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Adrenaline, the activation hormone

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The adrenalin, also known as epinephrine, is one of those polyvalent substances that our body uses to regulate different bodily processes.

It is a hormone, since it travels through the blood to reach different areas of the body and fulfill its task in the most remote corners of it, but it is also a neurotransmitter, which means that it acts as an intermediary in the communication between the neurons that is established in the synaptic spaces.

Then you can read the main characteristics of adrenaline and the functions it fulfills in ourbrain and beyond this.

Where is the adrenaline found?

Adrenaline is produced by our body, specifically in the Kidney glands found above the kidneys. However, it can also be synthesized in laboratories to create drugs administered in cases of medical emergency. The latter, by itself, serves to give us an idea of ​​the importance of the existence of a substance such as adrenaline, which is involved in several of the most basic processes of survival.

Adrenaline: the substance of activation

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It is true that adrenaline fulfills many functions, but that does not mean that we cannot recognize a more or less clear pattern in the different effects that it has on us. This pattern can be summarized as follows: adrenaline is the hormone and neurotransmitter in situations where we have to be alert and activated. In other words, adrenaline predisposes us to react quickly and prepares us to get the most out of our muscles when it is necessary to move with a certain speed, either because of the danger we are in or because we find ourselves in situations in which we are offered the opportunity to win something if we are sufficiently agile.

Adrenaline prepares us for situations in which we need to be especially activated both physically and psychologically. That is why it can be said that adrenaline triggers survival mechanisms that are launched in emergency situations, such as those in which danger is perceived or has to react quickly.

Different trigger mechanisms

Adrenaline does not act globally by activating our body, since there is no single "spring" that puts us in that state of alert. Instead, it goes to different parts of the body to produce different effects that, in their interaction with each other and with the rest of vital functions, have as a consequence the activation.

The most important alerting processes that adrenaline triggers when secreted in relatively high amounts are these:

1. Dilate the pupils

Adrenaline makes the pupils dilate, so that there is more light and we are more aware of what happens around us. It is a biological mechanism that for millions of years has helped us to adapt to the environment and to react quickly to the possible dangers that threaten us.

2. Dilates blood vessels

Thanks to adrenaline, the blood vessels most closely related to vital organs widen, while those that are thinner and close to the outer layer of the skin is compressed (giving us a somewhat pale appearance), since they are not so important and in dangerous situations they could reach break. The result is an increase in blood pressure, and greater resistance to eventual attacks or accidents.

3. Mobilizes glycogen

The release of adrenaline is related to the breakdown of glycogen, which is the energy that is reserved in the muscles and other parts of the body for those most demanding moments physically. The consequence of this is that the glucose concentration in the blood ready to be burned (for example in case of imminent danger) increases.

4. Increase heart rate

Get the heart rate to get faster so that we can cope with great efforts more easily. By pumping more blood, our muscles are better supplied with oxygen, so they can exert more effort.

5. Stops the movement of the intestines

It slows down the bowel movement, since consumes energy that is not so necessary in moments of alert. One way to ensure that energy is concentrated in the muscles.

6. Increase the rate we breathe

Adrenaline increases the rate with which we breathe in and out, to better oxygenate the blood and perform more physically. This allows us to react more energetically to stimuli that indicate danger, despite the fact that a minute before we were in a state of rest.

7. Consolidate long-term memories

There are studies that suggest a role for adrenaline in causing certain learnings are consolidated in emotional memory, so that it is easier to retrieve them at long term.

Physiological and psychological effects

As with all hormones and neurotransmitters, it cannot be said that adrenaline has effects only in the "rational" dimension of our psyche, just as we do not have them exclusively in our most part. emotional.

The functions it fulfills are both physiological (such as regulation of blood pressure or breathing rate and dilation of the pupils) as psychological (stay alert and be more sensitive to any stimulus), since both domains overlap.

Adrenaline excesses are also paid

A excess adrenaline it is not free for our body. Increased imbalances in the levels of this substance can cause hypertension, headache, increased temperature and symptoms associated with anxiety disorders or chronic stress, such as nausea, tremors, or trouble sleeping. What's more, adrenaline spikes can make vision blurr, since they increase the pressure in the eyes.

This is something that we should take into account when assessing the quality of our lifestyle. Being very active all day can be more or less productive depending on the person and the context, but it is certainly not healthy. The body needs to rest and that is why we must pay attention to the signals that our body sends us in the form of tiredness and sleep.

Bibliographic references:

  • Cahill L, Alkire MT (March 2003). "Epinephrine enhancement of human memory consolidation: interaction with arousal at encoding". Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. 79 (2): pp. 194 - 198.
  • Martin, J.H. (1997). Neuroanatomy. Text and Atlas. Madrid: Prentice Hall.
  • Netter, F.H. (1999). Nervous System: Anatomy and Physiology. Madrid: Masson.
  • Paradisis, M.; Osborn, D. TO. (2004). Adrenaline for prevention of morbidity and mortality in preterm infants with cardiovascular compromise. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1): CD003958.
  • Soler, M. (Ed.). (2003). Evolution. The basis of Biology. Granada: South Editions Project.
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