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  1. Bernard W. Agranoff

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0593

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Agranoff, B. W. 2010. Neurochemistry. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. University of Michigan

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


A chemical approach to understanding the nervous system had its origins in the late nineteenth century. Early neurochemists found that mammalian brains contained large amounts of fatty substances (lipids), many of which were found to be unique to the nervous system. The human brain contains about 10% lipids, 10% protein, and 78% water, with the remaining 2% represented by DNA, RNA, electrolytes, and other small molecules. The gray matter contains mainly neuronal cell bodies and astroglia, generally regarded as support cells that are often interposed between cerebral blood vessels and neurons. White matter contains nerve axons, which are ensheathed in multilayers of lipid-rich membranes (myelin) produced by oligodendroglia (Schwann cells in peripheral nerves). Brain lipids contain long, highly unsaturated fatty acids incorporated into phospholipids, as well as glycolipids, and little or no free cholesterol or triglyceride (conventional dietary fat, also found in adipose tissue).


  • essential fatty acids;
  • glucose;
  • lipids;
  • memory;
  • metabolism;
  • neurotransmotters;
  • neurpharmacology;
  • signal transduction