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About neurons

About neurons

The cells of our brain work in an amazing way. When in a group, they can do wonders to create complex ideas and opinions. With such concentration of these simple cells, of all species we are definitely unique and intelligent. Reading on you will learn how neurons are formed, how they work and how we can use this knowledge.

The cells of our brain work in an amazing way. When in a group, they can do wonders to create complex ideas and opinions. With such concentration of these simple cells, of all species we are definitely unique and intelligent. Reading on you will learn how neurons are formed, how they work and how we can use this knowledge.

Two weeks ago I asked you in a poll question if apart from my guidance articles you’d want me to write some more educational ones, about the functioning of the brain for instance. Most of you chose the answer “yes,” so I decided that once in a while I will publish this kind of entries. Today is the first time, it will be about the neurons (it isn’t really a guidance-free article, as you’ll find in the last paragraph).

What is a neuron and what is its structure?

Neuron is a nerve cell located in the brain, responsible for transmitting information. It happens by means of electrical pulse transmitted to other neurons. In the cerebral cortex of a man, there are about 22.8 billion, and in the brain of a woman about 19.3 billion neurons. These figures, however, do not reflect any differences in performance. Apparently, men have larger brains, while women’s brains are more efficient. In the brain, glial cells are also present, and there is 10 times more of them than the amount of neurons. They are supposed to nurture  networks of neurons.

Neurons are approximately 0.1 mm in diameter and are made of the cell body (in the middle of which the core is present), one axon and dendrites. Each neuron has 10,000 dendrites. The structure looks like a tree branching in all directions. Each dendrite is a thin and short fiber, which is designed to receive impulses from other nerve cell synapses.

Each neuron has only one axon. It is a long (length of up to several meters!) fiber by which a nerve cell sends impulses to other neurons. Axons are surrounded by a myelin sheath. The thicker it is, the faster the pulse is transmitted. The thickness of the myelin sheaths of neuron activation is influenced by the frequency of activation of the neuron and by our diet. Each end of the axon has a branched ending and has synapses which are the site of contact with another neuron.

neuron1

How do the neurons work?

All nerve cells in the brain make up a large network of connections. Each one of them is able to create up to 20,000 connections with other neurons. What’s incredible about them is also the fact that they occur at a rate of three billion connections per second. When two neurons are activated at exactly the same time, there is a connection between them.

Neurons transmit information via synapses. One synapse contains a chemical neurotransmitter. When the impulse reaches the synapse through an axon (pictured left), the synapse releases neurotransmitter (in the middle), which stimulates another neuron, and it also produces an impulse in it (right). If the connection is weak, the power of the synapse is small. Then the release of the neurotransmitter is too weak for an impulse in another neuron to be triggered. The picture below also shows that neurons do not really touch each other. There is a minimal space between them, through which these neurotransmitters flow.

synapsa1

Neurogenesis

Until recently it was thought that new neurons are formed only in the brain of a child and then the process of neurogenesis ceases. The researchers found, however, that neurons are formed in our brains throughout the whole life, even when we are adults. This is great news for us, because it motivates us to do more to keep the brain in good shape. All physical and mental exercises are very conducive to the formation of new neurons.

How to use the knowledge of the way the neurons work?

There is another very important thing that I have not mentioned before. Our every thought, in any form is a physical activity for some area in our brain. Thoughts are then tangible forms (meaning electrical impulses). This means that the neurons form and strengthen connections not only when we experience the reality around us with our senses, but also when we imagine this reality only in our head.

What is more, the brain does not distinguish between actual practical experience and an imaginery one. The researchers conducted an experiment in which they told some runners to visualize themselves running. They wanted them to focus and make these visions very accurate and clear. At the time it was happening, the scientists were examining the brains of the runners. It turned out that the image of running activates exactly the same areas in the brain, as the actual running (of course less, but still these are the same areas). In addition, there has been an increase in muscle mass used during the run, even though the athletes haven’t even moved during this experiment.

This information I provided here would be very useful for people interested in personal development. Imagining anything activates the same neurons that are activated during the actual action. It turns out that, for example, a person who is visualizing themselves performing in public, activates the connections responsible for capturing self-confidence in public speaking. This is a proof that visualization makes material changes in our brain. And a great reason to perpetuate only the areas of the brain responsible for joy, ambition, happiness and positive thinking!

And finally, an interesting visualization of neuronal connections in 3D:



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