Drugs and the Synapse

Abstract

The concept that centrally acting drugs influence behaviour by influencing neurotransmitter function at specific points controlling synaptic transmission is the basis of neuropharmacological research.The synapse is a specialized cellular interface that provides a physical and chemical link for facilitating communication between cells of the central nervous system (CNS).

Keywords: agonist; antagonist; antidepressant; pain; neurotransmitter

Figure 1.

The major components of the synapse are depicted in this schematic diagram. Each component subserves the process of sending electrical signals from the presynaptic neuron across a chemical synaptic cleft to the electrical signal‐repeating and ‐modifying machinery of the postsynaptic side. This link contains specialized proteins which respond to neurotransmitters, ions and hormones to make this signal transmission possible. The presynaptic side of the synapse is represented as a terminal protrusion from the neuron which is juxtaposed anatomically to the postsynaptic dendrite of the next neuron in the communication chain. Importantly, these synaptic links are focal points for both the aetiology of neurological disease states and for drugs that can treat or cure these diseases.

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Further Reading

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Knapp, Darin J, Breese, Charles R, Mueller, Robert A, and Breese, George R(Apr 2001) Drugs and the Synapse. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0000098]