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Core syllabus Section 6.5 and Option E


Explain the principles of synaptic transmission

Include the release, diffusion and binding of the neurotransmitter, initiation of an action potential and
in the post-synaptic membrane, and subsequent removal of the neurotransmitter.


State that some pre-synaptic neurones excite postsynaptic transmission and others inhibit postsynaptic


Explain how decision-making in the CNS can result from the interaction between the activities of
excitatory and inhibitory presynaptic neurones at synapse.


Explain how psychoactive drugs affect the brain and personality by either increasing or decreasing
postsynaptic transmission.
Include ways in which synaptic transmission can be increased or decreased.
(Details of the organisation and functioning of the entire brain, and theories of personality or
explanations for personality, are not required.)


List three examples of excitatory and three examples of inhibitory psychoactive drugs.
Use the following examples:
Excitatory drugs: nicotine, cocaine and amphetamines
Inhibitory drugs: benzodiazepines, alcohol and tetrahydrocannibol (THC)


Explain the effects of THC and cocaine in terms of their action at synapses in the brain.
Include the effects of these drugs on both mood and behaviour.


Discuss the causes of addiction, including genetic predisposition, social factors and dopamine secretion.

1. Overall notes, taken according to the Cornell template
2. Diagram of a synaptic transmission, labelled and numbered in the form of a flow chart, to show:
1. Vesicles with stored neurotransmitter in the presynaptic neuron;
2. Calcium channels are opened in the membrane of the presynaptic membrane;
3. Exocytosis and subsequent diffusion of the neurotransmitter into the synaptic space;
4. Binding of the neurotransmitter onto receptors on the membrane of the postsynaptic neuron;
5. Generation of a fresh action potential in the postsynaptic neuron;
6. Removal, digestion and recovery of neurotransmitter;
3. A short paragraph (2 or 3 sentences) explaining how decision making in the CNS is brought about by
the interaction of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission.
State what is a psychoactive drug
List 3 excitatory psychoactive drugs
List 3 inhibitory psychoactive drugs
5. Explain the effects of psychoactive drugs in terms of their excitation or inhibition of neurotransmission at
synapses, and suggest how this affects behaviour and/or personality of the drug (ab)user.
6. Compare THC and Cocaine by means of a table, showing their actions at the synapse and their effect
upon mood and personality.
7. Prepare a presentation about the causes of addiction. This could be a concept or mind map, or even a
flow chart.