Real football aficionados and ex-football players cheer for more than one football team and are not just myopic football fans who can’t see beyond their woes. They always have several feel good teams and fun football weekends and seasons.

“Zoology is the study of all aspects of the biology of animals, including human beings and the many vertebrate and invertebrate animal species that populate the earth.

“Zoology majors study how animals function at the cellular, tissue, organ, and organismal levels, how they have evolved, how they contribute to biodiversity, and how they interact with each other and with their physical environment.” [Department of Zoology, University of Maine]

This publication describes the sports spectators’ neurochemical reaction during the play of sports on the neurotransmitter level, namely Dopamine. The Feel Good Moments of Sports Spectation is the result of Dopamine Neural Pathway effect.

“The evidence that the spectating brain is also a playing brain has been mounting ever since the early 1990s, when a group of neurophysiologists at the University of Parma, Italy implanted electrodes in the brain of a macaque monkey to find out exactly which neurons fired when the monkey grasped a peanut and brought it to his mouth.

“The Parma team succeeded in their original brain-mapping goal, but it was an accidental discovery that made Parma a world-renowned source of cutting-edge neuroscience (not to mention hard cheese and cured ham). As science lore has it, a researcher in the Parma lab was eating peanuts one day when he heard a monitor buzz, indicating that the monkey’s peanut-grasping neurons were firing. But the monkey had no peanut.

“After a moment of puzzlement came the researcher’s “eureka!” moment: Some of the same motor neurons that fire when a monkey performs an action were also firing when he watched someone else perform that action.”

“According to subsequent research on both monkeys and humans….about one-fifth of the neurons that fire in the premotor cortex when we perform an action (say, kicking a ball) also fire at the sight of somebody else performing that action.

“When we see a familiar action, our mirror neurons activate, and their firing lasts exactly as long as the observed action. This allows us to instantaneously understand the action, its goal, and even the emotions associated with it, without having to do any inferential thinking about it. If we are watching strenuous action, mirror neurons even provoke a small but measurable uptick in our heart and respiration rate.

“In the nearly 20 years since the macaque in Parma gave new meaning to the phrase “monkey see, monkey do”. Sports spectating in the sports-watching brain can alter your brain neruotransmitter chemistry. [Le Anne Schreiber, Grantland, former editor-in-chief of Womensports Magazine and a former sports editor at the New York Times, ]

“Dopamine is synthesized in the body from within cells (mainly by neurons and cells in the medulla of the adrenal glands) and can be created from any one of the following three amino acids:

L-Phenylalanine (PHE)
L-Tyrosine (L-4-hydroxyphenylalanine; TYR)
L-DOPA (L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine; DOPA)

“These amino acids are provided from natural sources such as the ingestion of various kinds of food, with L-tyrosine being the most common of the three.

“Although dopamine itself is also commonly found in many types of food, unlike the amino acids that form it, it is incapable of crossing the protective blood-brain-barrier (BBB), which severely restricts its functionality upon consumption. It must be formed from within the walls of the BBB to properly perform its cognitive duties, though not its peripheral actions.

“Dopamine itself is also used in the synthesis of the following related catecholamine neurotransmitters:

Norepinephrine (β,3,4-trihydroxyphenethylamine; Noradrenaline; NE, NA)
Epinephrine (β,3-dihydroxy-N-methylphenethylamine; Adrenaline; EPI, ADR)

“This is the complete metabolic pathway:
L-Phenylalanine → L-Tyrosine → L-DOPA → Dopamine → Norepinephrine → Epinephrine [Wikipedia]

“Dopamine is one of our “feel-good” neurotransmitters. The dopamine receptor site is where cocaine and amphetamines work. It is also where chocolate works in the brain, and is involved in the biochemistry of sexual orgasm. Now you know why there is such a strong romantic link with chocolate.

“Dopamine deficiency is also associated with obesity and fatigue. Tyrosine is the nutrient that makes dopamine (in the presence of P-5-P).

“More than any other neurotransmitter, dopamine needs to be within a specific range. Too little of it, and you won’t feel good. Too much dopamine will make some people fearful when there is absolutely no reason at all to be fearful. When dopamine is extremely elevated, people become paranoid.

“Very high levels of dopamine are part of schizophrenia. How do you know for sure if you have too much dopamine? Lab testing is required.

“Nutrients that support the production of dopamine include zinc, DHEA, and green tea extract.” [The Life connection, David Gersten, M.D. January 2010]

“The PET (positron emission tomography) showed that dopamine was released in the striatum during peak moments of emotional arousal when listening to the music. The fMRI scan (functional magnetic resonance scan) helped show a distinct difference in timing and structures involved–the caudate was active when anticipating the peak emotional arousal and the nucleus accumbens was more involved when actually experiencing the peak emotion.

“Although the mysteries of the brain are massive, incredible breakthroughs are mounting and altering previously held principles. Two of the many recent discoveries have reversed the view that brain health is the luck of the draw.

“One of these is that the human brain is highly mutable or “plastic,” meaning that the brain changes moment by moment, not only as a result of learning from incoming stimuli but also by our own thoughts and imagination. A second pivotal discovery is that the brain maintains the potential for both neurogenesis and the formation and strengthening of neural connections throughout the life span.” [The Dana Guide to Brain Health, Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, Arch Neurol. 2004;61(5):806-807 edited by Floyd E. Bloom, MD, M. Flint Beal, MD, and David J. Kupfer, MD, foreword by William Safire, 733 pp (hardcover), ISBN 0-7432-0397-6, New York, NY, Free Press, 2003.]

“According to the researchers, this may be the first study to show that an abstract reward such as listening to music–as opposed to a tangible reward such as eating and sleeping–releases dopamine. We’ve traditionally considered abstract rewards to be processed on a more cognitive level, but this study shows that our ancient reward circuits can be involved.”
[ Why Music Listening Makes Us Feel Good,The Chemical Link Between Music and Emotion, January 20, 2011 by Kimberly Sena Moore in Your Musical Self, Reference: Salimpoor, V.N., Benovoy, M., Larcher, K., Dagher, A. & Zatorre, R.J. (2011). Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipating and experience of peak emotion to music. Nature Neuroscience, Published online 9 Jan 2011]

“Scientists say it’s all in our heads. ‘A sporting event offers an opportunity to experience a compelling mix of chemical responses,’ explains Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas.

“Evidence suggests that dopamine cells respond to a reward primarily when it occurs unpredictably, which is typical with sporting events,’ Chapman says. ‘And because our brains want to repeat feelings of pleasure and euphoria, one win may produce a greater desire for the next.” [FANATICS, Mad About CrossFit, September 14, 2011]

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