All the Types of Neurotoxins Available

All the Types of Neurotoxins available

Is there really that many neurotoxins available on the market today? Neurotoxins sounds like compounds that would poison the brain. By definition a neurotoxin is “a poison that acts on the nervous system.” How can something that poisons the nervous system be good? It certainly is not a wonder drug. Neurotoxins are destructive or poisonous to nerve tissues and when these toxins come in contact with nerve tissues it causes neurotoxicity. There is nothing good about neurotoxins. But wait a minute neurotoxins in small amounts are beneficial but in large doses they are fatal. Neurotoxins are an extensive class exogenous chemical neurological insults which can negatively affect the functioning of developing and mature nerve tissues.

Another unpleasant thing about neurotoxins is that they are certainly neurologically destructive they can also target specific neural components which is an important area in study of nervous systems. The term also applies to endogenous compounds that when contacted abnormally will cause neurotoxicity. Common examples of neurotoxins are:lead, ethanol (drinking alcohol), manganese glutamate, nitric oxide , botulinum toxin (e.g. Botox), tetanus toxin, and tetrodotoxin. These are some of the more common examples and there are many more out there. Glutamate and nitric oxide are actually healthy for the body in small amounts. If they accumulate in high concentrations then they are harmful. Macroscopic concentrations of neurotoxin can include widespread central nervous system damage leading to intellectual disability, persistent memory impairments, epilepsy, and dementia.Additionally, neurotoxin-mediated peripheral nervous system damage such as neuropathy or myopathy is common.


Neurotoxin Classifications

Neurotoxin Classifications

  • Drugs of abuse (like methamphetamine)
  • Endogenous neurotoxins (like quinolinic acid)
  • Heavy metals (like lead)
  • Solvents (like methanol)
  • Additives or adulterants (like fluoride)
  • Food-derived neurotoxins (like domoic acid or acrylamide)
  • Research chemicals (like N-methyl D-aspartate)
  • Proteins like botulinum toxin
  • Some prescription drugs (e.g., Haloperidol)


Botulinum Toxin

Botulinum Toxin is a neurotoxic protein. It is odd that a protein can be a neurotoxin because it is supposed to be one of the building blocks of life. Most of the neurotoxins listed are small and simple molecules. But proteins are large in molecular size and weight. Botulinum toxin is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which causes the disease botulism. Botulinum toxin has the dubious distinction of being the most lethal neurotoxin to date. It’s estimated median lethal dose (LD50) is 1.3-2.1 ng/kg intravenously or 10-13 ng/kg when inhaled.   Which are very small amounts to cause a lot of damage. Ironically, Botulinum toxin is put into medicine, cosmetics, and research. You have probably heard of Botox use to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. This medicine is manufactured by Allergan.



Methamphetamine is notably neurotoxic to the central nervous system. (the brain and spinal cord) Methamphetamine is a dopamine releasing agent that damages dopaminergic neurons via multiple mechanisms. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is implicated in in reward, motivation, attention, hedonic tone, and Parkinson’s disease. Methamphetamine is much more harmful than amphetamine.


Quinolinic Acid

Calcium caseinate

Quinolinic acid is an endogenous neurotoxin-it‘s produced naturally in the brain. Quinolinic is a downstream product of the amino acid l-tryptophan, metabolized by the kynurenine pathway. Quinolinic acid is at agonist at NMDA-type glutamate receptors. Excessive NMDA receptor activation causes excitotoxicity.



Fluoride is the anionic species of the element fluorine which is commonly used in toothpaste as an anti-cavity agent. It is said that the massive but controversial fluoridation of the municipal water supply system as a preventive measure to fight cavities. This was one the biggest acts of mass medication in history. The subject is highly controversial but developmental neurotoxicity attributed to fluoride is a well-researched fact. It may be fluoride may have a harmful effect on IQ.

This means that it could affect the baby in the womb and possibly lower natural IQ.

Fluoride inhibits the activity of the glycolysis enzyme Enolase in a quasi-irreversible manner which will play havoc with glucose metabolism and therefore ATP synthesis in the brain. (Atp brain synthesis in the brain, a majority of ATP is formed in the mitochondria through oxidative phosphorylation of adenosine diphosphate (ADP) catalyzed by the enzyme of ATP synthase ATPase) The brain requires enormous energetic/ATP requirements and glucose is virtually the only energy substrate for the brain (except for ketone bodies under exceptional conditions).



Acetaldehyde is used in industry as a precursor to acetic acid. Acetaldehyde is naturally occurring and is found in coffee, bread, and fruits. Acetaldehyde is a metabolite of ethanol because alcohol dehydrogenase oxidizes ethanol to acetaldehyde. Because of this ethanol comprises the largest dietary source of acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is a carcinogenic and neurotoxic;it causes oxidative stress in the central nervous system (CNS) and contributes to the cognitive deficits associated with fetal alcohol syndrome.



poisoning and the hazards

Aluminum is ubiquitous in the environment and is a big part of daily life. Many of its applications people don’t even know about. There is ample opportunity to be exposed to aluminum. Chronic exposure to aluminum is related to a distinct pattern neurobehavioral and neuropathological changes. The dominant hypothesis is that aluminum causes impairments in mitochondrial bioenergetics and the introduction of oxidative stress contributes to lipid peroxidation and disrupts the maintenance of membrane potentials by the sodium-potassium ATP-ase.  

