More information has come to light in the last few decades about pain-suppressing chemicals produced in the brain. This was consequent on scientists’ interest in how painkillers or analgesics that were morphine-derivative performed.
Neuroscientists were long aware of the importance of conducting nerve signals, for sundry reason, from one cell to another. These acted like small pulses of electric current.
This is achieved through the medium of a neurotransmitter which is secreted by the first cell. Its molecules traverse the gap across the two cells and implant themselves on the neighboring cell surface at special locations or receptor sites.
Sometimes neurotransmitter excitation triggers the second cell into generating its own electrical signal and passing it on. On other occasions, strangely, it acts otherwise and prevents the second cell from generating its signal. Tests on animals conclusively indicated that the molecules of morphine fitted snugly into receptors on certain neurons in the spinal cord and brain. The curiosity of scientists’ was whetted and they wanted to discover whether the body produced naturally-occurring chemicals in the brain which behaved in a similar manner to morphine.
Their studies led to the discovery of a whole family of such pain-suppressing proteins in the brain. The entire group is clubbed under the all-encompassing name ‘endorphins’.
This led to the next step which confirmed that stimulation of pain triggered a release of endorphins from nerve cells, some of which were discovered in cerebrospinal fluid which circulates in the brain and spinal cord.
Such a discovery led to the use of neurotransmitter implants in the back to blend with and circulate with the cerebrospinal fluid through the spinal cord and brain to impart a soothing result on pain-producing nerve cells.
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