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Structure & function of a nerve cell

Updated April 17, 2017

A nerve cell, or neuron, is the basic unit of the nervous system. It transmits information to and from the brain. The structure of a neuron allows the transmission to be quick.

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There are several types of nerve cells, including multipolar, bipolar and pseudounipolar. They can be classified as motor, sensory or interneurons.


Motoneurons send information away from the central nervous system (CNS). Sensory neurons send information toward the CNS. Interneurons send information between motor and sensory neurons.


Nerve cells consist of a cell body, axon and dendrites. The cell body contains the nucleus and other cellular compartments. The axon is long and surrounded by a layer of fat. The dendrites are branches from the cell body.


Axons carry information away from the cell body. Dendrites carry information toward the cell body. The cell body processes information and maintains the nerve cell by producing proteins.


The space between nerve cells is called the synapse. For information to cross the synapse, chemicals are released from one nerve cell and interact with the next nerve cell.

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