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October, 2006
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Myelin Sheath: The lipid-rich sheath surrounding Axons in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. The myelin sheath is an electrical insulator and allows faster and more energetically efficient conduction of impulses. The sheath is formed by the cell membranes of glial cells (Schwann cells in the peripheral and Oligodendroglia in the central nervous system). Deterioration of the sheath in Demyelinating diseases is a serious clinical problem.

Glial Cells

JoVE 10843

Glial cells are one of the two main types of cells in the nervous system. Glia cells comprise astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia, and ependymal cells in the central nervous system, and satellite and Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system. These cells do not communicate via electrical signals like neurons do, but they contribute to virtually every other aspect of nervous system function. In humans, the number of glial cells is roughly equal to the number of neurons in the brain. Glia in the central nervous system (CNS) include astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia, and ependymal cells. Astrocytes are the most abundant type of glial cell and are found in organized, non-overlapping patterns throughout the brain, where they closely associate with neurons and capillaries. Astrocytes play numerous roles in brain function, including regulating blood flow and metabolic processes, synaptic ion and pH homeostasis, and blood-brain barrier maintenance. Another specialized glial cell, the oligodendrocyte, forms the myelin sheath that surrounds neuronal axons in the CNS. Oligodendrocytes extend long cellular processes that wrap around axons multiple times to form this coating. Myelin sheath is required for proper conduction of neuronal signaling and greatly increases the speed at which these messages travel. Microglia—known as the macrop

 Core: Biology

Neuron Structure

JoVE 10842

Neurons are the main type of cell in the nervous system that generate and transmit electrochemical signals. They primarily communicate with each other using neurotransmitters at specific junctions called synapses. Neurons come in many shapes that often relate to their function, but most share three main structures: an axon and dendrites that extend out from a cell body.

The neuronal cell body—the soma— houses the nucleus and organelles vital to cellular function. Extending from the cell body are thin structures that are specialized for receiving and sending signals. Dendrites typically receive signals while the axon passes on the signals to other cells, such as other neurons or muscle cells. The point at which a neuron makes a connection to another cell is called a synapse. Neurons receive inputs primarily at postsynaptic terminals, which are frequently located on spines—small bumps protruding from the dendrites. These specialized structures contain receptors for neurotransmitters and other chemical signals. Dendrites are often highly branched, allowing some neurons to receive tens of thousands of inputs. Neurons most commonly receive signals at their dendrites, but they can also have synapses in other areas, such as the cell body. The signal received at the synapses travels down the dendrite to the soma, where the cell can proce

 Core: Biology

Action Potentials

JoVE 10844

Neurons communicate by firing action potentials—the electrochemical signal that is propagated along the axon. The signal results in the release of neurotransmitters at axon terminals, thereby transmitting information in the nervous system. An action potential is a specific “all-or-none” change in membrane potential that results in a rapid spike in voltage.

Neurons typically have a resting membrane potential of about -70 millivolts (mV). When they receive signals—for instance, from neurotransmitters or sensory stimuli—their membrane potential can hyperpolarize (become more negative) or depolarize (become more positive), depending on the nature of the stimulus. If the membrane becomes depolarized to a specific threshold potential, voltage-gated sodium (Na+) channels open in response. Na+ has a higher concentration outside of the cell as compared to the inside, so it rushes in when the channels open, moving down its electrochemical gradient. As positive charge flows in, the membrane potential becomes even more depolarized, in turn opening more channels. As a result, the membrane potential quickly rises to a peak of around +40 mV. At the peak of the action potential, several factors drive the potential back down. The influx of Na+ slows because the Na+ channels start to inactiv

 Core: Biology

Histological Staining of Neural Tissue

JoVE 5206

In order to examine the cellular, structural and molecular layout of tissues and organs, researchers use a method known as histological staining. In this technique, a tissue of interest is preserved using chemical fixatives and sectioned, or cut into very thin slices. A variety of staining techniques are then applied to provide contrast to the visually uniform sections. In …


Implementation of a Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering (CARS) System on a Ti:Sapphire and OPO Laser Based Standard Laser Scanning Microscope

1INSERM U1051, Institut des Neurosciences de Montpellier (INM), Université de Montpellier, 2Université de Nîmes, 3CNRS, IES, UMR 5214, 4Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, École Centrale Marseille, Institut Fresnel, UMR 7249, 5Montpellier RIO Imaging (MRI)

JoVE 54262

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