Action at the Synapse
by John H. Krantz, Hanover College
© 1998, Peregrine Publishers, Inc., All Rights Reserved

This four-part activity focuses on the action at the synapse—the place where one neuron communicates with another neuron in our brain—and some behavioral effects of what happens at the synapse. We've offered some review of the action potential, but the emphasis here is on the synapse, synaptic communication, neurotransmitter effects, and drug effects. Any one of the four parts can be used alone, or all four parts can be used together as a unit.

Part 1: A Brief Review of the Synapse
Most of the communication in the brain takes place across tiny gaps called synapses. Neuronal messages hop over the gap to deliver the message from one cell to the next. How does it work? Start with this overview and interactive Test Your Understanding section to familiarize yourself with the important parts of the synapse.

Part 2: Synaptic Communication
How are neurotransmitters made? How and why do action potentials fire? Stop here to learn more about these synaptic communication processes and to see them in action!

Part 3: Neurotransmitters and Behavior
Learn more about Mohammed Ali's Parkinson's Disease, our fight-or-flight response, and the sleepy response to warm milk before bed. All these behavioral effects are the result of specific neurotransmitters.

Part 4: How Drugs Affect the Synapse
"Legal" drugs such as alcohol, therapeutic drugs such as those prescribed for sufferers of schizophrenia and depression, and illegal drugs such as cocaine and LSD all affect our physiology and behavior. And many of these effects occur at the synapse. How do these effects occur? Try your hand at predicting the outcome of various drugs in the synapse.
Graphics by MIND