NeuroLove

Loving Neuroscience comes from understanding

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MYTH: We only use 10% of our brains.
Hollywood apparently loves this myth (“Lucy” and “Limitless” are two recent movies that come to mind). However, this is still a MYTH. In fact, we use 100% of our brains. The brain works largely on a “use it or lose it” basis. Neurons are constantly making new connections and pruning away connections that we don’t need/don’t use very often. For instance, if I asked what you wore yesterday (5/27/14), you could probably tell me because this connection was made yesterday and was still relevant. If I asked you in another year what you wore on 5/27/14, you probably couldn’t (unless it was a special event). This is because we don’t need to remember every detail of our lives, so our brain will prune away these connections/memories if we don’t continuously use them. It’s a smart system- we keep what we need and use and lose what we don’t (to make space for the other things that we need).
The brain does a lot- it’s what experiences the world for you and collects data to makes decisions. We must use all 100% that we have to accomplish these complicated feats.
I have no idea where this myth came from, but I’ve heard statistics that upwards of 2/3 the population do believe that we only use 10% of our brains. Please know that you do use 100% of what you have. For instance, if there is brain damage (i.e. Alzheimer’s disease), you will lose whatever that part of the brain did. There is no part of the brain that you can lose and still function normally (sometimes, other parts of the brain can compensate for that loss or it can be rebuilt, but there is still a loss). If we only used 10%, there would be a lot we could lose and not notice. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Our brain is very efficient and needs everything it has to function properly (without superpowers).
[Image Source]

MYTH: We only use 10% of our brains.

Hollywood apparently loves this myth (“Lucy” and “Limitless” are two recent movies that come to mind). However, this is still a MYTH. In fact, we use 100% of our brains. The brain works largely on a “use it or lose it” basis. Neurons are constantly making new connections and pruning away connections that we don’t need/don’t use very often. For instance, if I asked what you wore yesterday (5/27/14), you could probably tell me because this connection was made yesterday and was still relevant. If I asked you in another year what you wore on 5/27/14, you probably couldn’t (unless it was a special event). This is because we don’t need to remember every detail of our lives, so our brain will prune away these connections/memories if we don’t continuously use them. It’s a smart system- we keep what we need and use and lose what we don’t (to make space for the other things that we need).

The brain does a lot- it’s what experiences the world for you and collects data to makes decisions. We must use all 100% that we have to accomplish these complicated feats.

I have no idea where this myth came from, but I’ve heard statistics that upwards of 2/3 the population do believe that we only use 10% of our brains. Please know that you do use 100% of what you have. For instance, if there is brain damage (i.e. Alzheimer’s disease), you will lose whatever that part of the brain did. There is no part of the brain that you can lose and still function normally (sometimes, other parts of the brain can compensate for that loss or it can be rebuilt, but there is still a loss). If we only used 10%, there would be a lot we could lose and not notice. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Our brain is very efficient and needs everything it has to function properly (without superpowers).

[Image Source]

Filed under science neuroscience lucy limitless

172 notes

How do we classify parts of the brain?
I’ll begin by talking about the major parts of cortex and the basic things that happen in each.  Cortex is the outer part of the brain.  All the bodies of neurons are in this outer part of the brain, and it’s the parts of the brain you typically think of.  Cortex is divided into four lobes: frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital.
The frontal lobe is primarily where you process all of those higher order things that we typically think separates us from animals (which may or may not be true).  We use this part of our brain to make decisions, such as “Do I want this cake right now or later?”; to make moral judgments and decide on right and wrong- “Would it be bad if I threw this book at that irritating person?”; to “feel” as in emotions, such as “Wow, today was a bad day.  I’m really sad.”; to keep things in short term memory- if I told you to remember the word “chair” and keep reading and there would be a quiz at the end, you would probably repeat it to yourself using an area in this part of your brain.
The temporal lobe is much simpler and is primarily devoted to hearing.  Processing sound is much more complicated than you’d think!  You have to discern words from sounds and figure out what they mean.  “Oh, that’s a siren.  Someone must be in trouble!”  You also have to figure out where they are coming from, “Is that siren heading this way?  Should I pull my car over?”  Your brain does this with such ease that you don’t even have to really think about it.  The temporal lobe also houses the hippocampus, a structure you may or may not have heard of before.  It is what enters information into long-term memory.  Those baseball stats you can remember as well as what you ate for dinner last Thursday have been encoded by the hippocampus.
The parietal lobe is primarily devoted to somatosensation, which is a big word for touch.  Everything you feel, texture, shape, etc. is brought to the parietal lobe for analysis.  Additionally, your placement of your body, in terms of where your leg is in relation to the other leg but also in the world (i.e. up on a footstool) is encoded by the parietal lobe.  Attention also has a big role in this lobe, as you decide what to pay attention to- your teacher’s lecture?  this blog? and actually do so.
Finally, the occipital lobe is primarily devoted to vision.  Vision is incredibly complex and combines all the factors of depth perception, shape, form, color, and movement of objects (like some of the other things I spoke about lately).  The occipital lobe is really the first place where visual information starts to be decoded before it travels to other lobes to be further analysed and put together into what you are actually seeing.

