How Do I Describe the Structure of a Neuron?

Markus Lippmann/CC-BY 2.0

The structure of a neuron can be described as a cell body with nerve processes that transmit signals from one neuron to another. Nerve processes exist as either dendrites or axons.

The cell body of the neuron contains the nucleus. The nucleus of the neuron’s cell body contains its DNA, or genetic material. Dendrites and axons both extend from the cell body and function to transmit signals to and from the cell. Dendrites receive signals to the cell body, while axons carry signals away from the cell body.

Axons may be covered in a layer made of cells called the myelin sheath. The sheath is made up of either oligodendrocytes or Schwann cells, both of which are types of glial cells. Myelin sheath increases the speed at which nerve impulses are transmitted from one nerve cell to another.

Gaps between each section of myelin sheath on the axon are known as Nodes of Ranvier. Sodium/potassium (Na+/K+) pumps are located here and play a role in transmitting action potentials down a neuron. At the end of the axon is the axon terminal. Neurotransmitters are released from this location and travel to an adjacent neuron. There are three types of neurons: sensory, motor and interneurons.