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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Identify the basic parts of a neuron
  • Describe how neurons communicate with each other
  • Explain how drugs act as agonists or antagonists for a given neurotransmitter system

Psychologists striving to understand the human mind may study the nervous system. Learning how the cells and organs (like the brain) function, help us understand the biological basis behind human psychology. The nervous system is composed of two basic cell types: glial cells (also known as glia) and neurons. Glial cells, which outnumber neurons ten to one, are traditionally thought to play a supportive role to neurons, both physically and metabolically. Glial cells provide scaffolding on which the nervous system is built, help neurons line up closely with each other to allow neuronal communication, provide insulation to neurons, transport nutrients and waste products, and mediate immune responses. Neurons , on the other hand, serve as interconnected information processors that are essential for all of the tasks of the nervous system. This section briefly describes the structure and function of neurons.

Neuron structure

Neurons are the central building blocks of the nervous system, 100 billion strong at birth. Like all cells, neurons consist of several different parts, each serving a specialized function ( [link] ). A neuron’s outer surface is made up of a semipermeable membrane    . This membrane allows smaller molecules and molecules without an electrical charge to pass through it, while stopping larger or highly charged molecules.

An illustration shows a neuron with labeled parts for the cell membrane, dendrite, cell body, axon, and terminal buttons. A myelin sheath covers part of the neuron.
This illustration shows a prototypical neuron, which is being myelinated.

The nucleus of the neuron is located in the soma    , or cell body. The soma has branching extensions known as dendrites . The neuron is a small information processor, and dendrites serve as input sites where signals are received from other neurons. These signals are transmitted electrically across the soma and down a major extension from the soma known as the axon    , which ends at multiple terminal buttons . The terminal buttons contain synaptic vesicles that house neurotransmitters , the chemical messengers of the nervous system.

Axons range in length from a fraction of an inch to several feet. In some axons, glial cells form a fatty substance known as the myelin sheath    , which coats the axon and acts as an insulator, increasing the speed at which the signal travels. The myelin sheath is crucial for the normal operation of the neurons within the nervous system: the loss of the insulation it provides can be detrimental to normal function. To understand how this works, let’s consider an example. Multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disorder, involves a large-scale loss of the myelin sheath on axons throughout the nervous system. The resulting interference in the electrical signal prevents the quick transmittal of information by neurons and can lead to a number of symptoms, such as dizziness, fatigue, loss of motor control, and sexual dysfunction. While some treatments may help to modify the course of the disease and manage certain symptoms, there is currently no known cure for multiple sclerosis.

