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Even students that obtain a high grade in neurophysiology often carry away a serious misconception concerning the final result of the complex set of events that follows the arrival of an action potential at the presynaptic terminal. The misconception consists in considering that "at a synapse, information is passed on from one neuron to the next" is equivalent to (and often expressed explicitly as) "the action potential passes from one neuron to the next." More than half of four groups of students who were asked to comment on an excerpt from a recent physiology textbook that openly stated the misconception had no clear objection to the text presented. We propose that the first culprit in generating this misconception is the term "synaptic transmission," which promotes the notion of transferring something or passing something along (implicitly unchanged). To avoid establishing this misconception, the first simple suggestion is to use words like "synaptic integration" rather than "synaptic transmission" right from the start. More generally, it would be important to focus on the function of synaptic events rather than on rote listing of all the numerous steps that are known to occur, which are so complex as to saturate the mind of the student.
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