[Image Source]

How do we classify parts of the brain?

I’ll begin by talking about the major parts of cortex and the basic things that happen in each.  Cortex is the outer part of the brain.  All the bodies of neurons are in this outer part of the brain, and it’s the parts of the brain you typically think of.  Cortex is divided into four lobes: frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital.

The frontal lobe is primarily where you process all of those higher order things that we typically think separates us from animals (which may or may not be true).  We use this part of our brain to make decisions, such as “Do I want this cake right now or later?”; to make moral judgments and decide on right and wrong- “Would it be bad if I threw this book at that irritating person?”; to “feel” as in emotions, such as “Wow, today was a bad day.  I’m really sad.”; to keep things in short term memory- if I told you to remember the word “chair” and keep reading and there would be a quiz at the end, you would probably repeat it to yourself using an area in this part of your brain.

The temporal lobe is much simpler and is primarily devoted to hearing.  Processing sound is much more complicated than you’d think!  You have to discern words from sounds and figure out what they mean.  “Oh, that’s a siren.  Someone must be in trouble!”  You also have to figure out where they are coming from, “Is that siren heading this way?  Should I pull my car over?”  Your brain does this with such ease that you don’t even have to really think about it.  The temporal lobe also houses the hippocampus, a structure you may or may not have heard of before.  It is what enters information into long-term memory.  Those baseball stats you can remember as well as what you ate for dinner last Thursday have been encoded by the hippocampus.

The parietal lobe is primarily devoted to somatosensation, which is a big word for touch.  Everything you feel, texture, shape, etc. is brought to the parietal lobe for analysis.  Additionally, your placement of your body, in terms of where your leg is in relation to the other leg but also in the world (i.e. up on a footstool) is encoded by the parietal lobe.  Attention also has a big role in this lobe, as you decide what to pay attention to- your teacher’s lecture?  this blog? and actually do so.

Finally, the occipital lobe is primarily devoted to vision.  Vision is incredibly complex and combines all the factors of depth perception, shape, form, color, and movement of objects (like some of the other things I spoke about lately).  The occipital lobe is really the first place where visual information starts to be decoded before it travels to other lobes to be further analysed and put together into what you are actually seeing.

[Image Source]

Filed under science

65 notes

[Image Source] I love this picture, so I thought I would share it.
This is a zebrafish retina (eye) that is stained with an antibody that recognizes double cone cells (photoreceptors).  It has also been stained with other things to recognize different layers, which is what gives you the colors you see above.  When antibodies are used for staining proteins, this is known as immunohistochemistry (immuno- referring to the immune reaction that creates an antibody and histo- referring to the tissue being stained).  Antibodies are most commonly made by injecting the purified protein you want to look at into an animal and collecting the antibodies that are created by the animal’s immune system to target (and get rid of) the protein.  You can then tag these antibodies (so they will show up as a specific color) and put them over a tissue slice, where they will attach to the protein in the tissue and show you where it is located (by color!).

[Image Source] I love this picture, so I thought I would share it.

