Your arm jerking away from something hot. Enjoying your favorite food. These are actions we execute without questioning how the body does what it does. The answer? Neurotransmitters. These essential chemical messages transmit over the junction between nerve cells or synapses; the various systems of the body use them to partake in and control a variety of actions, including unconscious muscle control and pleasure from foods. Neurotransmitters are the little bridges that help the body turn thoughts into actions.
While not a clear-cut division, neurotransmitters are typically classified as excitatory or inhibitory. Excitatory means the target neurons are likely to jump into action based on the impulses they receive. Inhibitory doesn't mean the target neurons won't react, just that they're less likely to fire off an action. Sometimes, however, the context of the message will render neurotransmitters that are typically excitatory inhibitory, and vice versa.
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