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Summation of reversal potentials in neurons

  1. Dec 15, 2009 #1


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    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    Consider a neuron with resting potential of -65 mV and threshold of -55 mV. It receives two
    synaptic inputs with similar synaptic conductances, one with reversal potential of -10 mV and the
    other with reversal potential of -58 mV. Draw the predicted postsynaptic response (change in
    membrane potential) to stimulation of each synapse alone, and then to simultaneous stimulation of
    both synapses. Briefly explain what’s going on and why the results might at first be confusing.

    2. Relevant equations

    3. The attempt at a solution

    So the neuron will reach an action potential at -55 mV. So if the neuron gains 10 mV, it will depolarize and reach an action potential. Now, how will the synaptic inputs affect the neuron? Input 1 might have a reversal potential of -10 mV, but that doesn't say how much current it sends to the neuron, nor does it say the proportion of total positive/negative ions in the input compared to that of the neuron. So that confuses me. How do we add potentials? Do we just take some average of the resting potential of the neuron with the reversal potential of the inputs? Which would be sort of like adding up concentrations or ratios. Or do we add-55 to -10 and -55 to -58? Ions sum up additively (and don't involve taking ratios) but I highly doubt the question wants me to say that since then there would just be hyperpolarization and no action potential for either input.

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