Unlike other organs, the brain has evolved to adapt to the environment. This unique ability is driven by communication between many billions of neurons.

Neurons are cells in the brain that are specialized for communication. Unlike other organs, the brain has evolved to adapt to the environment, to change constantly in response to changes in the world around us, to learn. This unique ability is driven by communication between many billions of neurons, which send signals by way of tiny electrical charges known as action potentials. Neurons come in many different shapes and sizes and can range in size from fractions of a millimeter to over a meter long. Ultimately, however, most neurons conform to a standard blueprint, which consists of a soma (cell body), dendrites, axon, and axon terminal (where synapses are formed). Each of these structures performs a specific and important purpose. You can find links to these structures in the Related Items section. Neurons are connected by a multitude of networks, which allow them to communicate in hugely complex ways. Communication is coordinated by chemical signals that travel across synapses – the junctions where neurons connect. Neurotransmitters play an important role in transferring and modifying the signals, which can be excitatory or inhibitory. If a receiving (postsynaptic) neuron is sufficiently excited, it will produce an action potential (thereby communicating with a subsequent neuron). Neurons can also communicate directly by forming electrical synapses with one another.

neuron, soma, cell, cell body, dendrite, axon, axon terminal, synapse, electrical, chemical, signal, action potential

  • ID: 1444
  • Source: DNALC.G2C

Related Content

485. GABA Neurotransmitter

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a very common neurotransmitter in the Central Nervous System, whose primary function is to inhibit the transmission of a signal through a neuron.

  • ID: 485
  • Source: G2C

2069. Long-term potentiation changes cell structures

Professor James Eberwine discusses the structural changes in a cell related to long-term potentiation. These include changes in the shape of dendritic spines.

  • ID: 2069
  • Source: G2C

549. Long-term Potentiation

Long-term Potentiation of synaptic transmission is commonly referred to as LTP. It can be recorded in many parts of the nervous system, but is very widely studied in the hippocampus.

  • ID: 549
  • Source: G2C

2371. Autism - A Synapse-Opathy

Doctor Gul Dolen defines synapse-opathies as disease where the synapse is the part of the brain that is disrupted. Fragile X and autism are examples.

  • ID: 2371
  • Source: G2C

1277. Molecules for Memory

Communication in brain cells is guided by interactions between genes and biochemicals at the synapse. These interactions can lead to the formation of new synapses.

  • ID: 1277
  • Source: G2C

2065. RNA-binding proteins

Professor James Eberwine describes the primary functions of RNA-binding proteins, which include regulating tRNAs, degrading RNAs, synthesizing RNAs, and regulating multigenic gene expression.

  • ID: 2065
  • Source: G2C

863. Rethinking Glia

It is increasingly clear that the nonneuronal brain cells called glia are intricately involved in the neuronal crosstalk at synapses.

  • ID: 863
  • Source: G2C

831. Glial Communication

New avenues of scientific exploration directed at glia.

  • ID: 831
  • Source: G2C

864. Imaging Technology

Images from brain scans and new microscopy techniques are offering a strikingly clear glimpse of what’s going on underneath the bumpy surface of our skulls.

  • ID: 864
  • Source: G2C

550. The Neural Code

Cognitive information is encoded in patterns of nervous activity and decoded by molecular listening devices at the synapse. Professor Seth Grant explains how different patterns of neural firing are critical to cognition.

  • ID: 550
  • Source: G2C