What are neurotransmitters?

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the body. They are used by the nervous system to help neurons or nerve cells communicate with each other. They also help neurons transmit signals to other target cells throughout the body.

how they work

Neurons work as a kind of message passing system. Their electrical signals travel along axons, the thin cables that connect the main part of the cell to other neurons. Once the electrical signal reaches the synapse, a tiny gap at the end of the axon, it is converted into a chemical signal.

This chemical signal is released from the vesicle or neuron in the sac through the synapse, becomes a neurotransmitter and transmits the signal to the receiving neuron. This prompts the receiver to respond in a specific way so that it can interpret the message being sent.

Receptors are designed to regulate the release of neurotransmitters or to receive signals sent. Receptors are located between neurons and allow the exchange of information to occur. This process is called neurotransmission.

when they finish their work

Once the neurotransmitter has completed its task, it is no longer needed. Communication with neurotransmitters can be stopped in three ways.

The first is through a process called degeneration. This process occurs when enzymes enter and change the composition of neurotransmitters. When this happens, the receptor no longer recognizes the neurotransmitter and therefore does not interact with it.

When the neurotransmitter moves away from the receptor, the second process is called diffusion. The third is the process of reuptake, which occurs when the neurotransmitter-releasing neuron collects it and brings it back to the axon.

Types of

There are over 100 types of neurotransmitters, but it can be difficult to determine whether something counts as a neurotransmitter. That’s because it’s hard to see what type of chemicals are inside the sacs released by neurons.

The researchers used some specific guidelines to help determine which molecules are neurotransmitters. For one thing, the cell must contain a chemical that, when stimulated in some way, releases it in a standard or appropriate amount.

The chemical must also be released by a specific neuron at the presynaptic, which then binds correctly to receptors on the postsynaptic neuron. After neurons send and receive information, the neurotransmitter itself must go through one of these scavenging processes.

Of all neurotransmitters, some stand out more than others because they are better known or because they are found in greater numbers. For example, some neurotransmitters are the focus in various disease clinical settings. These neurotransmitters include:

  • Acetylcholine: This neurotransmitter stimulates muscle contraction and plays an important role in various cognitive functions such as memory. It has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Dopamine: This is called the feel-good chemical and plays a role in Parkinson’s disease.
  • Glutamate: It is the most abundant amino acid in the brain and can cause cell death due to its ability to trigger a toxic response in cells.
  • GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid): This is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain and can also act as a stress reliever.
  • Serotonin: It is a well-known neurotransmitter that is abundant in the digestive system. It is often associated with depression.
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These neurotransmitters fall into the category of how they elicit a receptor response and they are:

  • Excitability: When a neurotransmitter triggers this response, the receiving neuron produces a new electrical signal called an action potential or nerve impulse. It is designed to transmit specific messages or trigger actions in other cells. For example, if you touch something hot, neurotransmission occurs and an excitatory response alerts you to the sensation of heat. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter.
  • Inhibitory: This response helps block specific responses from other cells in the body. It prevents excitatory reactions. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
  • Modulation: Modulation responses can modulate more than one neuron after neurotransmission, meaning they can send the same information to different neurons at the same time. They run slower than other responses. Dopamine and serotonin are regulatory neurotransmitters.


This type of neurotransmitter is abundant in the central and peripheral nervous systems. It acts as a neuromodulator because it can send signals to many receptors at the same time. It plays a vital role in cognition, learning, attention and memory.

Acetylcholine can also trigger other types of feelings or emotions, such as motivation and arousal. It also plays a major role in voluntary muscle movement. This means that when you tell your body to get up and move around, acetylcholine is part of that signaling process.

Central and Peripheral Nervous System

The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord and controls most physical and mental functions. The peripheral nervous system constitutes the portion of the nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord, including cranial nerves, spinal nerves, peripheral nerves, and neuromuscular joints. The peripheral nervous system enables the brain and spinal cord to receive and send information to the rest of the body.

amino acid

Amino acids are essential for neurotransmission. This is because many amino acids act as neurotransmitters. Several other amino acids also play a role in the production of certain neurotransmitters. They regulate neurotransmission and ensure that the body has enough of the necessary neurotransmitters to maintain proper physical and mental health.

