Neurotransmitters refer to messengers of the brain that are in chemical form. That is, they are biochemical compounds found in the brain that are responsible for the transmission of signals coming from neurons across a synapse.
Neurotransmitters have an impact on the mood, appetite, temperature, fear and anxiety among other psychological occurrences of an individual (Ankrom, 2008, p.1). It is because of this reason that the production of neurotransmitters in the body is required to be neither too low nor too high since they can be a cause of mental disorders such as depression, dementia and schizophrenia just to mention but a few.
A neuron on the other hand is a special type of nerve that is responsible for the reception, processing and transmission of information throughout the cells of the body. Neurons therefore form the sources and receiving ends of the information carried by the neurotransmitters. The neurons together with the neurotransmitters are important components of the nervous system.
There are many types of neurotransmitters in the brain which include; acetylcholine, serotonin, glutamate and dopamine among others. Being the first neurotransmitter to be discovered, acetylcholine is endorsed with many functions in the brain and body of an individual. To begin with, it is responsible for the stimulation of most body muscles including the cardiac muscles and smooth muscles like the gastro-intestinal muscles (Boeree, 2009, p.1).
It is also responsible for learning, sleep and the memory of an individual. Just like the other neurotransmitters, only adequate levels of the acetylcholine are required in the body as too much or too little is detrimental to the health. Low production of acetylcholine leads to a condition known as dementia while overproduction of acetylcholine leads to depression. A common disease that results from dementia is the Alzheimer’s disease in other terms known as Parkinson’s disease.
This disease comes about when the cholinergic neurons produce low levels of acetylcholine in the brain. In low levels of acetylcholine, the cholinergic neurons are not able to receive impulse hence there is failure of signals which causes the memory lapse hence the Alzheimer’s disease. Similarly, overproduction of the acetylcholine causes the sending and reception of many signals causing the brain to overwork hence leading to depression.
In addition to acetylcholine, there is another neurotransmitter known as dopamine. Unlike other neurotransmitters, dopamine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter because once in the neuron, it hinders the neuron from sending signals. It functions in the same way as adrenaline by controlling movement, pain, pleasure as well as emotional response (Carver, 2010, p.1).
Because of this, it plays a great role in addiction thus; its production should be maintained at adequate levels since abnormal levels affect both mental and physical health. If dopamine is produced in very low levels in the brain, it leads to the Parkinson’s disease whereby an individual suffers loss of balance and coordination, muscle rigidity, tremors and shaking, impaired intellectual ability among other symptoms. High levels on the other hand make the senses of the body very alert leading to a condition known as Schizophrenia.
Very high levels of dopamine are mostly incurred under the influence of drugs such as cocaine. From the above discussion, it can be concluded that only optimum levels of the neurotransmitters is favourable in the body. Therefore, very low or high levels may be counteracted with responsive drugs so as to optimise the neurotransmitter levels for effective functioning of the body.
Ankrom, S. (2008). Neurotransmitters: The Chemical Messengers of the Brain. Retrieved, February 11, 2011. From, http://panicdisorder.about.com/od/understandingpanic/a/neurotrans.htm
Boeree, G. (2009). Neurotransmitters. Retrieved, February 11, 2011. From,
Carver, J. (2010). Dopamine: Parkinson’s disease and ADHD to Smoking and Paranoia. Retrieved, February 11, 2011. From, http://www.enotalone.com/article/4115.html