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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Identify the classes of cells that make up nervous tissue
  • Discuss how nervous tissue mediates perception and response

Nervous tissue is characterized as being excitable and capable of sending and receiving electrochemical signals that provide the body with information. Two main classes of cells make up nervous tissue: the neuron    and neuroglia    ( [link] ). Neurons propagate information via electrochemical impulses, called action potentials, which are biochemically linked to the release of chemical signals. Neuroglia play an essential role in supporting neurons and modulating their information propagation.

The neuron

This figure shows a diagram of a neuron and a micrograph showing two neuron cells. The body of the neuron contains a single, purple nucleus. The cell is irregularly shaped, having many projections emerging from its surface. Six sets of dendrites project from the top, right, and bottom edges of the cell. The dendrites are yellow and branch many times after leaving the cell, taking on the appearance of tiny trees. The axon projects from the left edge of the cell. The axon is a long cable like structure that branches into several finger like projections at its end. This is where the neuron makes contact with other cells. A label also notes that the area where the axon emerges from the cell body contains microfibrils and microtubules. The micrograph is considerably less magnified than the diagram. The neurons stain darkly and their nuclei are clearly visible. Their irregular cell body is also visible, along with the beginning of the axons.
The cell body of a neuron, also called the soma, contains the nucleus and mitochondria. The dendrites transfer the nerve impulse to the soma. The axon carries the action potential away to another excitable cell. LM × 1600. (Micrograph provided by the Regents of University of Michigan Medical School © 2012)

Follow this link to learn more about nervous tissue. What are the main parts of a nerve cell?

Neurons display distinctive morphology, well suited to their role as conducting cells, with three main parts. The cell body includes most of the cytoplasm, the organelles, and the nucleus. Dendrites branch off the cell body and appear as thin extensions. A long “tail,” the axon, extends from the neuron body and can be wrapped in an insulating layer known as myelin    , which is formed by accessory cells. The synapse is the gap between nerve cells, or between a nerve cell and its target, for example, a muscle or a gland, across which the impulse is transmitted by chemical compounds known as neurotransmitters. Neurons categorized as multipolar neurons have several dendrites and a single prominent axon. Bipolar neurons possess a single dendrite and axon with the cell body, while unipolar neurons have only a single process extending out from the cell body, which divides into a functional dendrite and into a functional axon. When a neuron is sufficiently stimulated, it generates an action potential that propagates down the axon towards the synapse. If enough neurotransmitters are released at the synapse to stimulate the next neuron or target, a response is generated.

The second class of neural cells comprises the neuroglia or glial cells, which have been characterized as having a simple support role. The word “glia” comes from the Greek word for glue. Recent research is shedding light on the more complex role of neuroglia in the function of the brain and nervous system. Astrocyte cells, named for their distinctive star shape, are abundant in the central nervous system. The astrocytes have many functions, including regulation of ion concentration in the intercellular space, uptake and/or breakdown of some neurotransmitters, and formation of the blood-brain barrier, the membrane that separates the circulatory system from the brain. Microglia protect the nervous system against infection but are not nervous tissue because they are related to macrophages. Oligodendrocyte cells produce myelin in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) while the Schwann cell    produces myelin in the peripheral nervous system ( [link] ).

Nervous tissue

Part A of this diagram shows various types of nerve cells. The largest cell is a neuron. The central body of the neuron contains a single nucleus. Six sets of dendrites project from the top, left and right, edges of the neuron. The dendrites are yellow and branch many times after leaving the cell, taking on the appearance of tiny trees. The axon projects from the bottom edge of the cell and is covered with purple sheaths labeled the myelin sheath. The sheath is not continuous, but instead is a series of equally spaced segments along the axon. Another cell, called an oligodendrocyte, is spider like in appearance, with its leg-like projections each connecting to a segment of the neuron’s myelin sheath. Above the neuron are three astrocytes. They are much smaller than the neuron and have no axons, and are also irregularly shaped cells with many dendrites projecting from the central body. Finally, a microglial cell is shown above the neuron. It is the smallest of the cells in this figure and is an elongated cell with many fine, tentacle-like projections. The projections are concentrated at the two ends of the cell, with the middle area lacking any projections. The micrograph of the neural tissue shows that this tissue is very heterogenous, with both large and small cells embedded in the matrix. Much of the space between the cells is occupied by threadlike nerve fibers.
Nervous tissue is made up of neurons and neuroglia. The cells of nervous tissue are specialized to transmit and receive impulses. LM × 872. (Micrograph provided by the Regents of University of Michigan Medical School © 2012)

Chapter review

The most prominent cell of the nervous tissue, the neuron, is characterized mainly by its ability to receive stimuli and respond by generating an electrical signal, known as an action potential, which can travel rapidly over great distances in the body. A typical neuron displays a distinctive morphology: a large cell body branches out into short extensions called dendrites, which receive chemical signals from other neurons, and a long tail called an axon, which relays signals away from the cell to other neurons, muscles, or glands. Many axons are wrapped by a myelin sheath, a lipid derivative that acts as an insulator and speeds up the transmission of the action potential. Other cells in the nervous tissue, the neuroglia, include the astrocytes, microglia, oligodendrocytes, and Schwann cells.

