What are the neu­rons?

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The neu­rons are spe­cialised cells of the ner­vous sys­tem and have the abil­ity to trans­mit elec­tri­cal pulses. There are two types — sen­sory and mo­tor. “All are formed by mul­ti­ple short arms, called den­drites, which are re­spon­si­ble for re­ceiv­ing sig­nals,” ex­plains Leti­cia. “The axon is a sin­gle long arm re­spon­si­ble for trans­mit­ting the sig­nal to other nu­clei. The end of the axon con­nects with one or sev­eral den­drites from other neu­rons in a struc­ture called a synapse. Here, the axon re­leases chem­i­cal mol­e­cules, ac­ti­vat­ing the neu­rons in con­tact with it.” Both the brain and the spinal cord have two well-dif­fer­en­ti­ated ar­eas, known as the grey mat­ter and the white mat­ter. “Most of the neu­rons’ bod­ies are in the grey mat­ter, and the white mat­ter is made up mostly of ax­ons, which are also the main struc­tures in the nerves,” con­tin­ues Leti­cia. “In the brain, neu­rons are lo­cated in spe­cific ar­eas depend­ing on their func­tion — mem­ory or taste, for in­stance.” In the spinal cord, the neu­rons are also grouped by func­tion in the grey mat­ter, while in the white mat­ter, spe­cific path­ways have a spe­cific lo­ca­tion. “The grey mat­ter in the brain is mostly on the out­side or cor­tex, while in the spinal cord it’s on the in­side, sur­rounded by the white mat­ter,” says Leti­cia. “On top of this, the neu­rons are not alone. An army of helpers sur­round them to feed, hold and pro­tect them. Th­ese are called the neu­roglia.”

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