Brain Science Podcast discussion

Introduce Yourself > Introduction & question

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message 1: by Dana (new)

Dana Nourie | 1 comments Hi Ginger and everyone,

I'm a long time fan of neuroscience, and was super excited when I discovered the Brain Science podcasts. They fantastic!

I'm not a scientist, but am obsessively interested in most sciences, including neuroscience. By profession, I am in the geek world of computing, and am a community manager for an awesome group of engineers. My hobbies are amateur astronomy, photography, and more computer stuff. In fact, I'm also technical director for, where we enjoy posting studies regarding how the brain creates the perception of self, and on meditation and the brain.

There is something I've been wondering about . . . I hear and read a lot about chemistry of the brain, but what about the electrical aspect. How does the brain generate electricity, why, and how does this effect brain function?

If I missed an episode on this, let me know. Thank you! Dana

message 2: by Zak (last edited Oct 26, 2012 10:47PM) (new)

Zak (zakgrunwald) | 1 comments Hi Dana, welcome to the forum (I'm new here myself). Neurochemistry is closely related to electricity within the nervous system. I'm not sure whether Dr. Campbell covered this topic in one of her podcasts (though I wouldn't surprised if she did, as thorough as she is), but electricity is generated in a neuron via the flow of charged ions (sodium, potassium, calcium).

In a nutshell, at rest, a neuron expends a significant amount of energy maintaining a higher concentration of positively charged sodium ions on the outside of the cell membrane versus the inside, which gives neurons a negative resting potential. When excitatory neurotransmitters (e.g. glutamate) are released into a synapse, they bind to certain protein receptors on the surface of the postsynaptic neuron (like a key into a lock) and open the bound receptors. The receptors then selectively permit sodium ions to flow down their chemical gradient into the neuron, raising the cell's potential. When there is high temporal or spatial summation of excitatory signals, the neuron reaches a threshold voltage and voltage-sensitive ion channels open at the cell surface and an action potential is fired.

You can read more about this online by searching for "action potential" or starting here on Wikipedia:

Why does the brain use these two systems (chemical and electrical) to send signals? Electrical transmission is fast, but an all-or-none affair. Chemical transmission is slow, but gives lots of room for complex communication between neurons (e.g. the same neurotransmitter can be excitatory for one neuron and inhibitory for another, depending on which receptor it binds).

message 3: by Virginia (new)

Virginia MD (gingercampbell) | 321 comments Mod
Welcome Dana and Zak!

I don't know how I missed your posts, but if you are still on Goodreads I hope you stop by here again.

Dana's comment about the electrical behavior of the brain startled me because it made me realize that this is something I have never thought of talking about! This is probably a side effect of starting out as an electrical engineer!

I did do an in-depth discussion of brain chemistry and neurotransmitters back in BSP 8.

Master Melvin M.  Lusterio (aionheaven) | 2 comments Hi, I'm Melvyn, the Brainy Scientist, nice group we have here, it's a pleasure being here, thanks for sharing!

What is your IQ?

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