We have spoken time and time again about the nervous system, the cells that make it up, what it does, and what happens when it’s not working properly. Now, what makes up the neural cells that inhabit the nervous system?
Throughout this article we will be talking about the different parts of neurons, As well as its main characteristics and the functions that each of them possesses and which allow the transmission of information throughout the nervous system.
What is a neuron?
Neurons are small cells that live in our nervous system and which are responsible for activating or inhibiting its electrical activity. Sun’s main function is to receive electrical stimuli and conduct them to other neurons. This stimulus or electrical reaction is known as the action potential.
As a result, neurons send an infinite amount of action potentials between them that make it possible for our nervous system to function, thanks to which we can move our muscles, feel pain or even dream.
It is estimated that in our brain alone, approximately 86 billion neurons are hosted. However, at the time of our birth, there may be more than 100 billion. The reason for this decrease in quantity is that over the years our brain ages and the number of neurons begins to decrease.
However, that doesn’t mean that our neurons can only die. In our daily life, not only neuronal degeneration occurs, but also its regeneration.
It is currently believed that our brain is in constant neuronal regeneration. Through the process known as neurogenesis, new neurons and new neural connections are created. Additionally, some studies indicate that, especially during childhood, we can enhance the birth of new neurons through a series of exercises and activities that exercise our brains.
Main parts of the neuron
As mentioned above, the neuron is the functional and structural unit not only of our brain, but of the entire nervous system. These are made up of different parts, each with specific characteristics and functions.
These parts are called the soma or body of the cell, dendrites and axon.
1. Soma or cell body
The first part we will talk about is the soma or the cell body. As the name suggests, the soma is the center of the neuron, and this is where its metabolic activity takes place.
In the soma, new molecules are generated and all kinds of essential functions are performed which allow the vital maintenance of the cell and its functions,
In order to fulfill these functions and carry out the transmission of information between neurons, each of them must produce huge amounts of proteinOtherwise such transmission would not be possible.
In addition, within the cell body we can find organelles also present in cells of another type such as lysosomes and mitochondria, the Golgi apparatus or the chromosomes themselves which define our genetics. All of this is located in the cytoplasm, which is the sum of the neuron.
Finally, in the neuronal cytoplasm also there are fibrillar proteins that make up the cytoskeleton. This cytoskeleton is what shapes the neuron and provides a mechanism for transporting molecules.
Dendrites are another of the parts that make up neurons. This denomination refers to the many extensions in the form of small branches which are born from the neuronal body and whose main functions are to receive stimuli and provide nourishment to the cell.
These extensions function as neural terminals, which receive action potentials from other neighboring neurons and redirect them to the cell body or soma. In addition, due to their branched form, we find along these dendritic spines, small spines in which the synapses which they allow the transmission of bioelectric impulses.
3. That’s all
Finally, the axon is the main extension of the neuron (and the largest). It is responsible for transporting the action potential from the cell body to another neuron.
This long extension arises from the cell body or, in some cases, from a dendrite. Inside we can find the axoplasm, a characteristic viscous substance in which the various organisms of the neurons are found.
One of the main characteristics of these axons is that they may be covered with a layer known as the myelin sheath, Which may improve or facilitate the rate at which action potentials or electrical stimuli are transmitted.
In addition, neurons can be classified into different types according to the length of the axon: type I and type II Golgi neurons, or according to the shape of these: pyramidal cells of the cerebral cortex and cells of Purkinje.
4. Other neural elements
In addition to the main parts of the neuron described above, there are other particles or sections of great importance for the proper functioning of these. Some of these parts are:
These cells also known as neurolemocytes they line the axons of neurons in the peripheral nervous system and are formed by myelin sheaths.
As mentioned above, some axons have a layer of myelin which facilitates the transmission of electrical stimuli over long distances.
This concept refers to the tiny spaces in the myelin sheath and its main task is to improve the speed at which electrical impulses are transmitted.