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Chapter 3

The Synapse

What is a chemical synapse? A synapse where communication occurs by neurons sending neurotransmitters across the synaptic gap.
What is an electrical synapse? A synapse where communications occurs by neurons sending ions through gaps where the channels actually touch.
What is the difference between how an electrical synapse functions vs the chemical synapse? 1. The gap between pre- and postsynaptic cells are quite small: 3.5 nm vs 20 nm 2. The pre and postsynaptic cells are actually joined by protein channels that allow positive current from the presynaptic neuron to flow into the post one
What are the advantages and disadvantages of electrical synapses?` They are fast: transmission nearly instantaneous. However, they can only send excitatory or inhibitory messages. Also, it takes a very large presynaptic neuron to influence a tiny postsynaptic neuron as signal strength decreases in transmission.
Where are electrical synapses found? In the circuits responsible for escape behaviours. They also synchronise activity like the release of hormones in response to activity in the hypothalamus.
What happens during signalling at chemical synapses? 1. AP arrives at terminal; Ca2+ channels open 2. Ca2+ moves in during hyperpolarization and frees vesicles from microtubules 3. Vesicles move to release sites and release their contents 4. Ca2+ pumps pump Ca2+ out, vesicle recycled
What is exocytosis? The process by which vesicles release their contents.
What are autoreceptors? They are protein structures on the presynaptic membrane that bind some neurochemicals released and provide feedback to the neuron about its activity.
What are EPSPs and IPSPs? EPSPs increase the likelihood that the postsynaptic cell will fire. IPSPs decrease it.
What are the similarities between EPSPs and IPSPs? Both are graded potentials, meaning that they vary in size and shape. EPSPs result from the opening of ligand-gated sodium channels in the postsynaptic membrane, while IPSPs are produced by chloride or potassium ligand-gated channels.
What is neural integration? The process by which the neuron sum all of the input from other neurons in order to determine if it will generate an action potential.
Where does the neuron receive excitatory and inhibitory input? Excitatory input is received from dendrites and their spines. Inhibitory input is received from synapses on the cell body.
What is spatial summation? Input from all over the cell converges at the axon hillock. The neuron combines this input and if the axon hillock is depolarized to 5 mV the cell will fire.
What is temporal summation? At a very active synapse, EPSPs and IPSPs can build on one another at a very active synapse. This activity triggers the cell to fire.
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