Electrical vs. chemical impulses

The most important difference between the two is the speed at which the impulse travels. As the distance between synaptic junctions is shorter for electrical impulses, they travel faster. Chemical synapses use neurotransmitters to send messages which are slower. In an electrical synapse, an ion current flows over a gap junction between neurons. It is bidirectional, and there is no delay. The advantage of electrical synapses is speed and precision such as in the heart where the muscles must be synchronous.
The advantage of a chemical synapse is that one neurotransmitter impulse can cause the action of multiple muscle cells, for example, whereas an electrical impulse is less versatile, mostly being used for sudden reactions, such as reflex actions. Another advantage of the chemical synapse is that it can be affected by multiple neurotransmitters, and then make the decision whether to pass on the information (make an action potential).


One thought on “Electrical vs. chemical impulses

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s