The Neuromuscular Junction

While the synapse is the "connection" between two neurons, the neuromuscular junction (Figure 12-9) is the "connection" between a motor neuron and a striated muscle fiber.

Figure 12-9. A neuromuscular junction.

a. In general terms, the neuromuscular junction and the synapse are physiologically identical. Synaptic vesicles in the enlarged bouton of the motor neuron contain the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACH). As an impulse reaches the bouton, ACH is released and passes through thepresynaptic membrane into the synaptic cleft. However, the surface of the postsynaptic membrane is in a series of longitudinal folds. This greatly increases the surface area receptive to the ACH.

b. The motor unit is the group of striated muscle fibers innervated by the terminal arborization (tree-like branching) of one motor neuron. The fewer the muscle fibers found per motor unit, the more the muscle is capable of finer movements. As the number in the motor unit increases, the muscle action is coarser. When a muscle is to be used, the nervous system recruits just enough motor units to supply the strength needed for the work to be done.



The simplest reaction of the human nervous system is the reflex. A reflex is defined as an automatic reaction to a stimulus.

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Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.

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