Central Nervous System Pharmacology

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

The most important parts of your body are related to the central nervous system, but they can suffer from various disorders. Learn what this system is and a bit about the disorders it may have, as well as the pharmacology behind treatment for these disorders.

What is the Central Nervous System?

The intelligence nerve center of the United States is the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency. It collects information, processes it, and then produces all sorts of actions based on that processed intelligence.

Similarly, the nerve center of your body is the aptly named central nervous system (CNS). This includes the brain and the spinal cord. The CNS collects information (like pain perception), processes it, and then produces some sort of action in response to it.

As we know, the CIA can become corrupted through all sorts of means. Well, the CNS can become corrupted as well. This can lead to 'inappropriate actions,' or disorders, involving the CNS. This lesson will tell you a bit about some of them. You'll also learn about the basic pharmacological techniques that are at a doctor's disposal for managing them.

The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord.
CNS

Epilepsy

One of the most famous CNS disorders is epilepsy, a term for a group of different types of seizures. Seizures are events that occur when the brain's nerve cells, the neurons, begin to discharge electrochemical signals in an excessive and haphazard fashion. Benzodiazepines are one type of drug that can be given to suppress seizures. These drugs bind to GABA receptors, specifically ones that inhibit the electrochemical discharge rate of the neurons. Benzodiazepines are usually used in emergencies. Another example of an anti-seizure medication used for some types of seizures is carbamazepine. This drug blocks sodium channels. This basically prohibits the neurons from constantly firing off and from spreading their haphazard signals to other parts of the brain as well.

Depression

An equally well-known CNS disorder is depression. Depression is a word that describes a mental state where a person may feel profound sadness, loneliness, and many other negative things. People with this condition may be unable to experience pleasure in once-commonplace activities. Their appetite and sleeping patterns may change as well. Clearly, it's a disorder that must be managed. Medications, alongside counseling, can help manage depression.

One drug class that can be used to that end is the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). As their name implies, they inhibit the reuptake of a biochemical called serotonin, one that, among many other things, helps regulate a person's mood. The action of SSRIs leads to increased concentrations of this biochemical in the spaces between nerve cells and this, in turn, helps lift symptoms of depression. SSRIs don't work right away, though. They usually take at least two weeks to start producing a noticeable improvement in a person's mood.

Schizophrenia

Another brain-related disorder you've probably heard of is schizophrenia, a psychosis that involves hallucinations and delusions, as well as problems related to thinking and speech. Drugs that are used to manage schizophrenia are generally called antipsychotics. There are many ways that antipsychotic drugs work and one of them involves blocking D2 dopamine receptors in the brain. This helps reduce various hallucinations and delusions found in schizophrenia.

Pain

Finally, it is your brain that interprets pain and it is your spinal cord that sends pain signals from all over the body to the brain. Thus, it makes sense that if we want to dull our pain we may want to dull the mechanisms involving pain perception in the CNS. For this end, we can turn to medications called opiates or opioids. Opiates are drugs derived from the opium poppy plant, while opioids are essentially synthetic opiate-like drugs. We'll just refer to both of them as opioids for simplicity's sake.

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