Primary Somatosensory Cortex
Electrical Synapse – Basic Structure
One way in which information is transferred between neighboring neurons is the electrical synapse. The electrical synapse is a direct communication between two neurons through a series of channels. Unlike the chemical synapse which is mediated by neurotransmitters, in electrical synapse, the cells are directly connected.
- Neurons at electrical synapses are joined by gap junctions. In these areas, the intercellular space narrows to 2-4 nm and adjacent neurons communicate through interconnecting channel proteins.
- The channels are called connexons, and each is composed of six connexin protein subunits. Pairs of opposing connexons form water-filled pores that bridge the gap between neuron plasma membranes.
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- The channels allow ionic current (or action potentials) to move quickly from one neuron to the next.
- Although the synaptic transmission is rapid, it is not easily modified. Because of this limitation, electrical synapses are relatively uncommon. They most frequently occur in areas of the brain where groups of neurons need to be synchronized (“fire” simultaneously).
- Betts, J. G., Young, K. A., Wise, J. A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., & Kruse, D. H. (2022). Anatomy and Physiology (2nd ed.). OpenStax. OpenStax | Free Textbooks Online with No Catch
- Hall, J. E., & Guyton, A. C. (2016). Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology (13th ed.). Elsevier, Philadelphia PA