A neurochemical is an organic molecule, such as serotonin, dopamine, or nerve growth factor, that participates in neural activity. The science of neurochemistry studies the functions of neurochemicals.
- The neuropeptide oxytocin. Oxytocin is involved in the control of maternal behavior. It is synthesized inside magnocellular neurosecretory cells as a precursor protein that is processed by proteolysis to its shorter active peptide form. Specific parts of the brain such as the supraoptic nucleus produce oxytocin which acts on cells in locations such as the ventral pallidum to produce the behavioral effects of oxytocin. A large amount of oxytocin is made in the hypothalamus, transported to the posterior lobe of the pituitary and released into the blood stream by which it reaches target tissues such as the mammary glands (milk letdown). In the diagram inset, oxytocin is shown bound to a carrier protein, neurophysin.
- Other examples of neurochemicals
- Glutamate is the most common neurotransmitter. Most neurons secrete with glutamate or GABA. Glutamate is excitatory, meaning that the release of glutamate by one cell usually causes adjacent cells to fire an action potential. (Note: Glutamate is chemically identical to the MSG commonly used to flavor food.)
- GABA is an example of an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
- Dopamine is another example of a neurotransmitter. It plays a key role in the functioning of the limbic system, which is involved in emotional function and control. It also plays a part in movement, alertness, and sensations of pleasure.
- Serotonin plays a regulatory role in mood, sleep, and other areas.
- Acetylcholine assists motor function and is involved in memory.
- Nitric oxide functions as a neurotransmitter, despite being a gas. It is not grouped with the other neurotransmitters because it is not released in the same way.
- Endocannabinoids act in the endocannabinoid system to control neurotransmitter release in a host of neuronal tissues, including the hippocampus, amygdala, basal ganglia, and cerebellum.
- Eicosanoids act as neurotransmitters via the Arachidonic acid cascade.
- ^ Piomelli, Daniele (2000). "Arachidonic Acid". Neuropsychopharmacology: The Fifth Generation of Progress. http://www.acnp.org/g4/GN401000059/Default.htm. Retrieved 2006-03-03.
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