The Structure of my Little Grey Cells

The topics of the week were the structure of neurons and glia, the neuronal membrane at rest and properties of the action potential. Most of the structural properties of the neuron were already familiar to us from molecule and cell biology courses as well as a physiology course, but this was a good recap. The biochemistry of the cell membrane, as well as behaviour and interaction of polar and nonpolar molecules in different solvents and between each other was common knowledge for us based on our bachelor studies. It was extremely useful that this first part was more familiar to us because this allowed us to understand the operating mechanism of the action potential more effectively as we did not have to spend as much time understanding the biochemical properties. The basics of the action potentials were also surprisingly familiar from earlier studies but more depth of understanding was obtained by reading the chapter 4. One question that remained unanswered, however, was the mechanism of releasing the contents of the vesicles into the cytosol when it does not fuse with the membrane and release the contents to the synaptic cleft or to other cell compartments.

During this week we had a lecture and an exercise session. The topic of the lecture was interesting, but having read chapters 2 and 3 before the lecture there was not much new information given on the lecture and some questions remained unanswered. On the other hand, the end of the lecture was very hard to understand because we had not read that chapter yet and the pace was very fast. Overall, we would have hoped that the lecture had explored the topic more in depth as we had already read the basics from the book. The exercise session was a useful introduction to the exercises and an opportunity to ask questions. It would have been even more useful if we had had a chance to complete some of the exercises and had already some more specific questions. The exercises themselves were quite a good balance of basic exercises and more difficult ones. Deriving the equation was especially challenging and remained still unclear. 

This understanding of the neuronal membranes and their function in facilitating the action potential in the small scale allows us to apply this knowledge to the larger scale to understand the operation of the brain and support our journey to understand the communication between our little grey cells. All in all, it was very interesting to apply existing knowledge from different courses and combine these to understand a new topic and application of the existing information. 

Posted by Maaria Malkamäki

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