Endorphins: Powerful Regulators of Emotions and Behaviors

Endorphins and related substances called dynorphins and enkephalins are hormones produced by neurons in the brain and throughout the body. These neuropeptides are among the oldest evolved signaling substances, and the brain’s opioid peptide system plays an important role in health and disease.


By understanding endorphin signaling in health and its dysregulation in mental illness, we can develop new medicines to target this system safely and improve the lives of patients with psychiatric and neurological disorders.

Normal endorphin signaling promotes motivation, stress resilience, social bonding and control of food intake1 2. Disrupted endorphin signaling is linked to depression, compulsivity, and self injury3 4 5. In addition to its role in mental illness, dysregulation of the endogenous opioid system may make patients excessively sensitive to pain.

This system is the target of legacy synthetic opioids used for pain relief, such as methadone, oxycodone and fentanyl. These therapies offer powerful pain relief and a sense of euphoria but may result in excessive drug use and addiction, especially in patients made vulnerable by endorphin dysregulation. This can explain the known link between depression, chronic pain and addiction to opioids.

We believe that legacy drugs are too powerful for this exquisitely sensitive system, and our vision is to develop new medicines that are safe to use in brain disorders.

While these symptoms are prevalent in patients with many psychiatric and neurological disorders, modulation of endorphin signaling remains an area underserved by therapeutic innovation.