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What does acetylcholine do?

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Quick Answer

Acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter found in the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system, plays a role in attention and arousal in the central nervous system, according to About Education. In the peripheral nervous system it plays a large role in activating the muscles in the autonomic nervous system. Acetylcholine acts as a neuromodulator on a variety of neurons throughout the central nervous system, forming the cholinergic system, according to Wikipedia.

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Full Answer

The cholinergic system is responsible for many inhibitory actions in the central nervous system.

Acetylcholine plays a role in many other body functions as well, such as inhibiting cardiac tissue to lower the heart rate and working as an excitatory neurotransmitter for neuromuscular junctions in skeletal muscle. Damage to the area of the brain that produces acetylcholine has been linked to Alzheimer's disease, and disruption of the production of acetylcholine is linked to causing depression. Drugs that block, hinder and mimic the effect of acetylcholine are used to treat different conditions that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer's disease.

In 1914, acetylcholine, an ester of acetic acid and choline, became the first discovered neurotransmitter, according to About Education. Henry Hallett Dale and Otto Loewi were given the Nobel Prize of Physiology/Medicine in 1936 for their roles in identifying the neurotransmitter.

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