What is Neurotransmitters
In your body, several messengers carry messages from one nerve, muscle, or even gland cell to the next. They are called neurotransmitters and function like signalling molecules. It is from within the ‘Synaptic Vesicles’ that such messengers are released. Besides, within what we call a ‘Synaptic Cleft’, the neurotransmitters enter to interact with receptors to act on the target cell. The production of neurotransmitters in the body occurs due to the free availability of precursors such as amino acids. These molecules play a major role in passing signals across different regions in the body to ensure the proper functioning of complex neural systems. Therefore, you need to understand a few basic facts about neurotransmitters. They are as follows:
What is The Basic Mechanism of Action of Neurotransmitters?
It is a fact that your body consists of billions of nerve cells. Besides, a nerve cell generally consists of three parts in the form of following:
- Cell Body: This produces neurotransmitters and, along with it, enables the maintenance of the nerve cell.
- An Axon carries electrical signals from the nerve cell to the terminal.
- Axon terminal: This is the area in the nerve cell wherein the electrical message is converted to a chemical message—also, the neurotransmitters are stored in this region.
Therefore, as the signal or message passes through the nerve cell, its electric charge triggers the vesicles of neurotransmitters in the terminal to fuse with the nerve cell membrane. It releases into a fluid-filled space between one nerve cell and the target cell. The neurotransmitters carry the message within this small area with a width of about 40 nanometers or nm.
Different Types of Neurotransmitters Available in The Body:
According to scientists, about a minimum of thousand neurotransmitters are available in the body. However, the few neurotransmitters involved in delivering the most signals in the body include:
Amino acid neurotransmitters:
These include GABA (Gaba Aminobutyric Acid), glutamate, and glycine.
They comprise polymers or chains of amino acids and include endorphins
- Monoamines neurotransmitters:
These neurotransmitters play varied roles in your central nervous system, or CNS, which functions mainly within your brain. They include histamine, serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
What does Occur After Neurotransmitters Pass on Their Message?
Usually, on passing a message successfully, neurotransmitters or signalling molecules tend to move away from the ‘Synaptic Cleft’. Hence, they do it using the following three ways:
- They get reabsorbed again for use by the nerve cell using a process known as reuptake.
- Also, they can fade away using a procedure called diffusion.
- Enzymes break it down in the synapse so it does not bind to the receptor cell. This mechanism is known as degradation.
Why do Neurotransmitters Not Work Effectively?
Several factors cause neurotransmitters to work inefficiently. These include the following:
- Too little or excessive production of neurotransmitters in the body
- The receptor on the receiver cell is dysfunctional
- Besides, there is the possibility of the cell receptors not taking enough neurotransmitters
- Enzymes act to block the neurotransmitters from reaching target cells
- The reabsorption of neurotransmitters occurs too quickly
How does The Use of Medicine Affect The Action Exerted by Neurotransmitters?
Since scientists realised a long time ago the true value of neurotransmitters for your nervous system. They eventually developed medications, many of them for your brain. Here is then presenting to you a few ways in which these drugs available have an impact on neurotransmitters:
- Blocking enzymes leads to the breaking down of neurotransmitters. E.g. donepezil
- Inhibiting neurotransmitters from reaching the receptor site, Eg Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
- There is also a medicine that helps prevent neurotransmitter release from nerve cells. E.g. Lithium