Neuronal Identity

An individual neuron may be referred to on the basis of its size (magnocellular, parvicellular). A layer or ''nuclear'' cluster of neurons may be referred to by shape (pyramidal, mitral), the morphology of its axon terminals (i.e., basket cells, whose axon terminals make basket-shaped terminations on their targets), and its position in a sensory or motor circuit. In the latter classification scheme, those neurons closest to the incoming sensory event or to the outgoing motor-control event are termed primary sensory or motor neurons, respectively, whereas neurons at more distal positions of circuitry from the primary incoming or outgoing event are termed secondary, tertiary, and so on, depending on their position in that hierarchy.

In addition to these morphological qualities, neurons may also be separately distinguished on the basis of the functional systems to which they are connected (visual, auditory, somatosensory, pro-prioceptive, attentional, reinforcing, etc.) and on the basis of the neurotransmitters they employ to communicate with the neurons to which they are connected (cholinergic, adrenergic, GABA-ergic, etc.). Each of those features provides for a multidimensional definition of virtually every neuron in the brain.

(SEE ALSO: Brain Structures and Drugs; Neurotransmission; Neurotransmitters; Receptor; Drug; Reward Pathways and Drugs)


CORSI, P. (Ed.). (1991). The enchanted loom: Chapters in the history of neuroscience. New York: Oxford University Press.

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