This is a zebrafish retina (eye) that is stained with an antibody that recognizes double cone cells (photoreceptors).  It has also been stained with other things to recognize different layers, which is what gives you the colors you see above.  When antibodies are used for staining proteins, this is known as immunohistochemistry (immuno- referring to the immune reaction that creates an antibody and histo- referring to the tissue being stained).  Antibodies are most commonly made by injecting the purified protein you want to look at into an animal and collecting the antibodies that are created by the animal’s immune system to target (and get rid of) the protein.  You can then tag these antibodies (so they will show up as a specific color) and put them over a tissue slice, where they will attach to the protein in the tissue and show you where it is located (by color!).

Filed under science

140 notes

Tetrachromats
In a follow up to last week’s post, I wanted to talk about tetrachromats.  Tetrachromacy is when someone has four opsins, instead of the regular three.  Tetrachromacy can only occur in women, and is caused by having a fourth type of opsin that registers between the normal red and green.  Tetrachromats are more likely to have colorblind sons (one of their X-chromosomes is missing the regular third opsin and instead has this fourth, so if their son gets that, he is missing the regular opsin and only able to see differences within the other two normal opsins), but not all women with colorblind sons are tetrachromats (they might simply have two of one of the regular opsins and another of another of the regular opsins on the X-chromosome or might have only 2 or less of the regular opsins coded on the X-chromosome).  It is estimated that 3-4% of women are tetrachromats, which is markedly lower than the rate of colorblindness.
It isn’t that these women can see colors that other people cannot see; rather, they can see extra shades within the same color range we experience.  This means that they can discriminate between very slight shade differences that other people could not.  They may see up to hundreds of thousands of shades of colors that we could have no way of even imagining.  Hopefully, this makes sense to you with what we talked about with opsins yesterday.  It’s hard to imagine how much different the world might look with more shades than what we can see, but I bet it is incredible.
Are you a tetrachromat? Check out the picture above. Do you see lots of dots with the same colors? Or do you see letters or numbers in them? If you see something in the circles (in a different color), then you might be a tetrachromat!

Tetrachromats


In a follow up to last week’s post, I wanted to talk about tetrachromats.  Tetrachromacy is when someone has four opsins, instead of the regular three.  Tetrachromacy can only occur in women, and is caused by having a fourth type of opsin that registers between the normal red and green.  Tetrachromats are more likely to have colorblind sons (one of their X-chromosomes is missing the regular third opsin and instead has this fourth, so if their son gets that, he is missing the regular opsin and only able to see differences within the other two normal opsins), but not all women with colorblind sons are tetrachromats (they might simply have two of one of the regular opsins and another of another of the regular opsins on the X-chromosome or might have only 2 or less of the regular opsins coded on the X-chromosome).  It is estimated that 3-4% of women are tetrachromats, which is markedly lower than the rate of colorblindness.

It isn’t that these women can see colors that other people cannot see; rather, they can see extra shades within the same color range we experience.  This means that they can discriminate between very slight shade differences that other people could not.  They may see up to hundreds of thousands of shades of colors that we could have no way of even imagining.  Hopefully, this makes sense to you with what we talked about with opsins yesterday.  It’s hard to imagine how much different the world might look with more shades than what we can see, but I bet it is incredible.

Are you a tetrachromat? Check out the picture above. Do you see lots of dots with the same colors? Or do you see letters or numbers in them? If you see something in the circles (in a different color), then you might be a tetrachromat!

Filed under science

71 notes

FLASHBACK
How does color blindness work? (Question by brokenglass)
The type of neuron that processes light in the eye is the photoreceptor, and they come in two types: rods and cones.  In the top picture above, you can see these two types.  Cones are the ones that process colors (rods are more light/dark, non-specific, movement detectors, etc.).  In these photoreceptors, there are opsins that detect some wavelengths of light better than others.  In the lower image, you can see the wavelengths that the three cone opsins can detect and the much broader range that the rod opsin (rhodopsin) detects.
These opsins absorb the wavelengths of light and essentially excite the photoreceptor.  By having all three, you are able to detect a whole range of colors.  Some will excite certain opsins more than others, etc., and they work together to provide an accurate shade of color for whatever you are looking at.
In color blindness, the person is lacking one or more of the cone opsins.  They can still see, but they are unable to detect that range of colors and discriminate those shades as well.  Since the gene that makes these proteins is on the X-chromosome (women have two X’s and men have one X- paired with a Y), men are much more likely to be colorblind.  If a woman does not have all the genes for all three color opsins on one X-chromosome, it is likely that she has the missing one on her other X-chromosome.  For men, if they are missing those genes, they cannot get them from another chromosome, since they only have one copy of the X-chromosome.  That’s why you are more likely to come across a man with color blindness than a woman.
Ask your question here.

