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The brain has the greatest cluster of neurons in the entire body.

A tiny slice
of brain tissue the size of a grain of sand contains about 100,000 neurons.
They are packed so tightly that a pebble-sized chunk of tissue from the human
brain contains about two miles of neuron material. Your entire brain contains
some 100 billion neurons, each one a fraction of a millimeter in size. To give y
ou
an idea of how many neurons this is, if you were to count to 100 billion, second
by second, you would be counting for nearly 3,171 years. If you could stack 100
billion pieces of paper, the stack would be 5,000 miles high-the distance from
Los Angeles to London.
Other neurons are much longer than the nerve cells in the brain. Some neurons
extend from the brain down the spinal cord and run up to three feet in length.
Even though neurons vary in length, they essentially function in the same manner
.
To illustrate a few of the roles that neurons play in your life, imagine that it
is morning, and you are planning the day ahead. As your brain pieces together
ideas of what you will need to do during portions of your day, neurons transmit
electrochemical information to and from various parts of your brain. Sensory
neurons send information to your brain not only about your external surroundings
via sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and pressure-but also about your
internal environment, including sensations of hunger, thirst, pain, temperature,
and so on. Once you decide to get up and take action, motor neurons send electro
chemical
impulses from the brain through the spinal cord to the body,
matching your movements with the mental plan you constructed.
NEURONS AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEM 75
The general method of communication between neurons is the same in all
human beings. However, nerve cells are organized in networks or patterns that
shape individual behavior. These neural networks give us those unique difference
s
we all possess.
Components of the Neuron 'Tree"
A typical nerve cell resembles a leafless oak tree in winter (some neurons
look more like this than others). At the part of the ((tree" where the large
branches converge inward toward the trunk, we find the nucleus or cell body of
the neuron.
The nerve cell nucleus, like the nuclei of all other cells, contains genetic
information called DNA, which directs the manufacture of proteins necessary for
the structure and function of the cell. The DNA in our nerve cells is almost the
same as the DNA of any other cell in our body (except for red blood cells, which
do not contain DNA). What differentiates one type of cell from another is the
active expression of just a few particular genes. When a cell expresses a gene,
it
makes a specific protein that is related to a specific function. For example, a
muscle cell will create specific muscle proteins that make up the structure of o
ur
muscle tissue. So what makes a particular cell a nerve cell is that it expresses
a
DNA sequence that differs slightly from that of a muscle cell or skin cell.