Image of the Day: Brain cells

Credit: Jonathan Cohen/NIH

It's weird to think that everything that makes us us is contained within a messy network of cells that we carry around our shoulders, right behind our eyeballs. Neurons, which do our thinking for us, only make up about 15 percent of the cells in our brains. The rest are glial cells, which for a long time were thought to be just support, helping the neurons do what they do. However, neuroscientists now think that glial cells are good for much more, including memories, learning, and early brain development.

The act of learning something new sends electrical signals along neuronal pathways in the brain. As this happens, glial cells add a fatty substance called myelin to help these signals flow more efficiently. And other types of glial cells release chemicals to strengthen new connections between neurons, helping you to remember new information. The image above shows different types of glial cells in red and green, along with neurons in blue, inside a mouse brain.

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