Learning starts with the nerve cells of the brain: the neurons. They carry information from one part of the brain to another, as well as back and forth between the brain and the rest of the body by way of the spinal cord and some specialized structures called cranial nerves. Those messages are what give us the ability to think, learn, feel, and move. Neurons are shaped like trees, with strong roots called dendrites and branches as well. Nerve cells receive info from their roots and send that info through the trunk of the tree (the axon) to the branches. Those branches pass along the information to the next neuron like a game of Telephone (or Whisper Down the Lane, if you prefer).
The branches of one neuron do not touch the roots of the next one. The message has to take a neurological leap of faith, if you will, by crossing the space between the two neurons, called the synapse. Its transportation mechanism? A chemical messenger called a neurotransmitter. The strength and complexity of the connections between neurons are the keys to learning and brain development.
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