Glutamate is a neurotransmitter normally involved in learning and memory. It also is an excitatory neurotransmitter, which means it stimulates areas in the brain or other parts of the nervous system. In some cases, it can be an excitotoxin that appears to cause nerve-cell death in a variety of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (known as ALS or Lou Gherig's disease).
Research shows that people with fibromyalgia have abnormally high levels of glutamate in the area of the brain called the insula, which is highly involved in pain and emotion. The insula also is involved in the senses, anxiety, motor skills, cravings, eating disorders and addiction. Studies are divided as to whether glutamate dysregulation plays a role in chronic fatigue syndrome.
As an amino acid, glutamate is in monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is used in pharmaceuticals and as a food additive. Some health-care practitioners believe MSG can be harmful to people with fibromyalgia, while others believe it is not.
In the brain, glutamate is balanced by another neurotransmitter called GABA.
Learn more: GABA & Glutamate Dysregulation
Other neurotransmitters involved in fibromyalgia include: