The world of chemistry, the human body and the nervous system is exciting. Now, it is likely that you have been asked for an academic project such as a thesis or an essay about this and you have your doubts. That’s what we and our article are for. Here we are going to explain what it is, how it is represented graphically with an example and what the chemical synapse process is like.
What is the Synapse?
The first thing you have to know is that, for your brain to work properly, the neurons that make it up must be able to communicate with each other. Well, ultimately, those communications and interactions between your neurons are known as synapses.
Within the types of synapses, two are distinguished: electrical and chemical, the latter being the one that we are going to deal with in this article. Communication between neurons (synaptic) is generated between the end of the axon of the sending cell and the soma of the receiving cell.
However, an important thing to consider is that the synapse itself does not occur as a direct contact. All neurons are always separated by a space called the “synaptic or intersynaptic space.”
What is the Chemical Synapse?
Now we come to the moment you were looking for so much, the chemical synapse. This process consists of transmitting information through neurotransmitters. The latter are the ones who transmit the message.
The chemical synapse is asymmetric, that is, they are not always produced in the same way from one neuron to another . They also have unidirectional characteristics, which means that the receiving neuron (postsynaptic) cannot send information to the transmitter (presynaptic neuron).
Another important characteristic of chemical synapses is that they possess great plasticity. In other words, information is transmitted more easily and plasticity helps to better adapt to changes in the environment.
This allows you to understand that the nervous system is really intelligent and communication between neurons is a priority.
As you can well see, the chemical synapse allows you to modulate the transmission of impulses, and that is because it can vary:
- The firing frequency.
- The neurotransmitter.
- The intensity of the impulse.
So, to summarize, we can say that the chemical synapse is generated by means of neurotransmitters that can be changed, or modified. Later we will give you an example of how the chemical synapse is represented in the human brain.
Chemical Synapse Process
Now, we are going to discuss the steps for the chemical synapse to occur:
- The first thing that happens is that the neurotransmitter is synthesized and stored in the vesicles.
- The action potential involves the presynaptic memory.
- The presynaptic terminal depolarizes and causes calcium channels to open, which are voltage-dependent.
- Then, an influx of calcium is generated in the channels.
- That calcium will cause the vesicles to bind to the presynaptic membrane.
- Thus, the respective neurotransmitter is released from the synaptic gap junction by exocytosis.
- The neurotransmitter then binds to receptors on the postsynaptic membrane.
- The postsynaptic channels then open and close.
- The postsynaptic current generates which can modify the excitability of the postsynaptic cell.
- Finally, the vesicular membrane is recovered based on the plasma membrane.
And, ultimately, that is the whole process that occurs when the chemical synapse occurs in your neurons.
Differences with the electric
As we mentioned before, the synapse can be chemical or electrical. The main difference that can be found, to start with, is that the chemical synapse has greater plasticity and number of neuronal processes. On the other hand, the electrical ones consist of a constant flow of ions (molecules with an electrical charge) between the cells.
On the one hand, chemical processes cause presynaptic neurons to release a considerable amount of neurotransmitters. These molecules will bind to receptors on the postsynaptic cell.
On the other hand, the electrical synapse does consist of a union and physical connection between the two types of neurons participating in the process. This junction is called, because of its shape, a “gap junction” that helps ions from the junctions flow between cells. The electrical synapse is much faster than the chemical one,
Now, finding a point in common between both types of synapses, you can understand that they are two processes that constantly interact and cooperate. The plasticity of one and the speed of the other allow individuals to make decisions, or react in different ways to the same stimulus, but in different situations.
Chemical Synapse Representation Example
This image below is a clear example of how chemical synapses are produced in your brain:
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