Thursday, November 16, 2006

Basics: synapses   posted by amnestic @ 11/16/2006 10:52:00 PM

Of course you can look up what a synapse is and find a jillion explanations of dendrites, axons, and neurotransmission, but maybe you just wanted to casually check out the neanderthal news rather than actively seeking synapse education. So while you're browsing the web-o-tubes, I will direct you to a page containing some nice movies and images. There is a short, narrated animation concerning synapses.

Very briefly, synapses are where neurons talk to each other. Usually one neuron does the talking and the other listens. The talker releases chemicals called neurotransmitters into the synapse. The neurotransmitters float across the synapse until they bump into the listening neuron. Rather than ears, the listener has neurotransmitter receptors. The neurotransmitter binding to the receptor causes changes in the listener AKA the post-synaptic neuron. So when I say, for instance, that some experimental manipulation caused a change in the number of glutamate receptors, I am referring to the number of ears the listener has in the synapse. Glutamate is one of many neurotransmitters, but we'll do that some other middle-of-the-night.