neu·​ro·​tox·​in | \ ˌnu̇r-ō-ˈtäk-sən How to pronounce neurotoxin (audio) , ˌnyu̇r- \

Definition of neurotoxin

: a poisonous substance (such as tetrodotoxin or saxitoxin) that acts on the nervous system and disrupts the normal function of nerve cells

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The nervous system is almost all-powerful in the body: all five senses depend on it, as do breathing, digestion, and the heart. So it's an obvious target for poisons, and neurotoxins have developed as weapons in many animals, including snakes, bees, and spiders. Some wasps use a neurotoxin to paralyze their prey so that it can be stored alive to be eaten later. Snake venom is often neurotoxic (as in cobras and coral snakes, for example), though it may instead be hemotoxic (as in rattlesnakes and coppermouths), operating on the circulatory system. Artificial neurotoxins, called nerve agents, have been developed by scientists as means of chemical warfare; luckily, few have ever been used.

Examples of neurotoxin in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The biggest drawback to investing in any neurotoxin, though, is that its benefits only last for a short period of time (i.e. a few months) before the body metabolizes the injectable. Allure, 15 Apr. 2022 Lead is a neurotoxin, and lead-contaminated water has been linked to IQ deficits and conduct disorders in children. Laura Schulte, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7 Apr. 2022 While investigating the death of an intruder at Quantico, Jimmy and Kasie (Brian Dietzen, Diona Reasonover) get exposed to a deadly neurotoxin. Ed Stockly, Los Angeles Times, 28 Feb. 2022 His brain was damaged from exposure to domoic acid, a neurotoxin produced by algae and bacteria blooms found along the Northern California coast. Emily Mullin, Science, 5 Jan. 2022 Lead is a neurotoxin, and no amount is considered safe. Stephanie Wenger,, 8 Mar. 2022 Mercury is a neurotoxin that poses a particular danger to the brain development of children and fetuses. New York Times, 31 Jan. 2022 The administration recently restored regulations on the release of mercury, a neurotoxin linked to developmental damage in children, from coal-burning power plants. New York Times, 20 Feb. 2022 And lead, like that found escaping from the TAV plant, is a potent neurotoxin that can cause damage to the brain and the nervous system, particularly in children. Nick Thieme, ajc, 13 Feb. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'neurotoxin.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of neurotoxin

1902, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for neurotoxin

borrowed from French névrotoxine, from névro- neuro- + toxine toxin

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Time Traveler for neurotoxin

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The first known use of neurotoxin was in 1902

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Last Updated

20 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Neurotoxin.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for neurotoxin


neu·​ro·​tox·​in | \ -ˈtäk-sən How to pronounce neurotoxin (audio) \

Medical Definition of neurotoxin

: a poisonous substance (such as tetrodotoxin or saxitoxin) that acts on the nervous system and disrupts the normal function of nerve cells

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