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What Is a Primary Neuron?

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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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A neuron, also known as a nerve cell, is a small electrically charged component of the body necessary to sustain life that is responsible for sorting out and conveying chemical or electrical signals so the brain and spinal cord can communicate with the rest of the body. A primary neuron has a distinctive part called a cell body. It is in the cell body, also known as the soma, where specialized chemicals, called neurotransmitters are produced. These substances target specific areas of the body and allow for the communication process to occur.

An essential component of the nervous system, a primary neuron releases these neurotransmitters down through the axon. The axon is a thin, wiry extension of the neuron cell which carries electrical signals out of the cell body. When it reaches the end, referred to as the terminal end, these neurotransmitters are stored in a thin pouch called a vesicle until it is needed.

Between each primary neuron there is a space. This separation, called a synapse, needs to be breached in order for the signals to pass through the body. This is accomplished through a series of chemical reactions which shoot the neurotransmitters into the next primary neuron with the help of a protein, called an enzyme, which boosts the rate of chemical reactions. These chemicals are then received by another primary neuron at the receptor end, the area of a neuron responsible for receiving input.

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This transfer of chemical and electrical impulses continues to “jump” across different primary neurons throughout the body to produce the necessary reactions to respond to different types of stimulus. The process of transferring, which occurs quickly, allows the brain and spinal cord to connect with the correct portions of the body to allow for an instantaneous reaction. If this transmission is hampered, the body is unable to respond appropriately in a timely fashion.

The transfer of signals can be compromised when the primary neuron is damaged. A neuron can be impaired through various types of injuries or changes in the body including instances where there is a squeezing on a nerve cell. This can occur from structural changes such as arthritis altering the joint arrangement, or through the inflammation process of the body where tightening of the surrounding musculature causes pressure of the nerve. When there is a problem with the enzymes, it can also disturb the chain by inhibiting or blocking neurotransmitters. Enzymes may also remove these chemical communicators from the receptor ends of the neuron which may also hinder the communication process.

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