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J Neurosci. 2009 Oct 14;29(41):12802-6. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3346-09.2009.

Functional properties of synaptic transmission in primary sense organs.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA.


Sensory receptors transduce physical stimuli in the environment into neural signals that are interpreted by the brain. Although considerable attention has been given to how the sensitivity and dynamic range of sensory receptors is established, peripheral synaptic interactions improve the fidelity with which receptor output is transferred to the brain. For instance, synapses in the retina, cochlea, and primary olfactory system use mechanisms that fine-tune the responsiveness of postsynaptic neurons and the dynamics of exocytosis; these permit microcircuit interactions to encode efficiently the output of sensory receptors with the fidelity and dynamic range necessary to extract the salient features of the physical stimuli. The continuous matching of presynaptic and postsynaptic responsiveness highlight how the primary sensory organs have been optimized and can be modulated to resolve sparse sensory signals and to encode the entire range of receptor output.

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