FAQ: What are neurotransmitters and why should I care?

Periodically, I reference neurotransmitters. Though this is a complex technical concept, it’s relatively simple to understand. Experts immersed in the field of brain studies are so familiar, most explanations are full of jargon. Here’s an overview to introduce you to some things about which we should all know because they’re involved in functions of our Central Nervous System and control our bodily functions.

There’s a common American idiom about someone/ something “getting on my nerves,” which refers to a source of irritation. Though in this instance it refers to an agitated state of mind, there is such a physical thing found inside the body. A nerve is essentially a fiber that sends messages to and from the brain. Bundles of these fibers are encased in fatty tissue called myelin, not unlike a rubber tube wrapped around electrical wires, which is commonly called a cord. By now you should be thinking, “hense the spinal cord.”

In the brain, neurons are are cellular messengers that transmit signals from one nerve to the next. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit signals from one nerve to the next. Personally, I like to imagine a complex system of vacuum tubes with the brain as the mail room– the central hub– that sorts and directs all the deliveries. Nutrients, substances and activities either beneficially or adversely affect neurotransmitters because the transmitters themselves are chemical substances. Thus brain health is dependent upon a variety of factors. The more you know and understand about how your brain works, the more likely you will be to make positive choices about your health and wellness and ensure effective brain function for as long as possible.

For a more detailed overview, please consult the following sources:

University of Washington

Encyclopedia Britannica

Queensland Brain Institute

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