[Image Source]

FLASHBACK

How does color blindness work? (Question by brokenglass)

The type of neuron that processes light in the eye is the photoreceptor, and they come in two types: rods and cones.  In the top picture above, you can see these two types.  Cones are the ones that process colors (rods are more light/dark, non-specific, movement detectors, etc.).  In these photoreceptors, there are opsins that detect some wavelengths of light better than others.  In the lower image, you can see the wavelengths that the three cone opsins can detect and the much broader range that the rod opsin (rhodopsin) detects.

These opsins absorb the wavelengths of light and essentially excite the photoreceptor.  By having all three, you are able to detect a whole range of colors.  Some will excite certain opsins more than others, etc., and they work together to provide an accurate shade of color for whatever you are looking at.

In color blindness, the person is lacking one or more of the cone opsins.  They can still see, but they are unable to detect that range of colors and discriminate those shades as well.  Since the gene that makes these proteins is on the X-chromosome (women have two X’s and men have one X- paired with a Y), men are much more likely to be colorblind.  If a woman does not have all the genes for all three color opsins on one X-chromosome, it is likely that she has the missing one on her other X-chromosome.  For men, if they are missing those genes, they cannot get them from another chromosome, since they only have one copy of the X-chromosome.  That’s why you are more likely to come across a man with color blindness than a woman.

Ask your question here.

[Image Source]

Filed under science

167 notes

MYTH: Once your brain cells die, they can’t grow back. The brain does not change.
This follows the myth that you are born with all the neurons you’ll ever have. In fact, some neurons do regenerate and/or change. If they couldn’t, you’d have lost your sense of smell years ago! Not to mention, you’d never be able to form new memories or learn new things.
In the neuroscience community, we often discuss this with terms like “neurogenesis” and brain “plasticity.” Meaning that new neurons can grow (neurogenesis) and can change (plasticity) with time. Adult neurogenesis in mammals appears to occur in the olfactory bulb (these neurons have frequent turnover, due to their exposure and death) and the hippocampus- the part of the brain that creates memories (more info here). There is evidence that it may happen elsewhere in the brain too (for instance, this paper in Cell showed that it happens to interneurons in striatum).
However, unfortunately, some nerves can’t repair themselves or regrow once damaged in adulthood (like those in the spinal column). Not all neurons are like this, and sometimes they can repair themselves with partial damage but not when completely damaged, as comes into play with paralysis and Alzheimer’s disease. The field is still learning about these and which factors make them irreparable or irreplaceable. Maybe one day we’ll be able to fix all neural damage (people are investigating how to do this now! We’re not close to a cure, but others are beginning to understand this better).
For now, it’s important to know that this absolute statement is a myth, and some neurons do regrow- and our brain is changing all the time, as we learn new things and experience new memories.
[Image Source]

MYTH: Once your brain cells die, they can’t grow back. The brain does not change.

This follows the myth that you are born with all the neurons you’ll ever have. In fact, some neurons do regenerate and/or change. If they couldn’t, you’d have lost your sense of smell years ago! Not to mention, you’d never be able to form new memories or learn new things.

In the neuroscience community, we often discuss this with terms like “neurogenesis” and brain “plasticity.” Meaning that new neurons can grow (neurogenesis) and can change (plasticity) with time. Adult neurogenesis in mammals appears to occur in the olfactory bulb (these neurons have frequent turnover, due to their exposure and death) and the hippocampus- the part of the brain that creates memories (more info here). There is evidence that it may happen elsewhere in the brain too (for instance, this paper in Cell showed that it happens to interneurons in striatum).

