OVERVIEW

The neuron is the basic unit of information processing and the building block of the brain. Working together with other neurons and cells throughout the body, it allows us to think, feel, move and breathe. “An electrically excitable cell” (www.childrenshospital.org...), the neuron works like a little computer processor, and it operates as a single gate through which information passes. “It has a digital output and it is able to, in an instant, receive the outputs of many other cells, process this incoming information, and determine whether or not to generate its own signal” (www.childrenshospital.org...), which is a pulse of electrical energy. This signal is then passed on to other neurons or to muscle cells or gland cells. Even though the neuron basically passes on digital signals, it can “display varying levels of excitability, firing slowly when less excited and rapidly when more excited” (www.childrenshospital.org...).
BODY
The neuron consists of four main parts. Those parts are the dendrite, the axon, the myelin sheath, and the axon terminal. All of these parts are essential for the neuron to communicate and function.
The dendrite is the tip of the neuron. Here, the neurotransmitters from the other neuron are received here. They are then processed and an electrical signal is then passed down the axon when the action potential threshold is reached. When this happens, sodium channels open up and potassium rushes out of the cell and sodium cells rush in. This creates the electrical charge that is sent down the axon. The axon is the “highway” that the signal is passed down to the other end of the cell. The myelin sheath is just a little layer of fat that protects the cell and other cells from the electrical charge. It keeps it within the neuron itself. Then finally there is the axon terminal. This is where the signal releases more neurotransmitters into the synapse and to the other neurons.


Sources

Groleau, Rick. (2005). The Neuron. Retrieved September 4, 2008, from Childrens
Hospital Boston Web site: http://www.childrenshospital.org/research/Site2029/mainpageS2029P23sublevel51.html