Cells of the Nervous System

Critical Thinking Questions

Cocaine has two effects on synaptic transmission: it impairs reuptake of dopamine and it causes more dopamine to be released into the synapse. Would cocaine be classified as an agonist or antagonist? Why?


As a reuptake inhibitor, cocaine blocks the normal activity of dopamine at the receptor. The function causing more dopamine to be released into the synapse is agonist because it mimics and strengthens the effect of the neurotransmitter. Cocaine would be considered an agonist because by preventing the enzymatic degradation of the neurotransmitters, it increases the potential time that these neurotransmitters might be active in the synapse.

Drugs such as lidocaine and novocaine act as Na+ channel blockers. In other words, they prevent sodium from moving across the neuronal membrane. Why would this particular effect make these drugs such effective local anesthetics?


The action potential is initiated by an influx of Na+ into the neuron. If this process is prevented, then no action potentials in neurons in a given area will occur. Therefore, any painful stimuli would not result in action potentials carrying that information to the brain.