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Transmission of an action potential. This occurs in two ways:

1) across the synapse - synaptic transmission. This is a chemical process, the result of a chemical neurotransmitter.

2) along the axon - membrane transmission. This is the propagation of the action potential itself along the membrane of the axon.

Synaptic transmission - What you learned about the neuromuscular junction is mostly applicable here as well. The major differences in our current discussion are:

1) Transmission across the synapse does not necessarily result in an action potential. Instead, small local potentials are produced which must add together in summation to produce an action potential.

2) Although ACh is a common neurotransmitter, there are many others and the exact effect at the synapse depends on the neurotransmitter involved.

3) Neurotransmitters can be excitatory or inhibitory. The result might be to turn off the next neuron rather than to produce an action potential

The basic steps of synaptic transmission are the same as described at the neuromuscular junction

1) Impulse arrives at the axon terminus causing opening of Ca2+ channels and allows Ca2+  to enter the axon. The calcium ions are in the extracellular fluid, pumped there much like sodium is pumped. Calcium is just an intermediate in both neuromuscular and synaptic transmission.

2) Ca2+  causes vesicles containing neurotransmitter to release the chemical into the synapse by exocytosis across the pre-synaptic membrane.

3) The neurotransmitter binds to the post-synaptic receptors. These receptors are linked to chemically gated ion channels and these channels may open or close as a result of binding to the receptors to cause a graded potential which can be either depolarization, or hyperpolarization depending on the transmitter. Depolarization results from opening of Na+ gates and is called an EPSP. Hyperpolarization could result from opening of K+ gates and is called IPSP. 

4) Graded potentials spread and overlap and can summate to produce a threshold depolarization and an action potential when they stimulate voltage gated ion channels in the neuron's trigger region.

5) The neurotransmitter is broken down or removed from the synapse in order for the receptors to receive the next stimulus. As we learned there are enzymes for some neurotransmitters such as the Ach-E which breaks down acetylcholine. Monoamine oxidase (MAO) is an enzyme which breaks down the catecholamines (epinephrine, nor-epinephrine, dopamine) and nor-epinephrine (which is an important autonomic neurotransmitter) is removed by the axon as well in a process known as reuptake. Other transmitters may just diffuse away.

Graded Potentials - these are small, local depolarizations or hyperpolarizations which can spread and summate to produce a threshold depolarization. Small because they are less than that needed for threshold in the case of the depolarizing variety. Local means they only spread a few mm on the membrane and decline in intensity with increased distance from the point of the stimulus. The depolarizations are called EPSPs, excitatory post-synaptic potentials, because they tend to lead to an action potential which excites or turns the post-synaptic neuron on. Hyperpolarizations are called IPSPs, inhibitory post-synaptic potentials, because they tend to inhibit an action potential and thus turn the neuron off.

Summation - the EPSPs and IPSPs will add together to produce a net depolarization (or hyperpolarization).

Temporal summation- this is analogous to the frequency (wave, tetany) summation discussed for muscle. Many EPSPs occurring in a short period of time (e.g. with high frequency) can summate to produce threshold depolarization. This occurs when high intensity stimulus results in a high frequency of EPSPs.

Spatial summation - this is analogous to quantal summation in a muscle. It means that there are many stimuli occurring simultaneously. Their depolarizations spread and overlap and can build on one another to sum and produce threshold depolarization.

Inhibition - When the brain causes an IPSP in advance of a reflex pathway being stimulated, it reduces the likelihood of the reflex occurring by increasing the depolarization required. The pathway can still work, but only with more than the usual number or degree of stimulation. We inhibit reflexes when allowing ourselves to be given an injection or blood test for instance.

Facilitation - When the brain causes an EPSP in advance of a reflex pathway being stimulated, it makes the reflex more likely to occur, requiring less additional stimulation. When we anticipate a stimulus we often facilitate the reflex.

Learned Reflexes - Many athletic and other routine activities involve learned reflexes. These are reflex pathways facilitated by the brain. We learn the pathways by performing them over and over again and they become facilitated. This is how we can perfect our athletic performance, but only if we learn and practice them correctly. It is difficult to "unlearn" improper techniques once they are established reflexes. Like "riding a bike" they may stay with you for your entire life!

Post-tetanic potentiation - This occurs when we perform a rote task or other repetitive action. At first we may be clumsy at it, but after continuous use (post-tetanic) we become more efficient at it (potentiation). These actions may eventually become learned reflexes

The Action Potential

The trigger region of a neuron is the region where the voltage gated channels begin. When summation results in threshold depolarization in the trigger region of a neuron, an action potential is produced. There are both sodium and potassium channels. Each sodium channel has an activation gate and an inactivation gate, while potassium channels have only one gate. 

A) At the resting state the sodium activation gates are closed, sodium inactivation gates are open, and potassium gates are closed. Resting membrane potential is at around -70 mv inside the cell. 

B) Depolarizing phase: The action potential begins with the activation gates of the sodium channels opening, allowing Na+ ions to enter the cell and causing a sudden depolarization which leads to the spike of the action potential. Excess Na+ ions enter the cell causing reversal of potential becoming briefly more positive on the inside of the cell membrane.

