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article imageHow do nerves 'fire'?

By Tim Sandle     Dec 15, 2013 in Science
Nerve cells recycle tiny bubbles or "vesicles" that send chemical nerve signals from one cell to the next, according to a new study. The process is much faster and different to previously thought.
For the study, scientists photographed mouse brain cells using an electron microscope after flash-freezing the cells in the act of firing nerve signals. The special photographs showed that the tiny vesicles are recycled to form new bubbles only one-tenth of a second after they dump their cargo of neurotransmitters into the gap or "synapse" between two nerve cells or neurons.
To explain the importance of this process, the research group have pointed out that without recycling these containers or 'synaptic vesicles' filled with neurotransmitters, you could move once and stop, think one thought and stop, take one step and stop, and speak one word and stop. Instead, a fast nervous system allows us to think and move.
To give an idea of the speed and complexity, the research group point out that one brain cell maintains a supply of 300 to 400 vesicles to send chemical nerve signals, using up to several hundred per second to release neurotransmitters.
The study was carried out by University of Utah scientists and German biologists. The findings have been published in Nature in a paper titled “Ultrafast endocytosis at mouse hippocampal synapses”.
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