The body makes use of a number of neurotransmitters to broadcast signals from one cell to another – acetylcholine (ACh) is one of the richest and most abundant in the system.
It is a chemical compound that is made up of two substances, namely acetic acid and choline. Situated in both the central and the peripheral nervous systems, it mediates cholinergic synapses and aids in transporting their messages for a variety of bodily functions to take place.
This substance and its relationship with acetyl-COA have been previously discussed in the last chapter. In the next few pages, we will take a more comprehensive look on its role in the brain and its overall responsibilities in the body.
How does Acetylcholine work in the body?
Acetylcholine is a significant part of the autonomic nervous system as it stimulates a variety of muscle functions. It also handles several processes in the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems, specifically on the preganglionic neurons.
In the peripheral nervous system (PNS), it is the main neurotransmitter responsible for sending alerts between the motor neural system and the skeletal muscle tissues. It works at the neuromuscular junctions, and enables motor neurons to stimulate muscle motion.
For instance, the brain may deliver a signal to move your left arm. With the help of acetylcholine, this message is then transported from the nerve strands towards the neuromuscular junctions, initiating the ideal reaction in the particular muscles that will help you move it.
It is vital to both systems because of its ability to bear signals from motor neurons towards the skeletal muscle tissues, enabling us to freely control our body actions. Misuse or abuse of drugs that trigger this neurotransmitter can result to numerous movement disturbances or even paralysis.
The Central Nervous System
Acetylcholine also works in numerous areas within the central nervous system (CNS). The neurotransmitter modulates a number of neurons in its various regions, including those that handle arousal, attention and motivation. When there are low amounts of the substance present, the damage or the degeneration of one or more crucial cholinergic paths can happen, and is even linked with the start of Alzheimer’s disease.
Acetylcholine in the Human Brain
The substance has always been a buzzword in the nootropic community, but what are its functions in the brain exactly?
Acetylcholine performs a crucial role in the creation of memories, logical and verbal reasoning, arousal, and the capacity to focus. It has protective abilities, and can reduce neurological damages that may cause degenerative illnesses. Besides transmitting immediate synapses between a particular set of cells, it also acts as a neuromodulator in the brain, and influences a number of neurons in the nervous system.
Medications and other compounds that disrupt acetylcholine production, such as certain pesticide sprays and nerve gasses, can lead to unwanted side effects on the human body, and can even result to death. Because of this, it is not surprising that acetylcholine-increasing cognitive enhancers are well sought after. Not only will they improve cognition and promote overall mental health, but could also be used for both personal and medical reasons, including as an Alzheimer’s treatment.