A new paper offers an overview as to how neurons ‘communicate’ with one another. Neurons are connected to each other through synapses, sites where signals are transmitted in the form of chemical messengers. Max Planck Institute has investigated precisely how the process works. Our nervous system consists of about 100 billion interlinked neurons that are capable of carrying out complex computations. Each neuron has an antenna zone comprising the cell body and its extensions (dendrites). It is here that it receives signals from other neurons. One cell talks, the other listens. The signals are then computed and forwarded by a “cable”, the axon, in the form of electrical impulses. In the emitter region, the axon branches to form contact sites, known as synapses, where the signals are transmitted to other neurons. At the synapse, electrical impulses arriving from the axon are converted into chemical signals. The information then flows in only one direction: one cell talks, the other listens. The number of synapses that a single neuron can develop varies considerably. Depending on its type, a neuron can have anything from just one to more than 100,000 synapses. On average, each neuron has around 1,000 synapses.
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