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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the basic structure of a neuron
  • Identify the different types of neurons on the basis of polarity
  • List the glial cells of the CNS and describe their function
  • List the glial cells of the PNS and describe their function

Nervous tissue is composed of two types of cells, neurons and glial cells. Neurons are the primary type of cell that most anyone associates with the nervous system. They are responsible for the computation and communication that the nervous system provides. They are electrically active and release chemical signals to target cells. Glial cells, or glia, are known to play a supporting role for nervous tissue. Ongoing research pursues an expanded role that glial cells might play in signaling, but neurons are still considered the basis of this function. Neurons are important, but without glial support they would not be able to perform their function.


Neurons are the cells considered to be the basis of nervous tissue. They are responsible for the electrical signals that communicate information about sensations, and that produce movements in response to those stimuli, along with inducing thought processes within the brain. An important part of the function of neurons is in their structure, or shape. The three-dimensional shape of these cells makes the immense numbers of connections within the nervous system possible.

Parts of a neuron

As you learned in the first section, the main part of a neuron is the cell body, which is also known as the soma (soma = “body”). The cell body contains the nucleus and most of the major organelles. But what makes neurons special is that they have many extensions of their cell membranes, which are generally referred to as processes. Neurons are usually described as having one, and only one, axon—a fiber that emerges from the cell body and projects to target cells. That single axon can branch repeatedly to communicate with many target cells. It is the axon that propagates the nerve impulse, which is communicated to one or more cells. The other processes of the neuron are dendrites, which receive information from other neurons at specialized areas of contact called synapses . The dendrites are usually highly branched processes, providing locations for other neurons to communicate with the cell body. Information flows through a neuron from the dendrites, across the cell body, and down the axon. This gives the neuron a polarity—meaning that information flows in this one direction. [link] shows the relationship of these parts to one another.

Parts of a neuron

This illustration shows the anatomy of a neuron. The neuron has a very irregular cell body (soma) containing a purple nucleus. There are six projections protruding from the top, bottom and left side of the cell body. Each of the projections branches many times, forming small, tree-shaped structures protruding from the cell body. The right side of the cell body tapers into a long cord called the axon. The axon is insulated by segments of myelin sheath, which resemble a semitransparent toilet paper roll wound around the axon. The myelin sheath is not continuous, but is separated into equally spaced segments. The bare axon segments between the sheath segments are called nodes of Ranvier. An oligodendrocyte is reaching its two arm like projections onto two myelin sheath segments. The axon branches many times at its end, where it connects to the dendrites of another neuron. Each connection between an axon branch and a dendrite is called a synapse. The cell membrane completely surrounds the cell body, dendrites, and its axon. The axon of another nerve is seen in the upper left of the diagram connecting with the dendrites of the central neuron.
The major parts of the neuron are labeled on a multipolar neuron from the CNS.

Where the axon emerges from the cell body, there is a special region referred to as the axon hillock    . This is a tapering of the cell body toward the axon fiber. Within the axon hillock, the cytoplasm changes to a solution of limited components called axoplasm    . Because the axon hillock represents the beginning of the axon, it is also referred to as the initial segment    .

Questions & Answers

what is ventricular circulation
Maryam Reply
what factors that affect the rate diffusion
Gift Reply
sorry what are the common meaning of haemostatis
Juma Reply
what are the negatives feedback regulation of ADH
Nansi Reply
what is the the differences between DNA and RNA?
The major differences between the DNA and RNA are contain of double stranded and single stranded which the DNA contain duoble stranded and RNA contain single stranded.
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How many genes consist of DNA?
omaryare muhyadiin when you talk about genes, is the material formed in a DNA genes have form like plasma have many genes round there
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to know the different structures of the body To know how the body works To know more about our body parts
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compare and contrast the operation of homeostasis
Dinelle Reply
what is the difference between an ionic, polar covalent and nonpolar covalent bond?
In summary, the bond has different in electronegativity.
sorry help me to get the definition of hemostasis or the meaning
the definition of distal
Dinelle Reply
farthest away from the attachment point.
Distal, is the farthest possition from the origin or midle point
exercise physiologist how ?
Noor Reply
hi noorr. when you talk about physiologist its a person who study physiology but exercise physiologist is what an exercise doing by physiologist in physiologican
can I get the questions of human physiology that is present in HSC 2nd semester
Rafiullah Reply
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mukhtaar Reply
which part of the body produces blood
give me answer
Red blood cells are formed in the red bone marrow ofbones. Stem cells in the red bone marrow called hemocytoblasts give rise to all of the formed element
what is hemocytoblasts
hemocytoblasts are stem cells in red bone marrow which give rise the all of formed elements
Discuss clonal theory in physiology and its application in measles infection in a 6yr child? Can anyone help me
Isaac Reply
Capillary permeability
what do you want to know about it?
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syncitium is the property of which of the following muscle
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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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