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Neuroscience for Kids

Glia: The Forgotten Brain Cell

The brain is made up of more than just nerve cells (neurons). Although there are about 100 billion neurons in the brain, there may be about 10 to 50 times that many glial cells in the brain. (New research suggests the neuron-to-glia ratio may be smaller.) But do you hear much about glia? NO! Because neurons get all the attention, you don't hear too much about glia. Although glia cells DO NOT carry nerve impulses (action potentials) they do have many important functions. In fact, without glia, the neurons would not work properly!

Types and Functions of Glia

There are a few ways in which glia cells are different from neurons: swan

  1. Neurons have TWO "processes" called axons and dendrites....glial cells have only ONE.
  2. Neurons CAN generate action potentials...glial cells CANNOT. However, glial cells do have a resting potential.
  3. Neurons HAVE synapses that use neurotransmitters...glial cells do NOT have chemical synapses.
  4. There are many MORE (10-50 times more) glial cells in the brain compared to the number of neurons.
Hear It!
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"Astrocyte" | "Glia" | "Microglia"

"Neuron" | "Oligodendroglia" | "Schwann cells"

More information about glia:

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