Neurons, the Basic Elements of Behavior
16 January 2011
One of the most basic yet complex systems in the universe is the biological organism, with even the simplest person being considered the most intricate and advanced biological entity alive. Each person’s actions are controlled by the brain, which when broken down to the simplest explanation is essentially the most advanced computer in the world and just like a standard home computer the brain is made up of several pieces to function correctly. Arguably the most important and all encompassing element of the system is the neuron, and they have been generally agreed upon as the “basic elements of behavior” (Feldman, 61). While most people know the consequences of a properly working system of neurons, such as a pianist playing Brahms or a baseball player hitting a home run, how they work can be just as revealing as it is interesting. The basic structure belies its massive undertaking; it consists of the standard elements that are in every cell, such as a cell body, a nucleus, ribosome’s, and mitochondria but also contain specialized segments that allow for it to communicate with other cells in ways that other cells cannot. The most important sections of the neuron are the dendrites, the axon, terminal buttons, and the myelin sheath and they behave together like an old fashioned telephone. The dendrites are a cluster of fibers at one end of the cell receive messages, similar to the earpiece of a phone. The axon is the phone line of the structure, and carries the messages from one end of the cell to the other. These are longer than almost all cells in the body, and can range from a few millimeters to over a meter. The terminal button is the opposite end of the cell, and is the mouth piece of the cell; it sends the transmitted message to other neurons. The myelin sheath, while not a primary component in the actual transfer of a message, changes the speed in which the message is sent. The...
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