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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

How does blood circulate in the upper limbs
Mary Reply
describe the muscles found in the heart
Atotwe Reply
thank you very much
asalamu aleikum
waalekum salam
types of connective tissues?
what is a muscular system and details about it
Jackson Reply
what is the type of homones responseble for blenking of eyes
Moses Reply
what are the functions of cell?
Keyirangzile Reply
how does the femur act as a lever?
Mutoni Reply
what is stumac
Abdussalam Reply
What is phagocytosis
Mohamed Reply
Phagocytosis, process by which certain living cells called phagocyte
It is the process that is carried out by the immune system of the body, that certain specialized immune cells (macrophages, Nks, dendritic cells, etc) that engulf and neutralize the foreign substances that invades the body.
So that they can be predicate out of the body.
phagocytosis is the process by which living cell or yh plasma membrane engulf large molecules into it internal environment ... it also known as food feeding
all that you are say what does it mean?
simply is the way the immune system fights foreign bodies by engulfing them..
by the help of the immune cells...
The process by which a cell engulfs particles such as bacteria, other microorganisms, debris of dead cell.e.g: neutrophils and monocytes (types of white blood cells)
what are the six types of connective tissues
Athieno Reply
loose and dense , cartilage and bone , blood and lymph
describe the structure of the liver
Atwebembeire Reply
what is specific name for spinal cord
Stanley Reply
what is the best description for skeletal muscular
what is the best description for skeletal muscular
costs of bones of skeleton, their joint s and voluntary
what are examples of long bones
example of long bones will be the femur tibia and humerus and even radius
so basically long bones are mostly in you hands and feets
skeletal muscular are voluntary and are attached to the bone by tendon which help maintain the posture and position of the body and it also protects internal organs in the abdominal region
The specific name for spinal cord is coccygeal segment
what are the hormones responseble for blenking of eyes.
Smallest unit of life
Kimberly Reply
The cell is the smallest structural and functional unit of living organisms, which can exist on its own. Therefore, it is sometimes called the building block of life. Some organisms, such as bacteria or yeast, are unicellular—consisting only of a single cell—while others, for instance, mammalians, a
cells are the building blocks of life
Describe the complications of fracture
Zaifa Reply
functions of connective tissue
renah Reply
binding and structural support protection Insulation Transport of materials
Is there any artery that carries oxygenated blood? what's the name?
Deoxygenated blood enters the right atrium from the vena cava. Blood moves into right ventricle. Blood is pumped into the pulmonary artery. The pulmonary artery carries deoxygenated blood to the lungs. The blood becomes oxygenated in the lungs. Oxygenated blood leaves the lung via the pulmonary
all arteries carry oxygenated blood except pulmonary artery
protection,,,,,transport,,,,,,connection,,,,,,,support,,,,,these are functions of connective tissue
and insulation
what is a local potential
Nandi Reply
potential of neurons
response of neurons against sodium ion Chanel
The resting membrane potential of a neuron is about -70 mV (mV=millivolt) - this means that the inside of the neuron is 70 mV less than the outside. At rest, there are relatively more sodium ions outside the neuron and more potassium ions inside that neuron.

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