C) Repolarizing phase: The sodium inactivation gates close and potassium gates open. This causes Na+ ions to stop entering the cell and  K+ ions  to leave the cell, causing repolarization. Until the membrane is repolarized it cannot be stimulated, called the absolute refractory period.

D) Excess potassium leaves the cell causing a brief hyperpolarization. Sodium activation gates close and potassium gates begin closing. The sodium-potassium pump begins to re-establish the resting membrane potential. During hyperpolarization the membrane can be stimulated but only with a greater than normal depolarization, the relative refractory period.

Action potentials are self-propagated, and once started the action potential progresses along the axon membrane. It is all-or-none, that is there are not different degrees of action potentials. You either have one or you don't.


AMEBIASIS (Entamebiasis)

Infection of the colon with Entamoeba histolytica, which is commonly asymptomatic but may produce clinical manifestations ranging from mild diarrhea to severe dysentery.

Etiology and Pathogenesis 

Amebiasis is a protozoan infection of the lower GI tract. E. histolytica exists in two forms: the trophozoite and the cyst.

Two species of Entamoeba are morphologically indistinguishable: E. histolytica is pathogenic and E. dispar harmlessly colonizes the colon. Amebas adhere to and kill colonic epithelial cells and cause dysentery with blood and mucus in the stool. Amebas also secrete proteases that degrade the extracellular matrix and permit invasion into the bowel wall and beyond. Amebas can spread via the portal circulation and cause necrotic liver abscesses.

Symptoms and Signs 

Most infected persons are asymptomatic but chronically pass cysts in stools. Symptoms that occur with tissue invasion include intermittent diarrhea and constipation, flatulence, and cramping abdominal pain. There may be tenderness over the liver and ascending colon, and the stools may contain mucus and blood.

Amebic dysentery, common in the tropics but uncommon in temperate climates, is characterized by episodes of frequent (semi)liquid stools that often contain blood, mucus, and live trophozoites.

Chronic infection commonly mimics inflammatory bowel disease and presents as intermittent nondysenteric diarrhea with abdominal pain, mucus, flatulence, and weight loss.

Metastatic disease originates in the colon and can involve any organ, but a liver abscess, usually single and in the right lobe, is the most common

Coccidioidomycosis (Valley Fever; San Joaquin Fever)

A disease caused by the fungus Coccidioides immitis, usually occurring in a primary form as an acute benign asymptomatic or self-limited respiratory infection, occasionally disseminating to cause focal lesions in skin, subcutaneous tissues, lymph nodes, bones, liver, kidneys, meninges, brain, or other tissues.

Primary coccidioidomycosis is usually asymptomatic, but nonspecific respiratory symptoms resembling influenza or acute bronchitis sometimes occur or, less often, acute pneumonia or pleural effusion. Symptoms, in decreasing order of frequency, include fever, cough, chest pain, chills, sputum production, sore throat, and hemoptysis.

Progressive disseminated coccidioidomycosis may develop a few weeks, months, or occasionally years after primary infections,, is more common in men than women and is more likely to occur in association with HIV infection, immunosuppressive therapy

Symptoms often are nonspecific, including low-grade fever, anorexia, weight loss, and weakness. Extensive pulmonary involvement may cause progressive cyanosis, dyspnea, and discharge of mucopurulent or bloody sputum. Extrapulmonary lesions are usually focal, involving one or more tissue sites in bones, joints, skin, subcutaneous tissues, viscera, brain, or meninges. Draining sinus tracts sometimes connect deeper lesions to the skin. Localized extrapulmonary lesions often become chronic and recur frequently, sometimes long after completion of seemingly successful antifungal therapy.

Structure and function of skeletal muscle.

Skeletal muscles have a belly which contains the cells and which attaches by means of tendons or aponeuroses to a bone or other tissue. An aponeurosis is a broad, flat, tendinous attachment, usually along the edge of a muscle. A muscle attaches to an origin and an insertion. The origin is the more fixed attachment, the insertion is the more movable attachment. A muscle acts to shorten, pulling the insertion toward the origin. A muscle can only pull, it cannot push.

Muscles usually come in pairs of antagonistic muscles. The muscle performing the prime movement is the agonist, the opposite acting muscle is the antagonist. When the movement reverses, the names reverse. For example, in flexing the elbow the biceps brachii is the agonist, the triceps brachii is the antagonist. When the movement changes to extension of the elbow, the triceps becomes the agonist and the biceps the antagonist. An antagonist is never totally relaxed. Its function is to provide control and damping of movement by maintaining tone against the agonist. This is called eccentric movement.

Muscles can also act as synergists, working together to perform a movement. This movement can be different from that performed when the muscles work independently. For example, the sternocleidomastoid muscles each rotate the head in a different direction. But as synergists they flex the neck.

Fixators act to keep a part from moving. For example fixators act as postural muscles to keep the spine erect and the leg and vertebral column extended when standing. Fixators such as the rhomboids and levator scapulae keep the scapula from moving during actions such as lifting with the arms.