Advertisement

How do the nerves of your body communicate?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Amid all the moosh and goosh and squoosh that's jellied up under your skull, there's the ultimate communications company. It's in the business of sending and receiving messages that help dictate how you act, how you feel, whether you want to be asleep, or whether you're craving a triple-chocolate, deep-fried, Hades-worthy dessert.

The nerves of your body communicate through spaces called synapses—they're the gaps between the end of one nerve cell and the beginning of another. Your body has about 2 x 1014 synapses (that's 100 times greater than our national debt measured in dollars). Most of the communications between nerves use substances called neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that help send a signal across a synapse. Think of these neurotransmitters as a one-way electrical impulse between nerves. When one nerve wants to communicate to a neighboring nerve, it releases neurotransmitters.

These neurotransmitters have keys to your neurological mailboxes, which are called neuron receptors. And only the messages with the right keys will fit into the receptors. Once the key is in the lock, a lot of things can happen; it can allow glucose in or out, or it can cause a muscle to contract, or it can make you want to go to sleep. So some messages may make nerves excited, while other neurotransmitters may slow, or depress, neuron activity. It depends on what messages are being sent and how (and even if) they're being received.
You: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty

More About this Book

You: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty

From the Authors of the #1 Bestselling YOU: On A Diet and YOU: On a WalkWouldn't you like to know how to prevent your body from aging badly? Most of us believe that at age 40 or so, we begin the slow...

Continue Learning about Functions of Nerves

Why do my teeth chatter when I'm cold?
Univ. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family MedicineUniv. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family Medicine
A decrease in the temperature outside causes a decrease in your body's temperature and your body wil...
More Answers
What is the function of nerves in spinal joints?
Gerald M. SilvermanGerald M. Silverman
Spinal joints are very rich in tiny sensory nerve fibers that detect their exact position and re...
More Answers
How do spinal nerves cross the bone to the rest of the body?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Long spinal nerves branch out into nerve roots that pass through openings between the bony arches in...
More Answers
Why do I sneeze when I pluck my eyebrows?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
The sneezing reflex is often considered more complex than calculus problem. A sneeze-whether it's in...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.