Neuromodulator vs Neurotransmitter: Difference and Comparison

Different chemical substances are released by the neurons in the central nervous system corresponding to any bodily responses and the brain activities performed. Neuromodulators and neurotransmitters are an example of chemical substances that initiate the transmission of nervous signals and communication of the neurons to the target cells in the body.

Key Takeaways

  1. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit nerve impulses across synapses, while neuromodulators regulate or modify the transmission of these impulses.
  2. Neuromodulators have a longer-lasting effect on neurons than neurotransmitters.
  3. Neurotransmitters work directly on ion channels, while neuromodulators act on receptor proteins and second messenger systems.
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Neuromodulator vs Neurotransmitter

Neuromodulators produce natural responses in the human body. Neuromodulator works as a transmission guide, but neurotransmitters do the transmission. Neurotransmitters are body transmitters that help in passing signals throughout the body. Information is transmitted from neurons to cells through neurotransmitters.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonNueromodulatorNeurotransmitter
SpeedNeuromodulators are slow compared to neurotransmitters as they manifest slowly and work best at lower concentrations.Neurotransmitters are faster and perform rapid stimulation in the neurons.
LongevityNeuromodulators are comparatively long-lasting as compared to neurotransmitters.Neurotransmitters are short-term chemical substances which is why they perform rapid stimulation.
RoleNeuromodulators are essential for the changes in the behavior of electrical cells that affect cell functioning.Neurotransmitters are essential for the proper functioning of the brain.
BindingNeuromodulators bind to pre and post-synaptic protein-packed receptors.Neurotransmitters bind to the receptor proteins on the membrane in the cells.    

What is Neuromodulator?

A neuromodulator is the type of neurotransmitter that doesn’t perform the actual transmission and is released from the neurons present in the periphery, it changes and modulates the effect of the transmission of neurotransmitters and the transmissions, which are a result of the signals being passed to the brain.

The response generated by them is the natural biological response as a result of an action or inhibition of the central nervous system. It communicates and works in coordination with different types of neurons in the body and does not target specific regional neurons, and they mould the behaviour of the cells according to the needs of the central nervous system.

Neuromodulators play an important role in the dynamics of the nervous system as it helps the cells adapt to the changing demands of the neurons and the cells to adapt to the environmental changes that can occur in the body due to any major or minor exterior response. Some examples of neuromodulators present in the central nervous system are dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine.

They work as boosters to speed up and teach the nervous system to adapt to the changes and generate responses and transfers quickly. That’s why they are considered slow and long-lasting.

What is Neurotransmitter?

Neurotransmitters are the actual neuromodulators that transfer the nervous signals from nerve cells to the target cells that are affected in the body, and these nerve signals are basically the nervous signals which help the brain in processing information about the responses and generation of further responses according to the target cells specifications and needs. This helps inhibit response and generate an impulse in the nervous system.

 Neurotransmitters are the fundamental chemical substances that perform brain functioning and transmit signals to the brain to generate further responses. Neurotransmitters work for the different aspects of the body; a neurotransmitter called dopamine affects the memory capabilities of the brain and inhibits movements in the body. One important chemical substance called Oxytocin is an example of a neurotransmitter.

Neurotransmitters are comparatively faster forms of chemical substances that act as instant chemical messengers for any desired response to the target cells in the body. The transmission is performed through the small gaps present in the cells called chemical synapses, which pave the way to the brain and the central nervous system. When the cells are released, they may be directed to the local stream to target the nearer cells, or they can cover a wide range to target several targets at a time.


Main Differences Between Neuromodulators and Neurotransmitters

  1.  A neuromodulator is a subset of the neurotransmitter that is released in the central nervous system and has a direct effect on the functioning of the central nervous system and the neurons whereas neurotransmitters allow transmission of neurons and the nerve cells to target cells through small gaps called nerve synapses.
  2. Neuromodulators work to change the electrical behaviour of the nerve cells, which affects the way the cells respond to the external environment and changes in the neurons, whereas Neurotransmitters do not perform changes to the behaviour of the cells directly and use synapses to perform any changes or chemical and electrical transmissions.
  3. Neuromodulators cannot perform Real-time changes to the nerve cells, whereas neurotransmitters are capable of fast-acting changes in cell stimulation. 

Last Updated : 28 July, 2023

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