Brain Blog – Week 2

The first few lectures and five first chapters in the course book have laid down the foundation for being able to learn about different functions of the nervous system later in the course. Starting from general concepts of neurons and glia, membrane potentials, action potentials and synaptic connections, we have been introduced to more and more layers of complexity in an attempt to describe what we currently know about the brain. However, that complexity has not simply been a burden, but has also helped tying separate existing pieces of knowledge together in unexpected ways and clarifying previous misconceptions.

For me personally, an example of the former would be The fact that I knew about the fact that the Golgi apparatus is used to post-process and pack proteins, but I wouldn’t have been able to cite any example of this. Now I know that, for example, Peptide neurotransmitters are made from a slice of a polypeptide chain, where the slicing takes part in the Golgi apparatus and the newly produced neurotransmitters are sent off packed in secretory granules to the axon terminal via axoplasmic transport. I also knew that kinesin was able to transport stuff in the cell,  but I didn’t know what and where, let alone that microtubules were involved!

As for clarifying misconceptions, I always thought that synapses were always located between axon terminals and the end of dendrites. During the last few weeks, I have learned that this is false and that axons can form synapses at other places than at their ends, and even more surprisingly that synapses occur at diverse locations in dendrites and can even directly connect to the soma or another axon.

I am really excited about this course and particularly eager to learn about what these different systems of neurons look like in different parts of the nervous system and how they work together to create higher level-functions for example.

Posted by Bent Harnist

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