What are differences between an electrical and chemical synapse?

1 Answer
Apr 5, 2016


Chemical synapses relay information through chemicals, slow and sturdy, while electrical synapses use electricity, which is quicker but not as efficient.


A chemical synapse is a gap between two neurons where information passes chemically, in the form of neurotransmitter molecules.

An electrical synapse is a gap which has channel proteins connecting the two neurons, so the electrical signal can travel straight over the synapse.

While electrical synapses are faster (electricity moves quicker than molecules, and you don't need receptors), they lack gain. The electrical signal is always the same or smaller after a synapse, while chemicals can increase a signal.

Electrical synapses also have to be much smaller so the channel proteins can reach from one cell to another.

You often find electrical synapses in systems requiring quick responses, like instincts and defense, and chemical synapses in the less urgent places.