Epidemiological studies have shown decrements in cognitive performance and several neurological symptoms in workers continually exposed to aluminum.Your best bet is to just stay away from aluminum as much as you can. It may cause some serious brain impairments.



The largest dietary sources of acrylamide are coffee and starchy foods like potato chips and french fries. The formation of acrylamide is temperature-dependent heating foods >120 degrees C promotes the formation of acrylamide. Cigarette smoking causes three-fold greater acrylamide concentrations in plasma (this cannot be good) than any dietary factor. Acrylamide neurotoxicity comes from the direct inhibition neurotransmission (via interference with the extracellular release machinery), inhibition of kinesin-based fast axonal transport and perturbations in neurotransmitter levels. Cigarette smoking will speed up this damaging process by three-fold which is another case as to why cigarette smoking is so harmful.



Acetaldehyde is used in industry as a precursor to acetic acid

The neurotoxicity of Mercury is well-documented. There may no longer be exposure through thermometers since there redesign. But the aquatic bioaccumulation of methylmercury in swordfish and sharks may pose serious risks to human health. Mercury is very harmful to the human brain. It can compromise the brain blood barrier (if this is compromised it allows other neurotoxins to enter the brain. This is no small matter as these neurotoxins can cause extensive damage to the brain.) and this causes major neuronal mRNA transcription. Mercury intoxication also interferes with glycolytic pathways (metabolism of glucose) and this results in abnormal neuronal electrophysiology (e.g., abnormal depolarization/spiking). Methyl mercury is much more hazardous than mercury. The bottomline is that methylmercury is very harmful to the health.



Everyone is aware of lead poisoning and the hazards that go with it. It is so well-documented that we really don’t need to go into an extensive discussion about it. Some scientists have hypothesized that the environmental exposure to lead pipes and paints casually corresponds to the rise of violent crime in the United States before the turn of the century. Whether this can be measured is not known and this hypothesis really hasn’t been proven to be true. How can you measure the rise in violent crime to exposure to lead pipes and paint. Lead poisoning could result in massive brain damage. Among other mechanisms of neurotoxicity lead antagonizes N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor (NMDAR)-dependent excitatory signaling, impairing long-term potentiation (LTP).



The neurotoxicity of Mercury is well-documented

This  neurotoxin you will probably never be exposed to it is still worth discussing is potential harmful effects. It is not unusual for dopamine to be endogenously hydroxylated to 6-OHDA. 6-hydroxydopamine is a powerful and selective neurotoxin that destroys dopaminergic neurons, and is introduced into animal models to induce Parkinsonism which happens when 70% of the dopaminergic in the substantia nigra have been destroyed. In vitro, 6-hydroxydopamine will be synthesized in the presence of iron or iron plus ascorbic acid. Any substance that enhances extracellular dopamine concentrations (e.g., L-DOPA, dopamine re-uptake inhibitors, methamphetamine), will increase the formation of this toxin species. This is because more dopamine (DA) will be available for hydroxylation to 6-hydroxydopamine.


n-propyl bromide

N-propyl bromide was recently used instead of ozone-depleting solvents in the industrial workplace. Unfortunately, n-propyl bromide is a neurotoxin. So was the substitution really worth it? N-propyl bromide is a common dry cleaner, spray adhesive, degreaser and aerosol solvent. Industrial exposure to n-propyl bromide is harmful because it will cause severe neural injury which could involve extensive brain damage. To the point, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a severe warnings about harmful exposure to this neurotoxin. Your best bet is to stay away from this neurotoxin far as you can. If you are forced to work with it then it is advised that you wear the heaviest protective clothing you can. The toxic can be very harmful if inhaled.

The mechanisms of n-propyl bromide are not very clear. It would be safe to say that if you were exposed to it you wouldn’t know it. But the symptoms of exposure to it are very apparent. It is apparent that n-propyl bromide is a neurotoxic which causes a neurological syndrome in abusers of cough syrup. This is because of the hydrobromide salt of dextromethorphan (i.e., DXM HBr). This neurological phenomenon is known as brominism. (A disease caused by chronic exposure to bromine or one of its compounds. Bromism is characterized by mental dullness, memory loss, slurred speech, tremors, ataxia and muscular weakness, a transitory state resembling paranoid schizophrenia, and a skin eruption (bromoderma).)



