Profiling component 5: neurotransmitters

One of the important principles of Methodology of Training 2.0 is individualization, commonly known personalization as in “personalized medicine” or “personalized nutrition”. It means that any intervention (medical treatment, nutrition or in our case training is based on the specific individual qualities of the athletes, not on the data derived from averaging of data from a larger population.

In order to do that we have to analyze where the important differences are between individuals. I could continue on the zillions factors that make up the individual differences, from height to hair color or about the many very sophisticated methods to analyze most these differences. But I would like to keep it a bit more practical. I am basically looking at profiling or typing of athletes, with the limitation that it is very difficult and dangerous to make very clear distinctions within each typing-mode, but it least it will give you directions.
Here are the factors that I use in practical sense to understand the athlete and also to adjust the training load to the specific needs, limitations and qualities of the athlete.
For an introduction into the subject:

Since I already discussed some of these profiles before, in older posts, I don’t have to repeat myself, just summarizing:
1. Muscle-fiber typing FT vs ST: important for physical qualities like speed and endurance and the optimal development of these qualities
2. Brain typing: left brain vs. right brain preference: important for the understanding of the perception, information processing, learning and communication of athletes
3. Stress-typing: warrior vs. worrier: different ways of coping with stress (in training, completion and outside of sports) and different ways to deal with live without stress. These are my benders, bloomers or breakers under pressure.
4. Chrono-typing: morningness vs. eveningness: the larks vs. the owls: important for the timing of the workout and the effect of the timing of competitions.

An other profile I have been using for a long time now:
5. Neurotransmitter-typing: neurotransmitters are important factors in our behavior – our personalities, our mood states, and our emotional state depend on the balance between the many neurotransmitters and their receptor systems in our brain and our body. Recently more neurotransmitters have been discovered. The latest ones are gaseous neurotransmitters like NO, CO and H2S. It is very complex, and there is also a risk in tinkering with it. Don’t forget that the vast majority of our psychopharmacological medications work through modulation of neurotransmitters. For example:
– sleeping pills such as benzodiazepines: GABA (or histamine)
– brain energizers such as amphetamines, caffeine of cocaine: dopamine
– antidepressants such as SSRI’s: serotonin and/or dopamine
– drugs against Parkinson: dopamine
– drugs against dementia or myastenia: acetyl-choline

In other words: you better know what you are doing if you want to modulate these systems.
We distinguish 4 major main neurotransmitter-types to help us in a better understanding of the athlete’s personality and behavior.

– dopamine type
– serotonin-type
– GABA-type
– acetyl-choline-type

For a simplified description of the testing, and background information, I refer to a book that is easy to read: The Edge-Effect, by Eric Braverman.
He also describes a neurotransmitter-type-questionnaire, but in addition to that, also uses blood tests (platelets) to test the balance between the neurotransmitters. And more recently I found a way to test this non-invasively by cerebral bio-impedance measurements: fast, cheap and reliable (tested against the other two methods). So I collected many neurotransmitter-tests throughout the years and it gave me extra information about how and why the athletes and other clients feel and behave like they do.

Note: all of these profiles are just views on different levels for the same individual, but of course there are again many interactions between these different levels.

I know you want some more background information:

Limited bibliography:

Braverman, E.R: The Edge-Effect, Sterling, 2005.
Stahl, S: Stahl’s Essential Psychopharmacology; Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Webster, R.A (Ed.): Neurotransmitters, drugs, and brain function; Wiley, 2001.
Cools, R; Nakamura, K; Daw, N.D: Serotonin and Dopamine: Unifying Affective, Activational, and Decision Functions; Neuropsychopharmacology Review Vol.36, 2012,pg. 98–113.
Marc, D.T; Ailts, J.W; Ailts Campeau, D.C; Bull, M.J; Olson, K.L: Neurotransmitters excreted in the urine as biomarkers of nervous system activity: Validity and clinical applicability; Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews; Vol.35, No.3, 2011, pg.635-644.
Knab, A.M; Lightfoot, J.T: Does the difference between physically active and couch potato lie in the dopamine system? Int.J.Biol.Sciences, Vol.6, No.2, 2010, pg.133-150.

About Henk Kraaijenhof

My name is Henk Kraaijenhof and I started this blog as a random collection of concepts, ideas, stories and events that are important or interesting to me in my work as an international performance consultant in a wide range of fields, and sometimes outside of my work. I will try to post a new entry every 3-4 days. Feel free to comment if you like.
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