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Explain the concept of synaptic transmission.

Question:

Explain the concept of synaptic transmission. Include the following structures: Synapse, axon, dendrite, neurotransmitter, and receptors. How do these structures interact and complete a synaptic transmission.

Nervous System:

The nervous system is one of the most important systems of the body. Not only does it allow us to move from one place to the other, but it allows our bodies to function properly from within by sending messages from one nerve cell to the next.

Answer and Explanation:

When it comes to nerve cells sending messages, this process can be referred to as synaptic transmission. Before getting into the process of synaptic transmission, it is important to know the following parts that are involved with this process:

  • Axon Terminal: This is part of the nerve cell that 'sends' a message out of the nerve cell. It contains the neurotransmitters.
  • Neurotransmitters: These are chemicals that are contained in a vesicle within the axon terminal. They are sent out of the axon terminal during a synaptic transmission.
  • Dendrite: This is part of the nerve cell that 'receives' the message sent from the axon of another nerve cell. It contains receptor sites for the neurotransmitters.
  • Receptors: These are areas on the dendrite that receive the neurotransmitters. They are like 'locks' that are triggered by the 'key,' or the neurotransmitters. Once triggered, they will send a message as an impulse to its nerve cell.
  • Synaptic Cleft: Because nerve cells are not connected, this is the space that is between the axon terminal of one nerve cell and the dendrite of the other nerve cell. The synaptic transmission occurs within this small space.

Now, after looking at each part, let us look at the steps of a synaptic transmission process:

  1. The axon terminal is triggered by an impulse, or an action potential from the calcium channels.
  2. From this impulse, the axon terminal is told to release the vesicles containing neurotransmitters.
  3. The neurotransmitters are released in the synaptic cleft, or space between the two nerve cells.
  4. The neurotransmitters attach to the receptors on the dendrite of the other nerve cell. This triggers an impulse in the other nerve cell to increase or decrease its own action potential.
  5. Neurotransmitters leave the synaptic cleft through diffusion or uptake by the nerve cell.


Learn more about this topic:

What Are Nerve Cells? - Function, Types & Structure

from MCAT Prep: Help and Review

Chapter 33 / Lesson 10
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