definition of acetylcholine

The Acetylcholine It is a molecule that is produced in neurons and is necessary for the nerve impulse to be transmitted both at the level of the central and peripheral nervous systems. It is one of the most important neurotransmitters, being the main neurotransmitter of the so-called cholinergic system.

Acetylcholine effects on the central nervous system

Acetylcholine is released by a large number of neurons in the central nervous system, especially those related to functions such as awakening, maintaining wakefulness and attention, as well as in processes related to the ability to perceive different sensations and make decisions based on them.

Another important role of acetylcholine in the central nervous system is that it is involved in achieving REM sleep, learning and the plasticity of the nervous system.

Acetylcholine Effects on the Peripheral Nervous System

In the peripheral nervous system, acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter responsible for muscle activity to take place.

The nerves that reach the muscles release acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junction, once this molecule binds to its receptor it is capable of activating channels found in the membrane of muscle cells that lead to the entry of sodium into the cell. This causes a series of chemical changes that activate the muscle filaments to slide over each other, thus producing muscle contraction and therefore movement.

Effects of acetylcholine on the autonomic nervous system

Acetylcholine is necessary for the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is contrary to the sympathetic. In this sense, acetylcholine is related to the processes of metabolism, digestion, decrease heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure, increases peristalsis and salivary and intestinal secretion, increases urine production, stimulates defecation and is related with the appearance of digestive symptoms such as colic, nausea and vomiting.

Effects of medications on acetylcholine

In daily medical practice it is common to use drugs that affect the activity of acetylcholine either by stimulating or inhibiting it.

Cholinergic drugs. They are those that stimulate the action of acetylcholine, are used for the treatment of diseases such as myasthenia, glaucoma and during the final phase of anesthesia in surgeries.

Anticholinergic drugs. On the contrary, the effects of the action of acetylcholine decrease, this is very useful in the treatment of digestive disorders such as colic, nausea and vomiting due to its antispasmodic action, they are also used in the treatment of asthmatic attacks and bronchial hyperresponsiveness.