MCAT Content / Nerve Cell / Dendrites Branched Extensions Of Cell Body

Dendrites: branched extensions of cell body

Topic: Nerve Cell

Dendrites are branched structures that extend away from the cell body and carry signals toward the soma.

Aside from the nucleus and other organelles, neurons contain unique structures for receiving and sending the electrical signals making neural communication possible. Dendrites are tree-like structures (branched) that extend away from the cell body to receive messages from other neurons at a neuromuscular junction called synapses. The branching helps to increase the surface area for reception. While some neurons have no dendrites, other types of neurons have multiple dendrites. Dendrites can have small bulges called dendritic spines, which further increase surface area for possible synaptic connections.

Cellular structure of neurons: Neurons have more specialized structures, including dendrites and axons.


Key Points

• Dendrites are branched structures in neurons that extend away from the cell body to receive messages from other neurons at synapses; not all neurons have dendrites.

• Synapses enable the dendrites from a single neuron to interact and receive signals from many other neurons.

• The branching in dendrites helps to increase the surface area for reception.


Key Terms

dendrite: branched projections of a neuron that conduct the impulses received from other neural cells to the cell body

synapse: a structure that permits a neuron (or nerve cell) to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another neuron 

synaptic connection: a neuromuscular junction between a neuron and a muscle cell

neuromuscular junction: chemical synapse formed by the contact between a motor neuron and a muscle fiber

neurons: a basic working unit of the brain

organelles: small parts of the cell

nucleus: the part of the cell containing genetic material and controlling functions

cell body: a portion of a neuron where the nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, and ribosomes are located; also known as the soma



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