You’ve just had a seizure. Yet, despite the duration of the seizure, you’re brain has hopefully recovered most of its non-seizing regularity. Why?
GABA, more so in the brain than glycine, has just chilled things out.
The Grand Gates of Chilldom
GABA stands as the key, if you will, to the Grand Gates of Chilldom. Opening these gates hyperpolarizes (inhibits) the depolarized (excited) state of the neurons. When your brain glitches somewhere, resulting in a seizure, the depolarized state has become uncontrolled. Neurons are in a state of hyperexcitation.
This glitch is the repetitive, uninhibited activation of many neurons. Positively charged ions, calcium (Ca2+) and sodium (Na+), are “charging” (no pun intended) through the neurons membrane, breaking the polarized electrical gradient that was keeping the inside of your neurons negative and the neuron inactive.
In response to this flood of positive ions, GABA is released from inhibitory neurons. GABA blitzes the space between the inhibitory neuron to open the Grand Gates of Chilldom on an adjacent, active neuron.
These grand gates are termed receptors. The most well-known are types GABAa and GABAb. Each type is a beautifully unique and dynamic construction of proteins that span the neuron membrane. Upon contact with GABA, GABAa and GABAb change shape! GABAa opens a channel within itself, facilitating chloride ions (Cl-) into the neuron. Thus brings the neuron back to an inactive state. GABAb facilitates the reentry of potassium ions (K+) into the neuron. And thus brings the neuron to an inactive state.
Not to over-simplify, but imagine 2 tribes of ions claiming and reclaiming territories. One tribe being K+ and Cl-, while the other is Ca2+ and Na+. When Ca2+ and Na+ claim the neuron, the epileptic neuron is hyperexcited -you are seizing! However, when Cl- and K+ reclaim the neuron, the neuron is inhibited. You seizure has hopefully stopped and you’re on a road to recovery.
Thus, GABA has activated its receptors. In turn, the receptors (or Grand Gates of Chilldom) allowed Cl- and K+ back inside the neuron.
Then, there is peace again. And, hopefully, the natural ebb and flow of neuronal inhibition and excitation will proceed for a long time. Seizure free.
Stay tuned for Molecules of Chill: Rx Brings the Chill.