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Creating Modern Neuroscience: The Revolutionary 1950s$
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Gordon M. Shepherd MD, DPhil

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391503

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195391503.001.0001

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Signaling Molecules: The First Neurotransmitters in the Brain

Signaling Molecules: The First Neurotransmitters in the Brain

(p.39) 4 Signaling Molecules: The First Neurotransmitters in the Brain
Creating Modern Neuroscience: The Revolutionary 1950s

Gordon M. Shepherd

Oxford University Press

This chapter details early studies on signal molecules between nerve cells that mediate behavior. The key signal molecules for these functions are neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, internal second messengers, hormones, and pheromones. Apart from the sex hormones, most of these major types of components were first identified and their significance recognized in and around the 1950s. Before the 1950s, the biochemistry and pharmacology of the brain were essentially nonexistent. By the end of the decade, all the major categories of signaling agents had begun to emerge and the first textbook of brain biochemistry had appeared. Second messengers were discovered in 1957 and have been an essential motif in neurobiology since the 1970s. Neuropeptides were also first discovered in the 1950s and became a major theme in the 1970s, linked to second messengers. Pheromones were identified and named in the 1950s, and are recognized to control the social behaviors of most animals, including significant roles in humans.

Keywords:   signal molecules, nerve cells, neuropeptides, neurotransmitters

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