Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the body. Their job is to transmit signals from nerve cells to target cells. These target cells may be in muscles, glands, or other nerves.
The brain needs neurotransmitters to regulate many necessary functions, including:
- heart rate
- sleep cycles
- muscle movement
Experts have identified more than 100 neurotransmitters to date. Neurotransmitters have different types of action:
Excitatory neurotransmitters encourage a target cell to take action.
Inhibitory neurotransmitters decrease the chances of the target cell taking action. In some cases, these neurotransmitters have a relaxation-like effect.
Modulatory neurotransmitters can send messages to many neurons at the same time. They also communicate with other neurotransmitters.
The 6 major neurotransmitters are acetylcholine, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (more commonly referred to as GABA), and glutamate.