Difference Between Neuromodulator and Neurotransmitter

Neurotransmitters and neuromodulators are two types of chemical substances released by the neurons in the central nervous system. Let’s take a look at some key differences between the two.

What is a Neurotransmitter?

A neurotransmitter is a chemical substance that carries signals from nerve cells to target cells. Often acts as the chemical messengers in the body, neurotransmitters are endogenous chemicals that allow neurons to send a multitude of chemical signals to other neurons and target cells in other periphery. They allow chemical signals to cross synapses to transmit information from nerve cells or neurons to target cells. This affects the ability of the brain to process information. They coordinate behavior by stimulating an action or inhibiting an impulse.

Neurotransmitters play a fundamental role in proper functioning of the brain, boosting and balancing signals in the brain. Without them, the body cannot function properly. Some of the most familiar neurotransmitters in the body include acetylcholine, which is a chief neurotransmitter of the central and peripheral nervous system; dopamine, which is an important brain chemical that affects memory, movement, and focus; and GABA that serves as the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Other neurotransmitters are octopamine, serotonin, glutamate, epinephrine, and oxytocin.

What is a Neuromodulator?

A neuromodulator is a subset of a neurotransmitter released from neurons in the central nervous system, or in the periphery, that acts directly upon nerves to produce a natural biological response. It affects the transmission of signals between neurons. It coordinates with many different neurons in the many different regions of the brain to modulate synaptic transmission. These are very different than neurotransmitters. They alter the properties of ion channels in a neuron to change the electrical behavior of the cell.

The effects of the neuromodulators manifest slowly and usually last longer compared to neurotransmitters, which happen in a matter of seconds. Neuromodulation is one of the most important intrinsic properties of individual neurons that allows the nervous system to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Neuromodulators are basically neurotransmitters that boost the inhibitory responses of the receptors. Major neuromodulators in the central nervous system include norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine. Neuroscientists group these neuromodulatory systems together because they share a number of common properties.

Difference between Neuromodulator and Neurotransmitter

Function 

– A neurotransmitter is a chemical substance that often acts as the chemical messengers in the body, allowing signals to cross synapses to transmit information from nerve cells or neurons to target cells. They simply allow nerve cells to communicate with each other throughout the body. A neuromodulator, on the other hand, is a subset of a neurotransmitter released from neurons in the central nervous system, or in the periphery, that affects the signal transmission between neurons.

Role 

– Neurotransmitters play a fundamental role in proper functioning of the brain, boosting and balancing signals in the brain. Without them, the body cannot function properly. The role of a neurotransmitter is to carry chemical signals from one neuron to another across a synapse, which is the space between two neurons. The role of neuromodulators is to alter the properties of ion channels in a neuron to change the electrical behavior of the cell. 

Binding 

– Neurotransmitters are released from nerve endings into the synaptic cleft after they are synthesized, and then they bind to the receptor proteins on the membrane of the postsynaptic cell, causing the ionic channels to ether open or close. Neuromodulators, on the other hand, typically bind to pre and post-synaptic G protein-coupled receptors to activate secondary molecules in order to initiate a second signaling cascade that would induce a long-lasting signal.

Speed 

– In contrast of neurotransmitters, neuromodulators are effective at low concentrations. The latter are not capable of inducing the rapid changes in signal transmission because the effects of the neuromodulators manifest slowly, but they exert long-lasting actions. Neurotransmitters, on the other hand, are relatively fast and are capable of inducing rapid changes in signal transmission in a matter of seconds.

Neuromodulator vs. Neurotransmitter: Comparison Chart

Summary

Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that carry chemical signals from one neuron to another across a synapse whereas neuromodulators are a subset of neurotransmitters that are capable of modulating synaptic transmission, affecting the signal transmission between neurons. As opposed to neurotransmitters, neuromodulators are effective at low concentrations. In fact, neuromodulation is one of the most intrinsic properties of individual neurons that allow the nervous system to adapt to the rapidly changing environment. Neuromodulators do not act directly but interact with neurotransmitters in the nerve terminals to enhance the inhibitory or excitatory responses of the receptors.

Is neuromodulator a neurotransmitter?

Neuromodulators are a subset of a neurotransmitter that works with neurotransmitters to enhance the inhibitory or excitatory responses of the receptors.

What is the difference between neurotransmitters and neurotransmission?

Neurotransmistters are chemical messengers of the body that carry signal from neurons to neurons or to muscles. The process of transmission of nerve impulses across a synapse is called neurotransmission. This basically drives transfer of information between neurons and their target cells.

Which is a neuromodulator?

Major neuromodulators in the central nervous system include norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine.

Is GABA a monoamine neurotransmitter?

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter and a non-proteinogenic amino acid. A monoamine neurotransmitter contains an amino and aromatic group. GABA is not a monoamine neurotransmitter.

Which neurotransmitters activate Autoreceptors?

Dopamine, amphetamine, and trace amines can activate autoreceptors.

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Cite
APA 7
Khillar, S. (2022, June 6). Difference Between Neuromodulator and Neurotransmitter. Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects. http://www.differencebetween.net/science/difference-between-neuromodulator-and-neurotransmitter/.

MLA 8
Khillar, Sagar. “Difference Between Neuromodulator and Neurotransmitter.” Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects, 6 June, 2022, http://www.differencebetween.net/science/difference-between-neuromodulator-and-neurotransmitter/.

Author: Luke Hanson