CogniFit's Science blog: Neurons – What They Are And What They Do

Neurons – What They Are And What They Do

Neurons are nerve cells and they form the basis for our nervous system and brain. They are similar to other cells in our bodies in a number of ways. However they possess the unique ability to transmit information throughout our bodies. Let’s discuss more about these unique cells, their structure and their function.

Neurons communicate information both chemically and electrically. There are also specialized types of neurons which have specific functions.

For example the sensory neurons transmit information from sensory receptor cells through our bodies to the brain. This is how we can recognize a hot surface if we accidentally touch the stove with the burner on.

Motor neurons transmit impulses from our muscles to our brains. And interneurons communicate information between the different neurons in our bodies.

Neurons are similar to other cells in our bodies in that they have a nucleus which holds genetic information. The neurons are also surrounded by a membrane which protects the cell just like other cells in our bodies. And both types of cells contain organelles which support the life of the cell. These organelles contain mitochondria, Golgi bodies and cytoplasm.

But what makes neurons unique from other cells is their ability to transmit information between the cells. This can be done either electrically or chemically. The information gets passed along from neuron to neuron.

A neuron also is unique in that it does not reproduce. The nerve cells we are born with remain with us throughout life until they die. It is also interesting to note that while neurons do not reproduce, they can continue to form networks throughout our lives. This is how we can continue to learn and develop our brains.

There are three major components to a neuron. They consist of the dendrites, the cell body and the axon. Depending on the type of neuron, the components can vary in size and structure. For example some neurons have only a few dendritic branches while others may have much more extensive branches to communicate much more information.

And some neurons may have short axons while others can be as long as three feet. As indicated earlier the neurons transmit information between each other through chemical and electrical processes. The speed is incredibly fast. In some cases an electrical signal bridges the gap between the dendrites of the cell and in other cases a chemical messenger is needed through neurotransmitters.

These neurotransmitters play an essential role in how we move, think and feel. In any case, neurons are certainly the backbone and essential part of how information gets transmitted and communicated throughout our bodies.