Somas vs Synapses: Special Brain Awareness Week Versus
It’s Brain Awareness Week, a once-a-year celebration of all things cerebral. Tons of fun events are taking place on the interwebs, from a meditation challenge to spam carving contest where you can have your brain then eat it too. Check out the full calendar here.
In Eyewire, a game to map the brain, we’re delighted to bring you a surprise versus: Somas vs Synapses.
The event takes place Weds to Fri, March 17-19 beginning at 11 am US ET and last for 48 hours.
- Starting Lineup – top 3 players on each team, who earn 75% of their score in bonus points
- All Other Players – earn 50% of their score in bonus points
- Winning Team – 20,000 additional points
- Each Team’s MVP – 5,000 additional points
A soma is a neuron’s cell body, home to the nucleus that contains DNA and many of the cell’s organelles. Lots of mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, are found in the soma. They extend far down dendrites and axons like little electric spaghettis.
Action potentials are usually generated at a neuron’s soma, so you could consider somatas (or somas, if you prefer the more modern plural) the source of all the spikes that makes the brain tick.
What’s a spike without a place to land? Thankfully there are hundreds of trillions of synapses in your brain and you grow at least hundreds, probably more like tens or hundreds of thousands of synapses per day as you experience new things. Your brain stores short term memories as new network connections that eventually land in the hippocampus, a deep brain structure that gets “wiped” each night when you sleep, consolidating all the important things that happened into longer term memories and erasing the less important stuff like what you had for a midday snack.
Neurons send action potentials out their axons to connect with other cells. A single cortical neuron can have thousands of tens of thousands of synapses. The axon connects with dendrites of other cells, the part of branches that synthesize incoming signals. An excitatory postsynaptic neuron uses incoming signals to determine whether to generate its own action potential and send on the signal or to stop the noise right there.