Anatomy & Organs

Nerve Cell – Structure, Function & Diseases

Nerve cell

The nerve cell is called a neuron in science . This is a special cell that is supposed to transmit stimuli within the body. It is essential for the exchange of information.

What is a nerve cell?

The transmission of impulses is the most important task of the nerve cell . In concrete terms, an organism should be able to transmit signals between the brain and the body’s organs. Billions of neurons are responsible for this in the human body. The union of nerve cells forms the nervous system .

Depending on their structure and properties, all neurons can be divided into cell groups. In particular, a distinction is made between motor and sensory nerve cells.

  • Motor neurons are responsible for communication between the brain and body muscles. In detail, the body should be able to process environmental stimuli without errors and to react with impulses in good time.
  • Sensory neurons connect the brain to the sense organs. In combination, seamless communication is achieved throughout the body. Interneurons are a special form. These are nerve cells that carry information over long distances. Local signals can thus be directed to different parts of the body.

Anatomy & Structure

In terms of structure, a nerve cell can be divided into various components, each with its own area of ​​responsibility. At the beginning, the focus is on receiving a stimulus. The dendrites play an important role here. They receive body stimuli with a highly branched branch system.

The information obtained is then passed on to the cell body, the so-called soma. On the soma is the axon hillock, which collects the received stimuli. Forwarding only takes place when sufficient intensity has been reached. The signal travels to the presynaptic terminals in the form of an electrical potential. The axon acts as a connection . It is surrounded by lipid-rich cells and is thus electrically insulated.

The presynaptic terminals convert the electrical signal into a chemical impulse. The chemical signal is responsible for the release of neurotransmitters . They enable further information transmission in the so-called synaptic cleft ( synapse ). This is a hurdle to the next nerve cell. The process repeats itself from neuron to neuron. Depending on the type of nerve cell, the anatomy can differ in its characteristics.

Function & Tasks

The nerve cell system is essential for the maintenance of bodily functions. The constant exchange of communication between the brain, sensory organs and muscles enables a timely reaction to the environment. This starts with controlling breathing , body temperature and blood circulation .

In addition, there are the metabolism , the energy supply and the sensors. The reflex is also one of the most important tasks . The special feature of a reflex is that a body reaction is carried out independently without the involvement of the brain. Instead, the spinal cord is responsible for processing information.

In order to enable a quick reaction, an impulse is sent directly in the spinal cord and carried out by the affected body muscles. In retrospect, however, it appears to the human being as if he had exercised a conscious movement. This is because the brain takes control of that muscle region a short time later.

A high value is also ascribed to nerve cells when it comes to learning. Specifically, the synapses play an important role. Learning processes take place in a specific region of the brain, the hippocampus . A functional change occurs in the synapses located there during successful learning. The changes mean that the intensity of impulses in the recipient cell increases.

The purpose of repeated learning is to make stored information more accessible. This is accompanied by the side effect of new synapses being formed. This is comparable to a beaten path. The more it is used, the more accessible it becomes. If it is no longer needed, it will eventually overgrow. This also happens in the brain in a similar way. If information is not requested, synapses are broken down while the intensity of impulse transmission decreases. Specifically, it is about forgetting.

Diseases & Ailments

Diseases and disorders of the nervous system are referred to as neurodegenerative diseases. These are diseases that occur sporadically and progress slowly. They can usually be traced back to hereditary causes.

In neurodegenerative diseases, nerve cells are damaged, which impairs the functionality of the nervous system. The result is dementia and movement disorders. Alzheimer’s is one of the most well-known diseases of the nervous system .

Alzheimer’s usually occurs over the age of 65 and is responsible for more than 60 percent of all dementia diseases. Dementia, in turn, is a brain disease in which cognitive, emotional and social skills decrease. This can be attributed to a degeneration of the nerve cells located there. Deficits arise primarily in the functionality of the short -term memory .

[Progressive supranuclear palsy]] (PSP) is also a severe form of the neurodegenerative disease. Damage to already existing nerve cells takes place here in the basal ganglia . The basal ganglia are areas of the brain that are responsible for controlling automatic movements.

As a result, sufferers are no longer able to keep their balance , control their eyes and coordinate swallowing . In addition, there are impairments in speech control. After three to ten years, PSP eventually leads to death. Drugs can be used to delay the course of the disease and alleviate symptoms.

Website | + posts

Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.