Follow this link to learn more about nervous tissue. What are the main parts of a nerve cell?

Dendrites, cell body, and the axon.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!


Stern, P. Focus issue: getting excited about glia. Science [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2012 Dec 4]; 3(147):330-773. Available from:

(External Link)

Ming GL, Song H. Adult neurogenesis in the mammalian central nervous system. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 2005 [cited 2012 Dec 4]; 28:223–250.

Questions & Answers

thank you sooo much bro
Fatima Reply
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any one elaborate fr me foramens of the skull and features which they transmit
icant undrestand plz
zahruuzh Reply
try to read I hop you will understand
state and explain 20 radiology uses
what are chemicals in anatomy and physiology?
Mike Reply
what can I do to find it easy for me in anatomy and physiology course
study up on the basics of the periodic chart, learn bones and muscles attachments, and learn muscles. Those take the longest to memorize. After that it should be a little easier.
what are the two types of body cells
Jennifer Reply
what is malnutrition
malnutrition refers to faulty nutrition resulting from malabsorption,poor diet or overeating. Sometimes too these food do not contain all the six food nutrients in their right proportion.
thank you
Will u be malnourished?
What's the difference between radiology and radiology
Nothing! Radiology it means the study or using of radiation in medical science it can be 1.diagnose or treatment diagnosed radiology! x- ray. ultrasound. ct-scan. mammogram. MRI. 2. treatmen- radiation oncology, like Cobalt 60. and nuclear medicine
what is X-ray?
X-ray is type of light that make it possible to see inside any object. as human body
How the nervous system develops
ayiesher Reply
From the cells at the back of an embryo
breifly explain anatomy of thorax
Hadiza Reply
How many region the rib is divided
how many bon of human being
how to study for the skeletal system
and anatomy
I really need sources immediately
I printed out all the different bones. Put them in the see through protective sheaths and got dry erase markers. I could right on them and erase to help me learn to spell the names of markings and bones.
Or go to a book store, Barnes and Noble(doesn't have to be this) and they have coloring books for anatomy. $16. Really helpful.
okay thanks and are what study tools you use to study the materials and get a better understanding
*what are
I prefer diagrams, pictures that lay out each step with the information in each step. For Example: how action potential creates muscles to move. A pictured diagram gives me a better understanding of how each piece plays a role in each step of the process.
Also for basics, such as memorizing vocab. Flash cards are great. Don't become discouraged if you don't get them all right the first times through. The more you go through them, your brain will remember pieces of information from each and help you to pull out the information 😉
okay thanks
what is the functions of the lips in human
Momboi Reply
could I say sensation?
for protection
Lips assist in speech and eating
Too many easy questions. Which bones are the axial and appendicular? What are the abbreviations for TEE, TTE, AED, A-Mode, B-Mode, and LTH? What is the difference between hypothalamus and thalamus? Where is the parathyroid located? How many True Ribs do we have?
Sovilace Reply
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what is anatomy
okello Reply
anatomy is scientific study of body structures and how they relate to each other
Are there other functions of the nucleolus apart from synthesis of RNA and formation of ribosomes
Peninah Reply
plays a role in cell response to stress
what is angle of auscultation
Bryan Reply
Anatomy which is the study of the human body structure has a couple of reasons it is been studied It helps to discover genetic disease cytology And histology which is the study of tissues Physiology is the study of function of the human cells It helps to know how the different body part works Its helps to know how part of the brain works And lastly It gives the essential to understand more about anatomy
Stephen Reply
describe the external features of a spinal cord
okoche Reply
Spinal nerves emerge in pairs, one from each side of the spinal cord along its length. The cervical nerves form a plexus (a complex interwoven network of nerves—nerves converge and branch). The cervical enlargement is a widening in the upper part of the spinal cord (C 4–T 1). Nerves that extend in
Hormones regulate certain target cell responses. These can include which of the following?
Nazareth Reply
describe the external features of spinal cord

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