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Question - Explain how neurons communicate. Include a description of the action potential and how the action potential is converted into a chemical signal that is received by the postsynaptic neuron.

Answer - Communication among neurons

Neurons are defined as the fundamental units of the brain which are responsible for receiving sensory input from external sources (Abbott, DePasquale, & Memmesheimer, 2016). The communication between these neurons takes place through electrical events which are known as 'chemical neurotransmitters' and 'action potentials'. The majority of the neurons communicate by releasing one or more types of the neurotransmitter, which then matches onto its respective receptor present on the surface of a neighboring neuron (Talagas, Lebonvallet, Leschiera, Marcorelles, & Misery, 2018).

The inputs generated from the axons of other neurons make the membrane potential either more positive or more negative. There are basically two types of input that are excitatory and inhibitory, which promote or inhibit the production of 'action potentials' respectively. Action potentials are basically the electrical signals which are carried along with the neurons. These action potentials act as the central unit of communication within the neurons. It occurs when the total aggregation of excitatory and inhibitory inputs brings the potential of neuron's membrane -50 mV (Talagas et al, 2018). This potential value of the neuron's membrane is termed as the 'action potential threshold'. The action potential is usually termed as 'spikes' by the neuroscientists, which is derived from its shape as recorded in the sensitive electrical equipment.

The junction present between two neurons is termed as a 'synapse' (Abbott et al, 2016). Neurons communicate with each other across these synapses. At these junctions, the 'action potential' after reaching the presynaptic terminal releases neurotransmitters from the neuron towards the synaptic cleft. The synaptic cleft is 20-40nm space present between the postsynaptic dendrite and the presynaptic axon terminal. When the neurotransmitter travels across the synaptic cleft, then the transmitter combines with the neurotransmitter receptors present on the postsynaptic side. Furthermore, the positive ions (like Na+, K+, Ca+) or the negative ions (like Cl-) will flow through the channel spanning the membrane, depending upon the release of neurotransmitters. In addition to this, the synapses can also convert the action potential into a neurotransmitter release (in the form of chemical signal). These transmitters are bound to the postsynaptic receptor, where the signals are switched back into the electrical form. In this electrical form of the signal, the charged ion travel in or out of the postsynaptic neuron (Talagas et al, 2018). The communication between neurons can be strengthened or weakened depending upon the activities performed by individuals such as stress, exercise, and drug use. The thoughts, perception and behavior of an individual is the result of communication between the neurons (Abbott et al, 2016).

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