However, unfortunately, some nerves can’t repair themselves or regrow once damaged in adulthood (like those in the spinal column). Not all neurons are like this, and sometimes they can repair themselves with partial damage but not when completely damaged, as comes into play with paralysis and Alzheimer’s disease. The field is still learning about these and which factors make them irreparable or irreplaceable. Maybe one day we’ll be able to fix all neural damage (people are investigating how to do this now! We’re not close to a cure, but others are beginning to understand this better).

For now, it’s important to know that this absolute statement is a myth, and some neurons do regrow- and our brain is changing all the time, as we learn new things and experience new memories.

[Image Source]

Filed under science neurons memory

99 notes

bookwhoreder asked: Hi, Is there any chance you would be able to explain how alcohol alters the release of dopamine in the VTA and nucleus accumbens? And its relation to the reward/pleasure system?

Sure! Thanks for the question.

image

For people who don’t know, all addictions are thought to act on the mesolimbic dopamine system (the reward system), which includes the ventral tegmental area (VTA) which releases dopamine, Nucleus Accumbens (on which the dopamine acts), and prefrontal cortex. Drugs of addiction, including alcohol, act on this system to increase dopamine, a neurotransmitter which can produce that good feeling that drives addiction (as a simple explanation). Alcohol isn’t as obvious as, say, cocaine which increases dopamine by blocking the dopamine transporter. Unlike other drugs, alcohol doesn’t seem to act on a specific receptor in the brain (at least that we have found thus far). Instead, it appears that alcohol may act on other effectors of the dopaminergic system, such as GABA, glutamate, and serotonin. These systems seem to cause neuroadaptive changes that upon withdrawal of alcohol can cause dopaminergic decrease and withdrawal symptoms. For instance, alcohol seems to inhibit glutamate receptors, as shown in the image above. Chronic use will cause chronic inhibition of these receptors, which will modulate postsynaptic responses and protein composition (i.e. it could change the number of receptors) to glutamate. These neurons are located throughout the mesolimbic system. Thus, since their response is changed, the way the mesolimbic system works will also change. It’s been found in rats that chronic ethanol (alcohol) will increase sensitivity to glutamate and withdrawal from ethanol can cause hyperexcitability of the brain which leads to things like seizures. Anyway, to be clear, the whole effect of alcohol on the mesolimbic dopamine system is very complex, and it seems like alccohol may mediate the activity in this system through other neurotransmitters (aside from dopamine), but still have an effect on the dopaminergic system. Hope this helps!

[Image Source- NIAAA publication]

32 notes

themodernsound asked: Could you talk about the Post-Synaptic Density a bit? I've just learned a little about it but I don't quite understand how it functions.

First of all, thanks so much for the question! The post-synaptic density (pictured above) is so named for the dense concentration of proteins and molecules in the synapse that was first seen with electron microscopy. The synapse is just the space between two communicating neurons. As you can see, it’s a pretty small space. In this space, there are proteins that hold the neurons in place and keep them connected as well as anchor receptors and things important for signaling in place (i.e. scaffolding proteins). There are also a lot of receptors to accept the signal from the pre-synaptic neuron.  These signals can include the neurotransmitters I most recently spoke about (glutamate, GABA, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, etc). I hope this helps!

[Image Source]

158 notes

Sorry for the silence as of late! I had to move a couple times and then get started with my post-doctoral fellowship! Things are finally settling down a bit, so in the next month or so, I should be able to get back to regular postings. 
Since the last thing I spoke about was dopamine, I’ll give you a fun dopamine figure! Here, you can see the basic pathway for dopamine synthesis. Dopamine is made from the precursor L-DOPA, which is a small molecule that can pass through the blood brain barrier (thus why it can be used to treat Parkinson’s- it can be given, will get into the brain, and can then be made into dopamine and used by the remaining dopaminergic neurons). L-DOPA can also be made from tyrosine, which is an amino acid that can be made in the body or ingested- it is found in many protein sources, including poultry, milk, etc.
This image also shows some other things which are interesting- including MAOs (monoamine oxidases- breaks down dopamine- and other monoamine class neurotransmitters) and MAO inhibitors.
[Image Source - Moussa et al., 2006]

Sorry for the silence as of late! I had to move a couple times and then get started with my post-doctoral fellowship! Things are finally settling down a bit, so in the next month or so, I should be able to get back to regular postings. 

