Axons: Definition & Function

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  • 0:00 Introduction To Axons
  • 0:48 Structures Of Axons
  • 1:42 Communication Via Axons
  • 2:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: John Williams
The nervous system is designed to control almost every system in the body. It does so through the use of neurons, which communicate with cells and tissue in different systems. This article addresses a part of the neuron, called the axon, which is important in this cellular communication.

Introduction to Axon

If we compared the human body to a computer, then the nervous system would be the motherboard. It is the main control unit for the body, and through the nervous system, other functions in the body are regulated. Therefore, the nervous system is one of the most important systems in the human body as its effects can be seen in all other systems.

The nervous system communicates through the use of cells, called neurons. These cells participate in cell-to-cell communication for the purposes of regulating bodily processes. This is done through the generation of electrochemical stimulation that relays from neurons to other neurons and effector (target) cell. The delivery of this stimulation is going to be mediated by a portion of the neuron known as the axon.

Structures of Axons

Axons are extended regions of the neuron cell membrane. It starts from a portion of the cell body, known as the axon hillock. From there, the axon extends towards the target cell to what is known as the terminal. Along the cell membrane of the axon will be ion channels and ATP-driven pumps that will regulate ion concentrations within the axon. These ion concentrations will establish the resting membrane potential, which is the electrochemical charge of the membrane when the neuron is at rest.

Some axons will also have additional structures to assist with communications. In areas of the nervous system that require faster communication, the axons will contain insulation, known as myelin sheaths. This insulation speeds up the transmission of cell-to-cell communication and stimulation. Not all axons will have these sheaths, but the ones that do function quicker.

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