Neuron Function

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Author: Muriel Gerhard
Topics: High School, Anatomy

Grade Level: 9th - 10th; Type: Neuroscience/Biology


To determine what neurons are, what they do and share this vital information with my cohorts and the public by producing an illustrated book entitled “Know Your Neurons and How They Work”.

Research Questions:

  • What is the brain made of?
  • What is the function of the brain?
  • Do we have one or two brains?
  • Does our brain grow and change over time?
  • What is a neuron and what is its function?
  • How is the cell structure of a neuron similar to other cells in the body?
  • What are the specialized extensions of neurons?
  • What are the specific functions of dendrites and axons?
  • How do neurons communicate with each other?
  • What are neurotransmitters?
  • What is the Node of Ranvier?
  • What are Nissl Bodies?
  • What is the function of the endoplasmic reticulum?
  • Golgi apparatus? What purpose does it serve?
  • What are the functions of sensory neurons, motor neurons and interneurons?
  • Why is it accurate to describe the processes of neuron transmission as both electrical and chemical?
  • Are nerve cells (neurons) capable of regeneration?
  • What is a stroke?
  • What is axonal degeneration?
  • What is meant by the term dementia?
  • What are some common neurological disorders?
  • What are some common treatments for nervous disorders?
  • Does our life style, the way we live, the things we eat, the things we do impact on our brain? If so, how?
  • What does the most recent research tell us about the effect of exercise on the brain?

In this science fair project, you are entering the world of your imagination. In this imaginative world you have been contacted by a famous toy company, “Toy for Future Neuroscientists.” The company is offering you a contract to produce a pop up book, “Know Your Neurons and How They Work” which will include a model of a neuron “in action”. You have decided to accept the contract and are now starting to gather the essential information for this book.

You plan to define and describe a neuron which is another name for a nerve cell whose function is to carry messages to and from the brain to all parts of the body. The human brain is made up ofsome15000million neurons, a number most of us cannot even visualize. The processes by which the neurons operate are both electrical and chemical. Neurons have a large number of extensions called dendrites which look like branches or spikes extending from the cell body. One extension is called an axon whose purpose is to transmit an electro-chemical signal to other neurons. An axon can be as long as three feet. The axon is covered with a myelin sheath which serves as insulation. If you looked at an axon it looks like a necklace made of sausage shaped beads. The end of the axon takes the electrical message it is receiving and changes it into a chemical message which is then picked up by another neuron.  Between the axon ending and the dendrite of another neuron is a tiny space, a gap .This gap is called a synapse. This is the juncture where the chemicals which are released serve to carry the electrical current across to the next neuron.   This friend is just the beginning of the story which you plan to tell. You will find it helpful to use the terms, concepts and questions for background research as well as the bibliography of books and internet sources including movies of neurons in action.

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