A Better Understanding: Neurochemistry of Addiction
To better understand the fundamentals of neurochemistry, a good start is at the brain. The brain makes up the central nervous system and is connected to the whole nervous system that runs through the whole body. The central nervous system receives sensory information and controls the body’s response. For example, a pot on a stove would be extremely hot on the hands when the stove is on and would damage the skin. This sensory information is sent up to the brain to be processed. The brain then controls the body to remove the hand to prevent more damage. All this information travels through neurons. Neurons are nerve cells that are essentially the basic building blocks of the nervous system. They are required to communicate information in both chemical and electrical forms. To process information in the brain, neurons must work together in a circuit-like fashion to function properly. No one nerve cell or neuron can work alone. Neurochemistry studies how information is passed between the billion of neurons in the brain. Evaluating what happens when someone is addicted to a drug helps to further understand the neurochemistry in the body.
Inside a neuron, pores in the cell membrane allow positive and negative ions to pass through into the interior and exterior of the cell. Additional mechanisms are required at synapses to pass signals from one neuron to another. Synapses are the gaps that allow two neurons to pass information back and forth. Electrical synapses (where electrical signals are transferred directly from neuron to the next) are rarely formed, however, most neurons in the nervous system communicate via these chemical synapses. The electrical activity in a presynaptic neuron occurring at the chemical synapses causes the release of a chemical messenger called a neurotransmitter, which binds to neurotransmitter receptors on a postsynaptic neuron.
Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that...
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