What's Inside Neurons and Their Friends

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University of Massachusetts Amherst
Psychology & Brain Sciences
David Gross

Corey Reed Psych 330 1/27/14 What’s Inside: Neurons and Their Friends • Cells of the Nervous System  cells are small, packed tightly, have consistency of jelly  Golgi believed that nervous system composed of system of interconnected fibers  Cajal believed the nervous system consisted of discrete cells that began rather simply & became complex w/ age  the neuron hypothesis is the idea that neurons are the units of brain function  there are 3 subdivisions of a neuron: • the cell body (soma) is the core region • the dendrites (branching extensions) collect information from other cells • the axon (main root) carries messages to other neurons o Neurons: The Basis of Information Processing • for most behaviors scientists think that neurons work together in large groups to produce the behavior • when watched for a time in the brain or in a dish, neurons continuously grow, shrink, & change shape • even mature neurons can be reprogramed to produce new proteins and alter their structure & function  The Neuron’s Structure & Function • dendritic area is further increased by many small protrusions called dendritic spines • neurons can have from 1 – 20 dendrites, each with many branches, each with thousands of dendritic spines • surface area of the dendrites corresponds to the amount of information the neuron can gather • axon begins as the axon hillock, can branch into axon collaterals, which can branch into teleodendria (end branches), which end with a terminal button (end foot) • the space between the terminal button and dendrites of neighboring neurons is the synapse • the incoming info from a neuron’s hundreds or thousands of dendritic spines is pooled to produce a single outgoing message on the axon  3 Types of Neurons • sensory neurons are designed to bring information into the brain from sensory receptors o simplest structural neurons o 2 types are bipolar neurons & somatosensory neurons • interneurons associate sensory & motor activity in the CNS o branch extensively to collect info o large-brained animals have more interneurons o pyramidal cell: long axon, pyramid-shaped cell body, 2 sets of dendrites o purkinje cell: extremely branched dendrites • m
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