What Is the Job of a Nerve Cell?

Nerve cells, or (neurons, comprise the nervous system. It is the job of these specialized cells to transmit information throughout the body to enable it to function.

Nerve cells perform three jobs. Sensory neurons send information towards the central nervous system to enable taste, smell, touch, sight and hearing. Motor neurons transmit information away from the central nervous system to move the body’s muscles. Interneurons comprise the central nervous system and relay information between sensory and motor neurons.

Nerve cells are made of cell bodies, axons and dendrites. Cell bodies contain the nucleus and other cellular compartments. Their job is to process information and maintain the nerve cell by producing proteins. Axons are long, threadlike structures covered with a layer of fat. Their job is to carry information away from cell bodies. Dendrites are branches from the cell bodies. Their job is to carry information towards the cell body.

Nerve cells are separated by spaces called synapses. Their job is to permit nerve cells to pass electrical or chemical signals to neural or body cells. Endogenous chemicals called neurotransmitters are released to enable one nerve cell to interact with the next.

Nerve cells are similar to body cells in that both have a nucleus that holds genetic information and both are protected by a membrane cover. Both types of cells contain organelles that support the life of the cell, including mitochondria, Golgi bodies and cytoplasm.

Unlike body cells, neurons cannot reproduce. However, research shows that new connections are formed between neurons throughout life.