Organophosphates are the generic name for esters of phosphoric acid. This sounds like another deadly chemical that if a human is exposed  to it could be very harmful. Organophosphates are the foundations of many insecticides, herbicides, and nerve agents. This toxic is found in many items we use on a daily basis. Exposure to this this neurotoxic may be a routine occurrence. Sadly, organophosphates pesticides are irreversible, fatal inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme that synthesizes acetylcholine in the central and peripheral nervous systems to clear the synapse and terminate cholinergic neurotransmission.Recent studies may suggest a relationship of neurobehavioral development in children and fetuses.


Domoic Acid      

Domoic acid is a kainic acid analogue that is fatal to shellfish. It causes amnesic shellfish poisoning. It is produced by algae and accumulates in shellfish, sardines and anchovies. Guess what humans eat? Domoic acid is a deadly neurotoxin that naturally activates excitatory AMPA and kainic acid receptors resulting in ample excitotoxicity. Domoic acid will selectively damage the hippocampus and amygdala, which causes extensive impairments in short term memory, confusion, seizures, and other neurological sequelae. So, beware that if you enjoy eating the above mentioned fish that you trace where it has been. You may suffer some very unpleasant effects from neurotoxic poisoning.   

It is certainly an eye-opener how many of these neurotoxins we may be exposed to everyday. But yet all the fatal effects will only manifest when we are exposed to these neurotoxins for long periods of time. It is not being suggested that people go out and perform a neurotoxic witch hunt to try and find one behind every door and under every rock. Just beware that they do exist and may be more common than we think. Stay alert and be careful in your environment.


More Neurotoxins

unusual for dopamine

Aspartame (also known as Equal, AminoSweet, NutraSweet, Spoonful): Very common in sugar-free food products, especially sugar-free gums and drinks. Most aspartame is made from the fecal matter of genetically modified bacteria. Studies have linked aspartame to diabetes, migraines, kidney failure, seizures, blindness, obesity, neurological disorders, mental illness and brain tumors. There may be some overstating of the health dangers that aspartame will cause.

Monosodium glutamate (also known as sodium glutamate, MSG): Very common in chips, canned food, baby food and other junk food. Independent researchers think that MSG plays a vital part  in neurodegenerative brain disease, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and

Huntington’s disease. The evidence that may support their claim is that MSG destroys neurons in cells, especially brain cells. There is no strong clinical evidence to support these harmful health effects. These are independent researchers drawing these conclusions not researchers who investigate in more mainstream universities and labs worldwide.   

Sucralose (also known as Splenda): An artificial sweetener that is very popular in sugar-free products, especially sugar-free drinks. Sucralose was unintentionally found while scientists were  doing research to create a new insecticide, which is why some researchers suggested that sucralose should be listed in the insecticide category. Putting this artificial sweetener in the insecticide category may be a bit of an exaggeration. After all this artificial sweetener is used in sugar-free products and drinks not insecticides.  This neurotoxin is regarded as a chemical cousin to DDT. Sucralose is a chlorinated compound. When the body breaks this type of chlorinated compound, it releases toxic chemicals. Being a chemical cousin to DDT makes this a very dangerous compound. But such small quantities put into sugar-free products probably will not cause any harmful effects.   

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein: This harmful food ingredient is very common in certain junk foods. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein could contain high concentrations of glutamate and aspartate. In high levels, glutamate and aspartate can stimulate nerve cells to death. Can they really stimulate nerve cells to death? This claim seems highly unlikely and there are no clinical studies to suggest these health effects are valid.After all if this food ingredient was as harmful as stated would the FDA have approved it for consumption?

Calcium caseinate: This toxin is popular in protein supplements, energy bar and junk food. It is harmful to the brain due to its neurotoxic properties. Again, there is no solid evidence that this is even a toxin or that it can cause neurotoxic properties. The use of it is so widespread surely there would have been millions of cases well-documented by now. Protein supplements, energy bars and junk foods have been around for years and there seems to be no epidemic of brain damage or neurotoxicity from their being consumed.

Sodium caseinate: This type of protein is common in dairy products and junk food. It has been linked to autism and gastrointestinal problems. Visit this site for more specific information about sodium caseinate and calcium caseinate. There is certainly no evidence that sodium caseinate is linked to autistic problems. Autism is a neurological condition not a condition caused by dietary factors. This association between sodium caseinate and autism is not true.

Yeast extract: A popular food ingredient in many processed foods, such as canned foods. It is toxic to the brain. Nowhere has it been proven that yeast extracts can cause damage to the brain. Let’s face it yeast has been used in bread making for thousands of years and there has never been any cases of brain-related trauma associated with yeast.



Domoic acid

We have compiled a modest list of some neurotoxins. But be alerted to the fact that there are a lot more out there. Some of the toxins are used in everyday industrial applications. One in particular that was discussed the common person will never be exposed to. We have alerted you to some of the dangers of these neurotoxins; but some of the harmful effects of these neurotoxins discussed are just to unreliable and exaggerated to be true.

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