NURS 6630 Assignment: Short Answer Assessment: Neuron Essay

Description of the Neuron

Considered as specialized nerve cells, a neuron is identified as the basic unit or the building block of the nervous system that primarily acts as an independent information processor. With more than 100 billion neurons found in the human brain, Cartoni et al. (2019) noted the neuron processes information, receives inputs and produces outputs that are responsible for coordinating, conducting and controlling different activities. Similarly, Carmack et al. (2017) commented that the neuron is made up of numerous structures including dendrites, axons, and cell body.  Also known as soma, the cell body is the structure of the neuron that conducts the processing function. Dendrites are linked with receiving information/input (stimuli), and transfer it as impulses in the form of electrical signals toward the cell body (Edwards & Talelli, 2020). The axons (specialized extensions) operates as the primary conducting unit of the neuron with the capacity of conveying chemical signals since it contains specialized neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) that continuously facilitate communication between and among neurons (TikiyanI & Kavita, 2019).

The Components of the Subcortical Structures

The subcortical structures comprises of the diencephalon (thalamus, hypothalamus, epithalamus and sub-thalamus); the pituitary glands (posterior lobe and anterior lobe); the limbic structures (limbic cortex and deep structures); and the basal ganglia (sathamic nucleus, substantia nigra, caudate nucleus, and putamen) (Edwards & Talelli, 2020).

The Component Responsible for Learning, Memory, and Addiction

The limbic system has been identified to play a fundamental function in learning and addiction. Cartoni et al. (2019) established that the hippocampus is a crucial region of the bran that is responsible for maintenance of body homeostasis as well as learning and memory. Carmack et al. (2017) noted that besides its eminent role in regulating emotional responses to various stimuli, the amygdala also facilitating the encoding of memories. Edwards and Talelli (2020) indicated that the dopamine system, the striatum and the nuclease accumbens produces the dopamine auto-receptors, which have been identified to play a role in shaping habit learning and addiction.

Key Neurotransmitters in the Nigra Striatal Region

The two neurotransmitters located in this region are Acetylcholine (activation of muscles) and Dopamine (controlling of motor activity).

The Functioning of Glia Cells

Also referred to as glial cells, the glia cells are involved in the creation of myelin in the peripheral nervous system, to provide protection to the neurons. Whilst no electrical impulses are produced or carried in the glial cells, they provide the physiological and structural support by keeping the other brain cells healthy and functioning (MacAulay, 2020). This is mainly achieved by participating in a number of critical functions such as nutrient distribution, waste transportation, insulation and neuronal communication.

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The Neurons that Communicate with each other

Located between neurons, the synapse is a crucial structure that separates the axon of one neuron and the dendrite of the subsequent neuron. Carmack et al. (2017) noted that both electrical and chemical signals are involved in conveying information or stimuli between neurons. Positioned before the electrical synapse, the pre-synaptic neuron is regarded as sending neuron since it allows the flow of information (signals) to towards the post-synaptic neuron (receiving neuron), located after the synapse (TikiyanI & Kavita, 2019). Considering that synaptic transmission allows neurons to directly communicate to each other across the synapses, generated signals moves between the two neurons, from the sending neuron to the receiving neuron.


Neuroplasticity is associated with the ability of the nervous system (particularly neural networks) to grow, re-develop, re-wire and re-organize synaptic connections in response to new learning, memorable experiences and/ traumatic events. Zerilli (2021) asserted that brain plasticity is triggered by the systematic adjustments or response of the human brain to intrinsic and/or extrinsic stimuli, and hence more likely to be associated with significant structural and functional changes in the brain.


Carmack, S. A., Koob, G. F., & Anagnostaras, S. G. (2017). Learning and memory in addiction. Learning and Memory: A Comprehensive Reference, 523-538.

Cartoni, R., Bradke, F., & He, Z. (2019).Enhancing the Regeneration of Neurons in the Central Nervous System. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Neuroscience.

Edwards, M. J., & Talelli, P. (2020). Subcortical structures: The cerebellum, basal ganglia, and thalamus. Oxford Textbook of Medicine, 5937-5945.

MacAulay, N. (2020). Molecular mechanisms of K+clearance and extracellular space shrinkage—Glia cells as the stars. Glia.

Tikiyani, V., & Kavita B. (2019). Author response for “Claudins in the brain: Unconventional functions in neurons“.

Zerilli, J. (2021). Aspects of Neuroplasticity. The Adaptable Mind, 9-23.


Assignment: Short Answer Assessment

As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, before you can recommend potential pharmacotherapeutics to address a patient’s condition or disorder, you must understand the basic function and structure of the neuron and central nervous system. For this Assignment, you will review and apply your understanding of neuroanatomy by addressing a set of short answer prompts.

To Prepare:

  • Review the Learning Resources for this week in preparation to complete this Assignment.
  • Reflect on the basic function and structure of the neuron in relation to the central nervous system.
  • Reflect on the inter-connectedness between neurons and the central nervous system, including the pathway and distribution of electrical impulses.
  • Reflect on how neurons communicate with each other and review the concept of neuroplasticity.

To complete:

Address the following Short Answer prompts for your Assignment. Be sure to include references to the Learning Resources for this week.

  1. In 4 or 5 sentences, describe the anatomy of the basic unit of the nervous system, the neuron. Include each part of the neuron and a general overview of electrical impulse conduction, the pathway it travels, and the net result at the termination of the impulse. Be specific and provide examples.
  2. Answer the following (listing is acceptable for these questions):
    • What are the major components that make up the subcortical structures?
    • Which component plays a role in learning, memory, and addiction?
    • What are the two key neurotransmitters located in the nigra striatal region of the brain that play a major role in motor control?
  3. In 3 or 4 sentences, explain how glia cells function in the central nervous system. Be specific and provide examples.
  4. The synapse is an area between two neurons that allows for chemical communication. In 3 or 4 sentences, explain what part of the neurons are communicating with each other and in which direction does this communication occur? Be specific.
  5. In 3–5 sentences, explain the concept of “neuroplasticity.” Be specific and provide examples.

Learning Resources

Required Readings (click to expand/reduce)

Camprodon, J. A., & Roffman, J. L. (2016). Psychiatric neuroscience: Incorporating pathophysiology into clinical case formulation. In T. A. Stern, M. Favo, T. E. Wilens, & J. F. Rosenbaum. (Eds.), Massachusetts General Hospital psychopharmacology and neurotherapeutics (pp. 1–19). Elsevier.

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