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Neuron. 2004 Feb 5;41(3):313-5.

Design for a binary synapse.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


The mammalian rod transfers a binary signal, the capture of 0 or 1 photon. In this issue of Neuron, Sampath and Rieke show in mouse that the rod's tonic exocytosis in darkness completely saturates a G protein cascade to close nearly all postsynaptic channels. A full-sized photon event supresses exocytosis sufficiently to allow approximately 30 postsynaptic channels to open simultaneously. Thus, the synapse behaves like a digital gate, whose hallmark is reliability and resistance to noise.

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