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In neuroscience, neuromodulation is the process in which several classes of neurotransmitters in the nervous system regulate diverse populations of neurons. As opposed to direct synaptic transmission in which one presynaptic neuron directly influences a postsynaptic partner, neuromodulatory transmitters secreted by a small group of neurons diffuse through large areas of the nervous system, having an effect on multiple neurons. Examples of neuromodulators include dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, histamine and others.
Neuromodulators may alter the output of a physiological system by acting on the associated inputs (for instance, central pattern generators). However, modeling work suggests that this alone is insufficient, because the neuromuscular transformation from neural input to muscular output may be tuned for particular ranges of input. Stern et al. (2007) suggest that neuromodulators must act not only on the input system but must change the transformation itself to produce the proper contractions of muscles as output.
Neuromodulation also refers to a medical procedure used to alter nervous system function for relief of pain. It consists primarily of electrical stimulation, lesioning of specific regions of the nervous system, or infusion of substances into the cerebrospinal fluid. Electrical stimulation are devices such as Spinal Cord Stimulators (SCS) (surgically implanted) or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulators (TENS) (external device).
- Stern, E (2007). "Decoding modulation of the neuromuscular transform". Neurocomputing (6954). doi:10.1016/j.neucom.2006.10.117. Retrieved 2007-04-7. Unknown parameter
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- North American Neuromodulation Society
- Neuromodulation and Neural Plasticity
- International Neuromodulation Society