Join this seminar with speaker Olga Dudko, Professor of the Department of Physics, University of California at San Diego.
Synaptic transmission is the process by which nerve cells transmit signals to each other, giving us the ability to feel, think, and act. Rapid and precise neuronal communication is enabled through a highly synchronous release of signaling molecules neurotransmitters within just milliseconds of the action potential “spike”. Surprisingly, neurotransmitter release lacked a theoretical framework that is both phenomenologically accurate and mechanistically realistic. In this talk, I will present a statistical-mechanical theory of the action-potential-triggered neurotransmitter release at the chemical synapse. The theory is demonstrated to be in detailed quantitative agreement with existing data on a wide variety of synapses. The theory allows one to extract, directly from experimental data, the microscopic parameters that uniquely identify each synapse. Despite nearly 10 orders of magnitude variation in the release rates among different synapses, the theory reveals that synaptic transmission obeys a simple, universal scaling law. The theory shows how functional characteristics of synapses – such as synaptic plasticity that underlies memory and learning – emerge from molecular properties of neurotransmitter release machinery.