Neurotransmitters, Norepinephrine, Dopamine, Serotonin


The brain has neurons in billions and synapses in trillions. Most of the synapses are of the chemical type, meaning that information is transmitted from one neuron to another by chemical messengers. These chemical messengers are known as neurotransmitters and some of their examples include norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Signals are transmitted by them from the nerve cells to the targeted cells. The brain requires these neurotransmitters for the regulation of many important functions such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, sleep cycle, concentration, appetite, and muscle movement. The body’s nervous system is in charge of the organs and both their physical and psychological functions. Neurotransmitters and the neurons (nerve cells) also play a critical role in this system. The neurons shoot nerve impulses by releasing the neurotransmitters which then relay messages through traveling in between different cells and after, attaching to particular receptors on the targeted cells. When they have attached to the receptor cells, an action is triggered. They have been differentiated according to their action types including excitatory neurotransmitters which function as target cells’ action motivators; inhibitory neurotransmitters which decrease the target cell’s likelihood of taking action and instead have a relaxing effect; and modulatory ones can transmit messages to many neurons simultaneously (Rang et al., 2014). After messages have been transmitted, the body recycles or breaks down the neurotransmitters. The discussion below will delve into the earlier mentioned three neurotransmitter examples and their various impacts on behaviour.


Norepinephrine (NE) is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter which is useful in behaviour regulation. It has a significant contribution to arousal and modulation of moods. It is commonly known as the stress hormone. It is involved with whether a person flees a situation or stays to fight (Xing, Li & Gao, 2016). When an individual is scared or stressed, norepinephrine is produced all over their body. It then increases breathing and the heart rate thereby increases energy flowing into the muscles. It also cuts down on metabolic processes in the time of the stressful event so that energy and blood that would otherwise be used by other organs can be refocused into other body parts. It is this way that the brain can make quick decisions when facing danger (Xing, Li & Gao, 2016).

While this neurotransmitter is useful when one is facing danger, too much stress results in the release of too much norepinephrine. Chronic stress can lead to death long term due to the health problems associated with it such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and a decrease in immunity. It is, however, helpful in that it helps the heart, especially after a cardiac arrest to contract again. It can constrict blood vessels hence decreasing swelling that is a consequence of an asthma attack or an allergic reaction.


Dopamine (DA) is one of the three neurotransmitters commonly known for the regulation of many different behavioural aspects along with serotonin and norepinephrine. Dopamine is critical for learning, memory, movement coordination and behaviour (Xing, Li & Gao, 2016). The neurons use dopamine to make voluntary movements while responding to emotion. Deficiency of dopamine is what causes Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine is known by many as the neurotransmitter responsible for reward and pleasure. Dopamine is released by the brain in the action of pleasurable activities.

Too much of dopamine in certain brain parts also has been found to be the cause of schizophrenia including other symptoms like delusions and hallucinations. If it is insufficient in other parts of the brain it causes a lack of desire or motivation (Xing, Li & Gao, 2016). Cocaine use can cause a rapid dopamine increase in the brain which in turn satisfies one largely. Repeated use of a drug like this increases the threshold for this type of pleasure and meaning that more of the drug will have to be taken to reach the same kind of pleasure. In the meantime, it decreases the body’s ability to naturally produce dopamine and results in emotional lows especially when sober.


Serotonin is one example of an inhibitory type of neurotransmitter. It is important in mood regulation, blood clotting, appetite, circadian rhythm, and sleep. Serotonin plays an important role in anxiety and depression (Hale, Shekhar & Lowry, 2012). Depression results when there are chemical imbalances including low levels of serotonin in the brain. Increased serotonin levels increase communication with the brain cells hence, improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression. There are groups of medications based on serotonin called the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which are used to ease symptoms of both moderate and severe depression by increasing serotonin levels. There is also another type of antidepressant similar to SSRIs but these work to prohibit serotonin uptake. These are called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These work on both serotonin and norepinephrine and may sometimes be referred to as dual-acting (Hale, Shekhar & Lowry, 2012).


The important roles played by the three neurotransmitters discussed are important for the functioning of the human body especially, behaviorally. It has also been identified that balancing these neurotransmitters is necessary to prevent certain conditions of health such as depression, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and anxiety. There is no way of proving whether these neurotransmitters are working correctly or are balanced but a healthy lifestyle including proper diets, exercising regularly and stress management are of the ways to keep them in check…

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