The Brain And Behavior

The brain relays an enormous number of incoming and outgoing impulses every second. Input may stem from any of our senses, such as hearing, seeing, or feeling. More profound, and considered by the brain to be more important, information may result in the perceptions being stored as memories. These memories may be retrieved and perhaps used while processing subsequent incoming impulses. The result of this processing may be either rather simplified and stereotypical actions, such as reflexes (the knee jerk reflex), or more complex output, such as decisions based on judgment. The more complex output can also be termed behavioral output, or behavior. Although we consider these two examples of elicited behavior to be fundamentally different, they have many features in common. It is widely recognized that the lowest common denominator in all processing, including both simple and extremely complex behavior, is the nerve cell or the neuron. Behavior is thought of as the concerted signaling of an enormous number of neurons. In fact, it has been estimated that the human brain contains about 1011 neurons, classified into as many as 10,000 different types. One can easily understand the complexity within a system consisting of this number of signaling units, especially considering the fact that each neuron can have connections with perhaps thousands of other neurons. Another intriguing feature of the brain is the presence of glial cells. Cell number estimations suggest that the human brain may

Encyclopedia of the Human Brain Volume 3

Copyright 2002, Elsevier Science (USA).

All rights reserved.

contain as many as 10 times more glial cells than neurons.

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