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Chemical Synapses

by Greg Crowther


Context

A synapse is connection between two neurons, or between a neuron and another excitable cell. Synapses are of two general types: electrical synapses and chemical synapses. This tune (which has elements of both doo-wop and Whitney Houston) summarizes the latter.


Lyrics

What will you find at the end of the axon?
What happens there at synaptic boutons?
How can you tell if a message has been passed on?
If it has, then where has it gone?

Transmitters bind receptors on the post-synaptic cells;
Ionotropic or metabotropic they may be.
The receptors or the channels they influence let some ions through,
Resulting in E- or IPSPs!

That's what you'll find at the end of the axon!
That's what occurs at synaptic boutons!
Neurotransmitters are released by the vesicles,
And that's how the message goes on!
Neurotransmitters are released by the vesicles,
And that's how the message goes on!


Other Files

karaoke

sheet music (with melody play-back)


Lesson Plan

Songs like this one can be used during class meetings and/or in homework assignments. Either way, the song will be most impactful if students DO something with it, as opposed to just listening.

An initial, simple follow-up activity could be to answer the study questions below. A more extensive interaction with the song might entail (A) learning to sing it, using an audio file and/or sheet music as a guide, and/or (B) illustrating it with pictures, bodily poses, and/or bodily movements. The latter activity could begin with students identifying the most important or most challenging content of the song, and deciding how to illustrate that particular content.


Study Questions

(1) What is the technical term for the ends of the axon?

(2) What is the difference between a synapse and a synaptic cleft?

(3) What is the difference between ionotropic and metabotropic receptors?

(4) What, in general, are EPSPs and IPSPs?

(5) Do electrical synapses use neurotransmitters?

(Answers may be found on the answers page.)