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Synaptic Function 

Synaptic Function
Chapter:
Synaptic Function
Author(s):

Per Brodal

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780190228958.003.0004
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date: 26 February 2021

Chapter 4 deals with the function of synapses and synaptic plasticity. Signal transfer at synapses occurs when an action potential reaches the nerve terminal and opens calcium channels. Calcium is a signal for release of neurotransmitter from vesicles in the nerve terminal into the synaptic cleft. The released transmitter binds briefly to receptors in the postsynaptic membrane. After activation of the receptor, the transmitter is inactivated quickly. There are two main kinds of neurotransmitter receptors. Ionotropic receptors are parts of ion channels and act fast, whereas metabotropic receptors are coupled indirectly (via intracellular second messengers) to ion channels and act slowly. The change of the membrane potential arising as a result of synaptic influence is called a synaptic potential. Synaptic potentials can be either excitatory or inhibitory. Synapses are plastic; that is, they can change their properties by use. Synaptic plasticity is the neuronal basis for learning and memory.

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