show/hide words to know
- Axon: a long thick projection in nerve cells that sends electrical signals out away from the cell body. more...
- Dendrites: long thin projections in nerve cells which receive electrical signals. ... more
- Myelin sheath: covers the axon and works like insulation to help keep electrical signals inside the cell, making them move more quickly.
- Nerve: many neurons bundled together.
- Neuron: special cells which are part of the nervous system. They work in together with other cells to pass chemical and electrical signals throughout the body...more
- Nucleus: where DNA stays in the cell, plural is nuclei.
- Soma: the main cell body.
- Synapse: a gap between two cells that lets chemical or electrical signals be passed between them... more
- Unique: one of a kind.
Neurons and Nerves
Neurons are unique for many reasons. For one, they have a shape that is not like any other cells. Nerve cells are also some of the longest cells in your body. There are nerve cells as long as a meter. They stretch from your hips all the way down to your toes! This is very uncommon for cells, which are usually very short. Most cells are 20 micrometers in diameter, which is just a fraction of the width of a hair.
Neurons pass messages to each other using a special type of electrical signal. Some of these signals bring information to the brain from outside of your body, such as the things you see, hear and smell. Other signals are instructions for your organs, glands and muscles.
Neurons receive these signals from neighbor neurons through their dendrites. From there, the signal travels to the main cell body, known as the soma. Next, the signal leaves the soma and travels down the axon to the synapse. Myelin sheaths cover the axon and work like insulation to help keep the electrical signal inside the cell, which makes it move more quickly. As a final step, the signal leaves through the synapse to be passed along to the next nerve cell.
Like most other cells in the body, neurons also have a nucleus which holds the cell's DNA.
Types of neurons
There many different kinds on neurons in your body, specialized to be good at doing certain things.
Multipolar neurons have one axon and many dendritic branches. These carry signals from the central nervous system to other parts of your body such as your muscles and glands.
Unipolar neurons are also known as sensory neurons. They have one axon and one dendrite branching off in opposite directions from the cell body. These cells pass signals from the outside of your body, such as touch, along to the central nervous system.
Bipolar neurons have one axon and only one dendrite branch. They pass signals from one neuron to the next inside the central nervous system.
Pyramidal neurons are named after the shape of their cell body, which looks like a pyramid. They have one axon and two main dendrite branches. These cells pass signals inside the brain, and tell your muscles to move.
Purkinje neurons (named after the man who discovered them) are found in the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that controls balance, timing of actions, attention and language. They have one axon and a very dense and complicated dendrite arrangement.