What happens when there is too much acetylcholine?


Quick Answer

High levels of acetylcholine in the brains of mice can cause depression-like symptoms, states Dr. Marina Picciotto in Yale Scientific Magazine. In experiments with mice, researchers found that mice were less depressed in the presence of an acetylcholine blocker.

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Full Answer

Most popular antidepressant medications block a neurotransmitter called serotonin, but 40 percent of individuals with depression do not react to these. As noted by Dr. Picciotto, acetylcholine levels can potentially be a determining factor for the occurrence of depression. In a study of individuals with depression, researchers discovered that people with chronic depression showed evidence of having higher concentrations of acetylcholine. Additionally, there is also a known connection between smoking and depression. The primary sensors for acetylcholine are called nicotinic receptors, which activate during smoking, creating a chemical imbalance.

Acetylcholine was the first neurotransmitter discovered, notes Kendra Cherry for About.com. It acts as a neuromodulator in the central nervous system where it plays a role in attention and arousal. In the peripheral nervous system, it is a major part of the autonomic nervous system, where it works to activate muscles. Neuromodulators act on a variety of neurons in the nervous system rather than working through the direct transmission between specific neurons.

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