The Propagation of an Action Potential Through a Neuron to Release a Neurotransmitter
An action potential is an electrical signal that travels throughout a neuron. It is generated when the neuron is stimulated, either by an external stimulus or by a neurotransmitter from a neighbouring neuron. This action potential is propagated along the length of the neuron until it reaches the synaptic terminals. At the synaptic terminals, the action potential triggers the release of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, into the synaptic cleft. The neurotransmitters then bind to receptors on the postsynaptic neuron, resulting in a new action potential in the postsynaptic neuron (Gruber, 2020; Desai et al., 2016). Over time, neurons can become more efficient and effective by changing in three major ways. Firstly, neurons can strengthen their synapses. This is known as synaptic plasticity and occurs when neurons are repeatedly stimulated by action potentials. Secondly, neurons can increase the speed of action potential propagation. This is known as conduction velocity and is important for quickly transmitting information throughout the brain. Finally, neurons can increase the number of neurotransmitters they release at the synaptic terminals. This is known as transmitter release and is important for increasing the strength of the signal sent to the postsynaptic neuron (Bengio et al., 2021; Morgenthaler et al., 2020). Cont…
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