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Neurons, Hormones, and the Brain

Neurotransmitters

Neurons: Cells of the Nervous System

Studying the Brain

So far, researchers have discovered about 15–20 different neurotransmitters, and new ones are still being identified. The nervous system communicates accurately because there are so many neurotransmitters and because neurotransmitters work only at matching receptor sites. Different neurotransmitters do different things.

 
Neurotransmitter Major functions Excess is associated with Deficiency is associated with
Acetylcholine Muscle movement, attention, arousal, memory, emotion Alzheimer’s disease
Dopamine Voluntary movement, learning, memory, emotion Schizophrenia Parkinsonism
Serotonin Sleep, wakefulness, appetite, mood, aggression, impulsivity, sensory perception, temperature regulation, pain suppression Depression
Endorphins Pain relief, pleasure
Norepinephrine Learning, memory, dreaming, awakening, emotion, stress-related increase in heart rate, stress-related slowing of digestive processes Depression
GABA Main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain
Glutamate Main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain Multiple sclerosis

Agonists and Antagonists

Agonists are chemicals that mimic the action of a particular neurotransmitter. They bind to receptors and generate postsynaptic potentials.

Antagonists are chemicals that block the action of a particular neurotransmitter. They bind to receptors but can’t produce postsynaptic potentials. Because they occupy the receptor site, they prevent neurotransmitters from acting.

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