PSYC 2030 Lecture Notes - Lecture 15: Diane Ackerman, Axon Terminal, Neural Pathway

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PSYC 2030 Lecture 15 Notes
Introduction
How Neurotransmitters Influence Us
Scientists once believed that the axon of one cell fused with the dendrites of another in
an uninterrupted fabric.
Then British physiologist Sir Charles Sherrington (18571952) noticed that neural
impulses were taking an unexpectedly long time to travel a neural pathway.
Inferring that there must be a brief interruption in the transmission, Sherrington called
the meeting point between neurons a synapse.
We now know that the axon terminal of one neuron is in fact separated from the
receiving neuron by a synaptic gap (or synaptic cleft) less than a millionth of an inch
wide.
Spanish anatomist Santiago Ramón y Cajal (18521934) marveled at these near- unions
of euos, allig the potoplasi kisses.
Like elegat ladies ai-kissing so as not to muss their makeup, dendrites and axons
do’t uite touh, oted poet Diae Akea 00, p. 7.
How do the neurons execute this protoplasmic kiss, sending information across the tiny
synaptic gap?
The answer is one of the important scientific discoveries of our age.
When an action potential reaches the knob-like teials at a ao’s ed, it tigges
the release of chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters
Within 1/10,000th of a second, the neurotransmitter molecules cross the synaptic gap
and bind to receptor sites on the receiving neuronas precisely as a key fits a lock.
For an instant, the neurotransmitter unlocks tiny channels at the receiving site, and
eletiall haged atos flo i, eitig o ihiitig the eeiig euo’s eadiess
to fire.
The excess neurotransmitters then drift away, are broken down by enzymes, or are
reabsorbed by the sending neurona process called reuptake.
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