Introduction to Neurons, Synapses, Action Potentials, and Neurotransmission

Overview:

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MODULE DESCRIPTION:

This module is an introduction to the structure and function of neurons, how they generate action potentials, and how they "communicate" with other neurons (neurotransmission) via synapses. This module includes flash animations illustrating the difference between electric synapses and chemical synapses, conduction, electrical neurotransmission, and "classic" chemical neurotransmission.

MODULE COMPONENTS:

CURRICULUM
FLASH ANIMATIONS
A number of people have requested that each animation open in a blank window rather than be embedded within the text. The links below will do just that.
  • The Action Potential

    An animation illustrating how an action potential is generated.

  • Synapses

    An animation illustrating the difference between electrical and chemical synapses.

  • Electrical Neurotransmission

    An animation illustrating intercellular communication (or synaptic transmission) between two neurons via gap junctions.

  • "Classic" Chemical Neurotransmission

    An animation illustrating intercellular communication (or synaptic transmission) between two neurons at chemical synapses.

ADDITIONAL FLASH RESOURCES
  • Neurotransmission: Summary

    An animation illustrating the difference between chemical neurotransmission and electrical neurotransmission.

  • Long-Term Potentiation (LTP)

    Long-Term Potentiation (LTP) is the long-lasting enhancement in communication between two neurons that results from stimulating them simultaneously or in quick succession. This flash animation illustrates how the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate causes LTP in AMPA channels.

  • Neural Synchrony

    Neural synchrony is the simultaneous / synchronous oscillations of membrane potentials in a network of neurons connected with electrical synapses (gap junctions). It is considered by some theorists to be the neural correlate of consciousness.


Credits:

Funding
This module was supported by National Science Foundation Grants #9981217 and #0127561.