What are Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are defined as chemicals which are located in the brain and released appropriately in order to allow an impulse to pass from one nerve cell to another. The axon of one nerve and dendrites of the other do not touch each other; they are separated by a gap known as Synapse, through which the message will be passed with the help of these neurotransmitters.
According to latest research studies, over 50 neurotransmitters have been identified including Acetylcholine, Adrenaline, Noradrenaline, Serotonin, Gamma Amino Butyric acid (GABA), etc. Out of these, Acetylcholine and Adrenaline act as excitatory neurotransmitters whereas Dopamine and Serotonin act as inhibitory ones. Each of this neurotransmitter is known to be responsible for the regulation of a certain aspect of the brain, thereby resulting in a more or less alteration of an individual’s behavior.
As far as the relationship between neurotransmitters and human behavior is concerned, almost all the behavioral patterns are regulated entirely by various circuits and inter-linking processes in the brain. These chemical substances released by neurons are received by specifically targeted cells through Neurotransmitter receptors, and appropriate actions will be carried out throughout the body. Having introduced neurotransmitters, let’s now see how do neurotransmitters influence behavior.
How Do Neurotransmitters Influence Behavior
Acetylcholine has the control over voluntary movement, memory, learning, and sleeping patterns. Excessive amounts of acetylcholine can cause depression whereas limited amounts will result in Dementia. Body cramps can occur as a result of reduced levels.
Serotonin regulates appetite, sex drive, moods, impulsive and aggressiveness and ability to fall asleep. A limited amount of serotonin can give rise to depression and various forms of anxiety disorders (e.g. OCD).
Dopamine affects the ability to concentrate, pay attention, learn and coordinate movements. Too much of dopamine can result in Schizophrenia whereas decreased levels will give rise to Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine levels are increased by the intake of drugs, sex, and food.
Norepinephrine has control over glucose metabolism and energy consumption; limited levels can give rise to Depression. It also increases muscle contractions, heart rate and acts as a stress hormone.
Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid (GABA)
This is an inhibitor neurotransmitter that reduces the level of excitation. It is also involved in learning and memory since it acts on the part of the brain known as the hippocampus. Increased levels of GABA can give rise to various anxiety disorders.
Endorphins are a type of inhibitory neuropeptides released in painful, stressful or pleasurable situations which have a major role in reducing pain.
“The synthesis, packaging, secretion, and removal of neurotransmitters” By National Center for Biotechnology Information – Books (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia