Neuroscience

How networks form: Charting the developing brain

How can you build neuronal networks that are more complex than anything known today? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany, have mapped the development of inhibitory neuronal circuitry ...

Neuroscience

Astrocytes identified as master 'conductors' of the brain

In the orchestra of the brain, the firing of each neuron is controlled by two notes—excitatory and inhibitory—that come from two distinct forms of a cellular structure called synapses. Synapses are essentially the connections ...

Chemical synapse

Chemical synapses are specialized junctions through which neurons signal to each other and to non-neuronal cells such as those in muscles or glands. Chemical synapses allow neurons to form circuits within the central nervous system. They are crucial to the biological computations that underlie perception and thought. They allow the nervous system to connect to and control other systems of the body.

The adult human brain is estimated to contain from 1014 to 5 × 1014 (100-500 trillion) synapses.[citation needed] Each mm3 of cerebral cortex contains roughly a billion of them.

The word "synapse" comes from "synaptein", which Sir Charles Scott Sherrington and colleagues coined from the Greek "syn-" ("together") and "haptein" ("to clasp"). Chemical synapses are not the only type of biological synapse: electrical and immunological synapses also exist. Without a qualifier, however, "synapse" commonly means chemical synapse.

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