Floyd Bloom

NEUROTRANSMITTERS A neurotransmitter is any chemical substance (the first recognized was Acetylcholine) that Neurons (nerve cells) secrete to communicate with their target cells (glands, muscles, and other neurons). Neurotransmitters diffuse from their sites of release—from the presynaptic nerve terminal—across the synaptic cleft, to bind to receptors on the external surface of the postsynaptic cell. Activation of these receptors allows for the transmission of commands (excitation, inhibition, and other more complex forms of regulation) from the presynaptic neuron to the postsynaptic cell.

A neurotransmitter is released from a nerve ending, interacts with specific RECEPTORS, and is then either transported back into the presynaptic neuron or destroyed by metabolic enzymes in the synaptic cleft.

Chemically, neurotransmitters are amino acids, amines, or peptides. Peptide transmitters commonly coexist and may be cosecreted with amino acid or amine transmitters.

(SEE ALSO: Dopamine; Endorphins; Neurotransmission; Norepinephrine; Serotonin)


Barondes, S. H. (1993). Molecules and mental illness.

New York: Scientific American Library. BLOOM, F. E. (1990). Neurohumoral transmission in the central nervous system. In A. G. Gilman et al. (Eds.), Goodman and Gilman's the pharmacological basis of therapeutics, 8th ed. New York: Pergamon. Cooper, J. R., Bloom, F. E., & Roth, R. H. (1991). The biochemical basis of neuropharmacology, 6th ed. New York: Oxford University Press. Korneman, S. G., & BARCHAS, J. D. (Eds.). (1993). Biological basis of substance abuse. New York: Oxford University Press.

Watson, R. R. (Ed.). (1992). Drugs of abuse and neurobiology. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

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