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Clark Lindgren

Grinnell College
The Neuromuscular Junction: smarter than you think
Throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s the vertebrate neuromuscular junction was the preparation of choice for studying chemical synaptic transmission. In more recent years neuroscientists have favored the study of synapses in the central nervous system. That has been due, at least in part, to the perception that these synapses have a larger repertoire of behavior. It is assumed that central synapses do all the “thinking” and peripheral synapses merely carry out the instructions. Work in my lab and others over the past several years has begun to challenge this assumption. The neuromuscular junction does indeed have a “mind of its own.” With the help of its associated glial cells, the neuromuscular junction monitors its activity and has an array of possible responses that rivals the best-studied central synapses. I will discuss our work characterizing the role of metabotropic acetylcholine receptors, nitric oxide and endocannabinoids at the vertebrate neuromuscular junction. In addition, I will present a model that describes how these and other cellular processes work to the advantage of the organism.
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