In this recent article in Nature, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature07181.html, there is talk of something that I've suspected and spent the last few years working on. Free radicals are one of the mechanisms that mediate fast synaptic transmission. In otherwords, free radicals could possibly explain why our thought seem so instantaneous and not as delayed as the whole process of synaptic release and binding and diffusion.
Let me break this down for some of the lay people out there. First, there's a molecule, a protien hormone that regulates hunger (there's several actually, but here we have one). What it does is help with mitochondrial potentials, the engery producing organelle of the cells. Most neuronal cells (both neurons and glial cells) have more mitochondria than other cells This engery production happens in the membranes of the mitochondria in several protiens aka the cytochromes. An electrial potential builds up along this chain because the membrane acts to separate charged ions on the varying sides of the membrane. Break up this chain of protiens, decoupling, and you change the potential, leave reactants (some free radicals), and have a general change in energy production.
Free radicals act fast in a bumper car like method. They bump into another molecule, not really caring what it is, and basically cause that one to become a free radical while the original goes back to "normal", and so on and so forth. Now the cytochromes use this process to transport electrons down its chain to produce energy. So where do these things go if this process isn't working? Well free radicals are fast. They difuse (travel) all over. Bumping into things. Change enough things, modulate the potential of the cell membrane, and an action potential could form leading to synaptic transmission.
My interests are in finding out what the exact radical chains are as they do this process. It's nice to know now that some one can generate them and explain how it starts. should I ever return to the neuro field full time this is where I'd like to go.