What is the difference between afferent and efferent neurons?


Quick Answer

Afferent neurons carry signals to the brain and spinal cord as sensory data, and efferent neurons send signals from the brain to the muscles, glands and organs of the body in response to sensory input. The main cell bodies of afferent neurons are located near the brain and spinal column, which comprise the central nervous system.

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What is the difference between afferent and efferent neurons?
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Full Answer

Afferent neurons usually have two axons, or terminals, that transmit electrochemical signals into the spinal column or the brain. Once there, the signal passes through a network of interneurons and through an efferent neuron.

Efferent neurons' cell bodies are located within the central nervous system and take signals from there to the peripheral nervous system, muscles and glands to initiate a response to a stimulus. Afferent-efferent neuron pairs that travel through the spinal column govern reflexes, such as the knee-jerk response.

Afferent neurons are designed to respond to different stimuli. For example, an afferent neuron on a nerve ending designed to respond to heat detects excess heat and sends an impulse through the central nervous system. The efferent neuron then cause muscles to contract in reflex to move the body away from the heat. Skin has sensory receptors for heat, cold, pleasure, pain and pressure among others.

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