Synaptic Actions of Amino Acid Neurotransmitters
Fast synaptic excitation in the neocortex is mediated by the release of glutamate from the axon terminals of thalamocortical projection cells and of locally and intracortically projecting pyramidal cells. The process of synaptic excitation consists of coupling the invasion of the action protential to the vesicular release of glutamate, which then diffuses across the synaptic cleft to bind with receptors and activate their associated ion channels in the postsynaptic membrane. The strength of synaptic excitation depends on numerous processes, such as the probability that a presynaptic action potential triggers glutamate release, the amount of transmitter released, the number and types of receptors on the postsynaptic membrane, and the conductance and kinetics of the ion channels gated by these receptors. This chapter considers these steps in sequence to provide a coherent a picture of an excitatory cortical synapse.
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