neu·ro·tox·in | \ˌnu̇r-ō-ˈtäk-sən, 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

Wasp stings are also more painful than bee stings and contain the neurotoxin Acetylcholine. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Fighter Pilot Gets Unpleasant, Stinging Surprise When Wasp Invades Cockpit," 3 Jan. 2017 This invention could help first responders identify potential neurotoxins faster and make treatment quicker and more effective. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Scientists Build Neurotoxin Detector From a Smartphone and Legos," 28 June 2018 How long does it last?: Unlike fillers and neurotoxins, which offer semi-permanent results. Micaela English, Town & Country, "T&C's Guide To Injectables: Which Ones To Consider, Cost, And How Long They Last," 17 Feb. 2016 Lead is a neurotoxin that damages the brain and nervous system, potentially delaying cognitive development and causing behavioral problems. Ahmed Elbenni, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Mayor Tom Barrett has nominated a new Health Department commissioner. Here are the problems facing the agency," 12 July 2018 In 2016, state records show, the plant emitted more than 400 pounds of lead, a neurotoxin, 22 pounds of arsenic, a carcinogen, and 213 pounds of chromium. Rob Davis,, "Why Oregon's new clean air law may not clean the air," 17 Mar. 2018 Their investigations in Torres’s home country of El Salvador determined he was exposed to mercury, cyanide, arsenic and potentially other neurotoxins in utero and in his early years, possibly slowing his brain development, according to the motions. Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, "Expert: Man set for trial in killing of Muslim teen may be too impaired to face death penalty," 18 May 2018 The department released laboratory test results Friday showing the algae bloom is producing high levels of the neurotoxin Anatoxin-A. More information about blue-green algae blooms, and its health concerns, is available on the county’s website. Lauren Smith, The Seattle Times, "Algae bloom in Thurston County is toxic, tests show," 28 Apr. 2018 Lead is a potent neurotoxin that can be especially harmful to children. Ariel Wittenberg, Science | AAAS, "EPA’s ‘secret science’ rule could undermine agency’s ‘war on lead’," 8 May 2018

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.

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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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29 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for neurotoxin

The first known use of neurotoxin was in 1902

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More Definitions for neurotoxin


neu·ro·tox·in | \-ˈtäk-sən \

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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