Nerve cells, commonly called neurons, work together and constantly exchange information to achieve an end result. The various communications between the billions of neurons present in the nervous system take place in the blink of an eye and through a series of complex channels. No nerve cell works on its own, nerve cells are interdependent on each other. In consequence, the entire cells in the body can be affected by the action or inaction of a single nerve cell. Disruption in communication due to the death of a cell or lack of blood supply may lead to a neurological disorder.
The brain is the control unit of the entire network. Informations and commands are processed in the brain and sent to other parts of the body for execution. However, it has been suggested that most executions occur in the brain, like thought patterns and emotions with rippling effects in other parts of the body such as tears.
Scientists are still exploring the convoluted connections that exist between nerve cells in the brain and entire body to get more insights on how they perform and execute their operations. The discoveries will open up insights on how injuries and diseases disrupt the flow and rhythm of neural communication. Advanced studies of the biological neural network have inspired the invention of artificial neural networks.
The Biological Nerve Cell Network
The neural network consists of a series of neurons that are interconnected, they create a serial pathway throughout the body where electrical signals can travel. Neurons interact with their associates through a complicated interface that is made up of a muddle of dendrites, axon terminals and glia cells (more of these in a moment).
Components of the network
The human neural network consist of a number of agents responsible for processing, transmitting and receiving information across the body. They include:
The neuron is the fundamental unit of a nerve and by extension, the brain. They are specifically designed to transmit messages to other nerve cells, gland cells, or muscles. A neuron typically has a cell body, dendrites and an axon. The cell, which is the smallest unit of any organism, contains the cytoplasm and the nucleus. Different types of neurons exist within the body and they vary according to specific function (kind of signals they send) and location.
An axon is a slender, elongated protrusion of a neuron. It acts as the conduit where electrical impulses travel away from the cell body of a neuron to other neurons when the total signal inputed into the neuron has overlapped a threshold. The process of conveying the electrical impulse out of the neuron is called an Action Potential. Each neuron has a single axon allocated to it. Though slender and long, the end of the axon may be scattered in branches that are connected to the dendrites of other neurons.
Dendrites are tree-like extensions of the neuron that receive and circulate signals (in form of electrical impulses) from the axons of other neurons to the cell body of its neuron. These impulses which are recieved through the synapses that are situated on the dendritic threads are mostly called synaptic inputs.
How the neural network works
Communication in the network occurs when a neuron receives a synaptic transmission through the threads of its dendrites, the dendrites propagates these transmissions into the cell body where impulses take place through the opening and closing of ions in the cell membrane. If the electric charge exceeds a threshold, it is sent out through its axon to other dendrites of other neurons that excites or inhibit activity on the neuron that is contacted.
Changing the influences that neurons hold on one another by changing the effectiveness of their synapses is the process that enables learning to occur in the human brain.
Signal transmissions are carried in and out of the central nervous system by afferent and efferent neurons. Afferent neurons are known to carry signals to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) while efferent neurons carry information out from the spinal cord and brain. Other neurons however, participate in the exchange of information within a specific neural network alone, they are called interneurons.
The actions and reactions of every human being are physical representations of neural activities. The brain sends signals to neurons that transport these signals within themselves until the information reaches the intended gland or muscle for execution.
Learning also occurs in the neural network through exchange of electrical signals and impulses.
What is a Neural Network?
A neural network in humans and other biological entities comprises of brain units called cells that are located in the brain. They are responsible for transmitting signals sent by the brain to other parts of the body. For example, a motor neuron transmits signals responsible for movements of parts of the body. However, artificial neural networks (which are quite popular today) includes efforts to copy the architecture of the human neural network in order to create artificial intelligent supercomputers.
Is a neuron a cell?
No. A neuron is a brain unit. All neurons have cell bodies inside them whereas other parts of the body that aren’t neurons have their own cell bodies.
Can neurons be affected by diseases?
Yes. Genetic defects and other external factors can affect the transmission of signals between neurons.
How are neurological diseases connected to the neural network?
A neurological disorder mostly takes place when there is a signal disruption in the network often causing involuntary tremors, seizures, strokes or death. Most common diseases are Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
How can I prevent disorders from disrupting my neural network?
Although some disorders are hereditary, many can be prevented. Keeping a healthy diet and regular exercise regime (often regulated by a physician depending on condition) can be an effective means of preventing neurological disorders.
Learn more about the neural activity here.
The advanced understanding of the properties of neural transmission and reception which include chemicals known as neurotransmitters and how drugs work on them, involve the greatest efforts of research in Neuroscience. With more knowledge, researchers hope to comprehend the networks directly involved with disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia and other neurological malfunctions.