action potential Term applied to the electrochemical signal caused by a rapid and reversible fluctuation in membrane potential used by the nerve cell for intracellular communication. Also known as a nerve impulse.

axon A cylindrical process extending from the nerve cell body specialized for conducting electrochemical signals away from neurons to their targets.

dendrite Name given to one or more tapering, typically branching processes extending from the nerve cell body that are specialized for receiving signals from other nerve cells and the environment.

neurotransmitter Any one of a number of small molecules that are released by a nerve cell at the synapse to pass signals between nerve cells and their targets.

synapse A term applied to the specialized junction between a nerve cell and its target where signals are passed from one cell to the next, usually in the form of chemical signals.

This article describes the major features of the neuron, the class of cell most closely identified with the functions of the nervous system. The major emphasis is on the structure of nerve cells and their basic physiology, along with their biochemical specializations.

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