Electrifying Brains –Passive Electrical Signals | Synapses, Neurons and Brains | Coursera

Hi everyone,

Last week I continued my lectures on “Synapses, Neurons and Brains” from Coursera.org. Lesson number three discussed the “Electrifying Brains – Passive Electrical Signals” and how the cells can be viewed as a RC Circuit that allow current to flow from axons to dendrites through a synapse gap.

This lesson was very interesting because it explained in a simple way the equations for the voltage on passive cells, the membrane time constant, temporal summation, resting potential, and the two types of synapses in the brain: the “excitatory” and “inhibitory”, which leads to Excitatory Post-Synaptic Potentials (EPSPs) or Inhibitory Post-Synaptic Potentials (IPSPs) at the post-synaptic part of the synaptic gap.

This lesson was also a bit more technical since it introduced equations for RC circuits based on the resistance, capacitance, Ohms law and Kirchoff’s law.

Some of the questions I had after the lesson was about the elements in the pre-synaptic part, the neurotransmitters. What are they made of? I went to look up them in the Wikipedia and I got an idea; but eventually, I will dive deeper into it. Som questions for the readers:

  1. Can the neurotransmitters be part of what gives us intelligence?
  2. Can we eat potassium or sodium-based meals and increase their levels at the synapses’ gaps? Would that actually influence our intelligence?
  3. What is intelligence, actually?

I’ve asked in the previous post something related but I’ll elaborate: could it be possible that our intelligence is based on the time that an electrical signal takes to run a predefined circuit within our brain? And when said signal closes the loop, we acquired knowledge or remembered something?

Next lecture is about “Electrifying Brains – Active Electrical Spikes”. I hope I can get more interesting questions, because I will find the answers eventually.




Author: Pedro Oliveira

Master in Informatics and Computer Engineering; Game Developer at FABAMAQ. Photographer, Marketer and Designer. Interested in Virtual Reality, Brain-Computer Interfaces, Neuro Engineering.

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