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元気な男
元気な男

神経伝達物質とは?セロトニンとドーパミンの絶妙な関係について

元気な男

神経伝達物質であるセロトニンとドーパミンは相互に精神の平衡を保つためにとても重要な働きをします。セロトニンは神経の落ち着きを司り、ドーパミンは興奮や高揚に影響します。このセロトニンとドーパミンはともに正常に分泌・作用することで精神状態は健全なものとして保たれることとなります。

本稿では神経伝達物質の意味について説明した上で、セロトニンとドーパミンの関係についてまとめています。

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神経伝達物質としてのセロトニンとドーパミン

太陽

私たちは生活の中で様々な精神状態を経験します。例えば、ゲームをすることなどで非常に精神がたかぶり、興奮を覚えている精神状態の時があります。一方で、静かに自然を眺めている時のように静かで落ち着いた精神状態となる時もあります。このような精神状態を左右するのは神経伝達物質であるセロトニンやドーパミンの働きが関係しています。

神経伝達物質とは、神経細胞のあいだに入って情報の伝達を行う物質のことをいいます。
私たちの神経細胞のあいだには隙間が広がっており、刺激を受けても、神経細胞のあいだで情報が伝達されることはありません。しかし、神経伝達物質が神経細胞のあいだを、「仲介」することで情報は伝達されることとなります。

現在では、様々な神経伝達物質が発見されていますが、その中で絶妙な関係で私たちの精神状態をコントロールしてくれているのがセロトニンとドーパミンです。

セロトニンとドーパミンの働きについて

例えば、ゲームをして勝ち負けを争い、気持ちが大変たかぶったとします。つまり、気持ちが興奮・高揚している状態です。この際、積極的に活動している神経伝達物質はドーパミンとなります。ドーパミンは人間の気持ちが興奮したり高揚した時に分泌される物質であり、ゲームの楽しさを感じることができるのはドーパミンが働いているためということができます。

しかし、ドーパミンばかりが働いてしまうと私たちの精神状態は清浄を保つことができなくなってしまいます。つまり、ドーパミンの働きが常に過剰であれば、精神は高揚を続け異常な状態となってしまいます。なお、このドーパミンの分泌が過剰となりコントロールすることができなくなった状態が統合失調症であるとも言われます。

ドーパミンが分泌され続ければ常に興奮してしまい、精神は異常な状態をきたしてしまうこととなります。

そこで、ドーパミンの働きを抑制する神経伝達物質としてセロトニンが分泌されます。セロトニンは、ドーパミンの分泌によって興奮・高揚した精神状態を正常な落ち着いた状態に戻す働きをしてくれます。

つまり、セロトニンは、神経の落ち着き・リラックスを司る神経伝達物質ということになります。先のゲームの例で言えば、ゲームに興じてドーパミンの分泌が増えてしまっている場合にはセロトニンによって「そろそろやめておこう」という気持ちが生じることとなります。

このように神経伝達物質であるドーパミンとセロトニンは、お互いに車の両輪として作用し、私たちの精神の安定を保ちます。

ドーパミンやセロトニンの分泌に乱れが生じると

このようにドーパミンとセロトニンは神経伝達物質として作用し、私たちの精神に大きな影響を与えます。そのため、ドーパミンやセロトニンの分泌が乱れると直接に精神的な変調をきたすこととなります。

例えば、先ほども述べましたように、ドーパミンの分泌が過剰となってしまった場合には、ほとんどなの理由もなく興奮・激高などをしてしまい、通常の社会生活を送ることが困難となってしまいます。一方で、セロトニンの分泌が少なくなると精神的な安定性を保つことができなくなってしまいます。その結果、セロトニンが不足するとうつ病になってしまいます。

特に、セロトニンについては、うつ病だけではなく頭痛や精神的なリラックスなどにも大きく関係するものとして近年非常に脚光を浴びている脳内物質です。このようにドーパミンやセロトニンなどの神経伝達物質が正常な働きをし続けることによって私たちの精神は平静を保つこととなります。

セロトニンやドーパミンなどの神経伝達物質が正常に作用・分泌するためには、規則正しい生活や食生活など基本的なことが重要とされます。健全な生活をすると精神が安定するという私たちが経験上知っている事実は、しっかりとした科学的な根拠があるということができます。

セロトニンとドーパミンの関係のまとめ

以上、本文で述べました神経伝達物質やセロトニン・ドーパミンとの関係などについてのポイントをまとめますと以下のようになります。

  • 神経伝達物質は神経細胞のあいだに入り、情報を伝達する働きをします。神経伝達物質の代表的なものとしてセロトニンとドーパミンがあります
  • 神経伝達物質のうち、ドーパミンは興奮や高揚などに影響します。一方でセロトンは神経の落ち着きなどを司ります
  • ドーパミンやセロトニンの分泌に異常が生じると、精神的な変調をきたします。例えば、セロトニンの分泌が減少するとうつ病となったりします。セロトニンなどの分泌の正常を保つためには、規則正しい生活や食事が重要となります

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