We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Excitatory Postsynaptic Potential?

By Sarah Kay Moll
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

An excitatory postsynaptic potential is a change in the electrical charge of a nerve cell, or neuron. The neuron starts out with a negative charge, but the excitatory postsynaptic potential makes this charge more positive. If there are enough excitatory postsynaptic potentials, the neuron will send a signal to other cells.

The excitatory postsynaptic potential begins in the dendrites, which extend in all directions from the cell body like the branches on a tree. The potential continues through the cell body to the axon hillock. The axon hillock is a small hill at the beginning of an axon, which extends from the cell body like the trunk on a tree. The axon ends in synapses, which transmit chemicals across a space, called the synaptic cleft. These chemicals bind to receptors on the dendrites of another neuron.

When neurotransmitters bind to a neuron, they can either cause an excitatory postsynaptic potential or an inhibitory postsynaptic potential. When it is not receiving any signals, a neuron has a negative electrical charge. Excitatory postsynaptic potentials make this charge more positive, or closer to zero. Inhibitory postsynaptic potentials make the charge of the cell more negative.

Neurotransmitters binding to receptors on a neuron cause ion channels to open, allowing charged particles to enter the cell. An excitatory postsynaptic potential is caused by positively charged ions flowing into the cell. An inhibitory postsynaptic potential is caused by negatively charged ions entering the cell or positively charged ions flowing out of the cell.

A single neuron may receive many signals from several different neurons. Some of these signals will be excitatory and some will be inhibitory. All of the postsynaptic potentials are added together to calculate the net effect on the neuron.

Postsynaptic potentials are summed spatially and temporally. The further away from the axon hillock a postsynaptic potential is, the less effect it will have on the cell, because it has to travel a long way to the axon hillock where all the potentials are added together. The longer a postsynaptic potential lasts, the greater the effect it will have on the overall charge of the cell. A postsynaptic potential lasts as long as the neurotransmitters are bound to the cell.

All of the postsynaptic potentials are summed together at the axon hillock. If the combined charge of all the signals is positive enough, the cell will fire an action potential, which travels down the axon to the synapses. The synapses will then release neurotransmitters, which will bind to other neurons to transmit a message.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.