The Benefits of Acetylcholine

By Helen Nnama

Acetylcholine is an important body chemical that transfers nerve signals from one nerve ending to another. According to the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design, the discovery of acetylcholine dates back to 1914. Acetylcholine causes the release of sodium in your body, which allows for muscle contraction. Acetylcholine also allows for the adequate functioning of certain body systems, including the cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract and the respiratory system.

Short Term Memory

Acetylcholine helps with stimulating short-term memory. According to Williams College, as you age, the acetylcholine concentration in your body decreases, resulting in the development of occasional forgetfulness and lapses in short-term memory. This decline in acetycholine causes Alzheimer’s disease, which is seen mainly in the elderly population, where memory loss occurs. Williams College reports that with Alzheimer’s disease, acetylcholine levels decrease up to 90 percent of normal levels. Furthermore, the nerve cells that respond to acetylcholine stimulation progressively die, resulting in the disruption in the processing of thoughts and behavioral deterioration of Alzheimer's patients.

Eye Surgery

The use of chemical forms of acetylcholine, such as acetylcholine chloride intraocular solution, may serve as an important medication to cause pupil constriction during eye surgical procedures. Drug Information Online reports this benefit is essential for patients undergoing eye surgery. Your pupil lies centrally within the eye, and the iris, which provides your eye color, surrounds it. Acetylcholine causes the muscles of the iris to contract, resulting in decreased diameter of the pupil, also known as pupil constriction. This important benefit allows the pupils to regain activity after cataract eye surgery.

Increased Efficiency of Your Digestive Tract

Digestion and absorption of nutrients in your body occurs in the gastrointestinal or digestive tract. The hollow organs of the gastrointestinal tract, such as the stomach and the intestines, contain a muscular layer, which allows for the efficient coordinated, wave-like contraction of the organs, also known as peristalsis. This process propels food through your digestive tract. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse states that acetylcholine increases the contractions seen in the muscular layer, thus improving peristalsis and pushing the food efficiently through the digestive tract.

Regulation of Heart Rate

The vagus nerve, which regulates the rate of your heartbeat, releases acetylcholine. The release of acetylcholine results in the slowing of your heartbeat from the normal rate of 100 beats per minute to 60 to 80 beats per minute. The importance of this function is that it prevents your heart rate from getting too high.

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