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Cellular NeuroPhysiology

Cellular NeuroPhysiology

CELLULAR-NEUROPHYSIOLOGYThe focus of the research is the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of neurotransmission and synaptic plasticity, starting from individual synapses to synaptic circuits up to brain diseases. In chemical synapses, which account for most if not all mammalian synapses, neurotransmitters are stored in synaptic vesicles within the presynaptic terminal and are released by a process of regulated exocytosis. Once secreted, the neurotransmitter rapidly diffuses within the narrow synaptic cleft to reach postsynaptic receptors that bind and transduce it into an electrical and/or metabolic response of the postsynaptic neuron.

While neurons can rapidly transmit over long distances a digital stereotyped signal (the action potential, which cannot be modulated in amplitude, but only in frequency), a digital-to-analogic process occurs at the synapse that makes possible that an identical signal can be transmitted across the synaptic cleft in a highly modulatable fashion.

The efficiency of information transfer through the synapse, called "synaptic strength" depends on the complexity of the signal transduction processes including an electrical-to-chemical transduction at the presynaptic level followed by a chemical-to-electrical/metabolic transduction at the postsynaptic level. The strength of a connection between two neurons can be either enhanced or depressed and these changes span a wide range of time windows from milliseconds to years.

These mechanisms are believed to be the basis of the modifications in information flow and processing induced by epigenetic factors and eventually lead to learning and memory.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 April 2012 16:47