Simple Molecules That Turn You On and Off
Glutamate is an amino acid that your brain uses as a neurotransmitter and it is almost always is excitatory. GABA is also an amino acid that your brain uses as a neurotransmitter and it is almost always inhibitory. These two neurotransmitters are widespread in your brain and tend to compete for turning your neurons on or off. Glutamate makes and breaks connections between neurons; this action allows your brain to learn. For example, if you consume a chemical that blocks the actions of glutamate you become amnestic, unable to remember anything new. The street drugs PCP and ketamine block glutamate receptors and depress the activity of your brain. Your brain makes its own PCP-like neurotransmitter called angeldustin. Chemicals that enhance the action of GABA, such as alcohol, barbiturates, or any of the popular drugs related to Valium and Librium, can make us sleepy, send us into a coma, or kill us by turning off too many neurons in the brain.
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