Brain chemistry or neurochemistry is the complex system which allows the brain to function with the use of chemicals known as neurotransmitters which move information around in the brain. Every person's brain chemistry is slightly different, and a number of things can play a role in the levels of various neurotransmitters in the brain, and how those chemicals affect the brain's function. It is believed that variations in brain chemistry may explain a variety of behavioral disorders and phenomena.
The brain is a network of specialized cells called neurons. Each neuron has reserves of neurotransmitters which it can fire when ordered to so, along with receptors for specific neurotransmitters. Brain activity is created by sending messages with neurotransmitters to signal various cell activities throughout the brain and nervous system.
Someone's environment can influence the levels of neurotransmitters and their receptors in the brain, as can factors like diet, medications, and various drugs. Some chemical compounds appear to have long term effects. Nicotine, for example, is heavily involved with the neurotransmitter dopamine. These external influences on chemistry in the brain can cause behavioral changes or alterations in the way the brain functions; people who smoke, for example, form an addition to cigarettes as a result of the way in which nicotine changes brain chemistry.
Some people also appear to be prone to alterations in their brain chemistry which can occur as the result of genetic or internal functions. Depression, mania, and many other psychiatric disorders are closely linked with the chemistry of the brain, which means that specific medications can often be used to adjust a patient's chemistry to help him or her achieve more normal brain function. These medications act differently on different people because the chemistry of the brain is very complex and varied, making it difficult to formulate a one size fits all medication to treat conditions like depression.
Certain personality types have also been linked with the levels of various neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain. Risk takers, for example, often have fewer dopamine receptors in their brains, which can mean that they have to work harder for a sense of satisfaction and reward. This may push them to engage in risky behaviors.
Changes in brain chemistry do not just affect mood. They can also have a larger impact on the nervous system, which means that people can develop conditions such as tremors and neuralgia as a result of an alteration to the fundamental chemistry of the brain.