Questions & Answers

Why is Bipolar and Meth use so prevalent amongst bipolar individuals?
Brett Reply
honestly, they are probably diagnosed as bipolar because of the meth. once gotten off meth for any length of time. the symptoms of bipolar usually leave. but few are honest with dr. n tell they use meth
Barbara
Conversely, it's because they self medicate during depressive episodes and become addicted. Manic highs can also lead to feelings of invincibleness and reckless behavior that impair judgment. People in manic states just want to have the most fun possible and find it hard to say no to drugs, or even
Brent
Seek the drugs out. Once they are out of the manic state, they associate the meth with that state, and when depressed will continue to use meth to attain it.
Brent
what is a pneumatic depressant
Bill Reply
what is the symptoms of DID.
positive Reply
what is symptoms of DID(Multiple personality Disorder)
positive
4. As indicated in this section, Caucasian women from industrialized, Western cultures tend to be at the highest risk for eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Why might this be?
Shamy Reply
Is anyone know the exact cause of mental illnesses like Add, Adhd, Ocd, bipolar etc
Kartikey Reply
mental desorders are caused by many factors
riadh
a chemical imbalance with bipolar which if i remember correctly has somthing to do with OCD as well.....?
jessie
its also has to do with parts of the brain that recieve neurons and some that dont.
Natasha
Natasha...u from which country?
Philip
uSA
Natasha
no i need more explanation
Aminu
ADD, ADHD, bi polar, and OCD. the first 3 are mostly chemical imbalance to the brain. bi polar is a chemical imbalance that has to do with the emotional and creative parts of the brain. its cause from not getting the right amount of something or not enough of something. which is why amphetamines
Natasha
will either make them act more normal and or helps them concentrate. also can make the unleveled level out. desoxyn is methamphentimine hydrochloride its for obese add and adhd
Natasha
may I add that some studies have shown that children who have A.D.H.D were more than likely brought up in single parent family's and Im not a 100% sure of the stat's but believe that some studies have shown as many as 80% of children with A.D.H.D were brought up in a single parent inviroment.
Gavin
And I also remember A.D.H.D in the early days and ideas were put fourth of the cause and one that stood out was spending excessive amounts of time playing computer games as that was still quite anew phenomena at the time.
Gavin
not that anyone mentions that one any more lol.
Gavin
I don't believe there is such a thing as chemical imbalance. More research is needed and it's too easy and simple just to blame certain illnesses on a chemical imbalance. What is chemical imbalance? Maybe we should start there.
David
chemical imbalance is when you either lack a brain chemical such as seritonin, dopamine ex.
Natasha
gavin true to that. our enviroment is a big factor in our chemicals. when were happy because of something our bodies produce more dopamine
Natasha
for example. single parent families are stressful which studies have shown cause more damage then we think or relize including brain chemistry
Natasha
lol duh read a book every now an den u won't bee sow retar'ed. geez some people I swair jus aint gots no cents. ya knaw what eye sayin... lol
Brett
ask reinfield from dracula he suffers from psychotic ideation...lol
Rodney
what are the psychological effects of being a patient
Gloria Reply
why is the Synapse so important to biopsychologists
Susan Reply
I dnt know
Sam
because its very important
Deepak
Because that's where the exchange of information takes place which causes reactions in us and so biopsychologists need to study the info transmitted in order to study the reaction to explain a mental process/behaviour
Tina
synapse occurs as part of the brain activity. This is where everything seems to happen. Just imagine this synapse is like firing information, your feelings, and stuff
Ysa
so can i assume that if there is action potential in the pre synaptic cell but the neurotransmitter does not diffuse into the post synaptic cell that this would lead to some sort of mental dysfunction?
Susan
Or the opposite, too much neurotransmitter
George
how long does it takes to stabilize your sleeping hours?
Gabby Reply
15 minutes.
Philip
90 mnit +
Khadim
usually 24 hrs for me
Goof
30mins to 1hr
Joshua
😉
Sarfaraj
30 minutes
Bill
why do we get depression
meghna Reply
how to be a neuropsychologist?
mukhtar Reply
wo Kya hota h?
Gayatri
I speak English sorry... If you can translate: I suggest studying anatomy if you are still in high school. You will need a master degree. So about ten years of college.
Jen
Pay close attention to psychology as well. Biology is a must.
Jen
hmm
Gayatri
what are the factors affecting learning
Savoeda Reply
motivation is probably a big factor, but also intellectual ability, knowing from personal experience
Elaina
why do we get depression
meghna
yes
Natasha
you have it
Adam
low income families, poverty and a poor stimulating environment for children could be caused of learning disabilities or effects.
vincent
any advice on psychological statistics ?
Kurt Reply
I'm taking psychological statistics too
psychological statistic is a branch of psychology that deals with research and experimental aspect of psychology. It is an offshoot if experimental psychology, they make use of statistical tools in describing, predicting, analysing and make an inference about data collected in order to
babatunde
what about factors affecting learning
Savoeda
What is the morality in Greek Mythology?
Lianne Reply
May be Domination of mankind.
positive
Depends on the myth. But most myths do strive to emphasize the humanity of the gods. In that regard, you could say that the Greek myths were about perfection and how no one could ever obtain it completely.
Brent
Three basic processes involved in the act of remembering are:
kesandu Reply
encoding, storage, retrieval
Elaina
What is psychology
meghna
psychology is the study of the mind
Teza
Psychology is the scientific study of human mental processes and behavior.
Gaurav
it involves studying both; human and animals. It's called subject in the experimental design.
Professor
The three main processes involved in human memory are encoding, storage and recall (retrieval)..
kevin
Do you think there is a stigma associated with mentally ill persons today? Why or why not?
Ali Reply
yes absolutely
Gayatri
and I do believe that stigma is associated with anything when people at large don't know how to deal with anything
Gayatri
Stigma of drowning.
Zaheer
@Gayatri. plz explain. what it means people don't know.
Zaheer
that people are unaware how to respond to a person dealing with any sort of mental illness
Gayatri
so it means mind can't solve problems of mind. am I right ?
Zaheer
yeah sometimes actually it all depends how a person respond to it
Gayatri
and does anxiety falls in that as well
Zaheer
yes
Gayatri
ok thanks.
Zaheer

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Source:  OpenStax, Psychology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 03, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11629/1.5
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