Cholinergic Receptors: A KnowHow

Those neurons whose molecular structure is very similar to the structure of neurotransmitter acetylcholine are referred to as cholinergic receptors.

Cholinergic receptors play a vital role in storing memory in your brain and improving the thinking capacity of a person.

It also plays a major role in treating neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The neurotransmitter which is used in the brain for communicating messages is called acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine is an important part of nootropic supplements as it plays a major role in nerve transmission.

Neurotransmitters are of two types. One is excitatory and the other is inhibitory.

The excitatory neurotransmitters help in passing messages from one neuron to another along the neural passage thereby maintaining continuity in communication whereas inhibitory neurotransmitters stop or put an end to the passage of message across nerves thereby ending the line of communication.

Acetylcholine is one such neurotransmitter that can act as both inhibitor and excitatory depending upon the kind of receptors which are present there in the cholinergic system.

Our body gets its source of acetylcholine through the food. The food we eat and supplements we consume contain precursors to acetylcholine which get converted into acetylcholine when they enter the human system. A rich source of choline which is a precursor to acetylcholine is egg yolks.

Choline from egg yolks is absorbed by the body and when it reaches the brain it is converted into a usable form of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.

Cholinergic receptors are of two types. One is nicotinic and the other is muscarinic. An increase in levels of activity of both these receptors directly results in an increase in learning speed, memory span, and attention levels.

It also boosts the cognitive functioning of the brain. Therefore a simple technique of improving brain function is by increasing the levels of acetylcholine neurotransmitters in the brain or by increasing activity at the receptors.

Nicotine works by stimulating and multiplying levels of acetylcholine which is present in the brain. Other nootropic supplements like Huperzine A work by preventing acetylcholine from breaking down thereby maintaining a continuous supply of acetylcholine in the brain for use.


Based on studies cholinergic nootropics include all those chemicals which aid in maintaining a continuous supply of acetylcholine in the brain.

They include the precursors to acetylcholine and acetylcholinesterase inhibitors which prevent acetylcholine from breakdown.

The precursors to acetylcholine are

  • Alpha GPC – it crosses the blood-brain barrier very easily and hence very easily available for the production of acetylcholine.
  • Citicoline – this is a rich source of choline but not as bioavailable as Alpha GPC.
  • DMAE – this is also a good source of choline. But bioavailability of this is the lowest compared to the above two.

Acetylcholine inhibitors are Huperzine A, Galantamine, Rosemary, and Cannabis.

Huperzine A helps to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase. Apart from this function it also helps in nerve growth factor.

The other three acetylcholine inhibitors which are Galantamine, Rosemary, and Cannabis all work by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase. In addition, cannabis also functions as a neuroprotective agent.