The Hormone-Brain Connection

A woman fatigued and moody

Did you know that there is a big connection between our hormones and our brain? Our hormones can affect our brain in a variety of different ways, and this can change our behaviour and mood. So what hormones impact our brain the most and how do they do this? Keep reading to find out!

The Hormone-Brain Connection: Sex hormones

Estrogen plays an important role in learning, memory and mood. Recent research has suggested that estrogen may be able to prevent a decline in memory associated with aging, while also protecting against Alzheimer’s disease. Estrogen can also increase the amount of serotonin, and the number of serotonin receptors, in the brain and protect nerves from damage.

Testosterone can help to strengthen muscles, arteries and nerves, and does this in the brain as well as in other parts of the body. Some studies have shown that low testosterone levels in men may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and may also be linked to Parkinson’s disease.

Progesterone can reduce swelling in the brain and also help the brain to recover after a traumatic injury to it. Recent studies have also linked progesterone to other functions in the brain, including cognitive function, mood and relieving anxiety.

The Hormone-Brain Connection: Cortisol

Cortisol is the main hormone that is involved in the stress response in our bodies. When we are faced with a stressful situation, our cortisol levels will increase to provide us with the energy that we need to deal with the situation. After the stressful situation has been dealt with, the levels of cortisol in our body should decline again. However, if someone is faced with constant stress, their cortisol levels may remain at a very high level. These high levels of cortisol in the body can actually damage the brain, particularly the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory.

The Hormone-Brain Connection: Melatonin

Research has shown that melatonin is an important hormone for helping with sleep, but melatonin can also help the brain to recover following brain trauma, protect against neurodegenerative diseases and improve cognitive function.

Melatonin aids your sleeping as it works alongside your body’s circadian rhythm, the internal clock in your body. When it begins to get dark, the levels of melatonin in your body will increase to prepare you for sleep. Melatonin also binds to receptors in your brain to reduce the activity of nerves and reduces dopamine levels, a hormone that can make you stay awake longer.

The Hormone-Brain Connection: Thyroid hormone

The thyroid hormone has an important role in protecting your brain. It is responsible for brain development, processing, mood and memory. If a person has very low levels of thyroid hormone, this can have impacts on the brain that have the potential to be irreversible.

The Hormone-Brain Connection: The happy hormones

The happy hormones: serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins, all have positive effects on our mood and therefore our brains. Serotonin, found in the brain, promotes happiness and comfort, while dopamine is a main hormone in boosting motivation. Oxytocin encourages love and bonding, and endorphins can relieve pain and increase feelings of pleasure.

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