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There are two families of receptors: ionotropic and metabotropic receptors.Ionotropic receptors are a combination of a receptor and an ion channel.In neuroscience, synaptic plasticity is the ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken over time, in response to increases or decreases in their activity.Since memories are postulated to be represented by vastly interconnected networks of synapses in the brain, synaptic plasticity is one of the important neurochemical foundations of learning and memory (see Hebbian theory).Neurons are diverse with respect to morphology and function.Thus, not all neurons correspond to the stereotypical motor neuron with dendrites and myelinated axons that conduct action potentials.The Hodgkin–Huxley model of an action potential in the squid giant axon has been the basis for much of the current understanding of the ionic bases of action potentials.

Other unipolar neurons found in invertebrates do not even have distinguishing processes such as dendrites.Synaptic plasticity in both excitatory and inhibitory synapses has been found to be dependent upon postsynaptic calcium release Two molecular mechanisms for synaptic plasticity (researched by the Eric Kandel laboratories) involve the NMDA and AMPA glutamate receptors.