Neurons and Networks: An Introduction to Neuroscience by John E. Dowling

By John E. Dowling

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Neurons and Networks: An Introduction to Neuroscience

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Most nerve cells communicate with one another chemically, much like cells of the endocrine system. Neurons carry information by means of electrical signals, but cells in all tissues generate steady potential differences between inside and out. The brain, though, is enor­ mously more complex than other organs, especially in higher ver­ tebrates. It has more cells, more intricate cell structure, and more various cellular interactions. In the human brain there are between 10^’ and lO'^ nerve cells, and each cell can make as many as 10^connections with other cells.

T he axons generate transient, all-ornothing action potentials whose frequency depends on stimulus intensity. On the left is shown the relative intensity of the light used to stimulate the eye, and below the recordings the duration of the stimulus is indicated. With a weak light stimulus (relative intensity of 1), few action potentials are generated. With light intensities 100 and 10,000 times more intense, the number of action potentials generated is very much greater. 12. 13 is much more compressed, however, so individual potentials appear as vertical lines.

The axon terminals form syn­ apses on other neurons or effectors, and at these points the infor­ mation carried by the axon is passed on. Virtually all of the input to Golgi type I neurons is onto the dendrites or cell body, whereas output occurs at the axon terminals. Dendrites transmit informa­ tion tow ard the cell body, axons transmit messages aw ay from it. The cell body and main dendrites of neurons contain cyto­ plasmic organelles typical of all cells, including mitochondria, ri­ bosomes, endoplasmic reticulum, and microtubules.

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