Structure of a typical neuron
The complexity and diversity in nervous systems is dependent on the interconnections betweenneurons, which rely on a limited number of different signals transmitted within the neurons toother neurons or to muscles and glands. The signals are produced and propagated by chemicalions that produce an electrical charge that moves along the neuron. Neurons exist in a number of different shapes and sizes and can be classified by their morphology and function. The anatomistCamillo Golgigrouped neurons into two types; type Iwith long axons used to move signals over long distances and type II without axons. Type I cellscan be further divided by where the cell body or soma is located. The basic morphology of type Ineurons, represented by spinal motor neurons, consists of a cell body called the somaand a long
thinaxonwhich is covered by themyelin sheath. Around the cell body is a branchingdendritic
treethat receives signals from other neurons. The end of the axon has branching terminals (axonterminal
) that release transmitter substances into a gap called the synaptic cleft between theterminals and the dendrites of the next neuron. The anatomy and the properties of the surfacemembrane determine the behavior of a neuron. The surface membrane is not uniform over theentire length of a neuron, but is modified in specific areas: some regions secrete transmitter substances while other areas respond to the transmitter. Other areas of the neuron membranehave passive electrical properties that affect capacitance and resistance. Within the neuronmembrane there are gated ion channels that vary in type, including fast response sodiumchannels that are voltage-gated and are used to send rapid signals.