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Don't worry about the zit

(source- freepick)

Have you ever had a zit? The red devil that many (if not most) of us have tried to squeeze out of our faces has often been blamed on something we call hormones; bodily chemicals that make things happen. Although there’s much to play with in this case much like in the case of hormones- they just don't cause zits nor are they the only chemicals in the body. These chemicals perform many functions, from connecting two organs, breaking down food components, and making energy packets to healing wounds, fighting against foreign contaminants, and communicating.

Although there are many chemical compounds in our bodies, for our ease, we will focus on neurotransmitters and hormones since it is these two that are said to have the most prominent effects on us, especially during the developmental years.

(source- freepick)

Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that are produced by the neurons (functional units of the nervous system). Neurotransmitters transmit signals from a neuron to a target cell across a synapse. There are certain neurons that produce only one neurotransmitter and others that may produce multiple which allows them to exert several effects at the same time. There are two broad classifications of neurotransmitters based on either their function or their structure. Based on the structure there are 6 types:

  • Amino acid

  • Peptides

  • Monoamines

  • Purines

  • Gasotransmitters

  • Acetylcholine

Based on function there are 3 types:

  • Excitatory - these increase the probability of the neuron firing up the action potential or nerve impulse.

  • Inhibitory- these reduce the probability of the neuron firing up the action potential or nerve impulse.

  • Modulatory- unlike other neurotransmitters these have a slow effect and span over a large area. They can influence the function of other chemical messengers

(source- cleveland clinic)

Neurotransmitters are stored in synaptic vesicles, which are present at the terminal of the presynaptic neuron cells. Neurotransmitters are released into the synapse from the axon terminal upon the stimulation of pre-synaptic neuron by a nerve impulse. The released neurotransmitters diffuse across the synapse and bind to the specific receptors on the postsynaptic neuron hence continuing the impulse to the post-synaptic neuron.

Hormones are a different story altogether.

(source- newsmedical)

Hormones are the body’s messengers that travel in the bloodstream to tissues and organs; they are released by specialized organs all of which are a part of an elaborate system called the endocrine system. Hormones play a crucial role at a cellular level by enhancing growth, development and death of the cell. At the macro level hormones assist in food metabolism, sexual development, body temperature and even mood & behaviour. Hormones are powerful chemicals and since they are directly released in the bloodstream by endocrine glands and circulate through the body until the target tissue or organ is found, a single hormone can have more than one effect on the body. It is the hypothalamus that is known as the master gland of the endocrine system.

Based on their chemical composition the following are the types of hormones:

  • Polypeptides

  • Amines

  • Terpenoids

  • Steroids

  • Phenolic

Each neurotransmitter and hormone can be traced as a root cause of one or more than one bodily function and many of them have their implications in behavior. Behavior when often repeated forms habits. Stay tuned for more details in forthcoming pieces of our exclusive series “parenting curriculum”

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