Monday, November 22, 2010

The Substantia Nigra

I mentioned this term in post four; I think I owe it to you, dear reader, to describe it in most basic terms.
The substantia nigra is a small area in the brain containing a cluster of black pigmented nerve cells that produce dopamine.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that regulates movement, balance, and walking.  It is the substance that is lost in PD.
During my first (and second) bout of depression, I had no knowledge of substantia nigra, very little knowledge of Parkinson’s disease, and certainly no interest or need to know. Hey, I was depressed. From what I understand now, a reduction of dopamine, although not clinically linked to depression, is one of the first symptoms experienced by many people who are eventually diagnosed with PD.   I certainly found this to be true.  And, although I’m just a humble carpenter, it makes sense that changing chemical reactions in the brain would shake up the mood mix.
If anyone has other insight into the dopamine/depression connection, write a comment.  I hope that these posts can be interactive, as well as telling my story.
I found this information in the book Parkinson’s Disease: The Complete Guide for Patients and Caregivers by Abraham N. Lieberman M.D. and Frank L. Williams.  It is quite readable and informative.

Tomorrow’s Post: The Orthopedist figures it out.

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