Stanford School of Medicine

The Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology

The Laboratory of Dr. Thomas Südhof

Investigating the formation of synapses and synaptic communication

For a person to think, act, or feel, the neurons in a their brain must communicate continuously, rapidly, and repeatedly. This communication occurs at synapses, specialized junctions that allow neurons to exchange information on a millisecond timescale and that organize neurons in vast overlapping circuits. When stimulated, a presynaptic neuron releases a chemical neurotransmitter signal that diffuses across the synaptic cleft to react with postsynaptic receptor neurons or muscle cells. Thomas Südhof’s laboratory studies how synapses form in the brain, how their properties are specified, and how they accomplish the rapid and precise signaling that forms the basis for all information processing by the brain.