If your cells held board meetings, the CEO would be mitochondria. CEO means in this case “Chief Executive Organelle” of all cells including neuron cells in the brain. In our Mitochondric Life series, we have discussed the critical roles of mitochondria in both metabolic and immunity functions of the body. Now there is new science evidence (see article here) that the mighty mitochondria also govern energy output that control our levels of anxiety and mental health.
The pathways of how external psychological stressors influence neuronal mitochondrial functions is complicated and not well understood by scientists. Animals under stress have less ATP energy produced by cellular mitochondria. Matthew Hirschey of Duke University’s Molecular Physiology Institute states “Mitochondria are clearly important for proper neurological function — neurons are tremendously active cells that require a lot of energy production to make action potentials …”
Carmen Sandi, a behavioral neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland observed less anxious animals are more likely to acquire dominant rank. Less anxious animals have greater mitochondrial function in the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain vital to motivated behavior. Sandi speculates from her animal research that a deficit in cellular energy may cause anxiety-prone human individuals to experience a lack of motivation and productivity.
The same article goes into some of the mechanisms for mitochondrial damage either from acute psychological stress or over-active adrenal gland in the production of the hormone cortisol giving a “flight-or-fight” reaction.
One of the optimum ways for mightier mitochondria (and lower-stress mental health) is through exercise. Increasing metabolism through exercise can lead to greater ATP energy production especially needed in the brain. Additionally, it is important that the brain is well hydrated. Active hydration enriched with an electrical charge that can pass the blood-brain barrier is needed for mitochondrial ATP production inside neuron cells. That is why one of our mottos for Watt-Ahh is “Natural Energy for Smart Brains.”
All of the 2020 Mitochondric Life Series can be found here.
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