Reading into the types of synapses I found out that there are two types of them; electrical and chemical.

  • chemical synapses use neurotransmitters to transmit impulses, are slower than electrical synapses and are much more common.
  • electrical synapses use electricity, transmit faster and are rare in our system.

My intuition says, "Shouldn't faster impulses mean a more efficient mode of transport of information and hence be more dominant/common?" Granted, the neurotransmitters help transmitting complex impulses, but is that not possible with electrical synapses?


1 Answer 1


Electrical synapses are hardly synapses at all, they allow the connected cells to share some components of their cytoplasm.

This really makes them more like one "super cell" rather than individual processing units. The circuits that use these synapses are often inhibitory circuits that reduce the collective activity of a large group of local neurons together. It works for that purpose, but if every cell in the brain is connected that way, you'd just have two states: everything "on" and everything "off". A single bit of information isn't very useful computationally.

Chemical synapses are very accessible to regulation. The strength of specific synapses can be changed by either releasing more transmitter or having more receptors. Receptors with different affinity can respond differently to different firing patterns. Different released chemical signals can cause different effects at the same or different locations. There can be inhibition as well as excitation.

Speed isn't everything.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .