Neurotransmitters and Astroglia Lead to Neuromodulation

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The mechanisms which modulate impulse transmission in the CNS are of obvious importance. For stable infomiation processing, it is important that the extracellular environment of neurons be closely regulated. The processing of information appears to be dependent on such diverse mechanisms as presynaptic regulation of transmitter release and electrotonic current spread in dendritic networks. All of these mechanisms depend in part on the extracellular concentration of ions and neuromodulators. Thus, the cellular matrix in which synaptic transmission takes place may also have a functional role to play through controlling the composition of the neuronal environment. Astroglia, which provide the matrix in which unmyelinated axons and synaptic contacts lie, have been implicated in several aspects of regulation of the neuronal environment. They were found initially to act as spatial buffers for K+ ions. This prevents an extracellular buildup of K + during the passage of nerve impulses. Subsequently, astrocytes were shown to contain transport systems capable of removing a variety of neurotransmitters from the extracellular media. Finally, there have been recent suggestions that astroglia contain receptors for putative neurotransmitters or neuroinodulators. A summary of the capacity of astrocytic responses to transmitters or modulators reveals the potential for intercellular regulation of transmission in the CNS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-252
Number of pages12
JournalProgress in Brain Research
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1982
Externally publishedYes


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