Since the last thing I spoke about was dopamine, I’ll give you a fun dopamine figure! Here, you can see the basic pathway for dopamine synthesis. Dopamine is made from the precursor L-DOPA, which is a small molecule that can pass through the blood brain barrier (thus why it can be used to treat Parkinson’s- it can be given, will get into the brain, and can then be made into dopamine and used by the remaining dopaminergic neurons). L-DOPA can also be made from tyrosine, which is an amino acid that can be made in the body or ingested- it is found in many protein sources, including poultry, milk, etc.

This image also shows some other things which are interesting- including MAOs (monoamine oxidases- breaks down dopamine- and other monoamine class neurotransmitters) and MAO inhibitors.

[Image Source - Moussa et al., 2006]

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766 notes

DOPAMINE!
Alright, moving along to dopamine (DA), which is probably my favorite neurotransmitter (and likely yours too- even though you don’t realize it!). Dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved in addiction (shown above for cocaine- since cocaine blocks the dopamine transporter, it causes dopamine to stay in the synapse longer), and basically anything rewarding.  When you get a surprise or win some money, dopamine is what causes that feel-good rush! It’s the transmitter involved in reward, but it also has other functions as well- it helps with prefrontal concentration, accurate movements, control of thoughts (too much can cause hallucinations), etc. It’s really an incredible molecule!
Dopamine is produced in the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) and Substantia Nigra (SN) in the midbrain and has widespread effects throughout the brain- in the basal ganglia circuitry and throughout cortex. I’ll be talking more about this one in coming posts since it’s quite fascinating to me!
[Image Source]

DOPAMINE!

Alright, moving along to dopamine (DA), which is probably my favorite neurotransmitter (and likely yours too- even though you don’t realize it!). Dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved in addiction (shown above for cocaine- since cocaine blocks the dopamine transporter, it causes dopamine to stay in the synapse longer), and basically anything rewarding.  When you get a surprise or win some money, dopamine is what causes that feel-good rush! It’s the transmitter involved in reward, but it also has other functions as well- it helps with prefrontal concentration, accurate movements, control of thoughts (too much can cause hallucinations), etc. It’s really an incredible molecule!

Dopamine is produced in the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) and Substantia Nigra (SN) in the midbrain and has widespread effects throughout the brain- in the basal ganglia circuitry and throughout cortex. I’ll be talking more about this one in coming posts since it’s quite fascinating to me!

[Image Source]

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167 notes

Another neurotransmitter is serotonin (5HT is the abbreviation- derived from the chemical name, 5-hydroxytryptamine). 5HT is largely found in the gastrointestinal tract where it regulates the muscles there. However, I think its functions in the brain are even more interesting.  Serotonin is largely produced by the Raphe Nuclei in the brain and have functions throughout cortex. The context you have most likely heard about 5HT in the past is because most anti-depressants target serotonin. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) block the reuptake of serotonin and thus keep serotonin in the synapse for longer allowing for greater/prolonged activation of serotonin receptors. Other anti-psychotics also target the serotonin system.
[Image Source]

Another neurotransmitter is serotonin (5HT is the abbreviation- derived from the chemical name, 5-hydroxytryptamine). 5HT is largely found in the gastrointestinal tract where it regulates the muscles there. However, I think its functions in the brain are even more interesting.  Serotonin is largely produced by the Raphe Nuclei in the brain and have functions throughout cortex. The context you have most likely heard about 5HT in the past is because most anti-depressants target serotonin. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) block the reuptake of serotonin and thus keep serotonin in the synapse for longer allowing for greater/prolonged activation of serotonin receptors. Other anti-psychotics also target the serotonin system.

[Image Source]

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269 notes

Nicotine acts as an acetylcholinergic agonist, meaning it increases the activity of the ACh receptors. Ach acts on muscles- and is found in the brain. For people who don’t know, nicotine is the addictive chemical in cigarettes. In some parts of the brain, the activity on these receptors can increase release of dopamine (which is what is thought to be responsible for the addictive properties). Nicotinic promotion of these receptors also increases activity in the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates the fight or flight type response (increased heart rate, decreased digestion, etc.).
[Image Source]

Nicotine acts as an acetylcholinergic agonist, meaning it increases the activity of the ACh receptors. Ach acts on muscles- and is found in the brain. For people who don’t know, nicotine is the addictive chemical in cigarettes. In some parts of the brain, the activity on these receptors can increase release of dopamine (which is what is thought to be responsible for the addictive properties). Nicotinic promotion of these receptors also increases activity in the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates the fight or flight type response (increased heart rate, decreased digestion, etc.).

