Beginnings: Sherrington and the Synapse (1890–1913)

Joseph D. Robinson

in Mechanisms of Synaptic Transmission

Published in print June 2001 | ISBN: 9780195137613
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199848164 | DOI:
Beginnings: Sherrington and the Synapse (1890–1913)

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This chapter discusses Charles Scott Sherrington's study on reflexes and how they influenced contemplations of synaptic transmission. Before Sherrington, descriptions of reflex responses were often fragmentary and conflicting. Thereafter, in a patient and orderly progression, he delineated circumscribed phenomena: eliciting quantifiable responses from specific muscles by standardized electrical stimulation of identified neural pathways. Sherrington not only introduced the term “synapse,” he also attributed to this unseen entity certain functional properties: acting as a one-way valve for impulse conduction between neurons, producing a delay during that conduction, and modifying conduction to produce such effects as summation and inhibition.

Keywords: Sherrington; reflexes; reflex responses; synapse; impulse conduction; neurons

Chapter.  6220 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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