How do neurotransmitters work?

There are many neurotransmitter molecules that work continuously to keep the brain active and manage everything from breathing and heart rate to the ability to focus. Understanding how nerve cells communicate and how the rise and fall of neurotransmitters affects our physical and mental health will help us be happier and healthier.

1. What is a neurotransmitter?

Neurotransmitters in the body have an effect in transmitting signals from nerve cells to target cells. These target cells may be located in muscles, glands, or other nerves.
The brain needs neurotransmitters to regulate many essential functions such as regulating heart rate, breathing, sleep cycles, digestion, mood, concentration, appetite, and muscle movement.
The nervous system controls the organs, psychological functions and physical functions of the body. Nerve cells and neurotransmitters play important roles in this system. Neurons fire nerve impulses by releasing neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that carry signals to other cells.
Neurotransmitters relay messages by traveling between cells and attaching receptors on target cells. Each neurotransmitter binds to a different receptor, for example, the molecule dopamine attaches to the dopamine receptor. After the neurotransmitters deliver messages, the body breaks them down or recycles them.

2. How neurotransmitters work

Sending messages through the body is the way nerve cells communicate with each other. But they have no physical connection to each other, just a small distance. The junction between these two neurons is called a synapse.
More than 100 neurotransmitters have been discovered in the body and each neurotransmitter has its own way of working. Neurotransmitters affect neurons in one of three ways, including:
Excitatory neurotransmitters encourage the target cell to take action. Inhibitory neurotransmitters reduce the chance of target cell activity, and sometimes, these neurotransmitters have a relaxing effect. Regulatory neurotransmitters can send messages to many neurons at the same time. They also communicate with other neurotransmitters. Some neurotransmitters can perform many different functions, depending on the type of receptor they are connecting to. Regulatory neurotransmitters can affect several neurons at once and influence the effects of other chemical messengers. Some neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, depend on receptors being present to produce both excitatory and inhibitory effects.
Các chất dẫn truyền thần kinh
Có hơn 100 chất dẫn truyền thần kinh đã được phát hiện trong cơ thể và mỗi chất dẫn truyền thần kinh có cách hoạt động riêng.

3. Some common excitatory neurotransmitters

3.1. Acetylcholine

Acetylcholine triggers muscle contractions, stimulates certain hormones and controls heart rate. It also plays an important role in brain function, memory and is also an excitatory neurotransmitter. Low levels of acetylcholine have been linked to memory and thinking problems, which are common in Alzheimer's patients. Some Alzheimer's medications help slow the breakdown of acetylcholine in the body, and this may help control some symptoms of dementia.
High levels of acetylcholine can cause muscle contractions. This can lead to seizures, spasms, and other health problems.
The nutrient choline is a building block of acetylcholine. The body must get enough choline from the diet to produce adequate levels of acetylcholine. Choline is available as a supplement but in high doses can lead to serious side effects such as liver damage and seizures.

3.2. Dopamine

Dopamine is important for memory, learning, behavior and motor coordination. Many people know dopamine as a pleasure neurotransmitter. In the body, the brain releases dopamine when we have feelings of joy and euphoria. Dopamine also aids in muscle movement. Therefore, dopamine deficiency can cause Parkinson's disease.
We can get enough dopamine from a healthy diet. The body needs certain amino acids to produce dopamine, and amino acids are found abundantly in protein-rich foods. Meanwhile, eating more saturated fat can result in lower dopamine activity. Additionally, some studies suggest that a vitamin D deficiency can lead to low dopamine activity.
Exercise can help naturally increase dopamine levels. Several studies have shown that regular exercise improves dopamine signaling in people with early-stage Parkinson's disease.
Dopamine rất quan trọng đối với trí nhớ, học tập, hành vi và phối hợp vận động.

3.3. Endorphins

The body can release endorphins when laughing. Endorphins inhibit pain signals and create a feeling of euphoria and energy. They are also the body's natural pain relievers.
One of the most well-known ways to increase feel-good endorphin levels is aerobic exercise. Additionally, research shows that laughter releases endorphins.
Endorphins can help fight pain. Low levels of endorphins may play a role in some headache disorders. A lack of endorphins can also cause fibromyalgia.

3.4. Epinephrine

Epinephrine is also known as adrenaline. It is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. When a person is stressed or scared, the body can secrete epinephrine. Epinephrine increases heart rate, breathing rate, and provides energy to the muscles. It also helps the brain make quick decisions in the face of danger. While epinephrine is helpful, chronic stress can cause the body to release too much of this hormone, and over time, chronic stress can lead to health problems like lowered immunity, high blood pressure, and more. , diabetes and heart disease.
People who are facing consistently high levels of stress should try techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and exercise. In some cases, doctors may use epinephrine to treat many serious conditions that can be life-threatening, such as anaphylaxis, asthma, cardiac arrest, and severe infections. Epinephrine's ability to constrict blood vessels can reduce swelling caused by allergic reactions and asthma attacks. In addition, epinephrine helps the heart contract again if it had stopped during cardiac arrest.
Epinephrine làm tăng nhịp tim, nhịp thở và cung cấp năng lượng cho các cơ.

3.5. Glutamate

This is the most common neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It is an excitatory neurotransmitter and is usually in balance with the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter.

3.6. Histamine

This is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is primarily involved in inflammatory responses, vasodilating, and regulating your immune response to foreign bodies such as allergens.

4. Other neurotransmitters

4.1. Norepinephrine

Also known as noradrenaline, norepinephrine is the main neurotransmitter in the sympathetic nervous system, where it works to control heart rate, blood pressure, liver function, and other functions.

4.2. Gamma-aminobutyric acid

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a mood-balancing substance, it has an inhibitory effect that prevents nerve cells from being over-excited. This is why low GABA levels can cause anxiety, irritability, and restlessness.
Benzodiazepines (benzos) are medications that can treat anxiety. They work by increasing the activity of GABA. This has a calming effect that can treat anxiety attacks. According to some studies, GABA is available in supplement form but it is still unclear whether these supplements help increase GABA levels in the body.

4.3. Serotonin

Exposure to sunlight can increase serotonin levels. Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, appetite, blood clotting, sleep, and the body's circadian rhythms.
Serotonin can cause depression and anxiety. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may reduce depression by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which causes depressive symptoms in the fall and winter when there's less daylight, has also been linked to lower serotonin levels.
Serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) increase serotonin and norepinephrine, which is another neurotransmitter. SNRIs are used to relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and fibromyalgia.
We can increase serotonin naturally through exposure to light, especially sunlight, exercise. A precursor to serotonin, called 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), is available as a dietary supplement. However, some studies have found that 5-HTP is not a safe or effective treatment for depression and may make the condition worse.
Neurotransmitters play a role in almost every function in the body. A balance of neurotransmitters is needed to prevent a number of health conditions. There is no proven way to ensure that neurotransmitters are balanced and working correctly. However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and managing stress can be helpful to balance the activity of certain neurotransmitters.
Serotonin có thể gây ra chứng trầm cảm và lo lắng.
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References: webmd.com, healthline.com, medicalnewstoday.com

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