[Image Source]

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412 notes

Acetylcholine (ACh) is another neurotransmitter, best known for being the neurotransmitter that bridges the gaps between neurons and muscles. Unlike neurotransmitters acting upon other neurons, ACh has a 1:1 action on muscles. One action potential causes a muscle contraction, no need for build up (like with EPSPs and IPSPs).  The amount of ACh released and the pattern in which it is released will determine how much the muscle contracts and for how long.
I found this great infographic online to show the process of ACh on muscle contraction from here.  Nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes, acts upon ACh receptors. ACh also has its own actions in the brain, which I will talk about another time.

Acetylcholine (ACh) is another neurotransmitter, best known for being the neurotransmitter that bridges the gaps between neurons and muscles. Unlike neurotransmitters acting upon other neurons, ACh has a 1:1 action on muscles. One action potential causes a muscle contraction, no need for build up (like with EPSPs and IPSPs).  The amount of ACh released and the pattern in which it is released will determine how much the muscle contracts and for how long.

I found this great infographic online to show the process of ACh on muscle contraction from here.  Nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes, acts upon ACh receptors. ACh also has its own actions in the brain, which I will talk about another time.

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196 notes

GABA!
The next neurotransmitter I will talk about is GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, but depending on the receptor type, it can be inhibitory or excitatory. We mainly talk about it’s actions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, but it’s important to note that it can act as an excitatory one as well, depending on the receptor that it acts upon.
There are two main receptor subtypes for GABA, which are known as GABA-A and GABA-B receptors.  GABA-A receptors are ligand-gated chloride channels.  Hopefully, without further explanation, from my past entries, this makes sense.  If you need a refresher, this means that when GABA interacts with these GABA-A receptors, they undergo a conformational change that opens their “pore” to allow chloride (Cl-) ions to flow through.  Since Cl- is negative, it can hyperpolarize the cell (make it more negative) and make it less likely to fire, in the simplest explanation.  
GABA-B receptors are more complex, as they are those G-protein coupled receptors.  Downstream effects can be to open Cl- channels or K+ channels (since there is more potassium inside the cell, K+ might flow out or even if it does not move, shunt an excitatory signal if it arrives while the channels are open), amongst other things.
Inhibitory actions can be very complex on their own and really help to fine-tune the rest of the brain’s activity.  The image above shows a presynaptic cell below and a postsynaptic neuron above it, as GABA is involved in the hypothalamus/feeding behavior- found in this paper (Richards & Berthoud, 2006).

GABA!

The next neurotransmitter I will talk about is GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, but depending on the receptor type, it can be inhibitory or excitatory. We mainly talk about it’s actions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, but it’s important to note that it can act as an excitatory one as well, depending on the receptor that it acts upon.

There are two main receptor subtypes for GABA, which are known as GABA-A and GABA-B receptors.  GABA-A receptors are ligand-gated chloride channels.  Hopefully, without further explanation, from my past entries, this makes sense.  If you need a refresher, this means that when GABA interacts with these GABA-A receptors, they undergo a conformational change that opens their “pore” to allow chloride (Cl-) ions to flow through.  Since Cl- is negative, it can hyperpolarize the cell (make it more negative) and make it less likely to fire, in the simplest explanation. 

GABA-B receptors are more complex, as they are those G-protein coupled receptors.  Downstream effects can be to open Cl- channels or K+ channels (since there is more potassium inside the cell, K+ might flow out or even if it does not move, shunt an excitatory signal if it arrives while the channels are open), amongst other things.

Inhibitory actions can be very complex on their own and really help to fine-tune the rest of the brain’s activity.  The image above shows a presynaptic cell below and a postsynaptic neuron above it, as GABA is involved in the hypothalamus/feeding behavior- found in this paper (Richards & Berthoud, 2006).

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