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Anglia Ruskin University Neurophysiology Communication Basics Discussion

Anglia Ruskin University Neurophysiology Communication Basics Discussion


  1. Resting Membrane Potential and the Difference Between EPSPs and IPSPs:

Resting Membrane Potential (RMP): The resting membrane potential refers to the electrical charge difference across the cell membrane of a neuron when it is not actively transmitting signals. Typically, the inside of the neuron is more negatively charged relative to the outside. This difference in charge is maintained by the selective permeability of the cell membrane to ions, especially sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), and chloride (Cl-). The primary contributors to the resting membrane potential are the sodium-potassium pump, which actively transports Na+ out of the cell and K+ into the cell, and the passive diffusion of these ions through ion channels.

Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials (EPSPs) and Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials (IPSPs): EPSPs and IPSPs are changes in the membrane potential of a neuron caused by neurotransmitter binding at its synapses.

  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials (EPSPs): When a neurotransmitter, like glutamate, binds to receptors on the postsynaptic membrane, it can lead to the opening of ion channels, typically sodium channels. This allows sodium ions to enter the neuron, making the inside less negatively charged (depolarizing). EPSPs increase the likelihood of the neuron firing an action potential.
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials (IPSPs): In contrast, when neurotransmitters like GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) bind to receptors on the postsynaptic membrane, it can lead to the opening of ion channels that allow chloride ions to enter or potassium ions to exit the neuron. This makes the inside of the neuron more negatively charged (hyperpolarizing) and reduces the likelihood of an action potential. IPSPs inhibit the firing of an action potential.
  1. Forces of Diffusion and Electrostatic Pressure in Electrochemical Communication:

Diffusion and electrostatic pressure are two fundamental forces that work together to facilitate electrochemical communication in neurons.

  • Diffusion: This is the tendency of ions to move from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. In the context of neurons, this means that ions like sodium (Na+) and potassium (K+) will naturally move down their concentration gradients across the cell membrane. For example, if there is a higher concentration of Na+ outside the neuron, it will tend to move inside, and if there is a higher concentration of K+ inside the neuron, it will tend to move outside. Diffusion plays a crucial role in equalizing ion concentrations on both sides of the membrane.
  • Electrostatic Pressure: This force is based on the attraction or repulsion between ions due to their electrical charges. Positively charged ions (cations) are attracted to negatively charged ions (anions), and vice versa. In neurons, the electrical charge across the cell membrane (membrane potential) affects the movement of ions. Positively charged ions will be attracted to the more negatively charged interior of the neuron and repelled by areas with a positive charge. Electrostatic pressure helps maintain the electrical gradient across the membrane.

These two forces work together to establish and maintain the resting membrane potential and facilitate the propagation of action potentials along the neuron’s axon.

  1. Action Potential and Features of Synaptic Communication in Neurons:

Action Potential: An action potential is a rapid and brief change in the membrane potential of a neuron, characterized by a sudden depolarization followed by repolarization. It is the fundamental unit of communication in the nervous system. The action potential is triggered when the membrane potential reaches a threshold level, typically around -55 to -50 millivolts, due to the summation of EPSPs (excitatory postsynaptic potentials). The action potential consists of several phases, including depolarization, repolarization, and hyperpolarization, driven by the opening and closing of voltage-gated ion channels, primarily sodium and potassium channels.

Features of Synaptic Communication: Synaptic communication in neurons involves the transmission of information from one neuron (presynaptic neuron) to another (postsynaptic neuron) at specialized junctions called synapses. Here are some key features:

  • Synaptic Transmission: When an action potential reaches the axon terminal of the presynaptic neuron, it triggers the release of neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft, the small gap between the presynaptic and postsynaptic neurons.
  • Neurotransmitters: Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers released by the presynaptic neuron. They bind to receptors on the postsynaptic membrane and can either trigger EPSPs (excitatory neurotransmitters) or IPSPs (inhibitory neurotransmitters), influencing whether the postsynaptic neuron will generate an action potential.
  • Synaptic Integration: The postsynaptic neuron integrates the excitatory and inhibitory signals it receives from multiple synapses. If the net effect is excitatory and reaches the threshold, it generates an action potential.
  • Spatial and Temporal Summation: Postsynaptic neurons can summate EPSPs and IPSPs from multiple synapses over time (temporal summation) or from different locations on the neuron’s dendrites (spatial summation) to determine whether an action potential is triggered.
  • Synaptic Plasticity: Synapses can change their strength over time through processes like long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD), which are critical for learning and memory.

In summary, action potentials and synaptic communication are fundamental processes in neurons that allow for the transmission and integration of information in the nervous system. The balance between EPSPs and IPSPs at synapses plays a crucial role in determining whether an action potential will be generated in the postsynaptic neuron.

Anglia Ruskin University Neurophysiology Communication Basics Discussion

Question Description

I’m working on a social science multi-part question and need the explanation and answer to help me learn.


1) Define resting membrane potential and the difference between excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs).

2) Describe how the forces of diffusion and electrostatic pressure work collectively to facilitate electrochemical communication.

3) Explain the action potential and the features of synaptic communication in neurons.

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