Oh snap! It’s all about your synapse and the power is in the gap. Mostly because that’s basically what a synapse is; a gap with a little extra something going on.

The word synapse is derived from the Greek ‘syn’ which means ‘together’ or same and the word ‘haptein’, which means to bind or to clasp. synapseSynapse means to clasp together, which is sort of what it does. So, what exactly does it clasp together? The communication potential between your neural pathways. Realistically, your synapses work in conjunction with about a bazillion other processes going on in your body at the same time (which is true of almost everything in your body) so it's a little bit challenging to separate it out into its own function. However, here is a general overview; the communication in your nervous system occurs between a dendrite and an axon. The dendrite brings the information in to the cell body and the axon takes the information out. One way to remember this is that the axon and the word exit have the same number of letters and they both contain an ‘x’. But I digress... the synapse is the space between the dendrite and the axon. Think of it like a canyon. On one side of the gap are the neurotransmitters, cell mitochondria, and organelles. On the other side of the gap are receptors, waiting for their respective neurotransmitters.

One might ask why the neurotransmitter heads off across the gap in the first place...sort of like asking why the chicken crossed the road. Well, it all begins with an electrical impulse, which stimulates the release of a neurotransmitter. The neurotransmitter then makes its way across the gap and into the waiting arms of its receptor. I have visions of a dopamine molecule moving precariously across on a swinging rope bridge, high above a raging river... very Indiana Jones. Once the neurotransmitter makes its way across the cleft, it binds to a receptor on the other side. And who wouldn’t want to bind with their receptor after that harrowing crossing!!

synapse moreInterestingly, once the initial neurotransmitter binds it can stimulate a level of excitability that will invite more neurotransmitters to cross. In other words, it sounds the all clear for a happy landing. If enough neurotransmitters make their way across that particular pathway it becomes an actual “message”. This is how your nervous system communicates; moods are created this way, pain is registered this way, anything that involves neural communication. The synapse is a fascinating little mechanism that actually has a HUGE impact on the way we are in the world each day.
Things that disrupt this process or cause harm to the synaptic binding? Drugs and systemic inflammation seem to be the biggies. They can both cause major and irreparable damage. There is evidence suggesting that systemic inflammation plays a big role in dementia because of the decrease in synaptic plasticity. So, the moral of the story is; eat, move, think in a way the decreases systemic inflammation. Eat real food, move your body, and decrease stress, and get enough sleep.