Neurons, also referred to as nerve cells, are fundamental units of the nervous system.They send and receive signals from the brain, communicating in unique ways. They transmit information to other nerve cells, gland cells, and muscle cells, but they’re a lot more than that.

The brain is what it is because of the functional and structural properties of interconnected neurons, containing approximately 86 billion neurons, each of which has its own cell body, axon, and dendrites. Axons take information away from the cell body, while dendrites bring information to the cell body.

Unlike other cells, neurons don’t regenerate or reproduce. They aren’t replaced when they die. Although they are the body’s longest living cells, significant numbers of them die during differentiation and migration, while some take abnormal turns. Some brain diseases are the result of the unnatural deaths of neurons such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Physical damage to the brain can also disable or kill neurons.

Types of Neurons

There are thousands of different types of neurons, but in terms of function, they’re classified into three broad types, including motor, sensory, and interneurons.

Motor neurons. Motor neurons play a role in voluntary and involuntary movements, allowing the spinal cord and brain to communicate with organs, muscles, and glands throughout the body.

Sensory neurons. Sensory neurons help you to smell, see, taste, hear, and feel.

Interneurons. Found in the brain and spinal cord, interneurons are the most common type, signaling from other interneurons and sensory neurons to motor neurons and other interneurons. They tend to form complex circuits allowing one to react to external stimuli like heat.

Supporting Neurons

To support neurons for optimal brain health, consider the following:

  • Follow a Meditteranean-style diet
  • Take nootropic supplements
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get quality sleep
  • Stay mentally active
  • Be socially involved