Two Forms of Electrical Transmission Between Neurons

Front Mol Neurosci. 2018 Nov 21;11:427. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2018.00427. eCollection 2018.


Electrical signaling is a cardinal feature of the nervous system and endows it with the capability of quickly reacting to changes in the environment. Although synaptic communication between nerve cells is perceived to be mainly chemically mediated, electrical synaptic interactions also occur. Two different strategies are responsible for electrical communication between neurons. One is the consequence of low resistance intercellular pathways, called "gap junctions", for the spread of electrical currents between the interior of two cells. The second occurs in the absence of cell-to-cell contacts and is a consequence of the extracellular electrical fields generated by the electrical activity of neurons. Here, we place present notions about electrical transmission in a historical perspective and contrast the contributions of the two different forms of electrical communication to brain function.

Keywords: electric field; electrical synapse; ephapsis; gap junction; synaptic communication.