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Brain cell facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts

Brain cells are a group of cells that includes neurons and glial cells. The neurons perform the tasks, and the glial cells look after the neurons. Current research suggests that glia have a more complex function than just supporting neurons, some new functions have been identified. A child over 3 years old has over 1,000 trillion synapses.

There are several types of specialized neurons. Sensory neurons respond to stimuli such as touch, sound or light and all other stimuli affecting the cells of the sensory organs that then send signals to the spinal cord and brain. Motor neurons receive signals from the brain and spinal cord to cause muscle contractions and affect glandular outputs. Interneurons connect neurons to other neurons within the same region of the brain, or spinal cord in neural networks. A typical neuron consists of a cell body, dendrites, and an axon. The term neurite is used to describe either a dendrite or an axon, particularly in its undifferentiated stage. Dendrites are thin structures that arise from the cell body, often extending for hundreds of micrometres and branching multiple times, giving rise to a complex "dendritic tree".

An axon (also called a nerve fiber when myelinated) is a special cellular extension (process) that arises from the cell body at a site called the axon hillock and travels for a distance, as far as 1 meter in humans or even more in other species. Nerve fibers are often bundled into fascicles, and in the peripheral nervous system, bundles of fascicles make up nerves (like strands of wire make up cables).

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