Nervous tissue is composed of neurons, also called nerve cells, and neuroglial cells. Four types of neuroglia found in the CNS are astrocytes, microglial cells, ependymal cells, and oligodendrocytes. Two types of neuroglia found in the PNS are satellite cells and Schwann cells. In the central nervous system (CNS), the tissue types found are grey matter and white matter. The tissue is categorized by its neuronal and neuroglial components.
Neurons are cells with specialized features that allow them to receive and facilitate nerve impulses, or action potentials, across their membrane to the next neuron. They possess a large cell body (soma), with cell projections called dendrites and an axon. Dendrites are thin, branching projections that receive electrochemical signaling (neurotransmitters) to create a change in voltage in the cell. Axons are long projections that carry the action potential away from the cell body toward the next neuron. The bulb-like end of the axon, called the axon terminal, is separated from the dendrite of the following neuron by a small gap called a synaptic cleft. When the action potential travels to the axon terminal, neurotransmitters are released across the synapse and bind to the post-synaptic receptors, continuing the nerve impulse.
Neurons are classified both functionally and structurally.
Neuroglia encompasses the non-neural cells in nervous tissue that provide various crucial supportive functions for neurons. They are smaller than neurons, and vary in structure according to their function.
Astrocytes: Star-shaped macroglial cells with many processes found in the CNS. They are the most abundant cell type in the brain, and are intrinsic to a healthy CNS.
Oligodendrocytes: CNS cells with very few processes. They form myelin sheaths on the axons of a neuron, which are lipid-based insulation that increases the speed at which the action potential, can travel down the axon.
NG2 glia: CNS cells that are distinct from astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglia, and serve as the developmental precursors of oligodendrocytes
Schwann cells: The PNS equivalent of oligodendrocytes, they help maintain axons and form myelin sheaths in the PNS.
Grey matter is composed of cell bodies, dendrites, unmyelinated axons, protoplasmic astrocytes (astrocyte subtype), satellite oligodendrocytes (non-myelinating oligodendrocyte subtype), microglia, and very few myelinated axons.
White matter is composed of myelinated axons, fibrous astrocytes, myelinating oligodendrocytes, and microglia.
The three layers of connective tissue surrounding each nerve are:
Endoneurium. Each nerve axon, or fiber is surrounded by the endoneurium, which is also called the endoneurial tube, channel or sheath. This is a thin, delicate, protective layer of connective tissue.
Perineurium. Each nerve fascicle containing one or more axons, is enclosed by the perineurium, a connective tissue having a lamellar arrangement in seven or eight concentric layers. This plays a very important role in the protection and support of the nerve fibers and also serves to prevent the passage of large molecules from the epineurium into a fascicle.
Epineurium. The epineurium is the outermost layer of dense connective tissue enclosing the (peripheral) nerve.
Myelinated axons (right) conduct impulses faster than unmyelinated axons.
The function of nervous tissue is to form the communication network of the nervous system by conducting electric signals across tissue. In the CNS, grey matter, which contains the synapses, is important for information processing. White matter, containing myelinated axons, connects and facilitates nerve impulse between grey matter areas in the CNS.
In the PNS, the ganglion tissue, containing the cell bodies and dendrites, contain relay points for nerve tissue impulses. The nerve tissue, containing myelinated axons bundles, carry action potential nerve impulses.
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