When an electrical impulse travels through a neuron, it is known as an action potential. The action potential follows a precise path as it passes from one part of the neuron to the other. Let’s take a look at the path of the action potential, starting from the soma.
Step 1: The Soma
The soma is the cell body of the neuron. It contains the nucleus, which houses the genetic material. The soma also contains the cell membrane, which is divided into two parts: the outer membrane and the inner membrane. The outer membrane is relatively permeable, while the inner membrane is highly impermeable.
Step 2: The Axon Hillock
The axon hillock is the beginning of the axon, which is a long, slender process that extends from the soma to the axon terminal. The axon hillock is where the action potential is generated. It is located near the cell body and is composed of a series of ion channels that allow the flow of ions in and out of the cell.
Step 3: The Axon
The action potential travels down the axon, which is insulated by a fatty material known as myelin. The presence of myelin allows the action potential to travel quickly and efficiently along the axon. The action potential continues to travel in a nerve impulse until it reaches the axon terminal.
Step 4: The Axon Terminal
The axon terminal is where the action potential finally ends. This is where the neuron communicates with other neurons in the form of chemical signals. The axon terminal releases neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft and these neurotransmitters bind to receptors on the postsynaptic neuron. This allows the action potential to be transmitted to the next neuron and the process begins again.
As you can see, the path of an electrical impulse as it moves through a neuron is carefully regulated and coordinated. Without this carefully choreographed movement, the brain and nervous system would not be able to function properly.