Acetylcholine is one of the most important neurotransmitters in the human body. It ensures that signals are transmitted between the cells. The neurotransmitter has an influence on memory and brain activities as well as on all muscle movements in the body. It is the first neurotransmitter identified as a neurotransmitter.
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Effects of acetylcholine
Acetylcholine is one of the most abundant neurotransmitters in the human body, often abbreviated to ACh. It is found in both the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). It is one of the most important neuronal transmitters in the body and the nerve helps transmit signals from one cell to another.
The name "acetylcholine" is derived from its structure. It is a chemical compound made up of acetic acid and choline. Cholinergic synapses are those in which transmission is mediated by acetylcholine.
The neurotransmitter is found in all motor neurons, where it stimulates muscle cells to contract (this is also called excitation transmission). From the movements of the stomach and heart to the blink of an eye, all movements of the body involve the actions of this important transmitter. It is also found in many brain neurons and plays an important role in mental processes such as memory and cognition. A severe decrease in acetylcholine is associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Acetylcholine is not only the most abundant chemical messenger, but was also the very first neurotransmitter to be identified directly in synapses - first discovered by Henry Hallett Dale in 1914 and later confirmed by Otto Loewi.
Both individuals were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 1936 for their discovery.
In the peripheral nervous system, this neurotransmitter is an essential component of the autonomic nervous system. It activates and excites muscles (transmission of excitation).
Within the autonomic system, acetylcholine controls a number of functions by acting on preganglionic neurons in the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. Because the neuronal transmitter plays an important role in muscle actions, drugs that affect this transmitter can cause various degrees of movement disorders or even paralysis.
In the peripheral nervous system, acetylcholine is the transmitter that carries signals between motor nerves and skeletal muscles. One of the main functions of thereby is to transmit signals from motor neurons to the skeletal muscles of the body.
Acetylcholine also acts at various sites in the central nervous system. Acetylcholine moves between different neurons in areas of the brain responsible for motivation, arousal, and attention. Deterioration of acetylcholine metabolism in the CNS has been linked to the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Drugs and substances that impair acetylcholine function can have negative effects on the body and even lead to death. Examples of such substances include some types of pesticides and nerve agents.
For example, black widow (spider) venom causes a rapid release of acetylcholine. When a person is bitten by a black widow, acetylcholine levels increase dramatically, which can lead to severe muscle contractions, convulsions, paralysis, and even death.
Behavioral data suggest that cholinergic modulation may play a role in certain aspects of spatial memory, and neurophysiological data show that neurons responding to spatial dimensions (including grid cells and place cells) respond to location and walking speed.
Neurotransmitters have several properties in common. The first is that they are synthesized in neurons. Then they are moved to areas near the end of neurons where they are stored until needed. This is done in preparation for the transmission of signals, which involves the release of the transmitter from the neuron sending the message into the space between neurons so that it can activate - that is, bind to - the acetylcholine receptors on the neurons receiving the message.
After this signal is sent, the space between the neurons needs to be "cleaned up", so to speak, so that it is ready for the next time a message needs to be transmitted. This can be accomplished by reincorporating the transmitter so that it can be used again.
Acetylcholine is produced in the nerve endings of cholinergic neurons. This synthesis process uses the enzyme "choline acetyltransferase" to catalyze the transfer of the acetyl group from acetyl coenzyme A to choline.
Enzymes, by the way, are catalysts used to carry out certain biochemical reactions. Coenzymes are parts of certain enzymes. Many coenzymes are derived from vitamins. CoA is synthesized from the essential nutrient vitamin B5, which is pantothenic acid. It is then acetylated to what is called "acetyl-CoA".
The availability of both acetyl-CoA and choline determines the rate of acetylcholine synthesis in the brain. Choline is taken up by cholinergic neurons through the high-affinity "transporter" from the fluid and accumulates in the synaptic terminal.
So neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, transmit information from one neuron (presynaptic, or sender of messages) to other "target" neurons (postsynaptic, or receiver of messages) within neuronal circuits.
After acetylcholine is synthesized, the vesicular "transporter" acetylcholine transfers the vesicles where it is stored in preparation for signal transmission. "Signaling" is triggered by calcium influx into the "terminal" caused by a nerve impulse. This causes the release of acetylcholine....
... Once in the synaptic cleft, acetylcholine binds to and activates its receptors on the postsynaptic neuron, or its presynaptic acetylcholine receptors. This activation in the synaptic cleft triggers a response from the postsynaptic neuron.
The venom of the hornet has a very high concentration of acetylcholine. This is the reason why a hornet sting is particularly painful. The stinging nettle and various poisonous fish, such as the lionfish, also contain the high concentration of acetylcholine and are responsible for the painful effect.
As mentioned earlier, our body needs a source of choline to produce acetylcholine:
Meat, dairy products, poultry and fish contain high levels of choline. One serving of meat contains about 70 mg of choline. Chocolate, peanut butter, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli are also rich in choline, making them ideal for boosting levels.
Phosphatidylcholine (PC), the main source of dietary choline, has been shown to improve learning and memory in rodents.
The longer-chain unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are basically known for many beneficial properties in the human body. Studies have shown that these fatty acids have a positive influence on acetylcholine metabolism.
DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) is similar to choline and has many functions, especially in the brain. PABA (paraaminobenzoic acid) is a vitaminoid and is especially important for the metabolism of proteins, but also for the immune system.
DMAE is a modified form of choline. It exerts its effects mainly in the nervous system as it can cross the blood-brain barrier better than choline.
PABA is a vitaminoid with vitamin-like abilities. It is included in the group of B vitamins and, like them, is water soluble. PABA is also a component of folic acid, which is one of the B vitamins.
DMAE stimulates the formation of acetylcholine - it therefore also indirectly strengthens physical and cognitive performance. DMAE has many functions in the central nervous system:
It stimulates the formation of choline, which leads to increased acetylcholine being formed. This transmitter is very important for learning and memory functions. DMAE can boost mental performance as well as attention, concentration, and memory. DMAE can also help reduce apathetic, anxious feelings, improve moods, and boost motivation and self-esteem. For attention deficit disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), related behavioral problems such as aggression can be alleviated.
It can also reduce sleep problems and improve sleep quality in general. DMAE may further help strengthen physical performance and prevent fatigue. It increases the body's production of energy and enhances muscle tone. DMAE is thought to have an effect on some aging processes. For example, it may help break down lipofuscin, a highly fatty pigment made of proteins and cholesterol. Lipofuscin accumulates more in the heart muscle, liver, nerve cells, and skin as we age. DMAE may also strengthen cells by stabilizing cell membranes.
Hyperzine A is derived from the plant Huperzia Serrata - which is and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fever and inflammation in various diseases. It has potent cholinesterase inhibitory activity.
Although it has been shown to be effective in improving memory due to mechanisms other than just cholinesterase inhibition, it has not traditionally been used in children and there are no studies reporting its efficacy or safety in children. Its use in children is considered "possibly safe" if taken for less than one month.
Possible side effects include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, blurred vision, slurred speech, restlessness, loss of appetite, contraction and twitching of muscle fibers, convulsions, increased saliva and urine, inability to control urination, high blood pressure, and slowed heart rate.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in normal brain and body function. Disruptions in the release and function of this neurotransmitter can lead to significant problems in areas such as memory and movement. The neural transmitter can be easily benefited through diet by foods with choline, and through general behavior in everyday life.
The acetylcholine effect on the organism and on all nerve and muscle cells is essential for a functioning memory and concentration, as well as for a stable muscle tone.