compulsive skin picking or CSP) is an impulse control disorder characterized by the repeated urge to pick at one’s own skin, often to the extent that damage is caused. Dermatillomania can be a compulsion of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). People afflicted with dermatillomania find skin picking to be stress relieving or gratifying, though it can still be as physically painful as it would be for a non-skin picker.

Dopamine – is a catecholamine neurotransmitter present in a wide variety of animals, including both vertebrates and invertebrates.  Dopamine is closely associated with reward-seeking behaviors, such as approach, consumption, and addiction. Recent researches suggest that the firing of dopaminergic neurons is a motivational substance as a consequence of reward-anticipation. Dopamine is released (particularly in areas such as the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex) by rewarding experiences such as food, sex, drugs, and neutral stimuli that become associated with them. Dopamine is commonly associated with the reward system of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate a person proactively to perform certain activities. 

Endorphin – (“endogenous morphine”) are endogenous opioid peptides that function as neurotransmitters. They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during exercise, excitement, pain, consumption of spicy food, love and orgasm, and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being. By hijacking this process, exogenous opioids cause inappropriate dopamine release, and lead to aberrant synaptic plasticity, which causes addiction.

Excitotoxicity – the pathological process by which nerve cells are damaged and killed by excessive stimulation by neurotransmitters such as glutamate and similar substances. The biochemical cascade resulting from ischemia and involving excitotoxicity is called the ischemic cascade

GABA – is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammaliancentral nervous system. It plays a role in regulating neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system.

Glutamate – plays a key role in cellular metabolism and the body’s disposal of excess or waste nitrogen. Glutamate is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the vertebrate nervous system. Because of its role insynaptic plasticity, glutamate is involved in cognitive functions like learning and memory in the brain.  The form of plasticity known as long-term potentiation takes place at glutamatergic synapses in the hippocampus, neocortex, and other parts of the brain. Glutamate is considered to be the major mediator of excitatory signals in the mammalian central nervous system and is involved in most aspects of normal brain function including cognition, memory and learning. It is used at most synapses that are “modifiable”, i.e. capable of increasing or decreasing in strength. Modifiable synapses are thought to be the main memory-storage elements in the brain. Jon Grant on Glutamate – “It gets us revved up, it gets us wanting to do something. It’s been implicated in addiction. So, when it’s overactive, we really want to do things, and not always the healthiest behaviors. NAC reduced the drive of that excitation chemical in the brain. And therefore allows people to start thinking about their behaviors; being able to control it better. It makes it easier so people can put the brakes on their behavior.”

Habit Reversal Training (HRT) – is a “multicomponent behavioral treatment package originally developed to address a wide variety of repetitive behavior disorders”. Behavioral disorders treated with HRT include tics, trichotillomania, nail biting, thumb sucking, and skin picking. It consists of five components:

  1. awareness training,
  2. competing response training,
  3. contingency management,
  4. relaxation training, and
  5. generalization training.

Impulse Control Disorder – is a set of psychiatric disorders including intermittent explosive disorder (hot-headedness),kleptomania (stealing), pathological gambling, pyromania (fire-starting), and three body-focused repetitive or compulsive behaviors of trichotillomania (a compulsion to pull one’s hair out), onychophagia (compulsive nail biting) anddermatillomania (compulsive skin picking). The onset of these disorders usually occurs between the ages of 7 and 15. Impulsivity, the key feature of these disorders, can be thought of as seeking a small, short term gain at the expense of a large, long term loss.

L-DOPA – and an amino acid precursor to dopamine which can pass the blood brain barrier. Good for increasing levels of dopamine in the brain. The body converts the amino acid tyrosine into L-dopa; L-dopa is then converted into dopamine.. When used in a pharmaceutical context, the INN designation ‘levodopa’ is normally used.

Long Term Potentiation (LTP) – LTP improves the postsynaptic cell’s sensitivity to neurotransmitters in large part by increasing the activity of existing receptors and by increasing the number of receptors on the postsynaptic cell surface.

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) – is a stable form of the non-essential amino acid L-Cysteine. It is a sulfur-containing amino acid that acts as a stabilizer for the formation of protein structures, and is also a necessary for the formation of glutathione. Molybdenum and Selenium are essential trace minerals that facilitate the production of several important enzymes. The most important aspect in regards to TTM treatment is that it regulates the glutamate neurotransmitter (a chemical which triggers excitement). The use of NAC makes it much easier to stop the urge to pull.

NMDA receptors – a glutamate receptor, is the predominant molecular device for controlling synaptic plasticity and memory function.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry, by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety, or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions.

Reinforcement – is a term in operant conditioning and behavior analysis for the process of increasing the rate or probability of a behavior (e.g. pulling a lever more frequently) by the delivery or emergence of a stimulus (e.g. a candy) immediately or shortly after the behavior, called a “response,” is performed.

Serotonin – a monoamine neurotransmitter. Most is produced by and found in the intestine (approximately 90%), and the remainder in central nervous system neurons. It functions to regulate appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature, mood, behavior, muscle contraction, and function of the cardiovascular system and endocrine system. It is a well-known contributor to feelings of well-being; therefore it is also known as a “happiness hormone” despite not being a hormone.

Synaptic Plasticity –  is the ability of the connection, or synapse, between two neurons to change in strength in response to either use or disuse of transmission over synaptic pathways. Plastic change also results from the alteration of the number of receptors located on a synapse. Synaptic plasticity in both excitatory and inhibitory synapses has been found to be dependent upon calcium. Since memories are postulated to be represented by vastly interconnected networks of synapses in the brain, synaptic plasticity is one of the important neurochemical foundations of learning and memory

Trichotillomania – which is classified as an impulse control disorder by DSM-IV, is the compulsive urge to pull out one’s own hair leading to hair loss.

Vitamin B6 – is a water-soluble vitamin and is part of the vitamin B complex group. Several forms of the vitamin are known, but pyridoxal phosphate (PLP) is the active form and is a cofactor in many reactions of amino acid metabolism, including transamination, deamination, and decarboxylation. B6 helps the enzyme AAAD catalyzes 5-HTP into seratonin.


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