[Neuroscience] Re: Electrical Synapses..

r norman NotMyRealEmail at _comcast.net
Tue Feb 21 23:20:31 EST 2006


On Wed, 22 Feb 2006 14:19:54 +1100, jason
<jkrah_dot_geo_ at yahoo_dot.com> wrote:

>Hi 'r norman'
>thank you so very much for your detailed reply.. I did not know if this 
>was a silly question - but I could not find much on axo-axonal elect' 
>synapses anywhere on google..
>
>I get the impression that importance of elect' synapses have sort of 
>underestimated over the years... Most introductory reading I have found 
>always goees with great detail about the chem synaps and only brush over 
>elect syapses..
>

You are right that electrical synapses are woefully neglected.  For
example, see
  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/bv.fcgi?rid=neurosci.section.318
and compare that one page with all the rest of the chapter on chemical
synapses.

However the neglect is probably well deserved.  They do exist in both
vertebrates (including humans) and invertebrates and some very special
connections do use electrical synapses, but they are basically very
boring.  The chemical synapses do all the "heavy lifting" in nervous
calculations, because they have the ability to be much more easily
modulated by a variety of causes including prior activity.  So
interesting things like learning and memory must really be due to
chemical synapses, not electrical ones.

Also, chemical ones are easily disrupted by all sorts of metabolic
events and chemical agents -- electrical synapses are pretty resistant
to manipulation. 




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