Synapse – Concept, types of synapses and diseases

We explain what the synapse is and the types of synapses that exist. Also, diseases that can affect this process.

Synapse takes place between two neurons or a neuron and another cell.

What is the synapse?

It is known as a synapse a specialized intercellular approach process, which takes place between two neurons, or a neuron and another cell (effector or receptor). In this process, the transmission of a nerve impulse occurs, which is why it is often also known as a nerve synapse or even an electrical synapse, given the electromagnetic nature of said transmission.

The synapse is key in the body’s management and control process. It begins with a chemical discharge within the membrane of the emitting cell (neuron), which becomes an electrical current transmitted along the neuronal axons and that releases certain chemical compounds called neurotransmitters (norepinephrine and acetylcholine, among others) that they excite or inhibit the functions of the recipient cell.

Across the synapse neurons control the various chemical and physical processes of the body, which allows its synchronization (activation and inhibition at convenience) and occurs in three types of stimulus:

  • Exciting transmission. The one that initiates processes or increases the potential for action.
  • Inhibitory transmission. That which stops processes or decreases the action potential.
  • Modulating transmission. That which alters the pattern or frequency of the cellular activity in question.

Synapse types

The electrical synapse is bidirectional and allows neuronal synchronization.

There are two different types of synapses, which are:

  • Electrical synapse. This type does not involve neurotransmitters, but the transmission from one neuron to another of ions (electrically charged molecules) through gap junctions: protein connections between closely adhering cells. This type of synapse is bidirectional and allows neuronal synchronization, in addition to being faster than the chemical synapse.
  • Chemical synapse. This type occurs between cells separated by a space no greater than 20-30 nanometers, known as the synaptic cleft, and occurs through the release and reception of neurotransmitters, the result of a very fast cellular secretion process. It is unidirectional and somewhat slower than electric.

Diseases that affect the synapse

Alzheimer’s is the formation of cortisol plaques between neurons.

Some ailments of the human body prevent or hinder the correct neuronal synapse, thus affecting the control that the nervous system exerts over the various functions, voluntary or not, of the organism. Some of these ailments are:

  • Parkinson disease. Degenerative disorder, of a congenital type, which consists of the inhibition of sufficient secretion of dopamine, a substance that guarantees correct muscle movement, which results in tremors, weakness and lack of control of the extremities
  • Epilepsy. It is about a desynchronization of the inhibitory and excitatory impulses of the synapse, increasing the electrical work and generating states of hyperarousal, whose impact on the nervous system is of progressive and inevitable deterioration.
  • Alzheimer’s disease. This disease arises from the formation of cortisol plaques between the neurons of the cerebral cortex, preventing the synapse and impairing both the capacity for reasoning, language and the formation of recent memories.