Dendrites: Definition & Function

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  • 0:00 Dendrites: The Basics
  • 0:36 Function of Dendrites
  • 1:29 Neurotransmitters
  • 2:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: John Williams
Dendrites are the segments of the neuron that receive stimulation in order for the cell to become active. They conduct electrical messages to the neuron cell body for the cell to function. This lesson discusses dendrites, their function, and their importance in neuron activity.

Dendrites: The Basics

The nervous system serves as the manager of the body, since it controls the functions of every other system. It communicates with bodily systems in order to coordinate performance and to meet the needs of the body from moment to moment.

The nervous system uses specialized cells, called neurons, to generate and relay electrical messages, called action potentials, to control these functions. Neurons have several key structures that are necessary for their function, and one of the most important structures in the cell is the dendrite.

Function of Dendrites

In order for neurons to become active, they must receive action potentials or other stimuli. Dendrites are the structures on the neuron that receive electrical messages.

These messages come in two basic forms: excitatory and inhibitory. Excitatory action potentials increase the stimulation of a neuron, while inhibitory action potentials decrease the activity of the neuron. These signals will accumulate in the cell body, or soma, of the neuron after being received by the dendrites.

Once action potentials are received by the dendrites, they will be sent to a portion of the soma known as the axon hillock, neck region of the cell body. Once the cell receives enough excitatory action potentials, it will become activated and generate an action potential of its own.

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