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Mol Neurobiol. 2004 Dec;30(3):341-57.

Gap junctions: their importance for the dynamics of neural circuits.

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Laboratorio de FisiologĂ­a y BiologĂ­a Molecular, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Electrical coupling through gap junctions constitutes a mode of signal transmission between neurons (electrical synaptic transmission). Originally discovered in invertebrates and in lower vertebrates, electrical synapses have recently been reported in immature and adult mammalian nervous systems. This has renewed the interest in understanding the role of electrical synapses in neural circuit function and signal processing. The present review focuses on the role of gap junctions in shaping the dynamics of neural networks by forming electrical synapses between neurons. Electrical synapses have been shown to be important elements in coincidence detection mechanisms and they can produce complex input-output functions when arranged in combination with chemical synapses. We postulate that these synapses may also be important in redefining neuronal compartments, associating anatomically distinct cellular structures into functional units. The original view of electrical synapses as static connecting elements in neural circuits has been revised and a considerable amount of evidence suggests that electrical synapses substantially affect the dynamics of neural circuits.

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