Nerve Cells: Definition, Function, and Examples

  • Post last modified:November 7, 2021
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Nerve Cells Definition

Nerve cells (also known as neurons) are the fundamental functional components of the nervous system, with an estimated 86 billion in the adult human brain. A nerve cell’s job is to receive information from other cells and transfer it to other cells.

In the human body, there are three main types of nerve cells that work together to collect and analyse information from our surroundings before activating reactions to these stimuli. They enable us to observe and interact with the world around us in this way.

What is the Nervous System?

The nervous system is a sophisticated network of nerve cells that enables us to communicate and interact with the outside environment. It uses our senses to gather information about our surroundings, analyses that information, and then triggers a physical reaction.

Nerve cells are essential for the nervous system’s proper functioning because they receive and send information between the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body.

When you touch something hot, for example, your nerve cells transmit a pain signal to your brain. The brain analyses this information very instantly and responds with a message that prompts you to pull your hand away.

The Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) are the two main components of the nervous system (PNS). The CNS, which is made up of the brain and spinal cord, regulates nearly every aspect of our bodies and minds, including our movements, thoughts, emotions, desires, hormone changes, respiration, heart rate, and more.

The PNS is made up of nerves that branch from the spinal cord and go throughout the body. They provide sensory data to the CNS for interpretation and control reactions to stimuli such as perspiration, muscular movement, blood pressure fluctuations, and so on.

What is a Nerve Cells?

Nerve cells (also known as neurons) are the nervous system’s basic functioning components. Simply said, their duty is to receive information from cells and then transmit it to other cells.

Neuronal messages are transported in the form of electrical signals (called nerve impulses) that go from the body to the brain and back.

Nerve cells provide information about your external surroundings (known as stimuli) to the brain, where it is interpreted and reactions to those stimuli are triggered.

Anatomy of Nerve Cells

The cell body, dendrites, and axon are the three major components of a nerve cell.

Cell Body: The nucleus, which regulates the cell’s activity, is located in the cell body (also known as the soma) of the neuron. It also contains specialised organelles for the synthesis of protein and energy.

Dendrites: Dendrites are extensions of the cell body that branch out. They take chemical signals from other neurons, transform them to electrical impulses, and send them to the cell body.

Axon: The axon is a lengthy extension of the cell body that transports information away from it. Myelin, an insulating layer that permits nerve impulses to travel quickly throughout the length of the axon, is found on many axons. The axon terminals are the ends of the axon. This is the point at which information leaves the nerve cell and is sent to target cells.

Types of Nerve Cells

In the human body, there are three kinds of nerve cells. Sensory neurons, motor neurons, and interneurons are the three types of neurons.

i. Sensory Neurons

Sensory neurons are responsible for detecting external stimuli such as heat, sound, pressure, and light. They then send this sensory data to the remainder of the nervous system, where it is processed. When a dog growls at you, for example, your sensory neurons send out messages to your brain, alerting it that there is a threat nearby.

ii. Motor Neurons

The CNS includes motor neurons in the spinal cord, which extend throughout the body to communicate with muscles, glands, and organs. Lower motor neurons govern all of our muscular actions by transmitting nerve signals from the spinal cord to the muscles. Between the brain and the spinal cord, upper motor neurons travel.

Motor neurons are in charge of transmitting brain orders to muscles, glands, and organs. They make it easier for you to react to stimuli. If a dog growls and barks at you, for example, your motor neurons will send signals to your muscles, causing you to jump back.

iii. Interneurons

Interneurons are nerve cells that link one nerve cell to another. They are exclusively present in the CNS. Before delivering information to motor neurons or interneurons, they receive nerve impulses from other interneurons or sensory neurons.

They may transmit information about environmental stimuli from sensory neurons to the brain or from the brain to motor neurons in order to initiate a reaction.

Nerve Cells Citations
  • Do some nerve cells release more than one transmitter? Neuroscience . 1976 Aug;1(4):239-48.
  • Morphological changes in nerve cells during normal aging. Brain Struct Funct . 2011 Jun;216(2):85-9.
  • Modulation of AMPA Receptors by Nitric Oxide in Nerve Cells. Int J Mol Sci . 2020 Feb 1;21(3):981.
  • Nerve cells developmental processes and the dynamic role of cytokine signaling. Int J Dev Neurosci . 2019 Oct;77:3-17.
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