Brain cells - Neurons

karthik · updated · flag

We’ve learned about all the major parts in the brain and what kind of stuff they all process. But how do they do it? What exactly happens at the cellular level when this information exchange or signal processing happens?

Neurons aka the brain cells are the special type of cells that are evolved to communicate information with other cells in the body via electrical impulses.

Structure of a neuron

A typical neuron has three parts. A body, and receivers and transmitters rooting out from it. This receiver is usually called as the dendrites. It resembles a tree’s root. For a neuron, there are multiple dendrites. The transmitter, on the other hand, called as the axon is a single unit of long extension from the body. The transmission of information occurs in this part of the neuron via electrical impulses.

Neuron structure

At the end of the axon are the axon terminals that are connected to the dendrites of other neurons. Though I say connected, technically it is more like ‘connected with a tiny junction (0.02 micron) in-between’. This junction is called as the synapse.

So whenever an information transmission happens, the dendrite of a cell picks up the response and pass it to the axons, and at the axon terminals the neuron releases chemicals called neurotransmitters into the synapse so the dendrites of the other neurons will pick it up. This happens either by excitation or inhibition of certain areas in the dendrites called the receptors.

In the upcoming Mindspace biology crash courses, we’ll expand on the concepts and functions of the brain we’ve learned in this crash course.