The Basic Function and Structure of the Neuron in Relation to the Central Nervous System

The Basic Function and Structure of the Neuron in Relation to the Central Nervous System

To Prepare:

Review the Learning Resources for this week in preparation to complete this Assignment.
Reflect on the basic function and structure of the neuron in relation to the central nervous system.
Reflect on the inter-connectedness between neurons and the central nervous system, including the pathway and distribution of electrical impulses.
Reflect on how neurons communicate with each other and review the concept of neuroplasticity.

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Address the following Short Answer prompts for your Assignment. Be sure to include references to the Learning Resources for this week.

In 4 or 5 sentences, describe the anatomy of the basic unit of the nervous system, the neuron. Include each part of the neuron and a general overview of electrical impulse conduction, the pathway it travels, and the net result at the termination of the impulse. Be specific and provide examples.
Answer the following (listing is acceptable for these questions):
What are the major components that make up the subcortical structures?
Which component plays a role in learning, memory, and addiction?
What are the two key neurotransmitters located in the nigra striatal region of the brain that play a major role in motor control?
In 3 or 4 sentences, explain how glia cells function in the central nervous system. Be specific and provide examples.
The synapse is an area between two neurons that allows for chemical communication. In 3 or 4 sentences, explain what part of the neurons are communicating with each other and in which direction does this communication occur? Be specific.
In 3-5 sentences, explain the concept of neuroplasticity. Be specific and provide examples.


This paper discusses the anatomy of neurons, and general overview of electrical impulses, components of sub-cortical structures including the ones that play a role in memory, learning, and addiction, neurotransmitters in the striatal region that control motor function, glial cell function in CNS, neuronal communication and neuroplasticity.

Anatomy of neuron

Neurons are specialized cells that conduct and interpret electrical signals in the body. The neuron is composed of the cell body, dendrites, and an axon, with the axon terminal. The cell body is the core component of the neuron that houses the nucleus and other organelles such as the cytoplasm that is essential for neural responses. Dendrites stretch from the neuron cell body and receive signals from other neurons or sensory receptors. Axons, along with the nerve processes of the neuron,  convey signals from the cell body to other neurons, muscles, or glands. Many axons are covered with a layer of myelin sheath that accelerates electrical transmission (Bates et al.,2019). These myelin sheaths are composed of glia cells, such as oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells. Axon terminals on the other hand are small branches at the end of the axon that release neurotransmitters to communicate with other neurons or muscles.

Dendrites initiate electrical impulse conduction by taking input from nearby neurons and transmitting them down the axon in the form of an action potential. The impulse triggers the discharge of neurotransmitters at the axon terminals, which travel across the synapse to bind to the postsynaptic receptors, culminating in either an inhibitory or excitatory response. If a sensory neuron in the skin for example is triggered by a pin prick, dendrites get a signal, which travels down the axon to the spinal cord, where it synapses with a motor neuron to produce a response.


Subcortical structures

The major components of  subcortical structures:

  • Cerebellum,
  • thalamus, and hypothalamus,
  • basal ganglia, and brainstem (Schuler et al.,2019).


Key neurotransmitters in the nigra striatal region of the brain that play a major role in motor control

  1. Dopamine
  2. and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Glia cells

Glia cells are non-neuronal cells that offer structural and metabolic support to neurons in the central nervous system. There are many kinds of glia cells, including astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia, Ependymal cells, and Schwann cells, each with its specialist function in the body (Avraham et al.,2020). Astrocyte, in particular, regulates neuron well-being and operation in the nervous system by managing the amount of neurotransmitter around synapses. These cells can detect neurotransmitter levels in synapses and respond by generating chemicals that directly alter neuronal activity. As a consequence, astrocytes play a key role in altering synapses and how neurons communicate. On the other hand, oligodendrocytes make myelin, which allows electrical signals to travel quicker down the spinal cord.

Neuronal communication

The Synapse is the neural connection where communication between two neurons or between neurons and muscle cell occurs. This communication occurs by the release of chemical messengers identified as neurotransmitters from the presynaptic neuron into the synaptic cleft and subsequently to particular receptors on the postsynaptic neuron. This culminates in the development of an innovative electrical signal in the postsynaptic neuron, which may then transmit the signal to other neurons or muscle cells (Wright et al.,2020). Communication is normally unidirectional, with signals going from the presynaptic neuron to the postsynaptic neuron.


Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to grow and adapt as a result of experience. It may include functional changes caused by brain injury as well as structural changes such as the growth of novel connections between neurons as a result of learning, as well as the strengthening or weakening of existing connections as one acquires expertise (Price et al.,2020). Neuroplasticity may be noticed in the restoration of brain function following a stroke or serious brain injury, as well as the growth of motor function in children via practice.





Bates, A. S., Janssens, J., Jefferis, G. S., & Aerts, S. (2019). Neuronal cell types in the fly: single-cell anatomy meets single-cell genomics. Current opinion in neurobiology, 56, 125-134.

Price, R. B., & Duman, R. (2020). Neuroplasticity in cognitive and psychological mechanisms of depression: an integrative model. Molecular psychiatry, 25(3), 530-543.

Avraham, O., Deng, P. Y., Jones, S., Kuruvilla, R., Semenkovich, C. F., Klyachko, V. A., & Cavalli, V. (2020). Satellite glial cells promote regenerative growth in sensory neurons. Nature communications, 11(1), 4891.

Schuler, A. L., Tik, M., Sladky, R., Luft, C. D. B., Hoffmann, A., Woletz, M., … & Windischberger, C. (2019). Modulations in resting state networks of subcortical structures linked to creativity. NeuroImage, 195, 311-319.


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