Calcium Sends the Signal

  • Published2 Nov 2018
  • Reviewed2 Nov 2018
  • Author Michael W. Richardson
  • Source BrainFacts/SfN

Image of calcium bursts in blue
Brockhaus, et al. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2018.

Calcium doesn’t just make your bones strong — it’s a crucial element in how the cells in your brain communicate. As an electrical signal speeds down the axon, it opens pores that let calcium ions rush into the cell. The high calcium concentrations let the neuron know that it’s time to release its neuro-transmitters, the chemical messages neurons use to communicate with each other. In this image, neurons have been genetically altered so that calcium ions emit light (seen here in green), cluing researchers in to the neurons’ activity. These calcium bursts are highlighted along the cell’s dendrites, where they receive messages from other cells. The chemical messages it receives will be transformed back to an electrical signal in the next neuron, and the process can begin again.

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Brockhaus, J., Schreitmüller, M., Repetto, D., Klatt, O., Reissner, C., Elmslie, K., . . . Missler, M. (2018). α-Neurexins Together with α2δ-1 Auxiliary Subunits Regulate Ca2 Influx through Cav2.1 Channels. The Journal of Neuroscience, 38(38), 8277-8294. doi:10.1523/jneurosci.0511-18.2018