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What is the brain Vast collection of interconnected cells called neurons 1012 neurons with 1015 synapses connections cortical neurons connect to roughly 3 of surrounding neurons cortical neuron may receive connections from up to 10000 other neurons Supported by an even greater number of cells called glia not nerve cells Many different types of neurons in terms of size shape and molecular properties 12 general types in the neocortex Each neuron has three distinct parts cell body soma - can be the site of input mainly inhibitory dendrites - input zone axon - output pathway Neurons are connected together in particular ways to form functional circuits much like transistors resistors and capacitors are connected to form electronic circuits Neurons communicate via electrical impulses called action potentials there are other forms of communication as well eg gap junctions Effect via an action potential of one neuron on another can be excitatory - encouraging the receiving neuron to emit an action potential inhibitory - discouraging the receiving neuron from emitting an action potential The parts of the brain Spinal cord signals to and from the muscles travel to the brain via the spinal cord also sensory signals for touch temperature pain etc somatosensory signals cord consists largely of axons conducting information from sensory cells to the brain and information from the brain to motor neurons that drive muscles cord also contains a large number of neurons both motor neurons and interneurons much processing takes place locally in the spinal cord giving rise to what we call reflexes Brain stem half-way house through which passes all sensory information on its way to the brain including visual and auditory information but not olfaction the main way station is the thalamus much low-level unconcious processing takes place here Cerebral Cortex sight of all high level processing layers of neurons grey matter and large tracts of connections between neurons white matter - myelinated axons comes from the Latin word for
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