tiny space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites

tiny space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites

tiny space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites

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The tiny space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrite or cell body of another is called the

a. axon terminal.

b. branching fiber.

c. synaptic gap.

d. threshold.

ANSWER: C 

Two neurons are never physically connected to each other and synapse is the region of close proximity between two neurons, where information from one neuron is transmitted to the next one. At synapse, axon terminals of one neuron lie in close proximity to dendrites or soma of other neuron.

tiny space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites
tiny space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites

Neurotransmitters: The Body’s Chemical Messengers

Not only do the neural signals travel via electrical charges within the neuron, but they also travel via chemical transmission between the neurons. Neurons are separated by junction areas known as synapsesareas where the terminal buttons at the end of the axon of one neuron nearly, but don’t quite, touch the dendrites of another.

The synapses provide a remarkable function because they allow each axon to communicate with many dendrites in neighboring cells. Because a neuron may have synaptic connections with thousands of other neurons, the communication links among the neurons in the nervous system allow for a highly sophisticated communication system.

When the electrical impulse from the action potential reaches the end of the axon, it signals the terminal buttons to release neurotransmitters into the synapse. A neurotransmitter is a chemical that relays signals across the synapses between neurons. Neurotransmitters travel across the synaptic space between the terminal button of one neuron and the dendrites of other neurons, where they bind to the dendrites in the neighboring neurons.

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Furthermore, different terminal buttons release different neurotransmitters, and different dendrites are particularly sensitive to different neurotransmitters. The dendrites will admit the neurotransmitters only if they are the right shape to fit in the receptor sites on the receiving neuron. For this reason, the receptor sites and neurotransmitters are often compared to a lock and key.

tiny space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites
tiny space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites

What is a synapse?

The word synapse stems from the Greek words “syn” (together) and “haptein” (to clasp). This might make you think that a synapse is where brain cells touch or fasten together, but that isn’t quite right. The synapse, rather, is that small pocket of space between two cells, where they can pass messages to communicate. A single neuron may contain thousands of synapses. In fact, one type of neuron called the Purkinje cell, found in the brain’s cerebellum, may have as many as one hundred thousand synapses.

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How big is a synapse?

Synapses are tiny—you cannot see them with the naked eye. When measured using sophisticated tools, scientists can see that the small gaps between cells is approximately 20-40 nanometers wide. If you consider that the thickness of a single sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers wide, you can start to understand just how small these functional contact points between neurons really are. More than 3,000 synapses would fit in that space alone!

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tiny space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites
tiny space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites

How many synapses are in the human brain?

The short answer is that neuroscientists aren’t exactly sure. It’s very hard to measure in living human beings. But current post-mortem studies, where scientists examine the brains of deceased individuals, suggest that the average male human brain contains about 86 billion neurons. If each neuron is home to hundreds or even thousands of synapses, the estimated number of these communication points must be in the trillions.

Current estimates are listed somewhere around 0.15 quadrillion synapses—or 150,000,000,000,000 synapses.

What is synaptic transmission?

Generally speaking, it’s just another way to say neurotransmission.

But it specifies that the communication occurring between brain cells is happening at the synapse as opposed to some other communication point.

One neuron, often referred to as the pre-synaptic cell,

will release a neurotransmitter or other neurochemical from special pouches clustered

near the cell membrane called synaptic vesicles into the space between cells. Those molecules will then be taken up by membrane receptors on the post-synaptic, or neighboring, cell.

When this message is passed between the two cells at the synapse, it has the power to change the behavior of both cells. Chemicals from the pre-synaptic neuron may excite the post-synaptic cell, telling it to release its own neurochemicals. It may tell the post-synaptic cell to slow down signaling or stop it all together. Or it may simply tell it to change the message a bit. But synapses offer the possibility of bi-directional communication. As such, post-synaptic cells can send back their own messages to pre-synaptic cells—telling them to change how much or how often a neurotransmitter is released.

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tiny space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites
tiny space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites

Are there different kinds of synapses?

Yes! Synapses can vary in size, structure, and shape. And they can be found at different sites on a neuron. For example, there may be synapses between the axon of one cell and the dendrite of another, called axodendritic synapses. They can go from the axon to the cell body, or soma-that’s an axosomatic synapse. Or they may go between two axons. That’s an axoaxonic synapse.

 

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