Neurotransmitters List | Their Examples & Functions in Detail

The nervous system regulates the physiology of the human body. The brain, spinal cord, and nerves comprise the nervous system. This nervous system regulates the whole body by nerve impulses that are transmitted by neurotransmitters.

There are approximately 50 neurotransmitters in the human body. Of them, some are rapidly acting while others are slow acting.

The list of neurotransmitters include

Rapidly acting type

These neurotransmitters act very fast, like in a fraction of seconds.

  1. Acetylcholine
  2. Noradrenalin (Norepinephrine)
  3. Adrenalin (Epinephrine)
  4. Dopamine
  5. Serotonin
  6. Histamine
  7. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
  8. Glycine
  9. Glutamate
  10. Aspartate
  11. Nitric oxide (NO)

Besides the above, there are many other neuropeptides. These are relatively larger molecules, and these neurotransmitters act slow. 

Slow acting type

Slow acting with large structureNeurotransmitter
Hypothalamic hormones1) Thyrotropin-releasing hormone
2) Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone
3) Somatostatin (growth hormone inhibitory factor)
Pituitary peptide1) Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)
2) ß-Endorphin
3) a-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone
4) Prolactin
5) Luteinizing hormone
6) Thyrotropin
7) Growth hormone
8) Vasopressin
9) Oxytocin
Peptides acting on gut and brain1) Leucine enkephalin
2) Methionine enkephalin
3) Substance P
4) Gastrin
5) Cholecystokinin
6) Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP)
7) Nerve growth factor
8) Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
9) Neurotensin
10) Insulin
11) Glucagon
12) neuropeptide-Y
From specific tissues.1) Angiotensin II
2) Bradykinin
3) Carnosine
4) Sleep peptides
5) Calcitonin
Other amino-acidsb-alanine,
Taurine
l-Cysteine,
l-Homocycttein

Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers released at the nerve junctions. 

They are released into the junction of two neurons (synaptic cleft), and then they act on the receptors present on the next neuron to continue the signal.

list of neurotransmitters

Thus, they help our brain to control the functions and movements of our body organs.

There are different types of neurotransmitters with diverse functions in the body.

These organic substances have a short span of action.

Their action lasts for a fraction of seconds at times.

But some of them produce action for a long time.

Based on their role in the body, they can be studied as

a) Classical neurotransmitters (fast-acting)

b) Non-classical ones. (slow and long-acting)

Classical neurotransmitters

These are the ones with a wide distribution in the body and have a larger role in physiology. Any small change in their quantities or functions will lead to disorders.

Neurotransmitters carry many functions in the body, and some of them are specifically designated for certain roles.

Acetylcholine

Acetylcholine: a neurotransmitter
Acetylcholine structure

Acetylcholine is a major neurotransmitter in the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. It is also found in Red blood cells and other cells in the body.

It is synthesized in the neurons and released at the nerve ending to pass on the nervous stimuli postsynaptically.

It is a part of the parasympathetic system and is released at the synapse. It exerts actions to neutralize the effect of the sympathetic system.

Acetylcholine is involved in almost all the body functions like heartbeat, respiration, digestion, excretion, reproduction, etc.

Functions of Acetylcholine

Acetylcholine enhances the secretions in the digestive system, exhalation in lungs, urination, constriction of the pupil in the eyes, etc.

It is the major neurotransmitter secreted in both preganglionic nerve endings of both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

It acts through Muscarinic receptors like M1, M2, and nicotinic receptors in the skeletal muscles like N1 and N2. 

Deficiency and a rise in the levels of acetylcholine lead to many diseases and also toxic effects.

Examples of diseases include parkinsonism, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, etc.

Dopamine

dopamine-2
Dopamine chemical structure

Another important neurotransmitter is related to the central nervous system.

But it is mostly confined to the brain and spinal cord and few nerves.

It affects moods like fear, anxiety, and memory.

It acts through receptors like D1, D2, D3. Disorders due to its deficiency or rise include depression, parkinsonism.

Norepinephrine

norepinephrine-1

norepinephrine structure

This is also widely distributed, and unlike acetylcholine, it is confined to the sympathetic system largely.

It is secreted in the postganglionic nerve endings of the sympathetic system. It acts through receptors like α1, α2 and β1, β2.

Functions: Norepinephrine has functions that are comfortable to the body. It 

Epinephrine

Epinephrine structure

This is similar to nor-epinephrine in terms of actions and also chemistry.

But it is present in more quantities in blood and peripheral body organs and to a small extent in the brain.

In the periphery, it is released by the adrenal medulla.

It is involved in stress regulation and is also called a flight or fight hormone.

It acts through similar receptors as epinephrine.

Its quantity levels rise in the body and are indicative of stress or struggle.

Serotonin

serotonin
Serotonin structure

It is found in large quantities in the intestine, platelets, and also brain.

It is recently found to regulate stress, sleep, mood, and hemostasis (blood coagulation).

It acts through 14 sub-types of serotonin receptors like 5HT1, 5HT2, 5HT3, 5HT4, 5HT7, and their sub-types.

Its deficiency or change is seen in disorders like depression, schizophrenia, etc.

Glutamate

Glutamate

This is a neurotransmitter found predominantly in the brain and an amino acid in the rest of the body.

It acts through NMDA, AMPA receptors. It is involved in memory and learning.

It is mostly an excitatory neurotransmitter.

When the brain undergoes oxygen-deficient stress or physical injury, its release in the extracellular space can be devastating, leading to nervous tissue damage (excitotoxicity).

This phenomenon is mostly is seen in asphyxia babies.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)

GABA is another neurotransmitter present predominantly in the brain.

It acts to control nerve conduction and electric potential in the brain and also muscle tone. Its deficiency leads to epilepsy.

It acts through GABA receptors.

This neurotransmitter plays a key role in epilepsy or convulsion disorder. It has an inhibitory effect on brain conduction.

Histamine

histamine

Unlike others, this substance is widely distributed in tissues.

It is called an afferent neurotransmitter as it initiates the sense of itch and pain at sensory nerve endings in the skin and other regions.

In the brain, it controls functions like wakefulness, body temperature, thirst, etc.

Besides these, there are also neurotransmitters like

Nitric oxide

Nitric oxide is an interesting neurotransmitter. It is a tiny molecule that synthesizes when required and is not stored like other substances. 

It is involved in behavior and memory.

Non-classical neurotransmitters

These are less widely distributed and also have few functions in the body. Also, minute changes in their quantities will not affect or lead to major disorders.

Due to their important role in body physiology, neurotransmitters are studied in anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology.

They are so quick in action and retraction. They can be compared with hormones as they have similar properties and modes of action. Hence we can conveniently call them neuro-hormones.

These neurotransmitters are mostly synthesized within the neuron cell and stored in vesicles (sac). A change in voltage potential along the nerve membrane helps release these neurotransmitters into the synapse.

4 thoughts on “Neurotransmitters List | Their Examples & Functions in Detail”

  1. I’ve been looking into nootropics and for me to understand how they work, I have to understand what some neurotransmitters do besides dopamine. Awesome site and thank you. Stay safe

  2. Kindly Review and Correct the Typographical errors in the Data and also an Important mistake to be corrected is the abbreviation of GABA. GABA is gamma-Aminobutyric acid not gamma amino benzoic acid as mentioned above.

  3. A good compendium! Thank you! You can raise serotonin by supplementing trypophan btw, this will increase your mood regulation and feeling of status. You can check eatcfit

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