Different Types of Neurotransmitters and Their Functions

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that carry, boost, and balance signals between neurons and target cells throughout the body.

Here is a list of some of the most common neurotransmitters that work a lot to keep your body and brain working in tandem.

Types of Neurotransmitters

What are the Different Types of Neurotransmitters and Their Functions?


What is a Nervous System?

A nervous system is a complex network of nerves and cells that coordinate the behavior of the animal's body and transmit signals to and from the brain and spinal cord to various parts of the body.


A nervous system is a group of cells that specialize in producing and transmitting an electrochemical stimulus, i.e. the nerve impulse, and it transmits this stimulus from sensory receptors through a network of nerves to the site of the response.

 All living things have the ability to respond to the surrounding environment and any change that occurs to it, and the nervous system is responsible for this response.


Structurally, the nervous system consists of two main parts: The central nervous system (CNS), the peripheral nervous system (PNS).

The central nervous system is the part of the nervous system that is made up of the brain and spinal cord. 

The peripheral nervous system is the division of the nervous system that is made up of nerves that branch out from the spinal cord and extend to all parts of the body.


Nerves are the main substrate in the nervous system, and they act as highways for information to transmit signals between the brain, the spinal cord, and the rest of the body through thin fibers called axons. These axons stimulate the secretion of chemicals called neurotransmitters, and these transmitters bind to receptors that stimulate the communication process between nerve cells.


What are Neurotransmitters?

Neurotransmitters are the body's chemical messengers that transmit signals from nerve cells across the synapse to target cells that may be in muscles, glands, or other nerves.


Neurotransmitters play a vital role in the process of nerve communication and are considered as chemical messengers. They transmit information between nerve cells and other body cells, and this process is called neurotransmission.


 Neurotransmitters affect a wide range of important physical and psychological functions in the body. They affect heart rate, sleep, mood, appetite, and even fear. Millions of neurotransmitter molecules are constantly working to keep the brain functioning normally, and for a nerve cell to control other cells and give them commands they must be able to communicate.

 And here comes the role of neurotransmitters, and in most cases, the neurotransmitter is secreted from axons in the nerve endings, and this is after the occurrence of the so-called action potential on the nerve cell, and when the electrical signal reaches the nerve end, it stimulates vesicles that store the neurotransmitter, and then secrete it.


 The neurotransmitter travels through the synapse to bind to receptors on the neighboring cell, and trigger changes in them. Depending on the type, the neurotransmitter can be either stimulating or inhibiting.


Types of Neurotransmitters and Their Functions

Experts have identified more than 100 neurotransmitters to date, and there are several different types of neurotransmitters that are classified based on their effects on the body.

Neurotransmitters have different types of actions; for example,


Excitatory neurotransmitters stimulate a target cell to generate an action potential.

Inhibitory neurotransmitters decrease the likelihood that the neuron will fire an action potential. In some cases, these neurotransmitters have a relaxation-like effect.

Modulatory neurotransmitters (neuromodulators) are capable of affecting a larger number of neurons at the same time and can influence the effects of other chemical messengers.


Some neurotransmitters can have many functions and effects on nerves, depending on the type of receptor that they are connecting to.

Here is a list of some of the most common neurotransmitters that do a lot to keep your body and mind working in tandem: 



Acetylcholine is an organic chemical that functions in the brain and body of many types of animals as a neurotransmitter.

Acetylcholine is the chief neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system that contracts smooth muscles, controls the heart rate, dilates blood vessels, activates some hormones, and increases bodily secretions and acetylcholine plays a vital role in brain function and memory.



Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter that plays a role in maintaining memory, motivation, attention, learning, and even regulating body movements. 

The brain secretes dopamine during pleasant activities. Dopamine is also responsible for muscle movement. And dopamine deficiency leads to Parkinson's disease. The body needs amino acids to produce dopamine, and protein-rich foods contain these acids.



Endorphins are among the brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters produced naturally by the nervous system and stored in the pituitary gland to relieve stress and pain.

Endorphins have many positive effects on your body in terms of your health and well-being.

Endorphins act on the opiate receptors in the brain, they inhibit pain signals, and contribute to a state of feeling of energy and euphoria, and are considered to be the body's natural sedative.

The lack of endorphins plays a role in the incidence of fibromyalgia.  Exercise is one of the best ways to raise this substance in the body.

Exercise pumps up the production of the brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.



Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter found mostly in the digestive system, also found in blood platelets and throughout the central nervous system.

It is estimated that 90% of the body's serotonin is made in the digestive tract.

Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes mood, appetite, blood clotting, and feelings of well-being, and happiness. 

This hormone enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other. 

Serotonin also helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion and plays a role in patients with depression and anxiety as well.



Epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) is a neurotransmitter that serves as hormones and belongs to a class of compounds known as catecholamines.

Epinephrine is one of the hormones released into the body of someone feeling tension or fear and extreme emotions.

As hormones, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) influences different parts of the body and stimulates the central nervous system.

Epinephrine increases the heart rate, respiratory rate, and gives the body's muscles a lot of energy, in addition to that it helps the brain to make decisions quickly in case of emergency.



Norepinephrine (NE), also known as noradrenaline (NAd), is both a hormone and an excitatory neurotransmitter; a chemical messenger that transmits signals across nerve endings in the body.

Norepinephrine is an organic chemical produced in the inner part of the adrenal glands, also called the adrenal medulla.  Norepinephrine belongs to a class of compounds known as catecholamines. 

Norepinephrine increases heart rate, blood pumping from the heart and helps break down fats, and increases blood sugar levels to provide more energy to the body.

Norepinephrine's actions are vital to a fight-or-flight response, as the body prepares to respond or retreat from an acute threat.

Norepinephrine (NE) has been linked to mood, arousal, alertness, memory, and stress.

Chemically, epinephrine and norepinephrine are very similar. However, epinephrine acts on both alpha and beta receptors, whereas norepinephrine only acts on the alpha receptors.


Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA): 

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a non-proteinogenic amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in the brain.

GABA is considered an inhibitory neurotransmitter because it inhibits certain brain signals, reduces neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system and prevents nerve cells from becoming overactive. 

This is why low levels of GABA are often associated with anxiety and discomfort.



Glutamate is the most abundant neurotransmitter present in over 90% of all synapses. It is a naturally occurring molecule that nerve cells use to send signals to other cells in the central nervous system (CNS).

Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is involved in nearly every exciting brain function and increases the likelihood that the neuron it acts upon will have an action potential.

Glutamate plays an important role in several clinically important pathways, including hippocampal, cerebellar, and spinal cord pathways, cortical association fibers, corticofugal pathways such as the pyramidal tract, etc.


Other Neurotransmitters:

Hormones like estrogen and testosterone can also act as neurotransmitters. Neurochemicals such as oxytocin and vasopressin are also classified as neurotransmitters.

Other neurotransmitter types include enkephalin, galanin, dynorphin, corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and neuropeptide Y. 

As neuroscientists learn more about the complexity of neurotransmission, it is clear that the brain needs these different molecules in order to have a greater range of flexibility and function.

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