Brain Function: Neurons and Neurotransmission
Neurons are a type of nerve cell found throughout our nervous system, including our brain. Brain function refers to the level of activity of brain cells (neurons) in the brain. There are around 100 billion neurons in your brain and they’re all connected to each other through their dendrites. Actually, they’re not physically connected. Between the dendrites of individual neurons there is a small space called the synapse.
Neurons communicate with each other through a process called neurotransmission. This is a process of neurons sending and receiving neurotransmitters to one another. It’s what we’re referring to when we talk about brain activity and function. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are sent through the neurons. Neurotransmitters are “fired” across the synapse where they may be taken up by the post-synaptic neuron (the neuron that receives the neurotransmitter).
It’s not essential that you understand the actual chemical and physical process of how the neurotransmitters travel from one neuron to the other and if you take IB Biology you may learn about this in that course.
What’s important for you to know is that neurotransmission can influence behaviour through the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Understanding the terms brain function and activation are also key when learning and talking about the brain and behaviour.
Can you connect the written explanation above with the visual demonstration below?[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udHw0I3MFw4]
Travis Dixon is an IB Psychology teacher, author, workshop leader, examiner and IA moderator.