Neurotransmitter questions

William Alves alves at calvin.usc.edu
Mon Oct 5 20:41:56 EST 1992

I am merely an interested amateur who as been reading a few books, but
they have left me with a few questions, and I hope that some of you will
indulge me by posting answers to a couple of them. Perhaps the answers
aren't known, but the things I have read so far have not made that clear.

First, this whole neurotransmitter business. As I see it, there are only
two possible effects a neurotransmitter can have on a neuron - it can
inhibit or excite the cell. Then doesn't it seem logical that there would
be only two types of neurotransmitters, instead of the pharmacopeia that
has been discovered? What is the difference between inhibition from one
neurotransmitter and another?

Second, the non-technical sources I have read have made a big deal out of
the chemical similarities between certain hallucinogens (LSD for example)
and certain neurotransmitters (serotonin for example). Yet is simple 
mimickry behind all of the drug's effects? If that is so, why do different
serotonin-like drugs have wildly different effects, and others have none
at all?

I hope I don't get deluged with "go to the library"-type flames. It's true
I haven't gone to med school, but I have been to the library, and that's
what has left me with these questions. Thanks very much for any help.


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