Q:

What does GABA do?

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Quick Answer

GABA, or gamma-Aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter that inhibits the actions of the neurons it binds to. Because of this, GABA is believed to control anxiety and fear responses. Many anti-anxiety medications bond successfully to the same receptors that receive GABA.

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Full Answer

Mammals have more GABA receptors than possibly any other type of receptor in their central nervous system. When GABA binds to these receptors, they change their shape slightly. This change of shape allows charged atoms, or ions, to pass into the receptor through ion channels. Specifically, this allows for chloride ions to pass into the receptor, inhibiting the nerve cell. Because channels are utilized for this, GABA receptors are called channel receptors.

Cells that produce GABA have also been found in the digestive and reproductive organs as well as the lungs. GABA might also be partially responsible for asthma in response to allergens. GABA is created in the brain, but can't pass through the blood-brain barrier. GABA was synthesized in 1883, but was then thought only to be found in plants and microbes. It took until 1950 for scientists to learn that it was part of the central nervous system in mammals.

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