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Name: Phillip G.
Status: Educator
Age: 20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: September 2002


Question:
Neurons send out either excitatory post synaptic potentials (EPSPs) or inhibitory ones (IPSPs). If a neuron either excites or inhibits, why is it necessary for the body to have so many neurotransmitters when it seems two would do the job just as efficiently?



Replies:
Part of the confusion you have, I am fairly certain, is in your thinking that the system is anywhere as simple as most textbooks indicate. A single neuron may have hundreds to thousands of other nerve endings impinging on it. If you think of all the possible messages the system has evolved to transmit and handle it is staggering. Also remember that we do not understand how the system really processes complex messages...listening to a symphony while walking on a busy street and eating a donut, for example. One thing is for certain, it has very little in common with human-made machines trying to mimic the system in part...the computer on which I am typing for example or a robot that does house chores.

Peter Faletra Ph.D.
Assistant Director
Science Education
Office of Science
Department of Energy



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