The human brain is typically made up of the neurons and the glial cells. These are the main cells present in the nervous system. The glial cells remove dead neurons and viruses from the nervous system, as well as produce myelin in the brain. The neurons, on the other hand, transmit information mainly between the brain and organs in the body. Neurons produce certain chemical substances known as the neurotransmitters, which transmit messages in the brain.
Some Classifications of Neurotransmitters and Examples
It is a neurotransmitter that enhances memory and learning. Glutamate is present in over 90% of all brain synapses.
ii. GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid)
It is a neurotransmitter that regulates anxiety and restores the body’s tranquility.
Dopamine is part of the catecholamine group of monoamines. It is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for pleasurable sensations, attention and regulation of body movements.
Serotonin is part of the indolamine group of monoamines. It is a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, digestion and stabilizes one’s mood.
They are neurotransmitters that relieve the body of pain and stress.
They are hormone acting neurotransmitters that are involved in reproduction. They are more active in females than in males.
Neurotransmitters and Drug Activity
Some drugs or medications that are taken into the body affect the functioning of neurotransmitters. These drugs could act as agonists or antagonists.
Agonist drugs: They are drugs that enhance or increase the effect of a neurotransmitter. For example, alcohol causes the release of GABA. Hence, alcohol is a GABA agonist.
Antagonist Drugs: They are drugs that block or decrease the effect of a neurotransmitter. For example, Olanzapine decreases the effect of dopamine. Therefore, it is a dopamine antagonist.
Neurotransmitters and Diseases
Neurotransmitters play very active roles in diseases and the body’s normal functioning. The imbalance of neurotransmitters could lead to a variety of disorders. Hence, too much of these chemicals in the brain could be detrimental to one’s health. Similarly, the underproduction of neurotransmitters in the brain may incur serious health problems.
a. Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a developmental brain disorder that is characterized by excessive levels of activity, distractibility and difficulty in concerntrating. It is associated with excessive production of dopamine in the brain. Although it is unclear whether the excess in dopamine is as a result of, or as a cause of ADHD, brain imaging prove that there is a high concentration of dopamine in ADHD patients. Hence, drugs such as Methylphenidates are used to reduce dopamine in such patients. Genetic factors play a huge role in the development of ADHD.
Common Symptoms of ADHD include:
ii. Incessant Talking
iii. Running around inappropriately
iv. Lack of focus
b. Parkinson’s Disease
It is a degenerative brain disorder that attacks the central nervous system. Parkinson’s Disease is associated with a deficiency in the neurotransmitter dopamine, in the brain. Therefore, patients suffering from Parkinson’s are usually given dopamine agonist drugs such as Levodopa to increase dopamine in their brain. An individual who is genetically predisposed to the disease has a high risk of contracting it.
Common Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease include:
i. Difficulty in speaking
ii. Tremor (uncontrollable shaking of hands and legs)
iii. Jaw stiffness
iv. Distorted sense of smell
v. Slow bodily movements
c. Schizophrenia Spectrum
Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that causes an individual to lose contact of reality. It is associated with excessive production of dopamine in the brain. Some risk factors of schizophrenia include a family history of the illness, structural changes in the brain, childhood trauma, drug abuse etc. High levels of dopamine in persons with schizophrenia are managed with antipsychotics such as Olanzapine, which are dopamine antagonist.
Common Symptoms of Schizophrenia include:
i. False sensory perception
ii. Disorganized speech and thought
iii. Flat mood
d. Clinical Depression
Clinical Depression is a neurological disorder of prolonged sadness that disrupts the overall functioning of the body. It usually results from environmental factors such as stressful life events, including the death of a loved one, prolonged work stress and other genetic factors. Depression in individuals is typically characterised by lower levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. Therefore, antidepressants such as Fluoxetine are used to elevate mood among patients with depression.
Common Symptoms of Clinical Depression includes:
i. Frequent thoughts of suicide
ii. Unresolved feelings of guilt
iii. Sleep disturbances
iv. Slowness in activity
v. Loss of appetite
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer depression. This implies that depression is a common mental disorder which often leads to suicide. Therefore, find effective ways to manage stress and live a healthy fulfilling life.
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