Neurotransmitters are chemical compounds released by neurons that travel from one neural synapse to another to cause a specific reaction. Once the neurotransmitter completes the designated task, they are deactivated, moved away from the receptor or reabsorbed by the sending neuron in an act known as reuptake. There are more than 60 different compounds, which are vital for many different central nervous system and body system functions.
Excitatory neurotransmitters increase the speed of transmission between neurons. The compounds that cause the response include epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Inhibitory neurotransmitters prevent neurons from performing a specific action. Examples of neurotransmitters in this category include gamma-aminobutyric acid and serotonin. Acetylcholine and dopamine are neurotransmitters that have the potential of hastening or preventing a neural action depending on the type of receptor that the compound joins.
Modulatory neurotransmitters are often called neuromodulators. The compounds have the ability to affect a number of neurons simultaneously. The neurotransmitters also influence the effect of other neurotransmitters. When a neuron releases one of these neurotransmitters across a synapse, they quickly impact other neural receptors to cause a determined effect.
Types of Neurotransmitters
Within each neurotransmitter category are six main different types of neurotransmitters that are considered amino acids, monoamines, and peptides.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA is an amino acid that plays a vital role in visual ability, motor function, and mood regulation.
Glutamate is an amino acid that is responsible for learning, memory and other cognitive abilities. However, when excessive amounts of the compound are present, cell damage and death occur because neurons become overly excited. Alzheimer’s are epilepsy examples of disorders that develop secondary to excess glutamate.
Endorphins are peptide neurotransmitters that interfere with pain signals transmitted to the brain. They also produce a feeling of euphoria.
Oxytocin is a peptide that is considered to be a hormone and a neurotransmitter. The compound is necessary for social bonding and reproduction. The compound is commonly administered to hasten the labor and delivery process.
Epinephrine is a monoamine that is considered as a hormone and a neurotransmitter. The compounds are known as one of the stress hormones.
Adenosine is an example of a purine neurotransmitter that acts as a neuromodulator. The compound is responsible for inducing and enhancing sleep.