Difference Between Inhibitory and Excitatory (With Table)

Inhibitory means prevention of a certain action and therefore an inhibitory transmitter does not allow electrical signal to reach the neuron, while on the other hand, an excitatory transmitter does just the opposite of that.

Both these terms (Inhibitory and Excitatory) are medical terms and they have got different meanings thus making a huge difference between the two terms. However, to be more specific these two terms are related to the nervous system of our body. People can get mistaken between the meaning of these two terms.

You all will know that the human body is made up of the spinal cord, neurons, brain peripheral ganglia, and neurons. Well, the nervous system is one of the important parts of the human body.  With the help of the nervous system, we sense different kinds of feeling like the feeling of touch, light, and other such things.

The difference between Inhibitory and excitatory is that excitatory transmitter encourages an electrical signal in the receiving neuron, whereas the inhibitory transmitter does just the opposite of that and prevents that from happening.

Comparison Table Between Inhibitory and Excitatory

Parameters of ComparisonInhibitoryExcitatory
Function of transmittersAn inhibitory transmitter prevents a neuron to take the firing action.The excitatory transmitter, on the other hand, formulates and sends an electrical signal which is also called as action potential in the receiving neuron.
Polarizing neurotransmittersThe inhibitory depolarizes the neurotransmitters in the postsynaptic membrane.The excitatory polarize the neurotransmitters in the postsynaptic membrane.
Stimulation of neurotransmittersThe inhibitory synapses inhibit the neurotransmitters.The excitatory synapse, on the other hand, stimulates the neurotransmitters.
ExamplesThe Glycine is a type of amino acid that will slow down the electrical movements in the nervous system. Another example would be GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)Glutametargic is a type of amino acid that is considered to be the main transmitter of excitatory in the nervous system of human beings. Some other examples include acetylcholine, serotonin, and many others.
PurposeThe main purpose of inhibitors is to block the reaction rate in the human body or even slow it down.The function of excitatory is to promote the electrical signals in the body. The electrical signal created is also called as action potential.

What is Inhibitory?

Inhibitory is a term used in the field of medical studies. However, the inhibitory postsynaptic potential is a type of synaptic potential that prevents or blocks the generation of an action potential. The inhibitory neuron falls under the central nervous system and they have a significant role to play in the human body.

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While the inhibitory transmitter is a transmitter that creates a signal called the ‘action potential’. The job of the transmitter is to prevent receiving the action potential. A synapse in a neuron can be either inhibitory or excitatory. Synapses are a type of junction that helps a neuron sends signals to another cell.

The inhibitory synapses facilitate the decreasing of the likelihood of a fire action from happening. Surprisingly, a human neuron cannot be both inhibitory and as well as excitatory at the same time.

Inhibitory prevents sending any firing action to the receiving neuron actually helps during an ongoing surgery. The doctors use glycine so that the electrical activity in the patient’s nervous system slows down and it becomes easier for the doctors to conduct their surgery upon them.  

What is Excitatory?

Excitatory, on the other hand, performs tasks that are the opposite of the inhibitory functions. Here, the excitatory neuron is more likely to fire an action. An excitatory transmitter helps an electrical signal also called as action potential to generate in the receiving neuron.

Drugs are the best example of excitatory that creates this kind of fire activity in the neuron. Nicotine, cocaine, and amphetamines are some drugs that when consumed will make the neuron fire an action.

Drugs like cocaine, nicotine affect the neuron in the human body’s nervous system and they increase the chances of the neuron firing an action.

Main Differences Between Inhibitory and Excitatory

  1. The inhibitory prevents the chances of a neuron from firing an action whereas the excitatory transmitters increase the likelihood of firing an action.
  2. The neurons of human beings cannot be both inhibitory and as well as excitatory at the same time.
  3. The stimulation of neurotransmitters occurs in the excitatory synapses whereas in the inhibitory synapses those neurotransmitters are inhibited.
  4. The purpose of inhibitory or inhibition is to block or prevent certain impulses from taking some kind of action whereas the excitatory is just the opposite.
  5. Whenever a person wants to hit somebody is mainly because of the excitatory neuron which makes them take action whereas the inhibitory transmitter does not allow that to happen.
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The nervous system of our body is one of the most important systems and it should be our utmost concern to take care of it. Well, the brain of a human being falls under the central nervous system and it sends messages to our body to perform various tasks.

People who are into drugs and all sorts of tobacco and other addictive stuff should be careful and prevent all those things from consuming. Consumption of cocaine, nicotine, and other things affect your neuron and ultimately your nervous system.

Both these neurotransmitters are necessary because during a surgery the doctor needs to calm the patient by giving them certain sedatives. When a patient’s electrical movements in their nervous system slow down then it becomes easier for the doctors to perform the surgery.

The excitatory neurotransmitters, on the other hand, are also necessary in the human body is because they play a significant role for the neural communication and the effects of excitatory create excitatory sense in the neurons.


  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1038/jcbfm.1985.56
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0301008294900825
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/089662739390221C