What Are Efferent Neurons?

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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2019
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The nervous system is a complex organized group of structures in the body responsible for coordinating the reactions of the body by receiving, sorting and conveying different messages to the appropriate areas throughout the body. Primarily made up of two sections, the central and peripheral nervous system, this intricate communication system allows for the body to respond appropriately. Efferent neurons are the components which allow for prompt movement reactions.

The main hub of the nervous system, the central nervous system or CNS, consists of the brain and spinal cord. It this part of the system, messages are received, processed and sent to various parts of the body. The peripheral nervous system, also known as the PNS, consists of a bundle of neurons or cells that collects the information and a network of neurons or nerves projecting from this mass into every area of the body. This weave of nerves contains branches that relay information back to the central nervous system and branches that transport signals to different parts of the body. Afferent neurons are responsible for transmitting messages from the body to the brain, whereas the role of efferent neurons is to receive information and relay it throughout the body.


Efferent neurons, otherwise known as motor neurons, convey chemical and electrical signals from the brain and spinal cord to effectors or glands, organs and muscles that are capable of responding to the constantly changing messages. They allow the body to react to external and internal changes to help maintain the body’s homeostasis or internal balance by allowing for an almost instantaneous reply through some type of movement.

Motor neurons form an electrochemical path directly into all the muscles and organs in the body. In addition to having the ability to adjust the signals carried back to the central nervous system by the afferent neurons, efferent neurons have the ability to make the muscles contract. This allows the body to adapt and change through tensing or relaxing of appropriate muscles. Without this mechanism, the body would not be able to maintain the internal functions that allow the body to work efficiently and it would also delay or obstruct the body’s ability to protect itself from harm.

When internal or external stimuli converge on the body, motor neurons have the ability to trigger the muscles to contract or relax. This immediate reaction is the reason why the body has the ability to move and adapt to changes. Injury or damage to either the afferent or efferent neuron network can impede or hamper the body’s instantaneous reactions. In turn, reaction times would be slowed or even halted.


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