Neurons can exhibit burst firing and this presynaptic process basically results in a flurry of action potentials being fired in a short time window.

I'm, however, wondering how these signals are further relayed once they synapse onto other neurons? Specifically, does each action potential in the burst volley generate another post-synaptic action potential, or is the bursting somehow averaged to then transmit either one or no action potential post-synaptically depending on long the burst train was?


Short answer
It depends.

It all depends on the neuronal circuit and neurotransmitter system under investigation. For example, raphe neurons release 5-HT in a burst-like fashion onto cortical dendrites. However, the postsynaptic effect is inhibitory, so no action potentials there (Gartside, 2000).

Intracortical recordings in the rat have shown that each action potential in a burst resulted in neurotransmitter (glutamate) release and subsequent excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) and potentials (EPSPs) (Williams & Stuart, 1999). So that would positively answer your question, at least in this specific neuronal circuit.

- Gartside, Neurosci (2000); 98(2): 295-300
- Williams & Stuart, J Physiol (1999); 521(2): 467–82

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @AliceD ! Are you aware of a case where presynaptic bursts lead to a single postsynaptic potential? I suppose excitatory relay neurons will most likely fire in bursts as well whereas the end target might integrate the incoming burst and only fire if there were "enough of them". Anyways, this was probably too loaded a question... $\endgroup$ – Moppentapper Mar 24 '18 at 1:03

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