You must have heard about Neurotransmitters and how signalling takes place within the human nervous system. Neurotransmitters are usually known as the body’s chemical messengers. These are the molecules that are used by the nervous system to transmit messages between neurons and muscle.
Neurotransmitters like dopamine are used for motor control, while Glycine for sleep, and serotonin for well-being and happiness.
There are many such neurotransmitters and each one of them play’s unique role in some or the other human related functions.
wont it be interesting to know some more facts about neurotransmitters?
Let’s start then, but first let’s clear our basics
What Are Neurotransmitters?
Neurotransmitters are popularly called chemical messengers that transfer a message from a nerve cell to a target cell (the targets include another nerve or muscle or gland cell). These are the chemical molecules created by the nerve cell, mainly to transfer the messages.
Neurotransmitters are liberated from the synaptic vesicles within the synapses, where they are acquired by neurotransmitter receptors placed on the target cells. Simple precursors such as amino acids create various neurotransmitters that are readily available and need just a few biosynthetic steps to proceed with the conversion.
Neurotransmitters are essentially crucial to the proper functioning of complex nervous systems. The approximate number of specific neurotransmitters in humans is still unknown, but more than 200 are identified to date.
There are around forty neurotransmitters within the human nervous system, to name a few, Acetylcholine, Dopamine, Norepinephrine, Dopamine, GABA, Glutamate, Serotonin, Histamine and Glycine.
Neurotransmitters are the molecules that are used by neurons for the purpose of communication among themselves. In the process, some signals get briefly transformed into chemicals with the help of neurotransmitters.
Types of Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are classified into various types of their sources like amino acids, peptides, and monoamines.
Let’s check out the list of the neurotransmitters and the types they belong to:
- Nitric oxide
- Carbon monoxide
- Hydrogen sulphide
- Opioid peptides
How Do Neurotransmitters Function?
Neurotransmitters work within the brain to help the body regulate vital functions like heart rate, breathing, sleep cycles, digestion, mood, concentration, appetite, muscle movement etc. Let’s see some of the neurotransmitters and their functions.
Acetylcholine, a small molecule, was the first-ever neurotransmitter to be discovered. The main function of acetylcholine is that motor neurons release it in the peripheral nervous system. It maintains cognitive tasks in the central nervous system, as, if the cholinergic neurons in the central nervous system are damaged, a person may develop Alzheimer disorder.
Glutamate amino acid is one of the essential excitatory neurotransmitters present in the central nervous system. At the same time, its derivative γ-aminobutyric acid is an inhibitory neurotransmitter along with Glycine, which is another inhibitory neurotransmitter that is mainly found in the spinal cord.
Simultaneously, acting as a neurotransmitter, glycine functions two ways, both as a brain energizing agent and a soothing agent. This affects brain apprehension, pain tolerance, mood equalization and sleep coordination.
Monoamines like dopamine function as neuromodulators. We find various dopamine pathways inside the brain that are involved as neurotransmitters in motor control and motivation. Whereas another monoamine noradrenaline functions as the primary neurotransmitter in the central nervous system working as an activation agent or catalyst for various organs within the body in order to control blood pressure, liver functioning and heart rate.
With this, we come to Serotonin, which is again a monoamine, which is used by several neurons in the various parts of the nervous system. Serotonin which is highly involved in managing your sleep quality, memory, appetite, and mood, is boosted by Glycine within your brain, which further controls your sleep patterns.
Serotonin, which is also known as a happy chemical due to its soothing and calming nature, produces the sleep hormone called melatonin.
Histamine helps in metabolism, hormone regulation and controlling the sleep-wake cycle.
10 Basic Features of Neurotransmitters
We have checked the overall concept of neurotransmitters. We saw the types, their functions and what exactly are neurotransmitters. Now let’s see the ten critical features of neurotransmitters.
- As we already know, Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers. They transfer signals between two neurons by crossing a synapse. Interestingly, electrical signals cannot cross this particular gap for most of the neurons; hence, they are converted to chemical signals to cross the gap.
- Though each neurotransmitter works in coordination with another, still they have different functions to work on.
- They are hauled between neurons with the help of vesicles. The neuron cell membrane opens up only when these vesicles get into their contact.
- There are around 86 billion of total estimated number of neurons in the human brain. These brain cells or neurons communicate with each other by passing chemical messages; this particular phenomenon is called neurotransmission.
- Neurotransmitters originate within a neuron itself, which means they root their genesis to neurons for whom they transfer the messages.
- There was a belief that only neurons release neurotransmitters. But, according to new research, it is demonstrated that glia, which fills the neurons with a glue-like thing to support the cells, also has the ability to release neurotransmitters. (this statement is under research)
- GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), another derivative of amino acid, is a major inhibitory transmitter in the central nervous system and has a vital role in Huntington’s disease.
- We have found new gases to be released from neurons with a new discovery, namely nitric oxide and carbon monoxide. Nitric oxide diffuses the digestive system nerves and maintains the relaxation required for regular movements.
- You, yourself, can change the neurotransmitter levels within your brain without any use of prescription drugs. You can spur the dopamine neurotransmitter within your brain by just thinking of a happy or good thing that happened to you. Likewise, only by remembering a painful and stressing event, you can spur up norepinephrine neurotransmitter.
- Some neurotransmitters have the ability to travel in a reverse order across the synapse.