Chems of the brain

Topics: Neuron, Action potential, Neurotransmitter Pages: 5 (2822 words) Published: April 27, 2015
 Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit signals across a synapse, a structure that permits to pass electrical or chemical signal to another cell from one neuron to another. Neurotransmitters are synthesized from converting substances that are readily available to the body such as amino acids, which are available from food and only need some converting into transmitters. Neurotransmitters crucial to daily life and functions. Scientists are uncertain exactly how many Neurotransmitters there are, but more than 100 identified.

The neurotransmitter then crosses the synaptic gap to reach the receptor site of the other cell or neuron. Then, in a process known as reuptake, the neurotransmitter attaches to the receptor site and is reabsorbed by the neuron. Most neurotransmitters are about the size of a single amino acid, however, some neurotransmitters may be the size of larger proteins or peptides. A released neurotransmitter is typically available in the synaptic cleft for a short time before it is metabolized by enzymes, pulled back into the presynaptic neuron through reuptake, or bound to a postsynaptic receptor. Nevertheless, short-term exposure of the receptor to a neurotransmitter is typically sufficient for causing a postsynaptic response by way of synaptic transmission. In response to a threshold action potential or graded electrical potential, a neurotransmitter is released at the presynaptic terminal. Low level "baseline" release also occurs without electrical stimulation. The released neurotransmitter may then move across the synapse to be detected by and bind with receptors in the postsynaptic neuron. Binding of neurotransmitters may influence the postsynaptic neuron in either an inhibitory or excitatory way. This neuron may be connected to many more neurons, and if the total of excitatory influences are greater than those of inhibitory influences, the neuron will also "fire". Ultimately it will create a new action potential at its axon hillock to release neurotransmitters and pass on the information to yet another neighboring neuron. Discovery

Until the early 20th century, scientists assumed that the majority of synaptic communication in the brain was electrical. However, through the careful histological examinations by Ramón y Cajal, a 20 to 40 nm gap between neurons, known today as the synaptic cleft, was discovered. The presence of such a gap suggested communication via chemical messengers traversing the synaptic cleft, and in 1921 German pharmacologist Otto Loewi confirmed that neurons can communicate by releasing chemicals. Through a series of experiments involving the vagus nerves of frogs, Loewi was able to manually slow the heart rate of frogs by controlling the amount of saline solution present around the vagus nerve. Upon completion of this experiment, Loewi asserted that sympathetic regulation of cardiac function can be mediated through changes in chemical concentrations. Furthermore, Otto Loewi is credited with discovering acetylcholine —the first known neurotransmitter. Some neurons do, however, communicate via electrical synapses through the use of gap junctions, which allow specific ions to pass directly from one cell to another. Identification

There are four main criteria for identifying neurotransmitters: # The chemical must be synthesized in the neuron or otherwise be present in it. # When the neuron is active, the chemical must be released and produce a response in some target. # The same response must be obtained when the chemical is experimentally placed on the target. # A mechanism must exist for removing the chemical from its site of activation after its work is done. However, given advances in pharmacology, genetics, and chemical neuroanatomy, the term "neurotransmitter" can be applied to chemicals that: Carry messages between neurons via influence on the postsynaptic membrane. Have little or no effect on membrane voltage, but have a common carrying function such as...
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