Shepherd, Gordon M. Yale University Medical School, New Haven, Connecticut.
Hanson, Phyllis I. Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.
Last reviewed:June 2020
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- Electrical synapses
- Chemical synapses
- Neuromuscular junction
- Central synapses
- Amino acid transmitters
- GABA transmitters
- Other transmitters
- Activity-dependent changes
- Drug actions
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The physiologic mechanism by which one nerve cell (neuron) influences the activity of an anatomically adjacent neuron with which it is functionally coupled. Synaptic transmission (Fig. 1) enables a neuron to communicate with a target cell across a synapse. During synaptic transmission, a presynaptic neuron releases a neurotransmitter, which then binds to specific postsynaptic receptors. Overall, synaptic transmission is a key neurologic process because brain function depends on interactions of nerve cells with each other and with the gland cells and muscle cells that they innervate. The interactions take place at specific sites of contact between cells known as synapses. The synapse is the smallest and most fundamental information-processing unit in the nervous system. By means of different patterns of synaptic connections between neurons, synaptic circuits are constructed during development to carry out the different functional operations of the nervous system. See also: Brain; Nerve; Nervous system (invertebrate); Nervous system (vertebrate); Neurobiology; Neuron
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