For example, serotonin, which helps regulate mood, relies heavily on the amino acid tryptophan. Without tryptophan, serotonin levels may drop, which can lead to depression.

Gas transmitter

Gas transmitters are neurotransmitters formed from small molecular gases. The three gaseous transporters include nitric oxide, hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide. They are involved in signaling processes and play an important role in synaptic plasticity, or the ability of synapses to weaken or strengthen over time.

In weakened synapses, gas transmitters also help restore their plasticity. Studies have shown that both positive and negative changes in gas transmitters can lead to mental illness.


Some neurotransmitters are monoamines, which are compounds with only one amine group in the molecule. Examples of neurotransmitters that fall into this category include dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and serotonin. They can play a role in the development of neurological syndromes.

What are NMDA receptors and their role in disease?


Some peptides or hormones can act as neurotransmitters. The mode of action of peptides depends on the amino acid sequence they possess. Peptides that can act as neurotransmitters are often referred to as neuropeptides, and they act more slowly than typical neurotransmitters. This means they can produce a longer-acting response than neurotransmitters. Some examples of neuropeptides include B-endorphin and oxytocin.

What is oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a hormone, but it acts as a neurotransmitter and plays a role in love, intimacy, pain and anxiety relief.


Purines are organic compounds found in the body and in certain foods. They are formed when DNA is broken down and become uric acid in the blood.

When purines act as neurotransmitters, they play a role in several systemic responses in the body. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a purine that acts as a neurotransmitter in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. ATP plays a role in signaling between glial cells that maintain homeostasis.

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Neurotransmitters are essential for physical and mental health. Low levels of any type of neurotransmitter can lead to the development of different diseases. Too much neurotransmitter carries the same risk. For example, if there are too few dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain, it may lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Elevated levels of neurotransmitters that send pain signals and decreased levels of neurotransmitters that inhibit pain signals are associated with fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by widespread pain. This imbalance of inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters is thought to play a role in the development and progression of this disease.

Having too much serotonin in the body can be life-threatening and lead to a condition called serotonin syndrome. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome may include:

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • restless
  • tremor
  • rigid muscles
  • hypertension
  • Hyperthermia (hyperthermia)
  • flushing of the skin
  • overexcited
  • fast heart rate
  • involuntary muscle contractions
  • Shortness of breath

In other cases, the receptors may become sensitive to neurotransmitters. When this happens, fewer neurotransmitters cause a greater response. It can occur in people who take drugs that interact with specific neurotransmitter receptors, such as antidepressants.


Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that help nerve cells communicate with each other. They include serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and acetylcholine. Neurotransmitters have a variety of functions, such as regulating appetite, sleep-wake cycles, and mood. Low levels of any neurotransmitter can cause problems, including fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which two neurotransmitters play a role in suppressing appetite?

    Two neurotransmitters that play a role in controlling appetite include serotonin and catecholamines.

    Serotonin can help suppress appetite by activating some specific neurons and receptors. This helps reduce hunger while blocking specific neurons that lead to increased appetite.

    Catecholamines also affect the body’s hunger signals by affecting neurons in the brain that play a role in hunger and satiety.

  • How do drugs affect neurotransmitters?

    Drugs block the ability of neurons to send, receive and process signals. In some cases, drugs like heroin and marijuana can even act as neurotransmitters because they mimic the chemical structure of a drug. When these drugs are in the body and viewed as neurotransmitters, they can activate neurons.

  • How does alcohol affect neurotransmitters?

    Alcohol has an effect on glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter. When drinking alcohol, it inhibits the release of glutamate. This then slows down the signaling process in the brain. Alcohol also affects serotonin, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter.