Acetylcholine is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the nervous system. This substance produced by our brain especially from sugar and choline is this essential messenger that facilitates communication between neurons. Thanks to him, we regulate the attention and the memory, we assimilate the new information and we improve our mood.
Above all, it is important to specify that acetylcholine was the first neurotransmitter identified. Henry Hallett Dale did it in 1915, and later Dr. Otto Loewi described much of his duties. In 1936, these two doctors were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work. As we see, we are not faced with one chemical compound among many; the implication of this small element in our life and in most of our biological functions is immense.
If we want to understand the importance of acetylcholine in our body, think for example that without it, the muscles of our heart would cease to contract and expand. In other words, this organ would no longer beat …Share
We know, for example, thatthere are cells in our body that react exclusively to acetylcholine, so that the basal forebrain and the hippocampus need this neurotransmitter in particular to carry out their tasks.
Acetylcholine not only acts as a messenger, it also enhances signal intensity between neurons through theta waves. It optimizes memory, promotes neuroplasticity, communication … Let's discover in the rest of this article more information about this neurotransmitter.
What are the functions of acetylcholine?
Most of us have heard about acetylcholine for a reason: it promotes memory and concentration. Therefore, it's one of the most common components in the nootropics, these supplements used to improve our cognitive functions. But beyond this area, we know that acetylcholine is essential for other functions that we will see later in this article.
However, it is necessary to remember in the first place that its field of action in our organism is multiple. Indeed, this substance is found in the central nervous system as in the peripheral, and moreover, it has functions as well exciting as inhibitory.
In other words, it can promote the electrical impulse in a neuron, or inhibit for example at a given moment the heart rate. Acetylcholine could be compared to a conductor, who directs and gives each function harmony, rhythm and balance.
Functions in the central nervous system
In the central nervous system, acetylcholine acts in an exciting way. Through its interaction between neurons and nerve cells, it promotes the processes of motivation, excitement and attention. Not only does it stimulate the activity of the hippocampus, allowing it to carry out these processes, but it also acts on the cerebral cortex so that we can give shape to these superior executive functions, such as problem solving or the reflection.
On the other hand, the main cause causing the cholinergic pathways to lose their functionality in the central nervous system and to stop communicating with each other is Alzheimer's disease.
Acetylcholine and REM sleep
This information is interesting. Acetylcholine promotes REM sleep in our brainand it does this by focusing on a very special structure: the basal forebrain. Thanks to this, thanks to the fact that we enter this phase of paradoxical sleep or fast sleep, we manage to better store the memories and all the information obtained during the day.
Some of our neurotransmitters, as is the case with oxytocin, also act as hormones. In the case of acetylcholine, it must be said that it also has a very important endocrine function: it acts on the pituitary gland. Thus, it can control the amount of urine secreted, stimulate the production of thyroid hormones, etc.
Functions in the peripheral nervous system
Our peripheral nervous system could not carry out much of its function if it did not rely on the presence of this neurotransmitter. The tasks that he performs are important for our survival and well-being:
- It transmits the signals between our brain and the heart muscles
- It connects the brain, nerves, muscles and bones, giving shape to each of our movements
- In the cardiovascular system, it almost always acts as a vasodilator, or in other words, it reduces and balances the heart rate
- In the gastrointestinal system, it promotes digestive contractions
- In the urinary tract, it impels the voluntary evacuation sensation
Moreover, and as curious as it may seem, it must be said that acetylcholine also measures this process which also guarantees our survival: the perception of pain.
How can we stimulate the production of acetylcholine?
As we pointed out at the beginning of this article, our brain needs "sugar" to produce acetylcholine. However, it is important not to abuse the sugar, because what often happens is that by consuming too much sweet food, our attention and our memory eventually fall after a few hours. Why ? Because when there is an excess of sugar, appears the adenosine, a substance which inhibits the action of acetylcholine.
So, the best thing to do in all cases is to maintain an adequate balance of sugar in our diet. And if you want to increase the production of this neurotransmitter, nothing better than to include one of these foods in our daily lives:
- A cup of coffee
- Soy lechitin
- Black grapes
- Egg yolk
- Wheat germs
- Flax seeds
To conclude, sometimes it is fascinating to discover how so little known, so isolated and so singular elements of our organism do so much for us. Thus, knowing their importance, we also take care to take care of their balance. Do not hesitate to take care of our diet, to lead an active lifeand to do regular checks to make sure that everything is fine and that everything is working at best.