CogniFit's Science blog: What Are Neurons?

What Are Neurons?

Neurons are a very sophisticated cell in our body. They are responsible for sending communications throughout the brain in both chemical and electrical form. There are several different types of these highly specialized cells in our body and they all have different tasks to do.

The first kinds of neurons are sensory neurons. These cells are responsible for converting external stimuli with to internal stimuli. These neurons send signals through the brain and spine based on physical modalities such as light, sound and temperature. It also responds to other senses such as touch, pressure, vibration and pain.

The second kinds of neurons are motor neurons. These neurons communicate with your muscles and are responsible for motor activity. These neurons are further divided into two different parts Alpha Motoneurons and Gamma Motoneurons. Each motor neuron may communicate with one or several different muscle fibers.

One of the main differences between neurons and other types of cells it that neurons stop producing shortly after birth. Neurons can disappear over time and will never come back once gone. However new connections between neurons can be created over time. So while you may end up at the end of life with less neurons than you started with you are likely to have more connections.

Neurons come in many different shapes and sizes. The smallest are less than 4 microns wide and the largest are up to 100 microns wide. Neurons like other cells contain a nucleus a cell membrane and cytoplasm. They also contain mitochondria and other organelles. Neurons can be classified by the diretion they send information. Sensory neurons send information towards the central nervous system. Motor neurons send information away from the central nervous system and interneurons send information between the sensory and motor neurons.

The neuron has three basic parts the dendrites, cell body and the axon. Dendrites are the tree like extensions that branch out from the cell. The cell body is where the signals from the dendrites are received and processed. The axon is located at the end of the cell body and controls the firing of the neuron. Neurons can vary in shape and size depending on what job they do in the body.

The way that neurons communicate information is through signals. The signal is sparked in the cell and then sent out and passed along through the neurological system until it reaches its intended target. The way the neurons send information throughout the body is nothing short of amazing.

Neuroscience and scientists are all the time discovering new surprising findings about neurons as we are only starting to understand that key component of life.