NBE-E4210 Week 3: Synapses

The third week of the course was about the basic operations of the synapses in the nervous system. The topic is rather interesting for me, as I have heard a lot about different neurotransmitters when reading about psychology and mental health -related topics, but I haven’t had a solid understanding how the whole system works. Now I know some general basics, such as there are three types of neurotransmitters, one neuron usually uses only one neurotransmitter and they work with several receptor mechanisms that could also be affected with drugs.

While reading, I also ended up in Wikipedia and understood how caffeine works: it is the antagonist for adenosine, which is a neurotransmitter (not in the traditional sense) related to drowsy feeling developing during the day. Caffeine sticks reversibly to adenosine receptors and blocks its operation temporarily. I still don’t know how adenosine works, but luckily the course book seems to have a lot of details about different biochemical mechanisms, so after reading the book it might be easier to understand. Brain-related Wikipedia has been surprisingly easier to understand after reading the course book!

It is a bit amazing that the synapses work chemically via neurotransmitters, as it seems rather difficult to generate neurotransmitter molecules, transmit them to the synapse and to release them every single time the neuron is activated. All of this should happen really fast, unless the neuron is rarely active. No wonders scientists were a bit suspicious about the fact that synapses transmit the signal chemically.

I can’t wait that we get to the part explaining dopamine, serotonine and other mood-related neurotransmitters, that are discussed a lot in psychology but which I still don’t understand yet in detail.