We know that the same sort of mechanisms involved in the development of tolerance can eventually lead to profound changes in neurons and brain circuits, with the potential to severely compromise the long-term health of the brain. For example, glutamate is another neurotransmitter that influences the reward circuit and the ability to learn. When the optimal concentration of glutamate is altered by drug abuse, the brain attempts to compensate for this change, which can cause impairment in cognitive function. Similarly, long-term drug abuse can trigger adaptations in habit or non-conscious memory systems. Conditioning is one example of this type of learning, in which cues in a person’s daily routine or environment become associated with the drug experience and can trigger uncontrollable cravings whenever the person is exposed to these cues, even if the drug itself is not available. This learned “reflex” is extremely durable and can affect a person who once used drugs even after many years of abstinence.
Cognitive psychologists point out that your view of the world and, in particular, your unacknowledged assumptions about how the world works also influence how you feel. You develop your viewpoint early on and learn to automatically fall back on it when loss, disappointment, or rejection occurs. For example, you may come to see yourself as unworthy of love, so you avoid getting involved with people rather than risk losing a relationship. Or you may be so self-critical that you can't bear the slightest criticism from others, which can slow or block your career progress.
New and exciting research is still being conducted on BCAAs and their applications to muscle growth, fat loss, and performance. There are not many supplements in existence that have the ability to affect growth and performance through as many different pathways as BCAAs. While BCAAs have proven benefits as a building block of muscle tissue, their benefits as signaling molecules are truly just being understood. In time BCAAs may just prove to be the most valuable supplement at our disposal. So the next time someone accuses you of being just another meathead talking about protein all the time, you can show them that it is more than just eating plates of chicken and beef…it’s science!